Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Winter preparation

Just as we are putting on our hats and mittens more frequently, the bees are getting ready for the winter as well. I have been feeding them honey for a while and it has been just too cold to continue with that for a while. I tried to feed a bit of 2:1 sugar water, but they have officially stopped taking that now.
2:1 sugar water is 2 parts sugar to 1 part water. This means the bees have to less work to store it. Is it as good as honey, no, but it can get them through in a pinch. Think of it as ramen noodles - not your staple food, but will keep you alive.
Today I took apart the hives for the last time this year. The weather is warm but rain is threatening. I took out all the feeding bottles and only one hive even took the sugar water. All three hives looked amazing. There were plenty of bees, they were flying in small numbers, and they were gorgeous.
I love being a beekeeper. Days like today are precious - I worked the hives while everyone else is going about their lives at school and work, and the bees and I had our secret moments of gratitude and worship.

Monday, November 15, 2010


The girls are doing great - enjoying the warmish weather. I have completed their winter preparations with some extra insulation. I am trying to get them to take a ton of honey and nectar that I extracted this fall.

On a beekeeping note, I attended the Worcester County Beekeepers Association Thanksgiving Banquet. It was there that I got to pick up my spiffy silver cup award for having the Best In Show Honey from the Spencer fall this fall.
This cup I get to keep for a year. You can see my name right below Peter Niemi's name. I asked Peter last winter for his secrets to winning Spencer and he generously gave them to me. I followed them to the letter and ta da! the cup is mine for a year (and Peter didn't enter the fair this year!). If you ask me what he said, I will share.

This pretty glass trophy I get to keep forever. It is really beautiful.

But the evening wasn't over.

A few weeks ago, I got a call from Ken Warchol, the Bee Inspector. I got a management award for beeing a good beekeeper.

I got a beautiful plaque - sorry about the glare - it is such an honor to be thought of as a good beekeeper and be recognized by my fellow beekeepers. This is still a pretty new award and I am still blown away that Ken thinks I am doing a good job.

I am still gobsmacked.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Fall Feeding

I made the hives really tall - it is funny to see them tall again. I took down the fall medications I use for mites. Varroa mites attach to bees when the are little larvae and then when the adult emerges from the cell, the mite is already attached. They suck the life out of bees - not all the life, but just a little at a time. The makes the whole hive just a little bit less able to fight infection. The more mites, the less able the hive is able to fight infection.

And did I mention that the more mites a hive has, the meaner they get!? Oh, yeah the bees in my first hive -the meanest bees in Worcester County- had high mite levels. Not wanting to go there again, I treat my bees with a miticide that is gentle to the bees and to me.

I added a hive box and gave the girls lots of honey to help them keep warm in our chilly mornings. They seem like they are doing well. Unlike last fall, Sun's hive is the weakest of the three. The other two hives have more bees, but all three seem to be quite happy and doing well.

I did discover we need a new cover for Ruby's hive. The cover is old and rotting underneath. It is letting in moisture and that can be fatal for the bees in the winter - if they get wet in the winter they can freeze and die.

Over the next month or so we will be tucking the girls away for the winter. They will be getting a partial wrap around the hives to help keep in the heat and protect them from snow covering the entrance way. I also put a few bales of hay outside of the bee-deck to help with the wind. I don't know if it really really helps, but it makes me feel better.

I miss the bees already!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Bee porn, slutty queens and vegetarianism...

We had three speakers at the fall Massachusetts Bee Meeting - a queen breeder, a researcher who studies queen quality among other things, and Harvard profession who studies public health.

What a great day! One of the speakers was late so we heard both talks by the Joe Latshaw ( While he produces queens for commercial beekeepers and works on a scale that is way beyond my wildest dreams, he explained to us - hobbyist beekeepers - how to use what he's learned and some of his techniques to become our own queen breeders on a small scale. What I took away from Joe's talks is that I need to think about the sustainability of my own apiary and I now have the tools (ok at least the directions) to select and rear my own queens to make that happen. Joe also stressed keeping records. This resonated with the scientist in me!

Our second speaker was Alex Lu from Harvard. He titled his talk "Putting your health in your hands" and was a great talk. I can see how much of what he spoke about being applicable to my hives - preventative care is way less expensive and more sustainable than treatment. I love the reminder to eat vegetarian before 6pm - save the world and your body by consuming less meat which contains high levels of chemicals and antibiotics.

The final speaker was David Tarpy from North Carolina State University. He explained why we need genetic diversity in our bee yards and that slutty queens are better. On average, honey bee queens mate with a dozen drones - but some will mate with that many in one day and still go out the next day for more! He showed us a great video of a queen on her nuptial or mating flight. Wow - bee sex is brutal and a one shot deal for the drone! Aside the idea that more is better for the queen, I learned a great deal about the reproductive health of honeybee queens. They are pretty amazing girls!

Bee meetings are great for socializing with other beekeepers too. I got to sit with two of the other beekeepers in Millbury - always a good time!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Final Harvest

We made our final harvest of the year and reaped maybe 25 lbs. This brings our total for the year just over 100lbs from two hives. This is really terrific and we are so happy with the girls.

This fall honey is much darker in color and deeper in flavor than our spring honey. As you walk around different parts of the yard or when I go in the hives, the odor of nectar is quite over powering. The bees are ON goldenrod like crazy. This is one of the most pungent flowers ever in my opinion. Until this year I had never really noticed that it had any fragrance, but now, I smell it all the time on the flowers.

This is a picture of our back deck and the tray is holding wax. The tray is covered with buttery yellow wax. But that is all brown you say - well yes, the buttery wax is COVERED in bees. The lovely girls are sucking out every morsel of honey from the wax and tucking it away for the winter. All the flying specks are bees coming to find a space on the wax. The sound of the bees and smell of the wax is intoxicating.

The other cool thing we noticed is all the bee relatives who have visited the honey. We have other kinds of bees and wasps of every flavor and color. This was best viewed from inside the house!
~Go bees!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Bee's Knees Brownies

1 cup butter, the real stuff
1 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1 1/4 cup honey from happy bees
1 tsp good vanilla
3 large eggs from a local farm
1/3 cup cocoa
1 cup unbleached flour
1 cup of pecans, roughly chopped

Preheat oven to 350' and grease a 9x12 pan.

Melt butter and chocolate in a water bath (for me that is a glass bowl nestled in a small pot with water it). Mix until very smooth. Add honey and vanilla and let cool. Whip the eggs until frothy and add a small amount of the chocolate to temper the eggs. Then add the remaining chocolate. Add cocoa and flour and stir until just moistened. Pour in to pan and top with nuts.

Bake 35 minutes or until a tooth pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely before cutting and use a very sharp knife when you do.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Best in Show

Our honey won not only a blue ribbon but BEST IN SHOW! Whooo hoo. Good job bees!!

We had a great time volunteering at the Worcester County Beekeepers Association booth. We sold lots of honey, honey sticks and S had a wonderful time making beeswax candles.

And now for the brownie news:

Now my friend Andrea is going to challenge me to do something else next year! I must say the brownies were popular with the judges - they loved the distinct honey flavor and the moistness. I will post the recipe this week.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Brownies for the fair

After much experimenting and many emails from the talented Andrea, I think I've got it. I changed a few ingredients, but mostly changed the preparation of the brownies. They are really good. You can see they are dusted with cocoa on top, but with the amount of honey in the recipe, it will be absorbed in no time!
As you can see, there are two lovey jars of golden goodness perched next to the brownies. I am bringing honey again this year. This will be our third year exhibiting honey and I expect to be in the light amber category. Last year our honey was much darker.
The honey this year is mighty tasty, but if you've been reading this blog for over a year, you might remember that the Spencer Fair is a beauty contest. A mere 10 out of 100 points are awarded for taste. The remainder is all about looks, baby. I've been polishing and banishing bubbles all morning. The honey looks great. Let's hope the judges agree!
Normally I'd say I had butterflies, but perhaps today I should rephrase that and say I have honeybees in my stomach. Judging is tonight after 6pm.
We are going to the fair to help with the WCBA Honey booth on Saturday afternoon. If you are in the area, come on by and say hello.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Brownie Batch #2

I cheated a bit and found a recipe that won a blue ribbon at another fair. I had high expectations; alas they were dashed. This batch tasted good, but more like a sponge cake than a brownie. The texture was rubbery.

Sooo, I am back to baking. I grabbed a new round of supplies and plan to make some changes to this recipe. I am going to add more chocolate to start with and bake it in a slightly smaller pan to make it more dense and luscious - more brownie-like.

Stay tuned...

Saturday, August 28, 2010


I am trying to make brownies with just honey as a sweetener to enter in the Spencer Fair. The fair is next weekend, so I've left it a bit late especially since I don't have a recipe that actually uses honey. My first experiment was going to be using three chocolates: unsweetened, bittersweet and cocoa. Alas, my lovely friend Andrea gently pointed out that bittersweet chocolate has sugar in it.

So in addition to switching the sugar out, I also switched out the bittersweet chocolate and substituted unsweetened.

Experiment #1 - total failure. The brownies are terrible!! They have the weirdest texture and are, believe it or not, too chocolaty.

Tomorrow will be Experiment #2 - I am going to actually change two things, which is generally one too many for most scientists, but this girl has a deadline and it is soon! I am going to jump ahead and I think this will be much closer to real brownies moist, rich and oh so sweet.

Now this is science I can love!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Good friends

I have the nicest friends!! A lovely friend of mine gave me a book called The Hive Detectives.
This is targeted to middle school aged readers but is a great book for adults. Loree, the author, visited with many beekeepers and scientists to explore colony collapse disorder.

If you open the book, the first pages show a beekeeper, Mary, who is my mentor! I have visited her beautiful purple and gray hives. Totally cool.

Good reading and I never tire of looking at beautiful bees.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Honey Harvest

We harvested honey for a second time this year and got about 50lbs. It was a long day but made extra fun by my mom, my husband's mom, his grandmother, and my sister joining in on the fun. We were hoping for a larger harvest but were foiled by Joy.

Yes Joy - the queen who likes to do her own thing got on top of the queen excluder and well, did what queens do, she laid eggs. Sigh. So we took the offending excluder off.

A queen excluder is a grid with openings that are too narrow for the queen to go thru. You place it above your brood boxes, where the queen is suppose to live to keep her out of the honey boxes. Now we have learned the lesson that it can work both ways - it will keep her out of the brood boxes if she's in the honey super.

My six year old, was in the honey and wax from the first cut and declared the honey GREAT!

Monday, July 12, 2010

The New Queen

We loved all the suggestions folks came up with for the queen's name. Finally it just clicked. My six-year old came up with the new queen's name.

Daughter of Rose will be...


Sunday, July 11, 2010

The good, the bad and the painful

First the bad.
We didn't find any young larvae in Joy's hive. We went in to give them some empty frames so she'd have room to lay eggs. We found plenty of capped brood, meaning the larvae are at least nine days old. We gave the hive a frame with young eggs (under three days) just in case. Just in case what you wonder... in case Joy is no more. They can make a new queen out of any old tiny egg. If she is there and doing well, then these eggs will be just a bit more brood - no harm done..

The good.
Sun's hive is rockin'! We took seven frames of people honey from her hive - yep you read right - PEOPLE HONEY. Whoo hoo. Sun had lots of brood and honey. We extracted honey from ten frames in total and got about three gallons. Yay!

The fabulous.
Rose's daughter is gorgeous! Yep, we actually got to see her in all her magnificence. She's a really nice size and the bees are quite plentiful in this hive despite swarming. (Which, we never did see.) I would have taken pictures, but I was too scared to remember! No name yet, but I am still taking suggestions.

The painful.
After coming in from extracting, I thought to myself that it has been over a year since I'd gotten stung. Ahhh the hubris. Sure enough, I went out to plant some basil I got at the Millbury MOMS Club Annual Banquet and a bee got caught in my hair. You can guess the rest of the story. Mike was amazing and got the stinger out super fast.

Let me know if you are interested in purchasing honey this year - we will be selling again in August! Yay bees.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Inspector's Report

We got a visit from the State Bee Inspector last week. Ken Warchol, our local inspector, must check our hives at least once per year. He checks for diseases, pests, honey, equipment, and how well you keep your bee yard.

This was a milestone year for us. We are no longer "New Beekeepers" on the inspection sheet.

He confirmed exactly what we found in Rose's (formerly Pink's) hive - they are going to swarm (if they haven't by now) and he found five capped swarm cells. This is great - there will be plenty of strong contenders for the throne.

Sun's hive is in lovely shape with lots of people honey and good stores of bee honey.

Joy's hive is getting honeybound AGAIN.

So, this was a good report. Ken kindly stopped by on his way home just to chat and have some lemonade. I learn so much from him about my hives and he is a generous teacher.

Yay bees!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

The good, the great and the downright Joyful...

First the Joyful
Joy's hive is honeybound. We spent last weekend checking the bees, took out six of her 20 frames, spun out the honey and returned two of those, plus four "blanks" for the bees to make in to honeycomb. And less than a week later, they are filling those up with honey AGAIN! Hello Joy... make babies and put the honey in the people-honey boxes.

There is at least 25lbs of people honey in her hive. There just should be more.

The great!
Sun is AWESOME! She's makin' babies like crazy and filling up the people-honey boxes, or honey supers in bee keeper lingo. Her girls are always a bit jumpier that everyone else, but that seems to be the personality of the hive.

Then the good
Rose is clearly a good queen. The bees are super calm and there are LOTS of them. She might be be just too good of a queen. With all the bees in her hive, even with three honey supers, they are going to swarm. Yep, Rose is leaving and taking a bunch of bees with her. I expect the swarm to leave any day now. When we checked the hive, the very first frame I pulled and an uncapped queen cell and a lovely capped cell. Sigh.

I will keep my eye out for the swarm, but I am not really interested in a fourth hive right now. If I did find it and get it into a box (and that alone would be worth taping for the laugh factor!), I would have to get them going in their own hive. I could combine them with my weakest hive in the fall, but as it is right now, they are going well.

Rose does have a lot of honey on the hive. They have at least 25lbs of people honey ready to go, so I am confident that even with a new queen (who better be a slut and mate with a LOT of drones), we will still have plenty of bees for the winter.

Any name ideas for the daughter of Rose?

Monday, June 21, 2010


I feel like such a bad beekeeper. I mowed our lawn Saturday - what a job. We've had a lot of rain on the weekends lately and our lawn has made that inexorable shift to meadow. We have lots of pretty clover and hawkweed flowers appearing in the lawn. The bees have been loving it.

Then came the day where I had to mow. There were a few brave bees who tried to grab the last of the nectar before I mowed and I hope they all got out of the way in time!

If you can, help support the bees and leave a small section of your lawn unmowed to grow clover or other meadow flowers. It is a key nectar source this time of year as most of the trees are done flowering but big summer sources of nectar aren't peaking yet. Good summer nectar sources are wild roses, daisies, and blackeyed Susans.

Go bees go!

Friday, May 28, 2010

All Hail the New Queen

Without a queen in Pink's hive, thing were going to get ugly. I needed to get a queen and get a queen fast. Luck was with me when George O'Neil of Autumn Morning Farms had a New England breed queen available. He delivered this package to Mary Duane, my friend and mentor. Mary works at a high school and the kids took a look at the bees under the 'scope. All the wings, legs and other bits were intact.
This is a picture of her before I set her in the new hive. She is at the top of her queen cage with a worker just under her. You can see how a young queen is very similar in size to a worker. The more eggs she lays, the bigger she will get.

I carefully placed her queen cage on top of the bees to gage their reaction. I was looking for curiosity and not aggression. If they became aggressive that would imply there was already a queen and either she's a virgin or she's just returned from her mating flight. Either one of these scenarios would explain the lack of eggs.

Bees were curious...

really curious...
and before I could snap another picture, they covered her cage, I put down the camera, and grabbed her! My fear was that they were going to ball her. Essentially that means the bees cover her cage and suffocate her.
I made a quick call to Mary who came over. We enacted the same steps and then Mary (my expert!) called Ken Warchol (our local bee inspector and her expert!). Ken had a great suggestion - put her in the hive for two days but leave her cage so that the bees cannot release her or harm her. Reassess at that point and remove her if they are aggressive toward her or release her if they are calm.
Having a plan helped me relax. Having Mary there helped too. We watched the bees' behavior and they seemed focused but not aggressive.
I have a good feeling.
And a name for her. I'll tell ya in two days if she makes it.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Colony Collapse Disorder

Looks like finally there is some glimmer of understanding of Colony Collapse Disorder. At a recent scientific meeting it was revealed that the interaction of two pathogens, one a fungus and the other a microbe, might be responsible for killing bees.

While understanding of the causes of CCD has been a huge challenge, treating it maybe even more challenging.

CCD is not much of an issue for hobby beekeepers like me. I treat my bees for the microbes as do most other beekeepers. So what is different about commercial beekeepers? Commercial beekeepers move their bees around, often feed them sugar water, feed them a single nectar source, and let the temperatures in the hive fluctuate. This stresses the bees significantly and we know what our immune system is like when we are stressed - it doesn't work well.

Food for thought.

Monday, May 24, 2010

The good, the bad, and the down right terrible

The good:
Sun is rocking. Her hive is just humming along so well I gave them a new honey super. That is a box for people honey. I only took a through the top two boxes, but that is all I needed. There were a few queen cups - indicating a desire to swarm. This is totally normal for this time of year and there were no eggs in any of them. So the bees are just planning for a rainy day.

They are still using the back door entrance so checking on them is always a challenge. I have to stand somewhere but it is always best not to stand in front of an entrance to a hive. Where do I stand if they use the front AND the back!?

The bad:
Joy still has some larvae in the top honey super that have not emerged so I cannot get another super on them yet. I did get to see some really adorable eggs and larvae in the brood chamber - where they belong. They do have about six cells of capped honey and lots and lots of near honey. With the awesome weather coming up this week I am confident that they will cap more honey.

The down right terrible:
Pink is gone.

It was clear something was amiss in the hive. The smell was wrong and there is very little pollen coming in. I couldn't find eggs or even young larvae. The bees are filling up the brood chamber with honey and they are wicked productive, let me tell you. I could barely lift the brood chamber it had so much honey.

What ever happened was a surprise to the bees because there is no supercedure cell. That is the way a hive usually makes a new queen - they start a queen cell in the middle of a frame. I looked carefully and found nothing even close to a supercedure cell.

This leaves me with two choices 1) give them some eggs from one of the other hives and let them make a new queen or 2) buy a mated queen from a local beekeeper.

Given that there are still a boatload of bees in the hive and they are still fairly calm I am leaning toward buying a new queen from the same dealer I purchased Red, Pink's mom three years ago. I hate to loose too much time just before the peak of nectar flow.

I am really quite sad to see this line end. I have always loved belonging to Red and Pink. They both had a real gentle streak that made me so happy to be a beekeeper.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Joy's hive

Now looking at this, you'd think it would be clear to me that her laying pattern is upside down. This was taken at the beginning of April, before I put on the darn honey super. You can see the patch of brood, or baby bees, as the light tan in the middle. This is surrounded by yellow pollen and there is nectar on the corners.
If you flip this over, it is a great pattern. Joy is so her own girl!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Still learning

I checked on the girls today and they look great. It looks like the skunk guard got tipped as some point recently and something (possibly black and white) was biting or scratching Sun's hive. The bees have a funny bottom board that they like to use as a back door entrance. I think this is why the beastie was bothering the girls in middle. Given that they are New England bees, that is no surprise - no one around here seems to actually use their front doors!

Joy is teaching me yet again that she knows how to be a bee better than I know how to be a beekeeper! I put honey supers on all the hives a couple of weeks ago. Joy's bees had done nothing on the bottom super so I expected that the honey super would be merely a plaything for them for a while. Alas no. The wax on the bottom super needs to be cleaned out - dead bees, bits of wax, and other detritus litters the frames.

They are either being lazy or just don't like that wax because Joy decided to lay eggs in the honey super frames! Grr. I don't like using a queen excluder between the brood boxes and the honey supers as I don't think the bees like to go thru them and I get less honey. Nonetheless, I put one on today - after assuring myself that she was in the brood box. (She is a really pretty queen!)

Pink's hive is doing beautifully. I could watch her bees all day long. Pink's laying pattern looks like not only did she read all the books, she probably wrote them! We have our first capped honey cell - yep - cell singular! Her hive smells so good - all business and wax.

It was a great check - and my smoker stayed lit the whole time!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Movin' day

After much discussion and shadow watching, we've decided to move Joy's hive. The bees just aren't building up much steam. We had a skunk bothering the bees two springs ago so we are still concerned about that. We've moved our compost pile ffaaarrr away from hives and enclosed the deck they were sitting on.

Now Joy will be ... outside the fence. Deep breath! We are going to have explore some other skunk-foiling measures: rolled chicken wire and tack boards.

A skunk walks up to a hive and knocks on it. The bees, being concerned, come out. The skunk grabs them, rolls them on the ground until dead, and eats them.

The chicken wire and sharp nails sticking up foil the skunk's attempt at a free lunch. {evil laugh here}

To move the hive we need a nice day, lots of courage, some wire, staples, and straps. Maybe even a few friends.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Bugs, bugs, bugs!

Bees are the only bugs I expect to see at the hives so I was quite surprised to see that the hives are a buzz with all kinds of insect activity in addition to bees.

There are a ton of flies everywhere. I they were just flying around, not really hanging out on anything so I am wondering if there is ... well a body of a mouse or something near by. I didn't smell anything other than the musky scent of the bees so any more is just a guess.

I saw my first wasp of the season. She was just basking in the sun and was a solitary wasp, not the nest making kind. Solitary wasps are often fairly gentle. They lay one to a handful of eggs in one spot, then move anther spot and do the same. Without a single nest to defend, these creatures are fairly non-aggressive.

The most fun find was a butterfly! Usually my first butterfly of the season is a Spring Azure.

But not today! Keep in mind I am a beekeeper, not a butterfly keeper. I THINK the butterfly I saw was a Question Mark. They generally fly first in April, but with the nice weather it is possible it is out earlier. It was too fast for me to get a good picture and only held still in positions that were unphotographable!

The photos are from the Butterfly Atlas - a great project from Massachusetts Audubon Society. Check out the entire atlas and the great pictures here.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Checkin' in...

The girls are doing GREAT! I checked my notebooks from last year at this time and I was a very sad beekeeper: one hive had died and the other (Red's) looked like it wasn't going to make it. Well Red made it and was replaced by her daughter Pink.

Sun's hive is the weakest, they are using about 3-4 frames up top. They had sugar and pollen left. They were quite active and bringing back plenty of pollen and the only reason for pollen is BABIES! I still had three jars of honey from last year, so I gave them honey. The little rectangle in the middle is the opening to the hive. The honey is on risers so the bees can get under the lid and drink the honey from the holes. I put their outer lid over the top of this empty box.
Joy's girls were occupying about 5 frames in the upper box and that is great. They were pretty active when I opened the hive. Since my sweetheart and I had already moved frames this weekend, I didn't muck about too much, mostly just said hello and put the honey on them.

Pink's hive made my heart happy. I dug in to see where the empty frames were in the top box and found BROOD. Yep, I saw babies {happy dance}. It was a small patch but they were about ready to hatch out. Mazel tov Pink.

Since it was such a beautiful day, I just hung out at the end of all this and just enjoyed the bees. I got this picture of a bee with pollen. If you look carefully you can see a light line on her back between her wings. That is also pollen that her sisters will clean off her when she goes into the hive. The pollen is a weird green color too and comes from skunk cabbage. Skunk cabbage has its pollen inside the spathe. The odd shape often gets pollen on the bee's back. Check out a picture here.
Next pollen should be pussy willows and red maple - start looking for them soon. Spring is here!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


I was greeted by a beautiful sight when I came home today. This bee hovered around me until I just had to go in. She's still out there - flying around and landing on the rug. It is rare that I get to interact with an individual bee like that - lovely.

Monday, March 15, 2010

got honey?

I am working on bee school tee shirts this year. As soon as I get a sample, I'll post a picture. In the mean time, here is the logo:

got honey? will be on the back. EM Screen Systems in Millbury is doing the shirts and they are fabulous to work with. It is especially nice to work with Bernard, the office dog!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010


My wonderful sweetheart and I donned our bee suits and checked on Joy's girls Sunday. We have been concerned that our strongest hive going into winter just didn't have that many bees flying in and out. So we checked on them.

They are doing fine. We opened the hive and found that the cluster of bees are hanging out on the sunny side of the hive - no surprise - and cover about 5 1/2 frames. That is just peachy for this time of year. Whew! and Whew again!

We decided that now is not the time to clean out the hive because it really is a bit chilly. The bees keep the hive a balmy 92' to keep the baby larvae at the right temperature for proper bee development. If we left the hive open too long, they might get chilly. We did move some frames of honey closer to the cluster so the bees didn't have to work so hard.

Then I couldn't get all the frames back in! {blush} I worked to cram that last frame in and finally gave up. Until I can clean the box properly, it ain't goin' back in. It is an empty frame, the bees ate all the honey out of it anyway.

I am helping with Beekeeper School. I've taken it two times and now it is my turn to give back. I helped with registrations and we had over 100 walk in registrants. In total we have over 160 registrations - with many of them families. The room is packed!

I was put in charge of tee shirts too. I love my shirt from last year but it is a bit dark. People have to get kinda close to see what is on it and I'd rather keep my personal space... well personal. So I am going with only light colors. Interviewing printers has been a hoot so far. One more to go and then I will decide. I am amazed where ever I go, I find people who love the bees. Makes me smile.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The girls are flying!

I got buzzed around noon today and thought it might be a stray girl, but I just checked and there are LOTS of bees out and about from all three hives. It was a bit concerning that Joy's hive, my strongest going into the winter, had the fewest bees out. I am just hoping it is because the were all out already or that they were using the upper entrance to the hive.

So what are they looking for you wonder....

Skunk Cabbage is my guess. I haven't checked the wetlands behind the house in the last few days, but often the SK is out early in the spring.

HUGE SIGH! Many hives lost last year were lost in March, so my fingers are still crossed, but my toes can relax.

Bee School starts Thursday and rather than participate as a student, I am helping as a volunteer. I would love to say it is because I know it all {wink!}, but it would feel a bit odd saying I was a beginner when I am... well an experienced beginner now. It is more that is my turn to give back to the community that continually nurtures me and my bees.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010


As I expected, the warm sunny weather this past weekend brought the bees out of the hives. While my kids used the time to play, the bees used it to pee. And pee a LOT! Every one of those little brown spots is PEE.
The girls even flew to the front of the house to go. We found one bee on the porch.
Bees don't pee in their hives, so they've been holding it since the beginning of December - the last day we had that was near 50'. I was quite surprised how much they went. I was amazed that I could actually smell it. Kinda gross but it was a ...well a lot of pee - which I see as a great sign. All three hives had bees flying and the more bees in the hives, the stronger they are.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Bees and beer

The Worcester County Beekeepers Association held their Feb. meeting last week and decided on what they call a chefs supper. I call it a pot luck!

And while many folks felt that this was not the best pot luck, there was very little left over at the end!

The program was how to make wine and beer. I was particularly interested in learning how to make wine. The wine maker, Peter West, is also a beekeeper and farmer. Dave Richardson, pictured below, is a fairly new beekeeper and knows a tremendous amount about beer making.

Both making wine and beer are complex processes. We had the opportunity to taste the wares of both wine maker and brewer. Mr. West had a vast array of wines from his own orchard. It takes a boatload of fruit to make wine.

As always, I learn the most from talking with other beekeepers. While most everyone has been listening to their hives or cracking the top to check on their bees, I have not. There really isn't anything I am going to *do* to or for the bees right now, so opening the hive is just for me. I just cannot justify harassing the bees just to satisfy my curiosity. Nonetheless, I am going to try hard to find a way to hear my bees without bugging them. My favorite husband has a car tool that acts like stethoscope. Looks like I might be raiding the garage for a new beekeeping tool!

I cornered the man who won the most awards for honey this year, Peter Niemi. Poor man - must have thought I was stalking him! He was kind and generous with his knowledge and gave me some tips on honey exibiting next year: bottle early, store in a warm spot, and keep the honey out of the sunlight.

At the end of a lovely evening spent with wonderful folks, I took home one new piece of knowledge: I don't think wine or beer making will be in my future.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Feeding time at the hives

This is the time of year when the queen will start laying eggs to make more workers for the spring. The bees raise the temp from around 60 to 93 degrees.

Most beekeepers feed their bees sugar or pollen patties. I had three sugar patties left from last year, so I thought perfect - I have three hives why not use them. I went out wearing my regular orange coat and orange gloves - what a beautiful day!
I didn't exactly rip open the hives, I cracked the inner covers open about two inches and slipped a disk of bee candy in. The bee candy is sugar and corn syrup cooked and cooled in a pie plate until it forms a rather hard disk. One disk had cracked in to about 10 pieces, but they are all usable.

I checked on Pink's hive first and found a few girls out and about.
I slipped the sugary disk in and found part of their pollen patty from Oct still there. The girls should eat that soon.
Sun's hive was pretty much the same but there are way fewer bees. They had not consumed any of their pollen. I am most concerned about these bees and will keep a close on them.
Then I went to Joy's hive. WOW. I could hear them buzzing the moment I touched the outer lid of the hive. I made the mistake of trying to slip the broken patty into their hive. They were all up in arms and one tried to get in my hair.
Have I mentioned I HATE bees in my hair.
I closed the lid best I could and made a beeline to the shed to get a veil. Sheesh. So with veil on and hive tool in hand, I re-cracked open the hive lid and maneuvered the sugar pieces so that the lid would close properly. The sugar bits were COVERED with bees and there were a handful of girls still flying around.
If Sun's hive doesn't make it - and I hope they do! - I will manipulate things so that one of Joy's daughters becomes the new queen in that hive.
I love being a beekeeper.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Cold snap

With the very cold weather, I am especially comforted by the extra insulation on the hives. Now I wish I knew if the bees felt the same way!

Although other beekeepers I know had a 50' day recently allowing their bees to get out and pee, we haven't gotten over 45'. The girls must be crossing their legs!

I do know right now that there are live bees in each hive. All three hives have dead bees on the door step. Bees will throw out any dead bees - so either these bees were tossed out or they flew out and got stuck. Either way, it is a good sign albeit a sad one.

Send some warm thoughts to the bees and keep your fingers crossed that they are warm and toasty in their blue homes.