Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Creating a Green Holiday with the Fransiscan Sisters!

I have to give out a big thank you to the Fransiscan Sisters in Kirkwood and to Diane Hippert in particular for inviting me to an evening on how to create a "Green Christmas".  I was asked, along with Susan, to man a booth about bees; to answer any questions and to sell a little honey and other stuff if I wanted.

It was an extremely interesting evening!  The Key Note speaker ran a single stream re-cycling facility that deals with Kirkwood's recycling as well as a whole lot more from other areas.  If you ever wanted to know your recycling goes, how it gets recycled and why you should recycle, this was the evening meeting to go to!

Why a single stream and not separete ones?  Well because the technology and automation now enables it to be done this way - optical sensors, electro magnets, eddy currents etc. etc.

And the honey sales were great too!  Most of my stock sold and the massage bars sold like hot cakes!  I just have to market and sell more!  If anybody is interested, contact me through the blog and I will try and get some to you before Christmas!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Giving Thanks!

It's been a while since I blogged last, and today is Thanksgiving!  So what did I do to give thanks today? I Made some massage bars, that's what!  Stunningly simple and whilst I haven't yet popped them out of their molds they feel lovely.  So here's the receipe...

"Honey, rub me all over!" Massage Bars...
1 part beeswax
1 part Cocoa Butter (I used 100% organic, but I don't suppose it really makes a difference)
1 part fractionated coconut oil.

Basically you melt the beeswax, drop in the cocoa butter until it melts, add the oil, mix and make sure it's all melted then chuck it into some molds.  Easy! Here's the link to the receipe.... Oh, I understand if you eat it it won't harm you!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

A bit of good news for a change!

It’s always nice to hear some good news. So here is some of the bee kind!  An entomologist  in the UK has recently found a species of bee that was been thought to be extinct in Britain. The bee, Halictus Eurygnathus, was last seen in 1946. And it was found on chalk downland just down the road from my stamping ground back home!

The downside to this story is that another bee (a mining bee, Andrena Hattorfiana) is suffering from habitat loss in the same area.  But things can be done to help, like leaving wildflower margins in arable fields.  I hope this particular lesson is rolled out to the mid-west! 

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

I think that’s it!

On Saturday I extracted what is likely to be the last honey from my hives.  The final super came from my city hive and it gave me another 8kg (18 lbs)!  So the overall total for the honey I harvested this year stacks up as…

Blue Queen Hive - 61 kg (135 lbs)
White Queen Hive - 31 kg (68 lbs)
Botanical Gardens - 14 kg (30 lbs)
City Bees - 30 kg (66 lbs)

Overall that’s 136 kg (300 lbs) of honey.  Brilliant!

The hive at the botanical gardens seems to have an active laying queen.  We had some doubt as I did not see any eggs or larvae at the weekend.  However I checked today and I spied some larvae in a nice dense pattern.  Perhaps the queen was not actively laying during the period that I was treating for mites.  There has been observation that this might be the case when using Mite Away Quick Strips.  I’m not 100% happy with the behavior of this hive – it gets quite defensive. But that may be down to the fact the hive was being sprayed by an irrigation hose today!  Irrespective, I think I will leave her alone for now. Perhaps if she gets through the winter I will think about requeening in the spring. 

Monday, September 5, 2011


Phew, that's a relief!.

It was such a lovely day today that the lure of an inspection just couldn't be resisted! The very good news is that there is brood (larvae) in my "Blue" Hive; the one that lost it's queen.  It was queenless for a while (probably since sometime in the middle or early July) and I only managed to introduce a new queen on 25 August, about 10 days ago.  I had hoped that some queen cells would develop, but that didn't happen. Anyway, three days after introducing her I checked to see if things were going well. Yes, she had been released, but I saw no sign of her.  But, rather than look for her I decided the best course of action would be to leave things alone and check again in a few more days.  I have been here before and the last time I went looking for her I clearly disturbed things and the queen did not take!

So in I went today and saw some nice larvae, probably about 5 days old, nicely packed into a frame.  I am quite relieved! The hive is nice and heavy with stores and the bees in the hive seem much more settled.  They are working and walking over the frames in a much more settled way.  While they were queenless they really didn't look like they had much "purpose".  I know this is a bit of a cliche, but they definitely were not right!

My other "at home" hive (the "White" Hive") seems busy and full of bees too.  I saw densly packed brood in a couple of frames in the top (of three) boxes and I removed the Mite Away Quick Strip residue.  They also have a lot of stores to carry them through winter. I suspect this hive will need to be watched for swarming in early spring! So place your orders now for a split!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Creamed Honey and Mead

I carried out an exercise in creamed (set) honey making yesterday.  This is the stuff that doesn't run all over the place when you put it on your bread/muffins etc.  It's actually dead easy to make, although I probably should be careful what I say as it will be another 5 days before I find if the receipe I used works!

All you do is heat the liquid honey to about 60C (140F) in order to remove any sugar crystals. Then you let it cool to about 35C (95F) before adding some seed honey i.e. a small proportion (1:9) of already set honey, leave it to stand for about 12 hours, pour it into jars and then keep at about 14C (57F) for five to seven days. I bottled my honey this morning and so will have wait until next weekend before I see if it will be OK.  How to I manage to control the temperature at 14C?  Well I found an unwanted wine fridge on Craigs List!

I also decanted my month-old mead into another demi-john (carboy to us US folks) this morning.  I got a mouth full while I was syphoning the stuff into a clean container. It's a bit rough, but it certainly has promise!

Monday, August 29, 2011

New Kids on the Block!

I got a call from a neighbour about a nest of bees in her yard!  Makes you wonder how long they have been there and what size of hive it is.  But, it's a bit to high in the tree, and the tree's a bit to big to cut down just to find out...

The Queen is out!

I looked in the hive this evening to check if the Queen is OK.  She was put in the hive last Thursday evening - 4 days ago.  Well, she was not in her cage and so I hope she is in the hive somewhere preparing to lay!  I will leave it a few more days to see if I can see any eggs and/or larvae.

Friday, August 26, 2011

The Queen is Dead! Long Live the Queen!

I got a new queen from "Long Lane Honey Bee Farm" yesterday and popped her in the hive yesterday evening.  I really looked hard through the hive for the old queen – not a sign of her, but I did observe a new bee emerging!  The timing of this is really weird.  I came home from vacation on 22 July, went through my bees about a week later to find there was no brood, just a few drone cells and isolated workers.  I left some queen cells alone for three weeks and looked again, still no brood and no queen.  By way of comparison the hive next to this had lots of brood and larvae so it wasn’t as though the queen just shut down in the hot weather. 

So I took the decision to re-queen and the new queen is now in the hive.  Time will tell if she is the only queen there and is accepted by the workers.  I guess in a week I will know one way or the other!

Later today I plan to look through my city hive – the one that is really defensive.  I have a super to remove and some mite treatment to perform (Mite Away Quick Strips).  We’ll see how they behave.  It is a lovely dry day today so I hope the bees will be out of the hive and not inside waiting for me….

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

My Local Honey!

This is fun!  The “St. Louis Post Dispatch” did a piece on us, well Elspeth and her honey recipes.  Kathleen (who looks after the Tower Grove bees) has a journalist friend who expressed an interest in my mead making.  It turned out that mead making wasn’t quite what the Post Dispatch was after, however they were interested in other recipes where Elspeth used honey.

So a journalist, and photographer, came to see us a couple of weeks ago, asked us lots of questions about what we did in St. Louis and what we liked to do and what influenced our cooking etc. etc. and low and behold today in the paper there is a feature containing a photo of Elspeth and a dish of her honey ice cream and honeyed figs.  Lots of people have noticed and it’s been a lot of fun!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Mead making!

So my latest venture is to make some mead.  I found a receipe published by Gary Reuter who works at the Department of Entomology at the University of Minnesota. He gave a really good series of talks at a conference arranged by the Easterm Missouri Beekeepers Association in 2010 so I thought if he knew about bees (and he does) he must know about mead!

Anyway the receipe is dead easy to follow. I have made two one gallon batches so far.  Each gallon has used honey from a different hive; my white queen hive and my blue queen hive.  I have used the same yeast and followed the instructions as closely as I can. This means the only difference between them is the source of the honey! Both batches are currently bubbling away in the basement!

I hope I will be able to discern a difference between the two brews once they have matured - I'm targetting Christmas for the tasting!

Monday, August 1, 2011


Well I'm a bit shell shocked!  My fantastic, highly productive "Blue" Queen has gone!  Not a sign of her in the hive!  I went in to the hive on Sunday morning; admittedly it's the first time in about a month, and got a bit of an unpleasant surprise.

I saw no brood, other than some spotty drone brood, and rather tellingly, several queen cells!  Doom! she must have swarmed I thought! But the queen cells were not just in the classic supersedure location (at the bottom of the frames), some were also on the body of the frames.  So I'm not really sure if she left, or died and is now being replaced.  I counted about 6 capped and therefore vital queen cells.  I reckon with all the absence of brood the hive must have been queenless for about 3 weeks, as it takes 21 days for an egg to be transformed into a hatched bee. So something happened just after we went on vacation. But what?

Anyhow where does this leave me?  Well I think it's actually quite interesting.  I was already thinking about re-queening this hive, albeit in the spring, but re-queening nevertheless. All this means is that the process I was going to induce has been brought forward a bit.  A lot of people swear by re-queening in the late summer as a good young queen can give a hive a healthy start to the next year.

So, I think the capped cells that I left in the hive will hatch in the next few days. Subsequently an emerging queen will take about a week to get ready for her maiden flight (but it could be less than this) and with luck she will return mated and will start laying soon after.  So in about 2 weeks I may be able to observe some new brood!  I'm pretty confident that with all the bee hives in the neighbourhood the drone stock out there will be from selected 'hygenic' stock and I could have another good laying queen on my hands for little fuss and bother.

Oh, and there's another major bonus!  The absence of a queen for about 3 weeks means that any mites that were in the hive should be killed off! The lack of brood will have disrupted their life cycle. No brood means no cells containing pupae in which the female mite can lay her young!  All in all it could be doubly good news.  You have to remain positive! Perhaps every could does have a silver lining?

Saturday, July 30, 2011


It's been a messy couple of days in the basement!  I've been rendering my wax cappings and have been working towards making some candles and lip balm etc. 

The problem is converting the wax cappings, left after the honey harvest, into beeswax that I can make good use of.  I looked on the internet and it has all looked pretty straight forward.  First off I put my cappings in a big aluminium saucepan I got from a garage sale - do not use a new one or one from the kitchen! To this I added about an equal volume of water and simply boiled up the water/wax mixture!  I don't think the proportions were especially important and it didn't seem to matter that once the mix was boiling I thew in further handfuls of cappings. Anyway I let this boil for about 20 minutes.

Once I was happy everything was all mixed up I then had to filter the debris (bees, bugs and other detritus) out of the wax.  I read different things on the internet and I was also given advise by some fellow beekeepers.  Basically you pour the filtered water/wax mixture into a container and let the wax and water separate. Anyway, my first approach was to pass the mix through an aluminium insect screen; the type you put over a window. This worked reasonably well but a lot of scum was carried through the filter and when the wax had separated and hardened there was a thick brown scummy layer attached to the bottom of the wax.  My second try was to pour the mixture through a paint strainer (a fine nylon cloth mesh).  This proved very good at removing the scum, but some still managed to get through this. I was going to have to pass the molten wax through a finer screen to remove the final few bits of rubbish

So my last effort involved melting the wax in a jar that was sitting in a bath of boiling water, and then to pass this through a really fine screen.  I found that a coffee filter was excellent; not a paper one, but one of the fine metal ones. The wax that passed though this is lovely! I will have to try to clean this sceen and reckon that I will have to clean it in boiling water.

I haven't tried it, but I do wonder if this coffee filter would be as effective on the boiling water/cappings wax mixture?  I guess I'll have to wait until next year to find out, unless I get some fall honey!

All good fun and I now have some ingots of beeswax and some candles!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Finally, a practical use for my honey - a tasty cocktail!

At Last I found a practical use for my honey - as an ingredient in a tasty cocktail...

"Lemon Balm Honeysuckle" - serves 8

6 Tbsp. honey
2 cups Bacardi
3/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 cup (loosly packed) fresh lemon balm leaves
8 lemon slices (for garnish)

Add the honey to a large jug and dissolve it in 6 tablespoons of hot water. Stir in the Bacardi and lemon juice. Add 2 cups of ice cubes. Cover and refridgerate for 2 hours (if you can wait this long!). Squeeze the lemon balm leaves to bruise them; add these to the jug. Finally fill 8 "Old Fashioned" glasses with ice cubes, divide the cocktail and pass out, to your guests of course!

So, that deals with about 1 tablespoon of honey per glass. By my reckoning that means I can drink about 6,144 glasses before I run out of honey!  Mind you that's also about 96 gallons of Bacardi!

Clearly I have some work to do..... better go and get a refill!!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Harvested! & knackered to boot!

And relax, it's all done, for now......

Yep, everything is harvested and in buckets!  I'm just about to pop out and have a few well earned beers - Happy 4th July everyone! Oh, the final tally...

Blue Queen Hive - 61 kg (135 lbs)
White Queen Hive - 31 kg (68 lbs)
Botanical Gardens - 14 kg (30 lbs)
City Bees - 22 kg (48 lbs)

So a total of about 128 kg (280 lbs) from my four hives.  Add to that the 45 kg (100 lbs) from Susan's harvest and 61 kg (135 lbs) from Eugene's and I'd say it was a pretty successful day!

Now, where's that beer.....

Sunday, July 3, 2011

All gathered in!

I think (and hope) all the hard work is now done! Over the last two days I took off 6 more supers (more or less). I now have 8 supers awaiting extraction tomorrow, but I reckon I'll have to start tonight! Boy was it hard! Working in 35C temperatures (95F) was tough. How people do this for a living I don't begin to comprehend!

Anyway my guess is that I will have another 150 lbs. Some will go to others, but that still leaves me plenty not to know what to do with!!! A sweet problem nevertheless!

I'll blog tomorrow with the final score!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Honey Harvest - Phase 1

Well we're off! Phase 1 of the Honey Harvest started today. I took off 4 supers from my favourite "Blue Quees" hive. Two mediums and one shallow super of "normal" honey and a shallow of cut comb honey. I've not weighed the cut comb honey super yet, but the other three gave me 41 kgs (90 pounds), which I'm really pleased with!!! The blue hive still has another super which is nearly capped so I may be dealing with about 70 kgs (150 lbs) in total from this single hive. Fantastic!!!

I still have another two supers on each of my city hives and three on my "white" hive to go!

I need more buckets!!!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Bee Madness!!

It's all going bonkers here!!!

The bees at the botantical gardens have filled a super with honey and we are having to put a second box on.  So there's at least 30 lbs on this hive. And there's still another month of honey flow to go...

My bees at home (just the blue hive) has four full supers - so probably 120+ lbs of honey already and I added a fifth super!  I didn't even check my other hive at home, nor my second city hive yet! I better get some more boxes!!!

What does this mean?  Well I could have upwards of 200lbs of honey this year.  Bonkers!  Anyone want to fill a bath?

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Bring it on!

The Botanical Garden bees have finally risen to the challenge, or have finally realised what a gold mine they are sitting on!  They've now almost filled an entire medium super - in a little over a week.  I need to ass another super as I reckon there will be another month or so of nectar flow to come yet!  Can they fill this too?  Wow these bees have really taken off.

I can't wait to see what my bees down the road have done!  I estimated they were about a week in advance of the garden bees in their development and the stores they were packing away.  With any luck I will probably need to go along armed with an empty super! I havn't even thought about the bees at home!

Bring it on!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Has the swarming season finished?

It's been a while since I last blogged - and a while since I last looked in the hives.  A lot has been going on and it's difficult to know where to start.  So in date order...

Last Friday (yes 5 days ago!) I looked in my nice "Blue" hive at home to see what has been going on with respect to Queen Cells.  I'm happy to report that no new cells have been made, and the ones I removed have not been rebuilt!  So does this mean swarming season is over for me????  Famous Last Words I expect.  This good news (?) means I didn't do any Demaree swarm control and have instead enjoyed seeing my girls pack away the honey!  Two supers are full and the other one is now filling.  Not enough for me to want to put another one on, but it's coming on nicely.  Next week I may add something as the weather is supposed to be good!

On Saturday I looked in on my City Hives.  The one down the road from the Botanical Gardens is beginning to build out the super I added last week and even some honey is being stored!  I couldn't see much else in the hive as it started to rain as I began the inspection.  But this hive is doing well in this neighbourhood!

Also on Saturday I looked in the Botanical Garden Hive.  This has been about a week behind the other hive.  And although still a bit behind I put a super on just to help get things moving if the weather and honey flow improve next week.  It looks healthy and adding the super makes me feel good about it!!!

Finally my "White" hive at home.  I managed to look at this today after helping Susan with her bees.  If you remember I was executing swarm control measures on this hive (The Demaree method). Last week (20th May) I removed about 7 Queen cells from the top hive bodies where the nurse bees are/were.  Today I saw no Queen Cells. Which is both predictable I suppose, but also a nice relief!  Instead the deeps above the queen excluder are filling with food stores.  The deep that is under the queen excluder has eggs, brood, larvae in it, but again no Queen Cells!  So I have (perhaps a bit rashly) removed the queen excluder and put the deeps back on the hive, under the stack of supers.  I'm hoping that this will encourage some more foraging and brood rearing as the queen (wherever she is) now has room to move up through the hive and lay, lay, lay! I guess I shouldn't rush to get back into this hive - perhaps in a week or 10 days time...

Maybe, just maybe my bees have passed the time that they will want to swarm this year? But having said that I fully expect to be proved wrong and have my theory torn up right in front of me!!!

Friday, May 20, 2011

It's Super - quite literally!

Super is definitely the word.  My hive near (not in) the Botanical Garden is thriving.  There's lots of lovely brood and plenty of nectar coming in.  So much so that today I removed the feeders, did a reverse and I added my first super! Brilliant!

The hive I tend in the Gardens is also doing well, but it's not quite like the one down the road.  No need to super here, but I did remove the feeder and there is plenty of pollen - which given it's location isn't too surprising I suppose!  I think in a week we may well be reversing and adding a super here as well! Can't wait!

My home hives are also pushing ahead.  The "white" hive that is undergoing a Demaree swarm control procedure right now has supers that are (at a guess) about 40% full.  Today I removed about 7 queen cells from the top two hives - It's 10 days since I played with the hive. There appear to be no further eggs in the top of the hive, which is just what I want.  In the bottom, although I didn't see the queen, I saw eggs and significantly no queen cells. I think the swarm control measures are working!

My "blue" hive is bursting!  All three of the supers are practically full already! I therefore "bottom supered" with a fourth. So that's it, I'm out of supers now! I have one more medium super box, but no more frames!  I feel an order for some more coming on very soon! The queen is brilliant - but perhaps a bit too good as I found a couple of Queen Cells on a couple of frames - viable ones at that.  This is a bit gloomy as I may have to do some Demaree measures on this hive as well! For this I'll need another deep box and some frames.  I'm out of all my essentials!

I suppose beekeeping has it's good and it's not so good days.  Overall today has been very, very, good.

Friday, May 13, 2011

I slept on it... and then had second thoughts...

I inspected both my home hives on Wednesday (after dealing with Susan’s bees, for which there is a whole other story!) and was very happy with what I saw; well up to a point anyway.

My “Blue”, nice and calm, hive has practically filled a super with light coloured nectar/honey - it’s not yet capped, but could this be linden tree honey? Wow! That would be great! There is lots of nicely packed brood in the hive too and although I didn’t see the queen I’m sure from the larvae I saw she is there. There is a lot of pollen too. I allowed myself to bask in a warm glow, just for a bit! I didn’t even see any Queen Cells - very happy about that!

My “White” hive is also strong, but these bees are less calm. They fly about a lot around and in front of you as you work the hive, but as yet they don’t get aggressive and sting. They follow you for a bit as well, but are not too persistent. These bees are filling supers too and the deeps are full of brood and stores as well. So this is good. I saw larvae and the queen - also great. And I saw Queen Cells! Not so good! There were Supersedure cells; three grouped together on the bottom of a frame and a fourth still open on another. I cut them all out and thought that would be sufficient.

Later on yesterday I went to the bee club and was convinced that I need to do something more than cut out the Queen cells. So I went back this afternoon and used the Demaree method of swarm control on the bees. The reasoning is that if the bees have already capped Queen Cells, their swarm urge is strong and it is unlikely that cutting out queen cells will stop them from swarming. The Demaree method separates the queen from her brood and this simulates swarming. Hopefully the nurse bees have been fooled into thinking the hive has swarmed!

I isolated the queen in the bottom deep (under a Queen Excluder) with two frames of capped brood and some frames of foundation. On top of the excluder I put two of my supers, then two deeps that contained the remains of the brood, and finally the last of my supers. The hive stack now has an unconventional look about it and is now taller than me (but only if you include the height of the stand!). I need to wait about nine or ten days before I go back in to cut out any more queen cells in the top deeps and separate more the brood from the queen in the bottom of the hive.

At least this gives me time to ask a few more questions about what I’m doing!!!

Bee Lucky!!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Progress in the City...

It's been a couple of weeks since the hives were installed in the city (and in the case of one, moved).  I spent some time checking on them yesterday.  Just a quick look inside to feed the bees and check on their development.

Both hives are doing very nicely.  Strangely I think the hive that is not in the Botanical Gardens (MOBOT) is doing ever so slighly better. This hive has more drawn comb in the top hive box, but really there's not much in it.

I fed about a gallon of 1:1 syrup to each hive.  The MOBOT hive has taken about 2 gallons in two weeks whereas the other hive has consumed just one.  I think we will see that increase soon.  Why?  Well, I have moved a couple of frames of brood up into the top hive bodies from the lower hive bodies.  I'm hoping this will stimulate some building.  I'd like to have frames in both hive bodies to be drawn out by the end of the month (if not sooner). The if the nectar flow is still on I can see if there is any chance of bulding out (and filling) of some supers!

Here are a few pics of the installations:

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Drawn out foundation

My so called "weak" queen (the one that saved the beetle infested hive last year) is going great guns! These bees have tons of brood being reared and have built out about 6 of the 8 comb-honey frames in my shallow super.  I don't think the other hive has even found out they have supers on their hive yet!

So I'm very happy with this one!  The other hive is doing well too and I'm hopefull she will catch up soon!

Sunday, May 1, 2011


No sooner than they got there, they went!  What happened?

Well they moved, but not of their own accord; more due to someone else's!  It seems the presence of bees in the International Institute's farm was a bit premature and although it is a farm, my particular kind of livestock has more issues than some were prepared for! I understand a board member expressed reservations over the safety risk they posed. Funny really, as I strongly suspect that firearms in this part of town are distinctly more of a threat to the local population than my girls! Still, I suppose the threat of possible litigation is far more frightening to some than what we can find in nature.  Better stop spouting off at this point...

Anyway, the bees are now located at another address (which is tip, top, secret!!). It's about a mile or so from the farm. After the move no girls went back to the farm, which was nice!  I just hope their new home has more accepting neighbours.

We haven't given up on the farm just yet. The Farm Coordinator and some of the managers are going to be lobbying hard for their return. I wish them well, it is a good location, and there are some local residents who I think would really enjoy having them around.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Very angry bees, and mis-understandings...

So finally this afternoon I looked at the bees in my own garden.  If you remember I was concerned that I saw some queen cells in them last weekend.  Well, put it down to inexperience, or just the fact that it could have been blind panic at the time, but clearly I confused a drone cell (which was all on it's own) with a possible queen cell.  I am now certain these queen cells were actually not that!  How am I sure?  Well I looked through Susan's hive this afternoon and saw very clearly what a queen cell looks like!  They are much, much, bigger! How could I forget?

There I was, fully expecting to see queen cells throughout my hives, but I saw none!  I think the fact I was in a hurry on Sunday made me make the confused diagnosis.  What this all meant was that I didn't feel I needed to carry out any swarm prevention measures. I was fully prepared to implement the Demaree method and had all my excluders and frames ready etc. But on seeing they were drone cells I backed out and let the queens pretty much carry on as they were.  I did leave some syrup in one of the hives, but come Friday I think I will remove this.

Now on to Angry Bees! Susan had a bad experience yesterday.  A bee got into her veil and stung her on the lip while she was looking through her hive. Another bee then stung her on the arm. She suffered some considerable swelling!  The other result was that she didn't get to look properly in her hive. This afternoon I offered to take a look - probably bravado after feeling good about my hives!

Her split was pretty calm, but somehow a bee also got inside my veil!!!  Thankfully I did not get stung, but I did re-tie the veil!  What did I see?  Well no queen that was clear, but plenty of capped queen cells at the bottom of the frames! This is confusing. Susan had already spoken to Eugene about this and his suggestion was to just let the bees replace the missing one.  Why not, it could be interesting and I suspect the gene pool in the neighbourhood will be good.  I know of at least 4 hives nearby with 'hygenic' queens, and so good drones for the new queen should be easy to find. Susan will loose some production on this hive, but as she was trying to build this up to go through winter then she is probably OK.

Susan's parent hive was next and this was just plain nasty !!!!  My gauge is my own hives and one is very, very, calm and does not get very excited, even when I rip it apart.  My other hive gets more agitated; the bees tend to fly about and around you a bit, but they don't do much else.  I was thinking these bees were a bit unpleasant, until I met Susan's!  Wow they are brutes!

I had to get right inside her hive and so there were bits of hive body lying about on stands, the ground etc.  So bees everywhere.  I pretty quickly established that there were capped queen cells present (together with the existing queen) and so we have implemented the Demaree method.  I put the frame of bees with the queen in the bottom deep, added an excluder over it and then popped some supers on.

Then I had to deal with the deeps. The 'fun' started when I started to remove the queen cells!!  The bees came for me and started stinging my veil and suit and gloves.  Stings embedded everywhere, but thankfully NOT in me!  My son, who was warned about the nature of these bees, was watching from about 30 feet away and got stung twice! Yes, I did tell him he wasn't going to get any medals for being stung, but did he listen?  Anyway, we succeeded to remove all the queen cells (I hope).  We'll give it 8 to 10 days before going back in to remove any further queen cells we find; to check on the queen and possibly remove brood.  Can't say I'm looking forward to that!

Personally, I think this queen needs to go, and soon. You really can't beat a good execution when it comes to royalty!

International Institute of St. Louis

The other nuc now resides within the city bounday in McRee Town, on the site of an Urban Farm that is being run by the International Institute of St. Louis (THEISTL).  I am very excited by this development and I will be blogging the news of the bees and their development on this site!

The THEISTL runs programs for refugees who came to the USA and helps retrain them. I understand the idea of the farm is to help refugees to adjust to growing different crops in conditions they are not necessarily used to.  I also heard that there is a Nepalese guy who was a beekeeper back in Nepal.  Im looking forward to hearing his view on how I manage the bees on the site! and to find out how my bees differ from the ones he was used to dealing with!

Anyway, I moved the bees from my porch first thing this morning. I closed them up late last night while it was raining heavily. How brilliant an idea of mine was it to put the nucs on the porch! I think the unrelenting rain meant that all the bees were sheltering in the hive and so I'm pretty sure I took all the bees to the 'farm'. There were no stragglers seen hanging around the porch today!

Whitney getting involed!
The new apiary!
View from the landing area!
So my thanks go to Whitney the farm coordinator and to Zach for building a very nice hive stand!  I hope this proves to be a fruitful liaison for us all!  Can wait to get back on Friday and see how they have been behaving!

Busy, Busy Day

Well I was up early with my bees this morning!  Both the Nucs I had stored on my porch have now gone to great new homes.

One is now residing in the Botanical Gardens!  I received a call from a fellow beekeeper saying that someone at the gardens was interested in keeping some bees and did I have a hive I could sell? Brilliant!!!  I was told they would need some help to get them used to keeping bees and also to coach them through the first year! This should be fun!

So after some discussions with one of the horticulturlaists we got a hive location sorted out and a stand set up and at about 7.30 this morning the nuc was installed on a lovely hive stand on the edge of a lake within the grounds of MOBOT!!!

I have not yet met the lady who is going to keep the bees, but on Friday I hope to meet her and show her around the hive.  I also want to make sure there is sufficient syrup in the feeder. The hive comprises one deep full of drawn comb and brood etc. and a second deep with just a feeder and some foundation. I anticpate this deep could be drawn out in two or three weeks, maybe earlier and I also think it's not impossible for the bees to consume about 4 gallons of syrup during this period! That's about 30lbs of sugar!

But, if we can't make beekeeping work here with all these trees and flowers I guess I should hang up my smoker and hive tool and try something else!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Testing times...

So I went through the hives again today.  I removed some brood and combined it with the frames in my nucs. Hopefully I have made some space for the bees in my hives.  Will it work?  I don't know yet!

The upshot is that I now have two small hives on my porch, each with some 8 or 9 frames of brood and stores.  These will get moved to their new locations on Tuesday if all goes to plan. But the weather is proving to be totaly disruptive. Storms and heavy rain all weekend, plus no end in sight this coming week. So bees cooped up inside, not doing anything other than thinking about swarming.  They're like small children - I just have to get them to think of something else!!!

Just to compound the issues and add salt into the wounds, during all of this I found a queen cell in one of my nucs!!  The new queen was there as well!  What are the bees doing to me?  Did I upset them? I'm now really confused! What will happen? I suspect I'll just have to wait and see.  If my new 'nucs' swarm, what can I do? My objective is to build them up for next winter.  So as long as I can do this I reckon we'll be OK. If they swarm I guess I'll need to get a new queen!

If my own hives at home swarm, that may be a different kettle of fish.  I need to sleep on this and ask around for some advice.  The Demaree method seems worthy of some reading up on.  Maybe if I can get hold of a couple more queen excluders I can make sure both don't swarm!


Saturday, April 23, 2011

Swarm Preparations?

I'm not sure about this, but when I was in my hives this afternoon I may have removed a couple of active swarm cells.  One was open and full of milky white royal jelly, the other was closed and had a pupa in it.  It could have been a drone cell, but I don't think so.  Both cells were on the bottom of a frame so in prime position for a swarm cell!

There were plenty of queen cups too. But these were all empty and I've sort of got used to finding them.  I am more concerned about the possibility of queen cells as I do not want the hives to swarm!

So what do I do?  My initial thought is to make nucs from some of the brood frames in the hives, thus making some more space for the bees.  But I only did this a couple of weeks ago!  Quite aside from the fact I don't have any queens right now, can I do this again? I can't see why not.  One complication will be the fact that the two nucs I have currently contain bees - and will do so into next week.  I am going to prepare new hives from these, but I don't this until Tuesday.

There is some good news!  My 'Blue' hive has started to draw out honey comb on some of the plastic foundation in the deeps and on the pure beeswax foundation in the supers.  Maybe this will keep them busy and take their minds of swarming.  I can always cross my fingers.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Earth Day in Forest Park

The EMBA had a stall at the Earth Day event held in Forest park today.  There was HUGE interest in keeping bees and in general bee health. OK so we did have an observation hive, which always helps bring in the public, but nevertheless tons of people took a very genuine interest.  Several took away information on starting hives and I hope they will take the plunge, get some bees and come to the beekeeing meetings.  Who knows I may even have sold one of my nucs!

On Friday I went to the International Institute of St Louis' farm to check out thier site and see how it will be for some bees. Little did I know there was an article in the STL Post Dispatch (also on Friday) about the project. Really interesting stuff is going on there and I'm really excited about being asked to help in my own little way.  There's a video which very neatly explains what it's all about.  Anyway I hope I'll have a new hive installed there this coming weekend! The site is great. OK there's not much visible right now, but lots of planting going on will see to that.  My plan would be to have a single hive there this year and hopefully split it this time next year! But I better not get ahead of myself just yet!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Settling in and moving on...

I was a bit worried about removing the division board feeders from the nucs just as I had introduced the queens. But there didn't seem to be sufficicent room for the queen cages, 4 frames of brood and honey as well as the feeder. Something had to go and it was the feeders!

I was telling Susan about my predicament last night, and also the fact that I felt the feeders were just a little too wide to fit comfortably in the nucs.  She kindly offered me 2 frames of honey she had taken from her hive earlier in the season and wasn't going to use! I gladly accepted these and set about inspecting the nucs this evening after I got home from work.

Both queens appear to be well settled in, and they're laying eggs too!  Great News!  So I have two good nucs with brood on 3 frames and I will be in a position to sell one of these and use the other one myself.  Which brings me nicely on to the other news I have.

There was a call in the "Waggle" newsletter this week from Bob Sears for anyone who was interested in starting or moving a hive of bees to a couple of urban farms in St Louis.  One of these farms happens to be located quite near the Botanical Gardens - WOW!!! what further motivation could I need!!! and it is run by the "International Institute of St Louis".  I don't know a whole lot about the organisation but from what I have read online they run programs for immigrants to the US to help get people get started in agriculture and other things.  That sounds like a good fit for me, what with me being an "alien" myself. So I called the people involved and I have set up a meeting on site tomorrow lunchtime.

I'm quite excited about starting a third hive, having it near the Botanical Gardens and on a site where there should be a lot of interest generated. Don't worry I expect I'll blog about this ad nauseam!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Queen Installation

I picked up 5 queens this morning; not all for myself. It was especially interesting to hear them 'piping'.  I was reading that piping is common when there is more than one queen in the hive. So I wonder if they were piping because they sensed there were other queens nearby?

I put my two queens in the nucs at lunchtime, without any incident.  I even did it without wearing gloves! My first time this year.  I left the cork plug in place in the queen cagesand I will go back in a couple of days (probably Monday) to remove the plug and let the bees loose on the candy.  I hope by Wednesday the queens will have been fully released and accepted by the bees in the nuc.

STOP PRESS: The apparant nosema streaking I noticed the other day all seems to have dissappeared. Was the medication successful? Did the bees just get over it? or was the streaking just the result of the bees being "mightily relieved" after being cooped up for a couple of wet days?  Who knows, but it all looks good for now. I saw my first hive beetle yesterday - boo!!!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Nucs made!

It turned out perfect for making nucs this morning, once I got a trip to the dentist out of the way! I made up two nucs from my two hives!

There was plenty of brood in the hives. I took two good frames of brood (capped and uncapped) and two frames of food.  For good measure I added a division board feeder to the hive too! There are at least 6 frames of brood remaining in the hives. Most of this in the bottom box and I will have to take a look next week and see whether I need to reverse the brood boxes again!

Tomorrow my new queens are due to arrive; one for each nuc.  I hope the weather will be sufficiently good to enable me to install one in each of the nucs - I'm sure it will. I have put the nucs on the porch where they are sheltered. I will be able to open them up and install a queen (inside her cage of course) even if it is raining.

Right, so what am I going to do with the nucs?  Well, I may sell one and use the other to start a colony in a community garden that is located in the city.  I called the garden last two days ago but have yet to hear back from them. I am hopeful I will start this up. Eitherway I will not be shipping the nucs until probably next weekend.

Any takers? $120 each.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Last minute flurry of activity!

Last minute flurry of activity!

I got to thinking yesterday afternoon (over a glass of wine) about when I should super my hives. They seem well set up, what with 6 frames of brood, stores and some available space to move into. But the big question was when should I add supers, when will the nectar flow start?

I posted a note to the forum and waited…..

It seems that at least one person has already added supers (albeit on Saturday) as he is seeing fruit trees and dandelions in bloom. OK, sounds pretty compelling I thought, so knowing it was due to be wet today, and stormy overnight, I quickly dashed to put my supers on my hives. Now, I only have one super with built out frames of comb and this I split between two of my supers. I put the built out frames in the middle of the boxes. So my hives now have two supers on each of them – the built out frames being at the bottom of each stack! We’ll see what happens over the next few days and weeks…

Of course still being a little new to this game, I then began to start worrying about whether supering now was too early! Anyway reassurance, in the way of Eugene, came galloping over the horizon and he tells me he too has supered, and thinks I am probably fine.

OK, (breathes a sigh of relief) I think I’m probably well set up now. But I still might make some nucs from the brood in the two hives I have now – swarm control. Might also have to get some more supers ready…

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Reversals, Nosema medication and cleaning out old supers.

Seems from the title of the post that there has been a lot going on this week.  I guess that's right, but I don't think things are quite as dramatic as I have perhaps made out.  Last weekend I topped up the syrup in both hives.  On Wednesday, although it was cold, I added/topped up the syrup and I guess I added about 2 litres to each hive.  This time I medicated the syrup with Fumagellin B as I had noticed some streaking on the front of the hives and thought that this might be nosema. The Fumagellin B was really added as a precaution.  I cleaned off the outside of the hive in order to see the extent of the streaking.  The following day it was quite clear the streaking was quite extensive (see photo).

This afternoon I went through the hives with Jurgen, a German friend who is playing with the idea of keeping bees. My girls' behaviour was exemplary! They were so calm. Jurgen felt very at ease and I reckon I'll be able to convince him to keep one hive for me, even if he doesn't want to keep any for himself this year. We probably had the hives open for 45 minutes and hardly used any smoke in the first hive. We opened the hive without smoking it in order to see the extent of the brood area. This wasn't really effective as the bees were all over the top of the frames and we couldn't make out the extent of the brood! It was another 5 or 10 minutes before we realised we left the smoker lying 20 feet away!

The first hive (blue queen) had 6 frames of capped and uncapped brood in the top box but no brood in the bottom box, although there was quite a lot of food stored in the bottom. We saw the queen.  I therefore decided to a reversal.  This all seems to be very good and all appears to be going to plan right now.  I topped up the syrup with another litre or so.

The second hive (white queen) had a couple of  frames of brood in the top box  - only small areas, and there was quite a lot of brood on comb between the top and bottom box which I had to remove. The bottom box however contained about 5 or 6 frames of brood (capped and uncapped).  Interestingly I saw the white queen in the top box and in the bottom box!  She must have jumped below while I was lifting out frames! This hive, like the other one, took about a litre of medicated syrup.

So, the new queens arrive next weekend. I feel confident I will be able to make at least one nuc from what I have seen in my two hives.

Last, but not least, I put a couple of old supers out for the bees to clean.  I had these supers on one of the hives over the winter but took them off a couple of weeks ago. On advice from Bob I left these out for the bees to clean up. It is likely that the honey in them is not really fit to be eaten as it has been left uncapped over the winter and could have exposed to contamination.  So the best course of action seems to be to have the bees clean them up and then maybe I'll re-use them later in the summer.  The frames and comb are old and very dark so I am tempted to remove the wax and put new foundation in them. here are a few photos of the girls cleaning things off...

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Cracking on...

It's nearly April, the clocks "sprung forward" last weekend, so what happens?  5" of snow fell yesterday!!! And it's quite cold, above freezing as I write this, but only just.

As I put full division board feeders on the hives last weekend (for the first time this season), I thought I really should get in and top them up this weekend.  The weather wasn't great in the week, so today (Sunday) was the only chance I have had to look in for a week.  It was cold, but warm enough in the sunshine, and there was no wind.  No bees were flying.

I opened up the hives and both had a healthy number of bees. I was told of a trick in the week.  If you open up the hive, wait 30 seconds, but add no smoke, a 'ring' of bees should appear on the top of the frames and this will tell you the size of the cluster.  My girls are on about 5 or 6 of the 9 frames in the top deep.  Nice! They were also very calm about me opening the hive.

So how much feed had they consumed?  This week as I said has seen some been poor weather - cold and wet - and so it was not good conditions for foraging, flying and collecting pollen, and sure enough, the syrup I added last week was pretty much gone. I had to fill feeders in both hives which is about 3.7 litres (OK a US gallon).  The hives are certainly cracking on now, and with a couple of weeks before the queens arrive this is good news.  I will definitely have to inspect the hive during the week to see how quickly the syrup is being eaten.  They could be going through a gallon in just 3 or 4 days!

My nucs are being painted and will be ready to receive brood.  Anyone interested?

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Well I may have been on a break but...

We spent the weekend in Memphis taking in the sites and sounds enjoying and relaxing(ish)!  It was lovely and warm when we got home this afternoon and so a hive inspection was calling.  It had been a week since the last inspection and I was keen to see what had been going on.

Of course, unlike me, my girls had been hard at work and in the 'Blue' hive they had started to build comb above the frames in the space created by the hive shim over the patties. On closer inspection I found eggs had been laid in this comb! So it seems that my queen is getting impatient for space. Although there is probably brood on 4 frames I still decided to remove the last of the patties from the top of the frames and add a second deep, along with a division board feeder and some 1:1 syrup.  And in order to encourage rapid brood rearing, I moved two frames of brood from the bottom deep into the new top deep.

In the second, 'White', hive the bees have also been busy - OK, there's no egg-filled comb above the frames this time, so I got to wondering how much of a 'distraction' [to the business of brood rearing that is] the super under the deep had become? Although there is probably a similar quantity of brood in this hive as in the 'Blue' hive - no question, the super had to go! This is now sitting between the hives, on top of a bee escape and tomorrow I'll take it away and store it in the basement. I added a second deep and feed, but unlike the 'Blue' hive I didn't move any brood from the nest up into the top deep. I felt the brood nest just wasn't as strong although I did want to stimulate some brood rearing

Maybe I should have waited for more brood to be reared on the frames before installing a second deep?  I don't know. It will be interesting to see where the development will be in a week or so.  My aim is to be in a position to put supers on in about 3 or 4 weeks and I feel comfortable with moving a second deep on at this stage.

I'll check mid-week to see how much feed has been consumed, and how much new brood has been laid in the top deep.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Developing Nicely!

Brood rearing is coming on nicely in both hives - well both hives are at about the same stage of development; there is brood on 3 frames in each hive.  Well done girls!  So I have to ask what is everyone else experiencing at the moment? Anyway there is plenty of capped and uncapped brood in the hive.  I didn't look for eggs as I didn't figure that was all that important in light of there being lots of larvae present.  A month ago there was no brood in the hives at all!

My hope is that in a week (or maybe two) I will be able to add a second deep to the hive.  The trigger will be when I have about 5 to 6 frames of brood in each of the bottom boxes.  Fingers crossed for a period of nice warm weather.

The pollen patties I have been adding have been taken lightly. By this I mean that some is being eaten, but not much.  This is OK I think as there is a pile of pollen being brought in from outside and there is still quite a lot of honey in the hives.  I just think the bees prefer their food fresh and not 'tinned'!!!

All looks nicely poised for the spring.  I have two queens on order for the 9th April.  If the hives are not looking like there is sufficient brood in them to make nucs then I'm not sure what I will do - I hope someone will want a couple of queens!!!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Second Inspection

Another warm day, and some more good news... My white queen has been busy and she's now "with brood" like my blue queen.

I estimate that the blue queen, from the "weak" hive (which now feels a bit of a misnomer) has brood on 3 frames.  A nice oval about 6 inches by 4 inches. The white queen (from the "strong" hive) has brood on 2 frames, about the same size.  Given that I missed seeing eggs and larvae last weekend, this is probably a bit of an underestimate of the amount of brood that is actually there! I reckon in a little over a week both queens could be on 5 to 6 frames of brood.  Probably not this weekend, but the one after that.

The pollen patties I put on last week (as well as the ones from 2 weeks ago) are still there, so there must be enough natural pollen in the area to satisfy the bees demands.  I think this is evidenced by the fact there was plenty of new pollen stored in the frames near the brood. So, all in all, I fell pretty confident about my hives at the moment. Maybe my re-configuration last weekend was worth while and it stimulated the queens into laying.

Anyway, if the brood rearing goes as I hope then I'll be looking to add a second hive body to the hives in a couple of weeks. So I think I'll leave the hives alone until then, but once the second body is on I'll feed, feed, feed and hopefully get drawn comb and supers on in double quick time!

This weekend I was lucky enough to get hold of some additional hive equipment.  A complete hive; baseboards, top and inner covers, 2 hive bodies and a super, but no frames. All from my friend Brian, who is interested in keeping bees, but has not been able to commit to it yet. This equipment will buy me some time should I have to divide the hives. But where will I put the hive?  Well, Jurgen (the husband of one of the local school teachers) may have it, but I am exploring other avenues...

Sunday, February 20, 2011


Well a second inspection this weekend has yielded my first sight of brood this year!  In the so called "weak" hive as well!  Perhaps this hive isn't so weak afterall.  Actually the differences between the hives has been interesting to see. 

I opened my "strong" hive to do a bit of reorganization and consolidation today.  I eneded up "reversing" the super and placing this at the bottom of the hive, and leaving the deep with the cluster above it.  The second deep I removed entirely.  I did however move some of the stores about the hive too. The deep with the cluster now contains a lot more stores as well as two empty frames of comb adjacent to the cluster.  I hope now the bees will not have to look too far for supplies and can start to lay brood this week. The pollen patty I added a week ago has been partially eaten but I added another half a patty to keep them going.  I removed the sugar mush as they just don't seem to want this.  I think they have enough honey for the moment and I don't need to worry about them running out.

When I opened the "strong" hive it was very noticeable how many dead bees were lying on the screned bottom board. I couldn't actually see the screen! But they seemed in otherwise good health.  Maybe this was why the top entrance was being so well used.  By comparison there were no dead bees on the bottom of the "weak" hive, so maybe the queen in this one this is actually very hygenic and her workers fastidious! The queens are from difference sources and it is interesting to note that my "weak" queen pulled a nearly collapsed hive through a very nasty SHB infestation.  She's a good 'un I reckon!.

Anyway, I moved a couple of frames of honey from the "strong" hive to the called "weak" hive, just to increase their reserves, but as I said the weak one is fine have now started to raise some brood. The queen must have started laying last week as there is some capped brood now visible.  The pollen coming in from the willow and maple trees may well be giving the bees a little boost towards brood rearing and this may be why the pollen patty on this hive has only been partially eaten. Nevertheless, I added an additional half a patty for good measure. I can always take this off next week, or whenever I manage to get back in again.

Overall the hives look in good shape and I'm happy.  I hope I will be able to make another inspection next week.

Monday, February 14, 2011

First Inspection of 2011

I took my first proper look in the hives yesterday.  I was pleased with what I saw, but also a little perplexed! There are plenty of bees in both hives and I saw one of my Queens, so that's good.  However, there wasn't any brood present.  At the beekeeping workshop held on Saturday there was talk that we should expect to see some brood being reared now.  After some discussions with others, it seems possible that a lack of pollen in the hive (I don't remember seeing any) could be imparing the bee's ability to rear brood.  I raised a therad on the EMBA forum and got some support from a couple of others; I added some pollen patties tonight!

It should be a warm week so it will be interesting to see if the bees take the pollen patties and start to rear brood.  I hope I will see something develop at the weekend.  I probably should have some more patties on hand - better go buy some!

Oh, there are a few pictures on the slideshow opposite this post!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Expanding rectums! What the...

It's been a month (at least) since the last warm day.  And of course it just happened to coincide with the Annual Beekeeper workshop run by EMBA!  The same thing happened last year.  Cold for ages, and when it finally did warm up and we could get into the hives, we were all inside in an all-day meeting!!!

There are clear signs that both hives are alive and well. But my poor girls must have been desperate to go for a wee!  Do they cross all of their legs when they hold on? Still, they all seem to have taken the opportunity to gop on clensing flights today and have also done some housework!

Anyway a lot of cleaning of dead bodies has been going on and this is clearly shown on the backdrop of snow.  I will try and go in to the hives tomorrow to see what I can see.  Maybe I'll feed, maybe I'll rearrange the frames I don't know, but it will make interesting viewing. We learned today that bees have expanding rectums and can hold on for up to 6 weeks!  How useful is that!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Another weapon in the fight against Varroa Mites?

I think it’s true to say that beekeepers enjoy “tinkering”, and I dare say we all know one or two who have their own particular system of doing things when it comes to managing their hives.  I think the same is true when it comes to beekeepers playing about with beehive design.  There’s an excellent blog ( that contains literally hundreds of beehive designs, old and new, some of which are still in use and some of which probably shouldn’t be!  It seemed to me that everything must have been tried at least once.  So, just when you thought there really wasn’t anything new to try out…
Enter the “Rotating Broodframe Beehive” from Hungary!  This was first exhibited in 2002 and comprises disk shaped brood frames mounted on a horizontal axle in a conventional looking brood box, located under “normal” supers.  Brood is raised on the disks which slowly rotate (once every 36 hours). So why do this?  Well it’s all done in the name of Varroa mite control. 
In a traditional hive the mites live and lay eggs etc. above the bee pupa. However, in the rotating hive the location of mite eggs may be under the pupa, so they are effectively trapped and the mites are unable to hatch. The food source for the hatched mite larvae (i.e. the hole the female mite chewed in the bee pupa) is also periodically closed off by the bee pupa’s shifting/rotating position.  All this serves to interrupt mite development and causes the female mite in the cell to try and reorganize her eggs, further delaying mite development. The result is that Varroa mites do not have the chance to mature properly in the cell and are not able to survive once the cell cap is opened! 
But how do the bees cope?  Well according to the inventor the rotating brood chamber does not trouble the bees. It just encourages them to reorganize the brood daily. As well as the reported Varroa reduction another interesting aspect of the hive design is that it allows frontal entry to the brood chamber so inspections can be done without having to lift off any supers!  Now that sounds a very good idea!
It all sounds brilliantly simple.  I wonder how effective it has proved to be since it first was developed? Some further research is needed...

Friday, January 14, 2011

The "Need for Feed"

I came home early today to look at the bees and assess if they need any feeding. It was just above freezing (3C) and wasn't windy so it seemed a good time to quickly open the hive and take a look to see if I should add any feed.  To help, last night Fred and I prepared some 2" rims for the hive.  These, placed on the top of the brood box provide sufficient space above the frames, but under the inner cover to place a zip-loc bag full of sugar mush.

So, before opening the hives I lifted them to see how heavy they were.  I was actually surprised as I expected them to be really light.  "Heavy-ish" was my impression - but I still didn't know if that was good or bad; I just haven't been doing this long enough!

After I had assessed the "need for feed", (around 3pm) I opened the small hive (the one with only one deep) and found a large (well I thought it was large) cluster at the top of the frames!  I was very surprised at how large it was - a big ball of bees!!!  Brilliant news, the hive seems to be thriving!!  Still, after a bit of fluster on my part, I smoked the bees down so I could place the mush on the frames over the cluster, put on the rim and covered it up!  I didn't check for brood - I'll wait for a warmer day.

The larger hive (this has two deeps with a super sandwiched inbetween) was next.  I lifted the top cover to find a few dead bees.  Then, looking in the top deep I saw there were some more bees milling around and on lifting a frame I saw yet more and some honey still present in the comb. The bees are clearly clustering in the super.  I don't think there is enough honey for them to move up to the top deep, but I reckon if the first hive is anything to go by there is probably enough honey in the hive for now.  Again, I'll wait for a warm day before I look more deeply in the hive. I expect there may be brood in the super which would be annoying, but not the end of the world!  I nevertheless placed the sugar mush on the top of the top deep, but I don't think they will take it. But you never know.

Overall I'm very happy with what I found.  It looks pretty good so far and I think it is a real possibility the bees in both hives will overwinter successfully!

Ted's Sugar Mush :  8 parts granulated sugar, 1 part water. Mixed together to form a mush and placed in zip-loc bags over the top of the frames.  Just cut a couple of slits in the top of the bag.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Here's something to consider on those dark winter evenings...

If anyone out there fancies deviating from the standard Langstroth hive, there's more than enough alternatives contained in this beehive journal blog to keep you amused/bemused for hours!  It seems there is nothing new in beekeeping. it's all been tried, and done, by someone, somewhere before!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

When will there be another warm day?

The last warm day was New Years Eve, it's been too cold to open the hive since and it's just been predicted to be the coldest week of the winter season next week; -14C on Wednesday.  I hope that on Wednesday at the first beekeeper meeting of the year there will be some good advice on what and how to feed the bees, if they need it, when it does get a bit warmer.  I hope we do get a break as I think this is being hard on the girls.  Time will tell I suppose, and there is little I can do about that!