Keeping Bees

smokin and tokin

mediocre results

when bees freak out


wild comb

Hive Report for week two:

The learning curve is vast, this week I made some major errors in my handling of the Hives during my first check. I opened them both up after 14 days of solitude, the time where the queen is released by the Hive and starts laying eggs whilst the workers collect pollen and begin the alchemy of honey making. Here are the details of each Hives’ condition during this, the first opening of the Hives since I dropped each colony. Note that the recommended time for Hive check is no later than ten days, a timeline I blew by four. Had I been timelier I think I would have avoided a lot of trouble. Either way I learned a lot of valuable lessons this week and now share them with you.

Opened the hive, making sure to really give a good dose of smoke in the process; unsure of what to expect I used caution and care when handling all aspects of the hive. The colony was doing well, I checked every frame for brood, pollen and cured honey but I never found the Queen, one of the primary reasons of my mission. I settled that the specter of brood was enough evidence of her work and left it at that. Since the hiving I have been feeding both colonies plenty of simple syrup and in a consumption by comparison, this Hive has been lagging, not eating much of the syrup and generally slower than, not as bustling as the other. About five frames in the Hive were drawn out with comb and on all of those were brood and pollen in various stages of growth and cure. There was quite a bit of burr comb, or wild comb and I scraped it all off, setting is aside for later inspection. It is snowy white and stunningly flawless in its creation. These bees are fascinating to watch and nurture but if you let them have their little ways, they will fill the Hive with wild comb and that will create all sorts of hell for you if you don’t maintain the space. Do NOT LET THEM BUILD UP WILD COMB. Wild Comb will act as a cohesive agent within the Hive, binding all it touches to itself as I am about to discover in my next Hive, disastrously.
The bees in this Hive are a little slower than their sisters next door but I am glad for it to a degree of education. It’s good for me to have two Hives of different pace; I can learn more this way. Of course I want them both to rock and roll, but right now it is what it is. The bees were getting annoyed with me, a promising sign; I closed the Hive and moved on to the next.

Black Death:
This hive has been very busy the past two weeks. Tons of syrup is getting consumed and tons of bees are very busy flying in and out of home, stuffed with pollen: Interesting to note that the only color of pollen coming into this Hive is yellow, while next door the girls are coming back with orange, blue, red and yellow pollen. I felt pretty good going into this Hive since the first check seemed to go so well, despite not having seen the Queen. We got the film rolling and the smoke billowing and I set about my work of getting the outer cover off the main body. Smoking the Hive and carefully lifting the lid, you can see in the footage that I looked below to try and observe what I was doing, but the bulky bee veil obstructed my view and I ended up making a big time destructive move. The colony has been so aggressive that they built wild comb up the queen’s frame, through the inner cover and attached that to the outer cover, a phenomenal feat! In the process of pulling the main cover, you will see that I pulled the inner cover and attached frame along with it, ending up with the wild comb giving way to the weight and collapsing to the ground. I couldn’t believe it; I had a full frame of honey, bees and brood just lying on the ground. The Hive itself went into overdrive on me, they were pissed and I couldn’t blame em. I rushed about as carefully as I could to fix the issue and not kill any of my girls but it was a terrible feeling, seeing my girls out of the Hive in those circumstances. I felt really bad, still do. The footage is heartbreaking to watch but it’s a powerful tool for me to be able to watch and learn from.
I collected the frame, left the main bee body on the ground and went about placating the rest of the Hive. A hurried check of the rest of the frames revealed a massive amount of work in the Hive. There was brood and pollen plus capped honey everywhere, I only have 4 frames left that have any room for the girls to build upon so I am adding the second deep this week, to give them more space. It was very exciting to watch, even amidst the suffering going on below the Hive on the ground. I took off as much wild comb as I could and set about to closing the Hive. In my mind all I could see where images of Haiti after the earthquake and then of course the iconic tsunami image we all know so well. In bee land, this surely was the equivalent and my hand of God had caused it. Ugh. Let’s move on.
I reassembled their house and sat next to the Hive watching the displaced bees scuttle about on the ground, gathering clumps of them as I could and putting them back near the entrance. On the entrance itself was buzzing like a 5 alarm fire, the bees were furious and making the wing noise to let me know. I did not know yet that the Queen herself was on the frame that hit the ground and not in the Hive. It was fascinating, what happened next: Watching the clumps of bees on the ground, trying to help as I could with getting them home, the pitch on the deck was audibly getting more severe, the bees were getting really tuned up and I was out of smoke to calm them but suddenly on the ground, a wave of bees parted and I saw the Queen on the middle of them all! You will recall I paid to have her marked with a dot of white paint so I could easily spot her during my checks, well by God there she was on the ground and that’s when it all came together for me, why the Hive was as rowdy as it was. I got her to the entrance of the Hive; she tried to not go in so I put her back at the front door gently, one more time. This time she was carried in by her attendants and within 5 seconds of her being returned, the alarms died down and the buzzing took a whole new pitch. I was blown away to see it in action. Everything changed in the bees, it seemed now the new mission for them was to secure her and the door, begin rebuilding immediately. I watched for awhile and then decided to leave them alone and go have a drink up the street. I felt really bad about the whole thing so I called my guru and was told what I already suspected: I won’t know if anything terrible happened until a few days, so hurry up and wait. Over the weekend the Hive has been normally active and nothing seems amiss. After I returned Friday night to the Hive, all dislocated bees had found their way home and the flight deck was loaded with workers and their overstuffed pollen baskets.
Here is what I learned: never underestimate a bee’s ability to build. If all hell breaks loose, do what you can and then get out of the way; let them take care of themselves: nobody knows better how to take care a bee, than a bee. Always film what you do at the Hives. I was lucky to have film footage to watch my mistakes and even better upon looking back at the pictures of both Hives, I found the Queen in HiveX in a photo! Excellent verification for me.

That’s the Week 2 report, thanks for reading. .
Up next is the footage.

There will be wrenching this week, upgrading this place big time. Keep watching and thanks for the comments. I like seeing you guys here.



the drop

Home sweet Home

inspecting the colony


Friday night I picked up my girls, all thirty thousand of them, from The Beez Neez in Snohomish Wa. I reckon that was as close to excited/nervous as Ive ever felt, in an oh god im about to really have a baby kind of way. I was freaked out to talk loud, jostle em, or anything; I even tuned my satellite radio to outlaw country gold, figuring they wold like that sort of thing, which they seemed to. I picked my way home gingerly, but I brought the big truck so they could ride home in utter luxury so it was no big deal. I got up early the next morning for the installation and in no time was coffee’d, suited up, and ready to introduce them to their new homes. I have been grappling for a month with what to name my Hives, I decided it made sense to name them after my favorite snowboards, the ones I have on the walls as art, and the ones I use each Winter; the first Hive I dropped is called Hive X after my favorite board series of all time, Burton’s Custom X. Hive 2 is called Black Death, after my favorite art-board. Its never been ridden and I bought it primarily to hang up and enjoy. Its a beautiful deck from local outfit Capita snowboards. So there we have it: Hive X and Black Death. If you dont shred, then Black Death sounds grim like maybe I shouldve just called it Smallpox Blanket or Coughing Pig Swine Flu…..but now you know which Hive is which. I marked each component with its corresponding name so later this Summer when things get cooking over there I wont accidentally apply the wrong lid, feeder etc.

Installing the Bees was imminent as I fired up the smoker and zipped into my bee-suit. I let the kindly old beekeeper at the store talk me into buying gloves and was I glad I did, I cant believe I thought I could do this barehanded, my amateur was in full effect.
I didnt smoke the first colony near as much as I should have since I had no reference beforehand. I did spray the frames and load the cage down with simple syrup before letting them loose so that helped, but I was about to learn what not to do when installing Hives. I wanted to attach the queen cage to the frame with a rubber band but I forgot to bring any so I used the cheap little hook that came with the cage and hoped for the best. The first colony was really irritable at my clumsy install and swarmed all over my bee suit, gloves, pants everywhere; glad I was protected. A lot of bees went full on jihad on my arms and we counted a lot of stingers when I took the suit off, all of them embedded in the sleeves of the suit. Once a bee stings, she dies but with the sting she releases a pheromone that tells other bees where to attack, like a guided missile cluster they come in and laser in on the same spot. This ensures total annihilation of that specific area being attacked, total teamwork.
Black Death was the final Hive installed and a lot smoother than the previous effort. I smoked the bees in their cage 3 times as much as the previous colony and I moved all the bees alot more effortlessly and smoother. On both Hives I decided to use grass clipping for my entrance reducer and on my return the next day, the bustle of the bees with a little help from the wind ended up dispersing most of it so I suited up and brushed out what was left, then put two pieces of wood down in thier place, reducing the entrance to about an inch or two. I also moved my mint planters over near the Hives and refilled the feeders, which both colonys seemed to have gone off on. Each feeder was only half full! I refilled it in hopes they would slow down on the simple syrup the more they got settled in. Im trying not to disturb them this week but the entrance has to be secured for both Hives to help regulate Hive temperature and to also increase security for the new Hives, in case of invasion there is alot less territory for them to defend. As the Summer and colony builds, I will give them more and more of a front door, eventually removing any inhibitor so the bees can come and go across the entire range of the Hive.

Here are all the pictures from the install.

Completed Hives


the entrance is slanted to decrease impact for returning bees

discussing hive walls

I spent all last week staining the hives in my living room, kitchen and dining  the mud room. I have hive parts leaned up and curing against kayaks, snowboards, a ski chairlift, gargoyles and every other curiosity you can imagine in a world such as mine. I went with a cedar stain/finish because I wanted this to look incredibly attractive while still serving a function, so often the hives Ive seen are all white, blue or yellow.

 The stain is finished and the parts have all cured and are ready for assembly, happening tonight; I used just under a half gallon of Behrs premium wood finish for outdoor applications; primarily decks and shingling. The guy at Home Depot looked at me like I was insane when I asked him if it was suitable for an Apiary, he thought I wanted to trap and kill honeybees. I laughed and thanked him for his help as I left……but really he was enthusiastic about killing bees and I found myself a bee-snob for the first time. I should have seen it coming, Im going to call it Bee-litism for now on. Ive got it already: Im a Bee-Litist.  Alot of people are asking me about beekeeping and how it works, there is a keen interest in this project and it makes me happy to see. Im learning more each time I pick up a frame, or a hive body which is why I elected to assemble the hives myself; touching them and moving them is giving me a better education that any book or class I could have taken. When I bought the Hives and requested them unassembled, the beekeeper gave me the wise look over the brim of his glasses and nodded with a chuckle, I knew then I was on the right path.

Welcome aboard!

the beekeeper

the site is brand new, and barely seaworthy so bear with me. This will document the journey of my beekeeping adventure located on Alki right here in beautiful Seattle Washington.

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