The Great Bee Escape

We have escaped our life in Virginia by travelling to Scotland for a bit. Among our many good times was a visit to Stirling Castle a few days ago. It turns out King James V of Scotland added The Royal Palace to the castle in the 1500’s. The statues on the outside were apparently named after my beehives.

On the corner of the Palace is a statue of King James V, after which statues of Ganymede, Venus, and Saturn appear. ©Erik Brown

It was pretty funny to hear the tour guide describing the palace with names of my hives. You don’t see a statue of the mythological Ganymede very often, who was kidnapped by Zeus to serve as cup-bearer in Olympus. Especially not in Scotland. Hearing the name made me think of my bees far away. When the next two statues were Venus and then Saturn, also names of our hives, the whole family laughed at the reference.

This post is not really about any of those hives, they simply serve as a good lead for some recent pre-travel updates.

Honey Harvest

Bee EscapeMy first honey harvesting was a bit of an adventure. While I have taken a frame or two, I have yet to harvest and extract a full box. This year, Mars has done well enough to fill an 8-frame medium I wanted to remove it before we left, and placed a bee escape screen under the box on Saturday, June 17, as shown in the picture. I had never used this device, and was curious to see how it would work.

A day later, on Sunday, I was disappointed to find many bees still in the box. Undaunted, I removed the box to brush off the remaining bees. It was going well until I pulled the fourth frame. There, in a neat arc at the bottom, was a nice bit of brood. I was very surprised and didn’t even think to take a picture. It was full and heavy and at the top of the hive; I thought it was all honey. Next time I will have to be sure. With brood to take care of, the bees won’t leave, which is why they stayed on the frames.

I will have to try the bee escape screen again sometime. I moved the two frames with brood (the middle two, of course) back in the hive and harvested just 6 frames of honey. They are in a freezer awaiting my return.

Introducing Callisto

Two medium boxes holding 5 deep frames. ©Erik Brown

I also have a new hive. After much worry, I found a laying queen in my medium nuc box so it was time to name the hive. The queen is a descendant of Ganymede, which was a split last year from my now deceased hive Jupiter. I wanted another moon of the planet Jupiter, and my daughter, who might (?) know more about space than me, suggested Callisto.

In Greek mythology, the nymph Callisto attracted the eye of Zeus (Jupiter). She had taken a vow of celibacy, was seduced by the god, and then things get interesting. It seemed a fine name for the new hive, especially for one that seemed broodless for so long.

The bees built comb below this deep frame to fill in the extra space available. ©Erik Brown

You may ask why I have deep frames in medium boxes. When I was trying to create nucs this spring, I had fix extra frames that needed a home, and this was what I had left at the time. I placed a couple queen cells and was waiting to a mated queen emerged. I found a pretty good brood pattern, which you can see the picture. I had to remove the extra comb the bees built below the frames.

Here is a picture of the Ganymede and Callisto on June 17. Ganymede keeps here name even though she has a new queen as well. As you can see, Ganymede is growing quite well.

I added a medium box to Callisto before our trip and gave her a couple full bars from Ganymede. If the summer dearth arrives Callisto will have extra food, and if not the extra space will keep both hives busy.

Ganymede and Callisto behind the bumblebee plaque made by my neighbor and my little fish pond (which the bees do not use, of course).  ©Erik Brown

As you can see the grass was getting a bit high in the yard. I cut it back before we left so the bees would have clear flight paths.

What is blooming now?


A honey bee visiting milkweed flowers on June 23. ©Erik Brown

The weather is heating up at home, reportedly above 90 F (30 C) most of this week. In Scotland it has been much cooler, below 65 F (18 C) most days and down near 50 F (10 C) overnight. I updated my Bloom Where you are Planted page with recent blooms. If you look at the table there are very few flowers left to bloom in our yard. July and August are typically a nectar dearth in Virginia, so we may need to feed the bees when I return home.

The image here shows one of our late bloomers that feeds both bees and bumblebees.  This milkweed plant was in the bee yard right next to my hive Venus. I like to grow milkweed because Monarch butterflies like to lay eggs on the leaves. With the dwindling Monarch population it has been a few years since any Monarchs have visited, but I grow them nonetheless.

Monarch, or course, is another name for king, which brings us full circle to Stirling Castle. We are in the Isle of Skye right now finishing up our trip. A truly beautiful country.

The Great Escape

I spent much of an evening looking for a good Scottish saying or proverb that would lend itself to this post. Nothing stood out so I stayed my original idea, the 1963 film based on the 1950 book of the same name by Paul Brickhill. The book and film tell the story of a daring escape by British soldiers from a German POW camp. Brickhill was a POW in the camp at the time, though was not able to escape with the other prisoners.

The title fits in nicely with my use of a bee escape screen on Mars. Like the story, where most of the prisoners do not actually get away, many of my bees failed to escape as well. No tie-in with Scotland, though, for which I am a wee bit sorry.

I will leave you with “Lang may yer lum reek” which according to the Scottish at Heart site translates to “Long may your chimney smoke” though what it really means is “May you live long and keep well.”

Or, as I like to say, may you prosper and find honey


3 thoughts on “The Great Bee Escape

  1. Glad you are enjoying Scotland… I recommend Scottish raspberries with honey. And big Scottish cooked breakfasts with black pudding.

    It sounds like you don’t use queen excluders, is that why brood was in the honey boxes?

    Liked by 1 person

    • We have! Definitely had raspberries though without honey :(. The cooked breakfasts have been great.

      You are correct, I have not used queen excluders yet. Does make me want to reconsider….


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