Sep 01 2014

looking for mites

So today’s inspection was all about checking for mites going into the fall. If there is a mite load of 5 or more mites per 300 bees (1/2 cup of bees), then I need to treat. It’s about a week long treatment, then you have to check again.

Bumblebee on zinnia

Bumblebee on zinnia

I’ve kind of been putting off the inevitable because I hate checking for mites. You kill 1/2 a cup of bees in the process. You have to take the bees from the open brood frames because that’s where the mites will be present as they try to hide in the larvae cells before they’re capped off so they can be multiplying clandestinely while the bees are maturing.  The open brood frames are also where the queen resides. So you have to be careful not to get the queen in your 1/2 cup of bees. Plus you’re robbing the hive of 300 nursery bees.

All in all, not a pleasant task. But it’s better than losing the whole hive to mites.

So about 9:30am I headed out there with:

  • 2 mason jars half filled with alcohol, with lids
  • 1/2 steel measuring cup
  • camera
  • 2 extra bee boxes for sorting

I suited up, got the smoker going real good, and decided to dive into the blue hive first.

Blue hive

This hive has 5 boxes. The top box has 6 frames full of nectar and a very empty and dry inline feeder.

black bumblebee on zinnia

black bumblebee on zinnia

As I went through the boxes, I sorted open brood into one empty box and closed brood into another empty box. I kept an eye out for the queen, whom I have yet to ever see since they made her. I have no idea even what I’m looking for – a dark brown Carniolan or a golden Italian. And she won’t be marked.

I sorted and sorted, keeping track of food and bees and brood. Then in the bottom box – THERE SHE IS! I finally saw Queen Siste Sjanse.  She’s a svelt golden Italian (of course – why can’t they make a Carniolan?). Here’s a video of her on her frame. Queen Siste Sjanse on the move.

So because I knew exactly what frame she was on, I carefully put her back in the bottom box. Then I knew I could capture the bees I needed for the mite check from the open brood frames that were in one of the sorting boxes without accidentally getting the queen.

I got an alcohol jar ready with the lid open, and I take the steel 1/2 cup measurer and gently scrape it along the face of a frame, scooping live girls into the cup and immediately dumping them in the alcohol jars. I did this on three separate open brood frames until I had 1/2 a cup of bees.

This really upsets the bees – they were flying around and kind of bumping my bee suite and hood. I could imaging the little girls hitting the alcohol batch and screeching out and the rest of the bees hear their tiny little last cries……..Jeeeeez.


  • 11 frames of bees
  • 5 frames with open brood
  • 8 frames with closed brood
  • spotted Queen Siste Sjanse
  • about 1 3/4 boxes of nectar or honey


I’m going to go ahead and give them food a few times this week, with some HBH, just to supplement their nectar and get them some good natural medicine in their food going into the fall.

Orange Hive

This hive has 6 boxes. Again, I set aside a couple boxes for sorting, and the top box has a dry and clean feeder in line.

really nice frame of capped brood from orange hive

really nice frame of capped brood from orange hive

In this box, I found Queen Håper in the 2nd box from the bottom. Here’s a video of Queen Håper. You can see she’s marked with the green dot and it’s hard to find her because she was covered in bees the whole time.

And again, since I found the queen, I was able to gather my 1/2 cup of bees from the already sorted open brood frames in the sorting box. Again, the tiny cries…the upset bees…


  • 12 frames of bees
  • 2 frames with open brood
  • 11 frames with closed brood
  • 2 1/2 boxes very full of nectar or honey
  • I spotted Queen Håper


I’m going to go ahead and give them a couple feedings with HBH, just to get the good medicine in them. They don’t need the food.


I took the jars with the dead bees and alcohol into the house. I cut a sheet about 9 inches square of 1/4″ wire cloth. For each jar (I had them labeled blue and orange), I shook and spun the jar for a good 2 minutes.

one of the girls working a zinnia

one of the girls working a zinnia

I put a steel bowl on the counter, a white smooth cotton cloth over the top, then the wire mesh. Then I’d empty out a jar of bees onto the mesh. The alcohol goes through the cloth and into the bowl. I move the bees around on the wire cloth. Then I put them back in the jar, fill it with alcohol again, swish it around again for 2 minutes, then pour them out again. This is to make sure all the dead mites wash off the bees.

Then I got rid of the dead bees in the garbage and check the white cloth for dead mites.


  • blue hive – no mites
  • orange hive – 1 mite

So, you get a little nervous year after year as the OF’s tell you that you WILL have mites, you MUST have mites and if you DON’T find mites, then you’re DOING IT WRONG. I have performed every kind of mite check – powdered sugar, the oiled grid paper below the hive for a week, and alcohol washes.  One time I found a mite count and treated. Otherwise – nothing. Like today.

My theory (totally unscientific methodology) is that mites are kind of like fleas. The bees have to get them from somewhere. They crawl (they don’t have wings) and they don’t just manufacture themselves under hives. So maybe the bees get them from other bees. Or flowers that had other bees with mites on them. So the big bee guys who have hundreds of hives are kind of like the off-leash dog park – you’re dog is gonna get fleas from the other dogs.

But if my bees are just in my yard, and yeah, they go to flower within 3 miles but how many mites drop on flower? I think the backyard bees just aren’t exposed like the yard bees are.  You do have to check, especially if you buy bee packages and I’ll continue to check in spring and fall.

But I’m not going to treat this fall. If I don’t have to put chemicals on the hive, I don’t want to.

I’ll feed the bees early tomorrow morning, before they and the VSD’s are up. Here’s a movie of a big fat bumblebee working on a zinnia. You can actually see it jabbing it’s proboscis down into the flower each time to get the nectar.

Go girls!

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Aug 24 2014

Letting the girls be – que sera sera

Butterfly  on zinnia

Butterfly on zinnia

The girls seem to do better when I leave them alone for a couple of weeks. I know when I read the books and also at class they encourage you to inspect every 2 weeks so nothing gets out of hand, and state you don’t need to be in them every week. In fact, the books state that getting into them too often, especially if they’re in the middle of making or accepting a queen can actually put them back a bit and disturb them.

Leaving them along for more than a week goes against everything in my bones that just screams to get out there, open them up and look at them and watch them work.

Butterfly on zinnia

Butterfly on zinnia

I left them alone for a good two weeks when they were making their new queen and she did really well. I left them alone for another two weeks and she really built up the hive. And now I’ve left them along for a week and you should see the activity in front of the hives especially the one where they made their own queen – no really, you should see it. Here’s a video. Queen Siste Sjanse’s active hive.

Meanwhile there are other beautiful visitors to my garden that also help pollinate my veggies. Here’s one of them in this Butterfly Video.

So despite wanting in the worst way to go mess with them yesterday and today, I’m leaving them alone. Tomorrow, early morning, I am going to sneak out and just pop the top and give them some food. Then since I’ll be gone for a week at work, I can’t get into the hive.

But hoooo boy, wait til next week……..

Butterfly. On. Zinnia

Butterfly. On. Zinnia

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Aug 19 2014

Just for good measure feeding

7:15am this morning before VSD’s and bees were awake

suited up, no smoke, popped the top

poured in 1 gallon 2:1 syrup

closed them up

2 minutes in and out


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Aug 18 2014

Quick & Dirty

So I went out today at 7:50am to inspect the hives. Nary a girl was out but the sun was up and I knew it was going to be hot so, look out girls, here I come. Wake Up!

This was just going to be a quick inspection. They are probably getting a little cranky this late in the season because they know they’re trying to stock up for winter. And the wasps are going to be extra cranky and I don’t want them in the hive so the less time it’s open and exposed, the better.

I took out an empty box to sort brood out.

The dead bees on the ground weren’t drones, but it turned out they were from the girls cleaning out all the little dead bodies that drowned in the feeder.

I knew I’d need the smoker since all the girls were n the hive. And despite starting at 7:50 in the morning with the shade still sheltering the hives from the sun, I ended up sweating like a fat sailor in the hold of a pirate ship, even though I only ended up having about a 20 minute or less inspection time.

Blue Hive

  • 5 total boxes
  • 6 frames of bees
  • 4 good frames of open brood, most of it very tiny and fresh eggs
  • 10 good frames of capped brood
  • I did not see Queen Siste Sjanse. I looked at each frame but didn’t spend extra time trying to locate her
  • There was about 1 1/2 boxes of nectar/food, all the frames a little light (not stuffed and super heavy) but they were bringing it in.
  • The feeder was bone dry and there was about 1/3 cup of dead bees in the bottom, also bone dry, which means the girls licked every little bit of food off them

All in all, I’m pleased with this hive. I still need to give them food, which I’ll do early tomorrow morning before everyone’s up (including the VSD’s) so they can stock up this week.

Orange Hive

  • 6 total boxes
  • 8 frames of bees
  • 5 good frames of open brood, in all stages, including fresh eggs
  • 11 good and very full (edge to edge) frames of capped brood
  • I spotted Queen Håper scuttling about on a frame with tiny open brood, in the 2nd box
  • There are two very heavy boxes of nectar and capped honey, with very heavy frames of food
  • The feeder was bone dry and not a dead bee in site. So they must have been the tidy little hive that cleaned up all the dead bees

Very nice hive – I’m very pleased with this hive for the winter. I left the feeder in and will still go ahead and feed them because I don’t think they can have enough food going into winter and it’s still pretty dry out.


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Aug 17 2014

Mama’s home

orange bell pepper

orange bell pepper

I’m home again after a week out of town working. I was incredibly busy Saturday night and Sunday, so I’m going to peek at the girls tomorrow morning.

heirloom striped tomato

heirloom striped tomato

They’re very busy around the front of the hive, though, especially the orange hive, but there’s lots of girls around the blue front door, too.  They’re starting to cull out the bees as there are about 50-60 on the bee deck, dead. When I look tomorrow I’ll see if they’re mostly drones. I’ll see if they’ve drained the syrup (which they should have by now) and see if they’re bringing in enough honey, nectar and pollen to get them through the winter.

English cucumber

English cucumber

If they appear to have enough bees – really bolstered their population and are laying up a lot of bees – I’ll decide when I’m going to check them for mites since that essentially kills about 300 bees in the checking process.

I’ve got lots of pics of my girls on this blog, but today I took some pics of the literal fruit of their labors. I wouldn’t have any of these lovely veggies without the girls.

heirloom orange cherry tomatoes

heirloom orange cherry tomatoes

Thanks, girls, for honey, beeswax and my huge garden full of wonderful veggies.




great northern dry white bean

great northern dry white bean

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Aug 11 2014

Are you eating?

So at 7:30am I suited up and took the new syrup out to the hives.

The Blue Hive had eaten about 1/2 a gallon of syrup and there were a lot of dead bees in the syrup – idiots. Probably about 1/3 of a cup of bees. I topped the syrup off.

The Orange hive and eaten about 3/4 of a gallon of syrup and same on the dead bees, about a 1/3 of a cup. I topped them off, too.

So they’re eating the syrup, but not draining it. They’ll go for real nectar and honey if it’s out there and go for the syrup if they feel they need more stores. I gotta leave for work for the week so we’ll see how things are doing when I get back next weekend.

Eat up little girls. Fly out and find pollen and nectar for the winter.

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Aug 11 2014

Feeding Aug 10

Last night I made some 2:1 syrup. For the fall, you need thick syrup (2 sugar to 1 water) because they don’t have a lot of time for the stuff to “ripen” or get dehydrated. I made 2 – 1 gallon containers with 2 parts sugar, 1 part very hot water from the tap, and 1 tsp each of HBH. Boy, does it smell good – I wanted to eat it. It’s all essential oils, mostly lemongrass and some mint and other stuff.

I shook and shook and shook.  Then I let it settle and there was still some sugar in the bottom. So I shook and shook and shook.   Then I shook and shook and shook.  Repeat. Finally it was all a viscous, clear, slightly yellow syrup.

At 7:30am, there were about 2 bees out. I suited up, didn’t smoke the hives, just popped the tops.

The feeders have little “ladders” I made out of fine wire mesh that goes down into the feeder from bottom to top, about 10 inches wide, so when the bees are down in the syrup and get all sticky and can’t fly, they can crawl up the ladder. Otherwise you have about 3 cups of drowns bees in the sugar syrup.

I carefully poured a gallon of syrup in each hive (if you spill even a drop, the wasps will be all over it) and quickly put the tops back on. Done.

We’ll see how they ate it up tomorrow.

Then I made two more gallons, minus the HBH to get ready for tomorrow.

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Aug 11 2014

Mini-inspection Aug 9

Saturday was going to be a hot day, highs in the upper 80′s and I wanted to just peek and see how the queens were doing in laying – not a full blown inspection, just a quick in and out to see about food stores and laying.

I looked at the Blue Hive first.

They’ve really gone through the honey stores. They’re bringing in nectar but not at the pace they’re eating up the honey. There are 5 boxes on this hive.

  • There were 5 frames of bees
  • There were 4 frames of capped brood and 4 frames of open brood, which is double what it was last week – go Queen Siste Sjanse
  • There were 6 frames (3/4 of a box) of capped honey and some nectar being brought in
  • A lot of empties, cleaned out frames

I removed two empty frames from the top honey box to make room for a feeder.

Then it was time for the Orange Hive.

They’ve also been going through the honey, but they had a lot more honey. Again, bringing in nectar but a lot of empty frames in this hive.

  • 10 frames of bees
  • 11 frames of capped brood and 3 frames of open brood – holy cow, they’re really laying up
  • There was about 12 frames of capped honey (1 1/2 boxes)

I removed two empty frames from the top honey box to make room for a feeder.

You shouldn’t add syrup to a hive during the middle of the day as it will encourage robbing – other bees and VSD’s will smell it as you put it in the hive and they are active. You need to wait until either evening or very early morning, when all the critters are still asleep and in their own hives. That way the hive will be closed up before anyone can smell the syrup. I’m going to do this to see if they gobble it up voraciously and as a means of introducing HBH (honey B healthy) into the hive to get them really healthy for the fall. If they go through an entire gallon in one day, they’re going through food rapidly and not replenishing it. If they don’t touch it, they think they’re bringing in enough natural nectar and honey.  If it’s in between – meh.


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Aug 04 2014

Inspection for Sunday, Aug 3 (so I get behind sometimes)

It’s been close to 100 or over 100 for many, many days. I decided to inspect the hives about 8am and that was about an hour too late. Halfway through the inspection, I had to leave the bee deck, take off my hood, hose down my face, then clean my glasses because the pools of sweat on my lenses was so bad I actually couldn’t see what I was doing. How on earth do they do beekeeping in Florida?!

So I’ve managed to leave the girls alone for about 2 weeks now, which was really hard to do. My purpose today was to see if the blue hive had actually managed to create their own workable queen to replace the bought queen. If they didn’t have any working queen, I was going to combine the hives for the fall as buying a queen at this late date would just not be feasible.

Blue Hive Inspection

This hive started with 7 boxes; 6 Westerns and 1 shallow. This was because I’d put 2 boxes of wet frames from our extracting on top of each hive last week for the girls to clean out the frames.

One of the boxes had 8 cleaned out and empty frames so I removed this box of drawn out and empty frames entirely into the bee shed. The shallow had 7 frames of empty frames and one with honey, so I moved the one honey shallow frame to another box (since it’s shorter, this will cause them to fill the remaining space with a lot of extra wax, but I’ll just clean it out) and removed the honey shallow box.

This left me with 5 western boxes.

I managed the honey frames all up, with boxes that had partial honey and nectar above the bees so they’d fill up those frames with honey rather than having to walk over an entire box of honey to fill up the top box with honey.


  • 17 frames of honey or nectar, 8 of those completely full, the others all being filled or partially full
  • 4 frames of pollen
  • 3 frames that were a combination one side honey/nectar and the other side pollen
  • I removed the drone trap frame permanently for the season because it was still empty
  • There were 8 frames of bees
  • I did not spot a queen, either marked or unmarked
  • Buuuuuuuuut….I found 2 frames nearly full of fresh eggs, tiny larvae up to very mature open larvae and 2 frames of capped brood – wooohooo!
  • So we have a functioning queen they made somewhere in there.

I managed the 4 frames of open and capped brood to the center of the bottom box.

Boy, I’m going through the queen names like crazy. This one is actually laying and seems to be laying well, so she’ll be Queen Siste Sjanse - which means last chance.  This was the hives last chance to make it on their own before I just combined them with the other hive.

I’ll still check up on her to make sure she’s laying up enough to get them into the fall. I need to see 8 or 9 frames of brood.

Orange Hive Inspection

This hive started with 7 western boxes because of the wet frames from last week. I consolidated honey stores and had a box of 8 frames that were clean and empty so I removed one box. And I managed the honey up so that the top box was one full of honey, then those with lesser honey above the bees.

So I ended up with 6 western boxes.


  • There were 14 frames of honey or nectar, either full or getting full
  • There were 6 frames of pollen
  • There were 8 frames that were a combination of honey/nectar and pollen
  • The drone trap frame had about 1/4 on one side of capped drones and no open brood, so I removed this to the freezer just so I don’t have a mite breeding ground
  • There were 11 frames of bees
  • I spotted Queen Håper scuttling about
  • One frame very full of fresh eggs, tiny larvae and open brood up to very mature open brood in a really nice circular pattern
  • And get this – 11 frames of nearly wall to wall capped brood - WOW. She’s really laying up for fall. That’s what I want to see in the other hive within a couple of weeks

I managed the frame with open brood and one capped brood to the center bottom, then empties for expansion on each side with a pollen and honey on the ends. Then boxes 2 and 3 have the rest of the capped brood with food on each end.

So I just need to keep making sure that Queen Siste Sjanse stays catches up and stays on target like Queen Håper so I have two hives going into the winter with plenty of bees.



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Aug 04 2014

Mite checks

Here is some good information I got at the bee meeting regarding doing mite checks in the fall and in the spring.

  • The fall levels of mites should be less than 5 mites per 300 bees (1/2 cup of bees)
  • The spring level of mites should be less than 2 mites per 300 bees
  • Take the bee sampling from the brood area and make sure the queen isn’t in the sampling
  • put them through a 1/8″ mesh strainer so the mites will fall through, then put alcohol in and wash the bees again and strain again to make sure all the mites left the bee bodies

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