Thursday, July 28, 2011

Mason Bees

Since becoming honey bee keepers we have become more aware of the many, many kinds of bees in our garden.  All of them are polinators and are appreciated. 
 Hubby received this Mason Bee hive as a gift.  We hung it on the garage.  If you look closely you will see that several of the pieces of bamboo are blocked.  The bees have laid eggs and sealed up the openings. 

I tried to get pictures of the many different kinds of bees and wasps on the golden rod and butterfly bush, but no matter how many times I said "hold still for the picture" they did not cooperate.  Below is the best I could do today.

Not shown are tiny little bees, we used to call sweat bees, and a black bee about the size of a honey bee, and the ones I could not even look at because they were so fast.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Hot time in the summer

Ever wonder what bees do when it is in the 90s?  Thousands of workers busy building comb, making honey, feeding the babies, feeding the Queen (she never feeds herself).  This plus a hive box in the sun most of the day with very little ventilation must get very very hot.

 They sit on the veranda and fan themselves.  This is called "bearding" in the bee keeper world, for obvious reasons. 
They also send out the foragers to get water for all the workers.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Inspector at Aggie's

Today we met the bee inspector at our friends hive.  We have been helping with her hive and because we are newbees we wanted him to take a look and make sure all was well.  She has had this hive for three years and last year she lost a second hive to wax moths. 
There was plenty of honey but the inspector said there were not enough bees for this time of year.  They may have swarmed earlier.  There is a laying queen and there is plenty of eggs, larvae, and capped brood so they may recover. 

We will inspect the hive again in about two weeks.  We did find hive beetles and they are not usually a problem unless the colony is weak.  

While we were there we peaked at the cardinals in the nest by her front door.

Saturday, May 7, 2011


 After the loss of our bees we had attempted to find a source of bees to repopulate our hives.  A local distributor put us on a waiting list. 
Then we received an email sent to the list serve of the Orange County Beekeepers Association (OCBA) that one of the members, a Master Beekeeper, had two nucs available for purchase.  We jumped on the email and were the first to respond.
Today he delivered the two nucs and they were installed in our hives.  A nuc is a short name for nucleus.  It is a young incipient colony that will quickly grow to full size.  You purchase whole combs complete with bees, brood and a queen.  It is a simple process of removing the frames with bees from his hive box and installing them in our hive box. 

Bees are out and about and seem to be quite happy.  Our hive box already has honey and empty brood combs so they can go to work.  It is a great time because many things are blooming, including the tulip popular (of which there are many in our woods.)

Bees and family are happy!

Friday, May 6, 2011

The Bees are coming The Bees are coming

Two nucs to be delivered May 7th!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011


Our bees are obviously gone. 
The two hives have been weak and last week we found there were none left alive.

After checking with our local Beekeepers Association we called out the inspector.  North Carolina State University (NCSU) extension office has inspectors that cover specific areas.  We called the inspector for our county, Don.  Don came to our home to inspect the empty hives.

After looking at the dead bees, head down into cells, he speculated that they had probably starved. 

At the top of this frame the white cells contain honey.  However during the winter (and we had a particularly cold one) if the bees cannot move to where the honey is stored, they will starve.

Don then checked for American Foulbrood (AF).  He inserted a small stick into a cell, looked at what came out and sniffed it.  AF has a foul ordor.  We were relieved to learn we did not have AF.  If we had, the hives, and frames would have to be burned and buried.  This is a very contagious disease and you cannot risk spreading it.

After AF was ruled out Don looked for evidence of varroa mites and found some.  It was not possible to determine the extent of varroa mites now that the bees were gone but virtually every hive has them.  It is possible that the infestation was extensive and the colony was weakened before winter set in.  This contributed to the colony not being able to access the honey and their starvation. 

The queen had either died or was not laying eggs so we did not have new bees to replace those who had died.

We are in the process of trying to locate some nucs and will be on the lookout for swarms to replace our lost bees.

Sunday, May 1, 2011


RIP bees.  We have noticed that there have been fewer and fewer bees flying from the hives.  Today confirmed.  They are all dead and/or gone.  I have sent out a request for information to our beekeepers association. 
It looks like we will have to wait to start over next spring.

But we can keep watching after our friends healthy hive.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

April inspections

We did an inspection of the bee hives on April 11th.  It was a very warm day.  Aggie had been concerned that her bees were gone up until this day.  

The first 5 pictures are from our friend, Aggie's bee hive.  You can see her bees are very busy.  The hive looks to be healthy.  We added a super after this inspection so they will have room above to put the honey and room below to raise the brood. 

Now we go to our two hives.  The yellow one has been the strongest in the past.  We found a lot of dead bees from the winter.  We do not know if this is more than expected as this is our first year as beekeepers.

This is an example of the frames in the yellow hive.  Plenty of honey in the top but not much in the way of brood.  We did not see the queen but we often did not last year.  There were a number of live bees but now near as many as we saw in Aggie's hive.

These are from the green hive which has been our weaker hive.  We did see the queen a few weeks ago but it does not look like she has been very busy laying eggs.  Again, plenty of honey.  The bees all looked healthy.  There were no obvious signs of disease or infestation.  The green hive did have a spider and some webs in the bottom which may have been from was moths but not an infestation. 

 The bees you see here are dead, probably starved in the winter.  If they cannot get to the honey, they starve.

Can you see the concern on the inspectors' faces?

What now? 
We will wait another week and do another inspection.  We see bees coming and going every day that it is warm.  We can hope that the queens are still there and are getting busy.

Stay tuned.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Warm Day in February

All winter bee keepers have to just sit and wait and hope.  When the temp gets above 50 degrees you will see a few bees out for a potty break.  They will not potty in the hive.  What we thought was our strongest hive, yellow, had not had any bees out on warm days in the last month.  The green hive always had a few who would venture out. 

The last two days have been very warm and we were so excited to see bees out of both hives.  Friday it reached 78 and we decided to take a quick peek in the hives.  It is never safe to open a hive when then temp is below 60, this will chill the hive and cause the already over worked worker bees to work harder to get it warm again.

First we smoke the hive to cover up any pheromones that might tell the bees, "Intruders, attack".

We are only going to look at a frame or two.  Things we are looking for include, deformed wings, a sign of a disease.  Lots of dead bees, we know some are alive because we have seen them flying.  If all are dead, we  have a problem. And a food supply, honey stored in the top of frames.

We found a few dead bees on the frames.  That is expected because they will not all live through the winter.  Worker bees do live longer in the winter as they are not working as hard going out to forage for pollen and nectar. 

We found they still had honey stored up in the top of the frames, a few cells had brood (the queen will lay a few eggs in the winter).  Also the beekeeper in training spotted the queen on this frame. 

Overall the colony looked good and they still have honey.  All we need now is for things to start blooming and the weather to keep getting warm.  The red maple is starting to bloom and this will get the bees busy in a few days.