Monday, June 30, 2008

Ventilating Bee Glad...

I took this photograph last week but finally had the time to upload it. As I mentioned in the previous post, the bees in Bee Glad... have collected alot of nectar, so the ventilation of the hive has been necessary.

Week 9 and The Summer Flow is Coming

I just got through doing my 9th week inspection of Metpropolis and Bee Glad... . We just got through a rainy weekend but this morning was beautiful. The temperature was in the high 70s, the sun was out with light, occasional breezes. The bees have been busy at the entrance, and I've caught them around the neighborhood foraging white clover. I think the basswood trees are just around done flowering.

Bee Glad... has three deeps on now but not much work was happening in the top box. There was drawn comb on one frame but that was about it. The middle box, however, was heavy with bees, capped, and uncapped honey and occasional brood. The bees are drawing very little comb on the green plastic drone frame which is not entirely unexpected I suppose. The bottom box is filled with bees and brood in all different stages of development. When the bees move up in a week or so I will have to do alot of trimming of comb in that box. The cross-comb is terrible on three frames but it would cause too much disruption to do anything right now.

Metpropolis is living up to its name! The propolis is thick in this hive, but not unmanagable. As usual, the comb on most bars is straight, as the cross-comb "problems" seem to be slowly working itself out with a little trimming here and there. I cut off a whole section of capped drone brood from one bar as part of my mite control measures. Like Bee Glad..., the bees are bringing in plenty of nectar into the hive. I am very proud of the bees and I really hope all the neighbors appreciate the work they are doing.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Two Month Report

It's been two months since I first installed my bees in Beelandia, and all seems well in the two hives. It was a fine day to inspect the bees, after a rather stormy Sunday caused a postponement. The weather was sunny, a temperature around 70 degrees.
Bee Glad... was booming with activity. Following the suggestion in Furgala, Spivak, and Reuter's book, Beekeeping in Northern Climates, I had added a third deep box since the bees were at work on all frames in the second. As the photo above shows, they aren't too keen on the plastic drone I've installed for IPM purposes, building comb only here and there. However, they "love" building in the foundationless frames. I did have to trim some cross-comb. Before I closed up the hive, I dusted and brushed the frames with powdered sugar.
Metpropolis was even stronger with the bees building nice straight comb on 18 of the 21 frames now in that hive. My patient approach to its cross-comb problems seems to be paying off. The bees are working with me, slowly but surely "changing their ways". I dusted every comb containing bees with powdered sugar as well (using an old smoker as a "puffer") and did only a bit of trimming on comb.
The bees seem to be bringing in alot of pollen and there was much stored away in both hives. My guess is that most of this is coming from white clover, a few basswood trees, and my neighbor's coreopsis bed. My own narrow leafed milkweed and borage are very close to blooming and should provide the bees with a small amount of pollen and nectar in the future.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

FIVE QUESTIONS for Laura Tyler, multimedia artist and beekeeper : County News : Boulder Daily Camera

FIVE QUESTIONS for Laura Tyler, multimedia artist and beekeeper : County News : Boulder Daily Camera

Posted using ShareThis

Varroa Count Taken

I put a sticky varroa card underneath the bottom board of Bee Glad... yesterday and retrieved it this morning 24 hours later. Examination of the sticky card seems to indicate very few mites in Bee Glad... Check out the card for the mites circled.

We had to cancel today's inspection. With intermittent showers, and thunderstorms in the forecast, Monta and I played it safe.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

I Thought the Bears Stayed Outside the Fence

It's Steamboat Days in Winona, Minnesota and so the carnival is back in town!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Mackenzie the Beekeeper

On the evening of June 1st, one of our cats, Mackenzie ran off. Today, we discovered that Mackenzie was found dead by a neighbor a few days afterwards.
Mackenzie was unlike any cat I've ever met. In some ways, his relations to humans were more dog-like than feline. He loved jumping into people's arms, wrapping his paws around their neck, and snuggling. When I worked at home, he was my shadow, sitting next to me at the computer, or at the dining room table. He found a new passion this spring: beekeeping. He loved to follow me outside and into Beelandia, not to annoy or antagonize the bees, but to sit on my lap in front of a hive and watch the bees' comings and goings. Even his first sting didn't deter Mackenzie from joining me in the bee yard. (He happened to step on a bee while running to sit with me!)
I do regret not getting a photo of "Mac" helping me at work with the bees. I will miss him.
(This photo was taken by our son, Gareth.)

Coreopsis Grandiflora

The bees have been bringing in a bright yellow pollen recently and I think I discovered its source. A neighbor two blocks away has a bed of coreopsis grandiflora growing near his/her curb. The flowers have attracted a number of different pollinators as can be seen in the photo.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Lumpenproletariat Spider

I discovered a beautiful blue spider feasting on the occasional straggling bee in the Bee Glad... hive.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Week 7 Photos: You Won't Fool The Children of the Revolution

I've finally uploaded some photographs taken by Monta of the week seven inspection, beginning with this quite revolutionary photo of the top bar hive, Metpropolis.
The next photo is my favorite. Monta took a subaltern shot of Metpropolis' apicultural hegemony... (So sue me! I've been reading Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci for another project.)

Here are a few other photos taken of Metpropolis:

Finally, I promised Gerry Gomez Pearlberg that I'd upload some photos of the bar cradle I use on the top bar hive (Another Monta creation). Below are some shots of the totally wooden structure in use:

Monday, June 16, 2008

Week 7: It's Such a Perfect Day

I did the week seven inspection a day early. The day was perfect, I think, for both bees and humanity. The temperature was in the 80s, bright and sunny with a magnificent, soft breeze. I've been finding that as a somewhat urban beekeeper (I hesitate to call Winona urban!), it is quite difficult to figure out just what the bees are foraging, though foraging they are. I've seen them exploring white clover, but anything else is just a guess. There are just too many ornamentals growing in the neighborhood to exactly know what type of pollen and nectar they are bringing in.

Bee Glad... was thriving. When I opened up the top box, there were a few hundred bees scurrying around the top of the bars. Unfortunately, one of their number decided to sting me on the index finger as I took the inner cover off. Not a very good way to start the inspection but all went reasonably well after that. The bees have been building comb on all the frames, except of course, the green plastic brood comb frame I am using for varroa control. The bottom box was booming with bees. Unfortunately, it also contained two frames stuck together with cross comb. I did some trimming of comb in that box but will wait until the bees fully move to the top box to really split and trim those frames apart. I am convinced that my cross comb problems in Bee Glad... were the result of not having the starter strips firmly secured to the frame. The bees were tearing the strips out and then had nothing to guide their drawing. I am now using waxed Popsicle sticks glued into the frames instead. If the comb drawing in the top box is any indication, this looks like it works much better.

Metpropolis, as usual, is simply a pleasure to work. I handled one cross comb problem in this hive rather leisurely and the bees didn't mind at all. Also, I cut a section of comb off one bar that was primarily filled with drone comb, as an effort to do some IPM against varroa. (Next week, I will do a varroa count on both hives) There was plenty of brood in all stages, and the bees have begun capping honey on the few bars they have dedicated to it. I added a bar and closed the hive up.

Monta did take photos of this inspection and I will upload them sometime during the week, along with a photo of a spider who feasts on an occasional bee from Bee Glad...

Monday, June 9, 2008

Week 6: Tale of Two Hives

It's been 8 days since I inspected inside either hive. This past week's weather has been stormy. rainy and windy, not very conducive to foraging the white clover that I've caught a few bees exploring.  Yesterday, we had storms all afternoon until early evening. Finally, today, it was partially cloudy and in the high 70s; a nice day to open the hives.

I always go into each hive anticipating certain things, extrapolating from what the state of the hives were the week before. I expected the inspection of  Bee Glad... to be pretty straightforward with few surprises; Metpropolis would be another story, I imagined, with a continuing battle with cross-comb. Both hives surprised me.

Bee Glad..., the langstroth hive, was opened first. The upper box had bees working on three frames. One is halfway drawn, the other two are in their beginning stages. I removed the top box to discover a bottom box brimming with bees which was a little intimidating at first. What had been a box that was easily inspected last week became a box filled with sticky frames, burr comb, and some interconnected frames. Taking frames out was a job. It was as if the bees forgot how to draw straight comb. I did not want to cause comb failure, nor kill or roll bees in the process of removing and returning frames. I was very slow and focused in my actions, scraping burr comb here and there, and trimming comb off  a few frames. 

The health of the hive is great. Plenty of eggs, larvae and capped brood. I decided to "pyramid" two frames up to the top box in effort to get the bees to draw some straighter comb and to get the queen to begin laying in both boxes. I closed up and went on to Metpropolis. I was a bit discouraged with the work I had to put into Bee Glad..., almost regretting using foundationless frames. What kept it all in perspective was that fact that my friend, and  colleague who is also starting to beekeep this year, has been having the same difficulties and he is using foundation.

Metpropolis was a real joy to work. I am so glad Gerry Gomez Pearlberg at Global Swarming convinced me to try out a top bar hive as a beginner. Most all the comb is straight, bars come out easy, and, with care, I have yet to have a comb break while examining it. I did a bit of comb trimming, using my handy cradle. (Gerry, I promise, I will upload a photo of it soon!) The cross-comb problem I reported the last few weeks is slowly, with judicious trimming and new bar placement, working itself out. The best thing is that the bees seem to tolerate my work in Metpropolis more than in Bee Glad... Thank you, Gerry, Phil Chandler and Michael Bush for introducing me to this approach to beekeeping.

Metpropolis looks healthy as well. Plenty of brood in all stages, pollen stores seem fine, and honey is coming in.

Overall, the honey bees are doing much better then I anticipated, especially given the poor foraging weather we've had.

(Sorry about the lack of photos in today's blog. Monta was at work during the inspection.)

Sunday, June 8, 2008


Today's inspection was postponed due to rain, rescheduled for tomorrow afternoon if the weather cooperates.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Top Bars in The News

An article was about top bar hives at Inside the Bay Area. Maybe we are on to something important in our Bee Activism!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Return to Feeding

After a week of rain and cold, I noticed, over the last two days, that the workers are ejecting young drones from Bee Glad... (interestingly, not Metpropolis, the top bar hive). I couldn't make heads or tails of the situation until I went over the postings on the Warre email list where someone mentioned the bees might be experiencing a shortage of nectar. To be on the safe side, I am placing the top hive feeder back on Bee Glad... tomorrow morning.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Fifth Week: Inspection with Interested Spectators

As you can see in the above photo, we had special guests observing the week five inspection. My daughter Aluna (left), her daughter Taylor (middle). both from Las Vegas, and daughter Sheba watched from the safety of a first floor window as Monta and I inspected our two hives. Just one advantage of having our hives near the house.

The weather was fine today with temperatures in the 80s, and full sunshine. Quite a contrast to the last week of weather. It's been rainy much of the week, thunderstorms now and then, and the temperature fell into 40s twice this week.

I opened up Bee Glad..., the Langstroth first. I had put a second deep on this hive last week but the weather seemed to have discouraged much expansion. The only frame with comb drawn in this box was one I moved up from the bottom one after last week's inspection.

The bottom box had plenty of bees with all frames close to drawn. We observed some drones chewing out of their cells. The middle most frames contained capped worker cells, larvae, and I got a great view of eggs. I could not observe the queen but evidence shows she's there. I had a bit of a problem with cross comb between the middle frames. I cut some, pushed some comb a bit without leaving any comb failure in my wake.

This week, Monta asked to remove a frame from Bee Glad... (She's hooked) So I handed her the hive tool, took the camera and recorded the event. She said it was a real rush! See photo below.

Metpropolis, the Kenyan Top Bar Hive, is thriving as well. I progressed in moving the three hopelessly cross combed bars one step closer to the left fringe of the hive by judiciously moving some drawn, uncapped honey comb to the other end of the hive, and adding two new bars between pairs of straightly drawn comb.

Other then the cross-comb problem, the hive is doing well with plenty of larvae, capped brood, storage of pollen and honey.

I am very happy to report, in this my fifth inspection, that neither Monta nor I were stung.