Category Archives: Beekeeping

Adventures in Beekeeping: Nuc Installation

It’s been a busy day and it looks like I won’t be posting my book giveaway until tomorrow.

Here’s what’s been keeping me busy today, no time for too many words. That will come later, but here are several photos of the latest honeybees that our on our property.

Honeybees 5 frame nuc 1

Honeybees 5 frame nuc

This nuc rode in my vehicle for about 30 minutes. If I were to guess, I’d say in the back seat of my car was between 15,000 – 20,000 honeybees. Only thing separating me from them was a cardboard nuc box. 😉 No, I wasn’t nervous!

Honeybees 5 frame nuc 3

Honeybees: Five frame nuc crawling with honeybees

Lots of honeybees!

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This is a five frame nuc and each frame was literally covered with honeybees (both sides).
Honeybees 5 frame nuc 2

Love seeing honeybees in action.

 

 

Honeybees 5 frame nuc 4

Picking up my Frame Grips.

And these honeybees were extremely active, but even so I didn’t use the smoker and just sprayed them once. I’m wearing lots of layers under the bee suit. Although I wear a size small, I chose an extra large bee suit. Why? I wear bulky clothing underneath the bee suit. That way if the honeybees sting my bee suit, since I’m wearing additional clothing underneath I most likely won’t get stung.

Honeybees frame grips

Honeybee tool: Frame grips

I will say these Frame grips are awesome! I purchased them today from a local beekeeper and it made transferring loaded honeybee frames to their new home a breeze!

 

Honeybees 5 frame nuc

During the transfer from the nuc to their new home, the honeybees did swarm around me in a cloud and that was fine. I’d be annoyed too, being cooped up in a tiny home for so long. No worries…I’m guessing that cloud contained several hundred honeybees. Who knows, it might have been in the low thousands? I didn’t have time to count you know! But even with all that activity, I didn’t panic. Why would I do something silly like that? Your brain can’t go on meltdown just because a situation might be challenging! I apply that same concept to other aspects of my life also; think rationally. I continued to make slow careful movements. I wanted them to know I wasn’t trying to rob or hurt them. I was there to make their home a bit bigger. My daughter, having seen all the activity, had already put further distance between herself and the hive. I make her stand a ways back until I can read their temperament. She’s expressed an interest in beekeeping so I’ll be purchasing a suit for her also. Then, she can be right there with me when things are a bit crazy. 🙂

 

Honeybees 5 frame nuc 7

Their new beehive

The above photo is their new beehive. It’s a Langstroth. I prefer Warre beehives and I’m leaning towards Tanzanian Top Bars also. I haven’t had a chance to try out a Tanzanian. I’m willing to check out the Langstroth before forming an opinion.

Honeybees 5 frame nuc 8

Securing the feeder in the top box

The second box is purely for show (for now.) This box is where I’m keeping their food. I’m feeding them for a bit since I’m still not seeing a lot of pollen sources. I don’t want them to starve. What’s their food? Organic sugar and water. The ration is 1:1. Keeping their food housed inside the top box will discourage potential robbers from trying to get a free meal.  After all, there are lots of other critters that would love to gorge on sugar water too. Why make it easy for them? There’s only one way inside. A small entrance at the bottom of the hive and the guard bees won’t be letting other insects up in there; at least not without a nasty fight!

Honeybees 5 frame nuc

Gently shaking out the remaining honeybees from the cardboard nuc box

 

Their home is much larger now, here’s hoping they stay!

 

 

Adventures in Beekeeping: Package honeybees – local

Along with the nucleus hive, which I’m picking up this Saturday. I’m also receiving package honeybees. I just ordered them about thirty minutes ago!

Honeybees flocking around water droplets and pollen

Recycled photo from this post written about our honeybees!

Unlike last year, my honeybees won’t be shipped to me through the mail, I’ll be picking them up locally. The main reason for going local is that I’m not dragging my feet on whether I’m ready for honeybees. I am! Last year, by the time I’d made up my mind, most of the package bees were sold out. I still am pleased where I purchased my honeybees. Their customer service and the honeybees received were amazing, but I’m thrilled that this year I can support a local beekeeper.

This  year, I’m eager to add more to the four acres where we reside.

Also new this year, is the amount of hives I’ll have. Instead of one, I’ll have at least three hives on our property and I might acquire more… we’ll see!

Adventures in beekeeping: One more week…

Next Saturday, I’ll have be picking up my honeybees. A nucleus to be specific. A nucleus, differs from package honeybees in that they are all related. Package honeybees aren’t related. Also nucs have not been tossed together with a random queen and then shipped to the beekeeper.

I’m looking forward to welcome the honeybee nucleus into hour area.

Adventures in Beekeeping: Hive activity in cooler climates

Earlier today, I checked on the hive and all is well. There was quite a swarm (today) compared to a few weeks ago, perhaps a few hundred honeybees were outside milling about the entrance… doing their honeybee maintenance. I walked right up to them and sat amidst the cloud as they buzzed about me. They paid no attention to me at all, but flew about spreading their wings. No I was not stung, have not been stung yet even though I’m right up amongst them usually without my bee suit. I imagine they were happy to be outdoors. I guess even honeybees need to get out before they go stir crazy from being cooped up inside the hive? Some have called this the “cleansing flight.” Honeybees use warmer winter weather to remove debris from the hive (including dead bees) and defecate. I hope none of them pooped on me!

I can’t say how many honeybees were there when I opened it up a few weeks ago, but it was in the thousands. I never tire of watching them, so not much difference than now as an adult to how I’d be completely absorbed in their activity when I was a child.

Fun facts…
honeybees don’t hibernate during the winter. They do maintain a tight ball that seems to move together. The queen is in their somewhere. They always protect her. Staying close keeps their temperature at around 90F. The workers flex their wings muscles to generate heat. The ball is moves often as the bees on the outskirts of the cluster move inward to warm themselves and those on the inside move out. The cluster stays over the brood to keep it from becoming cold and dying. It will also move to areas of honey stores in order to eat. I saw some of this behavior when I checked on them a few weeks ago. It was amazing to watch!

Did you know that drones (males) don’t sting? Because of this, they cannot defend the hive. Also, they don’t forage for food. The drones only purpose (it appears) is to mate with the queen. The workers (females) defend and gather food for the hive. The females (worker bees) bring the food back to the hive and along with feeding the queen and the developing bees they also feed the drones.

The males (drones) are kicked out when it turns cool so the remaining honeybees are female. While it appears cruel.. think about it, these are several that aren’t contributing to the hive at all. If they stayed that would mean several nonproductive mouths to be fed from a shrinking storage of honey. During the late fall/winter worker bees can’t collect nectar from vegetation in cooler climates (since they aren’t normally producing) so yes the drones have to be evicted to ensure that there is enough food for the remaining hive to make it through the winter. The queen will lay drones in the Spring.

Adventures in Beekeeping: Winter hive inspection

This winter, I’d occasionally look at our beehive and wonder how the honeybees were doing.

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The above photo is a partial view of our property. We live on four acres; mostly woods.

2013 was my first season beekeeping, additionally I got a late start to beekeeping. Our honeybees didn’t arrive until the beginning of June. Many honeybee suppliers had delayed shipping because of the unseasonably cold weather we were experiencing in Maryland. The bees are shipped from Southern distributors, while their weather was fine ours wasn’t. Just to give you an idea, honeybees usually arrive in early April.  Since they were shipped late they had already missed a nectar flow. Naturally, I was concerned. I wanted to make sure they had enough honey stores to survive the winter.

A few weeks ago, I saw them buzzing about when it was “warmer” outside. Based on the activity outside the hive I knew the honeybees were alive, but the temperature had dropped since that time, getting well below zero (on some nights) right around Christmas time and the beginning of 2014. My main concern was their honey stores. Did they have enough? Based on the few hive inspections I’d done during the warmer months, I thought they had enough honey, but I still second guessed myself. I’m a new beekeeper, yes I’ve read a lot over the years, but actually having honeybees is a new experience.

This past weekend, I took advantage of the “warmer weather” (50f /10c) and went out and inspected the hive. I suited up and headed outside to inspect the hive.

 

Hive Inspection_3.1.12.14

A quick inspection (I was only in there 10 seconds – seriously) showed me that they appear to have enough honey, and there are enough honeybees to hopefully survive the winter.

Hive Inspection_1.1.12.14

Even though things looked promising, I still added some of the honey I’d pulled back into their hive. After all, it is theirs…

I’m doing a lot of things that most beekeepers seemingly don’t do. I’m not in my hive a lot, although I do watch these amazing creatures often. I don’t treat the honeybees with chemicals, and my main reason for having them is not for their honey. Yes, I’ve been “counseled” by some well meaning beekeepers on my behavior, but I doubt I’ll change. Some of the things that are done simply don’t make sense to me? So of course, I question why it’s being done.

My approach is hands off. The honeybees know what needs to be done, I feel that I don’t need to be in their hive constantly causing disruption. This past season, I only kept three eight ounce jars of honey and one of those was given away as a gift.

 

 

 

Praying Mantis and honeybees…

A little over week ago, I saw this female praying mantis hiding amongst the daisies.

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Praying Mantis on Daisy

I watched her for several minutes. Initially she appeared to be sleeping and then she awakened. She seemed intensely curious with all the activity that the daisies attracted. I guess she was looking for a feast.

Honeybee on Daisy.10.18.13

She moved to a position close to all the insects; Bumblebees, honeybees, wasps, and flies were in abundance gorging themselves on nectar. I watched as the honeybees buzzed away, legs heavily laden with pollen. I imagined some of them returning to their hive, crops full of nectar ready to dump their precious load in preparation for cooler months.I must say that I breathed a sigh of relief that the praying mantis did not pounce on them, at least the ones I saw.

Adventures in Beekeeping: Raw Honey

I’ve finally gotten around to posting a picture of one of the honeycombs that I took from the hive.

Honeycomb_1

Raw Honey

More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb.
Psalms 19:10

After taken it from the hive I added it to storage bags and placed in the freezer. The next day I removed it and placed it in the refrigerator. I till haven’t gotten around to pressing the honey from the comb, perhaps I’ll have a chance to do that tomorrow.