Tuesday, December 22, 2015

If thou wilt have the favour of thy bees, that they sting thee not, thou must avoid such things as offend them; thou must not be unchaste or uncleanly for impurity and sluttiness (themselves being most chaste and neat) they utterly abhor; thou must not come among them smelling of sweat, or having a stinking breath, caused either by eating of leeks, onions, garlic or the like, or by any other means, the noisomeness whereof is corrected by a cup of beer; thou must not be given to surfeiting or drunkenness; thou must not come puffing or blowing unto them, neither hastily stir among them, nor resolutely defend thyself when they seem to threaten thee; but softly moving thy hand before thy face, gently put them by; and lastly, thou must be no stranger unto them.  In a word, thou must be chaste, cleanly, sober, sweet, quiet, and familiar; so they will love thee and know thee from all others.

--Charles Butler, 17th century beekeeper.
12/22/15: I keep deciding that Lone Star is dead, and she keeps surprising me!

It rained all day and all  night yesterday, so the bees stayed close to home. This morning I went outside and checked on them. As expected, lots of bees going in and out of Raven. But to my delighted surprise, lots of bees going in and out of Lone Star as well!

No ants in Raven, so I will probably put a feeder out there as well.

Lone Star hasn't been taking much from their feeder, but I'll check and refill if necessary.

Come on, girls! You can do it!!

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Pre-Japan inspection

We leave for Japan tomorrow, and I wanted to check on the hives before we leave. I was worried about them, but I am a little encouraged now   I decided to treat them for Varroa, but I couldn't figure out how to do it. I bought two different kinds of treatments, but neither seemed right. I finally read about Oxalic Acid dribble on the Honey Bee Suite site, and that seemed doable to me. I did an Oxalic Acid dribble treatment on October 18th, but I didn't realize that you needed to open up the bars so the dribble could go in!  Doh! So I did it again on the 19th and opened the bars up. I feel very comfortable with the OA dribble as a treatment process. I am less comfortable with the sugar shake mite test, mainly because I am not confident about getting enough bees in the cup! At any rate, I finally treated. Unfortunately, I treated pretty late in the season and they were probably dealing with the mites for too long   I have been worried about Lone Star, because there just aren't very many bees. I had sort of resigned myself to losing that hive  but I inspected them today, and I am a little encouraged. There was a respectable amount of capped honey in there, there was pollen, and brood, and I saw some larvae! I saw the queen, too! There weren't very many bees, but maybe, just maybe, there will be enough to get through the winter! I hope so, because they are gentle, lovely bees   I also inspected Raven, and they were very strong. Lots of (hopefully enough!!) capped honey, good amount of pollen, brood and larvae  and I saw the queen! Lots more bees in Raven, all very purposeful   I am not worried about Raven.  Raven has always been more aggressive than Lone Star, and I wonder if they may have some Africanized genetic material. That might account for their strength against Varroa mites (since I treated so late) and their nasty demeanor. Maybe.   We have a garden box outside the kitchen window, and there is lots of basil and other herbs planted there  every day I can look outside and see the bees diving into the flowering basil. At least they are getting something to eat! It is so nice being able to see whether they have come out in the morning or are sleeping in! We will plant more bee plants next year   But on the whole, I am encouraged. I inspected both hives bare handed today. I think they calm down this time of year   I am taking honey as gifts to family in Japan, and I printed some photos of the hives and the bees and the comb to give as well.  Just looking at the pictures made me realize how much I have come to appreciate the fuzzy little beasties.    

Wednesday, August 12, 2015


Tom came over to help me go through Lone Star. Everything looked great, and he convinced me to take two very full bars, leaving 26 (I think).  It was very exciting! I cut the comb into 18 little cassettes and processed 2 half pints of honey.  I am feeling pretty good! I have bad ants in the hive and lots of yellow jackets, so I put a trap out there. In a couple of hours, there were 20 or more of the little jerks in the trap. I didn't know there were so many out there!    

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Watering the bees

One of the things you have to provide for your bees is a source for water. Especially if your neighbor has a swimming pool, like mine does!

I have set up a bucket with a rope and a mop head in it. This gives the bees somewhere to land while they get the water. It's funny. They want it to be a little ways away from the hive and not visible from the hive. And they like the water to be dirty. Go figure! Here is a picture of the bucket, with some bees buzzing around.

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

Hive Inspection

I donned ALL my gear and inspected the hives again today. I even wore the gloves and smoked them. The smoke seemed to rile them up a little instead of settling them down, but I don't know them very well yet.

I added two empty bars to each hive. There are 14 bars in Raven. I didn't count in Lone Star, but probably the same.

I saw the Raven queen, so that was nice. She is doing a good job!

I filled the moats up again with Soy oil and topped them with cayenne as well. The dogs were interested in the soy but not the cayenne. I didn't see any ants.

Bees are EXCELLENT Teachers!

I am a true beekeeper now. I got stung twice last week. I'm not sure what I did wrong. Maybe it was too windy. The stings hurt a LOT, but the pain didn't last long. Yet another rite of passage.

But the bees taught me a GREAT lesson on Saturday! I had prepared their sugar syrup and was letting it cool on the stove. I lost track of time, and was dressed for a concert of Elijah that evening. At the last minute, I remembered the syrup and decided to just go out and give it to them. Take two minutes.

So out I went.

As I was filling the first feeder, I noticed a bee was on my sleeve, and she was trying to sting me! I brushed her off, and another one started heading in at me. I filled the feeder, grabbed the other one to fill, and a bunch of bees were dive-bombing me! I finished up fast and headed inside. They followed me all the way to the door!

Why you might ask, if you haven't been reading bee books. Or, Why you might ask, if you have been reading bee books and forgot something important.

Bears. Bears are a major predator of bees, and for thousands of years bees have protected their hives by aggressively driving bears away. That is why beekeepers wear white suits and white veils. Polar bears? No problem for bees. Black bears? Big problem!

So, they taught me an excellent lesson. Pay attention. Remember what you know. Don't go to the hives in a bear costume. 

Friday, May 22, 2015


OK, here is what I think the calendar may look like!

May 1st: Installed package of bees

May 6th: Released the queens

May 7th: First eggs laid?

+21 days

May 28th: First eggs hatch!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015


Tom came over today to help me examine my hives. They are both doing great!!  Woohoo!!!!
He also taught me how to flip the bar over so you can look at both sides! Look how much more comb the bees have made!!!

My bee guru, Tom!

I found the queen in both hives. She is the large dark bee with the blue paint on her. The paint makes it easier to find her. When her eggs hatch, her daughters will be smaller and darker than the bees in the hive now, to whom she is not related. I think she is elegant looking!
Can you see the Queen!
Close up of the queen. The cells with caps on them are brood cells. There are bee larva in there getting ready to hatch! If you look closely you can see larva in one of the uncapped cells as well.

Here is a close up of the brood comb (capped brood cells). You can see the larva curled up in a few of the open cells as well. Baby bees are coming!

All the baby bees have to be fed, so the bees are out gathering pollen and nectar. This one is on ice plant. See the pollen pompoms under her armpits?

Both hives had lively, well functioning queens who are doing their job of laying eggs. The worker bees are doing their job of building comb, filling the cells with nectar and pollen (and sugar syrup), and taking care of the eggs and larva. My hives are thriving!!

I took a short video of a bee on an ice plant flower right next to the hives. I never realized how vigorously they worked the flowers to get the pollen. Surprisingly aerobic! No lollygagging!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015


It has been a week since I released the queens, and I wanted to check and see how things were going. I girded my loins (donned my jacket and veil), loaded and lit the smoker, and entered the hives yesterday.

The smoker worked much better this time. I had to restart it once, but it gave a nice amount of smoke to the endeavor. I couldn't tell that it calmed the bees down particularly, but eight centuries of beekeeping lore must be respected!

My goals for going into the hive were:

  • See if queens were alive and well
  • Find and fix any cross combing
  • Remove any burr comb
  • Look for eggs, larva, pollen, or nectar cells
I opened Raven first, working from the bar farthest from the entrance and moving forward. 

The first bar (closest to the follower board) had a small comb on it. 


 The second comb was bigger. It had pollen in some of the cells. 

The third bar had nectar in a few cells and maybe some were capped at the top. And on the fourth bar was the QUEEN! She was crawling around looking busy. Yahoo!

The fifth bar had lots of comb. Six through 7 had less comb. 

I didn't see any eggs, but I did see very cute bee butts sticking out of some of the cells. I guess they were putting pollen or nectar in there. (I need to read up on pollen and nectar!) As I got ready to put the first bar back in the hive, most of the bees had left it, so you could see the comb better.

After I closed up Raven, I opened up Lone Star. 

I didn't write down about each bar with Lone Star because I was afraid that I was keeping the hives open too long. 

But I found the QUEEN busily walking around on bar 7. 

The photo below shows one of the bigger combs.


I was nervous going in, but I think I did ok. Whew!

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Pollen Delivery Service!

I sat out by the hives this afternoon and watched the bees flying in and out of Lone Star and I could see them carrying pollen into the hive. Yay, bees!!

The pollen was white, yellow, and orange, depending, I guess, on the flowers. It looks like they are carrying pom poms under their armpits. Good girls!

They ignored me sitting there so close to the entrance. I'm sure I'll get stung sometime, but so far they are very uninterested in the likes of me! They've got a job to do and I am irrelevant.

Saturday, May 09, 2015


I dreamed last night that one of my hives swarmed. The swam landed on my hand, and they were carrying white comb with them. I tried to take them back to the hive to re home them. I guess I feel like the bees are in my hands!

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Release the Queens!

The day has come to release the queens.

We interrupt this broadcast to show you the beautiful way I decorated the hives, which I did with a $15 wood burning kit. Pretty, huh?
Lone Star Hive

Raven Hive

Back to the Queens

I used the smoker for the first time. I was better at getting the smoker started than I was at keeping it going, but I think this is a common problem among new beekeepers.

I smoked Raven, and opened her up. I took out a couple of bars on the end and gently lifted the queen cage up and brushed all the bees off. She was moving around in there and looked good. I pried up the cork and gently held the cage inside the hive for a few seconds. When I checked, she had left the cage. Hopefully she was in the hive. I closed it up and all was well.

Did you see my mistake?

After smoking the girls to calm them down, I opened Lone Star and took out a few bars to make room to get the queen cage out. As I was taking out one of the bars, OH MY GOD!!  There was honeycomb!! I was totally surprised! I forgot they were supposed to be doing this! They have been working working working in there! Look how pretty and white and pristine it is!!

I looked at the rest of the bars and found comb on four or five of them. I was too excited to pay really close attention, which I should have done. But I did notice that they were all straight, none were cross combed (attached to each other), and I didn't see any burr comb (comb attached to places where it shouldn't be, like the side walls or the floor). They are good little bees and are doing exactly what they are supposed to be doing!!  Yay, bees!

So did you see my mistake? When I released the queen in Raven, I neglected to look at all the bars to see if they had comb yet. So I opened it up again and checked. There were indeed combs, but there weren't as many and they were smaller. I think my not securing the cage and it falling to the bottom of the hive slowed them down. Hopefully they will persevere in spite of having an ignorant but well-meaning beekeeper.

So, all in all, it was a very exciting venture into the hives!

Monday, May 04, 2015



I haven't posted on this site in seven years. I enjoy going back and reading all the posts about Gail being on dialysis and then getting her transplant. It's been a great seven years.

I'm going to start posting again because I have been inspired by Tom Sherwood and his posting about bees. Since I just got my beehives set up, I'm going to do the same.

I decided to go with top bar hives because the square Langstroth hives are so heavy. Plus they are theoretically better for the bees. You get less honey production, but I'm not in it for the honey anyway.

I ordered my beehives from Bee Thinking in Portland, and they are beautiful! They are Western cedar and I put tung oil on them to preserve them a little.

I used a wood burner to put a Lone Star on one hive and two ravens on the other. I love them.

Gail and I picked up two bee packages at Mountain Feed and Seed at 7:30 in the morning on May 1, 2015. We were the first in line (not a surprise)!

 We let the bees stay in their packages for a while. Tizi was interested but not alarmed. 

 Tom came over on Saturday to help me install the package. It was interesting and I felt pretty good about handling them. There is so much I don't know, but I try to be deliberate and think about what I am doing. I was immensely proud of myself for feeling comfortable enough to eschew gloves while installing them. 

When I opened the package, it looked like this:
Box O' Bees!

I dumped them in the hives and the bees started moving in and out of their entrances. 

I was very happy. 

I checked them that night through the windows. Lone Star looked great. The bees were all in a nice globular swarm around the hanging queen cage. 

Raven was another story. There were two loose clumps hanging down and bunch of bees on the bottom. First thing Sunday morning I checked, and I was right. The queen cage had fallen to the bottom. I sent Gail and Michelle on the church and suited up to go back into the hive. It was a LOT harder to maneuver in the hive when it was full of bees!It was early in the morning and they were all in there and all sleeping and didn't particularly like getting awakened. But if her cage had fallen face down, they wouldn't have been able to feed her, so it was essential that I get her back up. 

I found her cage and I think it was face down, but it was hard to tell because they were all over it. She was moving around in there, so I think she was no worse for wear. I hung the cage back up and secured it with a thumbtack and some blue painters tape. I did wear gloves for this activity since I was messing with the queen and they might be protective of her. The gloves are nice and thick but really clumsy. 

I checked the other hive to be sure the queen was still suspended and it looked fine. 

I was really nervous that the hive would be unhappy about being disturbed so soon after their arrival in their new home. This morning (Monday), I checked and Raven has a lovely globe of bees hanging from the queen cage. So I think all is well. 

They had both eaten about half of the jar of sugar syrup, so I gave them the rest of the syrup in the can from their package. 

At this point, Day 3, I think everything is ok. I need more rope or a mop head or something to give them something to land on in their water bucket, and I will put vegetable oil in their saucers soon. But other than that, I think we are good.