Productive High!

Timeline

Just to give you a sense of how fast this queen is on top of her game, her production is growing exponentially. And by that I mean brood as well as collecting nectar and honey. That would make sense because there are more workers born to contribute. She must bee excellent at hustling her workers or conveying a sense of urgency.

April 6 = 5 frames full
April 16 = 10 frames full (5 frames in 10 days
May 4 = 20 frames full (10 frames in 18 days
May 11 = 30 frames full (10 frames in 7 days)

Vaporize

So yes, the season really gets going fast end of April. That is also when we want to vaporize more to ensure that we keep the mites in check.

Sadly, I was a bit out of practice. I attempted 3 times until I finally determined it worked. I saw fumes coming out of the cracks and the next day there were a few dead ones on the front porch. I gently pulled out the mat, bracing myself for bad news. And there was not a single mite. I started second guessing myself. Like, it can’t actually be this good…
So we decided to use a few nasty thymol strips. They reeked so bad, I felt terrible for them.

In fact they were so strong, we decided to take them out the next day. And you won’t believe what we then saw…I shit you not, but there was not a single mite to be found. I give credit to the previous owner 🙂 He does things well.

Here we are now thinking that everything is under control.
no mites
no queen cells
lots of room

And then BOOM!!!!!!! Stay tuned for a dramatic season of beekeeping with me!!!

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Hive version 2.0

Welcome to Shades of Green

Air bnb

We are expanding fast!

Our early Summer Collection is here!

The new and improved? Initially I thought I was being brilliant by increasing air tightness, ventilation and insulation. It’s partially true. This highrise features cedar belly bands that reduce air cracks. The insulated base prevents infiltration of damp ground upward airflow. And the penthouse has an added window to reduce condensation. And it looks nice.

But there’s still two problems: condensation and squishing too many bees. I guess it’s too air tight now so it’s very warm inside but the walls are not insulated. The belly bands also make it harder take apart and put together boxes again without killing any bees.

Overall a good effort, both visually and for interior comfort but there’s room for improvement.

I consulted with Heinz for the next design of Hive 3.0 and he gave me a few suggestions:

  • Use styrofoam above the inner cover with just a 2″ diameter hole otherwise too much heat will escape.
  • Continue feeding until the big maple tree harvest.
  • One dadent with 10 frames is better than two supers of 5 frames. Keeps the heat in better.
  • Don’t use plywood. Once it gets wet, it’ll decompose quickly.

Our bees are doing extremely well. They’ve done A LOT of cleaning! The black queen runs a tight ship. She is fiercely productive! More on her in the next post!

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Back in Beesness!


Hello 2021!

On Easter Weekend (April 4th), I got back in beesness! A very nice person gave me a black queen which he was eager to get rid of because apparently she is “cranky but highly productive.” I was stoked!

Back in Beesness!

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Spring Inspection and Updates!

It’s about to get real beesy here. I’m buzzing with updates, a new discovery, movie reviews and a quiz to get us started on a new season of beekeeping in pretty Victoria, BC.

Update #1: We went into the winter with two hives and came out with one. Ironically, the one that didn’t make it, was located right beside the house, south facing and seemingly well sheltered. Sometimes you just don’t know why these things happen. And that’s ok because the other hive, to our surprise, was already exploding with activity. About mid March we did our first spring inspection.

Update #2: One hive going strong! We saw so much brood, eggs, pollen, and worker bees that we instantly added another super on top. We filled this super with a left-over honey frame (from the hive that didn’t make it), 5 non-drawn out frames and 4 drawn out frames. That should keep them happily beesy.

Update #3: Our mite count is alarmingly high. We are vaporizing every 2nd day now.

Discovery: Ants like mites! You know how sometimes the most ground-breaking scientific discoveries are made by coincidence? I think this might be one of those. Hear me out. So the top super which is left empty for feeding purposes, was stacked with layers of insulation which included newspaper, cloths and so on. Periodically throughout the winter we exchanged the damp with dry ones and that’s when we noticed there was an ant population. That’s pretty insignificant and even common. To squat them better the next time, we prepped with pieces of duct tape. And what do you see?

Tons of mites!!! That got us thinking…can ants be the solution to the mite problem? It seems as though this is what the ants are after! For now, it’s just a hypothesis but strictly confidential research!!! 🙂

Movie Review:
“Honeyland” = The last female bee hunter in Europe. This movie takes place in a remote village in the mountains in Macedonia. I thought it was incredible – the humanity, the filming, the story. It moves your soul. Some parts were really sad but I’d watch it again.
Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B27ORUHlp6E

“The Last Honey Hunter” = The last male honey hunter in Nepal. This short documentary makes you feel grateful that you do not have to risk your life to harvest honey 🙂 It is part of the Banff Mountain Film Festival Films Online for Free
https://vimeo.com/201695311

Quiz Time: Please identify the following…

And how did you do on this quiz? Answers below

1) egg 2) brood 3) capped brood (worker bee cells) 4) capped brood (drone cell) 5) worker bee 6) honey 7) pollen 8) worker bee…cleaning cell or sipping honey? 9) capped brood (queen cell) 10) drone

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Pesty Beesness

Hello 2020!

I thought I’d write about a topic that keeps coming up at the beekeeper meetings and one that I’ve avoided mostly because my mom takes care of the dirty work. This year, however, my mom needed to borrow my car battery to vaporize the bees. As I watched, I realized it’s actually a fairly quick procedure that gets rid of the pesky varroa mites and only gets your bees a little bit high (or maybe just disgruntled).

These mites are really annoying. They keep coming back and even if you think you’ve killed them all, you’ll get new ones from a neighboring hive. So regular treatment to reduce these bloodsucking tick look-alikes is an absolute must.

There are several different methods. Pick your poison:

  • Vaporize = Oxalic acid crystals that are heated up and vape the hive
  • Formic acid = Available in gel packs, it’s very caustic and can be applied by dribbling
  • Thymol = Strips soaked in strong smelling essential oil that are placed inside the hive. This product is illegal in Canada for political reasons.

We vaporize after we remove the honey for the last time and in the winter. It’s pretty simple as long as your hives are within reach of the car battery unless you have a portable battery.

  1. Prior to administration, you should take out and clean the bottom board.
  2. Put the specified amount of oxalic acid in the container. Put on your suit – bees won’t like this procedure. Wait until a time when most bees will be inside the hive like around dinner.
  3. Connect wires to the negative and positive of the car battery. Push the vaporizing instrument into hive for 2 minutes max and quickly block entrance with foam so bees cannot storm out in fury.
  4. Pull the vaporizer out but keep the entrance blocked for about 15 minutes to allow the fumes to work their deadly magic.
  5. Open the entrance as before and put back the bottom board as per usual.
  6. One day later check the bottom board to find out how many mites dropped. If you have over 10, you’ll need to repeat the procedure in 48 hours. Repeat until you see less than 10 dead mites.

    It’s important to know when to vaporize and how often. But for now, see if you can find a mite, either a dead one on the bottom board or one attached to a bee. And I’ll get back to you with more info on this topic shortly. 🙂

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Summer 2019 Updates!!

November is creeping up on us way too fast! So much to do, so little time. I’ll keep it short and sweet…or maybe less sweet?

It’s been a year of recovery. We’ve had to build up our hives later in the season than preferred and therefore it’s been a honeyless year. Same as 2018. Some years are harder than others. As long as we’ve got bees, we’re ok 🙂

Update 1: The nuc that I brought back from our friend’s house was kept in the Intensive Care unit for a few weeks. We kept thinking, that I had perhaps misdiagnosed the situation. Most cells looked normal aside from a few that had an extra egg and there was enough of a hustle. Unfortunately, I’d probably killed the queen when I clumsily showered them in sugar tea. And a new queen never emerged. So we gave their honey to another hive and hopefully the remaining worker bees were able to relocate at their neighbor’s hive.

Update 2: The remaining hive or the hive that started our season, was busy producing queen cells. It was big and every frame was filled with honey, brood and lots of bees. They seemed to be thriving. And so we made another split. This time we just relocated them from the front yard to the backyard and it totally worked! It took a while until we finally saw the new queen. That was a good day 🙂

Meanwhile, at the headquarters, things remained active but no new developments were visible aside from more queen cells, some of which had hatched.

 

 

 

 

We were so certain that any day now, we’d see the new queen but for whatever reason, she didn’t make it.

What do you do when you’ve got a thriving hive and no queen? You can buy one if nothing else works. It’s like adoption. We are extremely lucky that one of our bee friends donated one of his queens to us. That’s the best, when you know the beekeeper who has raised your queen. You’re guaranteed to get a local. Going local is good for sustainability. They won’t need to adapt to the climate.

Update 3: I got stung a second time just above the lip. It didn’t hurt but my cheek blew up like a balloon. People were seriously worried but I thought it was great to get some free botox. I guess I should’ve worn my suit. Nothing gets past that haha.

Update 4: Going into the winter, we are two hives strong. We’ve been relocating one hive closer to the house, three feet a day. We’ve been feeding them every evening and I’m about to head out and buy some insulation to protect them from the wind and rain.

Halloween is coming up! What do you call a pair of bees dressed as ghosts??? 🙂 Have a good one!

 

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Checking up on our Nuc

I’m happy to say the nuc made it safely to its new location and the bees are adjusting. The hope is that the bees will grow their colony while pollinating this new garden.

I’ve bee’n so crazy beesy these last few months that I haven’t had a chance to update my blog at all. Therefore, I’m going to summarize how my nuc experiment played out and then expand on details later 🙂

June 1: Dropped bees off. Refer to previous post.

June 3: Checked bees and everything looked the same as before, aka good. But then at the very end, I make the biggest rookie mistake in my beekeeping history. So because these bees need help adjusting to their new surroundings and are such a small colony, we need to feed them with sugar water. And as usual, we’ve prepared a yoghurt container with our thyme flavored sugar water. The lid has holes from which the bees can suck out the sweet liquid. As I lift the container and turn it upside down on top of the inner cover board, the lid falls off and to my horror, it all runs out and down the inside of the nuc. I had just doused the bees in lots of sugar and water. At home my mom reassures me, they’ll lick it all up.

June 7: I dread opening up the nuc today. However, there’s no trace of spilled sugar water anywhere! And the bees are very calm. I can’t seem to find the queen but I see eggs so I conclude that they’ve recovered.

June 13: So today I still can’t find the queen. To make matters worse, I see multiple eggs in the same cell. That is a definite red flag that I never ignore. It signals that a worker bee has sensed the absence of the queen and in a desperate attempt, she develops ovaries and starts laying eggs. But since these are all unfertilized, only drones will emerge.

June 14: This nuc has now become an emergency and I immediately drive it to the intensive care unit, aka my house, where it will receive 24-7.

Can this nuc be saved? And meanwhile what has happened to the original hive? Stay tuned for more updates coming sooner than later 😉

 

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Splitting a Hive

This is a nuc

It’s always nice to find a friend willing to share their real estate to accommodate a nuc of bees. Separating the new nuc (5 frames/level) with the old hive (10 frames/level) by distance, ensures that the bees won’t fly back to their original hive. The best time of year to make a split is in the spring (May is best). So if you are interested in housing one for a few weeks or months, let me know! You’ll be rewarded with honey and free education 🙂

The new home, a nuc, is composed of the following items:

The platform can be any type of structure that keeps the nuc off the ground. I simply adjusted a pallet. A “super” is what we call the box (the bottom board, walls and top board). We use “dadent” frames which are lighter than the “deeps.” Supers and dadent frames can be bought at Buckerfield’s or Borden Mercantile and then assembled at home.

As for the interior design, we’ll simply take the frame with the queen, one with honey, one with eggs/brood, one with pollen and an empty frame. Just before we add bees to the mix, we’ll add some water for refreshments by dipping an empty frame in water.

Once we’ve taped up any cracks, we add one big scoop of worker bees to the nuc and close up. The Inner cover has a mesh that provides some ventilation during the 20 minute hot car ride. And we’re off!

 

 

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Novelties and the timeline

It’s my 7th season of beekeeping and it’s the first year I’ve been stung. Finally!!! I’m not going to lie, it hurt more than I remember, but I was clearly asking for it when I attempted to go about a usual bee check-up without a suit or gloves on.

It’s also going to be the first season I declare that these bees are mine hehe. Momsie can be my helper but I get to make all the big decisions. That could go sideways but this swarm is 2 supers (levels) big so we’re off to a great start.

I decided to keep documenting my bee journey because it reinforces what I learn and to post it publicly, it forces me to do a better job (even if only one person reads this post, it at least gives me the illusion that I have somewhat of an audience hahaha)

Thirdly, it is the first year I am attending beekeeper meetings held every 2nd Thursday of the month. Those are very popular and all sorts of people attend these. You hear some very interesting stories and the learning never ends. It’s such a cool topic to nerd out on.

There are more firsts but let’s look at the timeline of how this last swarm played out.

Sunday May 19 at 3:30pm:
I realize there’s a swarm in the air directly above our vacant hive. By 4 pm, most of the bees are inside. But I go back at 6pm that day to take a quick look, and notice that there’s a riot outside their front entrance. My heart sinks as I realize that these newcomers are being robbed by another bee colony! How do I know? There is an actual bee fight on the ground. Right away, guard bees shoot out of the hive at the robbing bees and engage in mortal combat.

I immediately reduce the size of the entrance. And then I take a quick peek inside just to get an idea of their strength. This view inside tells me that they’ll have no problem warden off the robbers.

Tuesday, May 21:
We feed them with sugar tea which has a ratio of 1:1 (thyme tea to sugar) and without looking long, we see the queen. She’s got a yellow dot which tells me she’s from 2017.

Saturday, May 25:
Today we must treat them for mites (more on this later) before they cap their brood which happens on the 9th day of the 21 days it takes to develop a worker bee.  As we get ready for the procedure, we notice how much cleaning has occurred.

While we’re at it, we also replace a few hole-y frames with new ones that they’ll draw out.

Sunday, May 26:
We check to see if the mite treatment worked and top up their sugar tea.

Saturday, June 1:
We make a split and find a friend willing to house a nuc for a few weeks. Stay tuned to find out if it works or fails.

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Glad to bee back at it! :-)

I got good news!!!! But let me bring you up to date first 😊

The bee blog has been revived after a one year hiatus but the bees were around for all of 2018. We started that season with one surviving hive from which we made three splits. Due to other pressing obligations, we were not able to give the bees the best care possible. So we also didn’t have a honey harvest. And later that year, two of the three splits died from a wasp invasion. With our remaining hive, we held onto hope and with each surviving cold spell, our hope grew. In April 2019, we thought they had made it, but one look into the hive forebode a hive in distress. The queen scampered about alone while a handful of worker bees were faced with multiple eggs in the same cells. In mid April, that hive too, had died. It was a surprise to us given the winter they had already overcome. There was no shortage of honey in that hive. That brings me to believe that the district of Saanich had been spraying pesticides on Lesser Celandine again like they did last year. And each year I send a complaint, however, according to an email I received, they had only treated Holly with Garlon XRT on February 28, 2019 in the adjacent park. I’m not an expert but I wish they would just stop applying any pesticides and herbicides. How can they be so confident that their use of pesticides during the winter months did not contribute to the decline of the honey bees?

At that point, my mom was ready to give up. A lot of hope and work goes into maintaining these hives, and when you’ve given it your all, it’s pretty discouraging to have that kind of outcome.

I wasn’t quite ready to give up yet, mainly because I need honey for my peanut sauce dressing and I refuse to eat any other honey than our own. 😉 I wasn’t keen on buying a hive from someone I don’t know though. I really just wanted to catch a swarm. But that’s easier said than done. First of all, you have to be on stand by at any given time. Secondly, there’s a list of swarm catchers that have seniority and I’m not one of them. Thirdly, Swan Lake Sanctuary was calling dibs on their lost swarm. Hahaha. It really was just all wishful thinking.

Funny enough though, throughout last week we’ve been noticing a few honeybees at our old hives. We had left some frames with traces of honey inside. It was a long shot but my mom seemed to think, we might be able to attract scout bees. On Sunday May 19, as she was heading out, she confidently quipped, “I bet we’ll get a swarm to fly right in today. Call me when that happens ok?!” Yeah whatever mom.

At about 2pm something buzzed me back to reality. I took one look outside and I couldn’t believe it. Right above our old hives, there was a swarm in the air. Hallelujah! It took about another 30 minutes until they were all inside. Honestly, it couldn’t have gone smoother. I didn’t even have to suit up!  They chose our hive as their home. What are the chances of that happening?!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


What’s amazing about a swarm? When they outgrow their old home, scout bees will search for a suitable new home. When they find one, they report back to the others that are hanging out with the queen at a temporary location. They then collectively decide on the best option and head to the new location. Is that not some pretty amazing communication? Also, swarms are not dangerous. I was standing in one the entire time, and they completely ignored me.

Check out my bee tat on my forehead

Now that I have bees again, stay tuned for more updates coming shortly!

 

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