Saturday, June 16, 2012


In a last minute effort, I opened the hives this morning with the hope of harvesting more honey.  There was plenty of honey in the hives, as there was earlier in the week, and while the workers have made progress capping the honey cells, there were too many cells still open, so the honey harvest will have to wait until August.

Daughter and driving companion Rebecca came out for a look and I carried some frames to her so she wouldn't have to be too close to the hives. I handed her some drones to hold (they have no stingers) and they buzzed delightfully in her hands. She got to see capped brood, capped honey, queen cells, drone cells, and larvae--pretty much everything there is to see in a healthy hive.  

Since she was smart enough to be carrying her phone, she took this photo.  Just to the left of center is an emerging bee.  She's almost out of her cell. Close to the top, just to the left of middle is another emerging bee just beginning to carve her way out of the cell. The bumpier capped cells are developing drones. The flatter capped cells are incubating workers. The white stuff tucked down deep in some of the cells are plump larvae. Mostly, we see empty cells where bees developed and have already emerged. The workers will clean out those cells and the queen will come back to lay more eggs. Yes, they are busy bees. The bees in this photograph are nurse bees, the most recently emerged workers, who take care of cleaning the cells and feeding the eggs and larvae.

We heard from friends who live about a mile away.  JC is quite the gardener and when she went out to check on her blooming lavender she saw lots of honeybees. It is NOT true that they were wearing little t-shirts with Insight Bank logos, but there is a strong possibility they are A's Bees.  The lavender is well within foraging range for my bees. Mmm, lavender honey.

Since I will be away from my bees until August, I added supers to three of the hives. I want them to have plenty of room for brood, honey and their ever increasing population. I continue to be concerned about Hives 2 and 3. They are not as strongly populated as I would like (remember, they missed at least three weeks of 1,000 laid eggs per day while they were queenless). I am seeing way too many drones in Hive 3 and scarcely any larvae in Hive 2.  Fellow beekeepers Susan G. and Susan V-C will keep an eye on things, but mostly, I will leave it up to the bees.

2012  4
2011  13

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Too Many To Count

Too many to count!  Bees?  Well, yes, but I am actually referring to the flowers in the meadow.

The meadow is still growing.  In places it is now chest high, almost five feet.  The tickseed (coreopsis) has been blooming for a while, giving us scattered blossoms of yellow. I have been watching the buds, hundreds if not thousands, forming on the rudbeckia (black-eyed Susan), and waiting and WAITING for them to open.  The waiting is over and the meadow is now a sea of yellow daisy-like blooms. I thought the bees would be square dancing about all the flowers, but when I looked at the meadow up close, I saw wasps, yellow jackets, a new kind of dragonfly, butterflies, smaller pollinators and daddy longlegs, but no honeybees.

At the OSU beeyard last night, I asked if bees are attracted to black-eyed Susans and was told that bees don't like them.  Well, this is a real missed opportunity! I am delighted to report that when I walked around the meadow this evening, there were plenty of bees in the yellow flowers.  I did not see full pollen baskets so I am assuming they are after nectar.  The misinformation at the beeyard brings home the point that if you ask a question of two beekeepers, you will get three answers of varying accuracy.

From the house, the hives have almost disappeared from view.  In the photo, you can easily see hives 2 and 4 and just a glimpse of hive 3.  Hive 1 is still there, I promise.  In "Oklahoma!" the corn was as high as an elephant's eye, but in my beeyard, the meadow is as high as a deer's eye. This afternoon, I saw movement out there by the hives. I waited and watched and saw a pair of deer ears, just the ears, moving across the tops of the flowers. The meadow plays tricks on my eyes. First, I thought the deer was on the path between the hives and the meadow. Then it looked like the ears were surrounded by meadow. Quite possibly, the deer was in the thick of it.

Parts of the meadow are falling over.  It might be due to collapsing under the weight of the thick plants, but it might also be that deer are bedding down in the meadow.  In either case, I am confident these are natural occurrences.  The falling down plants are still thick and blooming heavily.  This is NOT a tidy garden. In this photo you can see the unevenness of the plants.

The iPhone camera is not the best for closeup photography, but look closely and you'll see the honeybee on the center flower.  That's my girl!  Actually, there's really no way to know that, but I'm claiming her anyway. Unless she stings someone.

Shifting my attention from flora to fauna, here's the latest bee news.  At the beeyard last week, I was encouraged to take honey again before I head south for the summer.  Susan and I are now partners in an extractor.  We will now be able to take honey without having the bees devour it while we wait for our turn to borrow the bee club's extractor.  Harvey and I got the garage all set up yesterday and I headed out in the cool of the morning for a solo harvest.  I started with Hive 4, my strongest hive.  At the first harvest I saw that the queen had been all the way up in the top box.  There was capped brood up in the honey super.  Last week when I checked, the bees had emerged and the cells were filled again with honey. Yesterday, I saw that the queen had been up there again.  There was one nice frame of capped honey, some frames with capped brood and mostly frames filled with nectar.  Uncapped honey should not be harvested because it has too high a percentage of water.  The bees know when it is right and that's when they seal the cells.  I trust the bees to seal it when it is ready and that's when I will harvest.  I pulled the frame that was ready and went on to the next hive.

Hive 3 is the weakest hive.  I found lots of capped brood, plenty of stored nectar, and I decided to give these girls a boost with a frame of capped brood from another, better populated hive.  When I opened Hive 2, I switched two frames with Hive 3, only to realize when I continued my search for honey in Hive 2 that something is not quite right in there.  There was plenty of honey (one frame capped, so I pulled it), mostly uncapped, lots of capped brood, but almost no larvae.  I have to wonder if the queen I waited so long for has gone missing and if the hive is queenless once again.  Hive 2 could not afford to give up frames, so I decided to take two frames from Hive 1.  Musical chairs, bee style.  

Hive 1, the swarm hive, is going very well but there was no honey for me to take. It wouldn't pay to harvest just the two frames of capped honey--too much clean up time for six jars. There would be no harvest on this day. In the future, I need to make better mental notes about which boxes have frames out.  I had to open all the hives again because I didn't remember which boxes were incomplete. I can do better with this.

One very neat thing is, for the first time, I got to see bees emerging from their capped cells. I wish I could take photographs when I'm in the hives, but the iPhone would never be the same from my propolis-sticky fingers.   There is a solid pattern of tan capped cells where the bees are growing.  When she is ready to emerge, she chews a ring out of her cell cap.  What I saw was her beady eyes and antennae poking through the hole, and then her head.  I had too much to take care of to sit and watch bees emerge and didn't want to run the risk of agitating the bees by keeping their hives open too long. So, I moved on.

I am already noodling new ideas for improving my harvesting logistics.  If the weather holds out, I will try to harvest on Saturday, my last chance before I head south until August.  

I got through all those hive boxes with no stings.  However, when I inspected last week I did get the teensiest, least little sting through my glove on my right index finger.  It was less annoying than a mosquito bite.  I hope my luck continues to hold out.

2012  4
2011  13