Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Second Boxes

We had a calm and restful Memorial Day weekend and hope you did, too. On Sunday, we all went out to see the bees. 

Mr. Bee was very pleased with how all of the hives looked.  Each one was ready for the next super, which means the number of bees is growing. You can see, below, a fresh super on top of the first hive. It's filled with empty frames and will soon be filled with comb and bees!

Before the supers went on, though, Mr. Bee did a lot of housekeeping...well, "hive-keeping".

Here you can see that where bees have extra space, they build comb! This is what Mr. Bee had to clean off, and he found that he needed to adjust the measurements for the boards that hold the feeders.

My favorite photo so far this year...

...and a peek at the pollen our girls have been storing, yellow, deep orange, and green.

Mr. T came out for a visit and stood to the side.  If you're ever near a hive, you'll want to leave space for the working bees to come and go from the hive entrance. We are so thankful to Mr. T, for his support and especially for letting us keep all of these busy creatures on his land.

It's nice to see the bees are busy and that their numbers are growing.  We are full of concern for them, much like last year, but I think we're staying on top of things. The bees are busy, so I'm looking forward to updating you again soon with what they've been up to.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

First Inspections

We really jumped right in to this year's beekeeping and Mr. Bee has already been very busy with maintenance.

Can I say that spring has sprung?  Is it actually official now? Maybe??  

Trees are a major source of pollen for the bees, so they have already been collecting quite a lot. The nectar is not yet at a strong flow, so we have been feeding the bees (using Mr. Bee's clever feeding method) with a simple sugar syrup to give them plenty to work with until the "nectar flow".

If you look closely at the back legs of bee in the top center, you'll see some nice yellow pollen pellets on her legs. It's so exciting!  All three hives are bringing in pollen...

...and all three hives are now building and filling comb with pollen and nectar.

The best news is that Mr. Bee also found eggs in each hive, which is VERY important.  It means that the queens were accepted and that each one is busy laying eggs.  We are counting the days until the new bees hatch, and Mr. Bee is already preparing to add more space for Hive 1 (the rightmost in the photos of all the hives I've shown before). Hive 2 is the middle, and "My Hive" is the leftmost. I'm sorry we didn't come up with more clever names for the hives, but that could still happen. I can tell you that My Hive is already clearly more aggressive than the others.  This is most likely due to the temperament of the queen. These girls have also been a little slower at comb-building compared to the other hives, while Hive 1 is all ready for another super full of frames to fill up!

Check out these bees below, very busy filling the comb and getting ready to make honey.  More about how they do this in another post.

My favorite photo from the first inspection is below. This is not quite in focus, but you can clearly see the pollen pellet on this girl's hindmost leg. I'm still daydreaming about where this pollen came from...a dandelion? ...a tree? ...next door? ...a mile away?  I think it's a nice thing to wonder.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

"Bee Day"

We are up and running again for the bee season!

We brought the kiddos out to Mr. T's to get the space ready for the bees...and to explore this little part of his yard. Little Miss was pretty happy to collect dried up prairie grass and weeds that had somehow stayed upright during winter.

She was also very serious about helping us get ready for our bees.

Baby Bee, who I should now call "Little Mr." was happy to touch pine needles and walk around the grove. He's into everything these days, but I was happy to see that he wasn't overly brave on his own here...yet.

Everyone helped Mr. Bee pack the dirt...

...and we got it level! We are using frames in our hive with foundation (wax already laid out in tiny hexagons), but natural comb would be built by the bees according to the level of the earth, not necessarily to the positioning of the hive.  So, while it's not extremely vital for the type of keeping we're doing, it's an interesting fact!  Also, we used my Dad's level, which was special for me.

Then, on Saturday, it was what we call "Bee Day".  We drove two hours north to Hackensack, MN, for our scheduled pick-up time.  It was fun to see all the beekeepers walking around, and since we enjoy people watching, to see what types of people they were.

The kids were so excited to be out of the car and collect pine cones that I'm not sure they understood what was happening until we got back to the car and got ready to load the three packages of bees. Little Mr. certainly doesn't understand how to behave around bees, so we were already trying to teach him "no touch." Still, see how happy he is? It was precious, and he's this way pretty much all the time.

Little Miss was fine with the idea of riding in the car with 30,000 bees.  Apparently this is normal for her, which I love.  She was far more concerned about whether we'd be bringing home the three and one-half-foot, scorched pine branch she'd found (not pictured). We did bring it home.

After a long day of driving, the kids went to Grandma's and Mr. Bee and I got to work together to get our new girls into the hives.

We took care of one hive at a time, starting with the queen.  We replaced the cork in the queen box with a marshmallow.  By the time the bees eat through the marshmallow and release her, they should accept her as the queen of the hive. Here's the queen from the first hive we filled up.

Once the queen's box was suspended between the frames in the middle of the hive, it was time to dump the bees in...literally.  This is really cool to watch, and I even found the courage to do it for the last hive!

I replaced the missing frames into those spaces (below), we left them some food (sugar syrup), placed the lid and moved on.  This was a LOT of bees for me, but the numbers will be great for a (hopefully) strong start to the season.

We're excited to have a go at three hives this year, and here they are!  Introducing,... we haven't decided on how to label or name the hives yet.  I'll get back to you on that.  What I do know is that I've claimed the leftmost hive (below) to be "my" hive.  I leveled out the ground for that one, helped get the queen ready, and dumped in the bees. I also told them to get to work, which may have been silly since they were definitely the fiercest-sounding and -behaving of the hives.

Mr. Bee was amazing and I felt a lot of pride for his hard work and preparation and in our time together getting the bees in. He, being dressed in black and dark brown - and looking an awful lot like a bear (to a honeybee, I thought) - was very collected, even when he got stung once in the meat of his thumb. I was very nervous to be around that many bees again, but with some deep breaths and a bee brush to "get some of them off of me, please," I was fine, too.

This was an accomplishment for us and we're feeling very ready for the challenge.

We woke up to sun and "high pollen allert" this morning, and I was happy for our honeybees. We're already heading out today to see if they need more syrup and if they are collecting any pollen.  I am excited to update you again soon, especially about our first inspection in a couple of weeks.