Thursday, May 31, 2012

Annual Inspection Report

I contacted the bee inspector and asked him to check the hives. I've been seeing chalk brood in the hives lately which is normal here in this area in the spring. Unfortunately  the chalk brood is getting worse not better. And it has advanced to a serious level.

Chalk brood, what is that? I hear you say.

It is a nasty little infection in hives that kills the larva. If it is bad enough, more babies die than become adults and a hive dies. And we are in a bad way here.

Now some bees - or I should say some hives - just seem to deal with it and keep it at bay. My girls are having trouble doing this. Could be there just aren't enough hive-keeping bees or mortician bees to remove the corpses. Some hives just are better at getting rid of dead bees than others.

It is important to get the bodies out quickly so they are less likely to continue to give off the disease. However it is still in the wax.

Soo what can I do?  Truthfully, not a lot. The bees need to knock this out themselves. I have heard of a folk remedy which I am going to try tomorrow. But regardless, if you have a moment, wish the bees well and hope that a good nectar flow starts here soon. The stronger the bees are, the better they can fight this infection. Time will tell and in the next few months the story will fully unfold.

Other than wicked bad chalk brood, the hives look fine. The inspector and I found two of the queens. And I got to not only see Serenity but I held her. It was a huge moment for me. She is soo beautiful. She looks exactly like the honeybee queen from all the books.

Sunshine showed herself too and she is still just as golden red as always. She's clearly getting older and I expect the bees will supercede her soon. Her laying pattern is still good but not as good as it was last year. She is starting to leave a few holes every now and again. This could be due to chalk brood or her age. Not sure yet what is going to happen, but something is going to happen.

Very mixed report this year and lots to watch. I learned so much this year. I really felt ready and open to all the knowledge that the inspector had to offer. Go bees!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Five days later

Five days later, I get a call from the fabulous Rob who is off at some family function. He had gotten a call from the police that someone had reported another swarm. Did I want them, he asked.

Well, OF COURSE! It is just me this time and my wonderful handy husband screwed some wooden ware together for me so it would be easier to manipulate alone and off  I go - me, a box, brush cutters and LOTS of bungee cords.

The address I was given must give the postal carrier heartburn. There are two houses with the same number on that street. So here I am, in full bee gear, knocking on the wrong door. Friend to bees and nice person she was, she directed me to the bees. I see a few small balls of bees - hardly worth coming over for. Nonetheless, I gather these poor girls.

Then the other family at that house number, but in a different house, came to see what was going on. They had been the ones to call. As I am ambling over to say hello, I pass a ball of bees about the size of a basketball. Oh, THOSE are the bees!

They had been up in a tree, but thankfully had fallen. Into a brush pile. On a down hill slope. It took a while to get all the bees. It was like a giant game of pick up sticks. I had to cut the branches into little sections and carry them to the box. Shake the bees in and I stacked the brush next to the box.

Once I had the queen, the bees settled a lot. It took about an hour from start to finish. I bungeed the hive in the back of the truck and drove home slowly chuckling to myself. If only the guy in the red truck behind me knew why I was driving slowly, he probably wouldn't have tailgated me.

So now we have three hives and it will take some time to readjust the bee-deck to accommodate all three. In the mean time, here is the set up.

The new queen - is Serendipity.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Swarm Season

 I got a call two weeks ago from a local beekeeper who works at town hall. There was a swarm outside the second story window and could I come help him get the bees. Of course!  It would be my first swarm and his too. This is what it looked like when I got there. It was pretty high up, but so far that we couldn't manage. 

After a ladder and some clippers were secured, Rob pulled the branch down over the box, I clipped the last 2 feet of the branch off, and shook the bees into their new temporary home.

Clearly we had the queen and she was safely in the hive. All the bees not already in the hive, began to circle the box and soon moved in. Rob switched out the wooden ware and the bees are in their new home happily making babies.

Guess what happened five days later?

Monday, May 7, 2012


I love putting in packages of bees. It is such a fun experience. Here is what a package of bees looks like. The small box in front holds about 3 lbs of bees, a queen and a can of sugar water. We have to get those bees out, install the queen properly and close the big box behind - without getting stung.

That is the plan. It worked out pretty close to plan as well. These are Owen's bees. The only hitch we had was that the tab holding the queen broke and she fell into the mass of bees making it a bit harder to install her cage properly.  Thank goodness for duct tape is all I am going to say.

Owen did a tremendously good job with this. It is a scary thing to do the first time. However the moment it is over, you just want to do it again! Over the next week or so the bees will chew the sugar candy holding the queen in her cage and they will start building wax. It will be a thing of beauty.

And before any experienced beekeepers out there have a cow, he did paint his other box and swap these frames into that box.

Go bees!