Saturday, December 21, 2013

Bee Log - December 21, 2013

I paid an impromptu visit to 7 of my hives today. 4 of them were active and taking cleansing flights in the 48 degree (F) weather (Flora, Catherine, Jezebel, & Helen). The other 3 were quiet and not responding to my knocks (Guinevere, Beatrice, & Isabella). Since I didn't have my hive tool I couldn't get Beatrice & Guinevere open, but Isabella's was easy to open.

Inside I found a grapefruit-sized cluster, frozen dead. I located the dead queen, as well as a single queen cell that looked like it had been used and was getting dismantled. I'm not really sure what to make of it. I didn't see it in any previous inspections, so I don't know for sure when they tried to raise a new queen. I know the queen survived the cutout, but she must have been failing (hence the lack of recovery) and they tried to requeen. Unfortunately either the queen was poorly mated or never mated. It must have happened really late in the season.

Dead Queen Isabella and used queen cell

I also took a peek under the lid on Queen Jezebel's hive. They still seem very strong and have a good sized cluster. They've been weighing really light (80 lbs) and I'd hate to lose them to starvation so I added 2 more frames of honey that I took from Catherine last September, bringing the weight up to 92 lbs.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Bee Log - December 6, 2013

Winter is coming.

No video today. Just posting some log information.

We've had 1 week of very cold, below freezing temperatures, but it's been dry. Today we got our first snow fall and are expecting some bad weather for the next few days. I took weights and checked on my hives this morning. Temperature was 24 degrees F.

One thing to note: The hive weights increased 2-6 lbs over 3 weeks ago. I suspect the hives have not gained weight, but instead the scale measure +5% in freezing temperatures.

I installed the bottom boards on all hives except Catherine & Guinevere.

I also noticed that the hives with quilts didn't answer back when I knocked on the hives, but I could hear them inside. I don't know if the quilt damps the vibration or has some kind of acoustical affect that either makes my knock less disturbing or just more difficult to hear their responsive buzz.

Beatrice: (quilt) 78 lbs. Quiet but still seems to be alive. I could barely hear a soft buzzing within the hive. No mess of dead bees on the bottom board.

Queen Beatrice - Very little mortality

Catherine: (quilt) 93 lbs. Sounds good.

Dulce: 116 lbs. Sounds good.

Elizabeth: 120 lbs. Sounds good.

Flora: 140 lbs. Sounds good.

Guinevere: (quilt) 84 lbs. Sounds good.

Helen: 150 lbs. Sounds good.

Isabella: (quilt) 59 lbs. Might be dead. Lots of dead bees on bottom board. I couldn't hear them inside. I'll open it up on the next nice sunny day.

Queen Isabella - Large die-off

Jezebel: 80 lbs. Quiet, but still there.

We'll see how well they survive the coming weather.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Bee Vlog - November 23, 2013

Free hive plans provided by
"In the Beekeeper's Workshop"

I'm building 5-frame medium nucs, but these hive plans can be used to construct any hive size and are very easy to make. The minimum tools needed are a table saw with dado blade, rip cutting blade, & cross-cut blade (although I use a miter saw for the cross-cuts). A power stapler is a nice tool to have too, but isn't required. Nails or screws can be used instead, but may make assembly a little more difficult.

Video Link

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Bee Vlog - October 12, 2013

Quilt boxes are a good way to help the bees retain heat while keeping the hive dry. In our wet and rainy winters that can be very beneficial. I've got a couple hives that are rather small and may have trouble keeping the hive warm enough to prevent condensation. I'm installing quilt boxes on their hives to make winter a little easier on them.

I made some modifications to the typical quilt box designs found around the internet. Instead of stapling the cloth onto the bottom of the box I figured out how to recess the cloth to maintain good bee space. This video shows my method of attaching a canvas bottom.

Video Link

Monday, October 7, 2013

Bee Vlog - October 5, 2013

Queen Beatrice's population has been dwindling. In the inspection last month I found some problems with the brood that I couldn't really document or inspect very well because of the yellow jackets. Now that the yellow jackets have died back some and the weather is nice I took the opportunity to do another inspection to see what's going on.

The population has really shrunk significantly. All beehives have mites, but in this case it looks like they got hit really hard and it's making it difficult to raise brood. I'm going to just reduce their hive size and see how they overwinter. Next week I'll put a quilt box on to help them keep things warm and dry, but other than that I'll do nothing.

Video Link

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Thoughts on natural beekeeping: A response

(Symantics: I'm not a fan of the term "natural beekeeping." I used to use it but have since found it to be a loaded word. Similar to "organic." It's trying to say something but doesn't mean what you think it means. I prefer the term "treatment-free" to describe my own method of beekeeping. But for the purposes of this response I'll use the term "natural" instead.)

On September 9, 2013, Rusty at Honey Bee Suite posted an article entitled Thoughts on natural beekeeping. (Update 9/25/2013: It looks like that article is now password protected...removed from the public eye.) I tried replying twice and was censored each time. At first I was just going to brush it off and let it go. Bloggers can be a weird bunch so why should I care if I get blocked. But then I learned that this was part of Rusty's M.O. And when I looked over her bio I learned how well educated she is and grew even more irritated at what happened. If there's one thing that well educated people should know it's that debate and open discussion are key to the marketplace of ideas. Then it hit me...this kind of attitude is exactly the reason natural beekeeping is just a niche.

But before anyone thinks I'm trying to start a war, I actually agree with much of the article, let me expound on a couple of those points first.
--"So if we all want the same thing, why all the dissension, name-calling, and derision? In my opinion, the division between natural beekeepers and unnatural ones is artificial. We have tried to divide them into discrete groups—right and wrong, black and white, good and bad—but it doesn't work.
I contend that we all fall on a line, a continuum that stretches from the very natural to the very unnatural."--
I totally agree. Every beekeeper wants the best for their bees. I'll admit that when I began I had, in my mind, unempathetically labeled many commercial beekeepers as "wrong" or "poor beekeepers." I have since come around from that opinion and now believe that commercial beekeepers, especially migratory ones, are doing the best they can in an agricultural system that, as it stands now, makes life difficult for bees and beekeepers. They have to deal with stresses and problems that I, as a backyard beekeeper, don't have to deal with.
--"(Although I have yet to understand how injecting beehives with refined and crushed table sugar is 'natural,' I will leave that for another day.)"--
Agreed! In my opinion putting anything in the hive that wouldn't naturally be found there is not natural.

So far so good. I was enjoying the article. Many good points were made. Then she wrote:
--"If you do nothing, if you put bees in a box, ignore them, and mumble something about 'survival of the fittest,' you are not a beekeeper—certainly not a natural one. If you are not willing to commit, you are simply enamored with the idea of beekeeping rather than beekeeping itself."--
--"I am very accepting of alternative ideas and methods, but the only way I accept a so-called beekeeper walking away from his responsibility and saying, 'let nature take its course' is if that person handles his own health and the health of his children in the very same way. If your child comes home from school with viral meningitis, and you just shrug and say 'let nature take its course,' then maybe I will understand when you do the same to your bees."--
Whoa there! What happened to avoiding "dissension, name-calling, and derision"? I responded with the following:

Screenshot dated Sept 16, 2013
(On September 10, 2013)
(Quoth Rusty:) "Some writers come across as arrogant or superior, others as naïve or apologetic."

Having been there myself I think it’s a defensive reaction to comments like this:

(Rusty:) "If you do nothing, if you put bees in a box, ignore them, and mumble something about 'survival of the fittest,' you are not a beekeeper—certainly not a natural one."

New beeks who want to try to follow a more natural approach to beekeeping are often flooded and feel attacked by experienced (and inexperienced) beeks who say things like the above. Or make absolutes like "you have to treat your bees" or "there's nothing wrong with feeding sugar."

Equating bees with children is a straw man argument. Bees have lived without human intervention for millions of years. Under the right conditions they can continue to do the same (and it is the goal of "natural beekeeping" to provide those conditions). Children are not like that and do require our care. When my children get sick and are in need of treatment I consult a doctor, who has years of education and experience who performs treatments backed by solid science. I am not a doctor. Most beeks, especially new ones, cannot reliably diagnose their hives. And worse, the chemical treatments in use today aren't put through the same scrutiny and scientific study that the medicines we put in our bodies have.

I do agree that there is a great spectrum out there and I personally don't have issues with people who don't do it my way. There are so many ways to keep bees and everyone is learning and adapting to fit their own preferences, philosophy, and lifestyle. I agree that it's important to bridge the gap, but I don’t think many of the statements made in the closing of this article really help.

After clicking the Send button the post was branded with a "Your comment is awaiting moderation" label. This is pretty typical with blogs that don't require any login or captcha. There are so many bots and spammers out there. Most bloggers will moderate the comments at least daily. The purpose is usually to filter out spam. After I made my comment a few other comments were posted and the next day I went back to the blog post to read and post a follow-up comment. And that's when I noticed my first comment was still "awaiting moderation." That seemed odd that some comments posted after mine cleared before mine did, but I let it go.

Rusty had replied to a comment with the following:
--"I believe once you take any living thing into your care, you have an obligation to it, whether it be a dog, a toad, or a bee."--
I replied:

Screenshot dated Sept 16, 2013
(On September 11, 2013)
Most of the time when we take in a living creature like a dog, cat, toad, pig, horse, cow, etc. we become the sole provider of all food, water, and forage space. With bees this is not the case, unless you're raising bees on the moon. Bees are wild creatures, and even in our unnatural, man-made boxes they continue to live as wild creatures and are not dependent on us for their sustenance.

Of course, migratory beekeeping is a different story. I’m speaking strictly about backyard or non-migratory beekeeping.

I contend that comparing bees to domesticated farm animals is the same fallacy as comparing bees to children.



"Your comment is awaiting moderation."

Wait...for 2 days.

I don't usually go back and check-up on my blog comments, but in this case I was suspicious that it may never clear moderation. And sure enough, by September 13th (and even to the present) it was still in the moderation queue. I contacted Rusty directly to ask why it hadn't cleared yet, and I was ignored.

I mentioned this censorship to a friend who was familiar with the Honey Bee Suite blog and he said this is pretty typical of Rusty. That if the blog comments don't support her position or give her the opportunity to reiterate her position they get blocked. She is not interested in debate.

Then on Sept 17th two more comments cleared moderation. One from Art dated Sept 12, which Rusty immediately replied to, and another from Sergey dated Sept 13. Sure enough, these comments kowtow to Rusty. Is that how you avoid censorship?

I also happen to know that another friend of mine, Jason over at, posted a comment on Sept 16th that has also not cleared moderation, even though Rusty was obviously moderating comments on Sept 17th.

Hey, her home, her rules. She can censor all she pleases. But I do have strong objections to such tactics. To me this is a grievous sin to open discourse and the spread of ideas. If you want your opinions, philosophies, and ideas to be heard you should give others the same respect.

I feel that the reason natural beekeeping is just a niche is because of things like this. Self-labeled "natural" beekeepers often feel at odds with "unnatural" beekeepers. Almost to the point of feeling at odds with anything that's different. But if we are even shutting down and dismissing the opinions, ideas, and knowledge that our peers are bringing to the table, how can we expect anyone to listen to us and our opinions?

It's as if natural/treatment-free beekeeping is a crowded room of people all shouting the same things but with different accents and wondering, "Why isn't anybody like me? I'm all alone. You're saying it wrong." We're all on the same team, but I see factions and divisions even within the "natural" community. Langstroth vs top bar vs warre. Essential oils vs treatment-free. Foundation vs foundationless vs small cell. Oh, the list goes on my friend.

Perhaps, the division between "natural" and "unnatural" beekeepers is our fault. Not that we all have to do things the same way, but maybe we should stop treating people who are different as an enemy.

Rusty - Welcome to the internet, where information wants to flow, ideas want to be free, and censorship is met with more derision than unnatural methods of beekeeping. You can try to control the conversation, but it's really not in the true spirit of open-mindedness, and it makes you a bad host. I enjoy your blog, even if I don't agree with everything. I see you and I are on the same team, just playing different parts.

All opinions are welcome here, where I don't censor and am not afraid of a good debate.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Bee Vlog - September 7, 2013

I've melted wax over the kitchen stove a couple times and the family (and myself) complain about the smell. Sure, beeswax smells good, but when you're melting old brood comb, the old cocoons can really give off a funky smell when they boil. So I recommend doing it outdoors. Or even a solar oven.

The solar wax melter is completed and I finally had a day of sunshine when I had the time to test it out. The oil filter cone didn't work out as I hoped. I think it was just taking too long to get up to temperature. I also had to move the oven a couple times to chase the sunshine. But once I work out all the kinks I think it will simplify the process of melting and filtering wax. And keep the house from getting stinky.

Video Link

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Bee Vlog - September 2, 2013

It's time to make the final inspections of the year. In this video I also recap the 2013 season with the origins and progress each hive has made.

Most of the hives look to be in good condition. If I were to give letter grades to their conditions they would be graded as follows (in order of video appearance):

Yard #1
Beatrice: C (some strange brood conditions, need to revisit in a couple weeks)
Flora: A (very healthy looking with great honey stores, +20 lbs in August)

Yard #2
Catherine: A (had extra honey I took off to save for winter feedings if necessary)
Guinevere: B (not growing very fast, but look to be healthy with good honey stores)

Yard #3
Dulce: A (good growth the first year with plenty stored up for winter)
Elizabeth: A (really grew fast for being a small swarm, +16 lbs in August)

Yard #4
Helen: A (has recovered very well from the cutout and is very strong, +30 lbs (wow!) in August)
Isabella: D (hasn't done well after the cutout, had to give them 2 frames of honey to help)

Yard #5
Jezebel: A (was a huge swarm and is a very booming hive, +15 lbs in August)

Video Link

Monday, August 26, 2013

Bee Vlog - August 23, 2013

A bucket of old comb from a cutout has been sitting in my garage since June 1st without problems, then a few weeks ago I removed some comb from a weak hive and put it in with the rest of the old comb. Unbeknownst to me, that comb had wax moth eggs. These eggs hatched some time in the past week and began their destruction. Eating through the old wax and spinning their silky webs and cocoons all over.

I wasn't saving this wax for anything. I was just trying to get my solar wax melter finished up so I could melt it down. So now, I'm going to just let the larvae do their thing as I feed them to my chickens! The chickens love it. At first they didn't know what to think of the combs being given to them, but once they got a taste they learned quickly how to get the most out of each comb.

I doubt I'll be able to salvage much of the wax after the chickens pick through it, but it's not a big deal.

Video Link

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Bee Vlog - August 6, 2013

Most of my hives have exiled the drones by now. But this one is letting them stay on a little longer (Queen Beatrice's hive). I saw drones freely coming and going so I shot some video footage today. I slowed the footage down to 1/4 speed and give some assistance to the viewer at first. See if you can learn to spot the drones on your own.

Video Link

Monday, August 5, 2013

Bee Vlog - August 3, 2013

Queen Beatrice and Queen Flora have enough surplus honey that I can now harvest some of it. Beatrice weighs 176 lbs (132 lbs after harvest). Flora weighs 166 lbs (149 lbs after harvest. Even though Flora was 1 box shorter she essentially weighs the same. The 10 lbs difference is approximately the weight of an empty box.

I only took 5 frames from Beatrice and 2 frames from Flora. It isn't the harvest I was hoping to get because there was still some good honey frames that weren't fully ripened yet. Even though the main nectar flow is over it may have been too early to attempt a harvest. I need to give them a little more time to ripen and cap the honey. So I might be doing another harvest in a month. I do want to make sure not to take too much though so I can leave them enough to over-winter.

In this video I demonstrate 2 methods of doing crush & strain. Two of the frames I didn't crush, I just cut out sections and stored them in some storage containers for "cut comb." It can be eaten as-is, chunks can be cut off to sweeten oatmeal, or eat with cheese and crackers, etc.

Video Link

Raw honey after straining
Cut comb

Friday, August 2, 2013

Bee Vlog - July 28, 2013

I attended a treatment-free beekeeping conference at Pacific University in Forest Grove, OR. This was the first year this particular conference was put on and I'd say it was a big success. It was great to hear some lectures and have workshops with some experts in the field, as well as meet and network with other beekeepers from all over the US, Canada, and even as far as New Zealand!

This video is broken up into 3 parts. The first was a mini-workshop on swarms, taught by Dr Tom Seeley (auther of "Honeybee Democracy"). The 2nd part features some musical selections performed by Timothy Sellers from Artichoke. The 3rd part was a queen grafting workshop taught by Melanie Kirby from Zia Queenbee.

There were also lectures from Dr. Seeley, Dr. Deborah Delaney, Kirk Webster, Dr. Sujaya Rao, Eliese Watson, Dr. Lynn Royce. And workshops taught by Les Crowder and Matt Reed. I didn't get any video of any of the lectures or other workshops, but I'll update this post with links to videos other people put online as they get posted.

Dr. Tom Seeley - Honeybee Democracy (video by beethinking)
Dr. Deborah Delaney - The Sustainability of Honeybees (video by beethinking)

Video Link

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Bee Vlog - July 13, 2013

I'm bringing back the hive scale for some baseline measurements. I hear that the main nectar flow is over for my area so I'm taking weights to see how well all the hives did this year. This will also help me to track if another nectar flow starts up or if everything is done for the year. The weights and a chart are available at my apiary page.

It's also been 2 weeks since installing the quilt boxes on 2 of the hives and I wanted to see if they've started chewing through the canvas bottom. I'd like to put quilt boxes on all the hives this winter, but need to first test things out with this design.

All the hives but one seem to be doing just fine. The one hive, Queen Isabella (a cutout from June 1, rescued from a townhouse attic), just isn't growing as I would expect. The population seems to be dwindling. There's good looking brood, plenty of pollen, but very little honey. I'll check on them again in 2-3 weeks and see if things have improved. If they still look weak then I'll give them a boost from a frame of brood and a frame of honey from a strong hive and reduce their space to one box.

Video Link

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Bee Vlog - July 6, 2013

I relocated my newest swarm, Queen Jezebel, to another yard. When I moved the hive I found a lot of dead workers piled up under the screened bottom board. Some still dying. Then this morning I saw more dead workers all around the hive, and witnessed some pretty aggressive behavior before and after I opened them up to add a second box. They were not aggressive with me...just each other.

This was a swarm I caught 2 weeks ago and they've been so crowded (thus...the addition of the 2nd box) I wondered if that has contributed to their attitude. But after showing the battle in this video to some other beeks, 2 possible hypotheses have emerged. 1) It's a robbing. 2) This swarm had 2 (or more) queens and the bees are at war to choose a winner (or a victor has emerged and the losers are being exiled).

The first one seems most likely, but weird given the fact that the same thing was happening in both locations. And, while it has some similarities, this doesn't look like a textbook robbing. So I like the 2nd hypothesis. During and after the inspection I got the vibe that there were 2 warring factions living in the same hive. But you'd think this kind of situation would have already been worked out. My personal 3rd hypothesis is that, as we enter a time of dearth this over populated hive can't feed everyone so some bees have got to go. Either way, this footage is getting archived for future reference.

Video Link

**UPDATE** Things settled down a bit after a couple of hours. Still some wrestling, but not as much activity. The next day everything looked normal. Typical foraging activity with pollen coming in.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Bee Vlog - June 29, 2013

While out inspecting hives I got word of a swarm just about a mile away. A quick and easy catch. I didn't keep this one. Gave it to a friend who was wanting to get a swarm.

Video Link

I've been wanting to install quilt boxes on my hives for a while now, but never found or created a design I liked...until now. One of the common problems I was seeing around the quilt box in general is trying to prevent the bees from chewing through the cloth. I think I may have solved it, but only time will tell. Queen Catherine and Guinevere get the quilts.

Oh my! Queen Catherine is bulging at the seams and needs a 4th box ASAP. I just finished a couple boxes but they still need paint. I can barely keep up with the equipment demands!

I also built more top entrances and installed them on 2 of the larger hives (Beatrice & Flora). When I used an entrance like this last summer I found that the bees used them more for ventilation on hot days than actual egress.

Checked up on Queen Elizabeth to see if they might have too much room. They've filled out box #1 about 80%. Box #2 isn't getting used for brood or honey yet. But there are plenty of bees and they seem to be working on it to get it cleaned up and ready for use. So I left the configuration as-is.

Queen Isabella got her first inspection. Last weekend, after moving them out to the new location and leaving them locked up for 3 days they were very angry and attacked me when I set them free last Monday. So they've had the week to cool off and they seem to be doing fine now. Box #2 is full and is being used for all the brood and food at the moment. But there are bees working on the comb in Box #1.

Video Link

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Bee Vlog - June 24, 2013

A swarm call was posted up on Facebook and after seeing that it was located just around the corner from my house I just had to take it.

This swarm has been sitting in the tree looking for a home for 3-4 days. I should have taken that into consideration before shaking them out of the tree. I've dealt with swarms before in this fashion with no problems whatsoever, but this one was less tolerant and I took quite a few stings on my arms and hands. Because of this, I'm naming this one Queen Jezebel.

Video Link

Monday, June 24, 2013

Bee Vlog - June 22, 2013

A quick inspection for Queens Flora & Beatrice just to check space. Flora is ready for another box, while Beatrice is slowly making progress in the top super.

I moved Queen Helen from Outyard #1 to Outyard #4 so I can have a minimum of 2 hives at each outyard. The move is less than 2 miles so I'm keeping them closed up for 3 days to force them to reorient and reduce the loss of foragers returning to the old site.

Then Queen Isabella gets her first inspection where I get my first exposure to wax moth. Nasty stuff! The wax moths where already invading the comb from the attic where I rescued them. And with more comb than the colony could guard the moths were starting to take over. The bees had done their best to try to chew out the cocoons, but hadn't finished the job yet. So I made it easier on them and just removed the mothy wax and reduced their living space to a more manageable size.

I put the mothy wax into the freezer to kill the larvae and any eggs. I'm debating if I want to just melt down the wax or save it for baiting hives next year. Maybe I'll save the better looking stuff and melt the rest.

Video Link

Monday, June 10, 2013

Bee Vlog - June 8, 2013

Queen Guinevere and Queen Dulce are ready for a new box. In this video I show the details of how I "pyramid up" to expand the brood nest and encourage the bees to move up into the new box.

Video Link

The trap-out experiment is at an end. The hive in the wall appears dead or trapped and will soon be dead. There were a good number of survivors in the hive body, but they are queenless. Rather than take eggs from a strong hive and basically create a split, I decided to just add these bees to another smaller colony (Queen Elizabeth) that could really use the boost in population. I used the newspaper method of combining the 2 colonies and will check up on them again in another 7 days.

It was interesting to observe the difference in behavior of a queenless colony. They still worked together and were loyal to the hive, but they were also less active, less interested in working, and almost seemed melancholy. They were still foraging, but at a less active pace.

I left the mesh cone in place just in case there are still remaining bees in the wall that are alive and work their way out. They'll either find a new hive to move into (there are some hives just across the field) or they'll die off. There won't be many though. I'll return in a couple weeks to clean up the cone and window and seal things off.

Video Link

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Bee Vlog - June 1, 2013

We had another cutout to do today. This one was in the attic space of a townhome. It took a few tries to figure out exactly which wall/attic cavity was being used. It was a huge hive with the potential of getting much bigger.

Removal went smoothly. There was quite a bit of honey, so everything got very sticky. We found the queen, Isabella, and caged her up to keep her safe. In the end we filled 2 medium hive bodies with comb (all 20 frames) and 2 buckets with bees. We moved the hive to their new home, released the queen, and emptied the 2 buckets into the hive, giving them a 3rd box for additional expansion.

One thing I love about doing cutouts is seeing how the bees organize their comb in a "natural" setting. One thing I really dislike is the attitude I sometimes feel towards the bees. When you're working in an uncomfortable situation, struggling against the sticky honey and awkward arrangements, taking stings here and there, you start to feel a little like you're at war. It's you vs the bees. I don't like that feeling and I don't want it to change how I work with the bees, so I try to leave that attitude at the job site and not take it home with me.

Video Link

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Bee Vlog - May 25, 2013

It's been a busy swarm season for me. I caught 3 swarms and did 3 cutouts. This video shows the progress all these bee colonies have made so far. We got to see Queen Elizabeth, and Queen Helen. It was quite good luck to see Queen Helen, as we did not see her during the cutout (May 18th), but it looks like she pulled through just fine.

Queen Guinevere seems to have Varroa mite problems. One of the workers had deformed wings caused by a virus transmitted by mites. Quite a few mites were found on the board under the bottom screen. I didn't do an exact count to see how bad the infestation is, but it does look high. Of course, the board has been in there for nearly a month, so it could just be that. I do not apply treatments, but I will be watching this colony to see how well they pull through.

Queen Dulce and Queen Guinevere are growing nicely and will be ready for a 2nd box in the next week or two.

I also plan on building some quilt boxes to place on top of the hives to give that a test.

Video Link

Monday, May 20, 2013

Bee Vlog - May 18, 2013

Someone contacted me about a beehive living in a pillar in the front porch of their house. It has been there for about 4 years and they've tried killing it a few times with bee & wasp killer. Each time it was sprayed it set back the colony a bit, but never completely killed it. They've also had other people out to try to seal up the opening with expanding foam, tar, and caulking, but that never really worked either, as the bees just chewed through and reopened it.

It took about 4 hours just to get the pillar open. We took a great deal of care in removing the cedar siding so it could be reassembled easily. But then we discovered some OSB that was nailed in place and refused to pull free. So cutting it open was the only option.

The hive looked like they had recently swarmed, but with no queen cells to be found. There were no drones, some young larva, but no eggs, and we never found the queen. The comb was very dark. They had very little capped honey. Just for safety, I gave them a frame of eggs and brood of all stages to give them the opportunity to raise a queen, should they need to.

Video Link

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Bee Vlog - May 7, 2013

Back to the same farm where I did the chicken coop cutout, this time a swarm has just recently moved into the wall/ceiling of the house. They really put themselves in a difficult spot this time. It would be very costly to attempt a cutout, so I'm giving a try with a trap out.

I made a cone from some window screen material and stapled it as best I could around the opening they are using in the wall. I'll return tomorrow to make sure I did a thorough job in closing off all openings. If they can find another way into the hive then the trap out just won't work.

Video Link

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Bee Vlog - May 4, 2013

Dulce & Elizabeth
I moved the baited swarm, Queen Elizabeth, to their new home. It's a very small colony. Only occupying half of 3 frames. But there are eggs present and they seem to be doing well.

Queen Dulce is really doing superb. 7 of the frames are drawn down. There's eggs and plenty of food coming in.

Both swarms started at the same time, but with significantly different numbers. So it should be interesting to see how they compare to each other.

Video Link

Catherine & Guinevere
The swarm I caught on May 1, Queen Guinevere, needed to be moved to their new home. This was a more simple move of just closing up the hive the night before, moving it, then opening it back up again. I guess I moved this one far enough away that no foragers or drones came back to their old location.

I checked the bottom empty box on Queen Catherine to see if they've moved in there yet. I suppose they don't need the room yet because they haven't moved down there.

My attempt to do even a minor inspection without a smoker was not the best idea. I did get an aggressive sting. The bees were much more on guard this time.

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Beatrice & Flora
Queen Catherine came from a hive I cut out of an RV last week. I didn't need to do an inspection, but I was curious about what happened to the queen cells I left them with. It turns out that the hive changed its mind about swarming and/or requeening and has destroyed the queen cells.

I suppose at the time of the cutout I could have just split the hive. I had a queen and knew where she was. I also had queen cells. But because cutouts are such a mess, and the hive really has to spend some time healing (it's basically like a major surgery), I didn't want to take any risks. Besides I didn't know if either the queen cells or the queen had become damaged in the process. So I kept it just as one hive and let the bees figure it out.

Queen Beatrice is a really strong colony. They haven't made too much progress in the new top box, which I'm okay with. I don't really want them growing too fast anyway. I'll take slow and steady.

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Lost Foragers
When I relocated Queen Elizabeth from the bait hive to their new location, I only moved them about 1/4 mile. There's an old saying that you have to move them 2 feet or 2 miles. Anything in between and the foragers can go astray and not make their way back to their new home. Well, this was an opportunity for me to learn that lesson the hard way.

There are ways to move a hive less than 2 miles, but I didn't observe those methods here. When I moved them I closed them up at night to make sure everyone was home. Then the next morning I moved them to the new spot, took the frames out and put them in the new hive. Unfortunately, the bees that didn't get put into the hive just flew off, not really knowing where they were, but they seemed to know the way back to the old place.

What I should have done instead is move them to the new spot and either leave them there closed up for 3 days, or just open the entrance and stuff some grass into it. Either way would force them to take orientation flights and reset their homing flight path. After they reorient I could then transfer the frames to the other box.

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Bee Vlog - May 1, 2013

An easy swarm catch, in the same neighborhood as the 2nd swarm I collected (Queen Dulce). So I wonder if they're coming from the same hive, or a different hive from the same beekeeper.

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Friday, May 3, 2013

Bee Vlog - April 28, 2013

After the cutout I still had 2 buckets of bees that needed to be assimilated into the hive. There wasn't sufficient room in just the one box for all these bees, so I added another box with empty, foundationless frames on the bottom, dumped half the bees in there, then dumped the rest into the top box. Wow, what a lot of bees. I'd estimate I pulled out at least 10 pounds of bees in this cutout.

When I released the queen the bees were so drawn up to the cage that it was difficult to get her out and get a good shot of her on camera, but we lucked out there and caught a quick glimpse.

Upon review of the video I noticed how overly excited the bees were to get to her. I know that most of these bees had been in the bucket overnight, and probably thought they were queenless. So I'm wondering if their actions of climbing all over the cage was an act of joy and celebration or aggressive "kill the intruder." I suppose we'll see soon when I do an inspection to see how well things are going.

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Thursday, May 2, 2013

Bee Vlog - April 27, 2013

I got to put my beevac through the ultimate test and removed a hive of bees from inside an RV. It was a small opening—about 8 inches by 8 inches, to a good sized cavity—about 16 inches on all sides. The last time I was out there the hive was pretty small but looked strong.

Photo taken March 22, 2013
The hive was tucked up inside the opening and wasn't easily visible from the outside.

Photo taken April 27, 2013
After just 1 month the hive has boomed into a massive wall of bees and lots of comb.

This time they were so full I'd say they were about 3-4 days from swarming. I found several queen cells and was able to save some of them in case I accidentally killed the queen.

I did find the queen completely by luck. I was taking a break from vacuuming the bees and just sat and watched inside for a minute. Then on one wall, down low where the light was good, the bees all parted like a curtain and revealed the queen to me. She was just sitting there calmly cleaning herself. So I gently scooped her up with the queen clip and stowed her safely away in the hive box. Welcome Queen Flora!

The beevac performed well. Although it did kill about 10-20% of the bees. I think it's due to the ribbed hose. I'd like to find a smooth wall hose to see if that is more gentle. I filled 3 buckets about 4-5 inches deep. I only brought 2 with me, so one had to be emptied into the hive box and refilled. There were so many bees.

The whole process took about 4.5 hours. It was a very messy ordeal. I had a thin coating of honey all over my bee suit, and a thick coating on my gloves. I got a few "accidental" stings from bees that were just in the wrong place at the wrong time. 2 through my gloves and 1 on my ankle. But I think I'm starting to get used to them. It's not that the pain or swelling or itching is diminishing (although that can vary depending on the intensity of the sting), I think I'm just not as bothered by them. They happen, I get over it.

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Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Bee Vlog - April 26, 2013

I got a swarm call that sounded too difficult to get (40 feet up a tree) so I passed on it. But I spread the word to a few other lists I know of. After I got off work I stopped by to see if someone had come to get it or if it moved on. When I got there I found that the home owner had contacted someone else who was willing to give it a try. They had an extension ladder leaning against the tree and were using a very long fishing net to scoop up the bees.

It turns out the home owner who called was the beekeeper who's bees had swarmed. He wasn't interested in having a 2nd hive so he didn't want to collect the swarm. But the beekeeper who answered the call had lost all 3 of his hives over winter, so he was starting over again. It looked like a lot of work trying to scoop up those bees and putting them in a hive body, so I was content with just observing.

There were still a lot of bees on the branch when I arrived, but within a couple minutes they all took off. At first they flew out over some neighbor houses and trees. We thought they were leaving for sure. We went around to the street to see what direction and how far they had gone, but then we noticed they were returning and were descending on the hive body.

I think they took off, then realized the queen wasn't with them so they headed back. When they got back they caught the "homing scent" down in the hive and moved right in. It was spectacular to watch the cloud moving like that.

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Queen Beatrice
It's been a month since Queen Beatrice's last inspection. I needed to see how well they've been filling out the frames, check for queen cells, and see if they need more room. They had fully filled out all the new frames from last time so I added another box. The bottom box was getting filled with honey, so I moved it up to the top (under the new empty super).

They were pretty calm and tolerant of my "invasion" during most of the inspection. It wasn't until the end they became more defensive. A couple guard bees really started warning me and trying to push me back by buzzing at my face. Not bumping, just taking a defensive posture. I think it was because I was rushing things a little too much. It was late in the day, I hadn't eaten dinner yet, so I was hungry and trying to get through it as fast as possible. Because of my rush I was probably crushing more bees than I should while putting the boxes back together and my movements were probably less than fluid.

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Queen Catherine
When we did the cut-out on this hive we secured the comb into the frames with rubber bands. Now that the comb has been braced by the bees we can cut out the bands. We tried being gentle and carefully remove the bands, but that wasn't as easy as we thought. It's also less gentle than you'd expect. We tried gently breaking the bands, but that's also not easy or gentle. It turns out, that just cutting them is the quickest, easiest, and actually most gentle way of doing it. Do some bees get flicked by the rubber bands in the process? Probably, but it's much less harmful than the squishing and rolling that was happening with our other clumsy methods.

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Monday, April 29, 2013

Bee Vlog - April 25, 2013

It's a waiting game, and you never know what kind of luck you'll have with it, but bait hives are really the easiest way to get a swarm. You set it up, walk away, and hope the bees move in. And if they do the only work that's left is to move them to a hive.

I hung this up last year, but I think I did it too late. This past week there have been a lot of swarms in the area, and my bait hive was getting a lot of attention for the past few days. Some very strange behavior. Fighting and battles at the entrance. In hind sight, I think a group of bees were staking a claim to the hive and keeping other "intruders" from getting in. It was pretty interesting to watch.

I'm a little disappointed that I was at work and didn't get to see the swarm moving in. But the satisfaction of such an easy catch makes me quickly get over it.

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Thursday, April 25, 2013

Bee Vlog - April 24, 2013

Another pretty easy swarm catch. This one was about 5 feet up the trunk of a tree. Fortunately the tree was young and flexible enough that I could just shake it. At one point the bees were marching into the box from the trunk, but then they started marching from the box up the tree again (the camera was off when that happened so it wasn't caught on video). I had to get a turkey feather and try to sweep them off the tree into the box. This was more difficult than it sounded due to the nature of this tree, but we eventually got the majority of them into the box.

No queen was sighted, but the way the bees were behaving leads me to believe we got her. I'll know better next week when I pay them a visit. But regardless, this is Queen Dulce.

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Bee Vlog - April 23, 2013

My first swarm catch of the season. It went very well. It was about 15 feet up in a cedar tree. I brought it down by simply cutting off the branch and carrying it down the ladder. I gave the swarm to Zenger Farm, a non-profit urban farm in SE Portland. A couple months ago I joined the group that will be maintaining the bees there and they've been in desperate need of more hives. So we hope this will be a good one for them.

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Saturday, April 20, 2013

Bee Vlog - April 20, 2013

Today was a little different and a first for me. My church put on a Community Emergency Preparedness Fair. I was asked to put together a booth about beekeeping. I had a great time talking with people and sharing my hobby with them. We had a really good turn-out. I heard 250 people showed up which was about 70 more people than was expected! I don't think all of them visited my booth, but I'd guess I talked to about 20-30 of them.

What does beekeeping have to do with emergency preparedness? Well, if you make a Venn diagram with one circle "emergency preparedness" and the other circle "farming," then I think the overlapping portion is "homesteading." And I think there's a natural progression of interests of emergency prep to gardening to beekeeping.

Also, due to the current methods of mono-crop agriculture with migratory beekeeping experiencing record losses, we may be heading into a major natural disaster. I think we can "prepare" for this disaster by actually heading it off and preventing it by engaging ourselves in the process with more backyard hives.

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Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Bee Vlog - April 8, 2013

It's been 2 days since the cutout and Queen Catherine needs to be released from the cage. I also needed to make sure no major damage occurred to the comb during transport and push all the frames into the center to maintain proper bee space.

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Monday, April 8, 2013

Bee Vlog - April 6, 2013

I got a call about some bees living in a chicken coop. I was told the hive has been there for 2-3 years, which seems about right judging by the color of the comb. The bees looked strong and seemed to be in good health. I'm really excited to be adding these survivors to my apiary.

This was my first time doing a cutout. I had some help from a friend (Tara) and family (Tammie & David). There was a lot of comb to cut and fit into frames and they helped things go much faster. We ended up filling 20 frames nearly full, with a little bit of leftovers. We spotted and caged the queen near the very end of an over 4-hour ordeal. We were very fortunate to have found her the way we did. The bees were hiding in the cracks and corners of the walls and we were gently trying to scoop them up and get them to the new hive. As I was doing a little sweeping in one corner she just suddenly appeared. She wasn't running too fast, so with a little help from a feather I was able to get her into a cage for safe keeping. Welcome Queen Catherine!

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Monday, April 1, 2013

Bee Vlog - March 30, 2013

Queen Beatrice is doing really well. There was a mess of burr comb filled with drone brood that I destroyed while going through the boxes. This is what happens when proper bee space is violated, they fill up the gaps and make it messy to do an inspection. I cleaned things up as best I could and left them some empty frames and an additional box to build up more comb. So instead of raising drone brood between frames they can just fill a frame if they need to.

When I was closely inspecting the drone larva (later, after doing the inspection) I did find mites. So it should be interesting to see how well this hive does and how they deal with them. I don't treat for mites. My desire is to have bees that don't need treatment. So far, this colony has been doing very well and hasn't shown any signs of weakness.

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Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Bee Vlog - March 9, 2013

In this episode I talk about my location in Beaverton, Oregon. I talk about the major forage for nectar and pollen sources, as well as the green space and wetlands commonly found here. The weather is a big factor on how we manage bees and some of the difficulties it can present.

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In this inspection I was only trying to get an idea of the population size. We're coming up on swarm season soon and I needed to know if they were getting crowded and if they were building queen cells.

Some beekeepers will also switch the boxes this part of the season. During the winter the bees move up into the upper boxes as they eat their honey stores. So moving the upper boxes to the bottom pushes them back down again and encourages brood to stay down low instead of getting up into the honey. I contemplated doing this, but ultimately changed my mind. I didn't want to separate the cluster from their honey. And I think they'll move back down as necessary. So I'm leaving things alone and just seeing how it all works out. I've done more manipulations with this hive than I'd normally like to do anyway.

My smoker wasn't working right so I wasn't able to properly smoke them. I was having trouble because I was trying out burlap as the fuel instead of my usual pine needles and wood chips blend (because it was all wet). I've tried burlap before with no success, but I thought I'd give it a second chance. Well, the bees never got smoked right and were on high alert and I got stung.

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Monday, March 4, 2013

Bee Vlog - March 2, 2013

I don't do a full inspection today, just take a peek under the hood and swap out some frames of honey. Last fall I moved some frames of honey from Queen Anne to Queen Beatrice. Those frames where drawn out very thick and didn't fit together very well. Now that Queen Anne is dead I have some extra frames of honey that are moldy and I can't extract or use. So I'm harvesting the really thick frame of honey and giving Beatrice 4 new frames of dirty honey in its place. The bees can clean up the mold and use it just fine.

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Sunday, February 3, 2013

Bee Vlog - February 2, 2013

It looks like the Varroa mites did their damage. Not enough winter bees in the hive and they couldn't keep warm enough. Queen Anne is dead. Lots of mold and condensation in the hive. Does anybody have advice on what to do with moldy frames? Or even worse...moldy wax?

On the other hand, Queen Beatrice is doing great. They were bringing in lots of pollen. The population looks strong and they still have plenty of honey. I'm really happy with how well they're doing.

After looking over the remains of Queen Anne, I'm thinking I want to give quilt boxes a try next winter. I think that will really aid in maintaining hive temperature and reducing moisture. Queen Beatrice has been fine without one, but I think it will at least give a weakened hive a better fighting chance of survival.

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Saturday, February 2, 2013

Bee Vlog - January 27, 2013

It's too cold to open the hives (41°F) so I just take a weight and listen in to try to hear if the bees are alive. Queen Beatrice seems to be doing fine. I actually got to see a couple bees moving about. They are steadily eating their honey (observed by weight-loss), and I can hear a good humming sound inside the hive. However, I am concerned for Queen Anne. They have lost very little weight, and I can barely hear anything (if I'm hearing bees and not just background noise). But I won't open any of the hives until it's warm enough. If Queen Anne is alive I don't want to be the cause of death by opening the hive in cold weather and chilling them too much.

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Hive weight graph

Monday, January 28, 2013

Bee Vlog - January 26, 2013

Season 2 is starting and I have more equipment to build. In the dead of winter nothing is happening at the hives, so it's a good time to put together all those new hive boxes and frames. I usually buy locally at Ruhl Bee Supply but I wanted to try out Kelley Bees. In this video I review both suppliers and the difference in quality I see in the woodenware.

TL;DR - I'm very impressed with the quality of Kelley Bees, but the shipping cost is a deal-breaker. Ruhl Bees disappoints me every time I go there, but for now they'll stay my supplier.

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In this video I build 1 box without a jig. But I prefer the ease the jig provides. This jig design comes from Michael Bush. I rapidly assemble the jig and build up 3 boxes. Unfortunately the follower boards in my jig are just a tiny bit tight which makes getting the boxes out of the jig a little problematic. I need to see what I can do to give them some more space...

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I have a non-standard (from what I've seen) way of assembling frames, but I think it has a few advantages.

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