First time getting some honey

So I’m in my third year of beekeeping. Honey was never an objective. Helping the bees and learning was. Also, I found that they assisted in helping me focus and getting into a Zen state that made meditation easier.

However, it’s good to finally get some of the sweet stuff.

Gamma Hive still had the old chop and cropped Lang frames that I put in last spring (2012). Earlier this year I moved them into the rear of the hive thinking they’d let the brood in them hatch and then start packing it with honey. They packed it with some honey but the queen kept laying brood. I hate those Lang frames. For one, they’re not the all natural I’m looking for. Second, they rigged up nature of it leaves lots of holes the bees have to defend.

So I took them. They weren’t happy about it but I finally got that going. I brought them home and cut out the honey part of the comb as best I could. I left the uncured honey and pollen sections out for the bees to clean up and put some of the brood comb in struggling Beta Hive.

Then I processed honey. It went well. I crushed up the comb and laid it in a regular kitchen collander with some cheese cloth laid in it overtop a bucket. Gravity did the rest. Setting it outside on a hot day helped. I did two more strains.

The resulting honey looks like caramel. I believe it’s full of bubbles but mostly it’s winter honey and it’s full of pollen and propolis…all the good stuff store bought honey cooks out. I’m hoping it clears a bit but mostly it tastes like a nice multi-layered honey. I prefer more floral tastes in my honey but this is good.

Oh, and I learned I can’t judge worth a darn. I thought I might get half a cup out of the combs when I pulled them. Honey, again, wasn’t the goal. What I got was about half a gallon. Not bad.

Weekend bee notes continued

I had my first honey collection. Gamma Hive seemed full so I took out the four chop and cropped Lang frames. Each was partially filled with capped honey. There was one of them with brood. I processed the honey and gave that brood to Beta Hive which seems to be struggling a bit still. Gamma now has all natural comb and is sealed up with the holes that the Langs forced me to have.

Beta Hive seems to be struggling but maybe not. I did give them some syrup and they didn’t touch a bit of it. Maybe they have a source that’s doing ok by them. I looked in and they did have some capped honey. I’m going to leave them to their own devices – aside from the Gamma Brood I gave them.

I gave Alpha Hive another bar to grow on. They seemed fine.

Reports from Delta – a Warre Hive – seem like their good.

Homeowner from Epsilon Hive said they are still there the morning of their third day and seemed to have calmed down quite a bit.


Gamma Hive Swarmed/Welcome Epsilon Hive

So yesterday I got a call that Gamma Hive had warmed. I grabbed my stuff and by the time I’d gotten there, they had settled into a branch of a tree about seven and half feet up.

I shook them into a little box I had and over the next hour or so they all settled into it.. I bundled that up and loaded a new Warre Hive into the car and took it to some nature/environment lovers who had offered to house a hive. This is now Epsilon Hive.

Other bee news: The property owners at Alpha Hive said they’re bustling. Beta Hives seems a bit week so I fed is some. Gamma swarmed so I’ll leave it alone for now to calm down and check it in a day or so. Property owner at Delta Hive (another Warre Hive) said they are rocking.

That’s five hives I now have. That might be enough for a while.

Beekeeping Update…always experimenting.

This past weekend, oldest daughter accompanied me on my bee rounds. She handled some comb and got her hands into a hive. That was cool. Her boyfriend came along on one visit. He stood back while she went into action. That was cooler.

First, Alpha Hive. It’s doing well. It has some comb built out and has filled about 8 bars with comb. I gave them three more to build on. There were plenty of brood in various stages and some capped honey and pollen.

Beta Hive. I think they’re struggling a bit and will probably feed them. They aren’t – and have never been – very defensive. I cleaned out some messed up comb recently and a day later when breaking down the comb noticed a queen cell where the queen was about to emerge. I felt bad about and worried about that. They’ve crossed combed the heck out of the hive.

My baffle board experiment to straighten out the comb was a complete bust. Now I’m trying spacer bars. Basicaly, I’m inserting a thin bar between my normal bars to widen the space for the comb. Maybe this will work? I don’t know. We’ll see.

Gamma Hive. It’s busting out. This was the one where the boyfriend came along. They’re aggressive and I need to remove four chop & cropped lang frames from the back but there’s still a good deal of brood in them as well as some honey. I didn’t plan too well and made a bit of a mess of it. This coming Holiday weekend I’ll plan better. I think I just have to bite the bullet and harvest two or all of them. It will make me feel better to get the bad wax and frames out and also give them space to build.

Delta Hive – That one is several hours away. It’s a Warre Hive and shouldn’t need a whole lotta love so I’ll assume it’s AOK. I’ll text my dad to ask.

Beta Hive Comb Fix/Gamma Hive Bursting

Sometimes you have good beekeeping experierince. Sometimes they just suck. Last night’s check was really good. I was in a good mood, the bees seemed happy. I got myself into the Zen state that I’ve read about and achieved a few times but not nearly as much as I’d like.

It’s been about three weeks since I’ve checked on Beta or Gamma hives.  That’s a little two long but times have been busy. So yesterday was warm and sunny and I was in the mood so I took a peak.

Beta Hive swarmed a few weeks ago. That swarm I housed up in Alpha Hive. Now, Beta seems a bit…unpopulated. The major problem I knew I had was a mess of cross-combing that had resulted from my trying to fix last year’s cross-combing. Some comb had collapsed and the bees had built on that and there was lots of brood in it…so I left it. Last night, I looked in and almost all of the brood had hatched and they were only just beginning to lay in honey so I removed the mess of comb.

They didn’t give me any problems. I did the whole thing without a veil. That got me worrying (N.B. everything gets me worrying) that maybe they weren’t just nice but lethargic. I think tonight I’ll put in some syrup to feed them and help boost them up. Last time I noticed this in a hive was Alpha Hive 1 before it died. That was later in the year but I don’t think I’ll take any chances.

Gamma Hive is always mean so I put on my veil and tried out my new smoker. The smoker worked great but really pissed off those bees – everything pisses tem off. They finally settled down into the usual, relaxed (for them) smoked mood and I took a peak. They’ve built huge amounts of comb. The bars I put in a few weeks ago are fully drawn out with comb and packed with brood and honey. The old Lang frames I need to remove still have a bit of brood in them but one had mostly honey. I’m thinking I’ll take some honey from them this weekend to make sure they don’t become honey bound. I’m not sure if that’s a reality but the hive is packed!

Alpha Hive Repopulated/Welcome Delta Hive

So last Sunday Beta Hive swarmed. It was a fun, slightly nerve-racking experience but the thought of handling thousands of bees has become somewhat common to me now. That’s cool but also a warning.

I popped that Beta Hive swarm into a small box colony and put them up near Alpha Hive to get oriented and calm. This Saturday morning I did a quick transfer from that small hive box into Alpha Hive. Long Live the new Alpha Hive!

The night before (Friday), I had driven down to Dry Ridge, Kentucky to pick up some bees. And Saturday afternoon I put them into a hive at my dad’s house. This is now christened Delta Hive.

The bees I bought for Delta Hive were in a Langstroth Hive. The hive I was putting them into is a completely different and smaller hive called a Warre Hive that my father made out of cedar. The Warre Hive is – to my mind – a more natural way to keep bees and requires much less interference from the beekeeper. This is good because it’s four hours away from me.

Basically, to get the Langstroth comb into the Warre Hive, I had to cut down and bust up honey and brood comb all while 10,000 pissed off bees requested that I stop my busting up. But they’re in there and seemed to be doing well at 10AM the next day. Only four or five stings.

I’ll have pictures of later of the Warre Hive.

In the midst of a swarm

I’m in a draw in my continuing battle to get straight comb in Beta and Gamma Hives. Some comb in Beta collapsed. This doesn’t bother the bees. It’s full of comb and honey where I could see because it was covered in honey bees so there was no taking it out. They were building some new comb and the new guides seem to be doing there trick, which was very nice to see. All my problems are comb guide problems.

At Gamma Hive, the comb guides are doing their job. I took a quick peak in the old Lang frames that I’m trying to remove but they are full of brood so I left them.

That was Saturday. I did a few other things around the house on Saturday and when Sunday came I decided to camp out on the couch. It was suppose to be rainy but about 100 laps into the prior night’s Richmond race (which I had recorded), my wife interupted me.

“I think the bees are swarming,” she said.

“Nah,” it’s just an orientation flight.

Then I looked. The bees were swarming. A huge cloud of bees hung over our back yard, and the next door neighbors and the back yard neighbors. I went out and stood in the midst of the swarm. A fabulous experience. The noise wasn’t deafening but it was a grand white noise of humming.

I stood and enjoyed it about 2 minutes before I started to grab some items: a wool shirt, gloves, a box, a brush.

The bees were settling on a fence post in our back alley. When most of them had formed a clump about the size of two footballs, I shook them into the box. I did this a few times to make sure I had the queen and after about an hour most of the bees that had filled three yards squeezed themselves into a little hive box I had that is not much bigger than a box new boots come in.

I took them up to Alpha Hive and placed them their. This queen is the daughter or granddaughter of the original Alpha Hive. I guess even it could be the queen that was cast off from Alpha Hive. That’s cool.

Because rain was coming and I didn’t want to traumatize them anymore, I just left the small box on Alpha Hive. It’s laced with some lemon grass oil and a bar of old comb. They should like it until I move them into Alpha 2.0.

A weekend bee check

For my birthday, my dad bought me a new smoker and hive tool. That was nice.

Alicia bought me this book by Christy Hemenway who has helped me quite a bit.

But the hives:

The baffle boards I thought that would help me straighten out all the cross-combing did just the opposite. There’s a good metaphor here about a ‘government’ (me) interfering with a society and generating unintended consequences but I’ll forgo that.

In Alpha Hive, the girls built lots of comb on the bottom and side of the baffle board. It’s brood with a touch of honey. I moved it to the rear to let the eggs hatch (I hope) and put in four new bars for them to build on. I need to just check and make sure they are kept straight. Then slowly rotate out the old comb. Note: All this is for my ease and benefit and not the honey bees.

In Gamma Hive, the four frames I moved to the rear still have brood in it. I’ll wait until they hatch and hope that the queen doesn’t lay more eggs in it. One of the new combs I used to fill the area where the langs were chopped has a small bit of comb on it which I straigtened out a tad. I just need to keep on top of that also.

Finally, no swarms were cast that I could see. I rebaited the traps. This weekend I think I’m installing my first bees into my father’s Warre Hive which, of course, will be known as Delta Hive.


The start of my third bee season

It’s a learning process, I tell myself. The fact that I’m keeping bees using a different paradigm, equipment and attitude from almost all other beekeepers makes it a very long learning process.

Alpha Hive died over the winter. I’ve divided up the hive structure into three baited traps. I have to go up a lure it again but I’m lazy.

Beta Hive is doing great. I put in a baffle board at the end of last summer to encourage them to make straight comb. It hasn’t but I’ve left it in today and put in four bars with a better comb guide so I’m hopeful. My goal there is to monitor it each week, keep the new comb straight and slowly remove all the crooked comb. How will that go? Who knows? I do have another bait hive up near Beta. I’m hopeful of catching a swarm with it.

Gamma Hive is hot. Hot is a nice word for saying that colony is full of a bunch of jerk bees. They’re grumpy and mean. Today, especially so. I barely looked at them and they start making runs at me, bouncing off my veil. I have the remains of four chopped and cropped Lang frames in it that I moved to the back of the hive. My intetion was to let all the eggs hatch and remove those frames. What I should have done it move one at a time. I think I’ve disturbed the entire hive making them even hotter. I’ll go back in a little while and see what’s what. I also have a bait hive near it that I ‘re-lured’.

Beta and Gamma have some good room to grow but I do hope they swarm and I catch the swarm in one of my traps. I’d like to re-populate Alpha with them. I do have three other hive bodies waiting to be populated. I’d like to start working a Delta, Epsilon and Zeta Hives.

Alpha Hive is Dead/Spring Swarm Traps Put up

Last I looked, Beta and Gamma Hives are okay.

But Alpha Hive, my first hive, is dead. It was more emotional that I  expected. They’re just bugs, right? But they’re bugs I took care of for a few years. I knew this would be an issue. They swarmed a few times last spring and deleted their numbers. They didn’t seem to recover. I fed them and they may have made it but I went to visit once and there were yellow jackets and bumbles in the hive robbing them. I kept feeding and closed them up for the winter.

When I opened up the hive this Sunday, this is what I found: thousands of bees dead on the bottom board.

From further back. As you can see, the comb is still there as expected (I’ve inverted some and put them on top of the hive) but completely empty of honey or pollen.

Here is the hive with all the top-bars off. It looks somewhat like a coffin to me. Thousands of pollinators – dead.

How do I know they starved? Plenty of little bees like this one – dead head first into a cell. She probably died from cold and/or looking for a bit of food.

I pulled out all of the comb and inspected it. There’s nothing bad with it at all. No moths or fungus or mold. Just no food.


Here’s a good comparison between old comb and new comb. The old comb is dark from the little cocoons left in the cells when bees are born. The lighter comb was built last summer. It may have held one generation of bees and some honey and pollen.

I cleaned up the bees and I turned the hive into three swarm traps. It’s designed with entrances in the middle on one side and at the ends on the two other sides. I used two divider boards to make three compartments. I put some of the comb back in along with some lemon grass oil. I hope there’s a swarm out there this summer that would enjoy Alpha old hive. All they have to do is move in.