Sunday, April 29, 2007

2nd visit to the hives

Today it was pretty sunny and decently warm so I went to check on the queen activities...checking to see if both had started laying eggs.

I arrived around 1pm and checked hive 1 first. I worked from north to south in this hive, noting that the fourth frame in had started to have comb drawn upon it. I made it through the 5th frame (which my mentor had given me, with some honey in it- to help the bees get started) and I started getting worried cause I had not seen any eggs yet.
By this time I had a full audience with the neighbor next door and a couple of kids asking about how many bees were there. I don't quite get why these folks think I have time to answer their questions while I'm holding a frame with a few thousand bees on it. Although I recognize this as a perfect learning opportunity for a kid, at this stage, I am not coordinated enough to give a lesson while amidst my beekeeping chores.
I continued to the 6th frame and voila...I finally saw some little white specs in the bottom right hand corner of the frame. Evidence of the queen, yes! I spent most of my time looking for these instead of the actual queen since it seems to be an easier task to find eggs than the queen (for me anyway).
During this visit I am realizing how much is going on at once in a beekeeper's visit...holding hive tools, moving frames with them, picking up frames and gently picking each up and putting each back without disturbing the hive too much....and for me, remembering not to freak out because you are actually doing all this. I had to remove a bit of comb from the bottom of one of the frames, not sure what that is about...will ask Tim.
I closed hive 1 and moved on to #2. I worked south to north on this one, since I realized w/ hive 1, the sun would be behind me if I worked in this direction, making it easier to visualize the eggs.
Unfortunately, I did not see any eggs in this hive...but that doesn't mean they weren't there. They are really hard to see and the bees were covering pretty densely the two frames that I'd expect to see them on. This hive seemed a little more lively than the first and I noticed a chemical/banana smell partway thru my inspection. I think this is some pheromone they put off when feeling signal to the others to attack. I reluctantly closed up the hive since I figured I was just pissing them off more and wasn't seeing what I wanted to see. I will go back later this week to check this hive again.

After closing up the hives, I refilled the chicken watering was practically empty- 2 gallons of water gone, since their install on tuesday.
I also removed their transport cages from sitting beside the hives, and the syrup cans that came with them, which were mostly empty.

The quart feeding jars I had in each hive were not noticeably empty, less than I expected to be gone. I did check to make sure the syrup was coming out ok and they were fine and I could see bees feeding from them, so I assume all is well there. Maybe the bees were all syruped out and just needed water instead.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

the queen is in da house...

Yesterday around 5:45pm I returned to the hives to release the queens from their special cages.
This involved opening each hive, removing the queen cage from between the frames, and prying out a small piece of cork that was keeping the queen in. Then, I had to put my finger over the hole so as to keep the queen from falling out-I lowered the cage and my hand down in the hive and watched her walk out. I did this for both hives.

The bees were much more cohesive this time...less flying around and jumping on me - unlike the hiving day. Not sure if it was just because of the time of day, temperature, or just the craziness of the hiving day...probably all of the above.
I checked the water feeder and it had been used more than I expected, will likely need to return to fill it up soon (2 gallons). I removed a few rocks I'd placed in the water tray to allow the bees to get down to the water easier...I'd put them there so the bees wouldn't accidentally drown. The cages that I'd left near each hive still had a few stragglers in them, or perhaps they were just revisiting (it was pretty cool out so I doubt they would have lived overnight there). I shook out as best I could the rest of the bees in each cage, but still left each sitting beside the hives.

Hive 1 (closest to the walkway) was opened first, noted the grass I'd placed to block the entrance had been removed or was blown out by the wind. Hive 2 still had it's grass in place. Noticed Hive 2's feeding jars were not elevated enough for the bees to get under them, so I used two sticks to raise the jar holder up a little higher. Hive 2 also had a few dead bees that were around the feeding can/cage area, guess they didn't make it into the hive and died overnight due to the temps.

The hardest thing this trip was being able to put the inner cover on without squishing any bees. I tried the slide on technique, but noticed I caught a few on the end.

I sort of feel sorry for them...being tossed about on the long ride here and being de-caged...only to learn it is a cooler climate, with a new, empty home to furnish.

Tim, my mentor, said to check in on them on Sunday or thereabouts, to see if the queen is laying eggs- assurance that she is still alive. He also said not to use my smoker the first few times, as it could piss them off or make them leave...since there isnt a full hive to protect.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007


bee installation complete!

Yesterday I went to pickup "the girls". They were in transit from california, destined for a fellow beekeeping club member's home in bellevue, wa. which is about 25 minutes away. The bee van had not arrived upon me showing up, so I had to wait half an hour...then this clunky chevy van pulls up, with ~120 packages of bees in the back...a partition between the driving section and the rear, and dryer vents stuck out the window to ensure good ventilation for the bees.
I mingled with the other seasoned beekeepers that were there to pickup their bees...discussing when the timing of installation of the bees into our hives, and plans for the journey home. I planned to put mine in the trunk...but one lady was driving a mini-suv, no trunk. She later donned her beekeeping suit for her drive home. This same lady also offered to carry the boxes to my trunk for me, so even though I brought my gloves and suit (just in case), I didn't need them just yet.
After they were in my trunk (~ 30000 bees!) I could hear this sizzling-like sound...
On the drive home, I kept looking in my rear view mirror, like a bad horror movie, halfway anticipating some mass of bees to be staring back at me.

Alas, no such incident occurred. I dropped off the packages of bees at their staging area (a garage) to wait until today, when I could install them.

THe pictures show the collection of bee packages being unloaded and the "bee vacuum" which was used to suck up the stray bees that had collected on the outsides of the cages.

Today's "hiving" went well...the mailman was out taking pictures of me, and a neighbor came over to check out my gear. Then, upon me getting ready to open the cages...everyone mysteriously disappeared... I heard mothers call their children in..part of me wondered if I should go hide too. Afterward,the bees were flying around... kind of crazy, I guess coming to a colder climate and being shaken out of their cages wasn't a great experience. After getting the hives all closed back up, I had to stand around quite a while so they would leave me alone...I had to do my little version of a bee dance to shake them off of my back as several....I mean, SEVERAL, had decided to ride along on my back as I moved back toward the car/garage area. I will go back tomorrow to release the queen as she is in her own little cage within the hive. This is done so the hive bees can get used to the new queen's pheromones.

I am officially a beekeeper now!

Monday, April 23, 2007

They're heeerrrre

Just learned that my bees are in transit from california. ETA is ~7pm or thereabouts. I will go pick them up in my car- in the trunk that is. I will have about 9lbs of bees in my trunk! I am picking up two "packages" for myself (1 for each hive) and 1 for my mentor. I hope I make it home ok.

I finished preparing all of my hive 'innards' last night, enough frames w/ wax for 6 hive bodies. I will need more later...

So, wish me luck. Depending on the weather/daylight conditions tonight, I may "install" the packages tonight , but definitely by tomorrow around noon.

wish me luck!

Monday, April 9, 2007

busy weekend

This weekend it got quite warm, which allowed a visit to my mentor's beehives for my "training" session. I also checked on the status of the bees, coming from california, and the guy bringing them will have to coordinate closely with weather conditions since beekeepers want a nice warm day for installing the packages of bees into the hives.

Here's a newspaper article featuring my mentor, Tim:

After navigating our way to his hives, on a steep hillside behind his house, Tim explained that he had the fortunate experience of capturing a swarm in his neighbors yard on Friday and he wanted to see how they were doing. We also were on a quest to ensure his other hive was "queen right" meaning, the queen is alive and laying eggs.
We were all suited up with smoker in hand to intoxicate the bees. At times during this visit, I had to fight the instinct to start screaming and waving my arms when the bees were swirling around my head and darting at my face, which they will do to protect their hive. ahhhhmmmmm...I did my best to remember to be calm and cool. I have a bee suit on, ok, focus on the hive- wow isnt this amazing and crazy?...that's what kept going through my head.

Tim showed me how to identify the eggs that the queen was laying (good sign) and I could see the progression of life from egg to pupae and then could see the capped over cells where a new bee would emerge. It was amazing.
I later got to handle the frames and maneuver with the hive tools (crow bar looking things) which Tim made it look so much easier to maneuver with than it actually was. Imagine: leather gloves, a metal tool in each hand and a frame full of honey bees 10 inches from your face and thousands more below in the hive, just ready for you to disturb them with one wrong move. After a few times of picking the frames up to inspect, I started getting the hang of it, but it will require much more practice before I look as comfortable as Tim did.
I did have the fortunate experience of spotting the queen! Tim was about to give up hope in seeing her, and I'd already pointed out so many drones (male bee, which is a little larger than the worker bee) that I was losing hope too. BUt, at the last minute zowee...there she was! Her body was much longer than any of the other bees, it was kind of weird looking, actually.

We checked on the other hive, containing the swarm bees, and then retreated back to the work shed. A few bees followed us, but soon departed back to their hives. We had to do a "bee check" to make sure there weren't any on each other's suits. I kept my suit on until I got all the way to the top of the hill, just in case.

Tim then showed me how to assemble the frames, and wax foundation, etc. He had these cool jigs that enabled "mass" production of batches of 10 frames. Very cool.
He let me borrow them and I finished my initial set of frames for each of my hives last night. I am sure my condo neighbors appreciated my hammering, but I have to be ready in case the bees come this week! I will finish the remainder of the frames for the rest of my hives over the course of the next few days.

Pics show the frame assembly.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Pics of hive site and me painting hive parts

What's this about?

Well, my new hobby...beekeeping! Hence, it is not a blog, but a beelog. hehe.

Wanted to start a log of events as I progress down the road of tending to the two hives of bees that will soon be arriving!

So far:
Attended a few Puget Sound Beekeeping club meetings- joined so I could be part of the mentor program.
Met with my mentor and learned there are as many or more ways of tending to bees as there are beekeepers.

2 beekeeping books
Beesuit (#1 priority!)
hives (3 westerns per hive right now)
bee brush
smoker and fuel
Frame making materials, wood and wax foundation - this is what the bees draw their comb out on...eventually storing brood (new bees) and honey.

bottom boards and top covers of hives, to paint the rest tonight.