Sunday, April 8, 2012


Looked out the window and noticed lots and lots of bees flying from the hive, spiraling up in the air.  uh oh, they are going to swarm.

Yep, they did.  But they landed in a dogwood tree in the front yard.  Not too high up.

Call the SWARM PATROL!  We are members of the Orange County Beekeepers Association and we called the swarm patrol.  Members who are informed and experienced go out and capture swarms.

Bees swarm when the hive gets too crowded.  They get together and discuss options.  Contrary to popular opinion, it is not the decision of the Queen Bee.  When they all agree to swarm, they push the queen out with them.  Then they land somewhere and scouts go looking for a new home.

There is a lot of advice on how to avoid your colony swarming but the general consensus is, they will swarm.  Some beekeepers try to put them back in the hive but they will just leave again.  They have made up their minds. 

Here is our esteemed swarm captain surveying the swarm.  Looks like he will need a ladder.

Taking a bucket with him, empty hive body on the ground, he climbs to the swarm.  (excuse the pictures, I took them from the safety of the house.)

Using a bee brush he brushed them into the bucket, placed the lid on it and climbed down the ladder to the hive box on the ground.

Dumped then bees in the box and put the lid on it.  Then dump buckets of bees on the ground in front of the box with the hope they will go into the box.  Some did, some did not as you can see them flying all around him.  

He repeated this process several times.  Finally after getting a lot of the bees on the ground or in the box he left to see if they would settle down.  He had another swarm to try and capture, just down the road.   They were not cooperating and he was stung several times.

He will return in a couple of hours to see if it was successful or if they leave again.  If the queen is in the hive box, they will stay with her.

This spring has been exceptionally busy for the swarm patrol.

When the Captain returned the colony was much calmer.  All seemed to be in the hive box.

 So he carefully closed the hive box, strapped it tight, wore his veil and drove home with the swarm.
Happy life in your new home girls.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Spring in the Bee Yard

Last spring we lost both colonies in the two hives we had started one year previously.  There were lots and lots of dead bees on the bottom board.  The inspector had looked at the empty hive boxes and determined that the colonies had likely starved to death during the winter because they were weak.

We bought two nucs and installed the new colonies in the hives. 

This winter there were so many warm periods and we frequently saw the bees flying.  We fed them in the fall in preparation for the winter.  Recently we noticed all activity had ceased in the yellow hive.  When we looked inside we found it empty.  The frames were empty.

And there were only a few dead bees.

We closed it up to keep out opportunistic insects.  The honey was gone and may have been removed by robber bees.

The green hive has been buzzing with lots of activity.  In the winter we put a reducer on the entrance so mice cannot get inside.  To mice this is heaven, warm, protected from the elements, and plenty of free food.  The reducer means when the bees are flying they have to take turns entering and exiting. 

Today we removed the reducer so they do not have to wait in line (I know how I hate waiting in line). 
Everything is blooming now, trees, shrubs, flowers, everywhere and the bees are coming loaded with pollen.  So with high hopes we added a super to the top.

Keeping with "beach colors" we put on our first super.  We removed the feeder (on the left) installed a queen excluder (this is a mesh screen that the bees can go through but the queen is too large to fit through) and then the super.  We do not want the queen going up into the super and laying eggs.  Hopefully this is where the bees will store their honey and we can steal it.  We only peeked into the hive today.  It was very active.  We will do an inspection in a few days.

Keep your fingers crossed. 

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!