Hive report: 21 July 2016

Merde! (Yes, please, pardon my French, but that’s the only expletive that fits today.) The ladies of the hive are royally PO’d. I worked these hives on the 19th and the ladies were just a tad testier than usual. Today I would say that they were a whole lot unhappy.

I was placing feeders on the hives. I hadn’t even gotten the cover off the hive when they came swarming out to show their displeasure. I had to beat a hasty retreat and put on the bee jacket  (which I’ve only worn once before) and the serious gloves (which I’ve never worn before) and use the smoker just to get the feeders on.

True, it’s hot (officially 89ºF but feels like 94ºF) and humid, intermittently overcast, but really! That reaction, the dearth, the fact that I’ve seen some fighting between bees on the landing board, tussles and stinging at the water source, make me think something has disturbed the colony.

robbing screen for hive entrance

Robbing Screen (image from Bailey Bee Supply)

Given reports from other beekeepers in the area of robbing, I made a quick trip to Bailey Bee Supply for robbing screens for my hives, going for prevention rather than having to try to stop robbing in progress.

This video shows the fighting when “foreign (robber)” bees try to enter. That’s something I don’t want to see at my hives. Both my  colonies are queenright and strong so guards can defend against a few invaders but it can get to a real “frenzy” that will just wipe a hive. Prevention is the way to go.

Hive inspection: 19 July 2016

This time of the year can be hard for bees–we’re  enjoying the results of their work earlier in the year but there’s not a lot for them to tote back to the hive to store in preparation for winter right now. As a beekeeper, dripping sweat in feels-like 97ºF temperatures, it can be a bit difficult to realize the ladies in the hive are in the midst of preparing for winter, or that while we enjoy plenty they are in a dearth of nectar and pollen–that bees can starve at this time of the year if the beekeeper is not keeping up with what the colony needs.

hive addedThis was a routine inspection as, from the outside, both hives appear to be doing well, judging by traffic in and out though not much pollen seems to be carried into either hive. But that’s expected at this time of the year while we’re waiting for asters and goldenrod to bloom.

Although I can see the effect of the dearth with less brood, Rosemarinus colony has almost a full super of honey that is capped. My intention for that box was for cut-comb honey until the ladies declared it partly a brood box. Now there is only a very narrow band of drone brood on the lower edge of the center frames and the areas where brood had been are being filled with pollen and nectar. I was hoping to snatch a couple of the lateral frames for cut-comb honey even this late in the season but the girls have decided to put pollen there so I won’t take those frames now. (Learning experience for beekeeper!). I’m happy to see that much honey and pollen stored at this time of the year. Though I still haven’t seen that queen, I do see evidence that she’s doing what queens are supposed to do–brood in all stages and lots of workers also doing their thing.

Salvia hive (from the swarm earlier in the year) has grown well over the summer–lots of bees. Since I saw brood in all stages I didn’t spend a lot of time searching for the queen, but feel sure that this colony is queenright. The fourth box on this hive had been intended as a honey super so I had put a queen excluder on; the ladies seem to be reluctant to start drawing comb above it. They simply propolized it down to the top of the frames below. I removed it once I managed to free it from all the propolis and hope they will use it to store more honey for the winter. I’ll have to go back into the hive when the fall nectar flow starts to make sure that they are using those frames for honey storage. This hive also had capped honey and what appeared to me to be reasonable pollen stores for this time of year.


I’m so happy to see that both colonies appear to be in fine fettle for this time of year. I’ll put sugar syrup feeders on both hives today even with the honey stores that I saw because we are now in a dearth. When the aster and goldenrod come into bloom I’ll quit feeding until that bloom is over. I just don’t want the bees to have to use the current honey and pollen stores for survival right now. Those need to be saved for wintertime.

I also noticed (thanks to two stings while working the hive) that the girls are a bit testier than usual. After some research on one of my favorite beekeeping websites (Honey Bee Suite) I found a list of things that may make bees more aggressive. Among the things listed were nectar dearth, heat and high humidity, and rainy weather–all of which have been present in the last few days–and two present  right now.  The ground around my hives was definitely wet from the rain of the last few day and the dew point was in the 70s.

I guess I should be grateful that I got only two stings from the ladies! I’m sure I was grumpier after working for several hours in the heat and humidity, so I can understand theirs though I don’t care for the way in which they choose to communicate it to me.



Summer plenty

Walking through the farmers’ market we see an abundance of fresh produce. We cook and eat without thinking about the food waste between seed and plate. I’ve posted and reblogged articles about this issue: what has been done in other countries, tips on how not to waste food, making efficient use of leftovers, mindful eating, and grocery shopping for one, all with thoughts about food waste.

vegetable-chard IMG_0728This morning I read an article from Food 52 on kitchen scraps–with some statistics on food waste. This post gave a lot of recipes using those things that we often consider “scraps”–and some information on how long those (sometimes) impulsive purchases from the farmers’ market will last once you’ve gotten them into the kitchen.

This article has links to 125 (yes–one hundred twenty-five) recipes that focus on using that whole bunch of greens (even the stems) and things we often don’t consider for cooking and eating–radish tops, and even peels and skins of fruits and vegetables. We often discard the stems from chard and other greens when we cook the tender leaves but those stems are just as nutritious if treated just a bit differently–added first to the pot, or even used separately rather than discarded.

I’ve not tried all these recipes, but from my experience, the recipes from sources cited here are usually good. Even if you don’t use the recipes per se I think perusing them can show many ways that we can better use our food.


On a related note, while we are enjoying the benefits of pollinators–honey bees included-Summer Harvest IMG_4487-those ladies of the hive are experiencing a decrease in the nectar and pollen that they can
gather–what we beekeepers call a “dearth” (scarcity or lack of something). We are eating and putting by the “fruits” of their work in the spring–and we don’t think about what is available for them at this time of the year.

I’ll be inspecting my hives tomorrow to see how much honey and pollen is stored. Most likely my ladies are consuming stored honey and pollen while awaiting the start of the goldenrod and aster seasons here in the Piedmont region of North Carolina. If necessary, I’ll be providing supplemental food (sugar syrup with supplements added) for them until the fall nectar flow starts and they can store honey and pollen for the winter.

I’m not planning a second harvest from hive Rosemarinus, or a first harvest from Salvia–they will get to keep all they produce from the autumn nectar flow to see them through the winter.

IMG_8902Feb hive