Late-winter notes

We’ve had some unusually warm weather in Colorado for the first half of February.  On February 10th, I hit 77.4°F in the bee yard (Denver broke the record high temperature for the month at 80°F that day) , but most days have been in the low to mid 60’s for much of the month.  Heck, today it was 70 according to my weather station (I was off skiing in the mountains where it was warm, but not that warm!).  But, this is Colorado, and we are expecting a good snowstorm on Thursday, so winter isn’t done with us yet.  And our snowiest months are March and April anyway – typically it snows the week after package bees arrive in mid to late April.

So, what does this have to do with the bees?  Well, it means that spring is on it’s way and these warm days are a chance to gauge how your colonies are doing.  Of the 7 hives I tended last year, only 3 made it going into the winter – the 2 in my backyard (BnB1 and BnB2) and Laura’s hive down the street.  All had plenty of honey stores, but as I noted in a previous post, Laura’s colony didn’t have their honey very well distributed.

I had been seeing activity in the hives in my backyard on the warm days – first from BnB1, but later more from BnB2.  I asked Laura to check on her hive. She said she didn’t see any activity, but there were some dead bees on the landing board.  I asked her to clear those away and see if more appeared – that would mean someone was cleaning up the hive. Then I got a text from her saying she was seeing bees going in and out of the hive!  It was a couple of days before I got down there, but when I did, I also saw bees going in and out.  However, Laura’s bees were golden Italians and these were darker.  So, I guessed they were robber bees and that the colony was dead.  I took off the insulation to look through the window and sure enough, this colony was toast.  There were dead bees all over the floor and just a couple of the robbers running around on the combs.  I blocked the entrance and took out the good honey combs to save for a new colony.  So, I guess not having honey bands at the top of the combs was a bad idea after all.

As HB at Backyard Bee Hive Blog noted, the silver maples are blooming in our area.  I also had a Facebook friend post a picture of some crocuses in bloom.  Sure enough, my backyard bees have been bringing in pollen for the past couple of weeks. 

Bees bringing in pollen in February to BnB2

Most of the pollen I’ve seen is grayish/green, but the past few days, I’ve been seeing some yellowish or orange pollen (I’m colorblind) coming in like on the bee going through the entrance – maybe more crocuses are blooming somewhere?

I also looked through the windows of BnB1 and BnB2 in the past couple of weeks. It can be deceiving at first because the bees eat the honey along the comb edges so when you first look in, the combs look empty.  But when I peered in between the combs, I could see plenty of honey in there.  It’s still been a bit too cold to open up the hives, but I think for now they are okay.  I need to do a heft test to see how heavy the hives are – heavier means more honey.  I have lots of honey combs stored in my basement for spring feeding if need be.

But now that we are going into winter again, it’s time to start monitoring the remaining hives more closely to make sure they have enough honey and if not to give them some more.  It’s also time for me to start building some new equipment – I need another nucleus hive with the Hardison dimensions and I think I’ll build a couple of swarm traps.  And I need a couple of new supers and frames for the Langstroth hive.  Plus, I’ve still got some bee books to read!

Posted in Bees, Hive inspection | 1 Comment

Wintertime Musings

Seems like all my beekeeping blogging buddies are posting for the new year, so I guess I’ll have to follow suit.  I’m really feeling that we’ve turned the corner after the winter solstice and am excited for another new year of beekeeping.  My first seed catalog arrived and I’m feeling the lengthening of the days.

Getting bee related loot for Christmas surely helped.  My wife came through with a new bee helmet/veil, a ventilated shirt, some cardboard nuc boxes for swarm trapping (and nucs of course) and Tom Seeley’s “Honeybee Democracy“.

Christmas Loot

Christmas Loot

The nuc boxes are going to be great for swarm catching.  I can keep them folded up in the cab of my truck and assemble them on site using top bars instead of frames.

I got another “B” related item for Christmas to stoke my bacon fetish as well.

"Bee" is for Bacon

“Bee” is for Bacon

One of the best Christmas presents was seeing the girls of BnB1 out flying on Christmas Eve.  Maybe the insulation was helping!

I didn’t see any signs of life from BnB2, though, but I hadn’t given up hope on them.  Of course, true to form for Colorado weather, it snowed (briefly) on Christmas day, so the girls of BnB1 were hunkered back down again.

As we headed towards the new year, we got another warm day on the 30th and this time, the girls of BnB2 headed out to enjoy the warm sun and carry out their dead sisters.

So, going into the new year, the 2 backyard hives are alive.  There’s still a long way to go until spring, but this is a hopeful sign.

Here’s hoping that 2017 is good to you.  Happy New Year from Buddha And The Bees!

Christmas Day 2016


Posted in Bees, Gratitude, Weather | 3 Comments

Bee Bathrooms

(I originally wrote this post last spring, but am just getting around to posting now)

The house we live in was built in 1967 and very little has been done to update it since then by us or the previous owners.  When we moved in, all we did was paint the walls and replace the carpet – and that was 15+ years ago.  It’s very functional for the most part.

Most of our money/effort has gone into transforming the yard which is where my passion lies.  When we moved in, we had a couple of trees taken out that pretty much decimated the lawn.  So, we had a blank slate to work with and I’ve spent plenty of time making gardens, adding lawn (which I’m starting to take out now) and building the bee yard.  So while the house has great curb appeal, the inside has lagged behind.

When my dad died a couple of years ago, we inherited a little money and while the bulk of that is going towards our kids’ education, we also decided it was high time to make some updates to the interior of the house.  Although Diana deserves one of the finest kitchens to go with her superb culinary skills, we opted to update the 2 bathrooms since it would be cheaper. (Plus she reminds me that an excellent chef can make a gourmet meal on a hot plate if need be – at least our kitchen is a little better than that).  Our 50 year old bathrooms were definitely dated (I was hoping for that style to come back around, but alas no) and you couldn’t get parts for the shower faucets anymore.  You could either have water pressure or hot water – but not both. Over the years, I’ve replaced the sink faucets and a toilet, but not the infrastructure. Definitely time for an update.

Guest bathroom before remodel

Guest bathroom before remodel – too much tile and an ugly floor

Master bath before remodel

Master bath before remodel

Master bath cabinet and sink - before remodel

Master bath cabinet and sink – before remodel

Our bathrooms are small, but mirror images of each other (they share a common wall).  All we really wanted was to have a more modern and functional bathroom – not add in bells and whistles like jetted tubs.  Toilets that flushed, sinks that drained, hot shower with pressure – that’s all we really needed.  The old bathrooms had tile on all the walls and ugly linoleum flooring.  We wanted tiled floors and only tile in the shower/bath area.  I also wanted a rain head shower –  I first had one of those in Australia in 1999 and have been wanting one every since.  They are not very water efficient, but boy do they feel good.

This was our first encounter in dealing with contractors.  We got some references from some friends and started the process of getting bids.  We settled on Brent from Roots Construction. (website is down at the moment) He had done some work for one of my colleagues and Diana and he hit it off.  (Brent knew some people up at the Shoshoni Ashram.)  We’ve become friends in the process and he’s been great to work with – I highly recommend him.  Next, we had to figure out what we wanted in the bathrooms.

I hate shopping in general, but trying to figure out what I wanted in tile design was just overwhelming.  I have no sense of artistry or color matching (due to my colorblindness).   The only requirement I had was that we needed some hexagonal tiles to satisfy my bee fetish.  I had seen some honeycomb flooring at my friend Anne’s house and knew I wanted something like that.  I would have done the whole bathroom in honeycomb, but that would have been a little over the top. 

Guest Bathroom

The project started in November on the kids/guest bathroom.  My son Patrick went to college this year, so we needed to have an nice bathroom to go with the new empty (guest) bedroom.  I was impressed that the demo took only a few hours and thought, maybe I could save some money by doing the master bath demo myself.  I used to change the oil in my car by myself, but then I realized that I could pay someone to do it for me for under $30.  When I thought about how much my time is worth, I decided that it was well worth the money to pay someone else to do this.  Same goes for the bathroom demo.  They had to crack the old cast iron tub in half to get it out – that would have taken me a whole day!

Tub removed - guest bathroom

Tub removed – guest bathroom

Demo day on the master bath.

Demo day on the master bath.

It took about 7 weeks to finish the remodel due to the Thanksgiving break and busyness of the contractors.  All the sub-contractors were great.   I was particularly impressed with Aaron from CustomExpressions who did a masterful job with tile work (and our guest bath nook made it into his photo gallery!)  I’d always defer to his sense of artistry in designing the layout and it came out great.

New shower/tub in guest bathroom

New shower/tub in guest bathroom

And, I got my honeycomb flooring!

Honeycomb tile in guest bath

Honeycomb tile in guest bath

Master Bath

The master bath was a sore spot for me.  When we first moved in, I re-grouted all the tile which was a chore way beyond my liking.  Removing the old grout was a pain – the tiles were so close together that normal tools didn’t work.  And they were small tiles which meant there was a lot of grout to remove.   Over the years, mold started growing on the tiles that was impossible to remove.  It wasn’t an appealing place to try to get clean.

After the new year, we started on the master bath.  We told Brent we wanted this one to go faster than the other and he said he’d try to do what he could.  My old boss used to say that you might want things to go fast, but TTT – Things Take Time.  And, so it was with the master bath.  Things have to be done in a certain order, and it still took 5 weeks to get the majority of the work done.  But, at least we had the nice new guest bathroom to use while this one was in progress!

For the master bathroom, we took out the tub and replaced it with just a shower.  The back wall has a vertical strip of hexagonal tiles for my bee theme.  It looks like it should have a waterfall constantly running over it.  That would have been cool.

New shower in master bath

New shower in master bath with my rainshower

Honeycomb accent

Honeycomb accent on back wall

Honeycomb accent

Closeup of the honeycomb accent

One nice thing about redoing the bathrooms is that we changed from 50-year-old water hogging toilets to low flow ones which should save some water.   And our city has a $50 rebate/toilet when you switch these out ($100/toilet if you get dual flush), so I ended up with a $100 credit on our utility bill.  I initially wanted dual flow toilets (which I also first encountered in Australia), but settled for single flush/low flow.  Since we live in a drought prone area (and Diana grew up in California), we adhere to the “If it’s yellow, let it mellow, if it’s brown, flush it down” philosophy, so if we are only flushing for #2 with low flow, I don’t see the point of dual flush. (Maybe that’s a little TMI).  Hopefully, these new toilets will offset my increased water usage from the rain head shower.

I no longer cringe when I get in the shower now.  My biggest challenge is to not stay in there too long (which I do on a daily basis).



Posted in Home remodel | 4 Comments

Baby It’s Cold Outside!

After an exceptionally warm and dry fall, the meteorological winter finally arrived at the start of December to bring in some colder (and wetter) weather.  Last night, the temperature hit -8.5 °F (-22.5 °C) – the coldest weather in 2 years.  We’ve also gotten some snow with the cold, so it looks like it will be a white Christmas this year.

Beeyard at -5 F

People often ask me whether my bees hibernate in the winter (short answer – they don’t).  As fall approaches, a few things happen in the hive.  First, all the males (drones) get kicked out of the hive since they are mostly just a drain on the hive – eating and lying around, not helping to raise new bees or gathering stores for winter.  So, out they go.  The number of bees in the hive starts to reduce as the queen’s egg laying slows down and the summer bees are replaced by fatter winter bees who can survive through the cold weather.  Normally, worker bees (the females) live 4-6 weeks which wouldn’t get them through the cold of winter, but the winter bees can live 2-3 months.  The winter bees cluster together in a ball, eating honey for energy and beating their wings to keep warm.  The queen is in the middle of the cluster and the other bees keep her and any brood warm with the heat they generate.

If there are not enough bees and honey to keep the hive warm enough, the colony will die.  This happened to BnB3 which was decimated by mites and was queenless going into the winter.  You can see in the picture below the dead bees all clustered together.  There is honey at the top left, but they bees won’t break the warmth of the cluster to go get it.

Dead cluster from BnB3 with supercedure cell

Going into winter, I had 3 of 7 hives remaining – BnB1, BnB2 and Laura’s hive.  Duncan’s hive (Hello Kitty) had very few bees and I gave up trying to save that.  The 3 remaining hives all had good honey stores and of the 3, Laura’s hive had the most bees.  Interestingly, these three hives all use the same design – the Marty Hardison top bar.

For best results, a colony will store a band of honey above the brood comb so they can eat that without venturing away from keeping the eggs and larvae warm.  Here’s an example from  an old picture with honey at the top and capped brood below.

Comb with capped honey above the capped brood.

BnB1 and BnB2 have always organized their honey and brood like this.  At the last inspection, Laura’s hive had lots of bees and brood, but on the brood combs, while there was very little to no honey at the top of the comb, there was plenty of pollen and honey on the combs on either side of the brood.  We’ll see how that works out for them. 

In past years, I’ve always placed a layer of bubble wrap like insulation across the top bars under the hive cover and also some between the window and window cover for added warmth.  This year, since my colonies are pretty small, I decided to add some more insulation to the sides of the hives (and bottom on BnB1 & 2 since they have screened bottom boards).

I went out an bought a sheet of 2″ foam board and use my circular saw to cut it all.  This worked out nicely to cover all 3 hives (mostly).  For the flat sides and ends, the foam fits snugly.  For the sides with the windows, I had a dilemma.  The foam was not easy to carve out by hand and I didn’t want to use a router given the amount of nasty dust that it would produce.  In the end, I carved out as best I could a hole for the window cover handle and pressed the foam as tightly as I could to the side.  I used 3″ screws to tie it all together.

Insulation around BnB2 – gap on window side at left

BnB1 all insulated – insulation bulging on right side over the window

One problem with insulating a hive is that it can retain moisture that is normally vented through the natural gaps in the hive construction.  Each of these hives has a vent hole at the back which is covered by this new layer of insulation.  (BnB2 had the hole propilized closed anyway).  Since our winters are generally very dry and since at the last inspection, the combs were dry and brittle and since the colonies are small, I’m hoping this won’t be a problem.

So, another beekeeping winter is at hand, and another experiment under way.  After the first cold snap a week or so ago, I found dead bees in front of the hive and in the snow on the ground in my backyard.  To me, that means someone is still alive to drag out the dead bodies (undertaker bees).  

BnB2 insulated. Dead bees on the doorstep

But that cold snap only got down to the teens.  This is a colder, longer snap. Maybe if it warms up to the upper 40’s this week, the undertaker bees (if there are any) will show me their work.

Next week is the winter solstice which typically signals the start of the new beekeeping year.  As the days get longer, the queens start laying eggs, gearing up for the spring to come.  With any luck, the insulation will give my bees a bit more of a chance against the cold to survive into the new year.

Wishing you all a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Pancha Ganapati, and a Blessed New Year!

Posted in Bees, Weather | 6 Comments

Mites and Robbers

Sarah’s hive was one of the most productive of my hives this year.  Even though the bees did a lot of cross combing, they made some of the most beautiful and tasty white honey combs.

Nicely capped honey - Sarah's hive

Nicely capped honey – Sarah’s hive

The colony had been booming all summer and there where no obvious (at least to me) signs that this hive was not going to do well going into winter.   One of the problems I have with this hive is that since it’s not in my back yard, I don’t tend to get out to inspect it as often as I should. (Note to self – check the outyards more frequently next year).  So, there was a 3-4 week period between September and October where I didn’t check in on this hive.  That was all the time the nasty little varroa mites needed to totally decimate the colony.

When I finally did take a look, the first thing I noticed was very few bees at the entrance.  A normal, healthy colony will have bees coming and going – and this day there were hardly any.  When I looked in, I saw that there was very little capped brood, fewer bees and there were lots of uncapped, dead larva  – classic signs of PMS (parasitic mite syndrome).

PMS in the hive

PMS in the hive

Dead brood

Dead brood

The queen was still alive and laying new eggs, but I could see signs of mite poop in some of the cells.  That meant that any new larvae probably were going to be infested with mites.  I decided to condense the hive down so they wouldn’t have as much space to care for.  I removed some of the combs with the dead larvae (hopefully taking some of the mites too) and some of the cross-combed honey bars.  I don’t treat for mites but I’m not sure that would have helped in this case anyway at this point.  I was amazed at how fast a colony could be overrun with mites and go from boom to bust.

A week later I came back to check on the hive and when I looked through the window and saw a yellowjacket running around, I knew the colony was toast.  When I opened up the back , there were dead bees all over the bottom of the hive.

Dead bees in the back of Sarah's hive

Dead bees in the back of Sarah’s hive

As I moved into the combs, I found that robber bees and wasps had cleaned out every bit of honey from the combs.  I was glad I took out the other honey!  There were more dead bees and the bottom was littered with chewed up comb.

Dead bees and shredded comb at the bottom of the hive

Dead bees and shredded comb at the bottom of the hive

Honey comb shredded by robbers

Honey comb shredded by robbers

At this time of year, bees have very little sources of nectar and start robbing honey from other hives.  A strong hive will have guard bees at the entrance to fend off the attack, but a weak hive can be quickly overcome.  A hive like Sarah’s can be stripped of all it’s honey in a matter of hours.  I don’t know how long it took in this case, but the devastation was total.

I took all the comb from the hive, scraped down the sides and dumped out the dead bees. I’ll take a torch to the insides in the spring to clean it up some more before adding new bees.  The comb will be melted down for lip balms and candles.  Some of the brood comb that I took out the week before still had honey on it.  I froze them to kill off mites and wax moth larva, then trimmed off the empty comb below the honey.   I’ll store the honey on the comb for feeding back to the bees in the spring if needed or to help start the new hive.  I harvested some of the nice white comb that I got before the robbing and bottled that up on Friday.  I even made up some little sample jars for the folks at my wife’s birthday party – which they all loved.

Diana's Double Nickels Honey

Diana’s Double Nickels Honey

Next year, instead of buying a package, we’ll repopulate this hive with a split from one of my other hives (assuming one or two make it), or a swarm that we catch.  I need to check on the hives more often to circumvent any problems before they get out of hand.  And, I’ll try to buy or raise local queens that hopefully have better mite resistance than this one.

But for now, the sweet honey will take the sting out of the bitterness of a failed colony.




Posted in Bee Products, Bees, Hive inspection, Mites | 1 Comment

Endless Summer

We’ve been experiencing a dry, warm Autumn in Colorado.  Although we had our first hard freeze the other day, temperatures have been in the mid 80’s the past couple of days.  The bees are still out collecting pollen from the few remaining cosmos and asters, but their foraging resources are rapidly diminishing.  The boys (drones) have all been kicked out of the hive and the population of girls (workers) is dwindling as the queen slows her laying.  They may have to start dipping into their honey stores more than normally for this time of year if they keep flying in the warm weather.

Bee on the cosmos

Bee on the cosmos

I’m not complaining about the weather.  I’ve got arugula and spinach coming up in the garden and we’ve been treated to many bluebird days.  There have been dustings of snow on the mountains which add to the beauty of these days.

Cattle grazing under the snow capped mountains

Cattle grazing under the snow capped mountains

Out of my 7 hives, 5 of them seem to be doing well at last check, despite signs of mites in some of them.  I’m experimenting to see which ones can deal with the mite loads – if any.  If I can get at least a couple through the winter, then I’ll split and requeen the survivors in the spring.  So far, watching the hive entrances, these 5 seem to be doing well.  I reduced the entrances down to keep robbers at bay.

Late autumn shade on BnB1

Late autumn shade on BnB1

Entrance reduced on BnB2

Entrance reduced on BnB2

Down to one entrance on BnB3

Down to one entrance on BnB3

A couple of weeks ago, I checked on Sarah’s hive which had been a real producer of honey and bees this summer.  The last time I checked, 3 weeks before that, all seemed good.  When I walked up to the hive, I noticed that there were very few bees at the entrance – not a good sign.  And, opening it up, I found that they had been devastated by mites.  There was very little brood and there was lots of uncapped, old larvae – classic signs of PMS (that’s parasitic mite syndrome in beekeeping lingo).

PMS in the hive

PMS in the hive

I found the queen and she was laying new eggs, but I didn’t think they have a chance.  I reduced the hive down to just a few frames in hopes they could rebound, but I wasn’t hopeful.

This weekend, I checked on the hive again.  There were no bees guarding the entrance and when I looked through the window I only saw a couple of bees and a yellowjacket.  This hive was toast.  I’ll detail this in another post.

I also checked in on the Left Hand Hive this weekend.  Last time I checked, it was brimming with bees.  I even did a mite roll and there were very few mites so I was optimistic that this hive would survive.  Here’s what it looked like then.


Lots of bees in the bottom box of Left Hand hive

However, yesterday, there were very few bees flying in and out which was not a good sign.  I opened up the top cover and there were a few bees, but not as many as a few weeks ago.  I’m debating whether I should go through the hive and perhaps condense it down to one deep, or just let it bee.  They had the top cover glued to the inner cover and at this time of year, I’m reluctant to break all the propolis seals that they made.  But, we’re still having endless summer weather so perhaps they can still get things sealed back up.  And winter will be here before we know it.

Posted in Bees, Hive inspection | 7 Comments

Agastache Autumn

As summer winds down and we are now in the meteorological autumn, the bees are getting ready for the coming winter. Pollen and nectar sources are winding down, but in my yard, a couple of different agastache plants are still blooming and the bees are loving them.

In my front yard, the Coronado Red Hyssop (Agastache Pstessene) has been booming this summer.  This plant has small tubular flowers.  After a few years of just being small 2 foot plants, this year they have grown to over 7 feet high. We’ve had a pair of humming birds that have been visiting for the past month or so and the bees are there in full force too.

Out at the back of the bee yard, I have a couple of different agastache plants – the Giant Hyssop (Agastache foeniculum).  These flowers are more like a mint cluster – not tubular and the bees just love this plant.

There are still some cone flowers blooming and sunflowers all over the county.  The blue mist spirea is almost done – I plan relocate a bunch of the little seedlings popping up in my lawn-to-garden project next spring.  This year, I have a volunteer sunflower in that garden that has done magnificently despite me never watering it.


Sunflowers in my new lawn-to-garden area.

In the beeyard, the silver lace vine is in full bloom, but it doesn’t seem to be a big hit with the honey bees.  I see wasps and native bees on it, but very few honey bees.

Silver lace vine and bee yard

Silver lace vine and bee yard

I did my last full inspections a few weeks ago, but decided to take advantage of the nice Labor Day weather to check into the hives in my backyard and neighborhood one more time.  All except Laura’s hive are still chock full of bees and seem to be doing well.  Laura’s was recently requeened and the new queen seems to be slow to start building up new brood. But, there were new stick eggs and larvae, so maybe she’s just getting into her groove.  I gave the hive a frame of brood from BnB1 a couple of weeks ago and today, we could see that some of the dark Carniolans from BnB1 had hatched and were mixed in with the pretty golden Italians.  Today, I gave Laura’s hive a couple of frames of honey from BnB2 so they can concentrate on raising bees.  They have plenty of pollen and honey now – they just need some more bees.

I’ll have to keep an eye out for wasps and other bees trying to rob the hives, but they seem capable of fending off any attacks.  I reduced the entrance on Laura’s hive since they have fewer bees, but will keep the others  open full unless I see signs of robbing.

I’ll try to do one more quick check of Sarah’s hive and the Left Hand Lang next weekend, but for the most part, my summer beekeeping task are almost over.  The honey has been harvested, the hive health has been checked and now it’s time to watch and wait.

Posted in Bees, Hive inspection | 2 Comments

The Queen is Not Dead!

In my last post, I mentioned that Laura’s hive was queenless and there were no signs that any of the queens that had hatched made it back from their mating flights.  I spent the week trying to buy a new queen locally, but all my efforts turned up empty handed.  The last person I tried wasn’t going to have any queens until next Tuesday and I’ll be taking my son to college, so that wouldn’t work.

Yesterday, Laura and I took one more peek into the hive on the off chance that one of the queens made it or at least to figure out if there were enough bees left to combine with another hive.  Lo and behold, there was some brood and larva, so she had survived!

Larva and capped brood - Laura's hive

Larva and capped brood – Laura’s hive

Capped brood - Laura's hive

Capped brood – Laura’s hive

The one thing I’ve (hopefully) now learned this season is that I need to be more patient when waiting for signs of a newly hatched queen to get mated and start laying.  Since I didn’t really know when this queen had hatched, I guess I can give myself a break this time.

So, it seem like this hive is queen-right again (although we never saw her).  They did have a queen cell that looked like it had a larva in it, so that’s kind of worrisome.  Unfortunately, I crushed it a bit when I was doing the inspection.  If they do need another queen, I hope I didn’t damage the larva, but if they don’t then maybe that was a good thing.

I’m not sure if this hive swarmed or the old queen just died (there were both swarm and supercedure cells).  There are definitely fewer bees in here than earlier in the season, but since there’s wasn’t any brood in here for a while, I’m thinking it was attrition rather than swarming.  This hive came from a swarm, and some think that swarms tend to beget swarms, so I’ll have to keep an eye on this one.  I’ll probably give it a frame of brood from one of the other hives just so they can bring their numbers up quickly since it is getting late in the season.

They seem to have enough honey and pollen stores for now.  There is one funky looking comb of capped honey that I got a kick out of.  It’s been like this for over a month – they just never seem to expand it further.

Funky honey comb in Laura's hive

Funky honey comb in Laura’s hive

I didn’t see signs of active mites (no mite poop, no deformed wing virus, no mites on bees), so I’m hoping the brood break knocked them down to a manageable level.  It looks like the new queen has laid some drone brood (larva in old drone sized cells) and maybe I’ll cull that when they are capped.  No need for drones this time of year, except to raise mites, so getting rid of that is probably a good thing anyway.

So, as of today, all my hives are queen-right and all seem to be doing well going into the fall.  Only time will tell!

Posted in Bees, Hive inspection, Queens | 1 Comment

August Musings

It’s been a hot, dry summer for the bees, but that hasn’t stopped them from making a good crop of honey.  Normally, first year packages spend their time building comb and enough honey to get them through the winter and a honey harvest is not in the cards.  But mine got a head start this year since they each had some pre-built comb, so they could spend less effort on building comb and more on making honey (a win-win in my eyes).

More Honey

Since all but one of my hives has excess honey, I did some more harvesting – this time from BnB3, Sarah’s hive and the Left Hand Lang.  I took one bar from BnB3 because it was held together with hair clips after it broke off early on.  I replaced it with an empty comb I had laying around and hope they can fill it with honey before the winter.

Comb from BnB3 held together with hair clips

Comb from BnB3 held together with hair clips

Sarah’s hive had lots of cross comb that I wanted to clean up.  She isn’t as keen on harvesting honey as I am and wanted to leave it for the bees. But I convinced her that they had an excess, so we took out the 3 bars that were cross combed and an extra bar for some comb honey.  They still had plenty left and room to expand.

Nicely capped honey - Sarah's hive

Nicely capped honey – Sarah’s hive

Sarah tried her hand at inspecting the combs this time.

Looking for the queen

Sarah looking for the queen

The Left Hand Lang is pretty full and they had built out one of the foundationless frames with just honey, so I decided I’d harvest that frame.  The place where I have the hive was having a new driveway poured and one of the workers came by as I was closing up.  He said where he was from in Mexico, the bees had open combs in the trees and that he was always getting stung.  I let him dip his finger into a tear in the comb I harvested for a sweet reward – no stings here!

Foundationless frame ready for harvest

Foundationless frame ready for harvest


Fall is just around the corner, so I started doing my final full inspections of the hives to make sure they are all ready for the coming winter.  I peeked in BnB2 and found they had already made some new comb on my wobbly wedge bar.  So, I guess Julie was right – it wasn’t as bad as I made it out to be.  BnB1 has lots of honey and the queen seems to laying well, so I shouldn’t have to go in again.

New comb on the wedge bar - maybe it's not so bad

New comb on the wedge bar – maybe it’s not so bad

We had a cool day earlier this week, so I took the opportunity to do a full inspection of BnB1.   I started off in my long sleeved shirt and veil, but they were pretty agitated and kept trying to get in my veil.  After a glancing sting to the neck, I decided to put on my bee jacket for more protection.  That wasn’t enough of a deterrent – one of them stung me on the back through the suit!  I think they were pissy because the last time, I stole some of their honey.  As I was going through the hive, I looked down on the front of my jacket and saw some bees clustered there.  Then I saw that one of them was the queen!  Yikes!  I tried to brush her back into the hive, but she landed on the top bars and my attempts to herd her into the hole weren’t going well.  She was headed for the edge and onto the ground when I finally was able to get her into the hive.  But for a few moments there, I was freaking out!  She’s been laying well as there was lots of capped and uncapped brood.   So, I think this hive is all set for Fall.

The only hive that isn’t doing well is Laura’s hive that was the swarm I caught in May.  The last time I looked in, I saw some mites at the back of the hive and was thinking I’d have to do something like cage the queen for brood break.  But, the bees were smarter than me and apparently, they were already raising a new queen.  When I looked in this time, there was no brood, no queen, but some opened queen cells and supercedure cells.

Opened queen cells in Laura's hive

Opened queen cells in Laura’s hive

But there was no sign of a virgin queen.  I was hoping she was out for a mating flight, but I checked again 8 days later and there was still no sign of a queen, eggs or larva.  There were still a lot of bees in the hive though so I thought buying a mated queen was the way to go.  But none of my local suppliers have queens and I’m going out of town and it’s too late to get one shipped, so I think I’m going to have to combine this hive with one of my others.  I’m reluctant since this hive had mites but I have to do something with them this weekend.

I still need to do a full inspection of Duncan’s hive.  The bees were just too agitated to do it when we harvested the honey.  Maybe I can get that done this weekend, but if not, it’ll have to wait until I get back.


My youngest son leaves for his first year of college next week.  He, his brother and I hiked a 14er last weekend to celebrate this passage.  It was quite emotional for me on two fronts – I just beat cancer and now my boy is heading off.  He’s ready and I think I’m ready (Diana, maybe not). Just like the bees, we’ve given him a place to call home and tended him with loving care.  All we can do now sit back and let nature take it’s course.

My boys and me on top of Mt. Sherman - 14,036'

My boys and me on top of Mt. Sherman – 14,036′


Posted in Bee Products, Bees, Hive inspection, Honey | 4 Comments

Honey Pops

On Saturday, it was time to harvest some honey from Duncan’s hive (aka Hello Kitty).  His sisters and parents joined in the fun – watching, laughing, videoing and getting stung.  What should have been an easy harvest, turned into a bit of a mess because there was a lot of crossed combs and lots of bees!

Ready to start the harvest

Ready to start the harvest

The hive was full to the back and when I pulled out the first comb, it broke off and the one in front of it was attached all the way to the back.  That wasn’t a good sign.  The next few combs were crossed and covered in bees.

Cross comb mess

Cross comb mess

Then, there was a comb that had collapsed previously and when I tried to move that, it broke off.  So, I had to work around that one for a while.

There were a couple of nice combs that we were able to get for comb honey, but most were destined for the crush and strain.

One nice single comb

One nice single comb

My previously perfect method for getting comb out of the hive and into the nuc didn’t work so well this time.  At one point, I was just trying to figure out what to do next when Duncan’s father came along and asked me how I was doing.   I’d been stung on the belly 4 times, Duncan had a bee in his suit and ran away, his sister got stung on her ear, the bees were everywhere and I was just standing there dumbfounded.  It was a pretty funny sight (at least in retrospect).

Unhappy bees, Unhappy Don

Unhappy bees, Unhappy Don

But finally, we got all the combs out and most of the bees off them and took them over to my house to crush and strain.  While I was cleaning off one of the bars, I cut into the kerf along the bar and it went into the bucket.  But when we pulled it out, we ended up with a new treat – a honey pop!  Watch how it was created in this video.

Once we got all the honey into the bucket, Duncan got to mash it all up.

Duncan crushing the comb

Duncan crushing the comb

We poured it into the strainer and then it was time for cleaning up the tools!

In the end, we got about 27 lbs from 7 combs – about 21 liquid and 6 for comb honey!

Despite the bumps and stings, I think they all had a good time – I’m sure the honey pop helped!



Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments