By late February, I knew that the bees from both hives had absconded. The west hive emptied out soon after I put the insulation around the hive last fall. The east hive stayed around until sometime in February. I knew I would need to check both hives to see how much honey was there, but I needed a few warm days to do that in my unheated garage.
I didn’t get warm enough days until it was too late for me to order bees for this year.
I accepted that I wouldn’t bee a beekeeper until the spring of 2017, except on my license.
When it warmed up, I extracted the honey, and got several quarts. It was still too cool to easily clean up the frames, so I decided to wait until the heat of summer. I put the frames back into the hives, and waited.
Well, here it is, the 9th of July, and I went out to the hives for the first time this morning.
Not a pretty sight!
But then I took a closer look.
There were bees! Not many, but definitely honey bees.
This is the west hive…
…and this is the east hive. You can hold down the CTRL key and rotate the mouse wheel and see the photos in a larger format. That will make it easier to see that they really are bees.
So my question is, “I wonder. Am I a beekeeper?”
Of course the answer depends upon one thing. Is there a queen in one or both of the hives? If there is a queen, the bees have taken up residency, and I am a beekeeper. If there is no queen, then these are scavengers who are cleaning up the mess I left when I extracted the honey earlier this spring.
I’m not holding my breath!
Well, I took the outer and inner covers off, and had the new medium box ready to add on. As you can see, there was some extra comb on the inside of the inner cover.
The new box which I am installing is in the center of my bee bench. The frames hanging on the front of the bench are from the medium box I installed a few weeks ago. I used only part of a foundation to give the bees a starting place, and as you can see, they took over from there.
So I scraped the wax off. I have a small Crock Pot which I use to melt wax. I “paint” the melted wax onto the foundation, even though it comes “pre-waxed” from Jones Bee. I have removed a third frame, and here you can see that the entire frame has been drawn out, and they have capped nearly half of the frame.
I tapped the inner cover to get off all the wax that I could. I was surprised that the bees stayed on when I did.
Here I am placing the new box on the hive. I really should have placed it under the other medium box, but I was short of time, and I didn’t want to find something to stand on while I removed the older box.
I put the inner cover on, with the open slot on the bottom. It should have been on the top, but I didn’t discover this error until I was writing this, and looking at the pictures Grace took.
I replaced the outer cover…
…and put the cinder block on top. After I post this, I will have to go out, and open it all again and invert the inner cover. I guess it’s a good thing I’m doing this blog, or I wouldn’t have caught that error.
I’m a Beekeeper!
Saturday, 18 April, 2015. I picked up my bees from Jones Bee Company in Salt Lake City. I had pre-paid, so I went directly to the truck where they were handing them out. There were about a dozen people in front of me. It went quite quickly. They cut my two cages from a string of five, with a small saw. There were about 25-30 hitchhikers hanging on to the outside of one cage. I put the cages into the trunk, and covered them with a blanket. When I got them home, I didn’t see any stray bees in the trunk, and there were none hanging onto the blanket. Maybe I owe them for the extra bees? I took them around back and put them on the Bee Bench.
At that point some of the hitchhikers began exploring the area around the Bee Bench. I noticed that there was no wooden plate covering the feeding can. That could indicate that they were not transported very far before I got them.
I pulled the frame with the rubber bands out of the hive, and I pulled the can of sugar water from the first cage. I had a block of wood ready to cover the hole, so that not too many bees would escape before I got the cage into the hive.
I removed the queen cage from the box, and replaced the wooden block so the bees would not get out. There were several worker bees attending the queen. It took some effort to get enough of them away from the queen cage that I could suspend it behind the rubber bands.
By this time, there were many more bees flying around. A few of them flew into my hair. I thought about my beard, and decided to put on my bee suit.
When I got back, I did what I should have done earlier. I removed the cork, and replaced it with a miniature marshmallow. I placed the queen cage behind the rubber bands…
… and replaced the frame into the hive.
Next I placed an empty box on the top of the hive, remove the block from the box of bees, and place it inside the empty box on top of the frames in the box below.
I placed the inner cover on the stack, and got the outer cover.
I placed it on the top, and that first hive was installed.
I took the sugar water can from the second package, and covered the hole with the wooden block.
There were several bees trying to get sugar water from the can.
That’s when I realized that I didn’t have a place to put the queen when I removed her cage from the box, so I un-stacked the stack. Outer cover…
…deep box. Now, where is the frame with the rubber bands?
Take out the queen cage.
Replace the cork with a miniature marshmallow.
Put the queen cage under the rubber bands.
Put the frame back into the hive.
Put the deep box onto the stack, and add the bees.
Put the inner cover onto the stack.
Put the outer cover onto the stack.
I’m a Beekeeper!
Last evening I started clearing away the weeds behind the garage, where I will place my Bee Bench.
Yesterday morning there was snow here. The next step is to place the stones which will keep the legs of the bench from touching the soil.
The placement is approximate.
I put the bench on the stones, and adjusted their positions, using a block of wood, and a 4 pound hammer. I leveled it across the length of the bench, and tilted it slightly forward so that the rain will drain away from the inside of the hives.
Next I placed the bottom boards on the ends of the bench.
This photo shows everything I will need to install the bees tomorrow. Three of the frames in each hive have full sized foundations, like the one shown in the front. The other seven have partial foundations, like the one in the rear. One of the frames with a full foundation has two rubber bands around the frame. These will be used to hold the queen cage in place while I load the bees. The package of bees comes with a thin piece of wood covering a can of sugar water. The bees drink the sugar water while they are in the package. I first remove the covering, and pull out the can. I will quickly cover the hole so that as few bees as possible escape. I will remove the cork from the top of the queen cage, and push a miniature marshmallow into the hole. I will place the queen cage between the foundation and the rubber bands, with the top slanting upward at a 45 degree angle. The screened side of the queen cage will face down.
I will replace the frame holding the queen.
Now we are ready for the bees, so I will move an empty hive box onto the stack. I will place the package of bees into the empty box, and remove the cover which is keeping the bees in the package.
I will place the inner cover onto the stack. The inner cover has the escape slot on the top and facing the south.
I will place the outer cover onto the top of the stack, and pull it back so that it blocks the escape slot.
I will place a reducer entrance into the hive. That way there will be only a small opening at the front next to the bottom board. It will be easy for the bees to defend their new hive.
After looking at lots of videos about beekeeping, I knew that I didn’t want to have to bend over to work with my hives, specially when it came to lifting them. I decided that I wanted to build my own Bee Bench. I looked at several designs, and took the ideas that I liked. Here is what I selected. (Click the photos for an expanded view)
I bought a pound of #8 x 3 inch deck screws, and two 1/2 x 36 inch threaded rods. I bought eight nuts and washers to go on the threaded rods. The lumber is all eight feet long. There are three 2 x 6 redwood boards and two 4 x 4 posts. All of this will stand on eight 6 x 6 inch patio blocks.
With both of the 4 x 4 posts and one of the 2 x 6 boards, I measured to the center…
…and made my first cut. Next I measured and cut…
…each of the halves in half, making four equal length pieces of each post and one board.
That’s 12 two foot long pieces. When it is completed…
…there will be space for a hive at each end. The open section for the hives on each end is 18 x 27 inches. The two rods will serve a dual function. They will hold the correct spacing between the front and back planks, and they will serve as a holder for frames, when I remove them from the hives.
Between each hive and the rods, I will attach plywood to form a work space next to each hive. These plywood sections will be 19-1/2 x 27 inches. The open section in the middle will be 21 x 27 inches. If I need a larger table segment for any reason, I can drop in a 21 x 27 inch piece of plywood to cover the center temporarily. The rods extend beyond the front of the Bee Bench to provide space for hanging frames in that event. Each leg segment is attached to both the front or the back, and one 2 foot cross member. The patio blocks are positioned flat side up beneath the eight legs, and help keep them out of contact with moisture. I will have enough space behind my garage to add a second Bee Bench, should I decide to go to the maximum of four hives which I can keep on my less than 1/2 acre property.
I selected the place where I intend to get my bees a few weeks ago. It was recommended to me by a friend. Jones Bee is local, so the bees will not need to be shipped to me. I can go there and select them myself. There is always the possibility that if bees are shipped to you, and for some reason you are not at home when they arrive, they could die.
As I was browsing the net for ideas on bottom boards and stands (I’ll explain in another posting) I went back to their web page. They just announced that they are taking orders for bees!
Purchased bees come in a “package.” The package contains two and one half pounds of bees, a can of sugar water and a queen. In the photo above, the queen is suspended in a small wooden cage which is attached to the silver tab seen to the left of the sugar water can. She can’t be seen because the worker bees swarm around her to help her maintain a constant body temperature, and to feed her. She does very little of her own upkeep. She saves her energy for her real purpose in life. It is her job to maintain and increase the population in the hive. About one third of the cost of the package is for the queen.
Here is a queen and several worker bees. The queen is larger, and in this photo, she has a blue dot on her thorax. The color of the dot shows her age. The blue dot is used for years that end with a 5 or a 0. The trick is to remember which color is associated with which year. There is a mnemonic which helps beekeepers remember.
The queen in the cage above was probably from 2010, because the 2015 bees will not be available until April.
The announcement that bees were now available to be ordered came earlier than I expected. There is a short saying used to remind beekeepers when to order bees. “Remember your honey on valentines day.” Since I first saw that they could be ordered on the 14th of January, that’s exactly one month earlier than expected. Tomorrow, I will order my first package of bees. Actually, that’s today. It just seems like it will be tomorrow because I haven’t been to bed yet.
During the process of changing the Centerville city ordinances to allow beekeeping within the city limits, one citizen showed the city council a photo of a swarm of bees in a tree. I don’t remember ever seeing anything like that before. What surprised me even more than the picture was when he talked about capturing such a swarm.
Capture? There were thousands of them! My first thought was totally irrational! I thought of a butterfly net.
I decided to investigate how to capture swarms of bees. I found more than one way to do it, but the way that looked most interesting to me was a bee vacuum. This isn’t the kind of vacuum I use to clean the carpet under my pool table. That vacuum has a beater which pounds the carpet to free the accumulated dust and other particles. I’m sure the bees would retaliate if I tried that.
A bee vacuum is like the kind with a hose and some sort of wand which can be pointed at offending particles, which are sucked into the vacuum. A bee vacuum is a little more complicated than that, though. You don’t really want the bees inside the vacuum, because that would leave you with the problem of how to get them out.
The solution is a chamber between the swarm and the vacuum. Here are the parts needed for this operation.
This is a typical shop vacuum. It is powerful enough to do the job. If the shop vacuum is too powerful, it could injure the bees, so there is a provision for reducing the flow of air through the system.
The hose from the shop vacuum connects to the first chamber of the bee vacuum. Near this connection there is a second hole, with a plexiglass cover which is held by a large washer and a wing nut. This can be adjusted anywhere from fully closed, for maximum suction, to fully opened, for minimum suction. Start with the cover fully opened, and close it gradually until you have the amount of suction needed to coax, not force, the bees into the hose.
The next section is a screen. The screen is made of a frame holding 1/8 x 1/8 inch hardware cloth. This keeps the bees from being sucked into the vacuum and it allows the air flow to be spread over the entire 13-1/4 x 16-7/8 inch area of the screen.
Under the screen is a deep (9-5/8″) Langstroth box. This type of box is typically used by the queen to raise new bees for the colony. This box will become the home for the bees if all goes as planned. If there are too many bees to be placed into one deep box, more boxes can be added with no significant change to the amount of suction.
The last section of the bee vacuum is where the hose and wand attach. Next to the opening is another plexiglass cover. A layer of foam rubber is placed opposite the hose connection, and it extends into the deep box . This is to ensure that the bees will not crash against the back of the bee vacuum.
The entire package is held together with a strap to keep the parts securely connected.
That is because the whole thing is placed on the side during use. If it is left as a vertical stack, the bees could congregate around the input port, and be injured, or impair the efficiency of the bee vacuum. When all the bees are collected, disconnect the hose and wand from the bottom section of the bee vacuum. There will still be suction, so the bees will not be able to exit. Close the plexiglass cover, and the bees will be fully contained. Return the bee vacuum to the vertical.
It can be transported as it is…
…or you can remove the top section of the bee vacuum, and leave the screen to contain the bees. Since the bees are secure, you can even transport it inside your car.
So, if you are troubled by a swarm of honey bees somewhere in or near the Davis County, Utah area, consider trying my usually free Swarm Removal service.
Be a Beekeeper?
I said earlier that there were reasons why I might not want to become a beekeeper. Here is one.
My grandparents lived in Centerville, Utah. It is a small town on the eastern shore of the Great Salt Lake. Grandma was visiting with a friend who had a peach orchard in her back yard. As they were visiting, my father, who was four years old at the time, wandered off, unnoticed.
In the back yard, he found a stack of white boxes. As he got closer to the stack, he noticed bees coming and going through an opening at the bottom. He stood by the side of the stack, and placed his ear against it. He could hear a buzzing sound inside. He wanted to see what was inside the boxes.
He pushed on the side. He was big enough to make it rock back and forth slightly, but he couldn’t get it to tip over. He looked around him and found a rock. It was too big for him to hold in one hand, but he could swing it if he used both. He began pounding on the side of the box. This made the buzzing sound louder, and several bees came out of the box. He continued pounding, and managed to smash a couple of bees in the process.
In the front yard, Grandma and her friend heard my dad screaming. They rushed around the house, and saw a large mass of angry bees circling around my dad. Grandma’s friend turned on the water and pulled the hose as close as she could to the hive. She sprayed water on the bees, trying to get them to stop their attack. Grandma rushed into the swarm, and pulled my dad back. They took him into a screened porch, and examined him. He was covered with bee stings. Since little boys wore short pants in those days, his legs, arms, hands and face were covered with stings. He also had stings on his stomach, chest and back, where the bees got under his shirt. They removed all of the stingers that they could find, and took Dad to the doctor.
The doctor said that there was little that he could do, and he recommended that they take him down to the lake and soak him in the salt water. This is what they did. Obviously, Dad survived, or I wouldn’t be telling this story.
I remember one day when Dad and I were out in the garden picking raspberries. I noticed a bee attached to the back of his hand. It was stinging him, but he hadn’t noticed it. Mosquito bites bothered him, but he was immune to the venom of the bees.
OK, so what is a sting? I’m not thinking about the Robert Redford type of sting, although I believe that type got its name because it is particularly painful to someone. I’m talking about the type associated with bees. Maybe!
A sting is when a bee presses a barb, its stinger, under your skin, and you get a painful reminder that you and the bee are too close to each other. For you it is probably, but not always, just a painful irritation. For the honey bee, it is certain death.
I have been stung several times, but I can only remember being stung by a honey bee one time. Not all “bees” are honey bees.
Some are wasps.
Some are hornets, or yellow jackets.
Some are bumble bees.
I was a barefoot boy, running through the grass, and I stepped on the bee. It was my fault. I survived, but the bee lost its stinger, and its life.
There is another sting I am thinking about. It too is when something gets under the skin, or in this case inside the mind. Sometimes we get ideas which don’t disappear over time. There is a constant little reminder floating around in there.
That’s how I feel about beekeeping. It isn’t something I thought about doing all my life. There are some reasons, which I may discuss later, why I would NOT want to be a beekeeper! Yet, for some time now, there has been this idea, this sting of consciousness, which doesn’t want to go away.
So, here I am, in the beginning processes of becoming a beekeeper. You are welcome to look over my shoulder as I review the process, but this blog is perhaps more for me and mine than for you and yours. The invitation, however, is still there for you to be an observer… a bee on the wall, as it were.