At the hive. . . .

bees on upper super top framesMy last inspection was a little off my intended schedule–I didn’t want to open the hive with yellowjackets buzzing around. They were finally gone last week so I peeked into the hive to see what the “girls” were doing. (I have to keep reminding myself that the colony only arrived here on the 24th of July.)  Definitely more regular traffic in and out lately, carrying pollen in all colors different colors.

Goldenrod is starting to bloom here now–and I think I’ve seen ragweed.  I’m not yet used to looking at fall flowers for a bee’s point of view. From the meeting of the Durham Beekeepers association this week, it seems that I was correct about the goldenrod, and the asters will be later.  It’s a whole new perspective on looking at flowers when I consider the bees!

There is new comb in the upper super, but only very rare pollen or nectar, so I didn’t add an extra super this time. I’ll be checking again in about a week to see where we are. I’ve asked an experienced beekeeper to go through an inspection next weekend.  It will be good to have a “teaching” inspection since I wasn’t able to get into a class before my bees arrived.


Hive report

bee coming to hive with pollenThere is considerable relief in the last couple days as I watch the traffic in and out of the hive. There are no longer guard bees clustered on the landing board–they are able to do their job from inside the hive since the sticky mess of spilled syrup has mostly been removed by changing the cement blocks that were saturated with it, and there’s been some rain that apparently help wash away what was on the hive and the ground.

It’s very relaxing to watch the steady traffic of bees coming with pollen–white, yellow, orange, and some greenish in color.–and then heading back out for more.

Only the very occasional bald-faced hornet seen now and the yellowjackets seem to have either been trapped or decided that the sugar left around the hive is not worth fighting the guard bees for.

Still Sticky, continued

We had some rain last night, but it seems that all it did was to make the spots where the sugar syrup spilled wet again, and get attention back to those.

Bald-faced hornets (BFH) and yellowjackets are still skulking around the hive.  I’ve put out traps–homemade ones–with soda for the yellowjackets and meat (tuna and chicken) for the BFHs.  At least this morning the BFHs were grabbing some of the yellowjackets and making off with them. There are lots of bees at the entrance apparently on guard duty.  Bees carrying in pollen are coming and going–though it seems their pollen baskets aren’t as stuffed as they were a few days ago and the pollen whitish-greenish!

A few yellowjackets have made it into my homemade traps, but so far no BFHs.

Still sticky

Perhaps this should be titled sequelae to stickiness sequelae. . . .and for all my friends who are grammarians, I used sequelae intentionally, to refer not to this sequela to the previous post, but to the myriad, multiple, bucketful, and gobs of effects stemming from that one event of a leaky syrup container.


bees at hive entranceOn hive check this morning, it looks like normal activity at the entrance. No “invaders” hanging around the entrance for the time that I was watching–just “my girls” coming and going on the landing board.

I have traps out for yellowjackets and for bald-faced hornets.  Looks as if a few yellowjackets have been lured into the trap.

Unfortunately, there are still yellowjackets clustered on the lower right cement block that is supporting the hive.

I suspect that yellowjackets on cement blockwas were most of the sugar syrup flowed down.  That rather porous material is probably saturated with sweetness! They see to be preferring that to the trap with Coco-Cola in it. More concentrated sweetness (I hope). Maybe when that’s all been slurped out they will like the trap better.

I’m contemplating how to be sure that my pail feeders are not leaking, although when I check the inner cover and the empty super covering the feeders this morning there doesn’t seem to be wetness that would suggest feeder leak that would be dripping through the hive. I guess time will tell.


cropped-crop_img_20150801_130019171.jpgI told you in an earlier post that I changed to a different type of feeder when I inspected the colony yesterday.  Well, I’ve now changed feeders again as of this morning. It’s turning into a  “feeder saga”.      I started with a Miller hive top feeder–from reading that seemed like it would be what I wanted. My only objection to it is that as a learning beekeeper with a new colony, I have to do almost-weekly inspections to make sure things are going well in the hive. The issue is that at times I can be a veritable Klutz (the capitalization is intentional–I can take klutziness to a special level without even trying just in the kitchen with a bain-marie)–the good side of that is that at least the sugar syrup (1:1 sugar to water) is not hot. All the good and bad things I’ve read about this style of feeder seem to be true, so obviously I’m not having a novel experience here, and I suspect that I’ll return to this style of feeder once this colony is established and I’m more familiar with beekeeping.

However, I did decide to try to make my life a little easier (so I thought) by changing to a feeder that would be easier to put on and take off for inspections. I went to Bailey Bee Supply, my local bee store, intending to purchase a simple pail feeder.  What I discovered was that the pail was too tall to fit into an empty medium super. Since I didn’t have a deep (and truly didn’t want one since all my equipment was medium 8-frame) I decided to try a different style of in-hive feeder.

Bee smart feederAfter the inspection yesterday, I put the new feeder into the empty medium super.  There was a minor mishap–which I thought was beekeeper, not feeder.   About an hour later I went back to check and there was syrup running down the front of the hive. This is not a good thing, since it attracts other nectar-drinking insects as well as MY Apis mellifera.

I got in there and made some adjustments and finally managed to get the syrup to stop overflowing by leveling the feeder and tray; closed things back up and went about my evening’s activities. (I did get the Miller feeder off yesterday without sloshing syrup everywhere so the wetness on the front of the hive here is not a result of my klutziness. No matter why its there its not a good thing to see.)

This morning I checked on the food–the feeder was empty–meaning that one-half gallon of sugar syrup had been “dumped” during the night.,  This was not a happy thought but all was quiet around the hive.  I took the empty feeder away and made a bee-line (sorry–that pun is unintentional, but I’m leaving it there) for the bee store again.

white pail in medium superI bought an extra medium hive body and a pail feeder (pail is just barely too tall for the medium) so that it would be covered.  Home–install new feeder. Amazingly, everything around the hive was very quiet–I had expected to see all sorts of insects attracted by sugar water spread around on the ground and the front of the hive.

Now, a couple hours later–back to check and there are bees flying everywhere–not aggressive though. I think it’s bees from my hive reclaiming their syrup.  At least I hope it is. There are a few other wasp-like critters, but they are not making any effort to get into the hive. Thankfully, no hornets either.  I think maybe a rain dance this evening with hopes of a good hard rain to wash away the syrup. What I saw under the hive (I have a screened bottom board, and no sticky board in place yet) was not what you want to see around your hive.

group of bees under hiveThe only thing for me to be thankful for is that there were only a few other insects buzzing around–I just hope that lasts. Interestingly enough, I did not see any ants around–but perhaps they were all in my kitchen slurping up the syrup from where I carried the other feeder back in to clean it out. I wonder if that is a commentary on how ants feel about cinnamon–because there’s certainly a lot of it sprinkled around the hive.

Turns out that the ants were not in my kitchen–the cinnamon sticks that I had lying around on the counter must be doing a job. But, now I’m wandering around the house with a damp cloth trying to get sugar syrup wiped off of everything I touched–outside door handle, inside door handle, cell telephone (have no idea how that got there), the faucet in the bathroom sink. . . .probably other places that I didn’t realize.  I’ll find them later when I least expect it.

I never realized that “simple syrup” could be SO sticky!

More–bees and me

beekeeper me

beekeeper me

An incredible experience today! All the beekeeping books I’ve read (a fair number by now) try to describe the experience of seeing a hive in action.  It’s likely to remain indescribable.  I certainly can’t begin to put it into words.

One week ago today I brought my nuc home and transferred the girls (probably a few guys as well) to their permanent home. It didn’t take long for me to discover that I needed to modify the protective clothing that I wore, so back to the bee store.

Today, I opened the hive to see what was happening inside. (Had friend to take some pictures, too.)  As you can see, I’ve opted for different attire–a much nicer experience for me. Still sweaty, but at least not dripping on my veil. The weather was cooperative–clear, sunny, low humidity (41% and 87 °F reported at the time I opened the hive).

I did light a smoker and used it only for a couple of puffs to clear the Miller feeder before taking it off.  Last week I did the newspaper-pine needles-punk wood, routine.  This week I wussed out and simply used the cotton fiber fuel that you can by from the bee store–such a time-saver, and so much easier. This colony seems rather tolerant of me nosing around so I didn’t put on gloves. There was one point when I was just getting ready to start pulling the frames (after I had removed the first one) when there was an interesting line of bees, all side-by-side, wall-to-wall, in the cracks between the other frames–I definitely did feel I was being watched!  They got anther puff of smoke then–given that several of the books say that indicates need for a bit more smoke.  I really felt I needed them to move down so I could pull the frames without hurting anyone.

Because I’m going to be in and out of the hive about weekly with the new girls getting established and me learning, I switched from the Miller-type hive-top feeder to a Bee Smart feeder today. I tried out the Bee Smart in the kitchen sink before toting it out to the hive.  The  Bee Smart tray filled nicely and didn’t overflow.  Fingers crossed because that should be easier than moving the other one each time without slopping sugar water all over the place. After talking with other keepers, I did add Honey-B-Healthy to the feeder.

queen on frame

queen bee

To my very novice eye, things looked good in there. I did see eggs around where the queen was–they are really hard to see–I may add a magnifying lens to my “bee bag” with all the other goodies that accompany me to the hive.  I made sure that I did this inspection when the sun was out or I doubt I would have seen eggs. I didn’t see a lot of larvae though. Lots of capped cells. And bees crawling about everywhere….

On the left 1/3 of the frame, you see what looks like a white/light blue spot–that’s actually the queen bee (marked with the international standard color). She was moving around slowly on that frame.

Soooooo happy to see her in there doing her thing (yes, with effort I did see eggs) after my first adventure with her.  It seemed like every single cell was stuffed with nectar/sugar water/honey in all of the frames from the nuc. Surprised at how much heavier they were when I picked them up today, compared to what I remember from last week., (The hive was certainly heavier (after the feeder was off). With luck it will be heavier still next week.

newly drawn comb on new frame

newly drawn comb

They had started to draw the comb on the unused frames–so it seemed appropriate to add another box–certainly want them to have enough room to do their thing.

Now to wait another whole week to see what is happening in there–I really do want to peek sooner, but I’ll refrain, and just deal with the anticipation.

Since this was my first go at doing a frame inspection, I didn’t take my tablet or notebook computer out to use Hive Tracks live on the inspection, or for that matter even attempt to use my smart-telephone. That will be added next time. It was certainly wonderful to come in and have the weather entered at the time I started the inspection.  I liked the check-things-off approach.  I suspect that I got a more complete record than had I been handwriting or even making notes on the computer. Just reading over the inspection form before I actually even lit a smoker helped with organization–which I need badly as a brand new beekeeper!

holding frame


OOPS!  Well, a bit of a mishap with the Bee Smart feeder–which may be with the beekeeper.  It’s good to read the instructions, but then you do have to follow them if you want something work as promised.  I put feeder in, but neglected to note that “the base can be rotated to adjust the syrup level; since most hives are not level make sure that the syrup stays. . . .”  So–some sugar water spilled onto the inner cover, and down the front of the hive. Didn’t run out all that much, and it did not douse the frames. But. . .it did not stop overflowing until I leveled it.  Slight movement while trying to adjust it lead to sloshing which lead to more syrup. After leveling it has (right now) quit overflowing.  There will be an early morning check on this for sure. Likely an internet search for an alternative just in case.  I’m looking for something that fits in a medium super rather than a deep (or two mediums). In my internet searching before I got the Bee Smart feeder, there did seem to be a split: love it or hate it.  I talked to users who loved it–I’ll have to wait and see.  I might want just a plain simple bucket feeder!


pollen rainbow

Watching the bees bring pollen into the hive, I saw mostly yellow but on looking at the frames I saw other colors–and so to Google–a veritable rainbow.

krista and jess

You really should click for a larger look.

And if you are a nerd (I know you are), click for the Wikipedia with a pollen color chart.

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Honey bees are here. . . .

nuc box

box of bees

This might seem like a digression–but not really, since it eventually relates to honey, which is edible (so deemed appropriate by me, at least) though there won’t be even a single serving until next year.

Yesterday afternoon I went to Hillsborough NC and came home with a large box of bees:  brood in all stages, workers, queen, and even honey; all in a nucleus colony from Bailey Bee Supply.  The bees in that box had to be transferred into their permanent hive. I was a little uncertain about what their disposition might be after being carted around hither and thither–from apiary to supplier to home.  As you can see by comparing it to the cement blocks, it was a rather large box.  A buzzing box.  When I picked it up to take it out of the car I could feel vibrations. An adventure waiting for me when opening that box.

The bees from that box needed to be transferred to the hive body (below) that was to become their permanent home.  The nuc contained 5 frames–a miniature colony. Their permanent home will have 8 frames in each of the boxes.  Right now, only the one, but I C:UsersBailey Bee SupplyPicturesVent Jacket w Hood Veil 3.JPGhope I’ll be adding another super and frames in a week.


Before opening this box of bees, who might just be a bit PO’d after all the travel, I got the smoker going, and then I donned the “typical” beekeepers jacket and the veil despite the heat.of the afternoon. The jacket pictured here is a special ventilated one–you can see through to tell color of clothing underneath.  Mine is NOT ventilated–it’s heavy cotton–and HOT. I didn’t put it on until I had the smoker going, and was right ready to take the lid off the box. Even the ventilated one like that would not have been much help because there really wasn’t any breeze.

empty hive box

empty hive body

I started untaping the box after giving them just a bit of smoke through the vents on the ends of the box, and then a little more before I lifted the lid completely off–and a little more before I removed the inner cover. And there they were –a busy, bustling, buzzing mass of bees. . . .

By the time I picked up the first of the five frames to move it into the hive body, I was absolutely dripping sweat which plopped onto the veil in front of my face when I bent over to pick up a frame. I did even use a headband, too, but that didn’t stop the drips or sweat getting in my eyes. Drops of sweat clung onto the veil–not going right through, so I’m looking at a mass of moving bees with drops of sweat in front of my face. Now, being the truly quick learner here, I made a real effort NOT to bend over so far again. (At least I’d had the sense to put the nuc box on blocks rather than on the ground.)

I inspected each of the five frames–looking for the queen, and saw her on the last one, of course–at the bottom of one side of the frame.  I turned the frame to inspect the other side–probably not really necessary since I already spotted the queen–but I did it anyway and then put that last frame into the hive body, put the three additional empty frames in, picked up the box and tapped all the lingering bees down into one corner as much as possible, dumped them on top of the frames, put the hive-feeder on top and then the outside cover. Done! There were still some bees clinging in the box so I put it on the ground in front of the hive so those could climb up to the entrance. There were some bees buzzing around outside the hive, but all seemed good.

No problems, right? So I thought.

Being a bit like a new parent, first thing this morning before even first coffee, I went to take a look. What I saw, even from a distance and UN-coffee-d, evoked a fervent, emphatic (and unprintable) epithet!  Too many bees flying around and around the hive–not coming in and out, but flying around the hive. Dashing over to the hive, I found a fist-sized cluster of bees in the corner of the nuc box. That was NOT good–that’s when I realized that I must have dropped the queen when I rotated the frame (which fortunately I did over the box) rather than over the grass.  Too bad I didn’t do it over the hive–duh!  I guess that’s what you call a learning experience. I prefer that phrasing to either dumb, or stupid thing to do.

After taking off the cover and removing the feeder I did another dump of bees onto the top of the frames–queen still didn’t go in so I gently nudged her out of the box into the hive with my fingers–and closed the hive again.

Back for another look after about 30 minutes and all appeared much more normal–bees doing straight-line in and out, without all the flying around the hive.  Huge sigh of relief here, though the real relief will come only when I open the hive in a week  for an inspection and find things normal.

. . . .and I think this may to be a pretty friendly colony. I didn’t even think about getting out the smoker or putting on the jacket and veil. Here’s me in shorts and T-shirt opening the hive and popping the queen inside without all the paraphernalia. I had a few bees crawling on my hands and arms while nudged the queen out of the box, but not a single sting. Admittedly, I wasn’t pulling frames out of the body (in other words threatening their honey or brood).  I will wear a veil so that I don’t have bees crawling over my face, but I doubt I’ll put that heavy jacket on again.

So ends the first adventure of beekeeping.

closed hive and nuc box

home, sweet home