Monday, November 5, 2012

Bee Vlog - November 4, 2012

Hive weigh-in: Both hives weigh 117 lbs. It's interesting that they are at the same weight now when, previously, Queen Anne was significantly out weighing Queen Beatrice.

It's been nearly a month since I've been able to observe the bees on a nice, sunny, warm day. Today it was 63 F when I paid them a visit. Activity levels between the hives have seemed to switch patterns. Queen Anne was relatively quiet while Queen Beatrice was the busy one.

Queen Anne has been fighting a bad case of varoa mites. I've been seeing dead larva that have been pulled from their cells and deposited outside the hive. They've had dead mites attached to them. I suspect (or hope) that this is actually a good thing: that the bees are dealing with the infestation by removing the larva and thus breaking the mites' brood cycle. In the process though, they are also seeing a drop in population as the summer bees die off and new winter bees are fewer due to their culling methods. It should be interesting to see how well they do over winter.

I have no inclination to apply any kind of mite treatments. I don't believe it to be a beneficial long-term solution. I'll be very saddened to lose them of course, but I'd rather have good genetic stock that can handle mites themselves than start treating. It's better, not only for my bees, but the other bees in the area. If this colony can survive the infestation then they have superior genes and they will pass on these traits to other neighboring colonies. Otherwise their weaker genetics will die off. It's harsh, but that's really the way of nature. If I treat the mites then I encourage the survival of weaker genetics, and also breed stronger mites. Both results are contrary to the goal.

Video Link
Photos featured in the video:
A dead larva with 2 dead mites attached, and half of a dead bee.

A view of the larva where the mites are visible.

Queen Anne's bottom board: lots of dead bees and larva. Looks to me like the workers aren't able to keep up with the cleaning work, either because of all the rain or the death rate...or both.

Queen Beatrice's bottom board, just to show the contrast between the 2 hives.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Bee Vlog - September 29, 2012

I built a portable hive scale from the design over at, but had not used the originally intended L-brackets of the design and had used some narrower ones instead. This didn't work well at all, so I upgraded my build to use the correct, stronger L-brackets, which works much better.

Video Link

I've had a lot more practice and experience lighting up the smoker now. I had several failures early on and was quite frustrated with it. You'd think it to be a simple and easy thing to do. Well, it is if you do it right and I was doing it wrong. After some more YouTube research and advice from a comment on one of my other videos I finally got a much better technique. Now the smoker lasts me a good hour or more. I could also extend that time if I filled it even more. Sometimes if I leave the smoker for 10-15 minutes it can look dead, but I just give it a couple puffs and it comes right back to life.

Video Link

Hive weigh-in -
Queen Anne: 130.4 lbs (probably a more reliable weight after fixing the scale)

This is the final "open hive" inspection for Queen Anne this year. I went through the lower 2 boxes, but didn't go through every frame. I still got to see the queen though, which is very surprising and lucky. Everything looked good. I have no concerns about them surviving the winter. But I also don't really know what to expect.

I installed an entrance reducer. The hive entrance is only 1/2 inch tall, so I'm not worried about mice getting in, but the yellow jackets are getting really aggressive right now. I'm just giving them a smaller entrance to guard.

It's going to be tough not getting to open the hive up for the next few months. I'll still be doing external inspections and taking hive weights, which don't require opening the hive.

Video Link

I signed up for a free hive tracking website ( that has some cool features for mobile, on-site, record keeping. In this video I do a quick overview of some of the mobile features and demonstrate creating a hive inspection record.

It's a pretty cool site with many convenient features. However, I would like it if there was a mobile app available that would work offline and sync with the online database. This would make it possible to do onsite records without a data plan or if you're in an area that did not have data service.

I didn't cover it in the video, but I also like the map feature on the website. You can have the option to publicly share your location with other users. It doesn't share any details publicly, just a pin on the map. The nice thing about this is you can see how many other sites are in the vicinity. Although, it would be nice if there was an of indicator of how many hives are at each site. Having 20 neighbors with 1 or 2 hives is very different from having one neighbor with 500 hives.

Video Link

Hive weigh-in -
Queen Beatrice: 104 lbs (probably a more reliable weight after fixing the scale)

This is the final "open hive" inspection for Queen Beatrice this year. I lucked out here too and got to see the queen. Their population is smaller than Queen Anne, but they still seem strong and capable. It should be interesting to see how well they do through winter.

Video Link

(This post added to Beeline Buzz Hop #1. Check it out to see what other beekeepers are up to.)

Monday, September 17, 2012

Bee Vlog - September 11, 2012

No inspection, just Bee Zen.

What is it about watching bees busy at work that is so relaxing? Sit back and enjoy 10 minutes of Bee Zen meditation at the entrance of Queen Beatrice's hive. I recommend adjusting the YouTube settings to hi-definition & full-screen.

Video Link

And another 10 minutes with Queen Anne's hive.

Video Link

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Bee Vlog - September 10, 2012

After about 48 hours with the bee escape in place, the honey super still had 100+ bees in it. I'm not sure if it was because the weather had cooled a little and activity slowed, or if it's typical for so many bees to just stay behind. I tried blowing them out and brushing, but the method I finally ended up using was "blasting" with a leaf blower. That's not something I'll be doing ever again. It didn't really seem that effective (the bees can hold on really well) and it seemed to be doing more harm than necessary. Next time I'll be more prepared with an empty box and just use the brush.

A couple frames of comb were extra thick, so to restore proper frame spacing I tried "thinning" the comb by cutting off the faces. Another big FAIL. I ended up just harvesting that entire frame via "crush and strain" and I'll save the honey for any emergency feeding during the winter. (Yes, I tasted it. Yes, it's DELICIOUS!) The rest of the frames were given as-is to Queen Beatrice.

After I got the honey super into the kitchen I spotted a nasty little varoa mite. So there's no doubt that Queen Anne's hive has mites. Every beehive has mites, so I'm not too worried. I don't know how bad the infestation is, but I don't see any signs of weakness or disease in that hive. Again, I won't be treating and I'll just leave it up to the bees to deal with them their own way. It may seem cruel to just let it happen, but I think it's more cruel to treat with pesticides that can also harm the bees. I also believe there's no real helpful or effective treatment.

Video Link

Monday, September 10, 2012

Bee Vlog - September 8, 2012

Hive weigh-in:
Queen Anne: Unknown (very heavy)
Queen Beatrice: 89 lbs (+4.4 lbs from 2 weeks ago)

Today's inspection involved mapping out the hive and relocating a couple frames to move the drone comb out of the center of the nest. I'll be moving some honey from Anne to Beatrice, so to clear out the extra honey super on Queen Anne I'm using a bee escape board. I'll come back after 24 hours to check on it.

If I just wanted to keep the 2 hives and not do any expansion in the spring then I'd be fine with leaving the honey where it's at and leave Queen Beatrice as is. It would be a good experiment to see how well they were able to survive through the winter with just the stores they gathered themselves.

However, I do want to expand next spring and I want to make sure Queen Beatrice makes it through the winter. It seems like Queen Anne has enough stores to spare so I'll be taking some of it and sharing it. Of course, doing this also runs the risk of taking too much away from Anne, so I'll be keeping a close eye on them through the winter to make sure they don't starve.

Video Link

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Bee Vlog - August 25, 2012

Hive weigh-in:
Queen Anne - (Too heavy to get a good reading, but I got individual readings of the boxes)
Boxes 1 & 2 together containing the brood nest, some food storage, and the bottom board: 72.4 lbs
Box 3 alone: 62 lbs (about 50 lbs of just honey)
Box 4 alone: 43.6 lbs (about 30 lbs of just honey)
Queen Beatrice - 84.6 lbs (+4.2 lbs from 2 weeks ago)

In today's inspection I talk a little about my efforts in treatment-free beekeeping. I do some cell size measurements and explain the importance of cell size to maintaining a healthy treatment-free hive. Queen Anne's cells are still measuring at 5.4mm...the same as the foundation they came from. Her daughters are the 1st generation to be raised in a foundationless hive, so they are still drawing out cells to the same size. It's going to take a few generations to get them to regress to a smaller cell.

Queen Beatrice's cells are a little smaller though - ranging in size from 5.1 to 5.4mm. This tells me they were either a feral hive, once managed a few generations ago, or came from a managed foundationless hive that has had a few generations since they have used foundation. Either way they're likely from strong survivor stock. A very good sign.

Housel positioning seems to be a controversial subject. Here are two differing opinions/resources.

BeeSource: Housel Positioning – How I View Its Importance To Beekeeping!
Bee Natural Guy: Housel Positioning – Seeing is believing. Or is it?

Some beekeepers swear by it while others seem to notice no difference. I was curious to see if I could observe my bees creating a Housel pattern naturally. But that just doesn't seem to be the case. I saw on a few frames that the pattern can vary across a single frame. There doesn't seem to be any uniformity. I believe that the bees don't really seem to care about such things. I suspect there's some placebo effect at play for the beekeepers that notice improved behavior when positioning their foundation in a Housel pattern.

Video Link

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Highlight - A Plea for Bees' Needs: Dr. Elizabeth Elle

In this video, Dr. Elizabeth Elle gives a great lecture on what we (all) can do to support backyard biodiversity. Her talk includes 4 important points:
  1. Why should we care about bees?
  2. Are the bees in trouble?
  3. What is a bee anyway?
  4. What can I do?
One thing I really liked about the talk was how much information she gave about, not just the honey bee we're most familiar with, but about the other native bees and how we can support their populations as well.

It's nearly an hour long, so grab some popcorn and enjoy!

Video Link

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Bee Vlog - August 11, 2012

Hive weigh-in:
Queen Anne - Unknown, too heavy for scale
Queen Beatrice - 80.4 lbs (+7.4 lbs from last week)

I put out a call to some of my friends to see if any want to host a hive or 2 for me next spring. I had a few responses. One of the families was with me for today's inspection so they could see what typical hive activity looked like. The kids were really interested so I wanted to also give them a chance to see inside a hive and learn a little about bees. Knowing that I wouldn't be doing a full inspection, and that nobody else would be suited up, I went ahead and tried this inspection without a suit or veil (I had one in the car just in case things went bad though). No problems at all. Nobody was stung and everyone enjoyed seeing and learning. Queen Beatrice's hive is finally growing really well and they've been making good progress expanding the brood nest.

Video Link

Monday, August 6, 2012

Bee Vlog - August 4, 2012

Hive weigh-in
Queen Anne: Unknown (very heavy)
Queen Beatrice: 61.5 lbs before adding the 2nd box (+2.9 lbs from last week)

It's been a few weeks since I checked the brood, so a full inspection was done today. Even though they're really back-filling the brood nest in the 1st box (bottom) with bee bread (pollen), the brood nest in he 2nd box is looking very good. Lots of honey coming in still. The 4th box (top) is starting to fill out even more. And this time I get a little taste of their honey and comb from some burr comb they built between boxes.

Video Link

Queen Beatrice had a population boom and has finally filled up the 1st box. The comb I straightened up last week has been re-attached very well. Now everything is nice and straight and orderly. I pyramided up the brood nest like I did with the other hive previously. I moved 3 of the brood frames up into the 2nd box in a checkerboard pattern, replacing the removed frames with empty foundationless frames. My previous concerns about the relatively slow growth of this colony are now gone. They're bringing in plenty of food and are functioning very well. Even though I didn't see the queen I can tell from the brood pattern that she is healthy and doing well. Also, the site of eggs in new drone comb tells me that the bees are also feeling confident with their situation.

Video Link

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Highlight - Sam Comfort, Anarchy Apiaries

I just discovered, through Anita at Beverly Bees, a (new to me) beekeeper, Sam Comfort of Anarchy Apiaries. He's a big proponent of the top bar hive and treatment-free beekeeping. After seeing Anita's post I found a series of videos where he gives a talk about his origins, learning experiences, and benefits of a top bar hive (posted below).

While he states early on that there is no right or wrong in his world view, he does seem to have a strong distaste for the Langstroth hive and the frames that go with them, claiming "they tend to cause the disease." A statement that I fail to understand. Particularly because his argument is mainly against foundation and not the frame itself. However, he makes some very good arguments in favor of treatment-free and foundationless beekeeping.

Although I'm not using top bar hives currently, I'm not really against them either. I think they have their good and bad points, just like Langstroth. Maybe in another year or 2 I'll give the top bar hives a trial and see how I like them. Some of his points in favor of the top bar are certainly very appealing to me.

Unfortunately the video series cuts off the talk. I'm not sure how much longer he goes on, but it's still worth the watch. So here you go:

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

Part 4:

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Bee Vlog - July 29, 2012

Hive weigh-in:
Queen Anne: Unknown - so heavy it was breaking the scale and I couldn't get a weight. I need to rebuild and strengthen the hive scale.
Queen Beatrice: 58.6 lbs (+4.2 lbs from 10 days ago)

The Queen Anne hive is doing well and continues to bring in honey. I only inspected the top honey super today. I found them building up the honeycomb so thick that it looks like they are making 2 layers of cells on each face. So a single frame has 4 layers of honey cells instead of the usual 2. I'm not sure if this happens frequently with honey in foundationless frames or if it's a strange by-product of me essentially giving them the spacing to do so. There's really nothing I can do about it though, so I took out an empty frame and spaced things out a little more to give them more room on the adjacent frames for building out the comb properly. It should be interesting to see how things turn out with this box.

Video Link

The swarm colony (Queen Beatrice) is still doing well without being fed. But they are building up slower than Queen Anne did her first couple of months. (By this time Queen Anne's hive was twice the size and I was adding a third box.) They also built crooked comb on every frame that was crossing over and attaching to the adjacent frames. This made it impossible to inspect without tearing things apart and destroying good comb. So I did a little surgery and straightened the comb out. I think I did a pretty good job of fixing things, but the bees will need to properly re-attach the comb. I was impressed with how calm the bees remained throughout the "surgery." They only got a little noisy and restless on the last frame where I had to cut out a major section of comb and relocate it. But even then they didn't show any signs of aggression, just annoyance.

Video Link

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Bee Vlog - July 19, 2012

Hive weigh-in
Queen Anne: 180.6 lbs (+13.4 in 12 days)
Queen Beatrice: 54.4 lbs (only +0.4 in 12 days, seems weird)

Checking on the honey super and seeing if they stopped back-filling the brood on the 3rd box. It looks like the bees had different plans than what I wanted and they went ahead and back-filled the brood nest on the 3rd box with honey, even though I gave them extra room. So perhaps they know something I don't know, or I gave them the honey super too late and they had already made up their mind to do so anyway. So not much honey got added to the honey super, but the 3rd box is full of honey.

At first I thought I should take some honey out. I'm not really sure why I thought that would be the thing to do. But after looking things over, and seeing that they still had a good sized brood nest with a good pattern in the 2nd box, I decided that I'm just going to leave everything as-is. If they continue to bring in more honey I'm hoping they'll put it up in the honey super. Then I can share it with Queen Beatrice who will not have enough stores when winter comes.

Video Link

The brood nest and pattern is still looking good with Queen Beatrice. The population is growing, but they still haven't managed to draw out the comb in all 10 frames yet. And the comb they have drawn out is crooked on the one end and bridging to the next frame. A pattern they propagated across the frames. This wouldn't be an issue if it wasn't crossing the frames. It's making for a very messy inspection where I tear the comb apart while separating frames. I may have to figure out a way to straighten the comb. I know this can sometimes be an issue with foundationless frames and top bar hives, so I'm sure somebody has already comb up with a solution.

Video Link

Monday, July 9, 2012

Bee Vlog - July 7, 2012

Hive weigh-in
Queen Anne: 163 lbs (+13 lbs in just 3 days!!)
Changed bottom board, added top entrance. New baseline: 167.2 lbs
Queen Beatrice: 54 lbs (+5 lbs in 3 days!)

I go through a full inspection, starting from the bottom box this time. I think I like this method. The weather has been really good to the bees and they've been bringing in a lot of nectar. But it looks like they're letting some of the honey encroach on the brood nest. So I moved a couple frames of honey from the 3rd box up into the 4th box to open the brood nest up a bit.

I didn't like the bottom board on Queen Anne's hive, so I changed that out for a sturdier one. I also added a top entrance to help relieve some of the congestion and give the foragers better access to the honey super.

Video Link

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Bee Vlog - July 4, 2012

Hive weigh-in
Queen Anne: 137.6 lbs (+7.2 lbs from 4 days ago)
Added a new empty super. New baseline: 150 lbs
Queen Beatrice: 49 lbs (+0.2 lbs from 4 days ago)

No inspection today. Just adding a honey super. The weather is good, summer is finally here. I'm not sure if a nectar flow is on right now, but if there is they'll need the room.

Video Link

Showing our little patch of bee-friendly wildflowers. We planted Bachelor's Button, Phacilia (in bloom now), Borage (also in bloom), Catnip (didn't come up), Lemon Balm, & Lemon Mint.

Video Link

Monday, July 2, 2012

Bee Vlog - June 30, 2012

Hive weigh-in
Queen Anne: 130.4 lbs (+13.4 lbs from last week!!)
Queen Beatrice: 48.8 lbs (+1.3 lbs from last week)

Lousy weather for an inspection today. On and off rain. Sometimes heavy, sometimes light. Never quite knowing when it would hit again. But I needed to do a quick inspection to get an idea of the state of their food stores. So I didn't go through the entire hive, I just looked through a few frames to see how much honey I could find. Once I was happy with what I found I closed things up.

Video Link

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Bee Vlog - June 27, 2012

Two things this week got me thinking about whether or not to be feeding my bees right now. It's like the universe was trying to tell me something. Here's the blog post Jason made at so you can read it for yourself.

Video Link

Monday, June 25, 2012

Bee Vlog - June 23, 2012

Hive weigh-in
Queen Anne: 117 lbs (+12.4 lbs from last week!!)
Queen Beatrice: 47.5 lbs (+2.5 lbs from last week)

I'm trying things a little different with the video length. I know the internet can often give us short attention spans so I've been trying to keep the videos somewhat short by breaking them up where it seemed most logical. But instead of breaking up this video into 3 or 4 shorter videos I just kept it as one piece and got a little more aggressive with the editing (cutting out most of the time where I'm just putting frames back or prying things apart). I kept this video focused just on Queen Anne though and have Queen Beatrice in the next part.

Some of my favorite YouTube series are longer length videos now, and I don't mind that they're 30-60 minutes. In fact, one show I like to watch is usually about 30 minutes each episode. They tried an experiment with breaking it up into 4 segments and the audience revolted. So maybe internet video is ready for longer formats and can stretch beyond the 3 minute mark. Let me know what you think in the comments, if you have a preference for more short-length chopped up videos (as I've been doing) or fewer long-length videos (like this one).

Anyway, on to the inspection - The brood pattern is still looking good and they have plenty of room in the brood nest. They continued to bring in a good supply of nectar (without me feeding them) and made some progress drawing out more comb and filling up their honey stores. There's a great deal of pollen in the hive, so no shortage there. In fact, I found it interesting the way they've organized their food stores. There's honey and pollen to be found in small quantities all over the hive, scattered within the brood nest to make for easy access. But the mass quantities of honey are stored, for the most part, in the top box, while the extra pollen is concentrated more in the bottom box.

Video Link

The swarm we caught 3 weeks ago (named Queen Beatrice) is doing very well. They have a very good looking brood nest and should be getting some "new recruits" this week. So far they haven't wasted any resources with building drone comb, but that's sure to change once the population gets higher and they have enough resources to spend on drones. They only gained 2.5 pounds over last week, but it looks to me like they've maxed out their comb capacity for the current population. I don't think they're going to be drawing out much more until they have more bees.

Video Link

Monday, June 18, 2012

Bee Vlog - June 16, 2012

Hive weigh-in
Queen Anne: 104.6 lbs (+9.6 lbs from last week)
Queen Beatrice: 45 lbs (+2.5 lbs from last week)

Last week the hive looked near starvation. They had lost 7.5 lbs and had no honey stores so I put a feeder back on and gave them 1.5 quarts of 1:1 sugar syrup. They used all of it and it looks like it's really helped them get back on their feet (er...wings?) and they've built their honey stores back up again. I'm not giving them any syrup this week so I can see if there's a nectar flow on and if they are bringing any of it in.

Video Link

They are making good use of the comb in the 2nd box to raise brood and store some honey. But a couple of the frames that were new 2 weeks ago still don't have any comb drawn out, which puzzled me at first until later when I realized that the near starvation last week made it impossible for them to draw out that comb.

Video Link

Last week I found a couple frames of empty comb in the bottom box. These were frames that normally contained brood that had all emerged and the queen hadn't gotten back around to them yet. Today we spotted her on one of those frames and watched her lay eggs. It was nice seeing her do her thing and that she was laying in the empty comb. She has plenty of room to continue laying eggs. I don't think it will be necessary to expand the brood nest out any further. I think she's now being stretched to her limits.

Video Link

I verified that the last couple of frames are still very full of pollen. They have been bringing plenty of it in and have no shortage. I also need to get more experience stacking the hive boxes. I haven't gotten the hang of it yet. The bees just want to suddenly come crawling and flying out of the hive right when I'm trying to put another box in place and they just get in the way. The longer I take to try to avoid crushing them the more they come flowing out. I got very frustrated with the situation.

Video Link

Queen Beatrice is doing very well. They nearly finished off the 1.5 quarts of syrup I gave them last week. They are still drawing comb and even managed to produce a bit of capped honey (I'm sure it's just syrup, but if I'm not eating it I don't see the point in differentiating). I really didn't expect to see any of that as I haven't seen any capped honey in Queen Anne's hive. The brood pattern is looking really good with a good mix of eggs, young larva, and capped brood. Just a couple more weeks and they should have some reinforcements beginning to emerge.

Video Link

Monday, June 11, 2012

Bee Vlog - June 9, 2012

Hive weigh-in
Queen Anne: 95 lbs (-7.5 lbs from last week)
Queen Beatrice: 42.5 lbs (+4.5 lbs from last week)

Today I needed to see if the queen cups have eggs, larva, or have been capped. I picked up more hive equipment to do a split if necessary, but before setting up the hive stand and getting everything in place I wanted to see if it was even necessary. Fortunately I found that the queen cups were in the same state as last week and unoccupied. Unfortunately I also discovered that the hive had no honey stores. They still have plenty of pollen, but either they've been using all the nectar they've been bringing in or there just isn't much to bring in right now. We also saw the queen up in the top box. She's still at work and doing fine.

Video Link

In this video I go through the middle box and find that the queen cups I saw last week are empty. I wonder if bees make queen cups "just in case" or what. No honey found in the middle box either.

Video Link

I found 2 frames in this box that were completely empty. It looked to me like they had recently hatched and the queen probably just hasn't made her rounds to that spot of the hive yet to lay eggs. Hopefully I'll find eggs/larva in those 2 frames next week. But I've also heard that bees will take a break occasionally, and since it doesn't look like much nectar is coming in, this may be one of those lulls in brood rearing. No honey was found in any of the 3 boxes, so to keep them from starving I added a syrup feeder.

Video Link

I finally got to open up the hive where I put the swarm I caught last week. They really took a lot of the syrup I gave them. There was about 10 oz left of the 48 oz I gave them. They've built up a good amount of comb. We saw the queen, and she's been busy laying eggs. So in a few more weeks we should have a population boom in that colony. They're looking very good so far. It will be interesting to see what differences, if any, they exhibit compared to the other colony.

Video Link

Monday, June 4, 2012

Bee Vlog - June 3, 2012

I caught a swarm yesterday so today I'm just checking on the outside activity. I don't want to open it up until this Saturday so that I don't disturb them too much.

Video Link

Bee Vlog - June 2, 2012

Hive weigh-in
Queen Anne: 102.5 lbs (+11.6 lbs from last week, not counting weight of additional box)
Queen Beatrice (swarm): 38 lbs (starting weight, approx. 3 lbs of bees)

I was asked to give more information on the hive stand, so here it is.

Video Link

After combining the dying colony with the healthy one I was curious to see how progress was coming along in the 3rd box. It looked like they were using it mostly for honey, which is fine, but I wanted the brood nest to expand up into the 3rd box. So I'll be moving some frames up to continue the pyramid in the next video.

Video Link

Well, this was a complete surprise, to find queen cups! I never expected them to do anything like this just 2 months after I installed them from a package. They've got plenty of room, so I can't understand why they'd want to swarm. The queen is doing very well so I can't see why they'd want to supersede her. It's quite a puzzle for me. But I think I have an idea of how to deal with this if things progress to full capped queen cells.

Video Link

The bees didn't like my waterer with the rocks and the tray. I never saw them use it and I never found any evidence of them using it. But they like the neighbor's dog's watering bowl. The neighbor is cool about it, but I still don't want to bother them (and any other neighbors that might not be so cool about it). So I put together a new waterer. The idea came from milapostal's video here. I really like this waterer. Let's hope the bees agree with me.

Video Link

I got another call for a swarm. Another easy location that didn't require a ladder. This location was also just a few blocks from where I caught my last swarm. It took me a little while to figure out how to catch it due to the complicated spot it was in, but I eventually worked it out.

Video Link

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Bee Vlog - May 26, 2012

Hive weigh-in
Queen Anne: 79.4 lbs (+4.4 lbs from last week)

The swarm I caught has been dying off very quickly. So quickly that the mortician bees can't keep up with it. The frame of brood I gave them last week has been hatching, but since their population is so small they can't even properly care for a full frame and some of it won't be hatching.

The queen is still in the hive, but I didn't see any eggs. Since she's not laying eggs and her wings are very torn up, I'm thinking she's just a really old queen and can't do her job anymore. If there were more bees in the hive and they weren't dying so fast I could give them some grafted queen cells, or even a frame with eggs so they could raise a new queen, but I think they're too far gone for even that. The only options left that I know of are either let them die or combine the hives.

Video Link

But in the other hive, Queen Anne has been doing very well. The hive is very strong and has been making really good progress in comb building and raising brood. I'm very happy with how well this hive is doing.

Video Link

The upper brood chamber is getting very heavy. I'm glad I chose to go with all medium boxes (or "westerns" as I hear many people call them). I don't think my back could take lifting a full deep.

Video Link

I finally decided that instead of just letting the weaker colony die off completely I would just go ahead and combine it with the stronger one. Of course, this involves adding a new box about a week earlier than I had really intended. I also had to capture the queen and kill her. I did NOT like doing this, but I really didn't see any other option. Unfortunately, the camera's memory filled up and I didn't get the whole thing on video.

One concern I have with the newspaper barrier is that the rain will damage it and make the introduction between the hives go too quickly. I'm going to take a quick peek on it tomorrow and see how things are going.

Video Link

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Bee Vlog - May 19, 2012

Hive weigh-in
Queen Anne: 75 lbs (+6.6 lbs from last week)

The swarm I caught is very low on numbers. The flightless queen that got stuck outside is still alive in the bait hive, but the main hive body is queenless. So I moved the queen into the hive and will give it a frame of brood from my other hive to give it a boost in population as well as comb that is ready for the queen to start using (after the brood emerges).

There are still many unknowns here that could spell the demise of this colony:
1) Is the queen mated?
2) Will they even accept the queen back after being out of the hive for so long?
3) Will they accept and raise the brood I gave them?

Video Link

Queen Anne (from my first hive) is doing very well. The entire colony is going gangbusters. After "pyramiding up" the brood nest they are making excellent progress building up the comb in the empty frames. Queen Anne has already laid eggs in some of the new comb. We also find her in the upper chamber and get some good video of her. I pick a frame of mature worker brood from the lower chamber to move over to the Queen Beatrice (swarm) hive to give them a boost of new bees and help ease their dying population.

Video Link

Video Link

Monday, May 14, 2012

Bee Vlog - May 13, 2012

I paid a visit to the hives today, just to look things over and see how the bees were doing. I opened them up yesterday so today was just observation. I was looking over the secondary swarm living in the bait hive and I saw the queen come outside. This was surprising to me, but I guess she's got nothing better to do at the moment. Plus, it was a hot day, she was probably coming out to cool off. I got some really good video of her walking around outside. Does that make me part of the paparazzi?

Video Link

Bee Vlog - May 12, 2012

Hive weigh-in
Queen Anne: 68.4 lbs (+7.3 lbs from last week, not counting weight of additional box)

Today I learned more about "balling" behavior. I'm not sure if what I saw was balling or just a secondary swarm from the swarm I caught. We're about 90% sure that the queen we saw in this pile was not the queen we originally saw when we caught the swarm. So it looks like we may have picked up 2 queens and this pile of bees was looking for a new home and protecting the queen when we discovered it.

Unfortunately this queen's wings are very chewed up and she can't fly, which explains why they're clustering on the ground. I retrieved a bait hive and they actually moved into it. But the colony is so small I don't think they have any chance of survival. This is really more of a chance for me to observe some interesting bee behavior and just watch to see what happens. I'm not hoping to get a 3rd hive out of this. If anything I'm hoping to preserve the queen just in case she is the only one and the primary swarm is queenless.

Video Link

I'm adding a second brood box and using the "pyramid up" method of encouraging the bees to move up into and use the second box. This is part of unlimited broodnest management. More information is available here: - Unlimited Broodnest - Unlimited Broodnest

Video Link

Video Link

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Bee Vlog - May 11, 2012

We were at the garden hauling dirt when I visited the hives and found something very strange going on. At first I thought a fight or attack had broken out. Then we discovered a queen in the big pile on the ground. I had read and seen videos about "balling" where the bees will surround the queen in a big ball, usually to kill them by over-heating. I was very suspicious of this behavior just 2 days after catching and moving a swarm in and I really didn't know what to make of it.

The next day I read up some more about this behavior and learned some other helpful things which I'll share in the next video. Stay tuned...

Video Link

Friday, May 11, 2012

Bee Vlog - May 9, 2012

I posted an ad on Craigslist a few weeks ago and finally had a swarm call today. I actually got 2 calls, each only 10 minutes apart. I took just the first one though as it was easier to get to and looked like a good size. The 2nd caller ended up finding someone else though.

This was my first experience capturing a swarm. I overestimated the gentle nature of a swarm and ended up paying the painful price. I got stung once in each hand, at exactly the same moment. It seemed like a coordinated attack! Things went much better after I put my gloves on.

Video Link

I couldn't get all the bees down off the branches and trellis, so I gave them some time to see if they'd move down into the hive.

Video Link

A small cluster started forming on the ground, around on the opposite side of our hive. I got as much as I could, waited around for about another 30 minutes, then closed everything up to take it away. I would guess only about 100 bees got left behind. I probably could have waited around until nightfall, but I really didn't want to wait that long. We were able to confirm that we had the queen in the hive, which was very reassuring.

Video Link

I got the swarm relocated next to my other colony and let them sit for a couple hours. While letting them sit and calm down I fixed some holes and gaps in the hive bodies with wood filler. Then I opened the entrance for the swarm and gave them a top bucket feeder with 1:1 sugar syrup.

Video Link

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Bee Vlog - May 5, 2012

Hive weigh-in
Queen Anne: 49.6 lbs (+1.1 lbs from last week)

Just checking on the progress of the brood and seeing if any "newbees" have hatched. We got a good look at some drones, which seem to be new. We also saw drones emerging from their cells. We didn't notice it at the time, but part of the video also captured worker bees emerging.

Video Link

Video Link

Video Link

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Bee Vlog - April 28, 2012

Hive weigh-in
Queen Anne: 48.5 lbs (+5 lbs from last week)

Today I talk about how important bees are. I give my list of 5 ways that everybody can help save the bees.
  1. Stop using pesticides.
  2. Educate ourselves. Start by watching Vanishing of the Bees.
  3. Support organic agriculture. Buy local. Support your farmer's market.
  4. Plant bee-friendly plants in your yard/garden.
  5. Keep some bees.

The entire family gets in on today's inspection. Tammie, Rachel, and Adam show no fear by approaching and standing by an open hive with no protection. The bees are very gentle and show no signs of aggression. The comb is coming along very nicely. Lots of capped brood. The hive gained 5 pounds in the past week, but used very little syrup. So I'm wondering if they are finding another good source of nectar and not taking as much of the syrup.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Bee Vlog - April 21, 2012

Today I went to bee school. Just a one-day event hosted by the Portland Metro Beekeeping Association. It was really fun and informative. The air was filled with bees, which was a little off-putting at first but I got used to it.

The first class I took was about the state of the bees. The second was about natural beekeeping. I was looking forward to that one the most but was pretty disappointed with it. Maybe my hopes were too high. Maybe I expected something more than just how to test for varroa mites (that's really all they covered). I go on a minor rant about it in this video.

Video Link

After returning home I immediately went to inspect my bees. During the inspection David quickly spotted the queen, so we got a good look at her. The brood is developing nicely. Most of it is capped, which means new bees will be emerging within 2 weeks. There was a little more drone brood than I was expecting to see, but the percentage is about normal.

Since I'm using foundationless frames, the bees are free to build whatever size cells they want/need. With typical plastic or wax foundation the bees aren't able to build drone comb, so they end up building a lot of burr comb to accommodate the drone brood they want to raise. During the bee school event I noticed quite a lot of burr comb filled with drone brood.

One of the fundamentals of natural beekeeping is just let the bees do what they want. So I'm not worried about the drone brood. I'm not going to cut it out and remove it. The bees know what they need better than I do, so if they want to build it I'm just going to let them. But, when I first saw the drone brood my initial reaction was worry that the queen wasn't mated, because all I saw (at first) was drone brood. But then the next frame was mostly filled with some good looking worker brood and my fears were averted.

Video Link

Video Link

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Bee Vlog - April 14, 2012

A very nice day for an inspection! I was able to get a good look at the comb the bees have built out. Queen Anne has been very busy laying eggs.

I got the design ideas for the portable hivescale from It's a great tool to have and was relatively cheap to build.

Video Link

It's swarm season here in Oregon and I'd like to try to catch one. I built and installed a bait hive in my backyard. The internal dimensions of the box are 14" tall, 19-3/4" long, 8" wide. Some 1x2 on the sides allow the frames to hang. It's a little tricky getting the bottom row of frames in, but they fit just perfectly.

Video Link

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Bee Vlog - April 10, 2012

Checking in on the hive to see if the queen is released. It started raining on me in the middle of the inspection and I made a few new mistakes. Still learning...

Also, this was Rachel's first visit out to the hive. It came as a huge surprise to me when she announced that she wanted to come along with me. Up until a few days ago she had an extreme fear of bees. I'm talking run the other way screaming type of fear. Today she was very brave and stood by and watched, showing no signs of fear or anxiety. She still says she "hates" bees and calls them "monsters," but I think she's all talk now and is starting to like them. I'm not going to push the issue though and see how far she's willing to take this on her own.

Video Link

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Bee Vlog - April 8, 2012

Yesterday when I installed the package I (intentionally) left the cork in the queen cage. Today I removed the cork and put in a marshmallow. The bees will chew through the marshmallow and release the queen. In these videos I light up my smoker for the first time and swap out the cork for a marshmallow.

Video Link

Video Link

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Bee Vlog - April 7, 2012

The bees are here! My first day as a beekeeper. In these videos I describe my beehive equipment, install a package of bees, show my bee waterer, explain my reasons for beekeeping and why I choose to use the natural approach, and show the bees moving into their new home.

Video Link

Video Link

Video Link

Video Link

Video Link