Friday, July 31, 2009

expert help

A big thanks to Ken and Steve for coming out to my beeyard yesterday! Here you see Ken scraping the junk off a bottom board - something I hadn't thought to do since getting my bees.

Here's what came off them:

You can see different kinds of pollen - the different colour pollen comes from different flowers - and other random junk that fell to the bottom of the hive. This kind of thing attracts Wax Moth and other nuisances, so it's a good idea to scrape it off every once in awhile. When you remember. Or when someone else remembers for you.
Wednesday, July 29, 2009


I'm pretty sure one or both of my hives will need a second brood box soon, which means I need to get them ready! This is the first coat of paint for these boxes. The reddish colour is my old hallway colour, and the blue is even older - it's from our newlywed apartment. 9 years today (happy anniversary dear!), so it's been around for awhile.

Anyway, back to bees: this time I'm going to paint two coats of paint without primer underneath. My first boxes were done with primer and paint, but I've recently read that it works better if you don't use primer. Who knows? I say why not give it a try, so here we are. I'll have to remember to report back in a few years about how well the paint is holding up compared with the other boxes.
Tuesday, July 28, 2009

bees with balls

It looks like my queens have decided to grow some drones. See the capped cells that bulge out? Those will be male bees. The queen makes the decision to lay a male or female, usually based on the diameter of the cell. Once she's made her decision, she makes it happen by either fertilizing the egg for a female bee, or leaving the egg unfertilized for a male bee. She can do this because she has a special sac inside her for storing the sperm. For each egg laid, she first measures the cell with her antennae, then turns around and backs up into the cell to lay the egg at the very bottom. Drone larvae are bigger than worker larvae, so the workers extend the comb around them to cap them in at the appropriate time.

When a drone is ready to come out, he will make a sort of buzzing noise inside the cell, and one of his sisters will come and rescue him. The males are unable to chew their way out, so the female workers come and chew the cap off. Then the drones are free to run and play while the females clean up the mess.

Yes, the females do all the work. Drones don't really do much other than mate with a virgin queen. But come fall, when the female workers are getting ready to shut everything down for the winter, they will kick their brothers out of the home and let them die out in the freezing cold.
Monday, July 27, 2009

look out world

Here she comes! Can you see the worker bee chewing her way out of the cell that she pupated in? Right near the middle of the picture. This is her first job as a fully developed bee. She is 21 days old, and full grown. She started as an egg, fertilized and laid by the queen in the cell. She developed for about 3 days in the egg before she hatched and other workers started feeding her. She is now a larva - looks like a little white grub - and very hungry. She eats until she's fully grown, about 6 days, then the workers seal the cell with wax. She continues to grow and turns into a pupa around 12 days old. From then on, she's turning into an adult bee. At 21 days, she's ready to chew her way out.
Sunday, July 26, 2009


Every time I open my hives, I am on the lookout for my queens. It's a good idea to know where they are, so they are not accidentally misplaced or incapacitated. However, for some reason the queen in my second hive seems to see me coming and vanish. I haven't seen her since I installed the bees - that's about a month. I know she's there, I see the proof: there are always wee eggs in the comb, so I know she's been there within 2 or 3 days.

This hive is also my stronger hive, with more bees and more frames filled with brood and honey. They're also the hive that built the honeycomb on top of the frames rather than in the frames. Definitely have their own style, these ones. They're the messy sisters. And they like to keep busy.
Saturday, July 25, 2009


Can you find the queen? She's a bit hidden, but you can tell which one she is.

Here's a better picture:

She's marked for easy identification purposes. It's always a good thing to make sure you know that your queen is in the hive and well, not lost or squished. I'm not sure what this one was doing way over here on a pile of capped honey - maybe trying to hide from me, who knows. Usually she can be found on empty comb laying eggs, with workers bringing her food to eat, grooming her, and carrying away her poo.
Friday, July 24, 2009

what the heck

To my Dear Bees: Why would you build comb and fill it with honey in the squishy little space between the top of the frames and the inner cover, when you have more than two empty frames yet to fill in your hive?


Some of the ladies came to visit me as I was watching the swarm settle into their new home. They hung around for a bit, let me take some pictures, then flew off to see what was going on with everybody else. Very docile. We thought the bees might be on edge, given the cloudy conditions and pending thundershowers, but they were fine. It was a busy buzz, not an angry buzz. Yes, there's a difference. If I have a pressure headache, I will not go anywhere near my hives. Bees feel it too, and get a bit cranky. Just like me.
Thursday, July 23, 2009

a new home

Continuing the saga of the swarm: it didn't take long - about a few minutes - for the bees to head down into the hive box between the frames. They're exploring the possibility of this new place, probably walking all around the box to measure it and figure out if it will work for them to live in.

Meanwhile, back at the branch, some bees are still trying to cluster, not quite sure what just happened:

They'll eventually figure it out by following the pheromone that the queen releases - they'll find her by smell and join their sisters in setting up house.
Wednesday, July 22, 2009

beautiful bees

I'm so glad I was able to go see the swarm yesterday. There's something wildly different about seeing bees up close without the familiar constraints of the hive box. Wow are they gorgeous. A solid mass of bees, hanging from a branch. They didn't mind me poking around with my camera, inches away from their cluster. They were too focussed on taking care of the queen and trying to find a new home.
Tuesday, July 21, 2009

swarm capture

Today turned out to be pretty exciting after all. Around 10:30 I received a phone call from Michelle, Ken's wife, asking if I wanted to come help capture a swarm. I would say I didn't do much 'helping' - but it was amazing to be there. Here you see Steven sizing up the situation. He's considering his options for capture. He's placed a hive box under the swarm on the ground, and now the options for getting them into the box are being pondered.

It didn't take long - I had the camera ready to show the process, but by the time I took the picture it was over:

He bent down the branch, then gave it a good whack to shake the bees into the box. Most of them landed right on the box. Some were in the grass, and others still clung to the branches of the bush. Steven thinks the queen landed in the box, though, and that's the important part. If she's there, the workers will find her and make the box home.
Thursday, July 16, 2009


Somebody got stung on Monday when we were out inspecting the bees. The bee had crawled up her sleeve and found it a bit too claustrophobic and threatening, so she ended up with a sting. No big deal, that's what the pennies in my pocket are for.
Wednesday, July 15, 2009

hanging out

This pic is a bit blurry, but it captures the moment. These bees are connected to each other by their legs, forming a chain that bridges the gap between the two frames. This was after I had completed the inspection and was putting the frames back into their proper places, I noticed the gap at the end had a pile of bees forming chains. I'm not exactly sure why they did this, but I suspect it has a lot to do with the large gap that was left with the frame missing.

If you squint a bit you can also see the bit of wax that are leftovers from the scraping I did last week. The bees have completely cleaned it of any residual honey.

Beekeeping definitely not a monotonous hobby - there's something new to see every time I open the hive.
Tuesday, July 14, 2009

bees and kids

It was nice to have friends along on our trip out to the beeyard yesterday! My girls have been very interested in the bees, and I think this has rubbed off on their friends. We all went out for the inspection, and they were able to see the queen, workers, honey, pollen, brood, and eggs. We also saw some workers with pollen in the pollen sacs on their hind legs. We didn't notice any drones, though, which was a bit disappointing because my girls have been asking me if they can hold one ever since I came back from the beekeeping course in Guelph and told them about my drone-holding experience.

All the kids had no qualms about being up close and personal with the bees, asking lots of questions and making sure they saw everything there was to see!
Monday, July 13, 2009

all is well

The populations of the hives seem to be expanding - I think I've got bees now that were eggs when I bought the frames. The time it takes for the worker bees to develop, from egg to worker, is about 21 days, so that makes sense.

The visit today went well. The mistake I corrected last time seems to have been taken in stride by all the lovely ladies in the hives. I noticed that the honeycomb I uncapped and scraped off a bit has now been re-capped, and everything fits better.

In the hives I saw eggs, larvae, capped brood, and one queen. The other queen was hiding from me, I guess. I saw eggs, though, so I'm not too worried about it. If she is gone, the workers will raise a new queen with the eggs they have available.
Thursday, July 9, 2009


Some people have to learn the hard way. I didn't think I was one of those people, but apparently this time I am. In the beekeeping course I took, the concept of 'bee space' was drilled into us. It's important to keep a certain small distance between the frames in the hive in order to keep them easy to work with. If you leave too much space, the bees will build crazy bulging comb and make the frames harder to work with.

Guess what.

Somehow I managed to completely forget that lesson. Oops. So, when I went to check on my hives, I had crazy bulging comb and frames that were hard to work with.


I had to scrape off the crazy bulging comb. At least it wasn't brood comb I was destroying. I think if it had been brood comb I might have tried to think of another way, but honeycomb? Yummy! They'll fix it.
Wednesday, July 8, 2009

how sweet it is

A sunny afternoon finally came on a day when I could go to the beeyard. It's been about two weeks since I installed the bees, and I've been itching to go inspect them for about a week.

Nothing tastes better than honey and comb, warm and drippy, straight from the hive. My girls thought so too.