So much to learn, second hive gets bees (April 2017 beekeeping log, part 1)

April 2

HAPPY DAY HIVE
Happy Day Hive passed its hive check this morning with flying colors! The queen is laying – who knew I would get so excited by seeing chubby curls of white larva! The worker bees are working hard to build new cells and to store up nectar and pollen. Needless to say, there is a stupid amount of pollen wafting around Savannah right now – enough to coat cars yellow. Pollen bombs are falling from trees with the slightest hint of wind. Sunny day, mid-70s.

honey bees festooning
When we were moving Happy Day frames, some of the honey bees formed a chain, a behavior called festooning.

The bees drank about two pints of sugar water in the last four days so they are finding nectar and tapering off the need for sugar water. The comb at the bottom of the medium frame has about doubled in size. Keeping prevention in mind, I’m going to place raw mint leaves on top of the brood box frames to see if that helps deters the arrival of small hive beetles. Greg says if the bees don’t like the leaves, they will chuck them out the hive entrance. I’m also going to put a mix of apple cider vinegar and vegetable oil in the Beetle Blasters when I install them.

Honey bee comb on medium frame
Compare the peninsula of honey bee comb on the bottom of this medium frame with the amount of comb on the same frame (shown in blog post feature image) four days later.

COASTAL EMPIRE BEEKEEPING ASSOCIATION (CEBA) BEE YARD
I helped Greg install a nuc – great learning experience to help me prepare to install mine when it comes. Saw my first new honey bee eating the cap off its comb so she could hatch.

Got a whopper of a bee sting at base of neck when I forgot to close the tiny Velcro closure where the veil zippers come together on my new BJ Sherriff Honey Rustler jacket/veil. I wore one when beekeeping in Iceland, and I LOVED IT!).

New honey bee hatching
See the cell with crusty yellow edges and something dark in the center? That’s a brand new honey bee hatching – she has to chew off the cap on her cell to get free!

CANDYLAND HIVE GETS NUC OF BEES!

BeeFFs Dan and Kristine prepare to unleash the nuc of bees
BeeFFs Dan and Kristine prepare to unleash the nuc of bees

On my top 10 list of brave things I have done: Road home with 10,000 not so happy bees in a cardboard box, and then me and my BeeFF (Bee friend forever) Daniel put them in the Candyland hive as it was getting dark – got too dark way too fast – to the point quick-thinking Dan turned on his motorcycle and lit the scene with its headlight.

The most heart-felt thing said this evening: Me saying “I’m so excited [about picking up the nuc of bees] I could pee in my pants” and later “They’re stinging me through my pants!”

Nuc of honey bees in my car
Nuc of honey bees in my car

We set the nuc box of bees next to their new hive and opened the exit flap. The bees crawled out and huddled by the flap rather than flying all around in panic like the ones at the CEBA bee yard this morning (Those had been kept in a box overnight), so silly me thought we should proceed with the installation.

Smoke helped, but the bees still wailed on my gloved hands as I gently moved the five new deep frames to the far left side of hive 10-frame deep box (nuc box front oriented the same as Candyland Hive front). I was fine with the vibrating sensation coming through my gloves. I didn’t get unnerved about all the bees whizzing about until they started stinging me through my jeans! Topped deep box with medium box full of new frames. Capped the two boxes off with a solid inner cover with hole and set two quart-jar feeders of 1:1 sugar water on top of inner cover. Stacked two empty boxes around the feeders and put the lid on and went back to the garage to laugh at it all!

So many things I learned:

  • Twilight turns into night a lot faster than I thought.
  • I need to have my smoker lit before I need it, and I must be prepared for it to go out and need to be relit.
  • The frames in the nuc box stick to the cardboard box insert so moving frames from a nuc box to a hive box took way more time than I thought it would.
  • Bees will try to sting you through your pants, and they will succeed if your flesh is against the fabric (I had six partial stings on my thighs by the time we were done making the transfer.)
  • It was awesome (a lifesaver) to have Dan, my BeeFF (Bee friend forever), with me to man the smoker and relight it, to brush bees off me as I worked, to provide moral support and to share the adventure.
  • A nuc of bees has something to defend so they will get feisty/defensive really quick when you start moving frames. Starting with a wild swarm of bees was a great way for me to ease into beekeeping because those bees had nothing to defend so they were mellow.

Local Brewery Helps Savannah’s Bees

Kelsey Gaus published a wonderful article, in District: The Student Voice at SCAD about the Beers for Bees fundraising event on April 12, 6-9 p.m., at Moon River Brewing Co., in Savannah, Georgia. For every MRBC beer sold, MRBC will donate $1 to the Coastal Empire Beekeeping Association (CEBA) to build a trickle-down water wall inside the CEBA bee yard located at the Oatland Island Wildlife Center of Savannah. The trickle-down water wall will provide drinking water for honey bees, hummingbirds and other pollinators throughout the year.

Honey bees use water to cool their hive during the hot summer, and they mix it with pollen and nectar to produce the special food (bee bread) that is fed to thousands of baby bees (larva stage of development). The CEBA bee yard will be expanding from 4 to 12 colonies by May, so the bees may need to drink up to three gallons of water per day!

April 3

I counted six stings on my thighs this morning – logical in that my flesh was up against the jeans compared to the air space around knees and calves. However, the bees had trouble getting thru the jeans so they are partial stings – tender but not a big deal this morning. I’ve had much worse responses to fire ant bites. Yesterday’s whopper sting is red, warm and swollen, but it served me well last night because I made sure the gap was closed during the installation.

Candyland Hive
Not a lot of activity/flying from either hive this morning. The weather is low 72 and overcast. Spattering of rain around noon. Happy Day hive foragers are flying in and out of their hive with purpose. Candyland forager bees are circling around making orientation flights and checking out the wax-covered new frames in the garage.

Some of the new Candyland bees were still clumped in the bottom of the nuc box. I’m betting they are young bees clumping for warm and comfort. When I geared up to drop them inside the hive by the top feeders, they had already moved to clump on the backside of the Happy Day hive. Since I was geared up, I moved the two feeders (on Boardman stands) to the edges of the hole in inner cover. I was a bit crazed last night with the buzzing and swirling of defensive bees, stinging and darkness, so I just put the feeders in the empty boxes wherever and called it a day!

Tornado Warning
There is a tornado watch and the skies are very ominous, so I got out my two freight straps and strapped my bee boxes together top-to-bottom just in case. The top box on Happy Day Hive and the top two boxes on Candyland are empty (sheltering sugar water feeders) and could be blown off if the wind gets fierce. I felt foolish buying straps a month ago (before I even had bees) but now I am pleased with myself. Also performed emergency bee rescue – about 60 bees were huddling in clumps on the backsides of both hives (they got caught in the rain) so I flicked them into my empty nuc cardboard box from yesterday and took the box to garage for the night. #goodbeemom

UPDATE: There was a break in the rain so I took the lid off Candyland Hive and knocked the bees out of the nuc box so they would fall inside the hive by the feeders that sit on top of a solid inner hive cover with center hole access to frames. Maybe they will dry off and go cuddle with the queen and the rest of the colony to stay warm.

April 4-5

Did quick check of sugar-water feeders and the bees are definitely weaning off significantly. Strapped the hives together again due to severe storm tonight. Candyland seems to have bees going off to work AND more bees doing their orientation flights. Guessing that is a sign that the hive growth is kicking in – more new bees hatching so everyone moves up a rank and some are sent out to forage for the first time.

April 10

Candyland

  • Had my first hive beetle. Killed it. Will now do buy a ketchup bottle with capped pointy end. Will mix 1/4 apple cider vinegar (which is attractive to SHB) with 3/4 vegetable oil (which will trap the beetle) and put the mixture in Beetleblaster traps that I will install on my next hive inspection (in two weeks). May also put in strips of unscented Swisher sheets on top of brood box so the beetles get tangled in it.
  • Bees still very aggressive. Swarmed my veil and tried to sting through my jeans again. They really don’t like smoke so I might try spraying water on them.
  • Bees drank about an inch of 1:1 sugar water out of both quart jars. I refilled one jar on boardman feeder and put it back in the hive. The other boardman feeder moved to Happy Day hive.
  • No new activity on new frame next to nuc, but it has only been a week since I installed the nuc.

Happy Day

  • Bees their usual mellow, and I saw the queen.
  • They drank a little bit of sugar water, but I am not sure if the holes I made on the sugar water feeder were working properly so I moved a boardman feeder over from Candyland.
  • Lots of honey and pollen on the frames, but only a little new growth on new frame. They are cruising right along with building new comb at the bottom of the medium frame.
  • Saw both bald-thorax bees and fuzzy bees, so new bees are hatching.

Learned

  • The woven organic cotton pieces burn much faster than I thought so had to relight the smoker.
  • Need a hive checklist so I remember what to check and what the check revealed.

April 13

The Beers for Bees event was a success – we raised the money we needed for the waterwall! Let the construction begin so it is in place for the pollinators before the summer temperatures start to soar!

April 15

All the beekeepers I know consistently advise that you keep at least two hives – that way you notice the difference between them and that difference can clue you in to problems. That held true for me today. A few days ago I noticed Happy Day bees were drinking very little sugar water, but Candyland bees were. I wondered if my homemade feeder (poked five holes in the lid of jar – if I poked more holes it leaked too much) was not providing Happy Day bees with enough access to sugar water … so I put one of the store-bought Boardman feeders I had (13 tiny holes in lid) into each hive. Voila! They are now going through the same amount of sugar water at a steady pace – they need the energy to build up wax comb on the frames.

Boardman sugar water feeder inside Happy Day hive
See the red mark on the side of the jar? That was the sugar water level three days ago. You can also see a bee walking toward the opening of the feeder for a drink. Go, girl, go!

April 15

dead goldfish
Beeco Bee Co. is sad to confirm that two fishsticks have passed away in the bee pond. We are unable to determine if it was due to natural causes as no autopsy will be performed due to family wishes.

Happy Day Hive
Happy Day hive had a glorious hive check today. The sparkly cells are full of honey that is drying out – needs to be 17 percent moisture before the bees cap it. Lots and lots of brood in the center of the frames. Love the glorious build of comb below the medium frame. Bees still drinking inches worth of sugar water to fuel their progress. Saw the hives first two hive beetles and installed beetle blasters with 1/4 apple cider vinegar and 3/4 vegetable oil.

Bees building on left new frame
Bees building on left new frame. See all the colors of pollen in the cells?
Brood on a frame
Brood on a frame

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Piece of comb and pink-dotted queen
Lovely piece of comb! Can you see the pink-dotted queen?

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See all the capped honey at the top of the frame?

April 15 post continued in next blog post. Drama in the Beeco Bee Yard: Candyland bees are getting evicted!

About Kristine K. Stevens

Book Cover200Kristine is the author of "If Your Dream Doesn't Scare You, It Isn't Big Enough: A Solo Journey Around the World." This nonfiction book tells the story of how she sold her house, quit her job and traveled around the world.

Kirkus Book Review: "... Stevens makes a friendly, relatable narrator ... plenty of colorful stories to make this an enjoyable, inspiring read... An often sweet memoir about finding oneself in many different places."


Next travel book to spotlight Iceland

25817249396_f6c787ef9f_z Kristine broke free from a desk job once again, and this time ended up volunteering in the far corners of Iceland!

Details about the release of this book will be posted on Facebook.