Bee right as rain

161001c-mars-feederI am in the sky at 34,002 feet as I write this, on my way to California and thinking about my rain-sodden bees in Virginia. Northern Virginia had five days of solid rain, well over 5 inches (12 cm) of water at our house. The bees (and the people) have been huddled away waiting for it to end. As I left the house the sun peered out to see what was left of the land.

With fall firmly in place, I naturally wonder whether the bees have enough food for the winter. Last year I was able to bring my three hives through to the spring. I hope my five hives will do the same for my second winter with bees. Yesterday I provided some additional food for some of the hives to help pull them through. Continue reading

There’s always room at the top bar hive


160904b Saturn Queen

My lovely queen in my top bar hive “Saturn” on September 4, 2016.

As you may recall, I two top bar hives. My original TBH I purchased last year, which has 14 inch top bars and has overwintered. Then I caught a swarm in a new TBH my dad and I built, which has 19 inch top bars. Thus both are top bar hives, but they are somewhat incompatible. Here is an update of their status. Continue reading

To every hive there is a season

160730 Butterfly

A butterfly in the bee yard, with Mars and Jupiter in the background. © Erik Brown

In my second year, I have become a lazy beekeeper. Last year, oh so long ago, I inspected each hive every week or two. I visited the apiary nearly every day to visually check the hives. I kept close tabs on their progress, and worried about the many things that could go wrong.

This year the bees have been fine, doing their bee stuff, and I’ve been working, travelling, and otherwise not looking in on them.

For much of July this bothered me, and I felt guilty that I left the bees to their own designs. It was hot, many days over 100 F (38 C), and I was on the road one way or another for three out of the last four weeks. I just didn’t feel up to checking the hives, so I didn’t. I finally got into my five hives this weekend, and for the most part the bees are fine. Given my lack of blogging lately as well, I figured it was time for an update. Continue reading

Mars, the Bringer of Stings

160514 22 Mars Pre

Mars, before my inspection.

There was a post on last year that asked experienced beekeepers what advice the would offer that perhaps wasn’t typically taught in books. There were a couple suggestions I started using, and today I may have learned that one of them can present some problems.

One idea was about how to place frames back in the hive. Rather than setting them in the box and pushing the frames together, I slide frames into the box along an existing frame. Pushing two frames together risks squishing bees, whereas the bees tend to get out of the way as you slide the frame in. This has worked well for me.

Another idea was to inspect the boxes from the bottom to the top. Continue reading

The busiest bees have the most leisure


My helper G looking at the queen cups between the boxes of Mars.

This post was meant to appear a couple weeks ago with a short summary of my spring preparations. I’ve been crazy busy of late, and given that the advent of spring has taken a recess, I figure a summary of my beekeeping status will suffice.

Here I’ll just give an update on our existing hives. I’ve done some work getting the hives ready, and will save this for another post. Continue reading

We hold these truths to bee

Our top bar hive Venus on August 9, 2015

Our top bar hive Venus on August 9, 2015

Feeling somewhat philosophical lately. Perhaps I’ve been a beekeeper so long now (4 months!) that the urge to reflect on my vast experience has come upon me. Either that or I can only provide repeated hive updates for so long on this blog, and thus want to write something profound.

Nothing profound to offer, unfortunately, but a couple musing on tools, truths, and the hives. Continue reading

Bee on the level

Top Bar Hive Forages

Foragers coming and going from our top bar hive Venus, with other bees bearding by the front entrances. You can see our Langstroth hive Jupiter in the background.

I have been in and out of the hives this month, and am a bit overdue with this update. With all the rain we’ve had the flowers continue to bloom and I can only hope the forage remains plenty. As soon as the heat settles in, probably right after our frequent rainfall ends, the nectar will likely dry up as well. Continue reading

How doth the little busy bee

TBH Comb

A top bar hive comb near the three entrances to the hive.

With the blooming season moving into summer, our top bar hive continues to crank out bees. Italian bees are known for going full steam ahead, and ours seems to be no different. I checked the hive on June 25 and so thought I would share this update.

Before covering our top bar hive, I’ll begin with some changes to our two langs, and finish with some pictures of wild bees around our yard. Continue reading

Long Live the Queen

We’ve been experiencing the joys and challenges of beekeeping. Overall I am reasonably happy with our progress. For our two Langstroth hives, one is booming and one has a new queen. The top bar hive continues to perplex me, though it seems to be doing well. Read on for the recent hive report.

May 23 Hives

The hives on May 23, showing how we added a third box onto one hive (Mars) and reduced the middle hive (Jupiter) down to a single deep.

Continue reading