Showing posts from 2010

Season's Greetings

I wish everyone a very happy holiday and a happy new year.  This has been a very good year to our family.  Sitting here watching a very lovely snowfall on Christmas eve, hoping our "kids" can make the trip safely here this evening, I'm thinking of the great year past.  It has been a very good one for our family and we look forward to another great year to come.  The bees have done a great job as well and we look to have another great year with them.
Here is a little Christmas gift I made--a 3D stereogram--see if you can spot the hidden object (I'm sure you have no clue what it might "bee" !)
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year all.

Meeting of Eastern Iowa Beekeepers

We attended our second session of the Eastern Iowa Beekeepers Association Monday night.  The first meeting we attended seemed poorly organized with little to take from it, though one member brought in an observation hive he had constructed that he takes to various area schools.  I found that interesting to see.  Otherwise, it seemed more like "let's get together and just see what happens."
This time, however, there was a lot of content, things moved right along and Kathy and I left with wanting more. Maybe it was just the cold, December night and not being able to do anything with the bees lately other than go out and see how many dead had been drug out, but it truly was an entertaining and informative meeting and we took some things away from it that I plan to pursue this coming season.
We arrived a bit late, and missed most of the first speaker who appeared to be talking about dangers associated with allergic reactions to bee stings.  It took awhile to find chairs as …

Follow-up to Wax Moths

We decided to open the hives again, thinking there must be a mass on the bottom screen and it should be cleaned out before winter.  We opened up hive #2, first setting the top feeder down to the side.  There were TONS of bees in the hive, though many were out foraging.  Several were not real happy about today's intrusion, either, and kept buzzing rather insistently in my face.  No stings, though--whoops, except for Kathy, who had her pant legs secured with rubber bands but wore short socks and took one on the ankle--ouch!
Surprisingly, the bottom screen was completely clean and no other sign of wax worms.  The odor must be coming from either some honey that has begun to ferment or the odor of the pollen currently being brought in.
Another mistake was setting the top feeder aside uncovered, and Kathy diligently scooped out several dozen "swimmers" before we could re-assemble.  With all the bees all over the hive bodies, we hoped the queen was not crushed.  When I checked …

Wax Moths

We opened the hives today to check on winter supplies, put a new top hive feeder on hive #2 and do the fall treatment for AFB.  We both noticed an odor coming from the hives, and decided we needed to investigate a bit.
Kathy took out the removable tray from the back of each bottom feeder.  Wax moths and larva were definitely present.  She scraped out all webbing and junk she could, actually using the brush we use below the refrigerator to clean the coils.  It worked well.
 You can clearly see the wax moth trails on here.  Since we use a screened bottom board, with this slide-out tray, a lot of junk collects down here--pollen, dead bee parts, bits of wax, etc.
 Here you can see one of the larva from the wax moths.  They are quite large, and you can imagine the damage they can do within the hive.   Our concern was they might be in the upper chamber, where some of the frames are not drawn out fully or, if they are drawn out, are not filled with honey.  These would be susceptible to wax wor…

Feed Me!!!

Well, the bees in hive #2 are certainly gobbling up the sugar syrup.  I started a week ago and they are well into their second full coffee can of 2:1 sugar water.  Hopefully, this will help them fill up the frames in the top hive body and they will be set for winter.  With this brief stint of warmer weather, the bees have been very active.  Today I noticed lots of orange pollen being brought into the hives.  Still many things in bloom, from our red raspberries to the goldenrod, sunflowers, and many flowering plants in the prairie.  I reversed my decision for hive #1 and replaced the super, though did not bother with the queen excluder since the bees will get any honey they put in there.  I was afraid, as active as they have been, that they will put too much honey lower in the hive and not leave enough room for brood.
On another note, Kathy ran into one of our former "colleagues" from our bee class last year.  He came up to her in the grocery store and asked "Did you har…

Started feeding

I began a 2:1 sugar water feeding today with hive #2.  I planned to replace empty, undrawn frames with frames from the extraction, which have fully drawn comb, but in only a few days they have begun to draw out comb on most frames in the top hive body and have filled some with honey, so I ended up only replacing two frames.  They've been busy!  I think the supplemental feed will help, though.  I have no concerns about hive #1, which has great winter stores in place.
We plan to go to the East Central Beekeeper Association meeting tomorrow night.  Should be interesting.

First fall check--ready for winter?

We've been pretty busy, plus the weather has been now rainy, now windy, and so on, so I've put off an inspection for awhile.  We needed to remove the box of frames we had extracted from hive #2, where I had put to have the bees clean them off.  I debated putting them there, but thought the hive was strong enough to fend off any robbing.  I didn't see any fighting, so I hope the decision was a good one. Also, we wanted to determine how well they are prepared with food for the winter.
Hive #2, the newer hive, did nothing with the super we put on, so we pulled that off.  They only have honey in about two other frames.  The older hive has a very heavy, full 3rd box so it should be in great shape.  We did take two frames partially filled out with honey from the super on that hive and put them in the newer hive.  I'll start feeding in a week or so, only the new hive. I meant to put the frames they had cleaned out in the top super to replace frames that were not drawn out and…

First Honey Extraction

Success!  We completed our first honey harvest today.  The process went fairly smoothly.  There were a few wrinkles and we learned some things, but overall I'd have to say it went well.  Here is a video on YouTube that tells the basics.
We did use the bee escape yesterday, but that proved less successful than I had hoped.  There were fewer bees, but since I was hoping for NO bees in the honey super, I was disappointed.  Maybe next year I will leave it on for two days.  We brushed off the remaining bees.  I did leave two of the frames in the 9 frame super that were not filled out, but the other 7 were beautiful, nicely capped.  There were few cells that contained honey that were not capped.  We put them in a big container, with lid, after removing the bees and took them to the barn for processing.
We used a big plastic bin with a homemade board attached and a long bread knife for the uncapping.  It worked very well, and we wondered why the need to buy expensive, heated knives.  We …

Switched frames

Well, we switched the frames this morning.  I couldn't believe how many bees were in hive #2.  They certainly seemed a bit more upset at our interventions than the bees in hive #1, but though the air was filled with bees, no stings.  The comb drawn out in hive #2 was a mess--all over the place.  We tried cleaning up things a bit as we went, but since our main objective was to take frames with larva into hive #1, we didn't want to linger too long.  We were about an hour from start to finish as it was.  Fortunately, it was warm but not as hot today as some days have been recently.  My only concern is not seeing eggs on the 2 frames we moved, though there was some very young larva, so I think they will do for making a new queen, if indeed a new one is needed.  Keeping fingers crossed.

Your majesty.....Your Majesty???

Hmmmm, not good.  We have observed our first hive (hive #1), has not looked as vigorous in recent days as the newer hive (#2), so we decided to open up today and take a look.  We didn't like what we saw.  Well, some of it was ok I guess.  There was honey--lots and lots of honey--in fact the super we plan to extract in a couple weeks probably weighs well over 50 pounds--but no eggs, no larva, no capped brood.  And, for all we could tell, and we looked at every frame, no queen.  We did find several swarm cells, all empty, and one supercedure cell, also empty.  I couldn't tell, and not sure if I know how to tell, if the supercedure cell has been occupied.
There were also bees, thousands of them, and they are well-stocked for winter already.  We examined everything, switched out some frames so we could give them more space in the brood chamber in case a queen is lurking around somewhere and we just could not find her, and closed it up.
I got on the internet and started looking f…

Getting ready for extraction

The day will soon be approaching when we do our first honey extraction.  I mentioned we had borrowed an extractor from some friends, Jim and Beth Peterson.  It is an old extractor and although we cleaned up the flaky rust and gave it a good scrubbing, I still was a bit concerned about the screens in the device being galvanized.  Although use of galvanized metal, which is a zinc coating on iron to prevent rust, was used fairly commonly in the past on cooking utensils and other food preparation tools, today we know the potential hazards of using such items.  The U.S. army used to line up soldiers to watch atom bomb blasts, too.  Not a good idea.
Fortunately, Kathy found a product which may help us out a lot.  It is a clear-coat epoxy called Camcoat, available through many beekeeping supply places.  It is a very hard, clear epoxy coating, applied with brush or spray, that is food-safe and can be used to coat  metal surfaces, including those with a galvanized finish.  In the message board…

Bee Escape

In trying to decide how to go about removing the bees from the frames when we go to harvest the honey, we looked at options such as the fume board, brushing, blowing or shaking bees off the frames, or using a bee escape.  We've chosen to try the last option.  The fume boards work quickly, but we didn't like the thought of "fumigating" our bees or the honey.  My experience with brushing bees off the frames has been that it does not make them very happy.  I like to keep them happy.  So we decided to go with the bee escape method.
There are a number of bee escapes available commercially and there are also plans for building a variety of bee escapes.  Most of the commercial bee equipment outlets sell a simple bee escape that is oblong in shape and fits in the opening of a standard inner cover.  It allows the bees to move from the honey super to the hive body below.  These are quite inexpensive, costing only a couple dollars. You can also buy, from Dadant, a board which i…


As we get involved in the routine management of our bees, we almost forget one of the reasons for having them--honey.  So when we opened the hive yesterday to check on the progress they were having in drawing out the comb in the super, we were very surprised, after having checked only last week, to find practically every frame drawn out and filled with white, capped honey.  I put another super on, this time choosing to use the 10 frame initally as the newsletter from Dadant had suggested (done so the bees will draw out more regular comb, later to switch to a 9 frame box) and headed in to start looking at options for extracting.  Should we try to use a centrifugal extractor, use heat, buy equipment, use the equipment at the nature center, etc.  These are things we had only briefly talked about and considered and now we need to make some definite decisions.  Not that it needs to be done immediately--the nice thing about early season honey is we have time.  It will stay in the hive just …

Enlarged opening

Rain and more rain, and, did I mention humidity?  With quite a little gathering of fanners on the apron, I decided to go ahead and open the hives fully by removing the reducer, which had been placed in the larger opening.  You can really smell the honey coming from the big hive, and I can imagine they are working hard to get things dry in there.
Bees are still all over the spiderwort, of which we have plenty, and are now seen on the white clover.  There are still so many things in bloom that they should be getting plenty of pollen/nectar, provided they can get out.  We have not had as much rain as folks in southern Iowa but still have had well over 4 inches and we're only mid-way through the month, with rain forecast 5 of the next 6 days.
I had an interesting experience the other day.  My aunt, Paula, wrote saying that Kelli, her daughter, had a squirrel nest (actually a wood duck house) full of bees and wondered what to do.  I'm not to the point yet where I want to do extrac…


Here is a photo Kathy took today of the bearding that has been going on almost daily on the original hive.  It is very full of bees.  I have opened to the middle opening and have raised the outer cover fairly high, so they should be getting some ventilation and I have also added the super since they had drawn out most of the frames in the 3rd hive body.  They should have enough space but there is a ton of honey and nectar in the hive and it must be very warm and humid in there.  Don't blame them for hanging out on the porch.

First super in place

We checked our old hive today.  We had placed the third medium on and had checked it only a week ago. At that time, hardly anything had been drawn out.  Today, there were 6 frames fully drawn with each frame drawn out some.  Since the bees have been bearding every day in large clusters, we decided to go ahead and add the super.  If they draw it out as quickly as they have the last box, we will have honey this year for sure.  The new hive has done a little work but does not have the number of bees the old hive holds, so work there is a bit slower.  We're in a great part of the season, with so many things in bloom.  Hopefully this will continue.  There is so much in fact that the bees are not even bothering with the white clover, which is in abundance.  Last year they were all over it and I have yet so see a single bee on the clover in our yard or in the neighboring pasture.  They're getting what they need somewhere!

Beekeeping Book--fun reading

I wrote a post on the message boards about the drone being attacked by a worker bee.  One respondent replied with a quote from Edward Bevan, M.D., from his 1843 book "The Honey Bee:  Its Natural History, Physiology and Management".  It is fascinating reading, in a light and often humorous manner.  You can read it as an html or download a pdf since Google scanned it and is in the public domain.  The link is:


We did an inspection of the new hive, with some mixed results.  We did not find the queen, though bees were pretty cooperative.  We did locate the brood chamber in the lower hive body (2 mediums), with the upper still mostly honey and empty frames just beginning to be drawn out.  It has been 16 days since the queen was released and there were capped brood cells as well as small larvae.  I only noticed one drone cell, which tells me we don't have a laying worker, which is obviously good.  So, though we didn't find the queen, given the easy temperament of the bees and the presence of capped cells and larvae, she seems to be well and doing her job.
We also found a who lot of dead bees, in fact littering the screened floor of the bottom board.  We pulled the lower hive body off and dumped that out.  There were also a number of dead bees that seemingly had been crushed when we did the split, though I felt we were being as careful as could be that day.  We must have injured way mor…

Who's Your Honey?

Actually, the question is "From where is your honey?"  Jessica sent me a link to an interesting story about attempts to determine the origin of honey imported into the U.S.
Apparently, China has been "dumping" honey into U.S. markets at prices well below what honey producers in this country can match.  China is the world's largest producer of honey.  To try to help our producers, a tariff was established to make local honey more competitive.  However, it appears that honey that seemingly comes from other southeast Asian countries, according to the labels, actually has been routed from China.  How do we know this?  A scientist at Texas A&M studies the pollen in honey from around the world and therefore is able to make a good determination of the origin of a given quantity of honey.
This is something that should concern all honey producers in the United States.  As we …

New Queen Freed

It had been 3 days today, so we checked  a bit after noon to see if the queen had been released.  I removed the top hive body and we saw that there was still a small bit of candy in the tube.  We debated leaving it there and figured she would be out probably by the end of the day, but decided to go ahead and release her.  I opened the extra opening in the plastic tube and held it open down on top of the frames.  A couple of her attendants exited first, then she scampered out and hussled right down into the frames.  Looked like she was very anxious to get about her business.  We added the extra frame we had left out to that box and closed it up.
Checking later, we were finally seeing some bees coming and going from that hive.  They were very active in the old hive, so much so that I was a bit concerned they were maybe going to swarm even though we had done the split.  They settled down later.  I imagine they were just very busy out gathering pollen and nectar, after yesterday's hea…

Split it!

Hey, we've now doubled our number of beehives.  It was nice day, upper 6o's and clear, little breeze--great day to do this.  We had no advance warning, just knew the queen would arrive sometime after the third week in April. We got a call from the post office this morning saying they had a package with live queens in it and we could come pick it up before the post office opened if we wanted.   I did wait until after it was open.  The bees were in a thin white envelope, with holes in it clearly marked "LIVE QUEEN".  It said to keep it out of the sun.  She thought there could not possibly be a live queen bee in there and thought it had to be larva.  I told her it would be in a cage in the package, too it out, checked and everything seemed fine.  The queen and her attendants (about 4) were in a small plastic container with a tube on one end and a plug in a hole next to it.  There was  masking tape around the tube.  I was not sure whether or not I was to open the small p…

Pollen gathering

Two days ago we took Jessica out to see the hive.  We wanted to check the sugar-water supply in the coffee can.  It was still practically full, a week after the last check.  Jess noted the huge, bright yellow pollen sacks on the incoming bees as well as some white pollen.  There just are not many flowers blooming right now (crocuses, daffodils), at least in our immediate yard, but as Kathy pointed out the bees can fly beyond our property so they are getting the pollen somewhere.  A few of the early trees are beginning to bud out. Jess said the silver maples are blooming, so my guess is they are getting much of this from trees.
We pulled the tray out from under the screened bottom board to check the mite situation.  It had been over a week since I had cleaned it off and we found quite a few mites, along with many clumps of pollen that had fallen down.  I would say there were probably 1-2 mites per square inch on the board, which is not a sticky board by the way.  Several were crawlin…

Bees in funny places

After seeing the bees in the bird feeder, we have now seen them elsewhere in seemingly strange places. We have two large, rolling-type composter bins. They have drainage holes all over and we put composting materials in them year-round. The bees have been going in them like crazy. I suppose fruit peelings and moisture are the attraction. Yesterday we saw several at a time on a brown canvas cover over a woodpile. It had rained the night before and there were small pools of water in the folds and that is where the bees were found, getting the water. Even though there is a pond just down the hill from the hive, I guess they will seek it where they can find it. It's fun seeing "our" bees all over the place. I know they are ours, too, since we used to never see honeybees around. I can't wait for the first good bloom.Temps last night in mid-twenties but 70's for highs promised next week!

Reversed hive bodies

Well, it was over 60 degrees and sunny today. I thought we would just switch out the sugar water feeder, but found it was still very heavy. So, since it was so nice, we fired up the smoker and decided to reverse #1 and #3 hive bodies. Bees were really flying, though about the only thing I am aware of that is blooming is some crocuses and a couple blossoming dandelions. There may be some early trees but I don't know what exactly.We took the top super off, which houses the feeder, then removed the inner cover. There were a lot of bees. I removed one frame from the middle to examine. There were still capped honey cells, though there were many empty ones as well. We pulled the top hive body off and set it aside. It was still quite heavy. We saw some larvae, always a good sign. I pulled out the middle one, which was also pretty heavy, and more larvae. After pulling the bottom off the bottom board, we needed to clean that off since there were still matted bees over about 1/4th…

Feeding time

After much reading and debate, I decided to begin feeding today. High was 60 degrees, sunny, and the bees were really out flying. This early, and with snow still in little patches in the ditches, there is nothing blooming but spring plants are sticking up through the soil now and it won't be long there will be some flowering plants. The temps are to stay above freezing all but one day early next week, so I decided to go ahead with a 2:1 sugar water feed. I also decided, with the warmth, to take a little deeper look into the hive. So far, I have only peeked under the outer cover.Bees were really flying as I went out to the hive, as you can see in this image. I removed the insulation but kept the tape on the seams that I had under the insulation. There was still a pile of watery sugar under the outer cover that I had put a couple weeks ago and there were probably 100 bees on top of the inner cover. I smoked, then removed the inner cover. I saw a lot of bees, between each fr…

Spring coming????

Still a lot of snow on the ground, but with daytime temps near 40 and sunny, with the weekend to be above freezing day AND night, it feels like the end is drawing near. I went out yesterday with the temp near 40 degrees, lifted the lid, saw a nice mass of LIVE bees around the oblong hole of the inner cover. I poured about a cup of sugar on the inner cover. Several bees were out making cleansing flights. I see no brown staining around on the snow or on the front of the hive, so nosema does not seem a problem right now at least. Fingers crossed. If this group of bees makes it through this winter with noob beekeeps working them, this is a group I want to see continue. I did remove the fencing from around the hive. I don't know if that was wise since I smelled a skunk just yesterday evening but I will monitor it closely.

Still alive and kicking!

Getting very nervous after reading about hive deaths on the forums, I decided to go out and take a peek at the hive. The thermometer read several tenths over 40 degrees F, so I decided I would at least lift the lid off and peek under the inner cover. I took the hive tool out. Though it was cloudy and a bit windy, the temperature was nonetheless the warmest we have had in weeks.
When I got to the hive, I noticed a couple new dead bees on the landing area. There had been a few bees on the way to the hive, on the fresh snow. I pulled back the fencing I had put around to discourage critters, removed the styrofoam and wood blocks from on top of the telescoping cover and lifted it. I was very surprised to see 50 to 70 bees crawling about on top of the inner cover! There was a small pool of water near the slotted opening of the inner cover. My guess is this is from water that has moved up through the hive, condensed in the cooler air on top of the inner cover and possibl…


I slogged out through the wet snow yesterday to check on the bees. I first looked at the number of bees around the hive and saw a few more than I had seen previously and also noted the distance some had flown, presumably on their cleansing flights. Bees don't like to poop in their own house so if it is warm enough (just above freezing for highs the past several days), they will fly out and relieve themselves. You can see the little brown spots easily in the snow. Some bees were perhaps 25 yards from the hive, dead in the snow. I saw one fly out of the hive, do a little circle and return safely. I listened with my ear to the side of the hive and heard a reassuring, solid hum from inside the hive.
It was then I noticed a chunk of styrofoam and some of the duct tape on the front left corner of the hive had been torn away. For winterization, I wrapped the hive in 1 inch thick sheets of foam, secured with duct tape. Looking closer, I also noticed some of the bees seemed to have been eat…

January deep freeze

I go out regularly (about every other day) to check on the hive. We've had a lot of snow lately, and I've gone out to make sure the entry-ways are clear of snow. Each time I go out I find about 4 dead bees that have been pushed out onto the apron of the hive. This tells me the bees are still ok inside, regularly clearing out the dead bees. We have been experiencing some very cold January weather here in Iowa, with wind chills tomorrow morning in the minus 30 range (up to 15 below F actual temp). I have been following the bee listserv and there are some very interesting reports by some posters, including one who opened his hive to check the status even when the temps were in the single digits farenhiet. He is an an experienced beekeep and seems to know what he is doing but it seems to go against everything else I've read, most of which says to open a hive in those temps is a formula for disaster, but he seemed to take it in stride. Some posts are concerned even abo…