Tuesday, December 18, 2007

exciting weekend

This past weekend I gained some experience in moving a hive...a full hive!

A fellow beekeeper decided to sell one of his hives and I agreed to purchase it...and thankfully Tim helped me move it. We did this on sunday...but required some preparation sunday morning by the hive seller. He had to "button it up" by using a screened wire top and front cover as well as some straps around all the boxes to keep it together in transit. He did this in the early morning so that the bees would be in the hive. It was pretty cool this past weekend so that was another factor we had to consider. Anytime you move a hive the bees will of course be disturbed, and once at the destination, will want to get OUT of the hive. If it is too cold they will freeze, which obviously isn't good, so we did the best we could and chose the warmer of the two days...but I don't think warm is a word I would use to describe seattle right now.

Upon arrival at the origin point, tim, myself and john had to maneuver the hive down from its stand and onto a handtruck. I was not in beekeeping uniform nor was tim, but john was. He was at the front of the hive, and tim and I were on either side. One of my hands was at the front of the hive though and at some point I heard ..."we have a leak". I feel tickles on my hand and try not to freak out. No stings, whew. We readjusted and continued on into Tim's van without event.
It was a bit unnerving to be sitting in a van with 5 boxes of bees sitting behind us, buzzing. This seemed like a nightmare just waiting to happen.

The only event came when we had the hive settled in its new home, next to my other hive...and I had to "unbutton" the hive. I failed to bring my boots, but did have my beesuit on. I let the bees loose and they went crazy, and clung onto me for warmth. Did I say I didn't have my boots on? I gingerly walked around the hive trying to get the screened covers off with a screw driver. In between looking at my ankles, which were covered with bees and trying to flick them off with the screw driver, I finally succeeded at getting away from the hive. I almost made it until I got it...right on the ankle, no doubt by a perturbed and cold bee...which now died as a result of me not wearing boots and having to sting me.

here's a pic of the hive in the van:

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Sneak Preview of the honey

After much anticipation...and risking ruin of your surprise if you are a lucky recipient of my honey....Here's a special preview.
But first...to give proper, and well deserved credit* to my fabulous friend and designer, suze, who worked on the label design and metal tag for me. After a few iterations of sizing the text to the various bottles, it was left to me to start printing, cutting, and gluing. (Needless to say not ALL the bottles are done yet, but I hope to give the lucky recipients some honey before the holidays.)

* special thanks to, of course, the bees...as well as my beekeeping mentor, Tim, who continues to support me in my expanding beekeeping endeavors.

In succession of the iterations of bringing the label components together

My first wax seal attempts- the wax kept sticking to the stamp, so I first tried putting the wax on tissue paper, but it looked kind of weird (see the black tissue paper around the seal?). note the metal bee stamp next to bottle.

Added the new label, with improved wax seal and gold string instead of ribbon

Wowee...the metal tag- this was the coupe d' etat on suze's design input. I love it!
Thanks to Aculine for the great work on the tag- and accepting my bribe of honey in exchange for a waived setup fee.

My first batch order done..

.just a few more hundred to go....

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The season of giving- give bees!

As the holiday season ramps up I am often asked what I'd like for christmas...I don't really need much, but realize that others are not so fortunate.
Did you know you can give the gift of bees??

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Bees in the News

The Puget Sound Beekeeper Association's newsletter compiled a list of reports of bees in the news and on TV...found them very interesting.

Check them out!

Bees in the News
PBS, Nature Series, Silence of the Bees
On October 28th, Nature premiered an excellent one hour program on Colony
Collapse Disorder. Check their webpage for previews, videos and up to date
information on the state of research and how Israeli Acute Paralysis Virus may be
related. An excellent segment and related webpage on “What you can do to help”
states that one of the best things that you can do is become a backyard beekeeper
and join a local beekeeper’s association. Puget Sound Beekeepers Association
would fit that bill! Other recommendations are to plant a bee garden with tips on
species and landscaping.

60 Minutes: What’s Wrong with the Bees?
On October 28th, CBS’ 60 Minutes had a segment on Colony Collapse Disorder.
Watch the whole segment here:
and watch additional clips and interviews on Yahoo’s News page

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Bee Movie | Official Site

Bee Movie Official Site

Mark your calendar's for Nov 2nd
Bee Movie is released on this day in the U.S.

I can't wait!!!

Monday, September 24, 2007

Extraction complete!

On Sunday, I went over to Tim's to extract my honey- he'd prepared his garage to process his, mine and a couple more folk's honey. THere was an official honey shoe area and a regular shoe area. The Extractor was sitting upon this stand (on wheels) and when in low speeds it sort of herked and jerked around, so it seemed we kept it in the corner of our eye no matter what we were doing.
Here are some pics, they show the uncapping process (with a hot shaving device thing), a comb scraper, and then the extractor itself.

My bounty- three tubs- close to 100 lbs of honey!

Experiment in action- supposedly a way to test if honey is raw/unprocessed: put layer of honey in dish and then swirl water over it (like panning for gold). The honey forms these hexogonal shapes, like the wax comb. Not sure why, but it works! Haven't testing processed honey to see if it behaves differently.

Shaving off the wax cappings

Liquid Gold

The extractor, fits 12 frames.

Whee! thank goodness this is an electric extractor- there are handcrank models!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Extraction preparations

Got the call from Tim last night since he is coordinating the extraction machine for getting the honey out of several people's frames. He said likely this weekend or early next week it will happen. He said to wear old shoes that will become "honey shoes" everafter, since everything will get a touch of honey on it!
He said I should go back and check my hive to see if the remaining honey was capped off and to retrieve that for our extractions. Also I am to dump the "bad hive" in with the good hive since it won't make it thru the winter, or much longer, on its own.

I won't need bottles yet, as we will just get the honey into food grade pails right now.
I have commissioned a talented friend of mine to assist in my label design.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Bee sure to vote!

I need to name my honey...be sure to vote on a name by clicking your choice!
See window on right side of this page to vote.

Monday, September 3, 2007

60 lbs!

on Saturday, Tim and I visited my hives with the intention of "pulling" some honey, meaning, we would remove any frames that had capped honey. I was glad for this as the hive was getting a bit too tall for me to maneuver opening it.
We opened the "good hive" and noticed that the last box I put on( two weeks ago) was entirely full, and was full of knotweed honey- it is really dark, like molasses. We removed each frame and used the bee brush to remove bees that were guarding it. These capped frames (21 of them) were placed in another box nearby that we had staged so that we could carry them easily.
We stored them in the garage with a plastic bag beneath them and on top, to prevent other bugs from sneaking in. Each box weighed about 30 lbs, Tim said I could bet on getting 60 lbs of honey out of what we removed!
We replaced one of the boxes we removed with a new set of frames that the bees could work on. Tim and I will extract the honey from the frames once he has pulled honey from his hives and we can make one big mess together- he says it gets everywhere, but I think I can deal with that!
The next step is to order some bottles and create a name/label for the honey.

Monday, August 20, 2007

hive update

My last check was on wed 8/15...
I added another box to the good hive, bringing it to 6 boxes high. I officially need a ladder now to tend to this hive as the hive stand is about 12 inches off the ground and there is no way I will be able to maneuver a heavy box that is head height. I didnt go too deep in the good hive for fear of disturbing a good thing.

The second hive, I was more interested in how my experiment went- whether the bees used the eggs I moved there to create a queen. I saw no evidence of such. In fact, I saw more evidence of that silly laying worker bee- multipe eggs in cells. Oh well. I guess this hive will doom themselves.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Experiment in process

well, an experiment within the existing 'beekeeping' experiment for me...

On saturday I went over to check the hives again, The "good"hive was still doing great, I only checked the top three boxes, the first two were mostly full of honey (and were heavy!). In the third box down I saw some eggs and no queeen on a frame, so I thought I'd do what my mentor said and move a frame of them over to the problem hive. This would give the problem hive the opportunity to create a new queen which would save the hive.
This switcharoo entailed me having the good hive broken open and then turning around and opening the second hive at the same time to steal an empty frame to replace the frame of eggs in the good hive. I was sucessful, so I will see what the problem hive does with this little boost of eggs.
When I inspected the problem hive further it appeared that the laying worker was at it again as the brood was only drone brood. This probably doesn't fare well for my experiment as it is likely the existing bees think this laying worker is in fact queen bee and will protect her and not recognize the need to create a new queen. But, I am guessing at all this. I will need Tim's insight to understand the "as the world turns" of these bees that have gone awry.

I finished painting the hive equipment (4 more boxes) and am in the process of prepping the frames and wax...it is very time consuming so it becomes my evening activities.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Weekly hive check

Yesterday, Tim came over and checked my hives with me. See pics (courtesy his wife Leslie).

Tim did alot of rearranging within the good hive. Basically he took some frames full of honey from the lower boxes and moved them up to the top..and moved the empty frames to replace them...giving the bees something to do. He was very approving of their work so far and seemed confident that I would get some honey off of this hive this fall! yay!

The other hive he agreed is basically dying. He said I could experiment and try to move a frame w/ eggs from the good hive into the problem hive and see if they would create a new queen from them. We did see a supercedure cell in this hive. I will see about doing the experiment he suggests...but I must be absolutely sure that the queen is NOT on the frame that I move from the good hive, or else it will die too.

The white part is capped honey!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

A bee's life

here's a picture showing the lifecycle of a bee. Click on it to see it up close.
I particularly like the day 21 activities of.."clean cells and loaf".
This diagram was provided by Jerry Mixon, who also made my hive equipment!

A beekeeper's job is never done

I am back to preparing more boxes and frames for expanding at least the good hive for now. I went to Tim's on sunday since he has a workshop with a nailgun, etc. Together in a couple-three hours we were able to crank out 4 boxes and 40 frames (no wax). I will do the wax foundation work at my place since it is so time consuming.

In order to have a box ready to expand in the good hive by monday (I felt I was already pushing my luck by waiting this long already to add a new box), I borrowed a box originally slated for the 2nd hive. For the frames, I cheated on my work, and inserted wax but instead of wiring them (to hold the wax in place) I used support pins instead. It will be interesting to see the difference in each type of frame once the extraction part comes into play.

Also, yesterday, when visiting my hives, I was called in to resuscitate a debilitated mason bee (small bumblebee looking bee). (I wish I'd videotaped this!) Apparently it had been sitting on the deck all day (it was rainy and cool yesterday in seattle)...barely moving. Unsure if it was injured or just tired or weak, I attempted a revival via feeding of sugar water. I took a toothpick and dropped a few drops in front of it. It fumbled around for a bit, but before long I saw its probiscus come out(long tube thing, normally inserted into flowers to extract the nectar). It slurped up the sugar water and fumbled around some more. I repeated the process a couple of times. Eventually, it started cleaning itself off. By this time, I went to go get my camera...but by the time I returned, it had flown off!

Sunday, July 22, 2007


These were from a hive visit on 7/19. Jin Lai (from work) is narrating and running the camera.
The first hive was still booming, ready for another box.
The second hive was still pitiful, few capped brood (worker bee), didnt see eggs actually, but the lighting was shady. Saw pupae. Didnt visualize the queen. Still only 4-5 frames in the first box with activity (found TWO swarm cells again, which I deleted). The upper (second) box had a couple of frames w/ activity/wax drawn.
I talked to Tim about this and he said we'll probably end up combining this hive with the good hive eventually.
On the way to the hive
On the way to the hives
smoking the entrance
opening the hive
opening the hive2
opening the hive3
opening the hive4
opening the hive5
opening the hive6
opening the hive7
opening the hive8
opening the hive9
opening the hive10
hive inspection
hive inspection2

This is the second hive, notice it is only two boxes high and a few frames of activity. It also sounds much louder than the "good" hive.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

More equipment

I have been scoping out the method/device that I will be using (in the Fall) to clear the bees from the honey. Basically the idea is how to get the bees out of the boxes that I will be pulling off of the hive in order to extract the honey. There are various methods from what I understand. These include fuming the bees out, which I dont think I like that concept- you risk contaminating the honey with whatever is used to fume them with (some sort of smelly chemical or natural component). I wouldn't like this if I were a bee, so I don't think I will choose this method. The other methods include:
An Escape Board - which is a specially designed board that is placed below the hive boxes that are to be removed...the bees in the box can leave, but they can't return very easily.
A blower - somehow rigging up a leaf blower or something similar to blow the bees out of the boxes being removed. (one of our club members uses this method, but I've never seen it in person).
Brush - a bee brush can be used to manually, and lightly, brush any bees off of each frame in a box being removed...this is obviously more time consuming.

In researching the escape boards, I found this site which has some pretty intricate designs. I think I am going to try to make the triangle escape

but, I won't need it till the fall. I first gotta get my additional hives and frames built. My mentor offered up his nail gun/garage and assistance, so perhaps this will go more quickly than last time, and my condo neighbors will probably appreciate it too.

Monday, July 16, 2007

checked the good hive last thursday

This hive is booming! it is four boxes high now with the top most box having drawn comb activity on all frames (but not fully drawn out yet). There was honey, no brood in this top box. The Second box down was fully drawn on all frames w/ a small amount of brood in the center, but it was HEAVY...like 30 lbs heavy. I thought I was going to break my back lifting it to the ground and back to the hive...as the box is awkward to hold. The third and fourth boxes had more brood activity. I saw the queen in the bottom box, she was on the outside frame. I moved quickly to not disturb her.

I talked w/ my mentor and I need to get with him to create more hive equipment which I think I will receive tomorrow from the beekeeping supply place.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

weekly hive check

I went in the problem hive quickly on monday to see what was going on.
There was still very little progress, two boxes, perhaps 5-6 frames with comb drawn between both boxes, few eggs, some brood, and some capped brood, and some capped honey. I also noticed what appeared to me to be a swarm cell in the lower box...a queen (peanut shell looking cell) was in the making. I learned from Tim that a queen cell found on the lower third of a frame is a swarm cell, whereas a queen cell found on the upper portion of a frame would be a replacement queen - as in the old queen was ailing or dead. Well, since this hive was nowhere near being over crowded or in need of swarming, I was a bit confused by this finding. I went ahead and "deleted" this swarm cell, hoping I was making the right choice given what I was seeing. White goo oozed from the cell and I had to banish from my thoughts the loss of bee life that I'd just inflicted.
I later called Tim and he said that since this hive consists of bees that had swarmed previously, that perhaps they were obsessive compulsive bees and just had swarm behavior on their minds. (see, this is the sense of bees that I just don't grasp yet) In his infinite wisdom of how bees behave, Tim reassured me that I'd acted appropriate to the situation.
I didn't have time to go into the other hive...will go back on thursday to check on it.
I ordered more hive equipment as Tim said I should be prepared to have up to 6 or 7 boxes max on each hive. Four of the boxes would be left on the hive all winter and the rest (2-3 boxes) would be my bounty of honey (I think there is ~ 25lbs of honey per box). That problem hive has alot of catching up to do.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Swarm patrol

Yesterday, Tim called and said he'd received a swarm call...and I got to go along for the adventure!
We drove to burien, which is about 20 min south of seattle and found in someone's front yard a soccer ball sized swarm of bees. It looked like a big pine cone as it was in a conifer. Thank goodness it was at eye level, so we didn't have to climb any ladders or anything.
Tim came prepared with his bee vacuum and a plastic bucket that he'd put vents in the sides. I held the bucket under the swarm while Tim attempted to shake the branch so they would fall in. This apparently didn't go as planned, according to Tim, as we only got about 25% of the bees this way. The bee vacuum came out. The 5 gallon container was quickly filled...we knew we had the queen when other bees were glomming onto the out vent of the vacuum...her pheromones were being emitted from the 5 gallon jar. We had to take a couple of breaks to change batteries on the vacuum and to let the bees calm down again so we could catch as many as we could.

Once we'd ran out of batteries, we piled everything in tim's van and headed back to his house where he planned on putting the bees into an empty hive. Or, so he thought.
After maneuvering down the steep hillside in his backyard to the hives, he opened the hive that he intended on using, only to find that some other bees had taken up residence! Surprised and wondering where to put the swarm, he injected it into a "weak" hive and said the queens will duke it out. Tim is very rich in bees now.
Swarm season is coming to an end, so I am glad I got to tag along on this one.

Monday, June 18, 2007

saturday hive check

Checked the hives on saturday

Hive #1 had alot of traffic of bees coming and going. Saw eggs and pupae and the second box I'd added was filling out nicely. I added a third box to it just to be safe...the second box had 7 frames with comb on it already and from what I've read that is the sign to add a new box. I am thinking I need to order more hive equipment now...will check with my mentor.

Hive #2 still seemed to have low traffic comparatively, but I was successful in seeing the queen and eggs and pupae...all very very good things to find, considering the shape this hive was in before the swarm was injected. The bees seemed quite loud, and the second box had only one frame that had been drawn upon, thus I didn't see any need to provide additional space just yet.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

pictures- finally!

one of my co-workers, Sean, offered up his photography skills (and curiosity) to brave a visit to my beehives! thanks sean!
(i'll need to correct the positioning of the pictures later...)

The smoker preparation

The beesuit preparation (this is when the kids in the neighborhood start looking nervous)

Getting ready to open the hives...this is hive #1, the "good" hive, with a second box on top for expansion.

Give a few puffs of smoke to warn them...

Here's the feeders of sugar water- now empty. More smoke to warn them.

the top of the inner cover of the hive, with some wax.

Removing the feeders and inner cover

Inner cover removed, this is the top box. Smoke them some more...

Removing the first frame (near the wall of the hive). This frame doesn't have comb drawn upon it yet.

I noticed some eggs already in this upper chamber (second box). The queen is expanding the brood chamber.

Looking for more eggs...its hard when your head is so big (in the suit) it creates a big shadow!

Blurry closeup- something you might see in your nightmares?

See how the bees fill in any extra space (bottom of the frame) with wax? the "bee space" rule has been offended. If bees see a space bigger than ~ 1 cm they fill it with wax. If less than 1/8", they fill it with propolis.

Here you can see capped brood, the flat yellow cells. Soon more bees will emerge from here. These are worker bee (female) brood...you can tell since it is flat with the surface of the frame. IF it were drone brood the little cells would look like there was a bubble protruding from the frame.

Uh, Do I really have a handful of bees in my face??

This is hive #2, with a newly injected swarm. YOu can notice that these bees are darker than the first hive's (probably carnoleans vs the italians in the first hive)
Also, there are more drone bees in this hive, since the laying worker (that I hope quits laying in light of the queen that came w/ the swarm) can only lay drone eggs.
I did see some capped brood in this hive that was not drone brood, that is good, and shows that the new queen is laying.

Hey, I just noticed a cell on this frame that looks like a swarm cell, see it? Just a little left of center bottom, half a peanut shell looking thing with the end opening toward the bottom. Hmmm, I hope I caught that/cut it out when I was there...else I'll have a swarm on my hands.