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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.

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 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.


15 Aug

It has been very strange not having to check up on the bees everyday. In some ways it has been a bit of a relief for me. I recently quit my job to take a new one in a different industry. It has been very demanding so far and has definitely limited my capacity to think about many things outside of working, eating (which I do too much of), and sleeping (which I don’t do enough). I’m also in the middle of taking a macroeconomics class as part of the MBA program I am in. Summer session is very intense because it is a semester’s worth of material crammed into a month.
Meanwhile, Mike and I are still trying to maintain our 30 gallon fish tank and keep our cat Mooch from slipping out the alley door every time we open it. We’ve gone from 12 to 4 fish in the few months we’ve had the tank. The ph and ammonia levels have been way off the charts so Mike cleans it our frequently. While I was doing laundry this week, Mooch followed me out, went upstairs and was found on the deck a half hour later. So while I am very disappointed that I failed as a beekeeping this year, I think it probably wasn’t meant to bee.

Sad Face

12 Aug

This happened over a week ago but I haven’t be able to bring myself to blog about it. Mike and I checked the hive the other night to find it completely empty. No a single bee was left. No honey either. It seems like the bees have absconded from the hive. They do that when they don’t think the hive is a fit place to live. I don’t blame them really with the beetles, the robbing, and the heat wave we had in Brooklyn. The new queen probably was released from her cage and then told everyone to pack their bags, they were hitting the road. They uncapped all of the honey so they could take it and now the bottom of the hive is filled with wax. I think the last time we suspected robbing was just the hive in the middle of moving.
So if you come across a wild honey bee hive, it probably use to belong to me. I hope wherever they are, they make it. Maybe next year we will start over but the thought of it now is too sad.

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.