Archive | July, 2011

A Pollen Deal

29 Jul

Before there was another assault on the hive, I was concerned that there wasn’t going to be enough pollen for the bees to raise the new brood. Our new queen, Natasha, is a russian and I read that those kind of bees needs more pollen to feed their brood. I also had seen on someone else’s bee blog that he was feeding his weaker hive some pollen.
I checked the beekeeper supply stores like but the pollen was expensive and would take a while to get here. I also found some threads written on Bee Source about making pollen patties. I contacted Jim Fischer, who I met at a bee meeting, asking him what he knew about feeding the bees pollen. He generously said that if I was around tonight, he would be in Brooklyn and could toss me a “dime bag” of pollen supplement so that I could make me some pollen patties. I know, this whole thing gets funnier and funnier.
So on Wednesday night, Mike and I hoped in the car at 9:30 to meet a man on a the Flatbush Ave. to get a bag of pollen. I “paid” him with one of the cucumbers that has grown in Deb’s garden. He was with another member of the NYC Beekeepers Meetup group who offered encouraging words. Their next event is on Monday but sadly, I can’t go because I have class.

Pollen supplement

Along with the pollen supplement, Jim gave us a small patty to get started and told us that it would last a week. We’ll see where this all goes.


If it’s not one thing, it’s another

27 Jul

Mike and I were suppose to go into the hive yesterday to make sure that Queen Natasha was released from her cage. But of course, there was a problem. Our hive was under attack, again. And this time was the worst I’ve seen. I couldn’t get very close to the hive because there were hundred of bees hovering around it. I have no idea what started the robbing this time since we haven’t opened the hive in days. There were tumbles of bees flying out the entrance. Thankfully we have the entrance closed up so that there is only a small space to defend. Mike and I covered the hive again with a sheet to hopefully discourage robbers from getting in. I think that if it hasn’t calmed down after work I will wait until it gets dark to check on Natasha. I hope Mike can find his head lamp.

Crowning of the New Queen

25 Jul

The day after we put our old queen in the freezer, Mike and I introduced our new queen. As per the suggestion of Jim Fisher, I ordered a New Carniolan queen, AKA a Russian. Previously we had an Italian queen so this will be a completely new kind of dynasty. I’ve decided to name our new queen Natasha.

Early morning queen introduction

Mike and I smoked the hive and went back to the same place that we found our old queen. We watched an amateur but helpful youtube video about introducing a queen. Basically the worker bees can react two different ways. They can accept her and try to feed her or reject her and try to sting her.

Inserting the new queen

It was pretty apparent that our bees like Natasha because many of them were trying to feed her. Hopefully they will eat the sugar candy and release her into the hive so that she can get to work soon. We need more bees!

Checking her out

Workers feeding Queen Natasha

In a few days we will go back in to see if Natasha was released and remove the cage she came in. Then we have to wait at least a week to before we do a full hive inspection. The suspense might kill me.

Overthrowing the Queen

23 Jul

After the new queen arrived, Mike and I went on a mission to take out our old queen. I have been in contact with the NYC Beekeepers Meet-Up group and they told me that the biggest rookie mistake is introducing a new queen without taking out the old one. The bees are so loyal to their current queen that they’d kill a new one if you introduce her too soon. So even though we were convinced that we didn’t have a queen anymore since we haven’t seen her in a while, we went searching for her.

I decided that we shouldn’t even bother looking at the top deep since we haven’t seen and queen activity up there. I reviewed our notes and decided that we should go straight to the brood nest.

The first frame that Mike pulled out had the queen on it. I felt like I hit the lottery. I frantically grabbed my tweezers (yes, the same ones that I use to make my eyebrows impeccable) and a ziplock bag. I didn’t have to try hard to get her in the bag and I didn’t even get stung. We quickly put back together the hive so a riot or robbing didn’t start.

Old queen in a ziplock

Then came the moment of truth. What do we do with her? The options were to crush her, drive her three miles away so she can’t return home, or freeze her. Crushing her was totally out of the questions. It’s bad enough that we were murderers. I didn’t want to have to do it violently. Driving her away also seemed pretty extreme since she wouldn’t be able to clean or eat herself. So, that’s how she ended up in the freezer. This would probably freak most people out but I’m used to having bugs in the refrigerator. My mother was a science teacher and there were always creepy things sitting on the shelf next to the leftovers from dinner.

Next step is getting the new queen in there. I want to give her a name. Any suggestions?

Here comes the mail ordered bride!

22 Jul

I was home early on Wednesday night and had expected to find a box waiting for me on the door step. Nothing. Not even a piece of junk mail. I went upstairs. Nothing. The mail hadn’t come yet. So I parked myself on the stoop and waiting. Finally the mailman came. I raced down the steps as soon as I saw the box. She is here!

He said “Oh, I see you’ve been waiting for something. What is it?”
So I told him. “Well. It’s a queen bee”
His reply was “What? You mean I’ve been carrying a bee around in my mail all day!? What are you going to do with her, pollinate some stuff”

I didn’t bother mentioning that there was a GIANT yellow sticker on it that said QUEEN BEE INSIDE.

the package

The box had a bunch of holes poked in it. I carefully opened it up so I wouldn’t disturb them. The cage they came in was taped to the box. As gently as possible, I pulled it off. Everyone made it to Brooklyn alive.

Queen bee in her cage

The queen had about 5 other attendant bees with her. I ran some water over the cage. Although they had some sugar to eat, they haven’t had any water since they were mailed on Monday. I put the cage in the basement because it is cool and dark down there. We can’t actually put in the new queen until we find the old one. The drama continues tomorrow.

Uneasy Street

21 Jul

Mike and I did an inspection on Saturday. We haven’t done one since he installed the beetle traps. We were curious what our hive looked like. Turns out, it isn’t so good. The brood is so sparse and spotty, we didn’t see any eggs and there was hardly any larvae.

Spotty Brood

We saw another beetle but haven’t checked the trap. We didn’t find our queen and now have the growing suspicion that we may no longer have one. Hopefully our queen will come soon so she can take over the empire and save the day.

Here come the Beetles

18 Jul

Last week Mike installed the small hive beetle traps that I ordered from Better Bees. It is made of black plastic and is simple to use. Mike added vegetable oil to the trough part of it and clipped on the top. Apparently bees will chase the beetles around and they will enter the trap as a place to hide. Because of the oil, they won’t be able to get out and eventually drown. I ordered two but so far we only have one in the hive.

Small Hive Beetle Trap

Small Hive Beetle Trap

This is the first step to revive the hive. Hopefully our mail order queen will come this week and we can get her in there successfully.

A sliver of hope

15 Jul

After I left the bee meeting, A man approached me about the hive beetles. His name was Jim Fischer and is a founder of the NYC Beekeeping meetup group. He told me that I was doing the right thing but getting beetle traps for the hive. He also suggested that my hive was weak and it may be because my queen wasn’t doing a good enough job. He gave me a name of an apiary that I could purchase a queen. I expressed how much concern and worry I have for my girls and he was very encouraging that there still could be hope.

That night I went home and took the chance on purchasing a queen. We’d have to find the old queen first and take her out of the hive before we introduce the new one. We haven’t opened the hive since the disastrous hive inspection where we found the beetles so I am worried that the hive will be defensive. Deb has gone away for the rest of the month so Mike and I will be on our own. Good thing our guard dog Billie Jean will be there for moral support. Stay tuned!

Millstone Farm

14 Jul

This is the first guest post by my lovebug, Mike! Enjoy.

Last weekend I visited my Grandmother, Aunt and two cousins in Connecticut.

Me hanging with the boys

My Grandmother lives on an 86-acre farm that has been in her family for four generations.

Year – Unknown. Maybe a certain family member can chime in.

At one point she used to tend to the crops on her own but as time has passed, and knees have been replaced, she now has a host of different people using her land.

The field

Last year my grandmother decided to let a local youth group start a beehive. Naturally, while visiting, I was most interested in how the hive was doing. As Janine has been posting, our hive has been seriously struggling . So much so that J and I believe that we may not even have a queen anymore. Not to worry, hopefully we’re going to solve that problem in the next week.

The Blueberry Patch

Anyway, my aunt suggested that we do a quick inspection so that I could really get a sense of what a flourishing hive should look like. When asked if it would be ok even though we had no smoker, hive tool or suits, my aunt replied; “Of course, I rarely smoke when I do inspections.” Quick note: do not attempt to do an inspection – at the peak of honey production – of a strong, two-year-old hive without any gear. I wish I could write about all of the interesting things I saw in there but I can’t. Within moments, my aunt had a sting between her eyes, one on her forehead, one on her ear and I got stung in the temple.

Quick, get the Epipe. Sorry Avery, I couldn’t resist.

Completely unsuccessful!! I did, however, get my first sting of the season, a major accomplishment. My mother says I have not learned to respect the hive enough. Perhaps she’s right.

Attending a Bee Meeting

11 Jul

Yesterday, I schlept back early from the Jersey Shore on a gorgeous beach day so that I could go to a bee event. I know, it sounds absurd. But given the recent events and the current state of my hive, I felt that I needed to make some beekeeping friends. I tried to explain it like this: When you have a kid and there’s a problem, you ask your friends with kids for advice. I have a problem with my bees, so I feel like I need to make some beekeeping friends and see if they have any suggestions.

I found out about this event because I follow Brooklyn Homesteader and Borough Bees on twitter. Both Meg and Tim keep hives in Brooklyn and were speaking at the Eagle Street Rooftop Garden. I had never been to Greenpoint before or to the rooftop garden so I was pretty excited to go. It is as picturesque as it is on their website and a perfect day to be there.

Skyline view from the rooftop garden

I learned that the 6000 square foot green roof grows about a dozen crops including kale, tomatoes, cucumbers, basil and peppers. They also have chickens and three beehives.

Peppers growing in the garden

There were plenty of people volunteering and visiting the garden. I was surprised at the number of non beekeepers there attending the event.

Kirk Anderson of Backwards Beekeeping was the guest speaker yesterday. The topic of the meeting was about keeping bees more organically, and not using chemicals or fancy equipment. After each panel member spoke, they opened the hives.

Kirk and Tim doing the inspection

We weren’t allowed to get close to the hives but they passed frames around for us to see.

Passing up the frames

Top bar hive frame with capped brood

I was able to ask my question about what to do about the small hive beetles but was told that the bees will take care of it. I don’t think this is true since my hive seems to be very weak. I did order beetle traps so hopefully I will be able to put them in this week.

The event was a good first step for me. I can be shy about speaking to people I don’t know so this the perfect way to get some information from local beekeepers. Next time, I am going to try to go to something where there are other active beekeepers so I pick their brains.