Sunday, June 30, 2013

Wildflowers and Special Memories

We've had a beautiful week of summer. I haven't been personally out to see our bees in weeks, so it was a wonderful surprise to see the amount of wildflowers that have sprung up in front of our hives. It was a great choice on the part of Mr. T to stop mowing that area - in part so he doesn't get "anyone" - namely, the bees - upset, but also because it's particularly beautiful these days!
Don't these hives seem comfortable here?

The hives are looking great and are our girls are busy working on filling up the second deep supers that we provided.  I think we'll be ready for our first honey supers this next week!

This next photo shows some new comb, being "drawn out." They built a little cell small enough to squeeze into and deep enough to hold brood, honey, pollen, or nectar.

This photo is interesting to me because I feel like my eyes find the comb first - and the stinger on that bee!  Isn't this honey-white comb beautiful?

We had to scrape some comb off of the bottom of a frame and I saw this later stage of the larvae for the first time. In this stage, the bees put a cap over the cell for the final part of development. ...Sort of creepy and very cool!

"Bee Space" - They don't need much!

It was a great inspection and the bees were in a good mood. They do have a lot to be busy with these days and we're getting a bit more efficient at inspection each time we do it.

Miss Bee got to meet our bees for the first time, and we did try to persuade her to become a beekeeper.  She was brave around the "girls" - just as we expected, and we found a little bit of honey for her to taste.

I am so proud of our Bee Family and it was a simply lovely time together.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Honey Bee Facts

We've added the next supers (boxes) and frames to the hives so the bees can work on filling them up with more brood (eggs and larvae) and honey.  In the meantime, here are a couple honey bee facts:

There are three characters in a honey bee colony:
  • The Queen - Her job is to lay eggs.  Her attendants even feed her and clean up after her so she can keep working. She is the fertile female of the colony, and there is one queen per hive. A good queen can lay 2,000 to 3,000 eggs each day.
  • The Worker - Worker bees (the ones you see flying outside collecting pollen) are infertile females.  They are in charge of many tasks, such as housekeeping, guarding the hive, feeding the queen, drones, and brood, maintaining hive temperature, collecting pollen and nectar...etc.
  • The Drone - The male bees whose only purpose is to mate with a queen. Only one in one thousand actually get the chance to mate.  Drones hang out around the hive, eat, and get kicked out at the end of the season when the workers don't have any more food to spare.
A worker bee's life span is between 6 and 8 weeks. The most common cause of death is wearing out her wings. During her life, she may produce around 1/12 a teaspoon of honey, but may fly the equivalent of 1 and one-half times the circumference of the earth.

Source: American Beekeeping Federation

I'm out of time for today but am looking forward to sharing many more honey bee facts with you.  They are tiny but intricate creatures!

Coming Soon... information about the differences between honey bees, bumble bees, and wasps, and about how much of our diet is pollinated by honeybees.

Friday, June 14, 2013

High Hopes

We're in the throngs of end-of-the-year activities for our kids... Miss Bee is graduating and celebrating, Little Miss Bee had her first-ever dance recital and wants to be continually outside, and Little Mr. Bee is now crawling... yikes!

If all of these things weren't reason enough to have beautiful memories and hopes for the future, we're really rooting for our honey bees.

There is evidence of spring (finally) everywhere.  By the time I'm posting this, the maples have already let their seeds to the wind.

Mr. Bee's new feeders have been working great, as you can see below.  Although it's still been quite rainy, the sunny days here and there mean the bees have to get their numbers up.  High numbers mean more workers, which means more pollen, nectar, and honey to help them survive the winter.

I apologize that the following photo is blurry.  Maybe you can pretend there's some mystical sort of filter on the lens to make it all look magical...  In reality, it's just taken with a shorter lens and cropped so you can see this bee, legs loaded with pollen!
We're going to add the next level of deep supers (the boxes on the hive) to the hives this week so the bees can start capping up some honey for the winter.  They sure have a lot of work to do!  In the meantime, we'll be enjoying the Minnesota summer.  I look forward to getting you an update soon.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Exercising My Senses

It has been too rainy here lately... Well, not in general.  We did have a drought in Minnesota last year, so we need all the moisture we can get.  For our bees, it's another story.  They can't fly in the rain, so they are forced to stay in the hive.

We had a cloudy afternoon without rain over the weekend, so Mr. Bee and I ran out to check our new feeders and take a peek at the inside of the hives. I really noticed the sounds and smells of the hives this time.

My First In-Flight Bee Photo - I love it.

Coming in for a Landing - I love this shot, too!
Through my camera lens, I saw a lot of pollen coming into both hives. This isn't shown in the photo above, but believe me, it was there.

Mr. Bee
Mr. Bee is proud of his work to correct a problem we had with the Pro-Feeders. We had too many bees drowning and the size we chose left too much space between the remaining frames. Mr. Bee did a lot of thinking and came up with this:

Our New Feeders
This is sort of like a Boardman feeder, except it it built on a board that covers the entire hive.  The bees can get to it from inside, there is no drowning, we can check and replace syrup with little disturbance, we can cover the syrup from possible snatchers, and the temperature stays more consistent (in the cold nights we've been having) because of the temp of the hive.  I am so proud!

A View Through the Feeder

I could really smell the smoke for the hives and just stood, for a moment, listening to the hum of the busy hives. Here is a view of what we saw when we opened the North hive:
A View from Above the North Hive

During an inspection, we may pull out any or all of these frames to see what the bees are doing.
I was especially excited to catch my first view of capped brood - a stage the growth where eggs turn to larvae, and then are capped over to grow until they finally emerge as a honey bee. Below I have a photo of my first glance at capped honey cells. When I lifted up these frames, I smelled the honey, so sweet.  It was really exciting.

Capped Honey Comb, A Good Sign
The South hive has some messed up spacing.  When I pulled one of the frames, a chunk of honeycomb fell off and the honey dripped right onto the adjacent frames.  This was amazing: the bees are so very careful with the honey - their food - that they immediately circled around to clean it up.

What stuck out to me about this hive was the "buzz" - it was much louder this time. This hive has consistently been very grumpy about our inspections.  It could be a result of a grumpy queen, but we'll be keeping our eyes on things to make sure they're not stressed. Regardless, they were taking turns flying towards my face and hands.  I have to admit I finished a bit faster than I expected because it started making me nervous.
Saving the Spilled Honey
It was a little stressful trying to figure out how to help the South hive, mostly because we really want them to do well. Trial and error, we keep thinking... this is how we will learn.

The end of the inspection was the most sweet:

Mr. Bee and Me, Our first taste of the Honey
We got out first taste of the honey! I've had a lot of honey in my life, and I always enjoy it, but this seemed to be the sweetest honey I've ever tasted.  Perhaps it was because it was really sweet and light honey, or perhaps it was because we have put so much energy into this.  It was wonderful.