Friday, May 24, 2013

Our First Look Inside

We had a break in the rainy weather yesterday and made haste to do our first inspection of each of our hives.  We rushed through the South hive but did really well with the North Hive.  We saw eggs, larvae, pollen- and nectar-filled comb, and a lot of working bees in both hives.

The sound of their buzzing was awesome and slightly intimidating, but once we were in there, I felt like I was in my element.

Mr. Bee, About to Open the South Hive

Beekeepers use smoke because it drives the bees down into the hive. Their survival instinct upon sensing smoke is to fill their stomachs, which makes them a bit more calm during inspections.

We were disappointed to see that the size of feeder we chose allowed for too much space between the frames.  You can see to the top of the photo below, the appropriate amount of "bee space", and to the right bottom where the bees are busy filling up the extra space with comb.

South Hive

Here is a shot of those busy bees crawling all over the frame while I was taking a look for eggs and larvae.  Seeing eggs and larvae means that the queen is laying, which is exactly what we were looking for in the first inspection.

A Frame From the South Hive
One of my favorite parts about inspection was that when I pried the frames apart, the bees held arms & legs to try and stay together until they just couldn't anymore.  You can see several strings of bees in the unfocused parts of the photos below. Such dedication.

Hanging On
We pulled this piece of comb, stuffed with pollen, off of the South Hive.  Though we rushed through the inspection, this allowed us to see that there is plenty of pollen coming in. This is important because pollen is a source of protein for the bees.

Did you know that pollen comes in all sorts of colors? We've seen shades of yellow & orange coming into our hives, but I've seen photos of pink, blue, and green pollen.

Pollen-Filled Comb from South Hive
After our work was finished, Little Bee had green beans for supper. He is superbly happy in the outdoors.

My little girl had a special job - manning the squirt bottle. All the dandelions were thoroughly watered... and also her dad.  She was very serious when she ran up to me and said, "Mom, I am a beekeeper, too."  Soon we'll have to invest in a bee suit for her.

We have brand new beekeeping eyes, but we wondered if the South hive may be a little stressed since there seemed to be less bees and the comb was pretty wonky in that extra space.  We did change the feeding situation and added frames to the brood box to correct the space, so we hope that the next inspection will show some improvement.

The North Hive was simply wonderful to observe.  The brood was being developed right in the middle of the box, there were tons of eggs & larvae, and there seemed to be more bees.

All the beekeepers we have met have told us that they are continually learning and that bees, though they are studied and observed, can be unpredictable.  Though our hearts are set on helping the bees succeed, we are learning to embrace that we are working with wild animals, and it seems we will be learning some life lessons from these tiny but intricate creatures. 

I can't wait for the next inspection!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Springtime in Minnesota

Our bees have been in the hive a week now, but we're unable to open the hives up to inspect the frames for a few more days - until the rain is gone.  From what we understand, it's good to open the hives on a sunny, calm day.
Even though we're aching to look inside those boxes and see if they're establishing themselves well, we've been patient and watching from the outside of the hives instead.  It's not too hard to enjoy the outdoors here in the springtime.

Little Ones in the Spring Sunshine

Bird Camouflage

I always love seeing robins because it tells me that spring is really upon us. They sing a beautiful song while the sun is setting.

We have gone out several times to look at the bees working. Watching the bees at the entrance of the hive can give some indications.  The photo below, for example, shows that the bees are foraging and finding pollen to bring back to the hive for food.  You can see the pollen with the bee on the right, on her back legs, the golden-colored clump.

Beautiful Sunsets Light Up the trees

We are looking forward to opening up the hives, and I'm looking forward to sharing with you about our first inspection.  In the next couple of weeks, I'm hoping to also share some honeybee facts with you. Until then, I'll finish with another photo of our busy bees.  Thanks for this photo, Mr.T!

Sunday, May 12, 2013


...was May11, 2013.  This was an exciting day for us as we (finally) received our two packages of Italian honeybees.  It has been a long winter season, and aside from the hope of spring that is now shooting up everywhere here in central Minnesota, we have the great hope for our bees and the beginning of our adventure as beekeepers.

May 10, 2013 (Pre-Bees)

It had been a long process of dreaming, researching, reading, asking questions, hoping, wondering, and now working. I had especially been waiting for the moment when I saw the package of bees, wondering how I would respond. Seeing them for the first time in such a group was amazing, and I didn't feel any fear... until we let them out.

First Look at our "Girls"

My New Suit

Mr. M, Meeting the New Bees

Mr. Bee, Getting the Pro-Feeder Filled

We were grateful to have the help of Mr. M.  He's been keeping bees for 10 years and was a calming presence and a voice of experience for us as we put the bees in and released the queen.  This was a moment that stuck out to me: Mr. Bee's gloves, brand new, contrasted with Mr. M's well-worn gloves. Perhaps someday our gloves will look as well-loved.

Already Checking out the Place

My Favorite Photo of the Day

Our Bees' Happy Home

After our first time putting bees in, I think that few people have what they need to accomplish the things they daydream about and I'm privileged to have this opportunity with my husband. This endeavor has already brought much happiness to our family, and I look forward to sharing more of our experiences, photos, and thoughts with you as we go along.