Category Archives: Bees

What the heck are these bees doing?

I took a look at the hive and got a bit of a fright that they were swarming (on foot?).  That clump hanging off of the landing ledge…?

But then I looked at the other hive:How similar is that!!?  My theory is that it had something to do with the heat and the time of day.  In another hour, they were all in the hive for dark.

I was looking forward to going in the hives today, but then there was a sudden (glorious) thunderstorm!  Good thing I wasn’t in the hive thing -the catastrophe would be hard to overstate.  The storm appeared fast and dropped a quick deluge and a breath of cool air relief, and passed by fast.

The chickens all got dampened, to various degrees.  The lightning was still about two km away but the thunder cracked so hard, while I was out feeding the chickens, that the hens all simultaneously started running, flapping, and screaming, but they had nowhere to go to!  Very funny.  They just reconvened a minute later under the trees and coops when the rain came down.

Not what you expect when you open a hive

This hive….*head shake*… I knew right away it was going to be trouble.  In the nuc box they were already busy attaching the frames to the box.  At first opening, they had burr comb and bridges everywhere – I figured they were going to be sculptors.  Overactive wax glands. Plus about a dozen queen cells that time.

I carefully scraped off all that unauthorized comb, but not even two weeks later, they’ve attached a sail to their feeder bottle.  Not sustainable!  Full of honey too.  And they had the whole inner cover stuck on to the frames.  I’m going to have to go in oftener to keep them in line.  I was there to super them up, and didn’t have time to scrape and clean everything, especially after discovering queen cells all over (again).  I just swapped out the comb and honey covered inner cover and carried on.  This hive is very vigorous, which is great, but they seem a bit crazy.  In the “crazed” sense of the word.  They have the numbers, but they don’t feel strong, they feel unbalanced.

I’ve named the hives!  The one on the left is Sunflower, the problem hive, on the right, is Violet.  The names just came, so I know they’re right.  I’m going to paint flowers on them.  I’ve got to put my beekeeper number on them too, asap.

New thing for me: I pulled two brood frames from this hive and started a new box (!).  There’s a closed queen cell on one, so in theory (I haven’t read up on this, just did it spontaneously with not much knowledge), lots of workers will stay with the brood they’re tending, and when that queen hatches, they will (swear fealty) to her and become a new hive.  That, or they’ll all leave and go back to the mother hive a few feet away.  I hope it works!   The new hive is Pansy:)

I didn’t see the queen in Violet, not that she isn’t there- there was a big beauty last time- so I don’t know why they’re requeening (again), but there were two big queen cells on two different frames, and that’s what made me steal one.  The perfect conditions, won’t happen often.  Oh, and there was a waggle dance being performed.

The other hive, Sunflower, kept busy consuming their syrup instead of using it for architecture, and they are smaller in numbers but mighty and well-behaved.  Not a bit of burr comb out of place, and frame after frame of closed brood, so they are about to have a population boom.


The baby chipmunks are doing well, scuttling around.  They’re not all the same size, and the smallest one is soooo cute.

The broken chick is doing very well.   Putting weight on it day before yesterday, limping yesterday, using it today.   Healing so fast!  She and Apples are in the greenhouse for rain day, and they’re scratching up a storm.  Tomorrow I’ll take her little cast/splint off.

Bee waterer

The bees have decided where they want to drink.  The purple chicken waterer.  Now it’s a bee waterer, because the chickens won’t use it anymore.  They know better.  They know what bees do.

This happened last year too.  The bees co-opted a waterer.  I prefer them to use the top of the blue barrels; that’s nice and safe, and closer, but they do what they want.

What I’m excited about is fixing the bee drowning problem.  They manage to drown themselves even in that little waterer.  The answer is corks!bee waterer with corksLots of bee life rafts.

 

Move-in day for the bees

Time for the new bees to go from their nuc boxes (temporary housing), to their forever homes.Sheltered from the rain with a hive lid.

These bees were also midnight bees.  They came from a agreat distance, and with the aid of caffeine and chatting on the phone, I did very well on the drive back, until I was 10km from home and the black dogs struck.  At midnight there was no one else on the road so I crept, 40kph the last few klicks.  My theory was if I fall asleep and go in the ditch, I’ll go in slow.  So tired. 

I got home and fell fast asleep in the driver’s seat the moment I shifted into park, sleeping next to the boxes of bees belted into the passenger seat until dawn.  It was really neat, a different, dreamless but not completely unaware sleep, with the light humming of the bees next to me.  Not often one sleeps next to bees, I suppose.

I was annoyed by the ping of rain in the morning, that forced me to move, to put the bees in place on their prepared stands, and cover them for the day’s downpour.

The following day came move-in day.

The four frames in the nuc box get placed into a super, alternating with brood-ready comb frames, and a frame heavy with honey on each side, for insulation.

These bees had built some significant burr comb on the bottom of the frame, so much it wouldn’t go in the super, and I had to slice that off.  While I was doing that, always a delicate job, I did the unthinkable:  I dropped a frame.

I’ve never done that before.  Immediately I heard Klaus’s voice in my head saying to stay prepared (in the event of a sudden sting), and never drop a frame.

I didn’t drop it from very high, it slid before it fell, but with a frame, however it lands is going to be bee side down.

Right away my feet were stuck where they were.  I picked up the frame and there was a pool of bees rumbling around on the ground, all around my feet.  Not to mention suddenly three times more airborne as a moment ago.

I finished with the other frames, then crouched and started scooping bees into my hand with the bee brush, and dropping them in the super.  I got most of them this way, and the rest were forming a group and on the march.  Here they are starting up the leg of the hive.  So smart!

I picked up the straggling individuals until I could move my feet; the group seemed to have it handled.  Amazingly, I did not get stung.  More amazingly, not one bee was killed!  Not one bee body from the drop.  Inside the empty box, the remaining bees are doing the same thing, grouping up, here on the wrong end of the box.  The fallen bees have finished their journey in.  20 minutes later all the bees had found their way inside. The other hive went much better.  Phew!  Nerve wracking, but no casualties.  Moving day never goes all well as you expect.

Where there’s life, there’s hope

My bees might just make it!  This weird, hot-cold “winter” can’t be good for them.

It was warm enough for me a couple days ago to take the lid off and give them a jar of syrup (amazing.  In February!), but I was sick with worry.   No bees outside, on a warm day.  I was pretty sure I was going to find a dead hive when I lifted the lid.  Ugh.

But instead, I found a black knot of bees around the empty jar!  Yay!  And hardly any dampness, or mold in the eke insulation, which indicates moisture.  In fact, it was more dry than last year. I gave them a full jar, put the the lid back on, and then the guard bees came shooting out while I was taping them back upHey!  You’re jostling us!

Good:)

Will they or won’t they?

So far, so good.  The bees are still alive.

This winter with its crazy yoyo temperatures has to be hard on them, but they are still humming in there.  Hope they can make it. I can’t open and feed them again yet.

I lost the big hive, my original hive, quite suddenly at the end of last summer, and these, the new bees, didn’t have long to get established, and God forbid, they may have been infected with the crisis from the other hive.  But so far, they’re ok.  I’m tense about it.This is two bees at the upstairs door, walking around on the tarpaper the hive is wrapped with.  On warm enough days, a few come out walking around or flying.

Bee Bizarre

The bees are doing the strangest thing.  They are obsessed with the chicken food, groups of them buzzing and crawling over it all day.

The chickens are a little nervous about this, but they eat anyway.

It started as soon as I opened the last bag of chicken food, so the only thing I can guess is that this particular batch has a lot of pollen in it.  If there was some weed in the field or one of the grains in flower at harvest time, pollen might have come to be ground into the feed, and the honeybees are scavenging it right out of the chicken trough.

Every day, the bees are in every chicken dish, all day, working.  I’ve never seen such a thing before.

Bee skyscraper

The old bees (on their third summer) are not dividing.  I added a fifth super in July.  It’s not like five full size supers is unheard of, but it’s tall!  I thought they were going to split this year, and I’ve had inviting accommodations all set up, should they feel like swarming.  They didn’t.

Now they likely aren’t going to, since it’s too late to set up housekeeping and build up honey stores before the winter.  So that’s a huge hive.  I guess that means they’re happy. They may winter in three supers this year.  Next year, they’ll surely split.

It’s tall!  I can’t see into the lounge to check on their syrup, I can’t lift the lid, and I can’t see in if I do, without a ladder.  And working off a ladder is terribly hard.  I had my first taste of it installing the fifth super, and wow, I kind of wish I’d opted for mixing small and full supers.  Moving heavy weight very slowly and smoothly to not crush bees, in a bee suit, is quite a workout – I was dripping, and shaking.

 

Newbees

Three weeks ago I got a second hive of bees.  Yes, late in the year, but they were from my bee guru, and he was confident I could take them through the winter by putting the syrup to them hard. 

I brought them home in the night, seatbelted in on the front seat.  They were very quiet.  I set them in place on the pre-established base of the hive, with the lid right on top of the nuc box.

First thing in the morning, there was a bee walking about, investigating.  Later in the day, there were many bees flying around, mostly backwards, getting their bearings (they leave the hive backwards and hover around a bit, getting a visual impression of the hive’s location, before they leave to work), and some already hard at it, carting in pollen.

I transferred them to the super, but because these nuc boxes have slots in the bottom to prevent frames from clanking around, I couldn’t knock the loose bees out into the hive.  I had to leave it leaned up against.

The bees inside were all confused, and slowly moved up the box as a group.  Where’d everybody go?  Gravity just changed direction too.

Since these bees were unexpected and I didn’t have time to make a batch of bee syrup the first day, I opened a jar of wax and honey from last year and set it in the lounge.  Just to get them through that night.

The few jars of wax I have are quite solid, with a bit of honey precipitated out on the bottom.  I pushed my finger down the side of the wax chunk so they could get at some of the honey, but it wasn’t soft enough to ooze out.

Next day when I went in to give them syrup- WHOA!  They cleaned out that jar of wax.  In 24 hrs.

In fact, they made quite a mess.  Wax flakes everywhere.  I took the dry jar out and gave them syrup.

Inside the bee lounge (eke)

Inside the first beehive, the art studio is still going strong.

They continue to sculpt the chunks of burr comb and wax that I drop in there to their liking, but don’t do anything with it. Just art.

Opening the hive

May 13

I got my first chance to get into the hive.  We´ve had a warm, early spring, so I’ve been feeding them, and anxious for the right warm day to come, so I can give them the third super.  They´ve been unwrapped since the end of April, but this is the first time I´m going to the bottom of the hive, and the inner lid is coming off.

 

 

Phew, a chance to dump/brush all that scrap straw off the inner cover.

 

Since I´m going right to the bottom of the hive today, I´m wearing my bee suit.  They might get testy before I get done (They didn´t.  My bees are so laid-back).

The hive´s doing very well.  Saw the queen – she´s so huge.  Two queen cells, so they´re up to something, but I don´t think division.  They might be replacing her, as there was caped brood but no brood less than a week old.  I´m leaving that alone.  Still, or already, a few solid frames of honey.

It get´s a bit out of hand with all the frames, and spare supers, etc, planning how I´m going to shuffle and redistribute frames.

I´m also happy to get these original plastic frames that the nuc came with up to the top super, so I can take them out this year.

Mostly my bees have been well behaved, only a little bit of bulging honey frames.  A couple of burr combs full of honey that I had to break, and honey dripped all over- that keeps them occupied. 

Putting it back together now.  

The bee lounge cleaned off, with their ongoing art installation, now with new burr comb t play with.

Three stories tall now.  No stings, no crushed bees.  A good hive opening.  I didn´t even get thumped on the head.