Monday, December 8, 2014


I removed the feeders from both hives today and wrapped the hives in bee cozies. When I opened up the Benedictium, I was met with an angry force of guards, one of which stung me. I was only opening up the empty super on top, and the temperature was quite cool, around 40 degrees, but the Benedictium is a crowded hive with lots of extra bees. This was my first sting by a benedictiana.

At any rate, the hives are now winterized.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

No brood is normal

I talked to Joe at Country Barn Farms, and he assures me that I should not expect to see any brood this time of year. He thinks the stores are a bit light, and that I should plan to feed them early, on warm days in February, to help them survive.

The feeders are still in the hive, but the Valentinum does not seem to be eating as much as the Benedictium.

Sunday, November 23, 2014


I've been feeding the hives lately. The Valentinium has taken very little feed, while the Benedictium has taken quite a bit.

The last two weeks have been really cold; we've had an arctic vortex. But today the temperature got up to the sixties and the bees were out.

I noticed that the Valentinians had quite a bit of sugar stuck to them, so I took the hive apart to take a look. I saw a fair amount of crystalized sugar in there. But more importantly, I saw that there were about 6 and a half frames of honey in the upper body, and the frames in the lower body were all empty. I saw no brood comb.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

More feed for the Valentinium

The weather was gorgeous these last three days, and the bees are busy. The marigolds have been covered with bees, and I see lots of pollen going into the hives. The carnations are also in bloom, along with lots of small-flowered weeds which I do not recognize.

Today, I finally got around to putting six pints of 2:1 sugar syrup into the Valentinium. The Valentinians seemed a happy lot and came out to greet me in numbers. I retreated and put on a veil and tried again, this time successfully. I hope they drink more of it this time.

Since putting in the sugar syrup a few weeks back, I have noticed far fewer bees in our water buckets.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Last thymol treatment, and more feed.

Today I put the last thymol package in, splitting it between the two hives, just like the previous two treatments. I also put in another 6 pints of 2:1 sugar:water solution into the Benedictium. I took the old syrup out of the hives. There was still plenty left in the feeder bucket in the Valentinium, the Benedictium's was almost empty.

I'll give the Valentinium a fresh bucket tomorrow, weather permitting.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Feeding time

I checked the sugar water in the Valentinium, and there was plenty left. In the Benedictium, on the other hand, the bucket was empty, so I replaced it with another six pounds of 2:1 sugar:water.

There are many more bees in the Benedictium than in the Valentinium.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Entrance reducer

I took off the mouse guards this afternoon and removed the duct tape from them, which took quite a bit of Goo-Gone. Tonight I replaced them, since we'll be getting down to the forties.

The bees seem happy, but the population of the Valentinium seem very low.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

More thymol

We placed another dose of thymol in each of the hives tonight.

The robbing seems to have stopped.

I put a feed bucket into each hive, four pounds of sugar and two pints of water in each bucket. I flipped the inner covers over to discourage robbing.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Still robbing

Today, the bees were still robbing. I moved one empty frame which still had plenty of bees on it away from the hives. Brenda stuffed the entrance of both hives with grass. That was this morning.

We went out this evening and saw a wad of bees at the Benedictium's small upper entrance. The bees in the wad were clearly too stuffed to fly. I wonder whether they are thinking of swarming?

Sunday, September 28, 2014


We placed our empty frames out in the orchard for the bees to clean off. This may have been a mistake. An hour later we saw a lot of excitement at the hives. Was it robbing? I placed a couple of slats in front of the entrance of the Valentinium, our weaker hive, to see whether that would help.

Our frames over in the orchard were licked spotless.


We don't have access to a honey house right now, so we are working in our kitchen.

We tried the salad spinner, the potato ricer, and the food mill. They all did the job, but they also left small flakes of wax suspended in the honey.

We also placed a colander over a bucket, and lined the colander with cheese cloth. The honey was beautiful and relatively wax free. It is a slow process, however, and it will take hours to finish.

Saturday, September 27, 2014


We pulled the supers off the hives today. Joachim came over to help.

We started with the Benedictium. The top super was laden with honey, no brood, very nice. The lower super was empty, and we removed it. We sandwiched the laden super between two jerry-rigged telescoping covers. They had a few bees in them, but not many. We left the empty super in front of the Benectium for the bees to clean. We inserted four bits of a thymol package between the two brood chambers and took the laden super inside for extraction. Then we let them cool off for an hour or so. The honey was very dark and very tasty.

Then we went out to pull off the Valentinium's super. Not much honey there, but a fair amount of uncapped nectar. We left some of the emptier frames out for the bees to clean, and took a few in, probably too many. We left the remaining four bits of the thymol package between the two chambers. I think many of the frames which we brought in were of uncapped nectar. Unfortunately, while I was monkeying around with the thymol, I neglected to cover the frames, and so we picked up quite a few bees and yellow jackets. I guess we'll get to swat them later during the extraction. What a drag.

But we now have honey in our house!

Dead bees

There were a bunch of dead bees on the landing of the Valentinium this morning. I commonly see a dead bee or two on the landing. That's where their sisters toss their corpses. But this was eight or ten, and some where still twitching.

Robbers? Guard bees killed by yellow jackets? They did not look like drones. A plague?

I went back out to take a picture, but they were gone.

Walking back down the path I saw a pair of crickets, one of which had clearly been stepped on, and was dead. The other cricket was staying with it. It ran away when I approached, and then came back out to stay with its dead partner. When I told Brenda about it, we saw the live cricket dragging away the dead one off the path. Interesting.

The golden rod is just about done flowering.

Monday, September 15, 2014

One yellow jacket

I went out to see how the war was going, and it looked pretty calm. After a while one yellow jacket showed up and tried to get into the Valentinium, but she was thrown out. So she went to the Benedictium, where she received a vigorous greeting and then fled.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Yellow Jackets

Yesterday, the apiariulus spotted a yellow jacket hanging out in front of the Benedictium. This evening I saw the same thing. Two or three of the buggers were trying to get in the hive. There was a lot of fighting, but at least one of them got in.

I wonder what's up with that? I am sometimes disappointed by the lack of aggression shown by the guard bees of our colonies.

Bee huddle

Joe had a bee huddle today and talked about winter beekeeping. He suggested feeding beginning on October 1st after the threat of swarm had ended to get enough honey for the winter. Winter feed should be two-to-one sugar to water.

He also talked about wrapping hives for the winter. He hasn't seen any increase in winter survival due to wrapping, but he has noticed that wrapped bees greet the spring in a more flourishing colony. He got me thinking. He wraps his bees in November, since he doesn't want them to get complacent in October.

I picked up another packet of Apilife Var, so we are now up to three, enough to treat our two hives, which we should do soon.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Mouse guards

I closed up the mouse guards on the hive. The day before yesterday I closed the Valentinium's. The bees were a bit more upset by this than I was expecting, I wasn't wearing any gear or even a veil, and I beat a quick retreat after completing the task.

The Benedictium has been bearding lately, and so I did not dare approach it after my experience with the Valentinium. So I waited till evening and things had calmed down somewhat, but there were still quite a few bees hanging out on the stoop. I wore gloves and reached down and grabbed the mouse guard, but could not move it. So I pulled firmly on it until I broke the propolis with a snap, which was immediately followed by loud hum coming from inside the hive. I decided not to stick around.

So I came out yesterday morning before dawn and took a look, but there were still bees guarding the front stoop, so I left them alone.

This afternoon I fired up the smoker and put on a vail and completed the operation.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Honey! And some complications

We looked in the supers of our hives today. Most of the frames in the Valentinium's super were empty, but those in the middle were full of capped honey, while those just off from the center the frames had some uncapped honey in the middle of the frame. The two easternmost frames and westernmost frames had nothing but foundation and a bit of drawn, but empty comb. None of the frames in the super had any brood.

The super on the Benedictium was chock full all the way across. About half of the frames in the Benedictium's super had foundation in it, and the other half were foundationless. The foundationless frames were fully drawn, but unfortunately these frames had a bit of brood at the bottom of them.

The Benedictium has definitely been the busier of the two hives for the last few weeks as seen from the outside. It has consistently had more bees coming and going.

So what do we do about our frames with brood in them?

We reassembled the Valentinium as we had found it. We put an empty super with 6 frames in it underneath the Benedictium's to separate it from the brood chambers. I hope that when these brood hatch, they won't be replaced.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Nectar flow

For the last couple of weeks we've had a nectar flow here. This flow is a little later than the early August nectar flow that I'm told is typical for our region. I guess the flow was delayed by all the cold weather we've been having. The bees, and presumably the flowers, are really enjoying this warm spell now. There is a lot of activity at the hives now. I sure am glad we have a super on each hive, and I hope to see a bit of honey in them soon. Then I guess the plan is to remove the honey and treat the hives with Thymol to take on our mites.

We seem to be having something of a second spring: crocuses, magnolias, clover, along with plenty of buttercups and black-eyed susans.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Need to treat

After two days we see about 20 mites in each hive, I guess we need to treat.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Put in the mite boards

When I pulled the mite boards out last week, after three or four days in the hive, I counted 1 to 2 mites per square inch. These boards were put in just before the dusting. Surprisingly, the boards were not covered with powdered sugar.

I just basted now basted the boards in olive oil and slipped them into both hives at 7:15 PM tonight. We will see what the mite count looks like after three days with no powdered sugar.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Sugar dusting

I went out and dusted the hives today with powdered sugar. This time I started with the Benedictium. I pulled of the two empty supers from the top, and then the crown cover, and dusted them pretty well. I stopped when I saw some caking. I then put on a super with ten frames, since the two brood chambers seemed a bit crowded, and then the crown, then an empty super and then the top.

Then I moved on to the Valentinium. There was some kind of briar bush near the Valentinium that the bees were congregating on, collecting propolis maybe. I took of the telescoping cover, and the crown cover came with it again. I took off both supers. The bees had drawn none of the frames. I then dusted the brood chambers. I took out some of the frames and observed capped brood, worker and drone.

Since the bees were not using the supers, I only put on one, then the crown cover, then the other super, and then the telescoping cover.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014


On Sunday we went to Joe's bee huddle at Beechwood Farms about varroa mite treatments. He told us a lot of interesting stuff about thymol and formic acid.

After the bee huddle, Joe was meeting our 4H group to pull the shallow supers off of the 4H hive at Beechwood Farms, and we decided to stay. I wasn't really dressed for the occasion, although I did have a veil, so I decided to observe up close. Brenda and the apiariuli and some other visitors observed from afar. Joe and four young fully clad 4H wee-bees and I went up to the hive. It consisted of two deeps with three shallow supers above it. This hive started life in April from a nuc and swarmed and still has three honey supers on it!

The bees were quite calm during the operation, but although the wee-bees had all their gear on, three of them still managed to get stung, two on their unprotected ankles (there were a lot of bees on the ground) and one on his hand when he grabbed a bee. I got stung too. I got up too close to the hive to watch Joe check whether the hive was queen right, when a wayward bee flew up my shorts. It didn't hurt much, but boy it left an ugly wound, my ugliest yet.

Last night we went out to Joe's farm to extract the honey from the frames. All of the 4H kids got a small honey bear of the honey. Our kids shared a taste with us, and boy it was delicious, very light, with a strong taste of vanilla. I've never tasted honey like it before. Joe says the honey of the Allegheny valley is really good, and I agree. I hope that Monongahela valley's is just as good! Joe and Shane and I and two of the 4H kids bottled the rest in half-pound jars. You can purchase these at the Audubon Nature Store at Beechwood Farms Nature Reserve. We got forty three and a half pounds of honey from that April nuc!

The apiariulus was rolling around in Joe's clover and managed to get stung on the back of his wrist. All that running around barefoot in our clover, and he doesn't get stung, but after just a little while in Joe's, and he gets stung, and in the hand yet! Well that makes four of us with stings, only the apiariella has escaped so far, although she keeps happily insisting that she gets stung all the time. I sure hope she doesn't find out what a real sting feels like!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Correcting Saturday's errors

The first dry day since Saturday, I went out fully protected and with the smoker. I took the two stuck together covers off the Valentinium and placed 10 new frames in the top shallow. The five odd numbered frames are empty, and the five even numbered have foundation. Remember I number from West to East.

I then pried apart the two covers. That was a job! The Valentinians had gotten fucus on the entire surface where the two covers touched. I wonder how they did it? Once they were apart, I smeared vaseline over the interface, and placed them back on.

The bees were calm, well smoked, and I got no stings.

The current arrangement of the Valentinium is two deeps, two shallows, and then the two covers.

The current arrangement of the Benedictium is two deeps, the inner cover right-side-up, and two empty shallows.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Big black drones

We took a look at the hives today, and we saw a lot of big black drones going to and fro the Valentinium. I wonder what was going on?

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Feed for the Benedictium. And ouch!

The activity in the Benedictium seems low, so I figured I would put in four pounds of syrup, just to help out the hive, in case it is short of foragers. Right now, the hive has a shallow super on top of the inner cover as a useless attic; it's just there to even out the height of the with the Valentinium, since we have that shade over both of them. I didn't bother with the smoker, since I did not plan on removing the inner cover.

First I took off the outer cover from the Valentinium in order to add a shallow super to it as an attic to even out the heights. Unfortunately, the inner cover went with it, and I could not get the two apart. So now the Valentinium was open, and the bees were defensive, and I got stung on my right wrist. Immediately I was beset by a couple of defensive bees who followed me at least 10 yards before letting me go.

After this, I was in no mood to fool around with the covers any more, so I just added an empty shallow to the top, and put the two stuck-together covers on top. I'll deal with it tomorrow when I have a smoker going.

I put the feed bucket into the Benedictium without incident. After it was all done, I realized that I forgot to flip the inner cover, or crown cover, as it is known, upside down. So it seems I have two jobs to do tomorrow.

That is the fifth sting of the season, the apiaria got the first one, I got the second and third and Brenda the fourth last week on Friday, and I got the fifth today. They have all come from the Valentinium, except, maybe, for the first.

Ora pro nobis Sancte Valentine, ut digni efficiamur promissionibus Christi.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014


I saw that the bees in the Valentinium were fussing with the grass I stuffed into their entrance, so I went ahead and pulled it out today.

Monday, July 7, 2014


The apiariulus and I were inspecting the hives, and we noticed a brouhaha in the front of the Valentinium. The Valentinium is the hive whose mouseguard I removed last month, as the entrance had seemed too constricted for its large population. Today we saw lots of bees flying in, many of which were being blocked by guard bees. We saw bundles of bees fighting it out near the entrance. We saw dead bees being flung from the hive. However, I smelt no alarm pheromones, which is to say, I detected no whiff of bananas. Nevertheless, I plugged two thirds of the entrance with grass, and this seemed to calm things somewhat.

I went out a couple of hours later, and things seemed calm, but I left the grass in.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

More water

I opened up the Valentinium today to insert the three frames we took from the Benedictium yesterday.

There are presently three water containers out by the hives. The shallow bird bath, the orange bucket, and a new blue bucket. The old blue bucket had a leak, it turns out. The bees are drinking deeply from all three, with the orange bucket being their favorite.

I had never seen a bee in the orange bucket before. I wonder what changed? My theory is that somebody covered their swimming pool, and the bees have been forced to find a new favorite, and by an amazing coincidence, just happened to stumble onto the water I've been providing them since April. There are a lot of bees there now.

All the aquaria have sticks and bits of wood in them for the bees to grab onto if they fall in, and I can always see a bunch of bees hanging out on that wood. The wood is always damp for a few millimeters above the water line, and that seems to be the favorite place for the bees to drink. The apiariulus observed this, and pulled a few grape leaves off a nearby vine and placed them into the buckets, "so the bees can be happy," he said. I indulged him; what harm could it do? It turns out he was right on. The bees love the grape leaves, sitting on them like frogs on a lily pad, and drinking from the water.

Our three aquaria:

Close up of the orange. Note the bee on the leaf:

Close up of the blue:

Overview. The Valentinium is in the foreground, the Benedictium in the back:

Friday, July 4, 2014

Habemus reginam!

Or so I infer from the larvae and eggs found in both hives. What a relief.

First, the Valentinium. We took it apart frame by frame. There was mostly honey in the upper deep. The empty frames were drawn out nicely. The whole hive was crowded except for the eastern two frames of the lower deep. We moved these over to the western edge and took three brood combs out of the hive.

During all this I got stung for the first time since childhood, by a bee I mean. I get stung by hornets and ants all the time, especially yellow jackets. I grabbed a frame and accidentally crushed a bee that was trying to sting me, and I pushed his stinger all the way through my  blue nitrile exam glove.

Brenda got stung too, near her elbow. It was her fist insect sting since childhood. The bees were very agitated by our whole-hive examination.

We destroyed a few queen cups, and we saw a drone emerging from his cell. Our apiariella was there too, and saw the new baby boy come out. The apiaria does not come out to the hives any more since she got stung on Memorial Day. What a pity; she used to love hanging out there and watching.

We took two brood frames out of the hive and put them aside. We shook and brushed the bees off them and closed up the hive. We removed the two-super "attic" and feed bucket and put in one shallow with 10 frames with foundation.

Then, the Benedictium. I was very stoked to see larvae there. We pulled out three frames and set them aside, one foundationless empty frame, one frame with about 1/3 drawn wax, and another frame with plenty of uncapped nectar. We put in the three brood frames to replace them, and closed up the hive with out inspecting the rest of the frames, or any of the frames in the lower deep. We tossed out the feed bucket and left the hive with two deeps, an inner cover, a shallow, just to even out the heights of the two hives, and then the outer cover. We did not inspect the rest of the hive, since I learned what I needed to know, we have a queen. I do not expect another swarm, so I did not need to remove queen cups. Anyway, I was in pain.

The bee sting was in the heel of my palm, and it really hurt, not at all like my childhood memories. I felt like my whole hand was on fire. As I tried to remove the stinger, fresh waves of fire coursed through my hand. My memory from childhood was that I did not even notice getting stung until later, when I noted a dull throbbing pain, along with a stinger, in the stung member some hours after the fact.

Speaking of after the fact, Brenda was inspecting my wound after we were done and noticed a stinger sticking out of my wrist, so I was stung twice, but only noticed one. She scraped off the stinger; there was no pain until later. Now my wrist really hurts; the dull throbbing pain makes it feel like I broke it. (Another childhood memory!) The fire in my hand, however, went away within a half hour.

I went back to the hives an hour later, and I saw two of the frames I removed a Benedictio were being mobbed by bees; it was quite a melee. I shook and brushed off the bees and wrapped the frames in a garbage bag and took them inside. I’ll stick them in the Valentinium tomorrow. I’m in too much pain today.

Monday, June 30, 2014


We were away for a four day weekend. Before we left, I replaced our orange Home Depot water bucket with a blue Lowes water bucket. Both were 8-gallon buckets. I've been keeping a bucket full of water with a coil of chicken wire in them to help drowning bees climb out, and plenty of long sticks of wood to help with the same, just in case the bird bath ran dry.

I replaced the orange bucket with the blue on the theory that the bees might prefer the blue.

When we got back yesterday, the bird bath still had some mirky rain water in it, and the new blue bucket was half empty. I was surprised that the bees drank so much! Apparently, they do like the blue better.

I emptied out the bird bath and the blue bucket, and refilled them both with water straight from our lawn hydrant. That was yesterday evening.

This evening, I went out. The bird bath was mostly empty. And the blue bucket was 7/8 empty! There was only about a gallon left in the bottom.

Brenda guesses that the deer drank it almost dry. So I refilled it and also put the orange bucket next to it and filled it with water too.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Find the Benedictine queen

We took apart the Benedictium today to find evidence for a queen. We saw no eggs or larvae, although we did see plenty of uncapped pollen.

First we inspected every frame in the upper deep. As in the Valentinium, we saw nothing in our new, foundationless drone frames, and we saw few bees and little sign of activity in the upper deep at all.

The lower deep was much more crowded. As at the top, the drone frames were not being used. Well, there was a tiny bit of burr comb on one of them. In one of the foundation frames at the bottom. We saw five queen cups, one of them empty, but saw no sign of laying. That's a worry. I wonder how long it should take for a new queen to start laying? Our swarm was on June 2nd.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Re-arrange frames in the Valentinium

The crown vetch is beginning to bloom.

We took apart the upper deep of the Valentinium today. The thought was that we might need to move some frames from the lower deep into the upper in order to encourage the bees to move in. After inspecting all of the frames in the upper deep, we concluded that they have already moved in. We saw plenty of honey and brood.

We did see a tendency to crown into the western portion of the body, so we shuffled some of the fuller frames towards the east to spread out the density.

The bees have done nothing with the foundationless drone frames on the eastern and western periphery of the hive.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Feeding time

I pulled the feed buckets out of both hives. The Valentinium had drunk most of their, and the Benedictium had drunk all. The Valentinium bucket had some mold in it, so we replaced their feed, and put in another gallon into the Benedictium. We used our standard recipe, 4 pounds of pure cane sugar per gallon. I cooled them off, and then Lucy and I put the buckets back in. I put on my disposable blue nitrile gloves, but no other gear. I think next time, I'll wear a veil. Some of the bees did not appreciate being shooed away from the floor of the supers to make room for the bucket.

I'm doing this a day early since we expect thunderstorms tomorrow.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Feed for the Valentinium

The clover are in bloom in our yard, as are the climbing white roses. (Sally Holmes?)

The bucket was empty at the Valentinium, so I cleaned it out and put in four pounds of cane sugar and topped it off with hot water., and then let it cool before putting it back in.

The bucket in the Benedictium still felt half full, so I left it.

Monday, June 2, 2014


"Mama! Look at the bees!"

That is what the apiariella said to Brenda as they sat at the table. The Benedictium swarmed today. Brenda called me to tell me at work. The kids and she described it as "a tornado of bees." After work I stopped up at the hive to see how it looked. It looked happy; foragers were returning to the Benedictium laden with pollen. I hope their new queen works out. I wonder if she's mated and back at the hive yet.

It looks like we were a week late adding the extra room.

I still haven't seen bees of either hive using the new water bucket yet.

This is a photo Brenda took yesterday of the Benedictium. Is this a sign of the coming swarm?

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Bee space

Today we added another deep body to our brood chambers. Actually, we took the feed buckets out of the upper deep, removed the inner cover from the hive, and pulled the two outer frames out of the brood body. The bees of the Valentinium had drawn the wax out of the outer side and there was uncapped honey on the inner side.  We inspected one of the central frames (the sixth one going from east to west) and saw plenty of capped comb (Brood? Pollen?) but also, on the other side, plenty of uncapped honey; the frame was so heavy, I had trouble gripping it with my fingertips. We made two outer frames (the first and tenth, going east to west) the center of the upper brood deep, and replaced them with foundationless frames for drone comb. We then added 6 deep frames with foundation to the upper deep, with two foundationless frames in the outer position and placed it above the lower deep. Then we placed the inner cover, upside down as usual, on top of the upper deep, and placed our two shallow supers over it, and the feed bucket in the two supers. We needed two supers, because the bucket is too tall for one. It felt like half a gallon left in the bucket. Then we placed the outer cover on top. Oops, the inner cover is on backwards; the exit faces forward (north) just like the main entrance. Oh well.

We did the same for the Benedictium. I saw no ants to speak of in there, whew! Their outer frames were less drawn out than those of the Valentinium. We did not remove one of the central frames to look at it. It felt like most of the feed was left in the Benedictium's feed bucket. I wonder if that was because their burr comb had blocked the entrance to the bucket?

I hope the bees enjoy all their new space. I wonder what they will do with the foundationless frames? I hope this fulfills their apparent drive to make burr comb.

Addenda, frames and supers:

Putting new supers on the Valentinium with the Apiariella:

Pulling a frame from the Benedictium while the Apiariulus looks on:

Closing up our now taller hives:

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Feeder Wednesday, a day late again

Well, it was Wednesday yesterday, and I pulled the feeders out of the hive. They were empty, so I decided to fill them with a gallon each. Four pounds of sugar, and then hot tap water up to the top of the gallon bucket. Before the feed could cool off, however, it started to rain. And rain. And rain.

So today I put the feed in the hives. There was considerable burr comb where the bucket was in the Valentinium after just one day. There was very little there in the Benedictium.

I have discovered that the feeder buckets tend to leak when the water is warm. Perhaps the surface tension decreases with temperature? So I have decided henceforth to let the buckets cool off before flipping them upside down.

Monday, May 26, 2014


Our young Apiaria got a sting today, our first confirmed sting, witnessed by the younger Apiariella. She was just sitting in front of the hive, about five feet from the entrance, watching the bees come and go as is her wont, when a bee landed on her head. She panicked and swatted at it. It buzzed in a loop back onto her elbow and stung her! Ouch!

Our perfect record has been broken. She did not cry, but did complain as the area swelled up to be the size of a pin head, itched like crazy, and then went away in the course of four hours.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Shade for the bees

The locusts and rhododendron and irises are beginning to bloom, as are daisies, irises, and numerous wildflowers.

The apiariella and apiariulus helped me haul an 8' by 4' OSB back to the hives. The evening sun here is quite hot today, and I thought the bees could do with a bit of shade. They really have no defense in the evening, and I was worried that their wax might melt.

A photograph is below. The Saint Valentine's hive is on the left, the Saint Benedict's is on the right.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Quick feed

The golden alexanders are in bloom at work, with crowds of bees working them. There is also an old gnarly fruit tree of some type there, a riot of flowers and a hive's worth of honeybees. The clovers down in the valley by Saw Mill Run are starting to bloom, but up here in the ridges of the Chalfant Creek valley, we see no clover flowers yet.

We opened up both hives today to check the feed buckets. Since the inner covers are between the brood deep and the feeder deep, I didn't bother with the smoker, and things went fine. Both buckets were empty, just like they have been the last two times, so Brenda replenished them with 3 quarts of feed each, rather than the usual two quarts.

The bees still managed to put a bit of burr comb on the buckets, but not too much.

We really should have done this yesterday, but it was raining, so we put it off.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Back to normal?

The flox have started to bloom, but it looks like the apples and lilacs are done.

Took a walk out to the hives a couple of hours ago; the temperature had just warmed up to 60, and hives were alive with bees zooming everywhere. A few were foragers and took off; I saw no returning foragers. Most were buzzing about aimlessly near the entrances. Are these new foragers taking orientation flights? Or just bees who have been cooped up too long by cold and rain?

Anyway, it was good to see them. The area around the hives has been way too quiet for most of the last week.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Ants and burr comb

Our azaleas and bleeding hearts are in bloom.

Since the weather was nice I went out to the Benedictium hive to see what I could do about the ants. I tore out the tall grass under it, but saw no sign of an ant hill. Then I pulled out the mite board and found it swarming with ants attracted to the feed that had dripped onto it. I shook off the ants and held it up to the sun and saw an ant nest inside of it. I cleaned it out, and will not be putting it back into the hive. There was sugar, some pollen, and ant larvae on the board, but no mites. Good!

It was back to the Valentinium today to deal with the burr comb. The weather was rain free, but a bit cool, maybe 60 F. I opened up the hive and took out the feed bucket, still full of sugar water. I scraped off the burr comb and saw larvae in it, so the queen has been up in the upper deep. The bees were quite agitated. I killed at least five of them in all of the scraping and removal; I hope the queen is okay. I laid the burr comb, still covered with bees, on top of the skunk guard above the entrance to the hive. Then I took the lower deep, the brood chamber, off of the base and retrieve the mite board, which had fallen to the bottom of the base. It looked good, no sign of mites. Nor ants!

The burr comb is noticeably yellow, not like the white comb we've pulled out of here before. I wonder what that means?

There were some larvae in some of the burr comb, which I don't recall seeing before. I find that disturbing. The queen should stay in the brood chamber, where she'll be safe!

I put the hive back together, this time with the inner cover upside down between the brood chamber and the feed chamber to discourage burr comb in the feed chamber.

A picture of the new and old burr comb is below. It's easy to see which is which!

I'm leaving the mite boards out of both hives. I think it is a mistake to leave them in routinely.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Uncapped larvae in the Benedictium, and ants!

Opened up the hives this dark rainy day to replace the feed. There was a break in the rain and we decided to go for it.

First we opened up the Valentinium and saw burr comb around the bucket. We pulled the bucket out, it was completely empty, and closed it back up. We'll deal with the burr comb when there are no storm clouds threatening.

Then we opened the Benedictium, and pulled out the bucket, also empty, and then Brenda went inside to re-fill them. She says she saw mold, and washed out both buckets with soap and water. Since it wasn't raining, I kept the hive open and removed the burr comb. None of it was capped, and I saw larvae in it.

I also saw big black ants. I grabbed as many of them as I saw and crushed them in my fingers. One of them stung me through my nitrile gloves! I still haven't been stung by our sweetheart bees, but they were plenty agitated today, as expected when opening a hive in iffy weather.

I put the inner cover upside down over the lower deep, and then put the upper deep with the feed bucket on top of that, and finally the outer cover.

We opened up the upper deep on the Valentinium again and replaced the feed bucket, and then closed it back up. We did not attempt to tackle the burr comb in this weather.

I was surprised and dismayed by the ants. I'm not sure what to do about them, if anything. I think I'll take a hoe to the grass under the Benedictium; there may be an ant nest there.

Burr comb in the Valentinium:

Our dogwoods, and lilacs are in bloom.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Brood in the Valentinium

Our dandelions and ajuga are in bloom.

Today was feeding day again. Joachim came over and we got a good smoke going in the smoker, the best so far. I burned myself twice on the smoker today, which is about par for the course. This smoker seems a greater hazard to me than the bees it protects me from.

First we opened up the Valentinium and removed the feed bucket we had put in last week. It was empty. The bees had put a bit of burr comb on it, but not much. We pulled out frames and saw capped cells and larvae for the first time! After seeing that, we started closing up. Since most of the bee presence was on the western side of the hive, we took an empty frame from the eastern side and moved it the far western position, to center the colony. We placed the refilled bucket in and closed up, with the inner cover on top of the feeding deep. That seemed to work well last week; the burr comb was quite small and manageable.

Then we opened the Benedictium and replaced its feed bucket, and closed it up again. We did no inspection since we saw the capped comb last week.

I am so stoked to see larvae in the Valentinium! It's a relief to see signs that our problem hive is thriving as it should.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Find the queen, again

So today we went out to re-fill the buckets of feed and to look for the brood and the as-yet-unsighted queens.

First we opened up the apiarium Valentinium. The feed bucket was empty, so Brenda refilled it with a half bucket of sugar water: she put in a quarter bucket of sugar, and then filled it with hot tap water to the half-bucket level. I pulled out frames and saw plenty of honey, but no capped cells that might contain brood, apart from a queen-cup (!?). And, yes, we finally spotted the queen! (She's the one with the white dot.)

We put in a fresh half-bucket, closed up, waited a bit, and then opened the Benedictium. We saw plenty of burr comb, including on the bucket, plenty of capped cells, brood, I hope, and the queen. We re-filled the feed bucket, emptied within the last week, with another half bucket of sugar water.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

More feed.

Thursday, when I opened up the hives, I noticed that the Saint Valentine hive's feed bucket still felt heavy (maybe half a gallon), but I noticed the Saint Benedict hive's feeder felt light, maybe half a quart.

So today, we opened up the S. Benedict hive and pulled out the feeder, and closed up the hive again. The feeder was empty, but worse, there was some kind of mold or mildew or algae growing in it. Brenda cleaned it out and replenished it with half a gallon of sugar water. I put it back in the hive, and then opened up the S. Valentine hive and pulled out its feeder. There was mold in it too. We cleaned it and replenished it.

Before putting it back into the S. Valentine’s hive, we placed the inner cover between the top and bottom deep. This was to stop burr comb from forming in the upper deep. Then we put the feed bucket on top of the inner cover with the hole on its lid (which is on the bottom) right over the hole-handle in the inner cover.

We put the upper deep around on top of the inner cover, and the telescoping cover on top of the upper deep.

The bees have been quite active lately, bringing in plenty of pollen.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Find the queen: Saint Valentine edition

Yesterday was a week into our new colony’s life. We’ve been observing the bees entering and exiting the hive. (There’s a lot more of this in the Saint Valentine hive than in the Saint Benedict hive.) But not till today have I noticed any saddle-bags on the workers of either hive.

But yesterday was too cold to open up the hives. Today the high was in the sixties, but unfortunately, as it turned out, I waited a bit too long in the afternoon to open up the hive.

I opened up the Saint Valentine hive, and saw that the burr comb on the inner cover had grown to enormous proportions, and was covered with bees.

I systematically removed the frames of the lower body, but saw no queen, nor any evidence of rice-like eggs in the comb, nor even much comb activity in the frames.

In the burr comb on the inner cover we saw pollen, lots and lots of bees and honey, but no queen. We removed this bur comb and set it outside of the hive.

After all this activity, there were bees everywhere, so once again we decide to put off the Saint Benedict hive until tomorrow. By this time, the temperature had dropped below 55, so we scooped up bees lying on the ground and dumped them into the upper deep body.

(At this point, both of our hives consist of two deeps, with a feeder bucket in the upper deep, and 10 frames in the lower deep.)

We wait an hour and open up the Saint Benedict hive. Everything there looks much neater. Little burr comb. Plenty of uncapped honey. Plenty of pollen. But we did not see the queen, and we saw no "rice grains" nor larvae.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Second queen cage inspection...

We saw Joachim at mass this morning, and we invited him over for our hive inspection later in the afternoon. He seemed pleased to come, and when he came, we opened up the Saint Benedict hive to inspect the queen cage. It looked good, which is to say, empty. A few bees were clinging to it, but not so many that we couldn’t see into it, so we took it out of the hive.

After waiting a bit we opened up the Saint Valentine hive, and once again saw many bees in the upper body, which is a deep. But no so many on the queen cage. Joachim, Brenda, and I all concurred that the cage was (probably) empty, so we removed it from the hive, but laid it near the entrance. After which we closed it up hastily.

We have a lot of questions about the Saint Valentine hive, but I felt like I had done enough damage to it yesterday. So we did not break off burr comb, or pull out frames, or do anything that might stress the bees.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Queen cage check on the Saint Valentine hive

Today, Holy Saturday, we went out to check the hives to see whether the queens had escaped their cages. We started with the Saint Valentine hive. We opened it up to find a surprising amount of comb on the inner cover and over the queen cage, as well as a really large number of bees in the upper deep body, which ideally should contain nothing but the feeder bucket. The bees were so thick around the queen cage that it was difficult to tell whether the queen was out. Burr comb covered the plug hole; when I removed it, it seemed as if the candy plug was all eaten, but I really could not be sure that the queen had escaped. So I put the cage back in, just laying it over the frames on the east side of the hive. (Wednesday we had hung it on the west side of the hive.) Then I closed the hive up.

There were so many bees flying about, that I decided against opening the Saint Benedict hive. We’ll put it off till tomorrow, Easter Sunday.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The bees arrive!

The bees arrived today, two packages of Italians. Brenda and the kids picked them up at Joe's farm. Joachim came over and suited up; I wore a veil and a fleece jacket. The fleece was a mistake I will not repeat again. It was quite cold, in the forties, and I suggested waiting for tomorrow, but Joe had told Brenda he would not wait, so we did not.

I opened the first package and took out the queen. She was alive and had a white dot. (I thought this was supposed to be a green year?) We put a bread tie around her package, pulled the cork, and laid her on the top of the frames. We put in the upside down bucket with the screened hole in the lid, which was on the bottom. And we dumped in some of the bees. This was a lively bunch that immediately took flight and swarmed around my head. I tried to ball up the remainder of the bees and dump them in, but wound up spilling most of them on the ground. Joachim scooped them up with his hands and dumped them in. He was very cool; I was freaking out. We put on the covers, and thus began the Saint Valentine hive, i.e., the western hive.

We did not have a bread tie for the second queen cage, so Brenda went inside to fetch one. While she was away, Joachim figured out a way to mount the cage by bending some of its excess screen. So in  went the queen, and in we dumped the second package. It all went smoothly without drama. We were closing up the hive by the time Brenda came back with the bread ties. She was miffed to have missed a successful installation, but I was just glad to be done with it. What an emotionally intense experience. The kids were thrilled, I was exhausted, and no-one got stung. And thus began our second hive, the Saint Benedict hive, to the east of Saint Valentine's.