Tag Archives: brooklyn

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.

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?

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.

The Attack

5 Jul

After the hive inspection where we found out that our hive is infested with small hive beetles, we made a huge mistake. We took out two old frames that had nectar on them and left them leaning on the hive. Our thinking was that our bees could collect the nectar and take it back into the hive.

Frames leaning on the hive

Unfortunately, leaving exposed nectar or honey promotes robbing. Basically we left out the goodies for any bee in the neighborhood to come collect.

Bee sending an alter signal


At first the bees were just trying to take the nectar from the frames. But then they were trying to get into our hive! It was like witnessing a war. Bees were tumbling, ripping each others wings off, and free falling from the sky in an entangled battle. It was carnage. The grass in front of the hive became a grave yard. I feel completly responsible for the attack and spent most of the weekend guilt stricken. Keeping bees alive is really hard work. I can’t imagine what raising a child will be like.

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?

Hive Inspection # 4

28 Jun

Last week’s hive inspection was very intense. We had two deeps to look through and plenty more bees to deal with. Aside from the fact that I got stung , it was a success.

We saw plenty more capped brood, which means it is only a matter of days before we have even more bees will join the force.

There is still a lot of honey on the top deep. We aren’t sure if we should extract it now to make room for more bees or let the bees figure out how to best use their space.

Frame with some Brood

Frame full of bees

Although we didn’t actually see the queen this time, we did see plenty of evidence that she was there. I swear a saw some eggs but Mike and Deb had a hard time seeing them. There was a good amount of larva and capped brood. We also witnessed a bee birth.

Bee Birth

I hope we see the Queen during the next inspection but there are so many more bees to sort through. I have to find my camera charger so I can be prepared for some epic bee pictures.

Queen of the Sun

24 Jun

Last week, Mike, Deb and I went to see the documentary Queen of the Sun. It was playing for a week at Cinema Village in the East Village, so we made the time to go. I just found out that it is playing in Brooklyn, starting today through 6/30. Visit this site for more information and movie times. Everyone should check it out or at least put it on your Netflix queue for when it is released.

The movie is about how bees are disappearing, mainly in the United States. Scientists call it colony collapse but they haven’t figured out what is causing it. Before I saw the movie, I had no idea that there was such a thing as industrial beekeeping. It is scary to think that we could be contributing to the death of the honey bee since almost 40% of our food is pollinated by honey bees. Even if someone never wants to step near a hive, they can make a difference by not using pesticides or chemicals in their yard.

Check out the movie or read the NY times article about it. And if you do go see it, keep yours eyes out for Deb. She is in the part about how bee keeping was illegal in New York City.

It’s time for the Pollinator

23 Jun

If you think I couldn’t get any more dorky than wanting to remix this song to sing to my bees (it’s time for the pollinator), then you were wrong. It is National Pollinator Week!!!!! Sadly, there aren’t any events taking place in Brooklyn, so we are going to have to celebrate ourselves. I will probably do an interpretive bee dance and eat some extra honey. Here are some pictures of the bees pollinating away that Deb took in our backyard.

Pollinating Clover in the grass

Off to the next one

Making a "bee" line for the tomatillos

Pollinating the tomatillos

Pollinating the Hydrangea

The Sting

22 Jun

It happened. Our perfect record has come to an end. I’ve been stung. I totally deserved it too.

I had just got back to Brooklyn after being in New Jersey celebrating my Grandmother’s life. We hadn’t inspected the hive in a week and a half and I was anxious to get in there. Earlier in the day it looked like it was going to rain but then the forecast said that it wouldn’t start until later in the evening. Mike had to volunteer at the coop at 7:30 so we had to be quick about it. Without discussing a plan of action or talking about who would do what, we started the inspection. Just as we started, we heard Deb pull in the driveway and told her to hurry up and join us (and bring a camera since mine was dead). That is how unprepared we were, I didn’t even have a charged camera!

We got through the top deep and 8 frames of the bottom deep before it happened. There were more bees in the hive so it is more intense. The 9th frame had a beetle on it and as I went to tell Mike to kill it, it happened. I got stung. I didn’t freak out and drop the frame or cry. I put the frame in the hive and walked away. The bee keeping books say that when you get stung, you should immediately smoke the sting. The sting sends a smell signal to other bees that there is danger. Smoking it masked the smell. You aren’t suppose to pull our the stinger but scrape it with your finger nail instead. I’m not sure why. Mike said that my finger was still pulsing after I scraped it, but I didn’t notice. I was too startled by how much it throbbed. It didn’t swell or turn extremely red. At least I know I am not allergic.

Finger, post sting