Showing posts from 2009


Well, it has been awhile since I've posted. I'm sitting here on the day after the season's first big snowstorm, 8 inches of heavy, wet snow following by 30-50 mph winds. I'm looking out towards the hive, which is a bit hard to see because I decided to wrap it with styrofoam for the winter, sealed with duct tape. I have the outer cover pushed forward and the inner cover notched to allow them access from the top of the hive, but I want to go out later and make sure drifts aren't covering the bottom board access. I'll wait until it warms up a bit, though with a high of about 7 degrees today the high won't do a whole lot.
We made it through the season with no stings! Kathy talked with Glen, a long-time beekeeper who taught where she did and he said that is a bit unusual. I think, though, that for the most part we tried to be calm, cautious and careful, not rushing things. I was probably the more cautious. We actually did get attacked the last time we ope…

Friday September 4

Well, a lot of time has passed since our last entry. I'll summarize here a bit about what has gone on with the bees as the summer went by.
Overall, the bees have seemed to flourish. Weather has been very cool, a record in fact for the month of July. Rain continued throughout the summer, which the bees didn't particularly care for. Since it was cool and pretty damp, we tried to interfere with the bees' activities as little as possible. We did open the hive to check for progress, mostly to see if they were filling out frames and if they needed to be given more space as they continued to grow in population. We did place the third hive body and followed that up with the queen excluder and one super.
Bees had a haydey with the white clover. In late summer, we noticed them in large numbers around the cup plants. Even today, they continue to move in and out of the hive in large numbers.
As late August brought the first real spells of warmer, humid air, we found the bees con…

Busy Bees

The bees are very busy with warm, mild weather. Last week we opened the hive and moved an empty frame into the center of both hive bodies. The activity at the entrance to the hive would suggest their numbers have really increased. We will look at them again mid-week and see if we need to add the third hive body. We're using 3 since we are using mediumsized (6 6/8 inches) hive bodies rather than deeps. We may just have to rotate another frame in the middle. If it looks like there are 8 or more frames with comb, we will definitely add the third body. We also rotated the entrance opening to allow a bigger opening. It might have been a little premature since it dropped into the low 50's last night but I think that will not happen often. Fruit trees are past bloom. White clover is becoming very abundant. So far, we have seen few bees on our clover. We really wonder where they are going when they pour out of the hive 5 or 6 at a time, flying off.

Nice days

Eighty degree days, mid 50's nights. Bees are loving this. Today they were really active, ganging up at the entrance. I am tempted to open that up a bit more, even though it still gets a bit cool at night. Maybe next week.
Jessica sent a cool link about bees. Here it is:
Kids getting an education about bees. Cool place. I'd like to visit that myself.

Swarm cell inspection

Last Saturday, we had our bee class. We talked about swarming, how to recognize the types of swarm cells and what to do about them. Then we went out to the field and examined several hives. Since it was so cold, in the mid-50's, Bob showed us a method of examining them that did not require pulling frames out, thus exposing the bees and larvae to the cool air. He tilted the hive bodies, looking first at the top of the frames to see how many are filled with bees and then doing the same from the bottom. Also on the bottom, we could see if there were any swarm cells drooping down. He showed how to destroy the cells, which were empty, by just using the hive tool to slice them off. We also discussed this particular variety of bee which we all purchased and their tendency to draw comb out in some irregular manners, with a lot of burr comb. We got home rather late since we had a graduation party to attend, so decided to check our bees on Sunday. It was warmer and less windy, much more…

Queen inspection

Today we needed to go back in and complete what we started unsuccessfully last week. We were unable then to find the queen, so we gave it a week and looked again today. It was warm but windy. I'll have to remember to try to do this with less wind.We first took a look at the bottom hive body. We found a lot of honey, open and capped, as well as some larvae. Some of the larvae appeared to be capped, which it should be at this point. We did not find the queen in the lower box, so moved to the upper again, which we examined last week. Much more comb had been built up. On the next to the last frame, we found the queen. She was very easy to spot. In the video, she is in the lower left corner of the frame, difficult to see on the film. We carefully put that frame back in and closed the hive. We never did see any eggs, though we could have been more thorough in our examination. Clearly, there was larva present and things looked fine, at least to our untrained eyes. We have cl…

First Inspection

It was sunny and warm, about 75 degrees with little wind. We dressed up, fired up the smoker and went out to do our first inspection of the hive other than checking the feeding can. Our goal was to see if the bees were building up comb and to see if we could locate the queen. I had wanted to take pictures but we felt we needed to concentrate on the task this first time. I will get photos next time.
Although a number of bees were flying in and out of the hive, it was interesting how many were in the frames and on top of the frames in the top box. There were some up in the box housing the feeding can but only a dozen or so. Once we smoked, then removed, the inner cover, we saw hundreds of bees in the frames and many on top of them. I removed the frame farthest back, which had no bees or comb built up on it. We moved a couple frames over, then pulled a frame out to inspect. The whiteness of the new comb they had built up was surprising. It looked clean and fresh. Our previous e…

Feeder check

It was time to check the feeding can yesterday and it was a good thing I didn't postpone that. We used a metal full-sized coffee can and it was down to about an inch remaining. It was full when we installed the bees less than a week and a half ago. We only had enough remaining sugar to refill half of the can so we will need to check it again next week. There were probably a dozen bees in the upper part around the feeder. It was a warm day so bees were busily coming and going. I didn't take smoke and didn't really need it since they paid me little attention. It is to be warm and not too rainy the next several days so they should remain pretty active. I'm getting anxious to get in and make a check of the frames. We may try that Friday.

Nice days

We have been in a short spell of some terrific weather and the bees seem to be loving it. Dandelions are in full bloom and the bees are taking advantage.

This video was shot late afternoon, when activity for the day was winding down, at least outside the hive. Located next to some pine trees, the hive gets late afternoon shade. You can see some bees moving around the small entrance hole in the front. Sometime later in the week we will open the hive and check to see how things are going and try to find the queen. As busy as the bees have been, we think there are certainly some things happening in the hive.
Dandelions are not the only things popping around here. Grant has developed quite a keen eye for finding morels, which were late this spring but have been popping in some pretty big numbers the last couple days.

Free at last, free at last

We went out right after breakfast to do a check to see if the queen had been freed from her cage. It was cool and damp with the forecast to only become wetter the next couple days, so we decided we would do this as quickly as possible. We didn't take smoke, since I figured the coolness would subdue them enough. The plan was simple--take off the lid, remove the feeding can, take off the box surrounding the feeding can and set that on the ground. Take off the top of the two hive bodies, with inner lid in place and set it on the empty box on the ground. Then lift up the bottom hive body from the base to have access at the queen cage. This would interfere much less than removing frames. We figured when we saw the cage it would either be covered with bees and we would have to try to remove the candy ourselves and free her or it would be empty.
Success--it was empty. We didn't risk bothering them any more with the cold to try to locate the queen--save that for a warm day a we…

Waiting and watching

Not much going on as the bees are just taking some time to get used to their new digs. I think they like it ok. The weather has been cool and rainy at times, but when it warms up a bit they are enjoying getting out and the entrance to the hive is a busy, buzzing place. We're giving them several days before we interrupt them again. The next thing that needs to be done is verify the queen has chewed through the marshmallow door to her cage and is being well tended by the nurse bees in the colony. We will need to remove the cage, jsut check that all is well and let them alone again. We will probably do this on Friday.

Installation Installment

The weather for our bee installation was not quite ideal, or maybe it was. Cool and misty, with intermittent periods of light rain. We arrived at Indian Creek Nature center around noon. We met in one of the smaller buildings there. We were dressed in our white outfits--pants with long-sleeved, over-sized white t-shirts, and carried our gloves and hats with veils. There was a big stack of bee boxes in one corner of the room, giving off an easily discernible hum. At least a dozen bees were flying freely around the small room. Better get used to that, I thought. Bob, our teacher, went through some of the diseases bees experience, describing symptoms and suggesting treatments. He said we would need to get a small packet of medication before we left with our bees. This was to be applied in two parts, right after installation and the other half in 3 weeks. It was treatment for prevention of American foul brood, a nasty terminal disease that is easily recognizable by the odor produced as the…

Hive location April 23, 2009

Ok, here is a picture of our site for the hive. It gets a.m. sunlight and afternoon shade. Good drainage. We'll need to keep the weeds down. You can see it is tilted slightly forward, which keeps water from running into the hive. The bees will enter/exit from a small opening near the bottom, which I have blocked off now to keep unwelcome guests out. Things are beginning to bloom here in eastern Iowa, so hopefully the bees will find this a good locale. We may try to get some video of the installation this Saturday--stay tuned.

The Beginnings April 22, 2009

Hi. Jessica decided that since we are taking up beekeeping, we should keep a log about the experience. Probably not a bad idea. So, here goes.
Where are we now? Bees will arrive ready to be "installed" in 3 days. Hives are built and ready to go. We need to make the sugar water to feed them after they are put in the hive. They need this since they have no honey reserve yet and there are not many flowers around at this time, since it is a late spring. The sugar water is also used to spray on the bees as we install them into the hive. This helps keep them from flying.
The hive is in place (picture hopefully to come tomorrow). I'll try to take some pics of the installation process, too. Not sure about all this--we'll see what happens.