Flight of the bumble bee

A male bumble bee in 2015 on a Purple Salvia plant. ©Erik Brown

I just finished a wonderful book about on bumble bees. Given the flowers and the bees are both holding out for some warmer weather, I thought a post might be in order. As described in my post Endless bees most beautiful and most wonderful, bumblebees are classified in the same Family as honey bees, the Family Apidea. They have their own Genus, the Genus Bombus, distinct from the Genus Apis where the honey bee is found. The word Bombus comes from the Greek bombos for “a buzzing sound” which is certainly characteristic of these bees. Continue reading

If you feed a bee, you’ll have a hive

I could have called this To Feed or Not To Feed, though I used that quote a while ago. This is an age-old dilemma for beekeepers in the fall, as natural honey from real nectar is the best food for bees. However, if the hive runs out in the winter, the bees will die of starvation. So should you feed, or not? That is the question.

Last year my hives did just fine, though I did feed them some. Going into winter my top bar hive Venus had about 12 combs with honey, while my two Langs Mars and Jupiter had a deep-medium-medium and a deep-medium respectively.

This year I have some hives with great stores of honey, and others with not so much. One challenge with the different frame sizes in my hives is that it makes it hard to move stores around. Mars and Jupiter have medium frames, Ganymede has deeps, Venus has 14-inch top bars, and Saturn has 19-inch top bars. Something to address next year, perhaps.

This is my first post written on an iPhone, so my formatting options are limited. Here is the story of my decisions to feed in pictures.

Venus lost her queen in May and the population dwindled until the new queen’s offspring emerged toward the end of June. The hive was low on food and bees going into our traditional summer dearth, so I used this Boardman feeder to provide sugar syrup. The feeder is at the back of the hive, which keeps it far from potential robbers.

Mars must have swarmed late, as I found only queen cups and a low bee population mid-June. Stores were low and I was again worried about a summer dearth, so I used the top feeder that you can see in this image.

I thought our hive Saturn was well off, then I did a full inspection on August 28. Much more brood and bees than honey, so I felt the need to intervene. For this hive I used Wyatt Magnum’s suggestion of cutting down a plastic trash bin. This shows the bin with the top cut off.

The bin fits nicely in the back of Saturn behind the follower board. The bees cleaned it out in less than a week. 

Of course, a couple days after feeding Saturn the bees got active again. Lots of pollen, as you can see here. Hopefully some good nectar too. 

If you feed a pig, you’ll have a hog

This proverb comes from The Dictionary of American Proverbs. Apparently you make a hog by feeding a pig a lot. Who knew! The book says this was recited in North Carolina, and originally appeared in Thomas Fuller’s 1732 book Gnomologia: adagies and proverbs

I thought my modified title was apropos for a post on feeding my hives. In case you were wondering, writing on an iPhone is much more limiting than on a PC. It appears to work, though. 

You may bee right

Now that winter is fast approaching, I finally checked for varroa mites in my hives. I should have done this over the summer, even once a month starting in May or June. Then I would have some good numbers for how my hives fared over the course of the year. Alas, tis not the case.


Our top bar hive Venus on October 4, 2015

Between vacations and family and work this summer, it seemed like I was only home long enough to catch my breath and do quick inspections of the hives. So one day I realized it was the end of August and I’d done no more than think about the possible mites in our hives. Continue reading

Good Fences Make Good Bees

150607 SawzallA shout out to my blogging buddies The Prospect of Bees for inspiring my recent purchase of a Milwaukee M18 reciprocating saw, shown here surrounded by pieces of fence rails. Prospect’s recent infomercial of a post on the 12-volt version of this saw inspired some research and an eventual purchase. Since this is my first and likely only cordless saw, I settled on the 18-volt version, finding a special online deal from Home Depot that included the complete kit (saw, charger, battery) as well as an extra battery.
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The Hive At Gettysburg

Today I built a nuc! There is not much for an aspiring beekeeper to do around here in November, so I thought this might be a good distraction. I’m not the best woodworker, and I’m not sure I really need this for my first year, but you never know. The day went fairly well and I’m happy with the result.

My Nuc Box

My new nuc box that matches the interior shape of my current top bar hive

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