Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Winter Solstice Good News

All my beekeeper friends, and us included, worry that our bees will not make it through the winter.  We feed and feed and put in the entry reducer (to keep out mice) and worry.  One bee keeper has already reported that her bees died.  They will not die from freezing but can die from starvation if there is not enough honey stored up or if they cannot get to it.   It is not good for the bees to open the hive box when it is cold.  It has been a very cold December in NC. 

Imagine my surprise when I looked out the window today and saw activity.  The temp is 51 and that is barely warm enough for them to venture out.  Good news that we have live bees in both hives!!

Now girls get back in there before the sun sets.
Hang in there girls ... the days are getting longer!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Winter in the Bee Yard

Winter in the Bee Yard is rather boring.  The bees still fly when is it warm but not with as much energy.  This little girl came out one cool morning, checked out the temp and returned to the hive box.  The opening has been reduced by the wooden "reducer" to keep out the cold and hopefully to prevent the entry of mice in the winter.  Mice love to move into a hive box, it is warm, and there is a food source - honey.

This intruder must have thought is was safe to enter the hive.  Guess they showed him.

The bees are now all gathered into one big ball.  They will produce heat by doing something similar to shivering.  Ever so often the bees in the warm center will move to the outside.  They are polite to share the work.  Bees never freeze in the winter but they can starve to death.  It is our hope that they have enough honey stored up and will be able to access it through the winter to keep them going.

The bees have quit going to the feeder where we have provided them with sugar water for the past few weeks.  We will remove the feeders and now we can quit purchasing 25lb bags of sugar until spring.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

More photos from Honey collection

Here are some more photos from the honey collection.


Hot, sweaty and sweet work!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Robbers in Aggie's hive

Tuesday, August 31, 2010
We went to Aggie's to rob the honey from her bee hive.  This is quite a process and it involves taking what the honey bees have labored long and hard to produce.  That said, they just might resent us taking their honey.

First we smoke them, which mostly covers up any alert, intruder, attack pheromone they might produce.  We do not want everyone to get upset with us.  Here I am with all my protective gear ready to smoke them.

The top compartment is called a super.  It has smaller frames.  The queen is kept down in the hive bodies by a queen excluder which is a screen that allows the worker bees access but the queen is too big to squeeze by.  This keeps her from laying eggs in the super and the honey bees use these frames for just storing honey.

To get the bees to leave the super we spray a product called Bee Gone on felt inside the top of a cover.  They cannot stand the smell of this product.  They will leave the super and go down into the hive body after a few minutes.  We waited about 15 minutes and opened the hive and low and behold only a few hold outs (bees who must not have a good sense of smell).

Harry removed each frame...blew off the remaining bees and placed the frame in a hive body we had positioned in a wheel barrel.  I quickly covered it with a towel.  We did not want the bees to find the honey.

Note:  the limit of his protection was long sleeves.  Bees like him.
He is using a neat little clamp that makes lifting the frames much easier.  Bees have stuck the frames into the hive with their propolis.Perhaps this is to make it difficult for us.

Once we had all the frames in the wheel barrel and covered for security reasons (we did not want the bees to know thieves were at work) it is off to the garage.  You have to work with the honey in an enclosure or the bees, yellow jackets, and other insects will find you.  Who needs that kind of competition?

We are members of the local beekeepers association and have use of the honey extraction equipment.  This includes the extractor, hot knife, and a plastic tub for catching the wax.
Aggie is removing the wax capping using the hot knife. 

We all had to try this.  This is the most fun!

Frames are then placed in the extractor and spun by turning the crank.  It works like a centrifuge and spins the honey out of the comb.

Unfortunately my camera battery died about this time.

The next day Harry cleaned up the extractor.  Well he thought he had cleaned it ... and he looked out to find the bees did not approve of the cleaning job he had done and they were finishing it for him.  They took every last drop of honey form the extractor.

This is the beautiful result.

Keep your hands off my honey.

How did Jack Trap's chickens get in this blog?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Swat Team Alert

"A Wake County sheriff's deputy found himself
in serious need of a  
SWAT team Tuesday after getting into a standoff 
with a huge swarm of  
bees that covered his police cruiser."
I'm giving them big points for the SWAT team pun!
Click here to see the whole story complete with picturs

Swat Team

Another story sent to me from the Garden on The Edge shows a unique way of observing bees. 
Click here to see the pictures of the bees under glass. 
Bees will fill the space, no matter where it is. The Langstroth hives that most beekeepers use is designed with what he (Langstroth) discovered to be “bee space” (~3/8”). The space between the frames is just enough that they will build out the comb on each frame but not get carried away and fill it like they did in the jar. There is enough space for two bees to pass one another after the comb has been built out.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Aggie's bees

Our friend Aggie is not able to work with her bees especially during this heat wave.  We went over today to look at the hive and make sure all looked good.

Aggie's hive has two hive body boxes and one souper on top.  The plan is for the bees to raise their young in the lower two hive body boxes and store honey in the top souper which we plan to rob later.

The first frame just had some comb being built out. 
Second frame has about 1/3 of the honey capped.

Third frame about 1/3 capped honey.

Fourth frame, bonanza, Mostly capped honey. 

Fifth frame about 3/4 capped honey.  No pictures of frames 6, 7 and 8 but they were about 1/2 capped honey. 

This is a frame from the top box that was all honey and a lot of it is capped.  This box was very heavy with honey.  The bottom box had capped brood so the queen is still doing her job. 

All and all Aggie's honey bees are  were docile and calm, they must take after Aggie.  They were quiet while we messed in their hive.  No one got stung.
All looks good Aggie.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Off Topic

Can anyone identify this bird?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


We have been observing lots of activity on our yellow hive for weeks.  Queen bees can lay up to 1500 eggs in one day so it stands to reason that she can have that many daughters emerging in a day.  After the worker bee emerges from the cell she cleans it up and starts working in the hive building wax or feeding larvae or other such duties.  Then she will become a forager.  She leaves the hive box and spends some time getting oriented and taking some practiced flights.  Which way is North?

You can see why this is called a beard.  This picture was taken early this morning and the crowd will increase as the sun comes up.

Compare it to the green hive which has significantly fewer bees.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Did I say it is HOT?

This is more of a garden update than a bee update but does contain info on the girls.

We were out of town for seven days and it was in the 90s everyday and never did it rain a drop.  This is the result and what we found when we returned home.  The blue berry bushes in pots on the deck are gone.  We have enjoyed them for several years.  Last summer was hard on them and it looks like this summer did them in.

The honey bees found a new source of water since we were gone and did not fill the bird feeder every day.  They finally discovered the lily pad in the fish pond are a good place to get water.

These herbs survived thanks to the jug of water with one small hole in the bottom and the cap on top to seal it in. 

The basil surprised me and I wonder if someone watered this pot.  it was not even wilted.

The fish pond was a little low on water but everyone survived, including the plants. 

The veggies were a little worse for the wear.  We have almost depleated the water in the rain barrel that we use to water them.  Obviously someone needed the moisture and nutrients and took advantage of nice ripe tomatoes.

But they left some for us. 

Friday, June 25, 2010


The month of June has been nothing but HOT in NC.  There has only been one day that the temp did not reach 90 since June 10th and it was 88 that day. 

Bees have to work hard to keep the hive cool on hot days.  We refill our three bird baths twice daily to give them water.  We also have two fish ponds but they seem to prefer the bird baths. 

We will not open the hives during this hot spell as they are not happy and we do no want to add to their stress.

Hope for rain and a cool spell.  It isn't even July yet....ahhhh.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Kodak moment

Hey Mom, can I go swimming now?

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Hive Inspection

We went into the hives today to check out their progress. Green hive first.
Beekeeper in training was first to inspect the frames.
This one shows some capped brood.

Green hive is the one where the first queen "disappeared/died/ran off with a rogue drone" and the colony had to rear another queen. This frame from the outer edge of the hive body does not have brood yet but good honey.

This queen is obviously laying. Cells in the middle have been capped and the brood will emerge in a few days. On the left of the picture is the top of the frame and the caps are white and not as neat, this is where they have stored their honey.

This is the green hive where there are two hive bodies. We added the one on top May 31 because the ten frames in the bottom hive box were well built out and it was beginning to get crowded. This hive probably has twice as many bees.

One check of the frames on tops and it shows they are building out wax. No action from the queen yet in the top hive body. But they are getting it ready for her.

This frame from the bottom hive box show capped brood and honey arch. They are a little over zealous in building comb at the bottom of the frame. We will remove this later.
Very good work girls.