Tag Archives: beekeeping

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.

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.

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 betterbee.com 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.

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 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.