Friday, April 30, 2010

We had a beehive warming party on Sunday, April 25th!  Gary Violette, our bee guru and owner of Heavenly Honey Farm in Puyallup, was the guest of honor!

Also present were Vanessa, David (co-beekeeper of Sweet Bee Apiary), Bonnie, Nancy and Kellie.

Gary deemed the hives to be healthy and happy!
We all learned a lot about bees and how to care for them!  Vanessa is paying close attention!

This frame is full of capped brood (eggs and baby bees) and the workers are very busy.  You'll see a worker will baskets of pollen in the lower right hand corner - I was surprised to see that pollen comes in many different colors - cream colored to bright orange.

Our daughter Nathalie Heizenrader (BA Illustration, Pacific Northwest College of Art) and her dear friend Kevin Arnold came up from Portland to attend the party.  Nathalie was the official photographer, getting up close in her hat and veil wearing a skirt!  And no stings, too!  Also present but not pictured were our very dear friends Chris and Neil Hill, our neighbors Anand (Vanessa's husband) and their dear sweet little boy Sachen.

Nathalie took this photo of a worker bee that landed on her glove using my little Nikon digital camera.  What a fantastic photo!  Every little detail is so clear - veins in the wings, little claws on the legs, and segments in the antennae!  This is now the official Sweet Bee Apiary symbol - thank you "Little Sweet Bee".

All rights reserved - the photo of "Little Sweet Bee" is the exclusive property of Sweet Bee Apiary and may not be reproduced without written permission of the copyrights holder.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

The bees were in place for about a week when I opened the hives for the first time since my awkward installing of the nucs.

The weather was ok - no rain for once but the temperature was only about 50 degrees F.

I started with Artemis - her colony seems to be less twitchey than Demeter.  I got the smoker to really go and I put my hat and veil on first and then my jacket so the veil was neatly tucked in.  I did not forget to tuck my jeans cuffs into my socks this time!

I smoked the entry and then carefully lifted the cover and smoked the bees a bit more.  No irritated buzzing - just a nice hum.  I took off the lid and put it down on the ground.  I took out one of the frames on the outside of the hive. The outside frames are brand new ones that did not come with the nuc so there is no bee activity on them yet.  Then, using my hive tool, I pried loose some frames that had bees on them.  Bees every where!  Hundreds of them on each side of the foundation!  Humming nicely, they didn't get very excited at all.  I looked at each frame of bees and was lucky to find the queen!  She is marked with a blue dot, indicating that she hatched in 2010, and you can see her in the photograph!  So good to see her looking healthy.

I put Artemis back together and then turned to Demeter.  Same procedure.  Demeter seems to have more bees than Artemis and the bees seem to be a bit more energetic.  Happy humming here, also.  I looked for the queen but did not find her.  My mission this day was to give the bees some food so I didn't look for the queen for too long.

There seems to be some debate as to whether feeding bees with sugar syrup is a good idea or not.  As I don't really know what I'm doing I'm following Gary's instructions and will be feeding up the bees while they get used to their new surroundings.

I bought a product called "Honey B Healthy" from Ruhl Bee Supply in Oregon.  It contains spearmint and lemongrass oils which are supposed to attract the bees to the food and give them some extra energy - kind of like vitamins.  It smells really good and I had a tiny taste - tastes good too.  If I were a bee I'd like it!  Some of this is added to a homemade sugar syrup.  Gary recommended putting about 3 quarts of the solution in a 1 gallon ziplock bag and placing this on top of the bars inside the hive.  To feed this way a spacer has to be placed between the hive body and the cover to allow enough room for the bees to climb up onto the baggie so they can drink up the syrup through little holes you make in the top of the baggie.
The bees were more resilient than I thought!  The bees inside the nucs were so cold they weren't moving very much.  When the sun came out and the day warmed up a bit the clusters of bees began to move about.  I rigged up a little "bridge" from the nuc outside Demeter up to the entrance.  Eventually about half the bees came around and started walking into the hive!  Artemis's bees were not in such a bad way.  I opened Artemis up and got the bees that were left in "her" nuc into the hive.

Gary told me to leave the bees alone for a week or so - it's hard to keep away.  I want to take a peek! 

The photograph shows Demeter later on in the week with some bees on the landing board taking a look-see around their new home.  It had been raining so much that I put boards on top of the hives, held down with bricks, to make a little rain shelter.  The fence is made of bamboo and it there to keep Emma the Airedale from getting too close.  In her younger days she hunted bees for sport!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

I received my first honeybees on March 26, 2010.  It was pouring with rain when I drove to Gary's Heavenly Honey Farm in Puyallup to pick up my two "nucs" (a mini-hive used for transporting a laying queen, workers and drones on already established foundation).  As we loaded them into the back of the Jeep Gary gave me some tips on how to get them from the nuc to my new hives.  It sounded so easy!

As I drove home, with the nucs inside nylon laundry bags (to keep any escapees from getting loose inside the car), the western sky was starting to clean up.

By the time I got home the rain had stopped but it was starting to get dark (7:00PM in late March) and the wind was rising.

My husband, David, and our daughter Katie were waiting to help.  I rushed to light up the smoker  (which just wouldn't light), rushed to put on my bee gear (and forgot to tuck the cuffs of my jeans into my socks), and rushed way too much.

Eventually, we got the majority of the bees inside the hive, but I was concerned about those lingering inside the nucs.  Would they die in the night?  Would they drown in the rain?  I propped the nucs up so the open side was facing the entrance to the hives and hoped for the best.

I was stung only once when a worker climbed up my pant leg and stung me on the back of my thigh.  A bee got inside my veil and walked across my cheek, across my eye (which was closed at the time) and investigated my left nostril throughly.  A bit of a panic here.  Scrambling to get off the veil and David, who is always ready for every circumstance, cut the string on the veil so I could get out!

I do know now how will do it the next time I get a nucleus of bees!