Saturday, December 29, 2007

Status Quo

Again, a warm day (low 60s, overcast/drizzly)so we went into the hive. Things were not very different from a few weeks ago. The queen seems to still be laying fine but only in the old comb. She does not seem interested in using the new comb at this point. This is probably not a concern at this point since she is only laying a maintenance brood. Once "spring" starts she will probably jump over to the new frames (fingers crossed). The bees continue to pull new comb on the other frames storing nectar and pollen (picture below).

We did notice that the bees were not taking much of the syrup (almost none since I refilled last Friday). This could be because the frame that is now holding the brood was off center, in the box, and not under the hole in the inner cover. During the cold weather we have had, they probably did not want to move that far to get the syrup. So we moved the brood frame back to the center this time before closing.

Speaking of "spring", the bees will probably start building up the brood size well before spring actually arrives - as early as January/February - i.e. soon!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007


Well the girls did not do well on their test. Remember we split the brood frame with hopes that they would move the brood to the two new center frames. Well, they had other ideas. Unfortunately, it looks like they gave up on one of the brood frames and left the brood to die. My mentor said the brood were "chilled" meaning that they got too cold during the recent cold snap. This happens when it just plain gets too cold, or (probably in this case) when there were not enough bees to cover two separated brood frames and so the bees decided to just stick with one. Obviously, this is bad in the short run as we have lost some baby bees. :(

Also of concern is that the queen is still not laying in the new comb. She still appears to be active in the one remaining brood frame(yeah) but in none of the new ones. If she doesn't figure this out, we may be stuck with only one frame of brood over the winter, which would probably not be enough to maintain the hive.

The good news is that the bees are still pulling new comb pretty well and filling it with honey and pollen for the winter. Below is a picture of the new comb with some honey and pollen packed away.

In case anyone cannot picture the mason jar feeders - here is what they look like. Just fill-um with sugar water and turn them upside down over the inner cover hole.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Life after Death

So I went out early this morning. It was still cold and bleak and I took this picture of the death porch :(

But, by the afternoon it had warmed up, even the sun came out briefly and walla! the bees were out and buzzing around. Very soon they had cleared the porch of their dead compatriots. Interestingly they did not just push them off of the porch but rather picked them up and carried them to the ground.

I replaced the pint feeder, it was empty, but the quart jar was still half full. They have certainly slowed down on the feeding. It will be interesting to see what they do this week since the temperature is supposed to stay pretty mild.

Thursday, December 6, 2007


A dozen or so dead bees on the front porch this morning :( Hopefully this is just normal attrition. They have almost stopped taking syrup. Looks like some warmer weather coming this weekend - so we'll take another peek.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Putting the girls to the test.

The temperature got up to 60 today so my mentor came over and we went inside again. Let me mention the the overall goal is to get the bees off of his comb and onto my frames/comb. When we opened the hive the frames were located as shown below.

The darker frames are the ones that we transferred over from my mentor's Nuc. Note in this picture the two lighter frames in between the darker frames. These are the frames that the bees are drawing comb on. At the end of the day we put these two lighter frames in the middle and moved the two middle frames outside of them. The hope is that the bees will move the main brood area to these two newly formed comb. That means the queen will have to begin laying in the new comb. At this point all that is in the new comb is honey and pollen - we'll see!
To complete the story, the outer two dark frames were removed from the bottom hive. One was completely taken out, the other was put up in the feeder box. Again, the hope is that the bees will move from this frames/comb down to the main hive and get busy on the new comb.

Here is a closeup the bees down in the brood area.

Below is a picture of the hive as we were moving the frames around. You can see that we have moved the two dark frames in the center apart and are placing the newly drawn combs into the center.

Also, we had to use the smoker today. I don't know if it was the chillier weather or what, but the girls were feisty!

Well, we will keep feeding and hope for the best :)

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Just Feedin'

Last Wednesday before leaving for Thanksgiving I replaced the pint feeder. Today, I replaced both of them. They are still feeding well.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

A little warm up

Well it warmed up a little today (55) and the bees took advantage of it. They were out and about. My son had replaced the pint jar yesterday so I just replace the quart today - all seemed well.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Cold and Rainy

We had beautiful weather through yesterday and the bees took advantage of it. The most activity I have seen at the new hive. Today, however is another story. The temperature dropped about 20 degrees and the rain came in. When I checked on the hive this afternoon it was completely quiet, no activity at the entrance and two dead bees laying there. I am assuming they are just hunkering down in the weather.

They had almost emptied the feeders, I will probably refill them tomorrow.

Monday, November 12, 2007

The bees are working hard!

We had a bump of nice weather this afternoon, and my mentor came over, so we took a peak under the hood. Actually before he came I noticed that the bees were much more active today than I had seen them in weeks, lots of coming and going at the hive entrance.

When we moved the frames over from the Nuc we placed a new empty frame between some of the old frames so that hopefully they would pull some new comb. Well - they did. We had one side of the new frame almost fully pulled with new comb, they were also busy filling it with honey and even had some capped.

There were some new eggs, and the brood still seemed intact. All in all the bees were doing incredibly well.

We went ahead and moved another new foundation into the brood area to see what the girls will do.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Feeding time

Just trying to keep track of when I am feeding them. Put in a quart and a pint of new syrup today. Filling jar a little more than half with sugar and then filling with water to dissolve. Bees were messing around outside some, but still pretty quiet.

Saturday, November 10, 2007


Well it has gotten chilly (50's during the day and colder at night) and the girls are staying inside. Very little activity outside. They are also slowing down on taking syrup. It must be winter!

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Sugar High?

Before my father left, we switched the single pint jar to a pint and a quart jar. So, I did not have to refill it as often. The bees finished the quart and the pint bone-dry in four days. I refilled the quart last night and they have not drink a fourth of it in a day.

They seem to be calmer. I am not sure if it is the colder weather that has hit us, the bigger hive, or the amount of sugar water we are giving them. I have only seen about three bees (outside of the hive) in this four day span, which seems quite odd to me.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

The Son Rises

I am Kevin, the son of the one who has been recently posting this blog. As he stated in his last post, my father will be leaving for two weeks. I will keep everyone updated while he is away and give you my perspective on beekeeping. I know that he has never mentioned me before but I have always been learning right with him.

I, as my father, am also quite interested in this "hobby." It may sound odd but it is quite interesting to watch the bees fly in and around the hive searching for ways to store up for the winter. Today was the first time that I have gotten the chance to actually look inside the hive because my father just recently ordered me a suit. It was quite interesting.

As you can see from the pictures, on each frame there are an amazing amount of bees. My father told me that there were an excessive of 20,000 bees in the hive but did not see how that was possible. I only saw the few bees when i change the sugar water. We also saw the queen bee, which was quite noticeably larger than the others. She was amidst all the others but was much larger than the others.

I will post a blog on here quite often to keep you and my father aware of what is happening on "Antcliff Farms."

Goodbye old Nuc

Well, my mentor came over this afternoon and we transferred the bees from his Nuc to my hive! Here is the setup of the two hives before we started.

My son Kevin is always there to take pictures and lend a hand when needed.

We opened the Nuc and began moving the frames from the Nuc to the new Hive. First he pulled out the end frame which was mostly honey.

This frame was the first one put in the new box. We put three frames of new foundation, then this frame, then another new foundations then the next three old frames. The next frame was the one I added last week, it had a lot of newly deposited eggs, but nothing capped yet. The bees were busy on it.

The two remaining frames were still full of new and capped brood, these were moved over next, followed by the last two frames of new foundation. We then put the inner cover on, followed by the open box with the four remaining new foundation frames in it, followed by the telescoping cover.

We did slide the new hive over in the position of the old Nuc to help the bees find "home." Here are a couple of pictures of the bees trying to figure out this new hive.

Interestingly we did not use a smoker, the bees were all around us most of the time, but they seemed pretty tame and unfazed by the massive disruption. There were a lot at the end buzzing around in circles at the front of the hive trying to figure out which way was up. None of us got stung, not even my son who did not wear gloves.

I will be out of town for two weeks, my son will be feeding the critters. We are going to up the concentration a bit to help them (hopefully) draw some comb. I will look forward to see what is inside when I return.

New Hive

Welllll - putting together a hive from a box a parts is no small task! Several nights of pre-drilling, gluing, nailing, sanding and finishing have reminded me of early model building projects. I decided to go with a natural finish and used an external Minwax polyurethane for the outside coating. I am pleased with the natural color result. I put the last coats on Wednesday to give the hive some time to breath before the bees go in (I am posting this a little late).

One problem I ran into was that one one of the boxes had an end panel that had the rabbits cut upside down. Fortunately it was on the second box so I didn't think I was crazy. I called Dadant the next day and they FedExed me a new part over night, so I was able to complete the boxes on time.

There were no instructions for putting the foundations in, so I just remembered some stuff that had been talked about on the forums and gave it a try, once I got the hang of it, it went pretty fast.

Here is a picture of what the bottom hive looks like.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Another purchase

Well, as intimated earlier, I had to buy some hive equipment so we could transfer the bees from the Nuc to "my equipment." So I went ahead and got a minimal set of hive parts to get started. I ordered all of the stuff from Dadant because - I like them, and they have a store in Lynchburg and I got a friend to pick the stuff up for me (i.e. free shipping). Here is what I bought:

B51101 Hive Body with Frames
Seemed like the best deal for buying just two hives. They are the standard "deep" hives with the frames - some assembly required!

F35010 10 SH. WIRED 8 1/2" X 16 3/4

These are pure wax foundations with crimped vertical wires. They come in boxes of 10.


Just a standard solid bottom board. I may replace this with a screened board later.


Combination Telescoping cover and inner cover, seemed like a reasonable deal. I am not going to be moving the hives, so the telescoping cover seemed like the right choice.


Well, you have got to have two sets of protection gear if you want to show anyone else what the bees are doing - so here is jacket #2.

So I called and ordered this stuff on Monday. My friend went up on Friday and picked the stuff up and returned late this evening! Looks like I will have some work to do this afternoon.

Expanding the Nuc

As reported last time, we needed to add some space in the hive for the bees. My mentor brought me a fully drawn comb to replace the super frame that they were essentially ignoring. He suggested I put in between the brood frame and the stores (honey) frame.

So, back into the hive by myself. It was a little overcast so no chance of seeing eggs or the queen. I got the smoker working well (paper for starter, cardboard and wood chips for fuel). I smoked them, popped off the top and feeder box. [One thing I noticed when my mentor came over is how slowly he worked as to not disturb the bees, so I intentionally slowed down and it seemed to go smoother]. I then took out the short frame and set it beside the box. I then took out and examined the remaining frames.

Two of the frames were almost identical with lots of brood on both sides. The third frame was filled with mostly honey, nectar and pollen (and a little brood). So, I put the empty comb in between the brood and honey frames. The half frame still had a bunch of bees on it. Not having a bee brush (several folks said I did not need one), I decided to shake the bees from the short frame into the hive. Well, they seemed to come off OK, but they sure seemed aggravated (lots of buzzing around my head). Perhaps this is normal, but I may reconsider a bee brush.

Anyway, with the short frame clear, I closed up the box, put the feeder back on (only a 1/4 jar left) and closed it up. I propped open the top to allow some circulation, because we are still dealing with unseasonable heat.

One mistake I made afterwards, was to leave the half frame on the table on my back porch. When I came back later, I found a dozen or so bees had found it. So, I had to shake these off the frame (having removed my bee jacket at that point). Fortunately, they were nice to me and I didn't get stung. I took the short frame, wrapped it in plastic and put it in my freezer. I'll return it too my mentor later.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

In the Hive again

The bees had really slowed down on the syrup, for the last two days they had not taken any new syrup.

My mentor came over today and we went into the hive to see what was going on. Well, my little queen has been busy! The first half frame still looked a little funky, the other full frames were full of brood and eggs. We are going to add another frame to the hive to give the girls some room.

He also suggested I go ahead and get a full hive to put these bees in - they will soon outgrow the Nuc. So, I'm shopping again...

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Nuc Update

Well the bees have been slurping down the syrup. I have been putting on a new pint jar of syrup every day and every day it is empty when I check it. They seem to be happy.

On Monday (record breaking heat) the bees were bearding up on the front of the hive. I slipped a stick under the front cover to allow some ventilation. By Tuesday they were back to normal. I'm going to wait until the weekend to go back into the hive and see what they have been doing.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

1st Peek Inside

Well I attempted my first peek inside the hive - and I learned.

1) Smoker - the smoker is harder to light and keep lit than I thought. I used a combination of bark and leaves. Too much bark at first. One thing that surprised me was the noise level increase when I smoked the top of the hive. The bees may have been trying to remove the smoke?

2) Plan - I kept having to go back inside for stuff I forgot. I need to have a plan for what I am going to do, and make sure I have everything, before lighting the smoker.

3) Food - They drained their quart of food - I might have to check that more often.

4) Seeing - I pulled the frames out to see what was on them. Unfortunately, I did not have my glasses (see #2) so I couldn't tell the queen from anyone else. What I could see was a frame full of capped brood. A lot of open cells with liquid inside (without glasses could not tell if there were eggs or larvae inside). The other frames were filled with a mix of pollen, brood and open cells. I did not see much honey stored.

5) Robbing? - After I was finished I sat next to the hive just to watch what was going on. It was nearing dark. There was a lot of activity at the entrance. Some of the bees returning(?) made a lot of noise and seemed to land at the entrance in groups of 4 or 5. I may just be over-reacting as a newbee, but I am wondering if it is robbing. After I smoked my bees and then put a new food bottle, I am wondering if they were not able to defend the hive well? We'll see.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

I am a BeeSitter!

One of the great people in the local club loaned me a Nuc to beesit for the next couple of months. He thought it would be a good way for me to get used to handling and observing the bees. So I went by his house, he covered the hive entrance with some masking tape and I put it in my car. He also gave me an extra Nuc boday so I can put a feeder on top. Here are some pictures of the Nuc at my house!

Here is the Nuc with the feeder on top

Monday, October 1, 2007

Another Hive Inpection

I am trying to take advantage of every opportunity to look into a hive. Another invite took me to two other hives in the area. The experienced beek showed me a frame with fresh eggs and I was able to see them! I am amazed by the effect the smoker has on the bees - it is instantaneous.

Well I may be borrowing a starter hive for a couple of months to get used to handling them! I'll send pictures :)

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Hive Inspection

I was invited to go with a fellow club member to inspect a couple of hives. I really appreciate this, it really helps the learning. He was checking on a requeening to see if she was making any new brood. It looked like she was, although hard to see. No smoke. I wore my new suit without a glitch. This owner had several feeders away from the hives for the bees to feed on, since we have been so dry around here. She also had a nice plastic shed for all of the bee equipment. The hives had the covers slid back slightly for some air circulation

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Wow - Fast shipping

I ordered the stuff below on Wednesday evening and had it at the end of the day on Thursday - talk about fast shipping!

I tried on my jacket - and I think it will be great. I have been invited to inspect a fellow club members hive on Saturday, so I'll get to use it and see.

My smoker did not come with a cork - is this normal?

First Cash Outlay

OK, so I bit the bullet and placed an order or some supplies. I have been invited to watch some other beeks work their hives so I needed some protection. Again, after several posts and replies on the forums I've purchased the following from Dadant:

V01200 - Cotton/Poly Zipper Jacket with Hooded Veil
Unless you are doing a lot of removals - it didn't seem necessary to get a full suit. I like the look of the hooded veil, we'll see if it is as functional as the normal wide brim hat.

M00927 - Smoker, 4x7, Stainless Steel with Sheild
The nonstainless ones appear to degrade rapidly and the shield is just a saftey issue for me. It is the normal rather than the large size - we'll see.

M00856 - Maxant Hive Tool
I am not sure if this fancy hive tool is really necessary, I'll give a report back as some time.

I will say that each of the suppliers I called were extremely helpful for this novice. Dadant had what I needed at a good price and there is a store in the state. I should get this stuff by the end of the week!


So, I decided to learn about beekeeping - I immediately went to the web and Googled beekeeping. Lots of hits. I found some commercial beekeeping operations, folks that sold beekeeping equipment, some online forums and links to some local beekeeping clubs - I'll put the best of these on the sidebar shortly. The best thing was to connect with the local beekeeping club. I started emailing two members and they both invited me to their meeting.

The beekeeping club was an informal gathering of the local beekeepers (or beeks) swapping stories and lessons learned. There are some folks in this group with large quantities of hives and many years of experience and then there are also some beginners like me. I have made a connection with a few of them and hope to learn from their experience.

Perhaps the largest ingestion of knowledge has come from the beekeeping forums. These are a great place to ask questions (almost anonymously) and get a great variety of answers. This community is very interested in helping use "newbees" succeed and I have found them very friendly. After reading a bunch of posts, I put a question online about what equipment I needed to buy to start out and got some fantastic advice.


As a kid I lived on a farm, raised chickens in my bedroom (eventually moved them to the barn), collected eggs, raised ducks, rabbits and even a skunk!

Well its been a while since I was a kid, and living in suburbia does not give me much opportunity to have a farm - but I am stretching the definition.

I am in the process of starting up at beekeeping. It is something I have been interested in for years, but never "got around to it." I live on about an acre, my wife has done an amazing job creating a back yard full of plants, flowers and even a Koi pond (I help a little).

[My granddaughter "enjoying" the flowers]

So, I thought I'd document my progress, for others that may want to dip their toes into this "hobby," and frankly to have a place to keep some records of what I am doing. I would love your comments or even questions.