Sunday, December 27, 2009

Out and about?

After Church this afternoon I went out to the mailbox to get the newspaper (we have a newspaper slot under the mailbox). I was surprised to see a visitor sitting on the newspaper:


There was a bee sitting on the plastic, flapping her wings, and drinking from the puddle of water (I watched the puddle go down a bit). I paused for a moment, and noticed that indeed the temperature didn't seem so cold. I checked the thermometer, and it read 49 degrees, right at the point where bees can fly.

I walked out back to check out the hives, and sure enough I saw some activity:

There were a few dead bees in the front (to be expected), and surprisingly some bees flying in and out of the green hive. The brown hive had a bee at the doorstep, but I suspect it is just a visitor from next door, since I could hear no buzzing when I put my ear to the brown hive.

I was reading that it's good for the bees to have some warm fly days during the winter; they can relieve themselves outside the hive, plus they can get to some of the honey in the corners of the hive that they can't get to when they are clustered up tight on cold days.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Snow Day

This weekend we had our first notable snowfall of the season (there was a skiff of snow in October, but it melted quickly). I expect the weather to stay cold, so that means it's time to do some final winter work on the hives.

You can see in the picture that I still have the extra super on the hives. It simply encloses some (now empty) sugar syrup feeding jars. Now that the weather is cold, the bees stop taking the syrup, so I'll remove them. I still want to put a piece of foam insulation in between the top cover (the metal cover) and the inner cover. I also want to slope the hives a little more so that condensation runs to the edge - I'm not satisfied with the slant yet.

My wife mentioned a week or so ago that she went out and could hear lots of buzzing at the green hive, but almost nothing at the brown hive. Maybe the brown hive won't make it over the winter - we'll see.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

A Bee-Thanksgiving

Earlier this month was the Worcester County Beekeeper's Association annual Thanksgiving day banquet. It was interesting to note that one year ago I attended the same banquet, and it was my first time attending the WCBA. A lot has happened in that year!

This time I convinced my wife to go with me. It took a bit of convincing, because she has attended a few bee functions, and knows about the ... ahem... "interesting" personalities of the members of the WCBA (and you won't find a one to disagree with her). But, being the supportive wife that she is, she decided to take one for the team and go with me. We got a babysitter, left the kids at home, and made an evening of it.

A year ago I sat next to a couple of friends from the club, and this year I looked for the same people. I saw Michelle again and steered her towards our table, so we got to visit with her and her husband and 2 children. They were very well behaved, and so were their children! :-)

One of the things which convinced my wife to go was that the featured speaker was going to speak on companion gardening, the idea you plant companion plants together to naturally keep pests away, thus reducing your need and dependence on chemical pesticides. Usually it is a combination of some kind of an aromatic herb paired with a vegetable. As beekeepers we try to be as naturally possible. When we do use chemicals, we use the bare minimums we can to achieve the desired effect. I've learned the goal of pesticides with bees is not to eradicate the pest, but to reduced the population to the point where the bees can manage the load. You'll never eliminate 100% of the mites in a hive, for example, but if the number of mites is low enough the bees can manage it.

One of the fun things of that evening is that people bring in items to donate to a club raffle. The club itself puts together large gift baskets (there were 4 this year), and everyone gets one ticket to be drawn to win one of the baskets (we didn't win any of those). For the items that others bring in to raffle off, people buy multiple tickets and you put as many as you want in each cup in front of the item you want to bid on. Depending on how bad you want the item, you can stack the odds by putting more than one ticket in the cup.

My wife had her eye on a cute pumpkin ceramic centerpiece, and between her tickets and mine, she won it!

I put in for a few things, but I saw and won this neat jar of honey. It wasn't clear like most honey - it was a type of crystallized honey.

It isn't like what happens at your house where the honey becomes solid like a rock, and you have to heat it up to liquefy it. No, this is done on purpose and the honey has very fine crystals in it, too small to see. The honey is still spreadable, but a little thicker and opaque. This honey was from New Hampshire, and was absolutely delicious! Before getting into beekeeping I never knew the different tastes of honey (plus, the honey you buy from the store is usually pasteurized, which affects the taste). Too bad I couldn't have any of my own honey to taste (maybe next year!).

Fall, but not quite...

The weather hasn't decided it if is Fall or Winter yet, so we are getting some ups and downs. It rained a bunch the past couple of days, and today it was dry and 65 - go figure! So I decided it was a good day to remove the Apistan strips (medication for mite prevention). It was right at the recommended time, and I don't want to leave them in too long.

Due to the warm weather, the bees were out buzzing around the hive today. It was good to see that - during cold times, you never know what is going on in the hive.

I also decided to mix up another batch of sugar syrup to feed the bees. I had checked on them last week, and they had almost emptied the jars. I noticed one jar apparently leaked, and there was a bunch of syrup puddled on the top board. Today when I checked, the syrup was gone - the bees took care of it.

When I mix up a batch, I use a 10# bag of sugar (I am making concentrated syrup, 2 parts sugar to one part water). A bag of sugar fills up my six one-quart jars plus leaves about 1 1/2 quart left over.

The Green hive was doing well - saw lots of bees when I opened things up. But when I opened the Brown hive, I didn't see the same strength of bees (almost no bees greeted me when I popped off the top inner cover). I don't know if the hive has lost her queen or not - I guess time will tell (even if the hive is queenless, now is not the time to do anything about it). If it turns out to be queenless, it'll probably die off during the winter. If that's the case, I'll see what I want to do in the spring.

I took the picture at the top this afternoon. The hives look a little lonely just sitting there among the leafless-trees...

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Sugar baby...

We are in the feeding mode - during the fall weather, it's my job to get the bees stockpiled in food to survive the winter. You do that by feeding 2:1 sugar syrup.

I got some new quart jars, and I put three jars of sugar on the bees at a time. I've already fed them the medicated syrup, so now it's just straight sugar.

Someone asked the details of how I have my feeder, so I took some pictures.

I put the top cover on the hive, and put a couple of sticks (cut from some scrap wood) on top:

Then I upend three jars of sugar syrup. I had already drilled about 10 holes in the lids in basically a line, and I line up the holes in parallel with the sticks (you can see the dark marks I made with a marker on the side of the jar lids to help me orient the lids). I didn't want holes touching the wood rails, because that might cause syrup to leak.

I did a quick inspection this last weekend, since the weather was nice. I noticed that the bees hadn't taken much of the pollen patty I put on a few weeks ago, so I just took it off (it was very moist and mushy, and I noticed a lot of moisture on the top cover of the hive). Obviously they weren't eating much of it.

I didn't look for the queen, since as I mentioned before, there is a lot of propolis holding things together, and I didn't want to break that up and disrupt the hive. I did look and didn't see any brood on the frames I took out, so I have no proof there is a queen. I am going on faith that she is there - there were lots of bees around.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Wet and Warm...

The weather has been chilly for the past couple of weeks, but Saturday was a surprisingly warm day. It was about 68 degrees, and the rain which had been falling the past day or so stopped. So it was a moist but warm time, and the bees took advantage of the warmth to go out foraging:

I don't see them bringing back any pollen, because I think the frost killed off all of the flowers. I put 3 jars of syrup on each hive last week, and have a pollen patty on top of the top bars. I see a lot of bees clustering at the upper entrance:

I suspect they are using it to get to the pollen, and maybe the syrup. I don't see any agitation, so there doesn't appear to be robbing going on.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Scientific Side of Bees

Last Saturday was a special meeting of the Worcester County Beekeeper Association and the Massachusetts Beekeepers Association. A couple of prominent bee scientists came to town to give presentations on beekeeping topics. I'll give a synopsis of the day, with some pictures.

At the start of the meeting some danish was served for breakfast. Beekeepers like to eat!

The meeting was well attended - there were about 200 people according to a rough count.

Dr. Marla Spivak from the University of Minnesota was the first to speak. She spoke on "Propolis and Bee Health." Propolis is the gummy tree resin bees collect and bring in to the hive. In a natural hive, they basically encapsulate the inside of the hive. In Langstroth hives (which beekeepers use) the propolis gums up the frames something fierce, and beekeepers hate it. But it turns out propolis may have a health benefit for the hive's "social health." Her research is still ongoing. More Q&A with Dr. Spivak is here.

Then Dr. Heather Mattila from Wellesley College here in MA spoke on "Genetic Diversity, Dancing and Foraging of the Honey Bee." Queen Bees mate with multiple (6-20) males (called "polyandry") which gives the hive a diverse genetic makeup. She did some experiments with hives made up of a single genetic line (using artificial insemination from a single male) as well as multiple genetic lines (inseminated by 15 males). Her research shows that hives with a diverse genetic makeup are superior in many ways (foraging, etc.) so it's a benefit for the queen to be promiscuous (you can read a short article about her research on this here).

Ken Warchol then gave an update on the Worcester Bee Research Project. Beekeepers in the area have expressed concern about the USDA’s use of imidacloprid to kill the invasive, tree-killing Asian longhorned beetle first discovered in the Worcester area last year. Combined with infested tree removal, officials plan to inject the chemical into potential host trees over three-year cycles to kill off the beetle in the area.

Ken will be monitoring about 50 hives throughout the area to see the impact of the pesticide on bees. Obviously it's a bad thing if the bees are impacted by the pesticide. Here is an article from the Worcester Telegram on this issue.

(sorry for the blurry pictures - all I had was my point-and-shoot digital camera)

After lunch, Dr. Spivak again took the mic and gave a presentation on "A New Novel Way to Monitor Varroa Mites." She showed how to accurately sample your bees to see the mite level of the hive, so you can decide how and when to treat for the mites. The process is described here.

Then Dr. Mattila gave a presentation on "Life Inside a Swarm." She showed what happens when a beehive decides it needs to execute a swarming activity. It was an interesting study on the group dynamics of tens of thousands of bees, and how they decide what they decide.

Overall it was very enjoyable conference. Dr. Spivak is a highly sought-after speaker, due to her prominence with the Minnesota Hygienic bee line. It took 3 years of scheduling to get her here. The presentations weren't too scientific, and from my observations, didn't go over everyone's head. As an engineer myself, I am fascinated at how much of Beekeeping is "art" - people with opinions on what is works and what doesn't. There is a joke that if you ask 5 beekeepers a question, you'll get 10 answers. That's true in a lot of ways. But both of these women have done a good job of applying scientific methods to the bees. Bees aren't the easiest creatures to study, because they won't do exactly what you want. But there are tricks you can do to get the answers you want.

I had to laugh at the end, when as a thank-you gift Ken gave each of the presenters a jar of club Honey. I could imagine them thinking to themselves, "Gee, just what I need - another jar of honey!"

I had a followup e-mail conversation with Dr. Mattila and she mentioned that she feels like she has a foot in 2 different worlds, as a beekeeper and as a scientist.

By the way, you can also read about the meeting at my friend Michelle's Blog (she is a fellow beekeeper in the club).

A Quick Check...

The weather was great today, and heavy rains are planned for the weekend. So I took advantage of the evening light to do a quick check of the hives.

It's been about 3 weeks since I put on the Formic Acid pads, and it was time to take them off. So I suited up and fired up the smoker a little (not too much - it was a quick check after all).

The green hive hadn't taken any syrup over the past week. I thought that it was strange, but when I lifted off the upside-down bottle I found out why - the small holes were apparently clogged (probably with sugar crystals). I didn't have enough either - only 4. The brown hive had almost emptied their bottle.

I found that the bees had added propolis along the underside of the pads, plugging up the holes. I guess they really didn't like the smell! They also didn't eat much of the pollen patty. I suspect that it was because of the odor of the pad - they were staying away. I added another pollen patty to both hives; we'll see what they do this next week.

I took the opportunity this evening to cook up a batch of 2:1 sugar syrup, and added some Fumigilin-B medication (to treat for / prevent Nosema). I needed a better set of feeding jars, so I bought a 12-pack of quart canning jars. Since I had bad luck with the metal bands and lids, I found a set of replacement plastic lids which fit the jars. I could have chosen a larger jar (and thus have to add syrup less often), but I liked having to only use one super to surround the jar. I figured I can fit 3 jars per hive along a long set of riser sticks I cut. Here is a picture of 6 jars ready for feeding. The lids have small holes drilled in them (if you can see them):

I should note that most people would be showing jars of honey produced by the hive, but alas, such is not the case for mine...

I'll probably put the jars on tomorrow morning after they have cooled.

Friday, October 16, 2009


No, this isn't a picture of my beehives! We had about 1/2" of snow overnight, and by mid-day it had all melted. But it is a sign that we are heading into winter.

I decided to do a little maintenance on the hives this afternoon. One good thing about the cool/cold weather is that the bees aren't out and about, and they don't bother me while I work around the hive.

I bought some styrofoam insulation (a sheet about 3/4" thick) and cut some pieces to fit under the screened bottom board of my hives. This'll cut down on the drafts coming up the bottom. Here's a picture of the insulation:

I checked the syrup feeders, and the one on the green hive was empty. I filled it back up, and the bees should be able to get to it once the weather warms up a little.

When I checked the brown hive, I found this visitor:

Mr. Spider, meet Mr. Hive Tool! Notice that there is a poor bee caught in the web.

I also tilted up the hives a little (wedged a stick under the back end) to cause any moisture condensation to go to the front edge of the hive, and not drip down on the bees. While I was lifting them up, I felt that the green hive was a lot lighter than the brown hive. This is consistent with the fact the green hive is newer than the brown hive. So I'll feed and feed and feed!

Thursday, October 15, 2009


I've been treating the hives with some medication for a couple of weeks now, specifically to combat the Varroa Mite and Tracheal Mite. You'll recall that these mites can weaken a beehive to the point where it can't survive, especially the winter. Now that fall is here, some beekeepers treat with medication (others do more natural treatments, like sugar shakes, while others don't do any treatments at all).

[It's interesting to note that these pests are relatively recent to the U.S. The Varroa Mite arrived around 1987, and the Tracheal Mites in 1984. See here for more information.]

I wanted to see how effective the treatments are, so I performed a "mite drop test." I have a couple of sheets of corrugated plastic board, and I sprayed them with aerosol cooking spray (to make the surface sticky). Then I placed the boards under the screened bottom board of each hive last Sunday. Tonight I removed them for examination.

Wow - there were lots of mites on the boards! Here are the pictures - the first is from the brown hive, the second from the green hive (click for larger).

The small brown dots are mites. You'll note that the brown hive had more mites than the green one (the picture at the top is a closeup from the brown hive's board). I attribute this to the fact that the brown hive is older, and has a larger population. In any case, the medications appear to be working. Next weekend I'll take off the Formic Acid pad, and the Apistan strips come out a few weeks after that. This weekend I'll also start feeding the Fumigilin-B which treats for Nosema.

As an aside, this weekend is a special meeting of the Worcester County Beekeeper Association. It's the Mass Bee Fall Meeting and Honey Show hosted by WCBA, and is an all-day meeting. One of the speakers will be Dr. Marla Spivak of the University of Minnesota. Dr. Spivak is one of the world's leading experts on bee hygienics, or the feature of bees being able to keep their hives free(er) of disease and pests.

Oh, and it snowed today; go figure...

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Pleasant Afternoon

Yesterday we had very harsh rains. Obviously the bees stayed in. Today was clear and the weather was in the 70's at the high. Around 2 in the afternoon, I looked out and saw a lot of activity in front of the green hive. The new bees were doing their orientation flights, just lazily hovering in front of the hive. Very serene! The picture doesn't do it justice...

Friday, October 2, 2009

Inspection 10-2-09

It's been a while since I last inspected the beehives (back on 9/13 to be exact - almost 3 weeks). One of those weekends was taken up by a bee club meeting. The other weekends had really lousy weather, and I didn't feel like bothering the hives.

I had a middle-of-the-day meeting at my son's school today, so I worked from home. The weather was nice (mid 50's) and the sun was shining, so I decided to do an inspection this afternoon.

Since the last time, I ordered and received some medications to help the bees make it through the winter. There is a Apistan for the Varroa mites, and Formic Acid pads for the tracheal mites. I also got some medicine for the Nosema parasite, and I will mix that in with some sugar syrup to feed them this month.

The weather has been chilly most of the last couple of weeks - we went right into fall head first. So the bees will be starting their winter preparations. They will eventually begin to "cluster" which means keep together in a group in the hive for warmth. They move down to the bottom chamber, and during the winter, they literally eat their way upward (consuming honey as they go). So it is important that they have honey accessible.

I started with the green hive, which seems to be the gentler of the two hives. Today was no exception - no problems taking apart the hive. Since that hive started August 1, they aren't as large as the brown hive.

This picture shows the Apistan strips inserted in between the frames:

You can see the tops of the strips (twisted over to keep the strips from falling down). As the bees move around, the miticide rubs off onto the bees, and it kills any mites. Over time, the pesticide makes its way to all the bees. You have to remove the strips at 6 weeks, otherwise the mites can build up a resistance.

I also put a Formic Acid pad on the hive:

It sits on a couple of sticks so the bees still have access to the tops of the frames. You add a small spacer (shown above as the unfinished wood frame on top - I built those myself) so things don't get crushed. The pad stays on for 3 weeks, and the heat from the sun and from the hive vaporizes the formic acid, which kills the tracheal mites.

I didn't go too deep in the hive. I pulled out a frame and saw capped brood, so I left things alone.

Then I moved on to the brown hive. That hive is in a lot worse shape than the green hive, since early on the bees were very uneven in how they built up the comb. I pulled out an end frame, and it was full of honey and the top of the honey was too tall that it scraped open when I removed the frame. The bees went a little crazy (as they do when there is exposed honey), so I quickly put the medicines on and closed up the hive. The guard bees were giving me a hassle also.

I refilled the feeder jars with 2:1 sugar syrup to feed the bees in both hives. I have about another 2 quarts of the regular syrup to go, then I'll mix up a couple of gallons of 2:1 and put in the Nosema medicine. Then I'll keep feeding until it gets too cold to take syrup.

I'm not sure what I am going to do for the brown hive, to help correct some of the problems in it. I hope that when spring comes, and they have emptied out most of the honey, I can swap out some frames to try to even things up. I also have a frame in that hive where a piece of the wood split off, so that it doesn't stay separated from the next frame, and can be squeezed over too close. I have to keep an eye on that frame when I push the frames together, to keep it from getting too close. So we'll see next year if I can swap out some frames.

So finally, here's what the hives look like, and this will probably be the winter configuration:

I still need to put in a mouse guard over the entrance, and probably put some styrofoam insulation under the hive (blocking the screens on the bottom boards to keep the drafts out) and maybe some inside the inner cover. People have varying opinions on whether that is good or bad - we'll see.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Bee Club Meeting at the Farm

Today was the September meeting of the Worcester County Beekeepers Association. The theme of the meeting was Final Fall Preparations. It was held at an orchard / public farm. Ken Warchol did the demonstrating on the hives they had at the farm. There were about a dozen hives, and I think Ken is the one who manages the hives for this location. The hives looked real good - they are well maintained.

He showed examples of a hive which was "honey bound" - this time of year, you want the queen just cranking out the babies in order to get bees ready for the winter cluster. But if the frames are filled with nectar and honey, she doesn't won't have any place to lay eggs. Too much honey in the brood chambers is bad at this time of the year. Hence the term "honey bound." Later in October when she moves to the lower brood box, then you want the bees to put away the honey. It's a delicate balancing act, and Ken says that you have to pay attention to what is going on.

He also mentioned that this is the time to medicate you hive against the various pests and diseases. You can treat for Varroa mites with Apiguard. You can only do that after you remove the honey for human consumption (since you don't want contaminated honey). Apiguard medication is delivered on strips you hang down in the frames of the hive. When the bees pass over the strips, a little of the medication rubs off on them, killing the mites. You only leave the strips in for 45 days - any fewer and the medicine doesn't have a chance to affect the mites; longer than 45 days and you cause the mites to build up a resistance to the medicine (this has already happened due to inconsiderate and uncaring beekeepers - sort of like parents who insist on an antibiotic shot for their kids for every sniffle they get - you develop antibiotic-resistant bugs that way).

Another parasite are tracheal mites. You treat them with Mite-A-Way II, which is a pad you place in the hive across the top frames. The daytime heat vaporizes the formic acid in the pads, and the bees breathe it and it somehow kills / interferes with the tracheal mites without harming the bees.

The final pest you treat for is Nosema - an intestinal fungus which basically gives the bees diarrhea. The chemical you use is Fumagilin-B, which you add to the sugar syrup you give to the bees for a fall feeding. Again, you do this after you have removed the honey supers. Nosema is thought to be a large contributor to Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD).

Ken swears by this regimen, and he has lost very few hives following these treatment plans. He says, "you've heard the rest, now hear from the best." I ordered these medicines today so that I can treat my hive. It's almost too late, but there is still time. I want to do everything I can to let my bees survive the winter.

It was a very good meeting. I noticed that the beehives at the farm were very active - much more so than mine. The same was the case for the last time I went to a bee meeting. I didn't know why mine weren't as active as these other ones, and it dawned on my one possible reason why. My hives sit at the edge of the woods, and they get shade for part of the day. The other hives I've seen sit out with no shade. I suspect that the bees aren't as active due to the fact the sun isn't shining on them all the time (bees are active when it's warm). Another clue that this may be the case is that I've never seen my bees bearding (hanging out en-masse on the outside of my hive). Bees beard when they are too warm.

Here are some pictures of the hive demonstration from today's meeting. Once again Ken didn't have any bee suit or gloves - it's amazing! I think I saw him get stung once on the neck, but he had been working the open hive for about 45 minutes - it's no wonder the bees might bee a little testy.

And here's a video of the active bees in front of the hives:

By the way, the picture at the top is just the new beekeepers with Ken after the main demonstration. There were about twice the number of members there in total.

I didn't inspect my hive today since I was going to the bee meeting. I'll try to get in tomorrow, if it's a warm day.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Inspection 9-13-09

Friday and Saturday were dank and rainy - not a lot of chance for the bees to be out (although I did see the bees flying Saturday afternoon when it was just a light rain). I tried to swap syrup feeders on the hives yesterday evening (still raining a little), and received a sting on my right arm for my efforts (not good weather to open up the hive without smoke!).

The bees were very active today - this morning, from the bathroom window in the house, I could actually hear the buzzing. I suspect that after the bees have been cooped up in the hive due to rain, they go out in numbers.

I noticed last inspection that there were a couple of frames in the lower body of the brown hive which hadn't been drawn out much - I suspect the bees canibalized the wax earlier in the season and then didn't have a wax foundation to build on as a result. I had a couple of frames I saved from the failed nuc I made, so I put them in place of the insufficiently drawn out frames.

I didn't want to dig through the hives much today. The bees hadn't consumed the entire pollen patty I put on a couple weeks ago, and it's a gooey mess, laying across the top frames. It looked like there was still about 1/3 of it left, even after 2 weeks. I see lots of pollen being brought in by the bees (the goldenrod is in bloom), so they probably prefer the real stuff to the substitute. I'll wait another week to inspect frame by frame.

Since I like to include a picture in each of my blog posts, I thought I'd show what the syrup feeder looks like that I use. In the picture above is an empty plastic peanut butter jar with a few tiny holes drilled in the lid. I fill it with 2:1 sugar:water solution (this time of year it needs to be thick) and put it upside down on a couple of sticks which are over the top inner cover's hole. The bees drink the syrup, which stays in the jar due to air pressure. Then I put an empty honey super over it and then the outer cover. There are many types of feeders you can buy, but this is a low tech solution that works for me.

On September 19th is the next Worcester County Beekeper Association meeting (the last outdoor meeting of the year). It will focus on Fall preparations of the hive. I have a Scouting activity with my son that morning; if it gets over with early enough I'm going to try and make it.

Note to self: don't leave a jar on the back deck that has sugar syrup still in it. I hadn't gathered up all my tools, and when I went back, there were about a half dozen bees flying around it and landing on it. I had to suit up again to go grab it, and took it into the house (after shaking off the bees). With two active hives, I see a lot more bees flying around my back deck - it would be nice if I were able to locate my hives farther away from the house. But life goes on!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Fed the Bees...

I fed the bees tonight. I filled up their sugar syrup feeders (upside down plastic peanut butter jars with small holes in the lid). The feeders sit on a couple of sticks over the hole in the inner cover (the sticks give the bees room to crawl up around).

They had emptied the jars I put there on Saturday - I figured they would. At around 7:00PM tonight I popped open the top, and took out the empty jar. There were about 30 bees on the jar and about that many looking at me from the hole, so I gave the empty jug a quick shake to shake off the bees, and quickly put back on the new jar. Then I closed up the top. I did it quick enough that I didn't need any smoke, and the girls didn't seem to mind too much (but I'm sure they would mind if I took too much time!). I exchanged jars in both hives - the bees didn't give me any trouble, but the mosquitoes did! Sheesh, fresh meat!

I also drizzled some sugar syrup into the water bucket I made up for them. The syrup has a little bit of lemongrass oil in it - hopefully that'll attract the bees, and they will drink from my bucket.

And for something somewhat related, look at this picture of a bus with beehives in it (click for a larger version):

Each of those colored panels is a beehive (some are 3 hives tall). I wonder if he gets stopped by the police often, or are they afraid?

Monday, September 7, 2009

Persistent Bees!

Well, I've discovered bees can be very persistent.

I mentioned before about my bees discovering a bucket of wood + water, and made it their favorite watering hole. Well, when that source dried up, they found another. Look at this picture:

With the removal of the blue bucket, the bees discovered the condensate water in the air conditioner window unit just next to it! The back cover is off the AC unit, and we saw bees drinking water in the lower edge of the unit. I wasn't happy to see that, since I want the bees to find water not on my neighbor's back porch. The neighbor got a kick out of the bees persistence - she said watching them it was like grand central station, with bees zipping back and forth between her AC unit and my hives (that's how she knew they were mine).

So I built a simple frame and stapled some window screening over it (I re-screened a screen door today and happened to have the left overs). Then tonight after the bees were in bed, I used some small bungee cords and attached the screen to the back of the AC unit, to keep the bees out.

I decided to put out again my bucket of water near the hives, with hopes that the bees will start to use that instead of water at my neighbors. I put some sticks in it that were in the original blue bucket. We'll see if they take to getting water from there.

I'm definitely going to have to give them a jar of honey, once I get some!!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Other Stingers

We have a compost pile, and the kids tossed some watermellon rinds on it. I want out and saw that there were some bugs which were loving the watermellon. I wasn't sure what they were (wasps?) so I asked BeeSource and everyone concluded that they were yellow jackets. These are some neat pictures!

I especially like the yellow and black face of the one in the last picture. You can see her eating watermellon - Cool!
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