Apr 18 2015

Mite treatment removed

beeswax lotion bar

beeswax lotion bar

Yesterday about 2pm when it was nice and warm and sunny, I went out, suited up with my smoker, to remove the mite strips from the Blue and Orange hives.

lotion bar in a little red clay ramekin

lotion bar in a little red clay ramekin

I quickly smoked the front door, then removed the top 3 boxes, removed the two mite strips from the top of the 2nd brood box and put all three boxes back in place.

So each hive now has 2 brood boxes, 2 with food and an expansion box on top.

Some of the things I like to do with the stuff the girls give me is pictured here. I make little body lotion bars with beeswax (from last year), organic cocoa butter, organic olive oil, Vitamin E oil and honey. Then package them up in these cute little ramekins, wrap them and tie them up with a bow.

all packaged up and ready to give

all packaged up and ready to give

I use them for quick but thoughtful and homemade gifts.

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Apr 16 2015

Please meet her royal highness

So at about 1pm it was 62 degrees, sunny and mild outside and I decided to go check on the new hive to make sure the queen got out and about.

I put on my bee suit, got an extra box with drawn out frames just in case I felt like they needed room, headed out and got my smoker going just a little.

I gave just a little puff at the front door and under the hood, removed the top and the inner cover. The 1 gallon trough feeder was completely dry and empty, which either means the bees are smart enough not to drown in the syrup or they cleaned out all the dead bodies of those that did. There are only about a dozen dead bodies in front of the hive, so I’m going to go for smart.

There are only 2 Westerns, the bottom had the queen cage and the top has 6 frames and the feeder.

I pulled a couple frames from the top box  and saw syrup in the cells and actually a good amount of pollen, and on the 3rd frame in, so in about the middle – I saw a whole bunch of very fresh eggs! So I looked around a little and – there she was, the Queen! Scuttling about, looking a little svelt and very black with a big blue dot on her back.

I looked in the bottom box and there were no eggs there, so after she got out of her cage, she immediately moved up.

I went ahead then and managed her box down to the bottom, put the bottom box on top, then added a 3rd box with 6 frames and moved the feeder to the top.  Since she’s laying up and they are also filling up the frames with nectar and pollen, I want to give her room to expand.

The other two hives are bringing in new nectar from somewhere and making honey, so there has to be nectar out there. But I’m going to go ahead and feed the new hive one more time. The other two hives have a lot of bees to both take care of the new babies and to forage, but the new hive is pretty small, so I’ll give them a little boost.

I went ahead and put in a gallon of 1:1 syrup. Since I’ll be gone for about 9 days, I want them to have plenty of food and plenty of room.

I have a queen, she’s laying and looks beautiful. Her name is Queen Freyja, the norse goddess of fertility, and she now rules over the Yellow Hive.  Video of Queen Freyja.

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Apr 11 2015


Oooh, I was just driving and something was tickling my nose so I reached up to scratch my nose – and I got a whiff of that amazing, soft smell that is bees – mild honey, sticky propolis and soft yellow wax – must have been on my fingers since I was out in the beehives this morning. What a lovely smell.

So, today was bee package day, where all the newbie beekeepers and the old beekeepers get their bees. The Newbies start after 11:30 so I decided to trot across the river to get my new package about 10am to beat the big crowd. I put on my bee suit (sans hat over my head) and took my gloves and headed over. It’s a 4 minute drive. I had to park about a block away because it was already starting to get pretty busy.

new behive with the bee "shoe box" cage leaned up against the front door

new behive with the bee “shoe box” cage leaned up against the front door

The bees are shipped up on a semi truck from Chico, CA overnight, land at the bee supply house about 8am, then the Wiz has to run around and get them off the truck and all organized into Carniolan and Italians and he opens about 9am.

I walked down the long driveway to the supply house, ran into the Queen Bee on the way – she wanted to know if I’d invested in the Flow Hive, told her I did, she wants me to keep her updated, thinks any new idea is a good idea – ran into a couple other beekeepers I know and lots I didn’t.

I bought two packets of Mite Away Quick Strips for my current hives. Then out to get my package of Carniolans, standing in line. They brought me out my “shoe box” of bees-in-a-box-with-a-can-o-food-and-a-queen, and I took them with my gloves on (there’s screens on both sides and I don’t want to get stung by a little bee butt stuck through the screen) and put them gently in the back of my car. Then I got in the car and went ahead and put up my hood and zipped it on just in case there was an errant bee in the car as I was driving.

I put the car in drive and – buzzzzzzzzzzzz – a bee had been on my hood when I put it on and now as INSIDE my hood on my face panel buzzing loudly. So I carefully unzipped my hood and slowly pulled it back and let the bee out, then put the hood back on and drove off. It’s kind of fun to do that – people drive by in the opposing lane and kind of do a double take when they go by. They’re probably wondering where the hazmat team is heading.

When I got home it was 52 degrees but really sunny and actually pretty calm. It’s supposed to be VERY windy all day today and get colder and wetter so I decided there’s no better time than now to get busy.

I read on the Mite Away instructions that you might want to put an empty box on top of the hives so that if the bees don’t want to be close to the smell, they can move up. You have to lay the strips across the top bars of the brood boxes. They are the bee-friendliest chemical treatment you can give right now that works. They have to be left on for 7 days with the average daytime temperature at least 50 degrees. They will kill the mites on the bees and inside the capped cells. Most others only kill the mites on the outside of the capped cells, so you have to give the treatment 3 times in 7 day increments and most of those you have to pull the honey off. Mite Away says it’s safe with honey. Still, I’ll be leaving this honey for the girls and not humans.

So I took out 2 boxes with frames, a gallon of 1:1 syrup I made this morning for the new girls to give them a jump start, my box of bees and queen, a fondue fork and a marshmallow.

Hiving the bees

I decided to hive the bees first. So I opened the hive I had already prepared with 2 western 8 frame boxes, filled with drawn out frames (so they don’t have to initially work hard making wax) and a gallon internal feeder trough with screen wire for a ladder so the girls can get out of the trough and not drown.

Closeup of the bee box that the bees were shipped in, leaned up against the front of the new hive

Closeup of the bee box that the bees were shipped in, leaned up against the front of the new hive

I first pried out the feeder can that is inside the box, which was no easy task and took 2 hive tools and some manipulation. I then took out the queen cage with about 12 bees clinging to it. I removed the top box. I moved two of the frames in the middle of the bottom box aside to make room for the queen cage. I very carefully poked the cork in the end of the little queen cage (she has a big blue dot on her back) with the fondue fork, got my marshmallow ready, slowly pulled the cork until it was almost out – then when the queen went to the back of the cage, I pulled out the cork and mashed in the marshmallow.

I then placed the queen cage, marshmallow down, into the space between the two frames and pushed the bars together to pinch it in place. I then took the bee box, turned it upside down (with a hole in the middle the size of a large baked bean can) and poured the bees out. This is just so funny looking. They come plopping out in big bunches, down onto the top of the bars in the box. Then you have to shake and shake the box, getting them all out the hole. There are still some left inside, so I prop the cage against the front of the hive stand, with the hole up. so the bees can eventually walk up the box and into the hive. I then smoked the bottom box a little get the bees off the top of the bars and put the 2nd box on top. I poured in the gallon of syrup, put on the top and we’re done.

The girls were flying around in the air around the new hive like crazy.

As I’ve learned, I won’t name this queen until she is actually doing her job and laying. Then once I’ve seen how she lays, I’ll decide her name and crown her.

Treating the bees

Mite Away strips on top of the blue hive brood boxes

Mite Away strips on top of the blue hive brood boxes

I then went to the other two hives, and one by one, I took off the top two boxes, opened the Mite Away, which has a powerful stink, laid the strips across the top bars of the 2nd box. The bees immediately just dove down into the bottom two boxes. I then put the hive back together, put the empty box with frames on the top for more room and ventilation (making a chimney effect).

I’ll remove what’s left of them on Friday or Saturday, whichever has better weather, before I leave for CA again.

Here is a video of the new beehive and the other hives.


By 3pm it was sunny, but he wind was just biting cold and had really kicked up. The hives outside are quite and not a creature is stirring. Those poor little California bees are probably wondering what happened to their world. Yesterday, they were in the northern CA sunshine and today they’re in the cold north.

Hang on little tomatoes.

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Apr 11 2015

Mar 10 inspection, and bee meeting

Queen Siste Sjanse

Queen Siste Sjanse

A day late because, again with the computer – don’t get me started.

It was very sunny, 62 degrees, about noon when I decided to inspect the two hives previous to getting my new bee package Saturday.

I needed to see if they were already getting laid up too quickly and ready to swarm.

I took out 2 empty boxes for sorting, 2 boxes with drawn out frames in case they needed extra room, suited up, filled the bee waterer, started my smoker and go to business.

Orange Hive

There were 6 frames full of capped honey, 3 of them new honey and newly capped. 6 frames full of nectar and 2 frames of pollen. There were 6 1/2 frames of capped brood and 2 frames of uncapped brood with tiny larvae and fresh eggs.

I spied Queen Håper in the 2nd box up from the bottom, right in the middle, on one of the frames with uncapped larvae and fresh eggs. Here’s a video of her moving about in her hive. The spooky music in the background of the video is my cell phone ringing away in my unreachable pocket. She’s a black carniolan with a green dot, so she’s one I purchased.

I saw a mite on the back of one of the bees. If I’m seeing a mite, they’re in the hive, so I decided not to subject them to an alcohol wash. I didn’t see any other mites (but then I didn’t look at each bee) and I didn’t see any deformed wings (but it’s kind of early).

I moved the Queen and all the uncapped brood and most of the capped brood down to the bottom box, with food on each side.

So when I was done, the Queen, brood and food was in the bottom; 2nd box up was 2 frames of brood and food; 3rd box was all food; and 4th/top box was some food and some empty drawn out frames.


The girls are making plenty of food, the Queen is healthy, moving and laying. The girls were friendly and active. And I should treat for mites before I have to leave next week for 9 days.

Blue Hive

There were 6 frames full of nectar and 1 frame full of capped honey, 3 frames of pollen. There were 5 frames of capped brood and 4 frames of uncapped larvae with fresh eggs.

I spied Queen Siste Sjanse moving about up in the 3rd box on the frame up there that had very fresh eggs. Here’s a video of her. She’s a beautiful, fat Italian that the girls made themselves.I did not see any mites on the backs of bees, but I decided to prophylacticly treat after I heard the news on these at the bee meeting.

I moved the Queen, all the uncapped brood and food down to the bottom box. The 2nd box has capped brood and food, the 3rd box has empty drawn out frames and the 4th/top box is full of food.


The girls are making good food, the Queen is healthy, moving and laying. The girls were friendly and active. I’ll treat for mites when I treat the orange hive.


Since this was the bee meeting the day before “bee package day”, a lot of the newbie beekeepers were there. There were about 123 in attendance, standing room only.

One of the things they reported was that this was one of the earliest springs for beekeeping most of the OF’s had ever seen. The girls were about a month ahead on laying, some were even getting ready to swarm in early April, instead of late May. They also said they were hearing reports from all over the state (west, central and east) that because the winter was so mild the mite counts so far this spring were at a record level. The OF’s were shocked at the amount of mites already in the hives.

This is what prompted me to decide to go ahead and treat for mites early, to keep the girls healthy, especially since I actually saw a mite on the back of a bee.

I heard one of the OF’s talking to a fairly new beekeeper about the new “flow hive” from Australia that I’ve been interested in on Indigogo. I was a little skeptical. I saw a video and how it worked, it’s kind of pricy to invest, it would mean no wax retrieval at all, and would be a slower process of extraction. But I had decided – what the heck – and invested in one system of just the guts of the extraction system. I might as well see how it works.

The OF was saying don’t get it, it’s a rip off, they’ll just take the money and run, you’ll never see your system, he heard the honey extracted was “dirty” because it’s picking up all the bee parts and wax and pollen and putting it in your jar and you have no idea if the bees have laid up brood.

However, when I looked at the system, the cells are already partially created and they look to deep for regular brood cells, and yet not big enough in diameter for drone cells. So I’m thinking this will encourage them to only put honey in there. As for “clean”, just stick a filter on top of the jar as it drains, like you do when you drain the honey out of your extractor into a big 5 gallon bucket.

5 years ago I was hearing the OF’s poo-poo top bar hives and now they’re entering them in the fair. So I figure any new step forward, let’s try it out and see. If it doesn’t work, it’ll shake out in the end and might lead to another good idea.

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Apr 07 2015

Enjoying the lovely spring day

Flowering pear blossoms, bee butt seen just about center left

Flowering pear blossoms, bee butt seen just about center left

Today was still a little cold, but very sunny and the girls were out enjoying the yard.

The flowering pear tree is in it’s full glory – completely bloomed out, huge white blossoms, and smelling like, well, a flowering pear, which honestly is kind of stinky. But when I walked by the tree I heard this low thrumming and I stepped into the tree and it was completely abuzz. They just love it.

bee condos

bee condos

They were also flying all around, in and out of the hive. What pretty, colorful condos they have – I’d keep coming back, too. Here’s a video of them flying around the entrance.

HB and I inspected all the parts of the hive for bee installation day and everything is ready to go. Can’t wait til Saturday.

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Apr 06 2015

March 28 full inspection

Well my computer had to go into the shop, then I left town for a week for work, so I couldn’t post this until I got back. This is the log of my Saturday, March 28 inspection.

It was a very sunny day, about 1pm and 69 degrees, no wind. The bees were out in force, zinging through the air and the garden. Nothing in blossom in my yard, really. The pollen was pretty much done on the pussy willow tree. But there are many flowering trees in the neighborhood that were just coming on.

I took out to the bee deck two extra boxes for sorting, 2 extra boxes of drawn out frames in case they needed more room, and a temporary topper for one of the hives since I needed to fix a lid on the blue hive.

I suited up, got my smoker going, got all my tools and fire starter out and started up the smoker till I got a lot of good, white smoke billowing out.  I started with the Orange  Hive.

one of the frames with new pollen

one of the frames with new pollen

Orange Hive


There were 4 total Western boxes.  10 frames of nectar, 1 good frame of pollen, 8 frames of capped honey and 4 of these were newly capped this year. The girls were calm but busy, no nastiness.

There were 3 frames of capped brood, 3 frames with uncapped larvae and I spotted Queen Håper in the bottom box, right on the middle frame with uncapped brood. She was moving vigorously and had a good entourage. Here’s a video of her moving around.

I saw 2  girls dancing and waggling their little buns off, telling the others where food is in the neighborhood.

The final configuration of the hive was:

bottom box with the queen, brood in the middle, honey on the sides

2nd box had capped brood, honey and pollen on the sides

3rd box had all empty drawn out frames for expansion

4th/top box was full of honey and nectar


The girls are doing great. I’m actually surprised at all the pollen, the new nectar and actual brand new capped honey. There was plenty of laying activity and very nice looking capped brood. They’re pretty early but they still have a lot of food left over from winter – yeaaah beekeeper!

One of the frames with newly capped honey

One of the frames with newly capped honey

Blue Hive


There were 4 total Western boxes. There were 7 frames of nectar, 1 frame of capped honey and 5 frames of pollen. The girls were calm, not grumpy, and busily working the frames.

There were 3 frames of capped brood, in a nice pattern and 2 frames with uncapped larvae. I did not spot Queen Siste Sjanse, but I saw fresh eggs and larvae so she’s somewhere in there.

The final configuration of the hive was:

Bottom box had uncapped brood and food on the sides

2nd box had capped brood and food on the sides

3rd box had all empty, drawn out frames for expansion

4th/top box was all nectar and honey


This hive is also doing great. It had less honey and nectar, but more pollen than the other hive.

The inner lid of this hive had kind of warped, so I took it in the bee shed and took a hammer to it, hammered it back  into the roof and then took it back out on the hive and it fit perfectly.


One of the nice frames of fully capped brood

One of the nice frames of fully capped brood

It’s supposed to be really nice out on Thursday and Friday so I’ll take a peek on Friday. Then Saturday is bee package day. I’ll pick up my new package and hopefully it’s nice enough out to install them.

During this week I need to make sure the entire new hive set up is ready to go.

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Mar 08 2015

Yippeeee! Bee season

I probably shouldn’t be so happy (but I am sooo happy that it’s bee season again).  The fact is, we’ve had a record breaking warm winter. We’re in the 60’s at the end of Feb and first of March.  This sounds great, but this can be pretty bad for both the bees and their food. Things are starting to bud and blossom and when we get that hard frost (and we all know we will), entire flowering crops like apples and pears can be entirely shot for the year.

If the bees start brooding up like it’s April, but there’s no food out there, or if a hard freeze comes, then some of the consequences are that the bees could just plough through the good food stores I left on the hive and I’ll have to feed them sugar water. Or they could freeze their brood because they normally don’t have brood this time of year.

I went to the bee house yesterday and talked to the Wiz. He said he went out and inspected his hives and it scared him to death because he found nearly all of them had brooded up, and the queen was laying brood all over in the top of the hive. He said he moved all the brood down to the bottom, packed honey on both sides of the brood and a box on top and then empties above that so that when the hard frost comes ( and we all know it will), they’ll have food all around them and the nurse bees won’t have to make a choice of either having to cover and warm the brood or venture into the corners of the hive for food.

Hive Inspection

So today about 1pm it was 64 degrees outside and sunny.

I went out to the bee shed and brought out to the bee deck a couple extra boxes for sorting, pine shavings for fire started, more burlap (thanks to sis-in-law), a new lighter, and a broom.

I suited up – boy, there is no better smell in the spring then the first time you put on your bee suit after a long winter. It smells of beeswax and sweet propolis and wood smoke. Tucked my pants into my boots and put on long gloves because I didn’t know how grumpy the girls would be when I shake them up.

I first took all the winter insulation and bricks off the hives and took off the roofing paper from around the hives. I then got my smoker started, got out all my tools and set the sorting boxes out.

I started with the blue hive and then moved to the orange hive.

I smoked the front door and under the lid each time. Then I started digging through the hives from top to bottom, frame by frame.

They are sure a mess. Everything is stuck together really well with propolis,  which had the consistency of peanut butter laced with honey. Every top of every box, all the runners just thick with it, all the frames stuck together with it.  I spent most of my time actually scraping the sticky gummy goop off everything. I had to scrape my hive tools off over and over in my little gathering bucket.

Each hive still has a good 1 1/2 boxes of honey. They also both had a good 2 frames of new pollen that the girls are bringing in.  I’m assuming they’re finding crocuses because there were a lot of girls in the hives with very full bags of super light creamy yellow pollen and then some darker yellow, but not orange. And there was a lot of new pollen being stuffed in frames.

girls on the lid with pollen baskets

girls on the lid with pollen baskets

I did see a mite on the back of one girl in the blue hive. I’ll need to do a mite count later in the spring, in about a month, when they’re strong enough to take the hit of a mite count.

The blue hive had 2 frames of closed and open brood in the 3rd box up on the right side. I didn’t see the queen. The bottom box  had a huge mess of mildewed dead bees in the entire middle of the box and piled up the sides of some of the frames. Obviously, they couldn’t haul them all out during the winter.

Throughout, the girls were very gentle, not grumpy at all.

Blue Management:

I removed the bottom box, brushed all the dead bees off the screen and out. Then I put on a new bottom box, put the 2 frames of brood in the middle, put pollen and honey on either side with 1 extra empty frame one frame away from the honey for expansion. I then put the two boxes of honey and pollen on top with a few empty frames. I was able to get rid of an entire box and it’s empty frames.  So this hive now is down to 4 boxes.

final configuration of the hives

final configuration of the hives

Orange Management:

The orange hive had 4 frames of open brood and fresh eggs up in the 3rd box. I actually saw Queen Håper. I again removed and cleaned the bottom box and screen, then moved the queen and her  brood to the bottom, in the middle, with 1 pollen and all the rest honey. I also topped this box with a box of honey, with 1 empty frame above, and the other box of honey and a 4th with food and some empties. I was also able to get rid of a box and it’s empty frames so it’s also down to 4 boxes.


I then swept and cleaned the bee deck, put everything away, left my hive tools in the smoker to burn off the propolis.  The girls were quite active after managing them as they always are.




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Feb 16 2015

some death, some life

the winter's toll on bees in the hive so far

the winter’s toll on bees in the hive so far

Today it got up to 52 degrees. This has been a freaky winter – a dump of snow at one point, a few weeks of bone chilling cold and then unseasonably warm and dry. It’s the middle of February, which should mean just coming off our yearly 2 week bout of sub zero arctic express and hoping for more snow to show it might get up to 28.  But we have this weird, warm weather.

So the girls were out today.  There is plenty of detritus so far on the bee deck from the girls cleaning out all winter. But they were also flying pretty steadily. Not summer crazy out in bulk type flying, but not slow lazy barely getting out to go poo flying either. Here’s a video link of the girls wandering in and out of both hives. This is better than last year, when I realized girls were only going in and out of one hive and the other one ended up dead.

I also took a look around in the yard and the chives are poking up their green stems (weird) and, most awful of all – the pussy willows are already out. They shouldn’t be out til end of March. However, that means there will be some very very early pollen for the girls in just 2-3 weeks when the pussy willows fluff out and create their pollen.

pussywillows already fat and fluffy in the garden

pussywillows already fat and fluffy in the garden

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Jan 18 2015

Potty break

There’s snow and ice on the ground, but it’s very sunny and bright and got up to 45 degrees just now at 2pm. Out the front windows, we saw a flurry of sparkling and flashing bees zipping out of the hive to do their potty duty. They’re not foraging or looking for food so there’s no beeling and they don’t look like they’re headed anywhere. Just OUT. They pretty much keep to within the yard and you can see them circle and flip out to the sides and zoom around.

They’ll have their fun in the sun, then zip back in after a few hours in time to get all clustered up and ready for a cold night.

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Dec 22 2014

The girls got out today

It got up to a balmy 42 degrees for a couple hours today and very sunny. The girls started coming out, one by one by one, around 1:3opm.

Then it got pretty active with girls zipping straight out and straight back in. No lazy hanging around in front of the hive or anything. Just get the job done and back in to cluster up, I guess.

I saw several bodies dragged out and over the front porch. I went out to clean up a bit and swept up the piles in front of the hive. I’d say there was altogether about 1 1/4 cups of dead bees, so nothing out of the ordinary for winter.

Then by 4pm it was nearly dark and very cold again, at 32 degrees.

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