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.