… and a Bonus Swarm

Today, I came home from my morning walk to find The Engineer replacing the tubes in both my bike tires. They blew out yesterday while the bicycle was sitting in my hot car. I’d filled them to the psi listed on the tire, which turned out to be the maximum. And it was cold when I filled them and hot in the car. Air expands, so …

A little later, when I went inside to make some breakfast, I looked out at the hives, and darned if the same one wasn’t swarming again, only this time they hadn’t gotten past the hanging off the front of the hive.

Here’s the Instagram video of what it looked like.

“No problem,” I thought, “we’ve handled this before,” and I told The Engineer not to worry, I’d put on my suit and scoop them into the box we’d set out yesterday.

And that’s what I did.

A little later, The Engineer decided it was getting confusing keeping track of what hive spawned what split/swarm. He numbered them and marked which we knew had queens.

Then, before we left to go buy more boxes and frames, it looked like that hive might be thinking about swarming it again. We set our only remaining box in front of the colony to encourage them to settle there if they did, but on return, it doesn’t look like they’ve swarmed.

Now, we have (from left to right) Hive 1A, Hive 1 (bearding pretty heavily, but they don’t have a queen so in theory they shouldn’t swarm), Hive 2A, Hive 2, Hive 3, Hive/Nuc 2C, Hive 2B.

We are giving today’s swarm, Hive/Nuc2C to our friend MJ to try her hand at. She’ll need to check it in 10-15 days to see if there are eggs. If there are, the queen has mated and all is fine. If it isn’t, MJ may need to buy a queen, but that’s still significantly cheaper than buying a package or Nuc.

Tomorrow, we plan to split Hive 3 and put a different setup on the first swarm’s hive — trying to get them to make honey in jars.

Just another day in the life of two beekeepers during swarm season.

Mothers Day Swarm

It’s been an exciting day.

The plans were to get up, watch some Premier League Football, have breakfast, go for a bike ride with Darling Daughter, visit the Aged Mother, and return for a lazy evening at home.

But our plans took a detour after the football game when I glanced outside at the bees as I prepared for my bike ride. There was a cloud of them swirling around outside one of the hives, with some clustered at the bottom.

They were swarming.

This photo doesn’t do justice to what it looked like.

Meanwhile a chipmunk sat on our deck, apparently thinking, “What the f—?”

Photo courtesy of The Engineer

The swarm was also on one of the lids for our septic system with a bee ball hanging from both our rhododendron and one of our roses, pulling the branches nearly to the ground.

It was quite convenient for us, all things considered — no high trees to scale or branches to cut in order to rehive them.

We took the empty box we had set on the picnic table to use tomorrow to split our most recently inspected hive, set it under the rose bush, and shook the bee ball off and into the box. Then we moved the box under the rhododendron and did the same for that bee ball. Lastly, we began scooping the bees up into the box.

I think the queen was in one of the balls because the bees on the ground began to move inside.

The whole process from discovery to being able to move the box to the picnic table took about forty-five minutes.

By afternoon, they were apparently cleaning out the frames in their new home.

Photo by The Engineer

Also, the hive that swarmed was one that we’d already split, so we still need to deal with the one that seemed to be prepping to swarm, which will involve spending more money on boxes and frames.

In summary, we now have The Palace (which has a queen) and The Palace’s split (which we are hoping is requeening) on the far left and second from left, respectively. Next we have the split from the hive that just swarmed, which we now know doesn’t have a queen because its mother hive just swarmed, and hives don’t swarm without a queen — that’s the tall, skinny, pink one. We have the now-queenless mother hive that just swarmed (fourth from the left) and the swarmed hive which apparently has the queen (far right). And we have the hive we plan to split because of the many queen cups we saw last week (second wood box from right). The yellow and brown box is a nuc box just in case anyone else feels like swarming and wants to make it easy for us.

Links to swarm videos:

This one you have to click through for some reason — You’ll have to ask WordPress why. I’m pretty sure I uploaded both the same way: https://www.instagram.com/p/CdUNPIipEL2/?igshid=MDJmNzVkMjY=

As for that bike ride with Darling Daughter — it was lovely, as was our late lunch afterwards. And Aged Mother was as feisty as ever, surrounded by many cards, flowers, and chocolate.

Her Egg-cellency

Being retired means not having to check all our hives in one afternoon, which sometimes felt like a marathon. Also, we only know the location of two queens, which means there are only two hives we are willing to disturb by doing a full hive check.

This is because we didn’t spot the queen in one of the hives we split last week, so we don’t know which of the resulting colonies is queen right and which is (hopefully) making a new queen. Erring on the side of caution, we’ll leave both alone.

Thus, our beekeeping duties felt light this week. We looked through one hive on Friday and one today.

I should admit right now I’ve given up on trying to think of clever names for our hives. With all the combinations and splits and iterations of colonies in our beeyard, it’s become impossible to keep up the practice.

For lack of a better idea, we’ve begun referring to them as “The Palace,” or “The Eight Frame,” “The Palace split,” “The Nuc,” “The Hive 2nd from the Right,” and “The Hive on the Right.”

Catchy, right? But, together, they form the OH Honey Apiary.

As you can see, graphic design is not my forte.

Anyway, The Palace was up first, called that because it’s our new eight-frame hive, freshly painted and beautiful. It’s the one on the left.

We’ve been feeding this hive because, although it has the queen, it is to the left of the location of the original hive. When you split a hive, the foragers tend to return to the original location, and we wanted to be sure The Palace had plenty of food to tide them over until new brood was reared to replace the nurse bees who then would become foragers.

It’s true they used much of the food provided, but we also noticed foragers returning to this hive almost immediately. Through the week, the number increased, and we decided they would be fine without the supplemental food.

We removed the jar, which was housed in the top two boxes, and left one super filled with frames for them to use for honey storage. Two of those frames were the ones we removed last week because they were filled with drone brood. In theory, the workers should clean out those cells and use them for honey.

That’s what we hope, anyway.

Also, since we (The Engineer) spotted the queen on another frame, we were able to move the final super frame with brood up into the super box. There, the workers can care for the brood, but the queen excluder will keep the queen from laying any more eggs in the honey super.

No bees aren’t usually quite that fuzzy. It’s my less than stellar camerawork. (And if you think this is bad, you should see the video I took of the queen — about 2 seconds of her back and then a quick upside-down view of our yard culminating in about 10 seconds of my finger).

The girls had made some beautiful comb on the bottom of that last super frame, which we scraped off.

Comb is a marvel of engineering, I think.

We removed the comb because the last time we tried to save comb our bees made, they used it for drone brood, which is a magnet for Varroa. So, it’s not that we don’t want drones. We just don’t want a whole hive full because that would mean we likely had a whole hive full of Varroa as well.

Sadly, this piece of comb also some new eggs in it as well (which you might see if you look closely).

At least now that hive is set up with the queen downstairs where she has space to lay eggs that won’t be all drones.

We hope.

There’s a lot of hoping involved in beekeeping.

Today, we inspected the hive we considered the weakest of the three that made it through the winter and were pleasantly surprised.

It was full of bees, brood, larvae, and eggs!

And I spotted the queen!

Here she is. At least here’s her abdomen: Queen bees move around very quickly laying eggs, and it can be hard to get a good photo.

Can you see her?

I’ll make it easier for you.

We also noticed a lot of queen cups, many of them clustered together.

This frame had six, all near the bottom of it, which may or may not mean they’re preparing to swarm. I kind of think they are because, although our bees always seem to like to have a queen cup or two around, they generally don’t have this many together on the bottom of a frame.

Consequently, we’ll be checking this have again in five or so days and splitting if these cups become full-fledged queen cells.

If you’re not sure of the difference, go here. There are several pictures of queen cells in the post where I explain how we learned the hard way why it’s a bad idea to scrape off queen cells, especially when you haven’t seen the queen.

Just for the record? It’s always a bad idea to scrape of queen cells. If you have a good queen, split the hive, and put the cells into the new hive [s] for the bees to raise. If you don’t want another hive, give or sell it to another beekeeper.

For now, however, we are happy beekeepers. The hives we split have calmed down now that we quit rearranging their homes, and today’s hive was so chill, we only used smoke a few times to move them off old ugly frames we were replacing with new. The dandelions are out, and the flowering trees are beginning to bloom, so there’s plenty of pollen and nectar for our girls to forage.

The Palace split was even bearding today.

Maybe warm weather is finally here.

We hope.

The Sting

Well, it happened again. I got stung, this time on my forehead above the eye. And you know how I always say honey bees are uninterested in humans? That they don’t sting out of sheer meanness, like, say, yellow jackets?

For the most part, this is true, and we’ve got thousands of bees living just behind our house to prove it. However, every so often, you come across a bee that just seems to have a gripe with the world.

Well, for me, today was that day.

There was a bee stuck between the two slding doors that open onto our deck, so I was outside to trying to help her to freedom when along came another bee flying right at my face.

Out of sheer instinct, I waved at her, trying to get her to fly away — exactly the thing you’re not supposed to do.

Suddenly I felt that searing sensation on my forehead that told me I’d been stung.

I brushed at my face with my hand — another thing one shouldn’t do when there’s a bee around — and she began flying around my head and face, so perhaps her barb didn’t enter or leave her body completely.

Who knows?

I began scraping at the area, trying to make sure the stinger wasn’t still under my skin pumping in more venom, and yelling for The Engineer to make sure she was off me.

Then, I swore a lot and called that bee many profane names. I could feel the venom moving through my veins and was afraid my eye would swell shut.

After a minute or two, I found the sting kit I keep with our bee gear. It contains several different antihistamines. A nurse anesthesiologist spoke at our beekeeping club this winter, and these were part of the protocol she advised, along with icing the area.

Here, among my wrinkles and grey hairs, you can see where I scraped at what I thought was the bee stinger.
A few hours later

You can see the antihistamines and ice did their job. The area is puffy and sore, but not nearly as bad as it could have been.

I’m still annoyed at that bee though!

Once it was clear I wasn’t having a major reaction to the sting, we went outside and split the second big hive.

Unfortunately, we didn’t find the queen, so this was a true “walkaway” split, where the beekeeper divides the hive, making sure both the new colony and the old have eggs to make a new queen. The hive with the queen will let the eggs develop normally; the hive without a queen will make one or more from the eggs.

At least that’s the plan. It remains to be seen if the bees fall in with this plan or not. It takes sixteen days to raise a queen from egg to adult, and even longer before she begins laying eggs, so it will be a while before we know if the splits are successful.

Our new set up: (l to r) 8-frame hive with a queen, 10-frame split with no queen, Nuc colony that may or may not have a queen, 10-frame hive that may or may not have a queen, and 10-frame hive with a queen.

Right now, four out of our hives are a little riled because we’ve been moving their houses around. We won’t be messing with them for a few weeks, but the hive on the far right (the weakest of the three that came out of winter) should be inspected again soon.

And that’s all the news from the OH Honey beeyard!

It’s Splitting Time!

Today we finally(!) had temperatures warm enough to split a hive.

This is the same hive that briefly had two queens last summer. When we checked it earlier this month (before all the cold weather), it had a lot of brood, so we decided it should be the first of two we plan to split.

I’m not sure if I mentioned it, but we over-wintered all our hives with honey supers this year. That’s the smaller top box (the proportions are skewed in this picture because of the angle from which it was taken) which was quite full of nectar and honey last fall.

During the summer, we place queen excluders between the brood boxes (the bigger bottom ones) and the honey super to keep the queen from laying eggs around the honey.

Many people prefer not to use queen excluders, calling them “honey excluders,” but we have found them useful. Maybe sometime we should experiment by leaving it off one hive and see if we get more honey.

In winter, we take the queen excluders out to allow all the bees access to the extra food, even though we knew we might end up with brood in the honey at the start of the spring nectar flow.

That’s exactly what happened, so when we checked the hives for the first time, we put the queen excluders back. We’d seen the queen in the hive that’s not as strong as the other two, so it was only in the two strong ones that we needed to remember the queen might have gotten caught upstairs.

I actually thought if she did, it might actually make it easier to split the hives. Supers are smaller, so there would be fewer bees, ergo the queen would be easier to spot.

As it turned out, she was in the super of the hive we split, and I actually spotted her. Me! The woman who has only ever spotted the queen one other time in a hive in my life!!!

This made splitting the hive much easier. We just moved the frame with the queen into the new eight-frame box* and filled the rest with a couple of frames of brood and some honey. We know most of the hive’s foragers will return to the orignal hive because they’re oriented to it, so we’ll be giving sugar syrup to the new split (with the old queen). This syrup is a ration of 1:1 sugar to water, with some Honey B Healthy added to encourage them to feed. I also added Honey B Healthy’s Amino B Booster, which supposedly helps with brood rearing.

We also discovered the wax foundation frames we experimented with last year were full of drone brood — not necessarily a good thing because Varroa love drone brood because its growth cycle is similar to the mite’s. Ugh!

I’m not sure if you remember, but we tried a couple of frames of wax foundation last year because we heard the bees really like it.

Newsflash! Ours didn’t. They dismantled it and rebuilt it with their own wax cells, which they decided should be drone cells.

The queen obligingly filled every one with drone brood.

We removed one to freeze (Try to look upon this as euthanising a few drones to benefit the hive because that’s what it is), which will take care of some of the problem, but we probably should have done both. Maybe we can find a moment to pull it when we work the other two hives.

The other issue is there is now a short super frame in a deep box (because it had the queen on it and we don’t have a great record of managing to move queens anywhere without damaging them). You can bet your life the bees are building comb on the bottom of it even as I write this post.

So, we’ll have to get that out too and replace it with a regular deep frame.

Still, it was a fairly easy split.

Of course, since the queen had been laying in the super, that meant all the eggs were up there, which meant we had to put the super back on the original ten-frame box so the bees could make a queen from the eggs.

Alternatively, we could buy a new queen to introduce, which would be faster because she wouldn’t have to be raised and then do the whole mating flight thing. However, a new queen costs upwards of $40, so we usually let the bees at least try to make their own first.

Obviously, we didn’t put the queen excluder back in because we don’t want to infringe the bees movement in any way while they are at this delicate point, nor do we want to separate the new queen from the rest of her hive if they are successful in this operation.

We know there were queen cups, but we’re not sure if they had eggs in them or not. So, they may be working from scratch, which could result in a smaller, weaker “emergency queen.”

In the past, we’ve only split after seeing queen cells in our hives, but we’ve learned that’s cutting it fine and risking a swarm. However, by splitting sooner, before there are full-sized queen cells, we may be taking the risk of them raising a not-so-great queen.

It’s sort of a “damned if you do, and damned if you don’t” scenario, as seems to often be the case in beekeeping.

On another note, some people say if you split a hive, you need to move the new colony two miles away. But, we’ve learned otherwise. As long as you make sure there are plenty of nurse bees in the new hive, it will be fine. The foragers will mostly return to the old hive, but the nurse bees have never been outside, so they’ll stay and raise the young.

From one hive into two! Original, now queenless, hive is on the right, and the new hive with the old queen is on the left.

As you can see from the photo above, the bees are confused for a little while after the split, but they settle down pretty quickly.

We also took a quick peek in the super of the other strong hive to see if there was evidence of a queen, i.e, new eggs or very small larvae. There wasn’t, so she’s down in the brood boxes where she belongs.

Here’s a slo-mo and a time-lapse video of the girls bringing in pollen, which I took before we got busy with the split. I love to watch them come in loaded with beautifully colored pollen!

Next we need to turn our attention to the other big hive and do a check of the not-so-busy one too.

I’ll keep you posted!

*In an effort to keep The Engineer’s back healthy, we are trying to shift our hives from ten-frame to eight frame.

Retirement and Bee Busy-ness

I worked my last day on Friday 15 April. At least that’s the theory if all goes to plan. When I retired from the library and started at the grocery store, I planned on staying for a year or two. It worked out so well I ended up staying for 5-1/2 and intended to work until next February, when I’m eligible for a (reduced) Social Security benefit.

However, after The Engineer finished work in December, and we started to plan things, even working part-time seemed to get in the way. Also, since I’m four years older than him, I began to wonder why I was still working when he wasn’t. This isn’t quite true since he’s actually doing a little contracting, but it sort of felt that way.

So, we had a look at our budget, with and without my salary, and concluded if we couldn’t live without it, then we were spending too much money.

I’m convinced we can do it, even though — as is usually the case with our monetary moves — this decision runs exactly opposite to what the economy is doing right now. I’ve gotten a little lax with my spending, and this is a good time to cut more of my wasteful habits.

In addition, we — or at least I — have reached an age where it’s time to think about how we’d like to spend the years we have left. We don’t know how many years that might be, and I’m determined to begin to do more of the things I’d have liked to do in the past if I’d only had the time.

And what might those things be, you ask? At least, that’s what everyone else asked when I told them the news.

Here’s my list:

— Clear out every cupboard, drawer, closet, shelf, and storage area in our house and cut my belongings by at least a third

— Have a garage sale with those items

— Work with The Engineer to get our house in marketable condition, sell it, and then move into a smaller place

–Start working again on my family tree

— Read (even) more

— Travel (even) more

— Take more hikes

— Go cycling more often

— Fly more often

— Volunteer for park cleanups and other one-day events

— Go to garage sales and thrift stores again with an eye to re-selling items on eBay

— Work the bees when the weather is good instead of having to fit that work around two schedules

— Possibly grow our OH Honey apiary to include a few more hives (but not too many)

Anyway, that’s enough to be getting on with. I’m quite sure we won’t be bored.

And since we’re talking about bees, I think it’s time for an update.

I am happy to announce that all three hives made it through the winter. Two seem quite strong, and the remaining one is still active, if not quite thriving on the level of the others.

We were finally able to inspect the colonies about a week and a half ago, and although we (The Engineer) only spotted the queen in one hive, they all seem to be doing fine.

As expected, two were doing a little better than the third, but all in all, they looked pretty good.

They are bringing in a lot of pollen!

Some of the pollen was light green, and we even saw some blue. (The green didn’t show up very well in the photo, and the bees with blue pollen moved too fast for me to get a photo.)

Can you see the larvae in the cells on the left?

After attending two sessions on swarm prevention, we both concluded we’ve been lucky to never have had any of our bees in the trees. Apparently, we’ve been splitting our hives rather late in the swarming process.

They’ve already been hatching drones, and we saw several queen cups. Even though we didn’t see any big queen cells, we weren’t able to see if the cups had eggs in them, so they may or may not have been the beginning of an actual queen cell. Our bees almost always have a queen cup or two in their hives, so it’s hard to say.

Queen cups in a poorly focused photo

Nonetheless, the presence of drones, and the number of bees in the colony indicated it might be time to do a split as a means of swarm prevention. I’m not going to try to explain how and why this is so because there are others who can explain it much better including Perfect Bee and Honey Bee Suite. If you really want to delve into the subject, I suggest you take a look at Swarm Essentials by Stephen Repasky. He literally wrote the book on swarms.

We decided to split the two larger hives, one at a time.

Unfortunately, it then got cold.

And we had snow.

Today, the sun is coming out, but it’s later than predicted, so we will split a hive tomorrow instead.

It’s so nice to be retired and have that option. 🙂

Beekeeping Can Be a Pain in the A**

Today was a warm(ish), sunny day with temperatures in the 50s, and bees from all three hives were out foraging. We had to tread carefully when we got near because so many were on the ground near the hives.

I can only surmise they were searching for pollen and nectar, which is as yet unavailable so early in spring.

We were out there because we finally had both the weather and the time to treat them with oxalic acid. As you can see below, when we blocked the entrances so the vapor would stay in the hive, they began landing on any available surface including my hand as I held the vaporizer wand.

This wouldn’t normally concern me, but the cuff on my beekeeping jacket is no longer taut. As I tried to keep it closed, the plastic gloves I wear to protect my skin from oxalic acid gapped open, and I worried one of the girls would get caught inside, resulting in a sting for me and death for the bee.

In the end, it wasn’t my arm or hand that got stung. It was my bum.

Of course, it was my own fault for wearing tight cords instead of my usual loose khakis. One of the girls got caught and reacted in self-defense.

As stings go, it isn’t a bad one, a small welt that’s since gone down, but I definitely felt it!

Early Spring Beekeeping Jobs

Here in Ohio, the weather has been … well, let’s just call it varied. In the last two weeks, we’ve had a major snow preceded by an ice storm followed by another small snow and ice storm, then a few warm days (in the 50s) followed by some cold days (back into the 20s), and now we’re heading into a warmish trend.

At least, I think that’s the order it happened.

We’ve been waiting for it to be above freezing to treat our three hives with oxalic acid to kill any residual mites. (And there are always mites if you live in the U.S. Any beekeeper who says differently is either lying or ignorant.)

By treating them before brood rearing kicks off in a big way, we can at least try to give the hives a strong start to the season. Oxalic acid doesn’t kill mites in capped cells, which is where they flourish. This early in the season, the queen may be laying, but she’s generally just getting started, which makes OA perfect for the job.

Also, we wanted to assess the hives by peeking inside. Specifically, we wanted to know how many bees there were (both dead and alive), if they still have food, if they are eating the sugar patties we gave them in the fall, and if there is any evidence of diarrhea.

Here’s a photo of what they looked like in the big snow we had a few weeks ago, the remnants of which, we finally cleared from the deck today. I’ve renamed them (again!), mostly because I can no longer remember which was which. They are from left to right, Western Star, Middle Child, and Eastern Girls.

We began by cleaning out the dead bees from Eastern Girls. There were a lot! Here is a picture of just the ones from in the foam box without the ones The Engineer scraped out the hive entrance (which almost doubled the number).

Seeing so many, or indeed any, dead bees is always disheartening, but we are learning to accept bee loss as part of beekeeping. Bees die every day just as humans do. It’s part of the cycle of life.

With smoke at the ready and expecting some unhappy bees pinging our veils, we popped the inner cover. To our surprise, the bees (and they were still plentiful, despite the many corpses of their dead sisters) mostly ignored us as we went about our business.

Fresh food, a small piece of pollen patty, and some Super DFM was their reward for being so mellow.

The two remaining hives were equally calm and received the same treatment. In truth, even if they’d been cranky, they’d have received the same treatment. 🙂

The only differences were Middle Child had consumed more of their fall sugar patties and had almost no dead bees in sight. Western Star fell somewhere in the middle. They’d eaten more of the patties than Eastern Girls, but less than Middle Child, and had more dead bees than Middle Child, but fewer than Eastern Girls.

Tomorrow morning, we will treat all three hives so they’re ready to face spring brood rearing, and the pollen and nectar flow.

In conclusion, we are feeling cautiously optimistic about the health of our hives.

Still, March is the hardest month for bees in our area. Brood rearing will soon be in full flow, and if the nectar and pollen are behind schedule, the girls are left with more mouths than they can feed.

As usual, we’ll have to wait and see.

To end on a completely random note, I’ve been doing a lot of crocheting of scrap happy afghans because my friend Lynne gave me a bunch of yarn scraps. Here are two. I know the color combinations are a little odd, but I like them. I hope their eventual owners will too.

The Nine, by Gwen Strauss: A Book Worth Reading

I just finished The Nine: The True Story of a Band of Women Who Survived the Worst of Nazi Germany by Gwen Strauss.

I listened to the book on audio, read by Juliet Stevenson, and I know the story will stay with me for a long time.

It is a story of “solidaire,” which the Collins Reverso dictionary translates and defines as an adjective meaning “who stand together, who show solidarity; interdependent.”

I am convinced that interdependence and solidarity is the reason the nine survived.

This “standing together” is something the author, a grand-niece of one of the nine, explores in her writing. Her research has led her to believe that women often survived longer in concentration camps partly because they more likely to band together, giving them the strength of a group when sometimes their own strength might wane.

Each woman in Strauss’s book has a distinct character, which comes through clearly. Thus, the women each bring a different strength to the group, and it’s these differences that helped them through the many tragedies and difficulties of their journey.

All were young — younger than my own daughter is now — and active in the French Resistance. All were eventually caught. Some were tortured, a fact Strauss illuminates, but does not dwell on. And all were deported to Ravensbruck for their activities, arriving there in 1944, near the end of the war.

There they banded together and managed to remain together during the many “selections,” somehow avoiding extermination, and ending up at a work camp near Leipzig making guns.

After the invasion at Normandy, the Allies moved through Europe, and it became clear Germany would lose the war. The Nazis responded by forcing those in the camps on death marches, often without food, water, or any apparent destination.

Those who couldn’t walk were put to death. Thousands more — already weak and often diseased from the poor conditions — died on the marches.

The nine in the book chose to escape or die trying.

The story of how they survived, and what happened to them afterward, is something you need to read for yourself.

I will add that this book has made me think about how war is written about, who is chosen to be the “heroes” and who is ignored, why women’s contributions and suffering are often ignored or downplayed, and how ordinary people can be caught up on the wrong side, sometimes against their will. I will ponder on the consequences borne by not only those who lived through war’s tragedies and terrors, but also their children and even their grandchildren.

And I will wonder if — like the nine — I would have had the strength to choose to make decisions based on my convictions of right and wrong and be willing to deal with the aftermath.

Quick Bee Update: Once the weather turned, I took the sugar syrup and honey off the hives, and today I tried a different recipe for bee patties. I learned this new method of making the patties at the most recent meeting of one of our local beekeeping groups.

Based on the speaker’s recipe, I combined one bag of sugar (four pounds) with about 4/5 pint of water and 1 tsp of white vinegar. This I heated to a rolling boil, finally reaching 245F, the minimum recommended by the recipe. After allowing the mixture to cool slightly, I poured it into foil pans to harden. (I actually doubled the recipe, using two bags of sugar, which made three pans.)

If you decide to try this recipe, please be aware that sugar syrup gets very hot, scorches easily, and definitely needs to be watched every minute it’s on the burner because when it boils, it bubbles up quite high in the pan. In fact, I had to ladle some of it out of my pan to prevent a dangerous overflow.

Making it is a hot sticky mess, and it takes a long time to reach 245F.

Will the bees like it? I guess we’ll see!

OH Honey Apiary: We Make Mistakes So You Don’t Have To!

If you recall, we spent much of the end of August and start of September treating our hives with Formic Pro. Sadly, halfway through this treatment, we were dismayed to learn from a company rep who spoke at the End of Summer Classic that doing the one-strip treatment doesn’t affect the mites in the capped brood.

Since killing the mites under the the caps is one of the reasons we use Formic Pro, this was quite a letdown, and we’ll be re-thinking our treatment in the future — possibly trying the two-strip method again. (We switched to one strip after having lost multiple queens when we did the two-strip in the past. Apparently, it’s a damned if you do, damned if you don’t scenario.)

But this week, we were finally able to have a look inside our hives.

It was a coolish morning, so we waited until early evening (the warmest part of that day) and started with the original OH, Honey hive. This is the colony that made it through last winter, the one from which the other two hives were split, and the only one we got honey off this year.

Because fall is setting in, we are trying to take all the hives down to fewer boxes and decided to begin by removing the second honey super.

We took it off, brushing the few bees that were on the frames back into the hive and set the box on the deck, planning to go back to it later. For some reason, neither of us completely thought through the consequences of this action, but if you’re a beekeeper, you’re probably cringing because you can predict what happened.

Everyone else will have to read the rest of the post to find out.

We finished reviewing all the frames of that hive, cleaned out all four of the beetle traps, and sprinkled DFM on the top of the frames.

It’s a strong hive with plenty of bees, and if it doesn’t have as much honey as we’d like to see … well, there’s time yet before it gets really cold. In addition, it still has a lot of brood. At this time of year, that causes the niggling concern of it possibly also having a large Varroa load, as well as the worry of going into the winter with more bees than the hive has food for.

Still, we plan to start feeding this weekend and treat one more time with Oxalic Acid in October or November (when the queen has stopped or greatly reduced her laying). Fingers crossed these actions will address those issues.

On to Split #1. This is also a strong hive, as you can see from the pictures below.

Here’s a view from the side.

There are actually clumps of bees, where they are buzzing around on top of one another.

We spotted our beautiful golden girl (the queen).

I’m not going to point her out. By now, you should be able to recognize her. 🙂

This hive was in a similar state — lots of bees, brood, and not as much honey as we’d like to see.

But they’re still bringing in nectar and a surprising amount of pollen, and as mentioned before, we’re going to start feeding them.

We were finishing up with the beetle traps and DFM when we began to realize there were a lot(!) of bees in the air around the hives, and they were starting to ping our veils.

There was also a some air combat between bees and other bees, and bees and Yellow Jackets.

Realizing what was happening, we immediately closed up the hive, and started to put away the gear.

It was then we noticed the box we’d put on the deck.

It seems the bees had noticed it too because it was surrounded by a cloud of buzzing insects.

We had broken a cardinal rule in beekeeping: Don’t leave honey or nectar sitting around because it will result in a robbing situation!

I didn’t take pictures because, well, even if you’re a beekeeper, tens of thousands of bees flying all around you can be a little distracting.

How could we have been so stupid?

And not only had we left the box out, there was also a bag of dirty, dark, old comb sitting in our deck box. With the deck box lid open.

We’d cleaned some frames the day before, and The Engineer was going to burn the mess that came off them after we finished our hive check. He’d put the bag in the box to protect it from the bees, but forgot to close the box.

Did I mention the foundation we’d cleaned and pressure-washed was draining on a bench on the front porch?

Well, yes, dear readers, it was. There were interested bees around it too.

Not only had we put out a super full of nectar to tempt neighborhood bees (including our own), we’d also offered several side dishes.

It was, as we say in the aviation world, a Charlie Foxtrot.

There were bees everywhere, fighting each other to take that delicious nectar back to their hives.

What did we do? What could we do, but start brushing the bees off the main attraction, and tucking those frames one by one in a closed box. Of course, a few bees ended up in the box, but we dealt with that later.

Then, we moved the bag of old comb to the front of the house and covered it with a bucket, covered the clean(ish) frames with a towel, put away all our tools, went inside, and let the crowds disperse.

Clearly, our plans for grilling out were off the table. Dining out was now on the agenda because, frankly, the idea of trying to cook was not enticing after such a tense experience.

Amazingly, neither of us got stung, and the three bees that followed us into the house were caught and released to go home.

Within an hour, life was pretty much back to normal … except all through the next day, foragers were checking out our deck, hoping for another smorgasbord.

It was our own fault. Bees are preparing for winter now, and although they are still out foraging, the pickings are much slimmer than earlier in the year. Beekeepers have to be extra careful not to offer any enticements to would-be robbers.

We are normally very careful about this — covering the comb and propolis we remove from the frames, placing it in a container and not just dumping it on the ground, cleaning up any honey, sugar water, or nectar spills.

But this time, we messed up.

Unsurprisingly, it was with some trepidation that we approached our third hive when we checked it today.

We went through the super, brushing the bees off each frame, and tucking those frames into a closed box.

Then, we removed the top box, covered it with a towel, and began to look at each frame of the bottom box. We were glad to see they’d begun to cap some honey — more than either of the other hives — and there was less capped brood. This probably indicates the queen’s laying is slowing, and the bees are turning their attention toward winter provisions.

By the time we got to the top box, our girls were beginning to dive bomb our veils. They were obviously done with our ministrations.

We took a quick peek at a single frame upstairs, cleaned the beetle traps, sprinkled the DFM and got the heck out.

You see, we learn from our mistakes. If you’re a beekeeper, hopefully you can too, instead of having to make them yourself.

They’re still bringing in pollen!
Guess which hive we inspected today! (That’s The Engineer beside it, swatting Yellow Jackets).