Welcome to the API-ary

Bee Suit and Hive Bee on Crocus

Please mail me with any comments, questions or advice at sink+bees@limey.net.

Diary Entries

Sunday, August 25th, 2002 [weather]

When I went down to check on the honey the next morning I was greeted by a little puddle of honey. Unfortunately the honey gate on the tank had leaked a little, so I got out my tools to tighten all of the hardware holding the gate and put a plate under the gate so I could watch how fast the leak was. On the plus side, the filter bag had drained well and the remaining stuff (mostly wax) looked like oatmeal. Pretty strange.

The cappings that I had in cheesecloth had also pretty much drained out so I bottled that up in a 2 pound honey bear container, a 1/2 pound jar and put the rest into a small tupperware container. I put the cappings wax and the stuff from the filter bag into a plastic container ready for me to process later to get wax.

I washed the bottles and caps that I had when I realized I only had caps for half of the bottles, so I will order more caps on Monday. Christine and I bottled 26 1 pound jars of honey (about half of it). We will get the rest later. And there might be two more supers to extract at the end of the month, with any luck.


Saturday, August 24th, 2002 [weather] [entered]

On Friday morning (7:20 AM, 64.4° F) I entered the back hive to put an escape board on the hive. This is a neat tool, basically it is a one way door for bees to allow them out of the honey supers, but prevents them from returning. There are a few designs but the one that I have has a bunch of little funnels that the bees can squeeze out of, but are just small enough to prevent their return since their wings, feet and antennae are not compressed by the funnel. Out of the four honey supers on the hive two seemed ready for extraction so I moved the other two down, placed the escape board on top of them, then put the two I wanted to extract honey from on top of the escape board and capped the whole thing off with the cover. I taped up a hole in the top two boxes and left them alone. Since the weather was a little chilly at night the bees would move down to huddle together for warmth and not be able to get back up. Or so went the theory.

On Saturday (1:30PM, 58° F) I crossed my fingers and hoped that the honey supers would be bee free. And they were! The escape board worked well, there were only a few bees in the super. I took off the two supers and blew the remaining bees out with an electric leaf blower. I rushed the supers into the garage, closed the doors and taped up any holes.

We set up a processing line with the supers at one end, an uncapping station and then the extractor at the other end. We kept a crock pot set to high filled with hot water to keep the two uncapping knives hot so that they melted the wax nicely and could make good, clean cuts through the cell caps. Next was a table with a strainer lined with cheesecloth to catch the cappings and allow us to separate the cappings from the wax. Finally came the extractor (a giant food-safe centrifuge) to allow us to spin the 2 frames to get all of the honey out. You have to stop half-way through and turn the combs around to get the cells on the other side. At the bottom of the extractor there is a honey gate and I set it up on a work bench with a 5 gallon container below it (also fitted with a honey gate so I can get the honey back out) and above this was a tall filter consisting of a double thickness of fine nylon mesh.

At 2PM Christine and I started to extract the honey. So we cut through the cappings on the first frame and it went pretty well! I scratched off any additional cappings that the knife had missed with a wickedly sharp tool called (inventively enough) a cappings scratcher. Basically it is a bunch of sharp nail/needles pointing out a handle. Then when we had cut the cappings off both sides of two frames I loaded them into the extractor and we started spinning. The thing shook quite a bit so I tried tying it down to the table from the top. We each took turns spinning (exhausting work) and got both sides spun out. I started to get a bit worried... no honey was coming out of the bottom.

At this point the cavalry rode in a silver Subaru. Heléne, Dave, Q, MT and Kate piled out to help. Things really started to pick up as we all took turns spinning the extractor, holding it down, and uncapping and honey started pouring out of the extractor. We piled through both supers pretty quickly and Dave plotted ways to add a motor to the extractor. By the time we were done we had almost filled the 5 gallon container!

We cleaned up the work room, filled the extractor with water, put the honey in the small bathroom downstairs with the dehumidifier going (to heat it up to allow the remaining honey in the filter to percolate out and to lower the humidity so the honey did not absorb too much moisture). I put the two empty supers back on the hive above the inner cover so the bees would clean the remaining honey out. The last thing was to hang the cheesecloth containing the cappings up so the honey would drain out, then it was time for pizza.

Many thanks to all who helped... It would have taken much longer without you.


Sunday, August 4th, 2002 [weather] [entered]

I opened both hives at 6:30 PM (86.5° F) and the new hive is doing really well. They have filled both of the shallow honey supers so I added a third. I need to start thinking about extracting!

The front hive is not doing as well, they have not put anything into the honey super, although they have not eaten much of the sugar syrup that they I have on the hive.

Sunday, June 30th, 2002 [weather] [entered]

I opened both hives at 1:30 PM (82.4° F). I seem to be doing much better with my smoker since the bee club people gave me some pointers. I am starting with a quarter leaf of newspaper and getting that lit and burning nicely, then I pack in a decent amount of dried leaves, but I leave a hole down the side (using my hive tool) to allow a chimney from the bottom so the fire does not put itself out.

The first hive does not appear to be doing too well, even though the mite levels are low. I opened it up and inspected it from the bottom to the top (as the bee club dude Gus suggested). The bottom brood chamber is pretty much packed with honey. However, there is still the undrawn frame from when I transferred a frame of brood over to the new hive. There were not many bees on the frames and there was not a lot of flight activity so the overall numbers appear down. The top brood chamber also had a lot of honey in it, but I finally found brood and spotted the queen. Her brood pattern was spotty but there were a lot of honey cells interspersed with the brood (all of varying ages). I am not sure if the hive is honey bound, meaning that the bees have stored honey everywhere so there is no room to lay eggs, or if the queen is getting old and needs to be replaced. Finally, the honey super had a little honey in it, so hopefully the bees will store stuff up there and consume their stores to make room for more eggs. I think that I need to move this hive to a sunnier location at some point.

The newer hive is very strong. There was good flight activity at the entrance (a small cloud of bees were hovering as they tried to land and take off). Inside the hive there were also lots of bees. Again, I inspected the hive from the bottom to the top, stacking the supers off to the side before inspecting them (so that the smoke doesn't drive all the bees to the bottom box). The bottom brood chamber was packed with capped brood and some uncapped larvae. I didn't see the queen or any eggs, but there were larvae of all ages. There was a little honey around the tops of the frames, maybe 10-15%, but not much. The brood pattern was excellent, each frame was completely populated, and there were some drone cells built below the frames. I did notice one bee with deformed wings so there are mites in this hive too, but they do not seem too strong, so I will treat them in the fall.

As I was moving the top brood chamber back onto the hive I had a small disaster. I had stacked the top brood chamber on the top of the honey super (with the queen excluder in between them) and as I was lifting the top brood chamber, the honey super came with it. The two were stuck together with propolis (plant resins) that the bees use to plug up holes in the hive to keep out invaders and disease. As soon as I realized what happened I started to put down the two boxes when the bottom one came unglued and crashed to the ground, shaking a bunch of bees off. Surprisingly enough they did not seem to be too angry, but I didn't want to push my luck, so I only pulled one frame from the top brood chamber. All of the six new frames in the top brood chamber seemed to be drawn out with beautiful new wax. The frame I pulled were only about 50% full of honey in about the top third of the cells. I put the excluder back on and the honey super and replaced the syrup container (it is still about 80% full) and put everything back together. The bees on the ground appeared to be able to fly back to the hive. The honey super is still pretty light so they have not put much honey in it yet.

On my todo list for both hives are to put in more oil-soaked paper towels to treat for tracheal mites; to put a sticky board under the new hive to check the mite drop; and to finish the inspection of the new hive.

Sunday, June 23rd, 2002 [weather] [entered]

At 4:15 PM (71.6° F) I took out the miticide that I had on the original hive. This was only 22 days after the installation and I really should have waited 2 complete drone cycles, but I figured that the maximum capped time is only 13 days and that mites only enter the cell just before it is capped so I have killed a decent number of the mites. I will do a full treatment in August in both hives to ensure that any remaining mites are killed.

I did not see the queen or any eggs, but I only looked at half of the frames and those frames were pretty well packed with honey. The top super was quite heavy. There was one frame on the lower left of the hive (looking from behind) that the bees had pretty much removed all the wax from, so I should replace that at some point.

The back hive had lots of bees flying and I didn't have time to open it other than to check the syrup that I have been feeding them. They had emptied the jar, so I replaced the syrup.

Monday, June 17th, 2002 [weather]

I checked the second hive's syrup levels and gave them a top-up last monday (June 10th). Today I put on another sticky board to measure the mite drop and after 48 hours there were only a few mites that had fallen. So I think it is getting near time to remove the miticide and put honey supers back on the hive.

Saturday, June 1st, 2002 [weather] [entered]

Installed two strips of Apistan, one on the top super and one on the bottom. I put the strips 3 frames in from opposite sides to get maximum coverage. I removed the honey super and queen excluder that I had on the hive over to the new colony. If you have Apistan in a hive you can not let the bees touch equipment that you will ever use to collect honey for human consumption. Since the super had some honey in it (but not enough to bother extracting) I moved it over to the new hive as additional food. The original hive had plenty of syrup left.

Finally, I put another vaseline coated board under the first hive to measure the mite drop. This time even more mites fell. Last time there were some juvenile mites (smaller and lighter colored), this time almost all of the mites were adult. So the Apistan seems to do the trick.

Thursday, May 30th, 2002 [weather] [entered]

Installed the screened bottom board on the first hive. This necessitated moving all of the supers off the original hive and swapping the bottom boards. Everything went smoothly. That evening I put a cardboard sheet with some cling film covered with vaseline on it to measure the 24 hour mite drop. The vaseline prevents the mites from moving once they hit the board. The next morning there were thousands of mites on it. I didn't do a count of mites / square inch, but there were lots. I will put on Apistan miticide as soon as I get a chance.

Tuesday, May 28th, 2002 [weather]

Today I got 1/8 inch hardware cloth (#8) and made up a screened bottom board, soon I will swap it in.

The other strange thing is that the first hive has been odd all day, this morning at 7 AM (62.6° F) there were lots of bees on the landing area of the hive and clustered up the front. When I came home at 6 PM (68.0° F) they were still there, and at 8 PM (64.4° F) there were even more. They appeared to be an inch thick at the entrance and were pretty densely packed up the front of the hive. It has been humid all day with scattered thunderstorms and light rain at a couple of occasions. The humidity has been between 95 and 100% all day. I am not sure how much that explains the behavior. Given the thorough inspection this weekend I don't think they are going to swarm since we didn't see populated any swarm cells (as Xine noted when I was worrying they might be about to swarm).


Saturday, May 25th, 2002 [weather] [entered]

Today was the Middlesex County Beekeeper's Association meeting at my house and we had good weather for it, partly sunny and 60.8° F when we opened the hive at 2PM. Things went pretty well although my original hive is pretty heavily infested with varroa, there were three mites visible on one of the larvae, some were visible on the bees and there were some deformed workers. The hive population looked weak to Gus who was performing the inspection and he advised immediate use of strips. On the positive side, we spotted the queen for the first time in that hive; and I learned plenty of good tricks and techniques for a hive inspection (and packing and then keeping a smoker alight).

The inspection of the second hive revealed it to be in strong shape. We could not find the queen though, so we called it quits and started reassembling the hive. Gus put on the inner cover and the syrup feeder and I reached down to get the top body to surround the sugar when I spotted the queen and a worker on top of the hive body! So we put her back in the box and disaster was averted.

After some thought, I have decided to make screened bottom boards for the hives (already on my todo list, but now priority one), and sample the varroa mites in the first hive. I will hold of for treatment for a month because I don't want the bees to swarm and when I treat I will have to take off the honey supers crowding them in. I also want to get some kind of honey crop, so I will frequently inspect them and the mite load and treat only if it gets much worse, if I get a honey super filled, or if a month passes. I can't afford to leave treatment off for too long or I may lose the colony.

Wednesday, May 22nd, 2002 [weather] [entered]

Today was a quick check at 5:30 (75.2° F) to see if the queen was below the excluder. The honey super had primarily hatched larvae in it with only a few eggs. Since there were eggs present, I decided to look in the top brood box to see if there were more eggs which, fortunately there were. The top brood box is pretty congested with some nice capped frames of honey on the sides. There is some space for eggs, but they have packed in the honey pretty well. It was getting a little darker, so I did not go into the bottom brood chamber, I figure we will do the full thing this weekend when the beekeeping meeting is at my house.

Sunday, May 19th, 2002 [weather] [entered]

Checked the hives at about 3 PM (57.2° F). I had not planned to do more than a quick check to see if I needed to put on another honey super, but when I looked in the top of the original hive there were eggs up in the honey super. So, I smoked the top heavily and put on a queen excluder. I never saw the queen so I hope that she is below the excluder. I guess we will see in a few days. Sadly outside the hive there were abut 30 deformed workers with bad wings, so the varroa population is up, I am not sure what to do about that at the moment (while I have a honey super on).

The new hive is doing well, there is plenty of capped worker brood and there were eggs and larvae coming along. The frame of partially drawn comb is coming along. They had finished the sugar syrup that was on the hive so I refilled it.

Saturday, May 11th, 2002 [weather] [entered]

I peeked in the old hive at about 4:30 PM (64.4° F) and there are about 2 frames of honey that are mostly full. I don't need to add a new super yet. I also looked in the new hive and there are lots of workers, the frame I added is about 50% hatched. I also saw... eggs! The new queen is laying, so with any luck I will have new worker brood soon.

Tuesday, May 7th, 2002 [weather] [entered]

Just a quick check on the new hive today after I got home from work (6:00 PM 74.0 ° F). The queen had been released so I removed the cage and some burr-comb that the bees had built to start to fill the extra space and I put back the frame. The bees seem to be doing well. The numbers appeared up so I guess the frame of capped brood I added is boosting the numbers. I didn't do much more than that because I didn't want to spook the bees and have them kill the queen. While I was suited up I peeked in the original hive and there did not appear to be much more honey in place yet.

Sunday, May 5th, 2002 [weather] [entered]

My sister and her fiancé came over at 5:30 PM (71.6° F) and we opened up the first hive. I had decided to take off the queen excluder and reverse the deeps and everything went to plan. Unfortunately I didn't have time to check for queen cells, but the honey super had a little more honey in it. Emily (our little dog) got stung on her snout (she was antagonizing a bee on the ground). Hopefully she will learn that the bees are not playthings.

Saturday, May 4th, 2002 [weather] [entered]

Today was the Middlesex County & Merrimack Valley Sprink Beekeeper's Workshop. It was a glorious day and the turnout at the workshop was great. There were several classes and everyone had the opportunity to attend two. I kinda cheated and went to the first fifteen minutes of Rick Reault's class on comb honey and had a few questions answered then caught the end of Alden Marshall's class on IPM. In the second session I went to Al Horton's class on hive inspection for beginners. During lunch I got my replacement queen from Alden and chatted with people who attended bee school with me. Then we had a hive opening and I ended up in Alden's group where he walked us through how he would do an inspection and what operations he would perform on the hive such as re-locating frames to encourage them to be drawn or laid in.

When I got home I added the new queen to the second hive after doing a full inspection of the three frames the brood is on to see if there were any queen cells. There were a few suspicious cells that I removed (which I am almost positive were empty, but I preferred to be safe). There was a solid frame of honey at the end of the hive and about half a frame in the middle. They have drawn out one side of the new frames of foundation a little more, but the deepest cell is only half the depth it should be. They had also finished the jar of syrup, so I replaced it with one that was only half full (I need to buy more sugar).

I quickly checked the honey super on the first hive and there weren't many bees in it, and there is only a little honey up there. That may be because we have either had windy sunny days, or rainy ones; or it may be because of the queen excluder.

Wednesday, May 1st, 2002 [weather] [entered]

Christine and I went home at lunchtime to take advantage of the great weather (57.2° F)). We opened the second hive to see if anything had been done with the frame that we added and to remove some of the drone brood. There were no queen cells on the new frame. I removed the cappings on lots of the drone cells to try to keep the workers from being overloaded by drones.

Finally we added a queen excluder to the first hive under the honey super, above the 2 deeps. I did this because the queen was in the top deep and I didn't want her to start laying eggs in the honey super.


Saturday, April 27th, 2002 [weather] [entered]

After the bee meeting and spaghetti dinner the night before I was looking forward to getting into the hives. And what a nice day! I went out to check on the bees at about 2 PM (55.4° F) and the original hive was doing well. They have not started storing anything in the honey super I had added. That super had a few bees with their heads in and tails sticking out, I was not sure if I should start feeding them again until I pulled a few frames of the top brood chamber and saw that they had plenty of honey. I didn't see any brood so I figured that they were all in the bottom brood chamber and decided that I didn't need to disturb the hive any more (how wrong I was).

The new hive had decent flight activity and when I opened it there were bees taking the syrup so things initially looked fine. They have started to draw out one side of the undrawn frames (it had about 3mm drawn out in the highest spots). When I hit the first of the drawn comb it had lots of capped brood but it was not tight... but... they all had bulging out caps indicating that they were all going to be drones. There was also a large construction down at the bottom of the frame filled with lots of uncapped queen cups. At first I thought that the queen was dodgy (or dead) and the workers were in the process of superceeding her. The next frame had more of the bulging cells and when I looked on the other side I spotted the queen. At this point I closed the hive up assuming that the superceedure cells would be good and the queen would be replaced.

After I had cleaned up and changed it finally hit me that the queen was a drone layer. For those readers not familiar with bee biology the honey bee is haplodiploid which basically means that females, both workers and queens, have 2 sets of chromosomes (one from the mother and one from the father) as do humans and most other complex life forms, this is called diploid. The males, or drones, only have 1 set of chromosomes which is called haploid. Some forms of life have more than 2 sets of chromosomes (sometimes more than 10) which is called polyploid. Anyway, back to honey bees, when the queen lays an egg she can choose whether to fertilize it from the sperm she has stored from her mating flights, or to lay an unfertilized egg. If she lays a fertilized egg it will hatch into a female bee (and depending on how it is fed by the workers will either become a queen or a worker); however, if the egg is unfertilized it will hatch into a male. This means that male bees have no father! So since all of the capped cells that I could see in the hive were bulging out indicating that the larger drone larvae were inside the queen was laying only unfertilized eggs. This is most likely because she did not get fertilized correctly by the queen rearer who sold her to me (Strongly worded letter to follow).

So if my diagnosis is correct then the new hive has no chance for survival. All of the new bees that are needed to replace the workers will be drones and drones do no work. So the hive will gradually become filled with old workers and young drones. At some point the population will collapse and all the bees will die. So after a quick call to Birgit deWeerd I decided the thing to do would be to transfer a frame with eggs or young larvae from my established colony over to the new one. With the new frame hive could choose one of the eggs or larvae to raise up as an emergency queen. As I mentioned above, the only difference between a queen and a worker is the diet they receive. Up to 18 hours after an egg hatches all larvae are fed royal jelly (protein rich food from worker bee glands). After 18 - 24 hours workers are fed less royal jelly and instead get a mixture of pollen and honey (bee-bread). The future queens continue to be fed royal jelly. So in an emergency if a hive loses its queen (or decides to replace the queen) they simply need to choose a larvae to continue feeding royal jelly and to rebuild the cell the larvae is in to accomodate the larger queen pupae when she is growing.

So I suited up and returned to the hive. This time I was ably assisted by my fearless wife Christine. Now I had to locate a frame with newly hatched larvae or eggs that I could transplant over to the other hive. From my earlier inspection I had concluded that the queen was still in the bottom box so I quickly double checked a few frames in the top and didn't see any young brood. The first frame I pulled from the bottom box had some capped larvae and large uncapped larvae that were too old to be made into queens. So I pulled the rest of the frames from the bottom box and found only uncapped brood. By now the bees were getting a bit testy and Emily was getting very interested so we put her inside. I put the top brood chamber back on and reexamined the frames. Almost immediately I noticed some young larvae in the first top frame that I had pulled. They were tucked in by much older capped brood so I had missed them the first time. After looking at a few more frames I went with the first one since it had a bunch of capped brood cells that would give the new hive a good boost when they hatched. Brushing off the bees was an interesting sensation, they came off cleanly but it was a strange sound and felt a little like brushing thick liquid.

So back into the new hive, this was much quicker because there are only a few frames of bees. I pulled one of the undrawn frames out and put in the transferred brood. The final step was to locate the queen and remove her which I managed to do fairly quickly because she is much darker than the others. I put everything back together and put the undrawn frame in the old hive. Now the only thing to do is wait to see if the new hive makes a queen cell from one of the transferred brood. I decided that I should also break some of the drone cells in the new hive so that there are not hundreds of useless drones taxing the hive when it needs to develop. The old hive probably should have the brood chambers reversed again to try to keep the brood nest uncongested so they don't swarm and I should put the queen excluder under the honey super so that she doesn't start laying eggs in the top boxes.


Saturday, April 20th, 2002 [weather]

What craaazy weather. I cleaned out some more supers to prep them for painting and remembered I needed to check on the new hive just as it started to sprinkle (around 2 PM 62.6° F). So I opened the top, grabbed the empty jar and closed the hive up, cleaned the jar and re-filled it. I put the jar back on and just as I was leaving the hive realized I had been stung on my finger. I figure I grabbed the poor bee as I went to put the lid back on and to compound my mistake I was hurrying to get them covered before the rain got bad. Oh well. Anyway, I think the jar is 1 quart and they finished it 2 weeks after being installed. Hopefully the weather this weekend will cooperate and I can open up the hives for a more complete inspection. Next month the Middlesex County Beekeeper's Association meeting is here, so I hope to have things looking good.

Saturday, April 13th, 2002 [weather] [entered]

At around 3 PM (73.4° F) I inspected the new hive. I wanted to keep this inspection as short as possible to avoid endangering the new queen. I opened the top and they had consumed about half of the syrup (from the large jar, I still have to measure it). After removing the inner cover I looked at the queen cage and was glad to see that the candy plug had been eaten and the queen was gone.

The bees were clustered on the far left side (looking from behind) on the 3 old frames. As I worked my way over to the bees I pushed each frame to the center, closing the gap that the queen cage had occupied. The bees were festooning and had started to draw out the foundation on the new frame closest to the cluster. The frames that the bees had populated appeared to be full of nectar (or syrup) with a handful of pollen cells. I did not seen any brood, however I did see the queen walking on one of the frames.

The dandelions are starting to bloom. Forcythia is in full force and more daffodils are out.


Friday, April 12th, 2002 [weather] [entered]

I performed a complete inspection of the original hive at 4:30 PM (64.4° F). I moved all of the frames from the original hive bodies to newly painted ones and performed a reversal when I put them back together. The bees were mostly in the top super which was packed to the gills with honey, pollen and brood in all stages. The bottom super had some honey but it was substantially lighter than the top.

During the transfer I cleaned each frame and inspected it. The brood pattern looked good and there was plenty of honey so I decided to stop feeding the hive. I didn't see the queen, but there was ample evidence of her presence. There were lots of empty swarm cells on the bottoms of the frames in both the top body and the bottom, most of them looked like they were left over from previous years. In the top body, a few of the swarm cells had larvae in them. I removed all of the swarm cells as I transferred them, but I am not sure that will do too much good.

When I put the hive back together I gave the bottom board a good cleaning, it looks like it is in decent shape. I removed the entrance reducer since the hive was strong and I noticed congestion at the entrance. I added a honey super to try to ease the congestion; between that and the reversal of the bodies I hope to have eased the swarming urge. All in all, things looked great.

Saturday, April 6th, 2002 [weather] [entered]

After some difficulty picking up the packages (both Birgit and I were incorrectly on the NH pickup list) things went pretty smoothly. Xine, Juj and I were all out about 1:30 PM. I was nervous about the weather since snow had been forecast; however it was sunny and about 44° F. I ended up with a Carniolan queen for this hive so it will be interesting to see the difference that makes. I couldn't get all the bees out of the package (I am probably too timid still) so I ended up putting it inside the top cover with the sugar feeder. I left the opening pointing down so hopefully they will move downwards with the rest of the bees to cluster around the queen.

Here are complete pictures of the process ably taken by Xine:

Thursday, April 4th, 2002 [weather]

Sorry about the lack of update. I still haven't entered the hive (other than checking on the syrup). The syrup finally is all gone, Xine noticed no bee activity today so I peeked in the top when I got home from work and there was about an inch of syrup left, but there were bees. I also have varnished (with spar varnish) the 2 unfinised deeps and the 2 unfinished shallows. Tonight I cleaned the burr and propolis off all 4 bodies and loaded one deep with 6 old frames (some with honey, some with pollen, all pretty much drawn and well travel stained) and put 4 new frames with undrawn foundation in the middle. So I think I am ready for the package on Saturday! I still have to clean up the 2 deeps I repainted and hopefully I will be able to transfer the frames from the existing hive over so I can paint those deeps too...

On a botanical note, all the crocuses and snowdrops are up (and on their way out) the squill has started a few days ago and all seems to be up and we have a few daffodils open.

Sunday, March 17th, 2002 [weather]

I did not enter the hive this weekend beyond opening the top cover and looking at the syrup level (about 1/3 has gone). Other than that I got the remaining equipment from Paula's husband. My hive stand is finished but I still have to paint up the remaining bodies before the package of bees arrives in early April.

Sunday, March 10th, 2002 [weather] [entered]

I managed to get some time to tend to the bees at around 10:00 AM (42.8° F) and the escape board had done the trick. There were no bees up above it (there were a few dead bees on the top of the board) and there were some live bees clustering under it. I ended up putting the board aside because the bees started to wander up trhough the hole in the newly exposed inner cover, so I quickly put on the pail of 1:1 sugar syrup (by dry volume) and that covered the hole. I topped the hive off with an empty deep and the outer cover. Finally, I brushed the bees on the back of the escape board onto the hive entrance. That night it was pretty windy and I was a little concerned that the hive would blow over since the top deep was not propolized to the rest of the hive and was basically empty (except for the syrup), fortunately my fears were unfounded and the bees were fine the next morning.


Saturday, March 9th, 2002 [weather] [entered]

Another great day after a cool week. The bees were out flying and again collecting bright yellow pollen. This time I started the smoker with a quarter-sheet of newspaper and some small twigs. I fed the fire with larger and larger twigs until I had about 1/2 inch twigs in there. Then I put leaves on top once the twigs were going.

I entered the hive about 12:30 PM (62.4° F, clear) and with my new bee gloves on took apart the hive. It was much easier this time, the outer cover came off and left the inner cover on top of the hive so I didn't have to worry about separating them. I took off the inner cover and put it aside as a base to pile things on. I took off the shallow super I had put on (I am not sure if much honey was gone) and the queen excluder, leaving me with the 2 deeps. The tops of the combs in the deep were covered in burr comb and looking down between the supers there was a goodly amount of brace comb and propolis.

With a little smoke every now and again, I cleaned most of the gunk off the tops of the frames and along where they were propolized to the rails. I put the burr combs in the inverted outer cover for later use. Once I had most of tops cleaned, and the places where the frames met the bodies, I tried to remove a frame and ended up pulling the top bar off. I tried a different frame and ended up starting to pull the top off that too. So I gave up on that and moved on.

Next I decided to split the 2 deeps so I pried the boxes apart and tried to lift... nothing happened. So after some more prying and looking I realized that there was burr comb from the joining the top frame to the bottom one. So I propped the boxes up so I could work between them, and pushed the 4 bottom frames down one by one, breaking the burr comb. Then I lifted off the top deep and put it on the concrete slabs next to the hive.

At this point I could see a lot of burr comb on the tops of the frames and where I had forced the frames apart there was a bit of honey. So I cleaned the tops of these frames too, putting dry comb into the inverted hive cover and putting the honey laden stuff in front of the hive. Once that was done it looked like I would have the same problems with the tops of the frames if I tried to remove them, so I decided to put the 2 deeps back together. I would have liked to rotate the top deep 180 degrees since it has an exit hole in it that is currently facing backwards, I did not do this for fear of splitting the cluster if it crossed both hives and was off to one side.

I decided that I did not want to keep the shallow super on the hive because several people had warned me that the cluster might move up into the partially filled frames of honey and starve due to the low stores and reluctance to move back down. So since I could not get the bees out of the super I decided to put on the escape board between it and the 2 deeps. That way tomorrow I can quickly remove it then the escape board and put on a feeding pail. I left the inner cover on top of the 2 deeps and put the escape board on top of that, then the shallow super and the outer cover.

I cleaned up and moved the dry comb in the inverted inner cover and the queen excluder into storage pending cleaning (it has quite a bit of comb on the wires). I need to fix the plywood on the outer cover I swapped out. Then I tried to catch a worker to make her sting me. It took quite a few tries to manage to get one and then to get her to sting, but finally I managed to get my first bee sting ever. I stung my right forearm and it hurt a bit, but no worse than a bad injection. The initial pain died down quickly and I forgot about it for a few minutes then the pain briefly flared up. Since then the spot is tender if I touch it and a little enflamed and hard, but all in all nothing to worry about.

As an aside, there were a few snowdrops up and some yellow crocuses at the bottom of the driveway. I also spotted the tops of some more crocuses and daffodils ready to emerge.

Questions and todo list:


Sunday, March 3rd, 2002 [weather]

The bees were out in force today. Around 10:00 AM (57.2° F, overcast) a bunch of them were hovering around all sides of the hive and then one by one shooting off. My bet is that they were establishing their bearings.

By noon (62.6°F, mostly cloudy) there was lots of activity but little of the orientation flight that I had seen earlier and about half of the bees were bringing bright yellow pollen back. I have no idea where they are getting it, I tried to follow them but they are too fast. The only things I turned up were a snowdrop and a bedraggled dandelion. I am not sure what the dandelion is doing open this early, though.

By 4:00 PM (60.8° F, overcast) most of the activity had died down, it had become appreciably colder and was overcast. I would say that a bee was coming and going about once every half-second. They were still bringing pollen in with them on the return trips.


Saturday, March 2nd, 2002 [weather] [entered]

Around 2:30 PM (46° F, clear) I opened the hive and found all of the bees at the top. The inner and outer covers were joined together and there were bees all over the side of the inner cover that I could see and there appeared to be many more in between the two. So I put that down, leaning against my hive stand (a pile of concrete slabs). There was also a queen excluder on the top which I left in place. I placed one of the wet supers on the hive because I could not tell if they had enough stores left (and was not courageous enough to open the hive further since my smoke seemed to make them a little more cranky and soon after it went out). I also didn't want to leave the hive open too long because it was a little cool (although a few bees seemed to be flying).

The only pressing thing I have to do is to fix the roof. It looks like the plywood is giving a little and may be leaking, so I painted up the other one. Hopefully the weather will be nice again soon and I will have a chance to open the hive while the workers are mostly out and swap the two covers so I can repair the other. At some point I need to better level the hive, and possibly move it on to the new hive stand I built.


Thursday, February 28th, 2002 [weather]

At 9 AM (25° F, clear) Bernie and I met Paula and moved the bees and other equipment from Wilmington to Bedford. They were previously in a grass garden near a house, possibly shaded by trees. The weather was perfect, cold enough to prevent the bees from flying, but warm enough for us to be happy.

When we got the bees to Bedford, Bernie removed the sticks we had in the entrance reducer and a bunch of bees came flying out surprising both of us (but mostly him because his hand was right there). After a few gusts of wind, they were convinced to retreat back into the hive. We retreated too for tea and cookies.

MCBA Beekeepers Calendar

Ed Erny has a calendar for what you should do at different times of the year for beekeepers in Middlesex county. I stongly encourage you to check it out.

Current Weather

Click for Bedford, Massachusetts Forecast


The clever name was coined by my wife Christine. It is a bit geeky... in computer programming an API is an Application Programming Interface, and well... and apiary is where you keep Apis mellifera (the honeybee).