Showing posts with label Beekeeping

Last year I read the book "Bee Propolis: Natural Healing from the Hive" and although I was eager to make a propolis tincture after reading the book my bees weren't cooperating. They weren't making much propolis. This year I bought another package of bees and they are propolis crazy. I was able to go into the hive a couple days ago and scrape a generous portion off the side of a hive body. 
They did it! They swarmed a 3rd time and they attached themselves to the same tree as the other two times but moved on quickly about 5 feet further into the neighbors yard. Thankfully, after talking with the neighbors, they have been great sports about it. The bees are in a ball again about 30 feet up on a tree limb, not reachable by anyone. but that isn't my news.
At least I feel that way right at this moment. I love the bees, love watching them, learning from them, having them in the backyard but... there is a reason more men than women are beekeepers. Now I'm not trying to offend all the feminists out there but seriously, beekeeping takes some strength and it takes strength that I don't have.
I can't say that I am disappointed. We were fortunate to see it happen and it was very cool to see.  

My hubby looked out the back window this morning around 11 a.m. and asked "is that normal" as he watched a massive cloud of bees flying above the hive. At first glance I thought it was normal. Last year on a hot summer day the bees would come out in what looked like a swarm but they were all just rushing out in the morning sun to get to work. This, of course, was different. The bees weren't directly above the hive, they were off to the side headed upward towards a large tree branch. When I took note of the number of bees and how closely they were flying to the trees I knew it was a swarm. I had to get outside with my video camera and document it. 



I am so grateful that my swarm is about 30 feet in the air and not attached to the neighbors house (still crossing my fingers that they don't move that way). The neighbors dog was barking like crazy but it appears no one besides us noticed what all the hoopla was about.

I've called a local "experienced" beekeeper to come and take a look at the swarm. Maybe he can reach it and take it home. He, the expert, said something to me that rings very true. He said "a swarm is a blessing and a curse. On one hand you have helped a species continue on and on the other hand you lose the opportunity to extract honey." I'm ok with the no extracting honey part. I think it is more important that the bees survive. If what is left behind creates enough honey to be extracted, that will be a pleasant surprise, if they don't, well that is ok too. I just hope wherever the swarm settles that they flourish.

UPDATE: I thought I was losing my mind when it happened but a more experienced beekeeper has confirmed it... MY BEES CAME BACK!!

I've never read about it or heard it before but it was exactly what we believed happened after we saw it. About 30-45 minutes after our hive swarmed and were hanging in a clump up in the tree, the swarm broke ranks and were flying all over our backyard. I kept thinking it wasn't possible, that it must be a 2nd swarm.  I looked everywhere for the original swarm as I was sure they couldn't have gone far. We were present in the backyard and didn't notice anything prior to this massive cloud of bees returning. The cloud covered nearly .5 acre of our property, they were flying everywhere. I went outside and stood in the cloud, the bees barely acknowledging my presence. I thought maybe the swarm was on the move to another location so I ran outside and put a new hive body on the ground, sprinkling it with lemongrass essential oil as a lure (heard that one works well), and waited. The bees started to pile into the hive body but after about 15 minutes they changed their minds and started to go into the established hive. It took about 20 minutes for them to get settled back into the original hive. I asked a few beekeepers if this was a returning swarm or 2nd swarm and I was assured the swarm didn't return but today I read a facebook update by an experienced beekeeper that their swarm returned home. I inquired about my experience and was told swarms do come back sometimes.  

I am curious now. What does it all mean? Were they out scouting for a new location? Will they stay for the season or attempt to swarm again? Our summer season is very short so wouldn't my bees have to stay put since they start prepping for winter in less than 2 months? We were told in beek class that if our bees (in MInnesota) don't swarm by July 6 then we are safe but this hasn't been a normal summer so far so I'm thinking that rule of thought no longer applies. All I know for sure is this experience has been interesting.
Ok, one thing I promised myself is that when blogging about beekeeping I would be totally honest. I wouldn't make it look easy when it was hard, fun if it was boring, enlightening if it was just plain stupid. So here it goes...

The 2nd year of beekeeping SUCKS!!

I've taken 2 classes on beekeeping in 1.5 years. I talk to beekeepers whenever I get the chance. I take advice. I'm learning.

BUT

When I opened last years hive for the first time this year what I saw gave me this sinking feeling in my stomach and I allowed myself to think that beekeeping just isn't for me. I quickly brushed that sensation and thought aside since I've learned this is how I feel about everything when it starts/appears difficult but I must say, the books never told me this.

Hives look like shit in the 2nd year. No more pretty clean frames, no more easy to find queen, no more docile bees. Oh no... what you have is a propolis disaster, so many bees that the queen is impossible to locate and some seriously bitchy bees.

Now I'm sure our bees are much nicer than say an AFRICANIZED BEE but still, I barely scratched the hive today and a couple guard bees just wouldn't lay off. They followed me 25 feet to house and wouldn't go away. It scared my hubby to a point that he started to wonder if we'd ever be able to work outside again. He is wrong, we will be fine, but... I don't want him second guessing my decision on this.

The first year, bees are angels. I almost feel like they love me the way I love them but the 2nd year is a different story. With frames full of honey, an established colony, the girls aren't as loving as before but that isn't really what upsets me. What makes me mad is my own stupidity. I used 10 frames instead of 9 so now it is nearly impossible to move things around. Once a frame is pulled out I can barely get it back in. The propolis is such that my fingers stick together so I nearly drop frames, there is brood being stored everywhere so each time I move anything I kill tons of babies :( I want to do the checkerboard thingy to prevent the bees from swarming yet I can manage to get frames unstuck (it took me 10 minutes last opening to get one back in place). I screwed up my spring divide because I had no idea what I was doing. Now I have to worry the bees will sworm to my "bee hating" neighbors house and the city will be knocking on my door.

On top of it, my bees are not moving up into the honey super. They seem to have something against the queen excluder because they wouldn't pass through it last year either. So my idea of using honey supers to create more space and hopefully avoid swarming isn't going that well. BTW/there are no queen cells from what I could find for those who asked.

So there ya go... my confession. I own practically every beekeeping book written and I don't remember any of the above being mentioned. Beekeeping IS NOT EASY! I didn't think it was but I didn't think it wasn't either. As with most things a difficult point arises and I vent until I figure a way through it. I promise, I'm silently venting over here and only purging on my blog, I carry a happy face about all this through out the day :)

It is difficult to see from these pix but it gives a little visual idea of how things change:

2 month old hive



2 year old hive

My husband endured several bee stings recently and I documented his experience so that I could share it with others. I found it fascinating that every person we came in contact with who saw the results of the bee stings asked two questions (1) If we were going to seek medical attention and (2) If we were going to stop
Today is awful. I came to the realization that splitting the hive is impossible. Thanks to the sloppy job done by the landscaper and his inability to fix the mess until two weeks from now we are left with soggy soil which means when I walk out to my hive I sink calf length in mud. With no stable ground to stand on
Our water issues are solved... at least I hope so. This is the first time we've ever used a landscaper and I'm glad we did. Since we moved into our home the backyard has been one big pain after another. First we had to remove numerous dead trees and way too many buckthorn to count, second was the rock. Rock, rock,
Today we received a new package of bees. At around 4 pm we did the install into the new hive. The process goes like this:

First, you spray the sides of the bee package with 1:1 sugar syrup. This helps calm the bees down so they don't go flying all over the place when you dump them into the hive. Then you give the cage a little bonk to knock all of the bees off of the feeder can so it can be removed.
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