• Tag Archives hive boxes
  • Still Alive.

    Beltane                                                              Waxing Garlic Moon

    Oh, boy.  I’ve not gone a day without a post in a long time.  Yesterday went by so fast.

    Worked on Latin for a bit, but a brightening day pulled me outside.  I plucked tulip detritus out of a bed where some tomato plants needed to go.  These were full grown ones, liable to produce tomatoes as opposed to my healthy, but still immature seedling started back in April.

    At the Minnesota Hobby Beekeepers meeting Tuesday I learned that honey filling what could be brood frames means the bees in colonies 2 and 3 felt crowded.  I got out my honey supers, scraped them free of propolis, something I realized I could have done last fall, and excess wax, then plopped two each on 2 & 3.   These are the colonies that will be allowed to die out over the winter.  Colony 1 already has its 3rd hive box on with the queen producing brood at a quick pace.  All three of these colonies started out on drawn comb which reduces the initial work load significantly and allows the bees to focus on brood raising, foraging and honey and pollen collecting.

    All of this means Artemis hives have positioned themselves for the start of the honey flow.

    Then it was quick get into my nicer clothes for a 3 hour stint at the Netroots Convention in downtown Minneapolis.  I volunteered for service at the Sierra Club table in the convention’s exhibit hall.  We highlighted our Beyond Coal campaign.  I got into a snit with an organizer who felt that chairs should be anathema at tables.  He feels this creates a climate that forces staff and volunteers out into the stream of traffic, pressing cards and information into people’s hands, getting names and addresses.  At 64 standing on a concrete floor for 3 and 4 hours in a row is not something I choose to do.  A chair gives me an opportunity to take a break now and then.   Which I need.

    The organizer’s view saw volunteers as numbers useful for gaining more numbers, rather than people.  This is an instrumentalist view of the person, an error in judgment not unusual among utopians who willingly sacrifice today’s people in service of a better future.  It ignores the true and only reason for organizing which is to gain a better life for others, a better life which begins in the present, not in some imagined or hoped for more powerful future.

    Do we need to sacrifice to move our political ideas forward?  Of course.  Do we need to sacrifice our health and well-being?  Only in extreme situations.  Which the Netroots Convention in the Minneapolis Convention center is not.

    After three hours of hawking underwear (I’ll explain later) and moving beyond coal as a source of electrical generation, I drove over to the Walker where I began a two session seminar at the Walker Art Center on THE BLURRING OF ART AND LIFE: IMPACT OF MASS CULTURE ON ART. Taught by an art historian from Hamline College, Roslye Ultan, this seminar approaches modern and contemporary art especially since Dada and Marcel DuChamp.  There are ten or eleven of us in the class, all women save for me and all Walker guides save for me.

    This means I find in myself cast in the unusual role of traditionalist.  The MIA is an encyclopedic museum with an emphasis on the historicality and the geographicality of art from the earliest to the most recent, extending from a 20,000 year old Venus Figurine to a finished last year installation, Dreaming of St. Adorno by living artist, Siah Armajani.

    Roslye takes her art historical cue from DuChamp who said he wanted to put art in the service of the mind.  Rosalye has expanded on or extended this idea into an assertion that it is not the object that is the universal, transcendent work but the idea given form in the object.  Seemingly entrenching my traditionalist orientation, I disagreed, holding out for the work of art itself as the what that transcended time.

    She tried to tell me this was not right, but I am not easily budged by an argument from authority, so we had a tussle.  A mild one.  I backed off, as I often do in classroom settings, not wanting to waste other peoples time.  In this instance, as the class progressed, I found the tussle invigorated the class, gave it an edge and increased my focus.

    That was two instances of conflict in one day.  On the drive home I turned them both over in my mind, like teasing a hole in a tooth.  Was I too much in the argument with the organizer?  Yes, my tone was over the top.  Did I regret?  Tone, yes. Content, no.  I’ll apologize for the tone to him today.  But not the need to treat volunteers as people not instruments.

    The tussle in the class left me with no negative hangover.  In fact, when I put the two together, I realized they meant I’m alive and still living.  I felt good about that.

  • 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.

  • Bee Diary: Supplemental

    Summer                                Waning Strawberry Moon

    Got this note back from the Beekeeper’s president:

    “Also, add supers ASAP. Many hives are plugged with honey in the top box and have swarmed or starting to swarm (They think they have run out of run and most have.) There is a major nectar flow going on right now so the more supers right now the better.”

    I just came inside from a quick move on the divide.  After his advice, I reversed the bottom two boxes, left the honey filled hive box on top, added a queen excluder and tossed two honey supers on top.  Good to have folks willing to help and with knowledge based on experience.

    Kate’s beginning to get curious about inside of the hives.  She wants to see.  I can show her the package colony because they’re not so defensive.  She has a veil and upper cover for insects that should be ok as long as she’s not in the hive itself.

  • Bee Diary: June 16, 2010

    Beltane                           Waxing Strawberry Moon

    My inexperience is showing. At the Hobby Beekeeper’s meeting they suggested we look at each frame.  I did that.  With three colonies that’s a lot of frames.  In the package colony it seemed to me that there were not as many bees as there should be right now, though I stopped here to read Nature’s Nectar and it sounds like other beekeeper’s with packages from his second load (mine) have about the same activity as I do. I put in another pollen patty and left the syrup the same since it was down only about half from the last week.  There were larvae so it’s still queen right.  It needs to get to three deeps by the fall.  I imagine it will make it.

    I put a third hive body on the divide.  The bees had drawn out comb on the second hive body I put on last week and there were frames with brood.  The overall colony looked pretty good.  I guess.  It’s hard for me to judge since I don’t have an exemplar outside of my own colonies.  There were swarm cells and some of them looked chewed.  At the Beekeeper’s meeting last week they said that usually means the bees have swarmed.  I can’t tell.  When bees swarm, they leave a colony behind and a new colony takes off with a queen.

    The parent colony has one honey super that is heavy.  Really heavy.  A second one has some honey and the bees have begun to draw comb on the other two, but not much.  Since the bees don’t go out on rainy, cloudy days, the production of honey has slowed down.  We need a run of sunny, warm days.

    Since I’m studying bee diseases in an online course right now, I imagined I saw disease.  Don’t know if it was or not.  A learning curve.

  • Bee Diary: June 7, 2010

    05-31-10_colony1Beltane                                           Waning Planting Moon

    Hive inspections today.  Looking to see how the bees are using the other two honey supers I put on last week, now a total of four.  They have two almost full, but they have not begun to draw out much comb on the two with bare foundation.  At least not yet.  I did another reversal of the hive boxes–at least I think I did, the bees got pretty mad about the time for the reversal and I couldn’t recall afterwards if I’d switched the boxes or not.

    Novices leap ahead where veterans fear to tread.  In the bee newsletter from the MN. Hobby Beekeepers Assoc. this month, Gary Reuter of the U Bee lab recommended taking frames out of a bustling parent colony, one per hive box and putting them in a divide or a package colony.  The divide, if you recall, is the hive box I moved from the parent colony late in April.  It received a new queen, a marked Mn. Hygienic.  I’ve not seen her, but I have seen brood.  The package colony is the one growing from the two-pound package of bees I got in mid-April.

    There is, of course, a possible major problem with this maneuver.  What if you take the queen from the parent colony over to the new colony?  So, I decided that careful observation would take care of that.  I scanned both frames and tried to do it in an organized fashion, looking for a longer, more slender bee with her abdominal end deposited in a cell.  Didn’t see any.  Of course, as I learned long ago in philosophy, you can’t prove a negative, so all I can say for sure is that I did not see her.  If I was wrong, I guess I’ll know next week.

    The divide and the package colonies have made progress since last week.  I decided to put another hive box on the package colony so all three now have two hive boxes.  The parent remains the only one with honey supers.  If the divide kicks into gear as the nectar flow starts (I’m not exactly sure what that is, but it’s good and a big deal and supposed to be happening about now this year.)  The goal for both the divide and the package colony is to have three hive boxes before winter with enough honey stored to feed the colony until the spring.

    That’s what my current parent colony did, so I have evidence that it can be done.  It seems to me they’re both on track to get that much done and I would be surprised if I didn’t get some honey from the divide.

    No stings.  I’m moving slower now and have mastered the art of keeping the smoker going for the length of time I’m working in the bee yard.  The package colony needed another bucket of syrup, but the pollen patty was fine.

    I closed them all up, took off the bee suit, put my hive tool and smoker away and came in the house to make these notes.

  • Tincture of Time

    Beltane                                     Waning Planting Moon

    Bee work inside.  Kate finished several honey supers and three hive boxes plus frames before she left.  I didn’t know how many I would need in her absence.  All but one of the honey supers now have foundations.  I ran out of foundations and will have to order more.  All the hive box frames have foundations and I have added one new hive box and two honey supers in the time she’s been gone.  This Monday I may have to add one more hive box.

    Feeling better now, tincture of time as Kate likes to say.

    All the dogs are in bed and I’m headed up to read some more in the Three Kingdoms.  Night.

  • Bee Diary: May 9, 2010

    Beltane                                        Waning Flower Moon

    A new feature on ancientrails, the ancient trail of bee-keeping.  This diary will serve as my record of work with my colonies and a way to review the year’s learnings and prepare for next year.


    From left to right is colony 1, the parent colony of bees started with a package a year ago.  The parent colony has two honey supers on it now, the gray boxes, and a queen excluder which you can see as an unpainted strip of wood between the honey supers and the top hive box. The bottom hive box sits on a bottom board which rests on a leveled foundation, in this case bricks.  Colony 2, with the silvery metal cover, is the hive box, painted gray, and an empty honey super covering a plastic pail of 1 to 1 sugar syrup.  The green board underneath is the bottom board and the foundation in this and the next instance are a heavy plastic decking plank cut into small pieces.  Colony 2 was the third hive box on the parent which I divided a week ago and to which I introduced a new Minnesota Hygienic Queen on Monday.  The third box, with the copper top, which all the colonies will have eventually, is the colony started a two weeks ago from a 2 pound package of Minnesota Hygienics.   In the final frame I’m smoking the top hive box of the parent colony preparatory to an inspection of the frames.  Kate took this picture last Monday and the other pictures were taken on May 1.

    Today I started by preparing the smoker, the metal object you can see in the picture with me.  This has taken a long time for me to learn and I finally have found a way to colony3keep it working for the 30-45 minutes I need to do my inspections and whatever work I need to do.  I now use hamstermebee670050210 bedding to start the fire, throw in some compressed wood pellets, pumping the bellows to create a flame and embers.  Then I put in smoker fuel, a cotton product that I assume is leftover material from spinning cotton into thread.  Once this has established itself I put on the suit, zip up the headpiece, cinch up the sleeves and put my pants into my socks.  I learned this last one the hard way when that bee crawled up my pant leg and stung me on the butt.

    Each time you start work on a colony you smoke the entrance, which is to the back in the colony 1 photo and to the right side in 2 & 3.  Then, each you time you lift something, like the top or a hive box you put smoke under the object you’re lifting before you take it completely off.  The smoke calms the bees and, it just occurred to me, the beekeeper.  Often when you crack a hive box you have to use a hive tool to break the propolis the bees use to seal up their hive.  It’s a sticky, brownish substance that sets to a somewhat pliable but sturdy joiner.

    Each time you check the hives you look for several different things:  swarm cells, which are really new queen cells indicating that a swarm is imminent, larvae which mean the current queen is at work and present–this is a situation bee-keepers call being queen right, disease, this one is tough for me since I’m not sure what I’m looking for and pest invasions like mice or ants. In addition to this general inspection there are also specific tasks related to each inspection since the goal is to disturb the hive as little as necessary while maintaining a good weather eye.


    Colony 1 (the parent colony with a year old queen):  I checked the honey supers to see if they were full.  They weren’t.  Had they been I would have added two more.  I also removed the queen excluder and checked a couple of frames in the top hive box and underneath it for swarm cells.  After setting the top box on the ground, I did a similar inspection of the bottom hive box, then reversed the two by putting the top box on the bottom board and the bottom box on top of it.  Queen excluder.  Honey supers.  Top board.  Hive box cover.  Done.

    I noticed pancake shaped cells constructed on top of the cells on the frame foundation.  I have no idea what this means.  I saw a few swarm cells and what looked like a large number of drones, fat bodied male bees.  I also found larvae which meant colony 1 is still queen right.  You can kill the queen during an inspection.  That’s a buzz kill.  Ha.  If a colony is not queen right, it will not produce worker bees or honey.  This is one of the reasons you stay out of the hives as much as possible.  In addition, the bees know much more about being bees than you do.  Let them handle it.

    Colony 2 (child of the parent with a few weeks old queen):  There was pancake shaped cell structures in this colony, too.  Again?  I did see larvae here and an empty queen cage, so colony 2 is queen right.  It looked to me like a lot of these guys were drones, too, but what do I know at this point?  There were a lot of bees and they did look and sound crowded–a lot of buzzing–so I added a hive box with ten frames and foundations, left the original hive body on the bottom board and put the empty on top.  Then I closed colony 2.

    Colony 3 (package with few weeks old queen):  I lifted the copper hive cover, found the syrup pail still had plenty of syrup, smoked the hive box and lifted out a few frames.  There are larvae and the  beginning of the ovoid structure of brood, then pollen, then honey.  The pollen patty has had little activity, but I left it in just in case they need it.  After hiving a package, the population of the colony declines for the first 21 days as the queen lays and workers go out seeking pollen, many of whom will die.  After the brood begins to hatch and the nectar flow begins in earnest, the population will ramp up.  When 80% of the frames have brood, I’ll add another hive box on this colony.  Both colony 2 and colony 3 have the same task this year, build a strong parent colony, three hive boxes, that will over winter and divide next May.

    Colony 1, if all things go well, should produce honey this year.  Next year and from then on, again assuming things go well, we’ll always have two parent colonies producing honey and two child colonies in the process of becoming parents.

    Under any circumstances I go the Minnesota Hobby Beekeeper Association meeting on Tuesday, May 11th, and found what those pancake things are.  Until the next entry in the bee diary.