Bee Diary 2012: Hiving the Packages.

Spring                                                       Bee Hiving Moon

“Sometimes, you have to step outside of the person you’ve been and remember the person you were meant to be. The person you want to be. The person you are.”
H.G. Well

Drove out to Stillwater and picked up my California girls.  About 16,000 of them.  Sprayed’em down with sugar water when I got home.  Unloaded a 5 gallon pail of prosweet, a food supplement for this early period when nectar is in short supply, and two gallon pails with holes in the top for feeding (turned upside down).

Later today, around 5 pm, I took the packages, the two gallon pails filled with syrup, a pollen patty and went out into the orchard.  There I took the hive’s copper tops off, then the hive box cover and removed three frames from the center of the hive box.

Rain, a light rain fell.  And Rigel came in through a gate I had forgotten to close and ate the first pollen patty.  In spite of not being a bee.  Sigh.

So, back down to the refrigerator for another pollen patty.

Back up to the orchard and out to the packages.  I pried the syrup containing can out of the package, sprayed the bees again with plenty of sugar water, removed the queen cage and put it in my pocket, then rapped the container sharply on the remaining frames and 7,000 to 8,000 bees fell onto the floor of the hive box.

I spread them around with a bee brush, then took the queen out of my pocket.  First, check that she’s alive.  Yep.  OK.  Pull back the small screen on her cage while placing the cage in the hive box.  Tap it and make sure she falls into the bees.

Replace the three frames, gently.  Not killing the queen is an important part of this whole process.

Put a pollen patty on top of the frames, away from the hole in the hive cover since that’s where the syrup will come into the hive box and put the hive cover back on the box.  At that point invert the white plastic pail over the oblong opening in the hive cover, place a medium sized box over the pale and the copper top over that.

That’s it for the first day.

There were a couple of moments.  A bee crawled up into my glove.  I removed it.  All the time saying, if I’m calm, the bees are calm.  This is sort of true though even now, four years in, I still get an adrenalin pump when the bees hit the mesh on my bee veil.

I didn’t get all the bees out of the packages, most, but not all.  It was those stragglers that took off after me.  They were not a problem.  But, they could have been.

The hives look great in the orchard; they give it a productive, yet homey feel.


Bee Diary: April 23rd, 2011 Hiving

Spring                                                 Waning Bee Hiving Moon

The bees are in the house.  Mark and I drove out to Nature’s Nectar near Stillwater and picked up three three pound packages of Minnesota Hygienic bees.  On the way back the beespackagebees hummed in the back, a pleasant noise.

Tom and Roxann came up to watch the hiving, as did Pam from across the street.  It has a certain ritual feel, a rite of spring.

The wooden packages with wire sides have a feeder can of syrup suspended from the top, along with a queen cage and newly mated queen.  After setting up the hive boxes with 9 or ten frames each, the hiving process moves stepwise through spraying the bees with sugar water to make them less able to fly, then pulling the syrup can out, followed by the queen cage which goes in your pocket to keep her warm.  Four frames come out of the hive box, in the center, and the bee package rapped sharply against the remaining frames to jar the bees loose.  Once they have fallen, a buzzing moving mass to the bottom, the beekeeper spreads them out along the bottom and releases the queen.

I chose the indirect method of queen release this year, putting a small marshmallow in the end of the queen cage so the queen and the workers can chew their way through it in 3 or 4 hours.  The cage gets wedged between two frames, the hive cover and the telescoping cover go back on and the bee year has begun.

Bee Diary: April 18, 2001

Spring                                       Full Bee Hiving Moon

My bee pick up date and time has come.  I get my gals around 2:30 pm on Saturday.  I’m mostly ready, having prepared the hive boxes and the frames on Sunday.  I need a couple of entrance reducers and a bottom board, but that’s no big deal.  I have frozen pollen patties so I’m good there and the honey frames I’ve got in the hive boxes will feed my bees to begin, 06-27-10_beekeeperastronautmaybe enough to get them through to the dandelions.

This is a new season and I’m hopeful that my increasing experience will make it a successful one.  We plan to sell some honey this year, at least enough to cover package bee costs and equipment, perhaps turn a little profit.  That entails finding a bee-proof spot to do the extracting; I’m hoping the garage will work.

Went to see my dermatologist.  No skin cancer.  First time I’ve been checked, but, hey, this skin ain’t gettin’ more pliable.  He says once a year from now on.  Now on until.  Now on until death, I suppose.

Another busy day with Leslie at 11:30, dermatologist and Woollies tonight.  Heading out.

Bee Diary: April 17, 2011

Spring                                                       Full Bee Hiving Moon

First full outdoor morning.  Took off all the hive boxes, cleaned every frame and the hive boxes, prepared hive boxes for the packages due next weekend.  The divide from last year’s parent colony had a lot of remaining honey, so I put four frames from it in each of two of the hive boxes for the packages.  In the other hive box I used honey from the package colony I had started last year.  A sticky job, scraping old propolis and wax off the frames, scraping dead bees off the bottom boards and into the garden (I’m told they make excellent fertilizer.), evaluating remaining frames for use in the upcoming year.

(Artemis Hives patroness goddess)

Now I have three single hive boxes with ten frames, four of honey and six with drawn comb.  Both of those mean the packages should be more efficient earlier since they will not spend energy drawing out comb.  Each of those hive boxes has its entrance reducer in to full obstruction, or, in one case, it sits flush on the foundation board, which seals it up.

I have to buy one new bottom board and three entrance reducers, other than that, I’m well set up for what will be my third year of bee keeping. I’ve got a long way to go before I’m proficient, but it’s beginning to be less of a mystery.

Mark and I both worked outside.  He moved limbs and compost material while I worked on the hive boxes and frames.  I only have one hive tool.

We Inch, Slowly, Toward Spring

Spring                                                                 Waxing Bee Hiving Moon

Kate comes home tonight.  Yeah!  I miss her when she’s gone. I’ll follow our usual procedure and pick her up at the Loon Cafe, conveniently located at the end of the light rail service 650-herb-spiralfrom the airport.  Makes the drive much shorter and I get a good meal in the bargain.

After the biting and the barking and the adrenaline I figured out a somewhat complicated solution to the Rigel/Sollie problem.  It involves making sure that one set of dogs is in their crate before admitting the others to the house.  This way nobody trespasses on anybody else’s territory.

It demands a careful watching of when Rigel and Vega are away hunting so I can let Sollie, Gertie and Kona inside.  Or, alternatively, when Rigel and Vega are on the deck and the others are out hunting.  A bit baroque I know but I have no more indentations in the leg.

(pics from April of last year)

As the Bee Hiving moon goes from New to Full, our yard will lose its snow and we will have several species of flowers in bloom, a few vegetables in the ground and as it begins to wane we should have our new bees hived and happy in their new homes.  There are things that need to happen before this last, not the least moving the hives to the orchard, cleaning all the frames of propolis and burning the old hive boxes and frames I got from Mark, the bee mentor.650-apple-blossoms

Seeing the bulbs planted in the fall begin to emerge always heartens me because it reminds me of hours of labor spent in the cool air of late October or early November.  We won’t be here for that time next year, so probably no new bulbs this year.

In fact, I’m declaring finished to our orchard, garden, vegetable, bee expansions.  We’ll stick with no more than three hives, the raised beds and other beds we have in the vegetable garden, the trees and bushes we have in the orchard and the flower beds we have in place now.

We’ll always have to replace dead plants and put in new ones in their place.  We have to care for the fruit trees and bushes, plant vegetables and maintain the bee colonies so we’ll have to plenty to keep us occupied.  I just want to get good at the stuff we have and begin to slowly limit the work we do over the course of the year.

Bee Diary March 26, 2011

Spring                                               Waning Bloodroot Moon

All three colonies are dead.  I rechecked them last weekend.  I have ordered three packages of bees, the larger 3 pounds boxes, that will arrive in early April, perhaps April 9th.  Hiving 500honey-extraction_0231the new packages takes place as soon as possible after I pick up the bees from Nature’s Nectary outside Stillwater.  They may wait a day, but not more.

I’m weighing whether to take the route of several beekeepers I know who buy new packages each season and harvest all the honey that’s made, rather than trying to overwinter the colonies.  If I do decide to go that route, we’ll have to sell the honey to recoup the costs, perhaps show a little profit.

There are arguments for and against this method.  Obviously it gives the bees only a season of a life, that’s a definite mark against it.  On the other hand, if colonies die anyhow, then there’s really no change except the certainty of their death.

This does allow harvesting the maximum from a colony’s first year, which would have added about 100 pounds of honey last year, or maybe 12 gallons to the five we collected.  On the other hand, it doesn’t allow for maximum production because an over-wintered colony produces more, since it already has its stores and will proceed to fill honey supers right away.

Another positive would be holding diseases down since they would have not have the overwintered, weakened condition that allows some diseases to take hold.

As I write this, I can see the argument for only one season of the bees.  Still not sure which say I’ll swing.

This will be the third season at Artemis Hives and I have a few new management ideas in addition to the one I’m considering above.  Instead  of a third hive box, I will use two honey supers instead.  This gives the same volume as a hive box, but in lighter by half units.  This will also make retrieving all the the honey easier if I decide to go with one season only for all 400_honey-extraction_0225the colonies.  I’m also going to check out better ways to have a bee proof environment in which to extract honey.  It was pretty bad last year.

In spite of the cold weather projected now through June according to Paul Douglas, we will hive the bees in early April and begin to plant cold weather crops as soon as the soil becomes friable.  Early April through early October is a major season here at Artemis Gardens and Hives.

At the end of it Kate and I will pack our bags and sail away to South America.  We’ll greet October 28th, 2011 somewhere in Ecuador.  That’s the time the world changes according to one understanding of the Mayan calendar.

A Bee Day

Spring                                          Waxing Flower Moon

The drought took a hit last night and this morning.  We had almost an inch of rain and it all fell right in the window when I needed to hive my bees.  Wouldn’t you know?

Today had a bit of the comic routine to it.  I got up this morning ready to hive the bee package I picked up last evening.  All  I had to do was put the foundation into the frames.  The foundation is a beeswax coated sheet on which the bees build their hexagonal cells that house larvae, pollen and honey.  It’s flimsy and I remembered from somewhere that it just snapped right in.  Right.

The first two I tried I bent the metal holding the edges together and in bending it loosed the beeswax from its sheet.  So, I went on the internet to see if I had the idea wrong. Well, I knew I had it wrong, I went on the net to find out how to fix it.  I came away convinced that you had to build foundation into the frame.  Which meant I had ten empty frames I couldn’t use.

OMG.  I have bees to hive and no frames with foundations.  Long story short I drove back out to Nature’s Nectar where the guy said, “Bullshit.  Let me show you.”  And so he did.  It was a long drive for a lesson in frames and foundations, but worth it.

When I returned, I did indeed pop the foundations in the frame.  All in knowing how.

So, I gathered the copper clad hive cover, the hive box with its ten frames and foundations, the bottom board, the entrance reducer and a top board that goes over the topmost hive box.  My plan was to do the complete reversal on the existing colony as Jim of Nature’s Nectar suggested, take the feeder off of it and reuse it on the new colony.

The smoker, still the least understood part of the business right now for me, lit, I went out to the colony that stung me five times just a week ago.  Since this was an extended operation, I put on the gloves this time.  The bees got mad, they don’t leave home much on rainy days and don’t  like getting off their loungers while watching the bee olympics or whatever.  Well protected, I went on about the business of putting the top most hive box on the bottom, the bottom most box on top, removing the feeder and reclosing the hive.

No stings.  I had the feeder.  It was all good.  Except.  Several, by several I mean a lot, of bees had set up house keeping in the area under the feeder.  They did not want to leave.  Not even after I shook the feeder, whacked it on hay bales and generally tried to evict the squatters.  I couldn’t put it on the other hive with strangers living in it, so I had to go to the hardware store and get pails of the right size to make feeder pails.  Which meant I had to get an empty hive box from downstairs to cover the pail. After taking the hive box out, I realized I had to go back inside to get a pollen patty.

Finally, I had everything and proceeded to whack the bee package on the ground to move all the bees to  the bottom of the wood and wire package.  The feeder, a tin can with holes in it, pries out and leaves a hole through which you pour the bees onto the bottom of the hive box from which you have removed the four central frames just for this purpose.  The bees, after being liberally sprayed with sugar and water syrup, should fall to the bottom of the hive.  There you spread them around.  That worked for most of them, but some of them didn’t get the memo.

So, I had an opportunity to test whether I have a developing allergy to bee stings.  Nope.  I’m just fine.  The bees are in their new hive, and so, I hope, is the queen whom I’d forgotten to remove in my excitement.  When I did get her out, I released her by the direct release method–pry up the screen covering her small box and let her walk out–but some of her subjects took it upon themselves to sting me right about then, so I’m not sure she’s in the hive.  Though I think she is.  I’ll find out in a week when I check the frames to see if there any larvae.

Anyhow, the bee day has ended.  Tomorrow is plant day.  Time in the garden.  After that, who knows?