Tuesday, October 30, 2012


The girls made it through the storm in tact. Sandy really blew hard and there were a lot of branches in our yard but most were very modest. A few larger trees did come down in the woods blocking paths so we cut them up today.

I restocked honey today as the girls really slurped down the extra honey. I expect that tomorrow I am going to have to refill both hives.

One bee got stuck on the screen to our deck and rode out the storm at our house. After a day and a half on the screen, she flew off today. I hope she has good stories to tell her sisters!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Bees in Sandy

A friend of mine and I were chatting Saturday about hurricane preparation and she asked me what I did for the bees.

I had just spend about an hour in the bee yard getting ready for the storm. I knocked down the combined hive so that there were only two super boxes making the hive shorter. Then I gave them half a gallon of honey. This honey is just for them to slurp down.

The strong hive was doing quite well. I didn't give them honey, just took off the empties. They have a honey super so if they get really hungry, they have some food.

At the end, I put extra rocks on the top of the hives. The rocks are about 3lbs each so there is nearly 10lbs of weight on the top of each hive. I put some bales of hay behind the bee deck to help break up the wind.

Over the past few we've taken down trees and branches that could potentially take out the hives. It is by no means perfect as there are still trees in the area, but few are at all close to the bees.

Now it is just a matter of waiting and watching the winds.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Fall in the bee yard

Last night was one of my very least favorite activities I have to do as a beekeeper. M and I combined our two weak hives. It is hard, ugly work.

Here is how it goes. First you have to knock down the two hives so they are using as little space as possible. In this case, both hives lost honey supers and that was it. One hive was only using a single brood box. No way they could possibly have enough bees to make it through the winter.

So was it that cute little single-box hive that had to be moved? Oh noo. It was the bigger two box hive that moved.  Moving it was eye opening and in no small measure, scary. First it is dark out. Then we are ticking off a few thousand venomous stinging insects.

The hive that was a swarm was really light. They have not stored nearly enough honey for the winter. Their honey super (where people honey lives) was empty.

Then comes the actual combining of hives,  and it is just as it sounds. We put one hive on top of the other - in the dark so they can reorient and find their new home in the light. A single sheet of newspaper goes between them to slow down the introduction of bees. We used the obituaries. Turns out that is the only sheet of newsprint we could find that was all black and white. And since one queen would be dying, it seemed fitting to our sadness.

This is the second time I've had to combine hives and in so many ways this was easier. The temperature last night was steady which helped the bees to fly home and not get stuck on us. Second, we had an idea of what we were going to do. Finally, we had done the prep work well. Like so many things in life, good preparation really helps hard jobs go more smoothly.

Not entirely surprisingly, we both got stung. What was surprising was that it was only once each. We headed back to the house after the event and found that M had brought in a dozen bees stuck in the folds of his gear. I had one caught in my veil.  There were some very exciting (read scary) moments dealing with these newly warmed up bees, but they were all taken care of quickly. It is a real challenge to find good gear for such a tall man.

Checking on the hive this morning, it was clear that something was going on. The lower colony has many bees on the outside. Not surprising given the nice weather and that they lost about a third of their space. In a few days the paper will be gone and they will have many new sisters and plenty more space.

And our beeyard will be down to two hives again.

Friday, October 12, 2012

WCBA meeting

With my sister visiting from Arizona and two afternoon soccer games, I could only attend the first part the WCBA October meeting. I usually LOVE the all day meetings and this held such promise.

Alas, the first two talks I did hear didn't live up to my expectations. Dr. Jamie Ellis from the University of Florida was one of the most entertaining entomologists I've ever heard speak, but he didn't have anything new to tell me. Just for the record, Go 'Noles.

The best bit I heard him tell us is that honey bee is entomologically two  words. When an insect is what it's name says, then it is two words.  When it isn't what it's name is, then it is one. Very confusing but think of it like this - honey bees are actually bees, so two words. Butterflies are not actually flies, so it is one word.

The second talk was the one I was most interested in hearing. The speaker was going to tell us about evaluating our hives without opening them. He did mention it, but most of his talk was about getting older as a beekeeper. I would have love to have learned more about what to do if I observe certain things or when it is worth going in based on outside observations.

So I am going to work on building my beekeeping knowledge from books and asking a lot of questions at the next meeting.