Sunday, August 16, 2009

Ever say "I'll never do that again!"?

Ouch! Ouch! Ouch! Ouch!

I'll never ...ever... open a strong hive at 7 am in mid August without so much as a smoker. I had to run for the house. The one that hurts the most is on top of my head, but the chin selled up some and is red and round. It's Mrs Clause's chin now. Oh they got me good. Poor bees.

So, I virtually ignored the poor things all summer. It being particulary wet in this neck of the to speak, and also I have been busy with work and other pressing responsibilities. So the bees have been on their own. They probably thought they'd never see me again. Well they did see me once or twice in July when I peeked at them from a distance and in June I actually lifted the lid.

But I have yet to pull a frame out since May. Ken Warchol, Worcester County's Bee Inspector recommends checking hives once per week. - He mentioned this at the bee meeting, I was finally able to attend (I had to rearrange my schedule, but I did it.)

So why did I pull this stupid stunt? I had intended to get a honey super on the hive last weekend. But I couldn't manage it. I should have had them on from near the beginning. At the meeting yesterday I heard a new message. Use already drawn out comb--because the bees don't like to draw comb late in the season. Another oops. At least I am using pure beeswax foundation.

Anyway, I finally got over to Lagrant's in Ware, yesterday morning. I purchased already assembled supers and frames, because time is at a premium right now. Next year will be different-- I think.

After, that, I did my usual Saturday morning errands, and then ran (drove), to the meeting, only 15 minutes chair (lots really, but all occupied)...sat on the grass...lots of people(note to self: don't be late for meetings). The meeting was a very good demonstration by Ken Warchol on how to close up the hive for winter. I had to sit near back for hive demo, because I didn't think to bring a hat- so I found a shady spot and peered between peoples legs to see what was going on. One lady had obviously thought ahead and brought her own lawn chair and a hat...good thinking.

This is turning out to be a long story..., I'll shorten it up...This morning, Sunday, I went out to put the super on the strong hive. Woefully unprepared. I paid the price. I went inside, shook the bees out of my hair and put my bee gear on. Then I went back and finished the job.

I'm going to take a picture now.

Bees will be bees...

Monday, May 18, 2009

Imperfect Attentions

I finally finally finally put the second brood supers on the hives. Each hive is now two levels. But the frames are tortured wood, wire and beeswax foundation. They're very sad looking efforts...many staples and cracked perforated wax foundations...its embarassing. The good part is...the bees won't mind a bit. In fact they will take my imperfect offering and make it perfect. Perfect for their use anyway :)

They weren't too happy about being disturbed this morning. Again I'm afraid I smooshed a few hapless bees. This is a very disturbing hobby. Everytime I open the hive someone gets killed!

This morning I took the wells out and replaced the space with newly minted frames...such as they were, and I placed the new supers, each containing ten more frames atop.

I did not try to inspect the frames or look for a queen. It was too early in the morning for that, and a cool cloudy morning it was too. I know they will appreciate the new digs, but they really weren't appreciating it this morning. Two bees flew up the back of my shirt and made that quite clear.

Two more bee's followed me into the house. I one rescued from the light fixture and put it back outside, it flew away in the direction of the hive. I thought Little Bear ate the other one but Cousin Sandy found it and tried to rescue it. He put it outside, but instead of flying away it sort of fell to the ground. I guess they can't all be saved.

One thing that was quite fun to notice-- while I was in the midst of operations I pushed the frames aside, and two that had been worked together by the bees split apart and golden honey oozed out. It was pretty.

Oh, and even though I didn't look for brood or a queen each hive was buzzing with thousands more bees than I started with, so I think thats a good sign.


Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Bee bites!

I have to tell this story. Maybe its one of those 'you had to be there' stories, but I am still chuckling over it.

I haven't been into the hives officially yet. That is, I haven't smoked them and pulled the frames for a good look-see, but I have walked up to them and peeked under the lids and put my face close to entrance to watch the ladies bringing home the pollen, etc.

This last time I was out there, my cousin stood about 15 feet from the hives. He has a strong interest in what I've been doing and has helped me this year, and so deserves a nice cut of the honey. Next year he plans to keep his own hives. --But back to the story... He stood way back and yells out 'Are they bit'ng you? Are they bit'ng you?' I guess it was the way he said it that strikes my funny bone...hee hee hee :) Anyway-- I'm still laughing.

While I was out there I saw hundreds of millions of poison ivy shoots all around the hives....possibly there weren't quite that many, but I do have some apprehension, as I am quite allergic to the stuff. Cousin Sandy says he will pull them up for me. But maybe I'd like to get a goat to eat it up. I wonder how goats and bees get along...?

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

I like bees.

I went to bee school. I read from the internet. I've read books, newsletters, and magazines. And the more I learn, the greater my sense of awe and respect grows for the honeybees. They have got to be the coolest creatures on the planet.

They make wax! And that isn't the coolest part. The fact that they work it and use it to not only to cradle their young, but to warehouse their perfect food (which they make themselves) is totally amazing. And that isn't the coolest part. The coolest part is that they have selected the perfect shape-- the six sided cell in order to optimize the use and preservation of precious resources.

I imagine all beekeepers eventually come across this information in some form - but this book that I've been reading called 'The Dancing Bees' by Karl von Frisch does a side by side comparison and depicts clearly how of many different possible shapes a bee could use to construct their brood and storage units, the hexagon is the optimal choice which makes maximum use of available space and coincidentally uses the least amount of wax possible in comb construction.

Monday, May 4, 2009


I have provided
a habitat fit for a queen.

I am in service to the queen
and I will be rewarded in due course.

But I think that means
I have been domesticated.

I Break Frames!

The crooked nail asails
the thin and splintery rails.
Fragile frames they be.

Ah me!

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Pictures of my bees

Boysenberry is getting on the job training. He'll be my assistant.

My busy bees :)

This is the second package. The first package went in the night before.

These are my brandy new bee hives! I nailed them together myself-- well a couple of them anyway. My brother John finished them up while I glazed a chicken for baking.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Building Bee Houses

I purchased hive kits rather than fully assembled hives because of the cost factor. The exception I made was to buy 20 fully assembled frames from Lagrant's in Ware because I ran into a time issue when I didn't get my frame kits in time to get it all together for Bee Day.

Now I am assembling the frame kits I received a couple weeks ago. It is a little tedious, but there is a certain satisfaction that you get from assembling these parts, knowing that in the end you will have built a perfect little house.

Anyway, I've started whacking the rivets into the sides of the frames. It's a begining.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Sugar - oops.

Now that I'm thinking back, I may have made the sugar water mixture too light. Its supposed to be 1:1 and I think I did 1:2. Gosh, darn it! My poor bees are suffering! I'm so bad! I hope they forgive me.

My brothers little ditty, 'A pints a pound the world around' has been circling my head for days now. But I only just started thinking about my sugar mixture a few minutes ago. I used 5 quarts...I think. I should have used 5 pints.

Well here's hoping it won't irreparably damage them. Holy moly.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Better Late Than Never!

The well was dry when I finally got my bees their sugar water. I would have given it to them yesterday morn, but it had to cool down. I didn't want to scald their little gullets.

This morning I put on my new white jacket that I got at Walmart. I saw it in the store hanging on the rack, and it looked just perfect for the job. $28. Not bad. A whole bee suit can run into some $$. Then I put my hat and veil on, but couldn't find the gloves...oh well. Only one sting, poor bee.

Then I took my jug and salad tongs and the hive tool and went out to open the hives. It was quite chilly and I imagine the bees were not at all happy about the draft, but I think they will be happy to find their food supply restored.

I opened the first hive, filled the tank, then broke the queen cage free (the queen was out of it). Unfortunately the bees had really worked the cage into the comb structure. After it came out I found the frame had a rectangle shaped hole in the comb. I wanted to see if the queen was laying so I took a frame out to look. It was covered in bees and hard to see. I did see lots of cells partly filled with nectar and pollen, but I couldn't see eggs...and it was chilly too, so I didn't want to keep it out too long. Anyway, I put the frame back and closed up that hive and on to the next.

I was quicker with the second hive. I opened it, filled the water tank, then wiggled the queen cage free...this one came out easier. Then I closed it up again.

I know mornings aren't really the time to visit a hive, but I'm a little hampered time-wise, so I have to do it that way if its during the week.

I'll be able to take some good pictures soon. I found my old film camera and that does have a macro lens...I just need to get a battery and some film!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Sugar Water

Well, I haven't refilled the sugar water tank yet and its been 9 days. I bought sugar last night, but this morning I had an appointment and could not fulfill my beekeeping duties. I shall have to do this tomorrow morning.

Hopefully my bees will forgive me. I've been reading that bees can recognize faces. This seems far fetched. I would think they more likely recognize scents, since they seem to sniff out pheromones of fellow workers and the like. Hopefully they won't associate my scent with the massacre of several bees in my last attempt to bee taking the cork out of the bottoms of the queen cages.

I've been making many lame bee jokes and puns lately. I hope this trait wears off after while. I'm not sure how long friends and family will tolerate the nonsense :}

I really must feed my bees though, they must be thirsty by now; although nectar is on the way. We have a fruit tree in flower in the front yard (I cant remember the species)...but there are so many to come...I wonder how they like Magnolias?-- although that's not a fruit tree, just a pretty flowering one.

Well, lets hear it for Saturday!! Its going to be 80!! The bees ought to love that.

Friday, April 17, 2009

The Queens

On the mornings of April 14 and 15 2009, I opened the hives to dig the little cork out of the ends of the queen cage.

Now I trust to luck. I was surprised that the cages were hard to pull out of the hive and found it was because the worker bees were busily attaching the cage to the foundation with beeswax. I managed to break it free using a pair of salad tongs. If I was wearing gloves I probably could have just used fingers.

Unfortunately I think I accidentally smooshed a few bees when I was trying to re-seat the frames. I don't want to look. Well, I don't really have to look for a few days. Next time I open the hives will be on a nice sunny day when many workers will be out looking for nectar and pollen. I'll use the smoker. I saw a video on about smoking. I'll have to practice lighting the smoker this weekend. I might look on Sunday to see if the queens are out.

Now I want to take pictures of my bees, and found my current lens on my SLR lacking, I have ordered a new lens from Dell. Then I thought maybe I don't need a telephoto lens so much as a macro lens... so maybe... next week? The macro is actually cheaper than the telephoto...the two together are way outside my budget...but I would be able to take excellent pictures of my bees.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Installation 4/13 - 4/14 2009

Well, Sunday, my brother John and I built the bee hives...the deeps. My cousin Sandy painted them and set up the foundation and the hives on Monday day. Monday late afternoon, I picked up my bees from and transported them to their location. Monday night I installed one package, and set the other next to the hives for the morning. I tried to get all my bees in the hive, but some wouldn't go so I set that on the ground near the hive thinking they would go in...but they didn't. There were several dozen that perished in the cold night air, huddled together in their little box. I feel terrible about it, but I suppose it won't be the worst thing I end up doing to them from thoughtlessness. I'll try to do better for my little bees.

Anyway the second package went in this morning. I sustained one sting, which is great considering how inexpertly I banged and shook my little bundle of bees from their temporary housing into their brand new spic and span palace. I had a little difficulty when I dropped the queen's cage into the hive with all the bees. I had to pull it out with extra long salad tongs (Twice, because it fell back in when I wasn't looking).

They mostly spread out all over the comb foundation -- it was a sight. A number of them were facinated by the queen's special abode, apparently they wanted to break her out but could not extricate her. I'll give them a helping hand tomorrow. I'll pull the corks and then they can chew the candy away.

Frank Lagrant told me to make sure she stays in there for a week or the bees will kill her when she gets out(I would if I was requeening), but I think she has been amongst them in her safe little cage for a few days now, anyway, so I think it won't be too soon to pull the plug in the morning. The other bee keepers I've been listening to have said I could have pulled the plug right away and even could make a small hole in the candy to help speed the way. They say right now the queen has to get laying as soon as possible.

After I went to work this morning my cousin Sandy called to report the bees were flying happily about and coming back to their hives and doing the dance ye all have heard about...I haven't seen the dance yet, but hoping to soon.

Saturday I have to go get some more foundation to build up some frames for my new workforce!

(This was so easy, and I was so worried up til I actually got them in the I want some more)

Friday, April 10, 2009

In the begining

I have an alternating feeling of excitement and dismay. What have I done? I ordered the bees in February, signed up for Bee School courtesy of Worcester County Beekeepers Association ($30/family), and ordered some startup equipment (Brushy Mountain Bee Farm).

Two Sundays ago, I decided to run out to Lagrants Honeybees in Ware to get some prefabbed frames with comb, since I had yet to receive any supplies I had ordered. A week and a half ago, the box of wooden parts arrived. I picked up the nails at Home Depot last night. This weekend will include gluing, nailing, and painting (I still have to get the paint)...I should have done it last weekend, but I didn't get to it. I did however manage to watch a movie or two. They must not have been very good, because I don't remember what they were...just that at the time, I had to see the endings...oh yeah, one was Sean of the Dead or I said, it wasn't very good.

Anyway. This weekend will be all work. Work work work. Monday I pick up my bee's and hive them. They are on order from

I'm going to have to make some sugar water on Sunday...I hope I have will be Easter, and I think I'll have to cook. Ah well, If I can't fit it in, maybe the bee man will sell me some on Monday.