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.