Sunday, May 30, 2010


I have been on an adventure since opening the hives Thursday night. I worried all night about those queen cells, so I asked for advice from those who would know absolutely. Yep, queen cells! ALREADY!!! Oh My!!!! I thought "but--but--but-- they have over 3 frames of open space! Why????" I was advised of a few things to try, the one thing that got me was "if this was mine, I would split the hive, taking the old queen and putting her and some bees on a drawn out frame into a new box to make them think they swarmed already". That is what I decided to do. It was early in the day when I discovered all this, while I was at work, and not a thing I could do about it. I worried the queen would swarm before I got home, and also, all I had is extra hive bodies, no top or bottom boards! I went in panic mode but had to sit tight until the work day ended. To make matters worse, I could not get a hold of my supplier who had a shop a half hour away from home.

By the time I got off work, my supplier still had not called, so I drove 2 hours from home to the next place, the same place I got my bees from. By the time I got home, it was almost dark and I had to wait ANYWAY until Saturday morning! UGH! I could barely sleep.
Saturday morning, I was up at the crack of dawn. My dearest loving husband, in spite of not having ate breakfast yet volunteered to help me. God bless him!!! We had to walk the dogs. They COULDN'T wait! Right afterwards we went to work, searching for the queen to move into the newest hive. Problem; WE COULDN'T FIND HER!! I took a deep breath, pulled the chair over and searched frame by frame at least 4 times each side for at least 5 minutes per side. I could not find her! What to do?????? In the process of all of that, I didn't pay attention and one little girl got me good, right on the index knuckle. OWWW! In the house---ice---deep breaths. I decided at that point to just calm down. There was nothing I could do if the queen had swarmed already. I was obviously making the girls nervous too.

I had to make a decision. I decided to move one of the frames that had swarm cells (there were 2) over to the new box. I figured both boxes, if in fact there was no queen, could each use a chance to make a new one. I put one frame of drawn comb with eggs, larvae and capped honey into the new box, thinking I can rejoin them later if I need to.
My biggest concern later after talking to those who helped me was.. what if?? What if I just missed the old queen because she had slimmed down preparing to swarm, or there was a virgin queen still too small to notice with my newby eyes?? I guess I will just have to wait and see.

Throughout the day I checked the hives. The apparently queenless main hive was still calm and the bees were still bringing in huge baskets of pollen. The newest hive showed no activity at all except that the half jar of water seemed to be getting empty. Hmmm. I noticed a little puddle on the wood under the hive and thought maybe it was leaking. I seriously believed all the bees went back into the main hive and abandoned the comb, eggs, larvae and honey. I saw NO bees leaving or coming.

Today (Sunday), I debated about just putting the hive back the way it was and let nature take it's course. If the frame was abandoned, there would be no nurse bees to take care of the larvae and babies.

I know I should not do it, but I REALLY didn't want that frame to go to waste. So, I quickly popped the tops off and peeked in. To my amazement, there were MORE bees in there than what I put in! WOW! Ok, some must have hatched. I also noticed more comb built, although a bit wonky. I didn't want to press my luck. I quickly put the top back on and left them alone.

This is a REALLY interesting adventure! A true roller coaster ride for me! Oh! and that bee sting I got? Hurt like bear the first 24 hours, but didn't swell up except for a barely noticeable tiny bit. I am also a quilter and have abused my hands with quilting and crafts to the point I have arthritis in the knuckle below the one that was stung. The pain I suffer in the arthritic knuckle is now GONE! I wouldn't volunteer for stinging on purpose but it IS nice to type and move without pain.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Week 2-Looking Good And A Little Worrisome

It is miserably HOT and HUMID out, but the bees have been swallowing sugar water and I was very concerned about them running out of space. Both hives are running neck to neck in comb building, with both just about equal in the amount of comb they have drawn out. Both hives have 7 out of 10 frames with over 2/3 of the frame covered in comb. The brood patterns to me are beautiful.

Nurse bee feeding larvae

Close-up of larvae

More nice patterns in 2nd box

Worrisome queen cells. Are they replacing their queen? UGH!

Because there were 7 of 10 frames mostly drawn out and those worrisome queen cells, I added another brood box to each hive. I wish I had moved the 3 undrawn frames from each to the center of each bottom box though. I think I will do that next week if they are still undrawn.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Week 1- We have honeycomb, honey and eggs!!!!

I am so thrilled! I did the first week inspection and I am very pleased. The hives are going wonderfully!!!! I didn't know what to expect since I am doing foundationless, but they impressed my socks off!

Isn't this beautiful comb???

There was a little bit of wonky comb where the queen's cages were hanging. I had to cut them off but they were beautiful. I put those in a freezer bag and put them in a freezer without thinking about it. should have used a rubber band and attached them to an empty frame. Oh well. Next time.

If you look closely, you can see EGGS!!!! The wax was so pristine that I did not see the eggs at first. I was concerned. I took the wonky wax and studied it and found the eggs. Made my day!!!!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Learning Patience

Saturday evening Steve bought me an Adirondack chair and put it near the hives. Yesterday, throughout the day I spent time sitting in the chair, enjoying the heavenly fragrances of honeysuckle, sweet earth, and sweet hay. I was blessed with a visit by a pair of bluebirds who perched on an abandoned bluebird house that was on a pole right next to where the chair is. I spent a lot of time studying the bees. They ignored me totally. That was so cool! I was so happy that my presence didn't bother them. I was able to get within foot of the hives. I hung to the side a little so I wouldn't be in their flight path. They never seemed to notice me. I wonder if they recognize their keepers? According to THIS article, they do!

I am learning more patience than ever. I desperately want to peek in the hives to see what is happening. I know I can't. To do so may make them want to fly off. I will just have to keep trying to be patient.

Today it is raining. I could not spend any time with the bees. I did stop over to check on the sugar water level. They need sugar water to help make the honey comb, and so they do not need to spend a lot of time outside the hive searching for nectar. I was surprised to see some bees bringing in pollen, even though it was raining lightly. I thought they stayed in when it rains? I learn something every day!

The Morning After

On Friday morning, the next day, I had to go to work at 5am when it was still dark and the bees were still in the hive. I was very concerned that the storm would have made them want to fly away. I worried all day.

My son had several friends coming over for the weekend so it was somewhat late when we finally got home. We got home to bee CHAOS! They were EVERYWHERE, swirling around (not swarming). They were all over the fields, in front of the house, behind the house, in the barn, over the driveway I mean EVERYWHERE but on plants. They were attacking anything that moved!

The boys decided to try to play ball and one bee constantly chased one of the boys to the point he finally gave up and went in the house. They flew into my hair and my son's female friend's hair. My heart SANK. I couldn't bear to have to stay in all the time. It was an unbelievable sight.

Friday night we had another storm. This one with pounding hail the size of golf balls. I was sick. I was sure they were getting ready to swarm off!

I can see the back of the hives from our bedroom window. I have a pair of strong binoculars. At 7 am Saturday morning, the temperatures were in the upper 70's. I looked in my binoculars and saw no activity. I was sure they never went back to the hives Friday night. I got dressed, and with dread, headed towards the hives when walking the dogs. I saw no bees anywhere. I was positive they were gone. To my astonishment, the bees were still there. Not only were they there, they were actually bringing in pollen! Talk about shock! They were calm and orderly and very busy little creatures. Look at the pollen these girls brought in! One bee was so overloaded, she looked like a little penguin waddling into the hive. I wonder where they put that pollen???? Could they have built THAT MUCH comb in such a short time?? Amazing creatures!!!!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Installing The Bees

Picking Up The Bees At Supplier

On Thursday, 5/13, my boys and I picked up the bees on our way home from work and school. By the time we got home, nearly 2 hours away, it was almost dark. I was hoping to be home at least an hour earlier than I was. By the time we got everything set up, the sun went down. I had decided earlier to go ahead and install them even if it got dark. The next day was supposed to be warm and sunny; perfect for foraging. I debated about it more before installing the packages and decided to just do it.

The hive will consist of all medium hive bodies and foundationless frames, except for 1 frame of wax foundation in the middle to act as a guide for the bees to draw straight comb. All of the other frames will have just popsickle sticks glued into the grove. I also put a little lemongrass oil on the frames, since I know they are attracted to the scent. The first 2 boxes will be brood chambers. Additional boxes will be honey supers. I decided to go with all mediums due to weight issues of filled boxes.

Ready For Installation!

Installing the entrance reducer

Removing The Cork

Installing The Queen Cage In Hive

Shaking in da BEES!

I thought I would be nervous, but I was at complete ease. I enjoyed the process. We got a flashlight out and while I was installing the packages, Steve lit the scene and took pictures. We removed 2 frames from the hive body (brood chamber) to make room to shake in the bees. I then gently sprayed sugar water over the the packages of bees and the frames in the hive.

I had a tool that looks like a Leatherman. Steve used it to pull the wooden board up from the package, just sliding it back enough for me to pull the queen's cage out. I used a screw to act as a miniature corkscrew to remove a small cork in the end of the queen cage. Behind the cork was a piece of candy that the bees will chew through to release their queen. I sprayed the cage lightly with sugar water and then put it between 2 frames in the hive, the one with with wax foundation, the other with just the popsicle sticks glued into the groove.

After I installed the queen, I used the pliers of the tool and removed the can of sugar water that was in a cutout next to the cutout for the queen cage. Next it was time to dump in the bees! I shook and shook and shook but not all came out. Steve took over and shook in most of the rest of them. We sat the nearly empty package on the ground so the stragglers could find their way home. We then closed up the box.

I used a can opener and opened the can of sugar water. I poured all of it into a poultry feeder jar (same size lid as a mason jar). Steve made sugar water while I was on the way home and that, combined with what was in the can, filled the jar to the top. Steve installed the water feeder on Boardman feeder on the hive. The first hive was complete! We followed all the same steps for the second hive, but this time when I couldn't shake all the bees in, I thumped a corner on the ground to loosen them up (as instructed in our class). That did it. All the bees were then installed.

Then.......later that night.......IT THUNDERED!

In The Bee-ginning (sorry, couldn't resist)

I am a beginning beekeeper. My husband Steve is sharing this new love with me with excitement, which fills me with happiness. After two very long delays by the supplier, our first bees finally arrived this past Thursday, May 13th.

I have been wanting to raise bees FOREVER it seems. Steve and I married October 3rd of last year. He lived in a condo. My children and I lived in a house in the suburbs of Baltimore that had no real yard. My yard backed to a deep sloped wooded hill. There was an empty lot owned by the county next door, but I had a crazy neighbor that I didn’t want to mingle with. My crazy neighbor and I split caring for the lot between the two of us. She would cut her grass every single day and twice a day on weekends--rain, SNOW (yes snow!), or thunderstorms that had lightning hitting the ground around her. No, I didn’t want to deal with her.

I met Steve Christmas day of 2008, started dating him in April of 2009 and after a brief courtship, I knew I wanted to spend the rest of my life with him. He asked me to marry him and I said yes. We married that October. We bought a small farm that we fell in love with. Almost immediately I realized that a long time dream could actually happen. I could finally have BEES!

I began reading everything I could find on raising bees, including the very best sources, BLOGS. For Valentine's Day, Steve asked me if there was anything in particular I wanted. I am not a very conventional person. I said BEES! So, that is where it all started. He bought me two complete beehives for my Valentine gift and the next month ordered 2 packages of bees. Isn’t he the BEST?! We took a very fun class together that was offered by a local bee club right in our new town!