Tag Archives: bees

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.

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.

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 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.

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!

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.

The attack part II

6 Jul

Not only do we have hive beetles attacking the bees from the inside, we have robbing bees attacking from the outside. The day after we did the hive inspection, the robbing bees were out in full force. They must have gone back to their hives and told everyone where to go for free goodies. To try to help our bees defend the hive, we tried to block the entrance off so that the bees only had a few places to defend.

Blocked hive entrance

We also stuffed some of the holes with grass so that bees couldn’t get in but at least they’d have some ventilation.

bee rumbles on the porch

There were so many bees hovering around the hive, it was hard to tell who was from our hive and who was trying to sneak by the guard bees. I witnessed so many bee fights. The grass in front of the hive is a graveyard of bees.

Wounded Bee in the grass

The other thing we tried was to put vapor rub on the hive. The thinking is to mask the smell of honey from the robber bees. Our bees wouldn’t be able to smell the hive either but because they know where it is, they should be able to get back. I had a hard time putting the stuff on the hive because I was afraid the bees would be harmed by the tingly icy hot feeling.

Then we tried to cover the entire hive with a queen sized sheet.

wetting the queen sized sheet

The sheet is also supposed to limit the amount of bees that can enter the hive. Bees also don’t like to be damp so wetting the sheet is supposed to deter them.

covering the hive

I spent a lot of time this weekend monitoring the hive. I re-wet the sheet when it got dry and tried to shake out the bees that were crawling on the inside.

We were lucky that Sunday was a rainy damp day. The robber bees had to huddle together outside and were more concerned about staying warm than entering the hive. I worry that some of these are our bees and not robbers but it is very hard to tell. I feel like a worried mother.

Brooklyn, we have a problem

3 Jul

On Friday, Deb and I inspected the hive. We haven’t done an inspection since I got stung. I didn’t have work, so we decided to do it mid day when there is more sunlight in the yard. I was concerned that our queen might not be laying enough eggs because our brood pattern is really spotty.

We started at the top deep. No brood activity is happening up there. We have old honey but the queen hasn’t laid any eggs.

Bees eating honey

Then we got to the second deep. We still have very spotty brood. We saw some larva but couldn’t find eggs or the queen. Then we got to the end frames of the hive, the one where I saw the beetle last inspection. Under two frames on the floor of the hive looks like there is a pile of sawdust until you look closer and realize that it is moving. There was larva from another bug in the hive. We suspect that it could be small hive beetle larva. We took the two end frames out of the hive so that I could try to sweep out the larva.

Frames hanging on the hive

Floor of the hive

larva on floor of hive

From what I have read, small hive beetles had only been a problem in the southeast. Unfortunately, many queens come from Georgia. Also, our hive came from the Queens County Farm Museum where there were many hives and equipment around. Some of the frames we have in the hive have dark comb and seem to be old. Deb and I decided to put in new frames in place of the two dark frames that were over the gross beetle larva. We will see if this helps. It seems very counter intuitive to try to medicate the hive with bug killing chemicals. If the problem continues, the beetles will ruin all of the honey in the hive.

Anyone have any suggestions?