A collection of miscellaneous things

16 May

I started using Instagram (follow me @jnsilva2). Here are some miscellaneous bee related pictures I have taken over the last few weeks.

Grand Opening

15 May

It had been three weeks since I got the bees into the hive. I hadn’t opened the hive to do an inspection because it’s been too cold and too rainy. I’ve bee poking my head in to feed the girls every few days so I know that something is happening in there. However, Deb made a really good point to me. If I didn’t check to see if there was a queen, I would be in trouble. Worker bees only live 6 weeks in the summer. If there wasn’t a queen in the hive, I would only have a short amount of time to find a replacement Queen in time for the current bees to raise new bees before they kicked the bucket. I hadn’t really considered this because I was so concerned about the weather. So even though it wasn’t the warmest of days and there wasn’t the best amount of sunlight, I opened the hive. Sadly, I didn’t have an extra pair of hands on deck to take pictures.

I was very hesitate and nervous about opening since I have been stung twice already. I wore full gear and gloves. I didn’t see the queen but I did see evidence that she was there. There was lots of capped brood (bees being developed). I saw eggs which means that the queen had laid them within 3 days. The bees are making good progress making honeycomb on about 5 of the frames. The next time I open the hive I hope that I will see some new bees being born. It’s always exciting to see the bee life cycle continue.

Beekeeping in Union Square

10 May

The weather has been miserable. It has rained 6 days so far this month and it is only the 10th day! Yesterday the weather held out enough that I was able to go for a walk during lunch. I really like going to Union Square to the Green Market and see what is being sold. Last week I stopped and talked to the vendors who were selling fresh eggs to do some research for our next urban farming adventure (Mike is building a chicken coop).

Today I didn’t really have a mission but this one vendors caught my eye.

Green Market Vendor

Green Market Vendor

He was selling jellies but I noticed there was honeycomb on the table. Then I saw the great beekeeping and honey display. The sign read “Did you know? Honey Bees are sent via US Mail in this box.”

Bee Box

Bee Box

Another couple noticed and couldn’t believe that it was true. I told them that I had received my own box of bees just like it. The man selling the honey noticed that we were talking about keeping bees and we started talking. His name was David Graves and I later learned that he has been keeping bees in the city for 15 years. There was also an NY Times article at the table that showed him emptying a box of bees into the hive. If only it had looked that easy when I tried to do it.

I asked David if it was ok that I have been feeding my bees so much because of the terrible weather. He said that it made a lot of sense because they are making all of their own honeycomb. He also suggested that when I make the sugar syrup that I add mint to it. Apparently just like mint is good for human digestion, it would help the gals process the sugar better. I figured I might as well give it a whirl. Since I was already at the green market, I perused the herbs for sale.

Herbs for sale

Herbs for sale

I decided to go for Peppermint since there is already spearmint in the garden. I hope the girls appreciate the new flavor sugar that’s for lunch this week.

Sting Stinger

7 May

Last year, I didn’t get stung until the 4 or 5 time we opened the hive. I was completely cool with opening the hive without a veil on or even gloves. I’d even open the hive without any shoes on.  So far I’ve been stung 3 times and I haven’t even had the hive for 3 weeks.To be fair, the first time I was stung was back in March by a hive that wasn’t mine.

I was thinking about purchasing a full hive that the seller couldn’t take care of this year. I went with him to see how healthy the hive was. This hive was a few years old and has survived the winter. The owner cracked open the lid and within minutes a bee flew out straight to my forehead and stung me. I played it cool, not trying to bring more attention to my rapidly swelling brow. The hive was very impressive but in the end I decided not to buy the hive. The seller wanted $550. Although I was tempted by the idea of a healthy hive that required no work or start-up anxiety, I knew that I wanted to get a fresh start this year.

I realized that the bees have been going through the sugar syrup in less than 24 hours. Last Wednesday I went to feed the girls and decided that I should just check out what was happening in the hive. I had the veil and gloves on and still managed to get stung in the finger. I didn’t even get to see what was happening in the hive because once a bee stings it gives off a smell that alerts the other bees.

Luckily I was able to get the ring I wear on that finger off before my knuckle swelled up. And did it swell.

Swollen knuckles

Swollen knuckles

I took some fast acting Benadryl and fell asleep early. I’m not sure it had any effect because by Thursday by entire hand was swollen. It also might be expired.

So I went out on Thursday just feed the bees again. It has been so gloomy and rainy and cold and I am afraid that the girls are going to starve. I had just come home from work and still in my work clothes and jacket. The plan was to lift the lid and pour in the syrup and close the lid. I was very skittish and they must have known because they were in my face from the start. I filled the first side of the feeder and then had to walk away. I realized that there was a bee crawling on my stomach. How it got there, I am not sure. I was able to get it off before I got stung. I went back to the hive and filled the other side with sugar and closed the lid. As I am walking inside I felt a bee on my calf. This time I did panic and was stung near my knee. It swelled up too but was much less annoying than being stung in the hand since I don’t normally type with my calves.

I’m really angry about this. I haven’t been able to do a proper inspection because of the terrible weather. I have no idea what is really going on in there except for the fact that they are hungry and eating through my 5lb bag of sugar. Hopefully they know what they are doing.

Sugar Sugar

1 May

It has been on the cooler side in Brooklyn ever since we brought the bees back. I decided that because the girls have to create their own honeycomb this year that I would feed them. I got this sweet feeder for Christmas this year so I filled it up with some simple sugar syrup. Two days later I took a peak to find that it was gone. So I made two more cups and closed the lid. They ate that too. I had to go to the store and buy a 5 pound bag of sugar. It seems like every two days they have eaten what I’ve given them.  I also sprinkled some pollen in the actual hive so that they can collect it and eat it for protein.I’ve read that the bees will stop eating it once they are able to gather their own supply.

I have no idea what I am doing to be honest. I know that it takes a lot of energy for bees to make honey comb. I also know that they have 10 empty frames to make comb for so it seems like they need to eat something. I hope that the weather stays dry and over 60 degrees long enough for the girls to really start to capitalize on the high pollen that weather.com keeps alerting me about.

Feeding time

Feeding time

Hopefully I can do an official hive inspection some time this week or weekend.

Release Party

26 Apr

The day after I picked up the bee package I was able to “installed” them into their new hive. To figure out how I was suppose to get 10,000 bees and a queen into the hive, I watched a bunch of youtube videos. What I learned from all of these videos was that there really isn’t an eloquent way to do it. I am also realizing that the bees know what they are doing and that I am the amateur in this play.

I started biking to work this week which is an entirely separate and equally treacherous en devour. When I got home I wanted to get the bees in the hive before the sun went down. My thighs were shaking from all of the huffing and puffing it takes to get over the Manhattan bridge and my stomach was growling for dinner. Anyone who has ever seen me when I am hungry (or tired) knows what a gremlin I can be. Obviously this wasn’t the most ideal opportunity to release bees that have been caged for three days. We did it anyway.

Opening the package

Opening the package

At first, Mike and I couldn’t find the full bee jacket so I just put on a veil and some rubber gloves. I guess it has been a while since I’ve been around bees because I was very skittish about the whole thing. The first thing I had to do was to take out the can of sugar syrup. A few bees got out in the process but that was ok. The next thing was to get the queen cage out. It was hanging by a white tab and should have been easy to get out. I had it in my hand and then I dropped it. Into the box of 10,000 bees. Bees that have been contained for days. I like to think that I am not afraid but I couldn’t stick my hand in and get it out. That’s when we started to panic.

Releasing the Bees

Releasing the Bees

I decided that I was just going to continue on without having the queen cage removed and dump them in. A good majority of them came out on the first try. I was able to find the queen. We had to take out the wooden plug from one end of the queen’s cage. However, when Mike tried to do it he pushed it in. The possibility of loosing the queen was high but I think we got her in safe. I put the frames back into the hive and closed the lid.

Putting the Hive back together

Putting the Hive back together

I will do my first hive inspection in about a week to make sure that we still have a queen and that she has started to do her job.

Cleaning House

23 Apr backyard beekeeping

In preparation for the bee package to arrive, I had to do a little bit of clean up. As some of you may remember, last year’s hive was riddled with small hive beetles , was a victim of robbing and was a bit of a mess. So the other weekend I took apart the hive and washed it down. I scraped away any wax and propolis buildup from the sides of the hive. I took out all of the frames and saw that over the winter, some web forming insect may have moved in. I decided that this year I wanted to start from scratch so I got rid of all of the old comb.

Old Comb

Scraping away old comb

I took some of the old frames and put them in the freezer so that any remaining nuisances would be killed. I know, this isn’t the first time some strange bee related thing was in my freezer.

I also build some new frames. I had to nail together the four sides and put what’s called frame foundation. This is a bit of a blueprint for the bees to build comb on.

New foundation

New foundation

backyard beekeeping

backyard beekeeping

Luckily it was a lovely day and I had some extra hands helping me out. Hopefully the spruced up hive will be a good home to my girls this year.

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