Tuesday, July 12, 2011

For those who have been wondering....

Well, for those who have been wondering why I haven't blogged.  Well, nothing is going on.. like nothing, like the bees did not survive the winter.  In reality bees do not take a lot of work, so all summer there was not much to report. 

It was great to peer at them through the window, and they build a fair amount of comb.  But by the fall they had not made enough honey that we could harvest any.  OK, that is fairly common the first year of a new colony, so we just "let them bee". 

We knew that often bees need feeding especially the first winter, but we just didn't understand when.  On a few warm days in January we saw the bees coming out, and thus thought they were doing fine.  In the very cold months we didn't want to check on them, lest we make their survival worse.  When we finally got out to really see how they were doing in March, there was no sign of them.  I guess they found a more suitable home, we didn't see any bee bodies.  We probably should have been feeding them in January.

We have been MUCH happier with our Long hive than with our Warre Hive.  That Warre hive has been a problem from the start, so I am not anxious to get more bees started n that one.  But we would like to get a swarm to repopulate the long Top-Bar hive.  We have had a couple of opportunities this summer but we have both been busy (or out of town) and just couldn't see adding to our plate.  We even opted not to grow a garden this year, which has turned out to be a good decision, since we are not, and have not been home all summer.

The hummingbird have also not returned in any quantity this year, so perhaps it is too dry for much to survive.. I think it is all in the plan!  We will have bees again, but probably not this summer, and when we do, we will write here.  Please be patient with us, and our empty hives  ;-)

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Our first visit to the hive

I've been bugging Mike to get out and check on the hive, meaning to open her up and take some photos... and do whatever we are supposed to do...  That was part of the problem, what exactly are we supposed to do?

Well, basically, our TBH Hive has windows, so we knew that the bees were building, and they had about 5 combs built.  And we could see bees coming and going and carrying Pollen back in, so that is a good sign too.  But periodically you should open them up, look for larvae, look for eggs, Look for capped cells and look for honey.  We need to expand the area that they can build, when they fill up what we have given them.  You should do this with some regularity so that you know "what is normal".  We don't know what that regularity is.  We also have heard that you shouldn't disturb them too much.  You also should only open them up early morning, or evening, when the bees are calmer, and when it's not too windy/cold/ etc.  Seems conditions were never just right.

But we got out there this morning.  First going to the TBH.  When Mike took off the lid, some of the top bars stuck to it and lifted up, but then fell off.... Not great.  (My camera also wasn't focusing well.. so you get what you get.) One comb broke completely off, so we brushed the bees off of that and set aside to take back to the house with us.  One comb was being built on the divider... not sure what to do about that.  We didn't open up the other top bars to inspect them.  We did scoop our and toss out a bunch of bees that had not made it through the installation.

Next we went out to the Warre Hive.  This is the hive we have been messing up on since the foiled up installation!  We installed the bees in the bottom box (after the package broke at the back porch).  Then since we didn't have a well thought out feeder plan, we put another box on top and put the food in that, then realized that the roof did not fit on that box, so we put another box, and then the lid.    We only put top bars on the lowest box, since that is where we wanted them to build.  Well Duh!  The bees build from the top.  So now we have 5 beautiful combs built on the roof... No way to separate and inspect them without destroying them.  And we have no windows on that hive, so we had to open it up and check it (we actually knew there were problems because a couple days after installation we had gone down and had to open up the hive to check/refill the food...  We found them building on the top but did not know what to do.  We did however move the food out of the hive, so we could access and fill it better.)  Anyhow, Mike opened up the top of the hive.  I salvaged a piece of comb that had fallen off and brushed the bees back in, we rearranged the top bars a bit and put her back together, still not knowing how to solve this one.  I had hoped the bees had built on one side of the roof, but no, it was right square centered so pretty full up with hive built in the wrong spot.  Whatever.

We went back in our house with our two pieces of comb that fell off, We had brushed all the bees off that comb and put the comb on a plate.  A few minutes later we saw a bee crawling on the comb, so we took it out, and brushed him off.  Went back in the house and a few minutes later saw another bee on the comb.  So we took a closer look and discover a dozen or so bees were being born, and emerging from cells.  That was pretty cool to watch.  Grabbed my camera.  Click on these to get a close look.  The one below has a bee going in to clean out the cell.  The third photo shows a section that had no larvae.. just honey.  Cool.  We harvested the honey and had honey from our own bees for breakfast!

Click on the photos to enlarge and see the bees being born.

Oh yeah..  The first bee sting on Mike's finger.
Harvested Honey^

Thursday, April 22, 2010


So the bees were supposed to be here Friday... guess I posted that, but they emailed and told us they were to be mailed on Tuesday (arrival for Wednesday).  Tuesday morning at 6am Mike got an email that said the bees were shipped.  They were coming from Utah UPS.  We discussed how odd it was that they could have been shipped so early in the morning, but Mike was sure they had just sent the email, and indicated that they were mailed Tuesday morning.  So he went off to Salida to pick up some fencing supplies and then wanted to fish... The Arkansas river, two miles from our house claims one of the nations most prolific caddis fly hatches, and we have missed it for the last three years since we have lived here.  He is determined to hit it this year.

Well, I'm sure you are ahead of me already.. The bees showed up around 10 am Tuesday.  I called Mike and although I could not reach him, he did get the message just as he hit the river.   He was not happy as his fishing was spoiled, and secondarily, although we have been planning and waiting for a year we were not totally prepared, we still had to level the Warre Hive, and put spacers between the top bars.

We bought 3 colonies, two for us, and one for Marvin and Paula, friends in town.  The plan was Marvin wanted to come watch the bee installation and then we would all go to Marvin's house and install his.  He was to bring the marshmallows.  You are supposed to uncork the queen cage replacing that with a marshmallow, then the queen can eat herself out within the next few days and by then she is accepted by the colony.  Well Marvin was out hiking with the hiking club, and couldn't be reached.  Mike wanted to get the bees in as quickly as possible.  After we got the hive settled we took the bars off holding the 3 packages together.  That's when is all fell apart.. literally.  One of the packages broke open, still on the porch.  Bees started pouring out.  We grabbed a plastic bag and put the box in there, but bees were flying everywhere.  If we hadn't panicked we would have realized the queen was still in the cage, and the bees were not going to go anywhere.  But we did.  Stress was high, and we didn't have any marshmallows.  We in fact had no candy of any sort... We briefly discussed making a sugar paste, so I went in to do that.  I ended up making it way too thin, runny, and decided maybe craisins would work, especially if we used the paste to glue them in place.  So I headed out.

Mike didn't think the bees would eat craisins and thought that was a bad idea, so we proceeded with the paste, which was the consistency of syrup and was obviously not going to work!  I headed back to the house to dump a bunch more sugar in, and Mike was yelling at me to hurry up, and thus in my haste I dumped the sugar in and kneading it, headed back down.  But by the time I got back to the hive, the water had absorbed and the paste was still too runny.  We opened the cage and shoved a bunch in, put the queen in the hive and put the plastic bag with the bees over the hive, and left it.  We fully expected the sugar to "run" out, the queen to get out way too early, the bees to kill her, and then be on there way to find another queen..  Feel sick and helpless we gathered our whits about us before going to the next hive.

This time we took our time and make a much better paste..  This time we were not at each others throats.  This time it seemed to go like bookwork.  This time I got some pictures!  Then we went off to take Marvin's bees to him and get them settled in his hive.

Moments before the tragedy!
This is the package..  The inset can has food for the bees, 
the tab to the right is attached to the queen cage.  
You pull out the food, slide the queen cage down the slot to the opening, then put the can back.
Our Queen!
10,000 bees
Our Warre Hive with a bag overtop!
All closed up and ready to start makin' honey!
Bees at the Warre Hive.
Signs of life.
Marvin got the whole suit... Now how does this go??
The excited beekeepeers
Marvin's Queen
Dumping the bees in.
Paula cautiously watches from a distance!
(Ben is fearless)

That evening I went out to check on the hive and saw no signs of life..  I worried all night and slept poorly, and went out first thing in the morning.  Still no sign of bees, and no buzzing!  I looked in the window and saw a lot of dead bees, and no live ones.  I felt sick, I was sure they all died or left.  I came back and told Mike, and we both were very bummed out about it.  We thought our bee adventure was over.. three strikes and you are out.  About 11 am Mike went back out to the hives.. and there were bees buzzing about!  Yes we had a lot of casualties but the bees were still there and working!  I had just been out too early in the morning and it was cold.  I would have thought they would make noise, but no..  So now, Thursday, they have eaten one quart jar of food and seem to be quite active.. during the warmth of the day....  Whew, we are breathing a little easier!  Now we are supposed to stay away, and not bother them for a week or so, other than checking on their food.  The Warre hive isn't eating their food as fast, and not sure what is going on there, but in the heat of the day the bees are coming and going in that hive too, so for now our hopes are high again.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Warre Hive

Well, the bees were supposed to come today, but alas one more delay.  This morning they told us they will be mailed on the 19.. so three more days.  So close we can taste honey!  So of course I will be documenting the event in photos, and since I still haven't told you much about the Warre hive, I'll dedicate this blog to that topic.  First I guess I should explain that after our failure to get bees last year, we are ordering 2 colonies instead of one, therefore we needed another hive.  We decided to try the other kind just to see which one we liked better.

The Warre hive is also a top bar hive, meaning no frames.  We got plans for this hive online also, so built it to spec, but this hive is vertical, rather than horizontal like the other one, so has more in common with traditional Langstroth hives.  The bottom box is the brood box, the next box up is for the bee honey stores.  Then the top two will be for harvesting.  And finally a roof for the hive.  We can make more if that is necessary.

I post a few more photos so you can get the idea..

We also got chickens last Friday, boy they are growing fast.  No coop yet, but I'm keeping the discussion of our chicken adventures over on our Alpaca blog.. so many blogs, so little time!

Friday, February 19, 2010

The Bees are Ordered!

We have placed our order for bees from a place in Utah this year.  We have ordered 2 colonies of Carniolan.  They have been promised to arrive in late April/Early May.  I've adjusted to time clock for May 1.  70 days left at this point!  ;-)

This year we cut out the middle man in our ordering and got on the list earlier, so hope we have alleviated some of the problems we had last year.  Our lonely hive sits out in the woods awaiting its residents peacefully, covered in snow!  We have started a second hive.  This time we are building a Warre hive.  This is also a top-bar hive,  just of a different style.  So it still supports our previous posts about our philosophy regarding top-bar hives.  We have just barely gotten that hive started, so I'll follow up with photos as the progress goes along.  We decided to order two colonies this year because of our dismal experience last year!  This will give us twice the chance for success.

We also have ordered chickens for this spring, and will have to build a coop in the next month or so... but I guess that is another blog!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Not this year

Well, I can't say that our bee experience has been a good one.. in fact it seems to keep going downhill. Now, end of August and still no bees. And in fact the guy we ordered from has not gotten them in either and is not expecting them until April....

Also the Bee-club has decided that we killed our bees so they will not give us another swarm (not directly said, but this is the result) We are blacklisted at the bee club. The last meeting was so frustrating we have decided not to return. They were not supportive of Top-Bar hives anyway. In fact the whole of the club seems to be run by this one guy who is a commercial beekeeper and sells all equipment etc. Since we didn't buy equipment from him, we are obviously wrong, and killed our bees.

SO, our adventure continues. If we got bees this late we would be feeding them throughout the winter anyway.. and we don't want to do that. So we will order now, early, and get them in April. And not from the guy that we ordered from this year. He was ordering them elsewhere anyway, so why not cut out the middleman....

SO all you patient friends and wanna bee bee keepers... check back in the spring as I'm sure there will be no developments until then.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Our First Colony

About time for a bee update.

We have been very disappointed because the bees that we ordered to assure that we would get bees this spring, never got delivered. By now that guy is telling us it will be mid July. This is all due to being down on the a long list of customers for the guy selling the bees.

In the meantime we put ourselves on the swarm list to get a free local feral colony. With all the water we have gotten this spring the bees are multiplying like crazy, and it's now swarm season. We got a call Tuesday night, asking if we still wanted a swarm... Yes! The guy said "Great I'm going out to collect it in the morning. I'll call if it turns out to be a viable colony and you can come pick it up." Well in the morning we got call from person B asking if we wanted a swarm.. So of course I told person B that we were already getting one we hoped from caller A. She said "Ok, but a bee in hand is worth two in the bush" (I just made that up..) that is not exactly what she said... but I thought, humm what if the Guy A comes home empty handed or his swarm is not viable.... I'd better accept Caller B's bees. So Mike was off to pick them up.

We brought them home and put them in our waiting hive. Mike actually thought they were rather lethargic.

The next morning there were many dead bees on the door stoop of the hive. On Friday, when I returned from Albuquerque, I peeked in the window to find only few bees moving inside.. Bummer! On Saturday we opened up the hive and found piles of dead bees, about 24 live bees clustered together, but no queen that we can identify. We cleaned them up and tonight (Tuesday) there are still 24 bees hanging around, which I really don't understand since they are Queenless, but they are also not building comb, so need to ask someone about that.

When we called people in the bee club the concensus is that they must have been sprayed with insecticide before they called the swarm control, even though the people said they did not. But it is pretty abnormal for bees to die like that.

So we are back on the swarm list, and now we have cancelled our order for bees... so keep your fingers crossed. (Of course guy A told me too bad that I hadn't stayed with his swarm, because it was a HUGE swarm.... yeah whatever!)