Saturday, December 28, 2013

They're still alive

Today I went out with my stethoscope and listened over the escape hole and the buzzing was INTENSE!  Mark, Cassie, and Joe came out and listened as well. We are all very excited to know they're still alive. It's getting down to 5 below tonight!

A guard bee came out to check us out and walked along the outside of the hive and one bee went out for a cleansing flight.

Here's hoping all goes well until springtime!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Update December 17, 2013

I pulled the cork out of the little hole so they won't suffocate.
No idea what's going on inside but Joe put another bale of straw around the hive for insulation while I was in Boston last week.
Now I don't have to run down there every time it snows to unblock the entrance hole.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Still worried

the cork is in the little hole (~3/8" hole = bee space) and there is a screw in it so I can pull the cork out easily

 the board keeps snow from blocking the opening over the landing board, the opening has a mouse guard over it

So I looked through the window today and it just seems like there is a paucity of bees, but mark reassures me that they are probably all clustered away from the window. I hope so.
Here is the photo of the piece of wood I put over the landing board/mouse guard and a close up of the cork I put in the escape hole. Keep your fingers crossed!!!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

An escape hole

Today is Tuesday November 19 and I was at the Beekeeping in Northern Climates course sponsored by the U of MN BeeLab this weekend - there I learned that I should have an "escape hole" for the bees or they could asphyxiate if my landing board gets covered by snow.

I originally had thought I would just check the entrance after every snowfall and keep it clear but now realize that it is safer to have the hole. They showed (Marla Spivak and Gary Reuter) what seemed like a large hole, since they plugged it with a big cork. I spoke with Bee Thinking and they said just a hole the size of "bee space" is adequate - that is 1 cm or 3/8".

So I went out to my hive, and carefully lifted the roof and quilt box to see where my top bars are, thus where the combs are, and centered the drill between the middle top bars/comb. I drilled a hole near the top of the top box just under the quilt box. I placed a board on a slant over the landing board to try to help the landing board stay free of snow so the bottom hole/entrance to the hive will not get obstructed.

Then I looked up at the hole I had drilled, and a guard bee was already coming out the hole to check out who intruded in her hive. I covered the hole with my finger and then put 3 tiny sticks in the hole to keep the bees in and avoid a draft for now. I figure I don't have to open it until it starts snowing. When I pulled out the drill, there appeared to be propolis/wax on the drill bit and a tiny bit of honey!

I redistributed the straw around the hive to block the northwest wind and then opened the window to look in. All of the bees were very active and working around on the comb. It's about 47 degrees out, so pretty nice for late November.

I sure hope they have enough honey to make it through the winter! It is too late to try to feed them anyway, so will just keep my fingers crossed at this point.

That's all for now, if anything else happens, I will let you know.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

NO!!!! I was apparently wrong!

They didn't swarm, they didn't abscond...I sent the pictures to Matt at BeeThinking and he says I have a healthy hive preparing for winter.
I forgot that all the drones die so the population should have decreased.
All is well.....yay

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Absconded a second time

My bees are nearly all gone again. I went to the hive yesterday to put the bottom board in, nothing flying about, opened a window and nearly empty of bees. I doubt they split and are developing a new queen, looks like she's absconded. The others will leave soon. In which case I will try to harvest the honey. Unless the reason they left is that they ran out of honey or were robbed by yellow jackets or other bees.

Not sure why. Maybe I should have fed them but it seems silly to have to "feed" wild insects with artificial sugar/syrup.....

Sunday, September 22, 2013

So yesterday, Saturday, Sept. 21, 2013 (my Aunt Patty's 83rd birthday), I went out to check the hive. What an eventful visit.
Not the bees so much, they're still there and seem ok, but sometimes I worry that there are less of them??
They're really packed tightly in the top box and it looks like honey in all the comb I can see against the windows, so we'll just have to see next spring!

The combs in the bottom box are beautiful and still white/pale yellow, so I'm not so sure that they are doing much down there, but I cannot see in the middle of the comb.

Well, here's my video from yesterday....

But that obviously, is not what made this visit eventful.
First of all, it was supposed to rain, so my task for the day was to ready my CME talk for next Wednesday on How to Manage a Cirrhotic Patient in the Outpatient Setting. I thought I would have all day. So the visit to the hive was a break from my reading and Power Point preparation.....btw, I'm supposed to be doing my presentation as I type this - never mind, it will get done :)

Alas, as I was leaving the hive, I heard one of the horses coughing rather forcefully, so assumed it was Main Man choking a little bit, or Bear, 'cause he's just old.

But no, it was Lady, green-tinged mucus was pouring (I mean pouring by 1/2 cupfuls at a time) from predominantly her left naris, then her right! She kept making a weird clicking noise and I realized she had an esophageal obstruction. No fever, pulse normal. Called Dr Heidi, the equine vet on call, who came out with her assistant.

They tubed Lady, hit up against the obstruction, and then started lavaging her - 1 1/2 hours later!!! - the grass/hay was disimpacted and the tube slid into her stomach. Banamine for inflammation and pain, long-acting antibiotic for infection, and we were done. Well, there went my afternoon!
She's fine today, in the stall, eating senior feed as a wet mash.

It's always something with old horses. Main Man did this 4 years ago!! So he primarily gets senior feed.

I'm not sure anyone reads this blog, so if you do, leave me a comment, ok? So I know my journaling is not in vain!

Signing off....

Monday, August 26, 2013

August update

Well, we were in Italy the past week and when I came home, it was pretty hot outside. I was worried the bees may have swarmed while  we were gone, but they did not.

The first/top box is still very full with lots of activity.

The second box has more comb than when I left.

all is good....

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

30 July 2013

Week 11

It looks like there are less bees and they aren't building more comb. I'm distressed but it may have to do with the recent mowing of our thistle. Mark had to control it but I'm worried it removed too much of their "near forage" - plus mowing during the day kills alot of bees who are on the flowers.

Hopefully, the queen didn't swarm and now I have to wait for another queen to develop. I do not want to disturb the hive by opening it just to find that out. But if I've lost my queen, I guess what can happen is only drones will be born and if a queen doesn't develop soon enough, the hive will just dwindle away.

I will keep you posted.

Here's an interesting article:

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Well now 9 weeks into this venture, the bees seem to happily continue building comb and presumably producing and feeding brood.

Here's my latest video - I put up a game camera because a black bear was spotted at the end of our driveway!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

June 26 - I went to make sure there was still activity and I didn't inadvertently crush the queen.
Lots of activity at the hive so I'm assuming she is fine.
I cleared some tall weeds from in front of the hive tonight.

There was  a resting lightning bug which I caught to observe its fluorescence! I brought it up to the house so mark could see it.

All is well at the hive - and when I got back up to the house, I picked strawberries - YUM!!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

So we're at 5 1/2 weeks of the hive. I decided to add the 4th box because I have been reading that when they fill the second to the last box, they know they're running out of room and are already planning to swarm. Apparently, by the time the apiarist figures it out, it is too late, so I figured more room is better than crowded conditions. That being said, there also seem to be absolutely tons of bees in the hive. I cannot believe how many have hatched so the queen is doing a good job. And therefore, I'm worried that they will swarm because there are just too many bees for my hive!

There aren't a lot of dead bees on the bottom screen but apparently, they remove the dead ones.

I went out alone with my smoker and my new box - Mark had just put it together for me this week. He made measurements so he can build new ones, too. I think it would be fun to start a second hive since this hive is so prolific. I was SO warm in the bee suit and veil but I didn't want to get stung since I was going to take the hive apart. I figured it's nice and warm out so they wouldn't lose too much heat if I disassembled it to put the new box on the bottom of the hive.

I've gotten really good at getting the smoker to work - I put a crumpled piece of newspaper in the bottom and light it, then take wood bark and drop it in to fuel the fire. I puff the bellows to get the fire going nice and strong and then I add small sticks and bigger sticks - but only as big around as my thumb, roughly. Then I close the lid after about 10 minutes or so and it smokes nicely. You aren't supposed to use hot smoke so I add some leaves or green grass when I get down to the hive to "cool it down."

The bees were very active when I got there - it was just after 8pm and there were loads of them going in and out of the hive. I smoked it and then the hive really started buzzing inside. I took off the roof and set it aside then the quilt box (where the creepy carpenter ants hide out - but fortunately, there weren't so many this time - yay). The top box with its bars is covered by a piece of burlap which the bees have adhered down with propolis so I lifted the whole box and the second box together and set them aside. I tried to work quickly so they wouldn't lose heat out of that top box (which is full of comb and working bees - and presumably the queen).

The third box had probably one hundred or so bees in it so I smoked them a little and then moved that box to the side as well. I then put the new box on the bottom (which is attached to the stand), positioned the top bars 1 cm apart (the "bee space") and set the third box on top of the new one. The bees landed on me but were never aggressive; however, there seemed like a lot of them around my head buzzing, and I started wondering if they had gotten under my veil somehow. Then I puffed a little more smoke in the 3rd box and brushed the bees off the top of it since I had to lift the 2 heavy boxes and put them on top of the 3rd box without crushing bees. Apparently, if you kill a bee, the smell emitted gets them riled up and defensive. I think I felt a couple of crunches (presumably crushed bees) but I tried really hard not to kill any. It's tough though because they crawl all over the place and just when you brush a bunch away some others decide to crawl up in your way.

Anyway, I then tried to slide the top two boxes back in place, gently pushing the bees (who kept walking on the top of the box that I was trying to stack these on to) to the side until they moved out of the way. I think it went ok but then there were all these bees who had left the hive. Now I know I'm supposed to be able to tell what the queen looks like but honestly, I'm so intent on minimizing the disruption that I don't sit there and study all the bees. I figure she's in that top box and not dumb enough to come down to the bottom and get crushed (famous last words). I put the quilt box back on (after having to brush about 3 dozen bees off the top of the fabric which is on top of the first/top box - they did NOT like that) then the roof. Then I looked in all the windows to see the combs again.

My books tell me to inspect the comb for brood, mites, etc, but I figure it's best to leave them alone, so I do not tip up the boxes to look at the combs close up - not sure I could see that much anyway, I think they're talking about removing frames and inspecting them (Langstroth hives - NOT mine!).

So here's the video after I was done adding the fourth box - I'll keep you posted on how fast they fill the second and third boxes with comb!

Monday, June 24, 2013

So I took my dad out to see the hive yesterday and they were building comb in the second box!!
Yay, so all is progressing quickly.

The pollen they are carrying in on their legs is yellower now, previously, it looked white. I can see larvae in the cells of the honeycomb and they are "capping" the cells.

Friday, June 21, 2013

this is an interesting article:

I have to go out tonight and see if the hive is still standing after the straightline winds last night!!

Monday, June 17, 2013

This video shows the parts of the hive, the quilt box and how the panels come off to expose the windows.
It was taken last Thursday and I checked them yesterday (barefoot and in a swimming suit - hahahaha) and shocked myself on the electric fence. I was grounding it since I was barefoot and when I opened the gate, the wire barely grazed me. Amazing how hard the shock can be from just 4 size D batteries.

So they are still building in the top box. Presumably the brood are getting ready - in fact, I think some should have hatched by now, I think it's about 3 weeks from egg to larva to bee. Also, if you can look closely, the bees that have the huge eyes - those are the drones!

Well, enjoy the video. The sawdust did feel a bit moist but not overly so. All's well with the Bigelow bees.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Day 22 photos: These were taken yesterday, June 8th.
If you look at the hive, it is enclosed but on the back side (you can't see that side), the panels come out and there is a plexiglass observation window behind the wooden panel). 
So looking at the hive photo, there is a copper roof, which sits over a quilt box. The quilt box is a shell with fabric at the bottom and sawdust on top of the fabric. It serves to insulate and to allow moisture to escape the hive. The bees bring in nectar and water as well as pollen and have to dehydrate it to produce honey. 

At the front, at the bottom, the silver piece of metal is a mouseguard, I removed it yesterday - I used it to help restrict the entrance size (didn't want them to abscond again). I also had to stuff the opening with grass initially to contain the bees in the hive (so they would make it their home). hahahaha

Below the quilt box are three hive boxes, they have handles on the sides to lift them separately. They have 8 top bars in each box and they build their beautiful and straight comb from each bar. The close up is showing the bees working on their combs.

So they are still finishing the 7th and 8th combs. It is so cool to watch them work up close. As they fly into the hive, you can see pollen heaped up on their rear legs. They form a chain (like a "Barrel of Monkeys") where they hook their legs together and pass wax up the chain to the worker who makes comb with it. They secrete wax off of their abdomens.

This video shows the bees working - sorry about the reflection! They are very busy! I am getting irritated with those carpenter ants - every time I take off the panel, there are a bunch of them under it - I don't know what they are doing but they better not eat the wood of my hive!

Well, it's not clear to me that these videos will work once I "save" this post - we'll see, I guess. The bottom video is of the front of the hive as the bees fly in. If you look closely, you will see the yellowish-cream colored clumps on their rear legs - the pollen. Not all of them have the pollen though.

Thursday, June 6, 2013


So I am amazed by the opinionated people who are part of the beekeeping community. It seems that each person is adamant that their particular method is the best. Almost fanatically so. I have spoken to one person who got angry when I mentioned that I had purchased a warre hive.
I would think that beekeepers would just be kind and encouraging rather than judgmental.  Oh well.

So it's been really cool and rainy and my bees are working away. I get a tick on me every time I go check the hive. Yuk!

I'm glad I have windows that I can look through. I just discovered that Beethinking had another slight error in manufacturing of this last windowed box.  The latch is mounted too high so I cannot remove the cover over the window. I will have to try to fix it without being stung.  Will keep you posted.

I wanted to share how cute the little queen cage is - the queen gets shipped in her own little cage, she is unable to feed herself so attendant bees care for her through the screen of the little cage. In the first package, she had workers in the cage with her.  We had to remove the cork plug, then pierce a hole in the candy plug which they then ate away to release her.  The second package was different. That queen was alone so I removed the cork with a nail, carefully as she walked away from the cork end to avoid piercing her! Then I quickly stuffed a mini marshmallow in the hole which the other bees ate to release her.  I took a dozen marshmallows with me and ate them after the job was done. They are one of my favorite foods! (Thus my love of Peeps!)

I find it fascinating how the queen has to be kept in a cage until the bees get to know her; of course in a real hive, the offspring would be her offspring and they would know her right away but in these packages, they are unrelated, so they have to develop a "relationship" so that the workers and drones will accept her. Well more bee lessons later!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Day number 16 of my beehive

Well I decided to add a box to the bottom before the top 2 get too heavy. Mark helped me lift them off then I placed the third box. Now I will leave them alone. They haven't filled the top box yet so I hope I wasn't premature in doing this! Lots of activity today. Sunny 65 degrees.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

The first two weeks of my Warre hive

So a few years ago, we visited some friends in England - Martin and Angela - Martin told my husband Mark all about Warre bee hives and Mark decided he wanted to build one. Mark's dad had bees at one point so he was all gung ho to start it.

Alas, it never happened, so guess what? I decided to do it.

I went online and did my research and bought a hive from BeeThinking and then ordered a 4# package of bees from Parson's Gold Apiary in Ohio. Well, those bees arrived on May 9th (2013) but my veil had NOT arrived. Fortunately, my colleague at work told me her dad had beekeeping equipment so he let me borrow his stuff!

I got the bees in the hive and all was going well. I followed all the tips and released the queen on Sunday, 3 days later.

On Tuesday, May 14, it hit 98 degrees at our house!!! WHAT?!?!? The bees were very active.

The next day I went to check the bees and they...were...gone!!!! Only 5 bees remained meandering along the 3 combs they had built. I felt like someone had died. I was so sad.

But the beekeeping community is amazing - there was an email from the SE Minnesota Beekeepers Association about some extra bees that had shown up so I called to see if I could get a package. Yay for Jim at Nature's Nectar in Stillwater. He had 3 left of the 75 he had received.

So Friday afternoon, I boogie'ed from work and drove up to his place.
That evening, I put the 3# package of bees from California in my hive.

So let me tell you what had happened. Turns out, Mark had put the stand on the floor of my hive upside down and the opening was too big - that's why my bees absconded with my queen the first time.

I found out early May 16 so ran out at 5:15am and fixed the hive. Well now the second package of bees (and may I say they are much healthier than the ones from Parsons!!) is thriving.

They are building comb in the top box. I did put a 2 jar feeder in for about a week but took it out despite the cold rainy turn of the weather. The reason being - why in the world does a human have to "feed" bees - wild insects? It just doesn't make sense to me. What have honey bees done without humans for centuries?

If anything, human intervention is likely killing I am practicing survival of the fittest. If my neighboring farmers don't poison my honeybees, then I am selecting for strong healthy bees. It has been 2 weeks (tomorrow) and I may add a third box this weekend - there are bees starting to work on three top bars in the bottom box.

I will keep you posted - they seem very gentle - I go down there without a veil, gloves or anything and they just go about their business. They are beautiful caramel colored girls!!