Friday, December 25, 2015

Mele Kalikimaka: Born to die

It was warm and rainy today, temperature in the mid to upper sixties. I was teaching the kids the words to Mele Kalikimaka, which they loved. It's not a song I've thought about in ages, but today reminded me of Christmases in Hawaii - warm and wet.

I went out to look at the bees. The Ambrosium and Josephium were abuzz with activity, but there was not much going on in the Benedictium. So I opened it up. It was loaded with dead bees, and there were a few live ones too, which may have been robbers. I pulled out three frames full of pretty dark honey - I guess we'll have a winter harvest - and closed up the hive as tight as I could. I guess we'll be spending another $100 on a Russian queen and three pounds of bees this spring.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Winter prep and more feed

I took a look at the hives today; it was 50 degrees, just a bit too cold for much activity. The Ambrosium and the Josephium had emptied their feed buckets, which surprised me, so I refilled them with 4 lbs of sugar each: 2 x $2.19. In the coming week, the temperatures should get up to 60.

I have seen little activity over the last month from the Benedictium, so I've been worried about it. When I looked in the attic, it was abuzz with activity, but they had not taken any of their feed. So I removed their attic with its feeding pail and reduced the hive to two deeps.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Winter feed

Four pounds of sugar in thick syrup for each hive, for 12 pounds total. 3 x $2.09.

Peeked in the hives, and saw no brood in the upper body. I think we are ready for winter.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Harvest from the Josephium, and Feed

We pulled a super off of the Josephium and got some more dark red honey from it. I also put 4 pounds of sugar each on the Benedictium and the Ambrosium in the form of thick syrup. $4.62.

I had put on the bee escape last week, and there were no bees in the super. Plenty of sugar ants, though, and one small hive beetle.

I'll let the thing settle over night, and bottle tomorrow.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

11 pounds off the Benedictium

I filled 22 half-pound queen-line jars with a very dark red honey. Joe tells me that the red color is an indicator of mono-floral Japanese knot-weed. These are all from the Benedictium.

There is a bit of honey in the super of the Josephium, but I think I'll leave it on a bit longer.

We still have strong golden rod presence, but apparently our bendictianae are picky foragers.

We have some small white flowers in bloom in our yard, and there are many honeybees working them. It's a warm dry day today, and we may get more honey yet.

Sunday, September 27, 2015


I got the smoker going pretty well today, and went out and brought in the upper super of the Benedictium. There were only four bees in the thing, but there were a fair number of ants. I'm not sure that was an improvement.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Another sting

I went out today to line up the supers on the Benedictium since we may get rain tonight. The hive jerked more than I was expecting a few guards came out o investigate. I retreated all the way to house and opened up the back door when I got a quite painful sting on my right elbow. What's up with these benedictianae following me to the house? I came in and three bees came with me and started strafing the lights in the kitchen. I sucked them up with the hose on my vacuum cleaner.

We had been planning to harvest today, but we decided instead to head out to Meadowcroft to see the Indian re-enactors. These guys and gals are really quite good. We saw one Indian skinning a beaver, Ghost-in-the-Head was skinning a bear with an obsidian knife. A young Indian showed the apiaria how he braided feathers into his locks (the few he kept, he was quite bald), and an Indian woman showed us how she cooked raccoon, black snake, crawfish, and frogs. There was some traders on hand with ironmongery, vermilion, beads, and textiles. And as always, the fishermen were first rate, and the kids got very wet.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Put on bee escape

I put the bee escape under the full upper super of the Benedictium today, in anticipation of the harvest we plan to do on Saturday. I turned the inner cover upside down, since I wasn't sure whether the bee escape would work on yellow jackets, and I did not want the upper super to be open to yellow jackets while it was closed to bees. However, the escape was not designed to have enough clearance to go over an upside down crown cover, so I put a right side up crown cover on top of my upside down one, and I was planning to plug up its entrance.

Since it was so late, and since it takes forever for me to get a smoker going, I forwent the smoker and headed out while I still had daylight. Big mistake. The bees were really angry, and I got stung on my left knee when I crouched down to line up my supers. So I left everything as it was and came inside. Two bees followed me in! What's up with these girls? Man are they vengeful!

Saturday, September 12, 2015


We to some rain this week. At work I saw new buds on the golden rod, no bees on them yet. I also saw some older blossoms loaded with four kinds of bees as well as wasps and butterflies. The bees I saw were some very tiny halictids, some larger halictids, some honeybees (ligustica) and some very dark bees that looked for all the world like honeybees gathering pollen with full saddlebags. I don't know of any eusocial North American bees; could these have been Buckfast or European black bees?

They had a black spot on the top of their thorax which made them look a little bit like a tiny bumblebee.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015


I mixed up four more pounds of sugar for the Ambrosium, but when I got out there, they had not yet eaten the syrup from 10 days ago. Excellent! I removed the attic and put on a super.

I checked the Benedictium, and their super looked quite full, so I put another super under it.

All three of the hives had pollen going in.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

More feed for the Ambrosium

I put on another four pounds of sugar. $1.89.

Removed the MAQS

I scraped the MAQS away today, and took the super off of the Ambrosium. There was no honey in it, or even any drawn comb. There was very little honey in any of the other supers either.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Mite-away Quick Strips

I put mite boards under the hives yesterday. Today I checked them out: 3 mites on the Ambrosium, 2 on the Benedictium, and 6 on the Josephium.

Time to treat! I put two strips of formic acid between the deeps on each of the hives. I took the feeder off of the Ambrosium and put an empty super on it per the recommended practice. Unfortunately, I see no need for the super for any honey stores.

The other two hives already had supers on them, but they hardly seemed full, or even drawn in the case of the Benedictium. Looks like no early August nectar flow for us.

Oh, did I forget to mention I saw pollen going into all three hives yesterday?

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Four more pounds for the Ambrosium


No sign of pollen going into any of the hives this afternoon. When are we going to get some rain? Sancti Ambrosi, Benedicte, et Joseph, orate pro nobis!

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Four more pounds for the Ambrosium, and Pollen!

The dearth is over, we have bright orange aster pollen going into the Ambrosium and Benedictium, and some yellow stuff going into the Josephium.

But I put four more pounds on the Ambrosium anyway. I opened them up yesterday, and they still had not drawn out the lower deep. I pulled a frame from the center of the upper deep, and I saw no brood, probably because they had no bread. You need bread to breed brood.

Another $2.39.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Ambrosium inspection. Ouch!

The good news is that the upper body is fully loaded and quite heavy.

The bad news is that there is still no drawn comb in the lower body.

I think I may swap frames between the upper and lower bodies.

Also, they need more food.

And I got stung, twice! Once through my nitrile glove on my right thumb, and once through my socks on my left ankle. Relatively high on the pain scale, in my experience.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Josephium Harvest

We pulled the honey super off of the Josephium today. Joachim, Eric, and Karen came over at about 2. I had forgotten to put in the escape board, and put it in around 11 a.m. Late, but better than never.

Joachim and I went out with

  1. a telescoping top, which we used as a tray to hold the super, 
  2. a crown cover, 
  3. a bucket lid to put over the hole in the crown cover, 
  4. the hive tool and brush, 
  5. and an empty medium super.

I took off the full super from above the escape board and Joachim smoked it. Then he retreated a brief distance where our empty super sat on the telescoping "top". I extracted the frames one at a time and brushed them off and handed them to Joachim, who re-smoked them and put them into his super. After we got all of the frames into the new super, we carried the heavy load into the sun room.

Karen, Eric, and Joachim started crushing the comb into some cookie trays. The apiaria assisted. We used

  1. three cookie trays,
  2. three metal spatulas,
  3. a potato smasher, for crushing the comb,
  4. a step stool to rest the five-gallon strainer and bottler on,
  5. a toolbox to sit on,
  6. a metal plate on the floor to catch drippings,
  7. a case of bottles, which needed rinsing,
  8. and lids
We bottled sixteen half-pounders right off the bat. The apiaria bottled a 17th a little while later. There are still a few pounds left in the extractor, which we will let drain over the next few days.

Not a bad haul for one medium super. I just wish we had gotten some supers from the Benedictium. 

More Lip Balm

The apiaria and I made a double batch of lip balm this morning. She picked some egg-nog flavoring to put in it, a truly inspired choice. It was delicious!

I measured the weight, minus a tare of 10 dry tubes and 10 caps, of 10 filed tubes and got 1 ounce 6 drams plus or minus 1 dram, so each tube has at least 0.16 ounces of product in it.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

More food for the Ambrosium

I checked on the Ambrosium yesterday, and the bees had drunk all their feed. I made four more pounds of sugar into a gallon of syrup and put it in. $2.39.

No drawn comb yet in the new, lower body. There were at least some visible honey stores, uncapped, in the old, upper body.

I saw lots of activity at all the hives this morning, with pollen going into all three.

I noticed that my new, lower super on the Josephium was a deep. Oops! I opened it up and saw that the frames in it all had burr comb hanging off their bottoms. I cut it all off and put the cut combs into an attic. There was very little in the frames proper, and what little was in the burr comb seemed to be brood.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Food for the Ambrosium

Based on what I felt earlier today, I put four more pounds of sugar in an attic for the Ambrosium. $2.39.


Looking at the Ambrosium today, I determined that its body now has about seven and a half frames of honey and brood, so I placed another body below the first one. When moving the first body up, it seemed really light. I think it may be time to feed some more.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015


As I discovered while moving the Josephium, its super is already full of honey. I have added a second super below the first one.

During all the excitement, I seem to have picked up an insect sting, with no stinger left in my flesh. It was near my knee, though my pants, not particularly painful, but very, very itchy.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Move again

The Benedictium seems to have recovered from its move. Foragers are bringing in pollen.

The Josephium is going great guns even after its swarm. I have decide to move it gradually, a few feet a day. Even so the bees have a hard time finding it when returning from foraging.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

The move

So after putting a a new hive under the mulberry tree, and thinking about moving back to the bee yard up by the orchard, we decided that we liked the location under the mulberry better, as it had a better mix of sun and shade, and that we would move the Benedictium and the Josephium down the hill to be closer to the Ambrosium, rather than move the Ambrosium up the hill to be near the other two.

So yesterday I clamped the Benedictium together with ratchet straps and determined that the whole thing was still light enough to budge by hand. Last night after the sun went down, I budged the thing off of its rails and onto a hand cart, and moved it down to just uphill of the Ambrosium, onto the same set of rails which the Ambrosium sits on. Brenda helped greatly by holding a flashlight and guiding me through the dark. It all seemed to go seamlessly.

Today, we saw a bunch of bees circling around aimlessly at the Benedictium's old site. So apparently things did not go so well as I had thought.

To make things even worse, there was a frenzy in front of all three of our hives today. Was this robbing? I reduced the entrances to all three hives.

Let's pray for the best.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015


Again. This time it was our new hive, the Josephium.

Again, it was the apiariella who spotted them, and just like last year it was at lunch. A veritable "tornado of bees!" Brenda caught them on video, so I could see them. (Again, just like last year, I was at work.)

They swarmed into the northernmost pine near our house, waaay up there. There was no catching this swarm, and we had no where to put them if we did.

Avete et valete!

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Josephium inspection

I tried to inspect the Josephium today. I saw right away that both bodies were completely drawn out and brimming with honey. On the easternmost frame of the upper body I saw a large slash across the uncapped honeycomb. Was this sliming due to the small hive beetle, or was this damage incurred during the pulling of the frame? On the next to easternmost frame in the upper body there was plenty of capped drone brood, surrounded by capped and uncapped honey.

Unfortunately, this is as far as I got. The smoker, which had been going great, went out suddenly. At the same time, both of my gloves ripped. The bees got quite agitated; their buzzing went into gear, and the sentry bees started buzzing me and showing a great deal of interest in my now exposed right index finger.

So I closed up. Since there was so much honey, I removed the feeder pail and put on a honey super. A few hours later, I went out and put a mix of empty frames and frames with foundation into the super. In those hours, the Jospehianae had really moved in. I hope I didn't squash too many inserting the frames.

Saturday, May 23, 2015


"Daddy, there is a bunch of bees in the Mulberry tree!"

That is what my worried apiariella ran to tell me as I was firing up the smoker to inspect the Josephium.  And there they were. The swarm was smaller than I was expecting, about the same size as a package of bees, maybe a bit smaller. They were hanging onto a low hanging branch; they were about seven feet off the ground, while the tip of the branch came down to three feet.  The apiariella, apiariulus, and I observed some very vigorous dancing on the part of some of the scouts lobbying hard for their favored locations. So energetically were they dancing, that they danced some of their sisters right off the bivouac. I fetched our new hive and positioned it under them. Brenda came out to reposition the hive as needed as I pulled the branch lower. When the bivouac was about four feet off the ground, and right in my face, I gave them one hard jerk, and off they came, right into the hive. The apiariulus caught the whole thing on camera, we hope.

We closed up the hive and let them settle in. After twenty minutes or so they were mostly in the hive, so we definitely got their queen. A few hours later, I went out and added six frames, a feeder pail, and an attic. When I first lifted the inner cover, most of the bees were stuck to it. For some reason, I was not expecting that. I tried holding it with one hand while gently positioning frames with the other, and I wound up dropping it. Yikes! Fortunately, the queen seems to have survived, since the bees went back into the hive in the minutes that followed.

We now have our third hive, dedicated to Saint Ambrose.

Friday, May 22, 2015

No split

So I thought I would split the Benedictium today, but the bees had other plans.

Eric and Joachim came over to watch and help. We inspected the Benedictium, and we found plenty of honey, these gals are full up, but we found little pollen, less brood, and no eggs. I suppose they are quite ready to swarm. Nothing to split with here! So we closed up. Maybe we'll split the Josephium instead.

When I closed up, I went ahead an put on a super with 10 frames, about half empty, half with foundation.

I put some comb in the new hive, and maybe it will catch a swarm.

I'll inspect the Josephium tomorrow. Maybe we have some eggs in there.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Four more pounds for the Josephium

I went to put some a fresh pail of syrup into the Josephium yesterday, but there were so many bees in the attic, that I retreated and fired up the smoker and suited up.

After putting in the pail, I decided to spit the Benedictium, since I was all fitted up with the gear. I opened it up and saw that it was chock full of honey. I pulled out one frame, all honey, when I realized it was too cold to be pulling out brood, so I closed it back up and called it a day.

It should be warmer tomorrow. I'll try then if it's not raining.


Sunday, May 10, 2015

Four more pounds for the Benedictium

I put four more pounds of sugar into the feeder pail for the Benedictium today. $2.00.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

More food

I put four pounds of sugar dissolved into syrup into the Benedictium yesterday, and four more pounds into the Jospehium. Today is a lovely, if cool day, and we have seen the first of our dandylions blooming and also there is plenty of young ajuga. The cherry blossoms are gone.


Sunday, April 12, 2015

Food for the Josephium

Four more pounds of sugar, plus water, for the Josephium.

Lots of flowers in bloom now, Daffodils, crocuses, forsythia, periwinkle, and ajuga. Plus plenty of those little yellow mystery flowers under our pine.


Monday, April 6, 2015

Josephium Inspection

It got up to 68 today, and I saw a couple of dark colored workers mixed with the golden ligusticae coming and going at the entrance to the Josephium. Could these be offspring of our new black queen?

I opened up the Josephium. I saw that they had drunk all of their sugar, and that the cluster seemed to be on the northwestern side of the hive, perhaps for warmth. I saw a fair amount of nectar or syrup in the combs, and a fair amount of fresh white comb. I could see no eggs or larva, but then I was reluctant to pull frames out of cluster.

I put a second hive body on top of their single one, since they seem to be doing well, with ten frames mostly of empty comb, but also with some empty frames for the josephinae to fill.

Sunday, April 5, 2015


It reached 60 degrees today, and there was much coming and going in both hives, including much coming with full pollen baskets.

I gave the Benedictium its spring inspection. I saw no brood in the lower body, but much honey, so I did a body reverse. I assume that the upper body held the queen and the brood. The feeder pail was empty so I replaced it with another 4 pounds of sugar mixed into water. That's another $2.00.

It should get even warmer tomorrow, and I'll inspect the Josephium then.

The water station seems to be a big hit. There are lots of bees there. They really like the big sponges and the cinder block.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Sabbatho Sancto

We finally saw some flowers today. There were some crocuses at St. John Fisher which we saw during the Easter egg hunt. When we got home, we found some small yellow ground flowers underneath our pine near the basement door. I wonder what they're called?

Although these are the first crocuses I saw, Brenda saw some earlier down in the valleys, and saw that the bees were there, and they had some of that translucent pollen on their legs. So I guess our bees must have found some crocus last week, since we saw that same translucent pollen on their legs then.

The temperature has been cold all morning, but we seem to have reached 50 degrees up here by the ridges, and the bees are out chugging water (they really seem to like the new watering station) and buzzing around, but I don't see any pollen going into the hives.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015


I saw pollen going into both hives today. Pollen! I have no idea where that pollen is coming from. I have yet to see anything blooming. The temperature reached 60 and the bees were busy. Apparently I have two living and laying queens.

I saw lots of disoriented looking bees crawling around outside of the Benedictium, perhaps young bees making orientation flights.

I saw three bees being carried out of the Josephium. The carrier bee flew out low into the yard and dropped them. I wonder what that was about.

I opened up the Josephium and dusted a mob of bees off the queen cage. The cage was full of bees, the candy plug was eaten. The west side of the interior empty supers was bearded with bees, maybe getting some warmth. I put the crown cover under the empty supers and placed the queen cage and feeding can on top of it, and then closed up the hive. I hope it will be warmer with the crown cover lower.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Surviving the Spring

At least so far the josephianae have been keeping their queen alive through the 28 degree spring nights. I opened up the Josephium and saw a shiny black queen with a few attendants in her cage surrounded by a cluster of defensive bees. I eventually managed to brush them off and pull out the cork. I put the cage with its candy plug back in the hive and closed up. I took out the caged and shook out the few remaining clingers and closed up the hive.

As for the Benedictium, I put in four more pounds of sugar dissolved into 2:1 syrup in the feeder pail.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Salve Josephinum

Our Russian queen arrived today with three pounds of bees. We moved the old Valentinium to a new rail further uphill and at an angle from the Benedictium and shook the bees in. I fit in 10 frames, 6 of uncapped nectar left by the valentinianae, three of empty comb, and one completely empty frame. I put the queen and some syrup on top, and the not-quite empty box there two, with a couple of empty medium supers, followed by the crown cover upside down, and then the telescoping top.

I hope they do okay. Temperatures will get down below freezing tonight.

There is still nothing in bloom. Nothing.

I think I'll call it the Josephinum in honor of today.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Valentinium Requiescat in Pace

Today I took apart the Valentinium. There were so few bees in it and so much uncapped nectar that I was beginning to think it had suffered from the Mary Celeste Syndrome, i.e., colony collapse disorder. Then I eventually came across a small cluster of about 100 dead bees, including the marked (marked!) queen. There was no sign of disease, nor brood of any kind.

Sunday, March 8, 2015


It looks like we are finally getting some seasonal weather, and the bees are out in force gathering wet snow and making cleansing flights. I removed the mite boards from the hives. I saw plenty of pollen and varroa mites on both boards. I saw a couple of beetles along with plenty of sugar on the Benedictium's board. I hope these were not small hive beetles.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Feeding time

I put sugar syrup, 4 pounds of sugar to one quart of water, on the hives today. The temperature was about 35 degrees and there was plenty of snow falling from the hive. One of the benedictianae stung me on the right wrist. This is my second sting from the Benedictium. The first was back in September.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Solid food

The cold snap continues, and I am worried about the bees. It warmed up to twenty degrees today, and I popped the cover and foam board off of each hive and poured some crystalized cane sugar on top of the inner cover. As usual, there was no sign of life in the Valentinium. There were lots of bees up at the top of Benediction, so many that I figure that the honey stores must be mostly depleted, and the cluster has moved up to the top.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Bitter cold

Our warm spell is over, with temperatures around zero at night, and no warm up in sight. I decided to remove the buckets, despite the thirty degree weather. I just did not feel comfortable with feed dripping into the hives at these temperature. The hives were only open for a few seconds each, and only above the crown cover.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Feeding time again

Temperatures nearly reached 60 degrees F today, and so we mixed up some thick syrup and headed out to the hives.

There were no signs of life in the Valentinium.

The Benedictium is going strong, however, and we put 7 pounds of sugar mixed with 5 or six pounds of water on top in feeder buckets. The bees were excited to see us, and greeted us vigorously. Fortunately, we were suited up.