Did you know that...

  • ...about 90 U.S. crops depend on bees for pollination?
  • ...many hives are trucked from region to region for pollination purposes?
  • ...honeybee health is threatened by, among other things, mites?

Monday, April 28, 2008

Monday, Monday.

The weekend, as usual, was busy but we did manage to actually accomplish a few things.

On Friday, I discovered that one of the hives that came through the winter had lots of bees in it, but NO brood. Not good.

Although I did spot a few eggs there, they were such a smattering that I began wondering if the queen had died.

She was there, though, and once I found her I watched for awhile to see what the heck she was up to. A whole lot of nothing.

Fortunately, Jim, out at the Beez Neez, had some queens on hand. Carrie stopped by there on the way home from work and snagged one...I thought.

Low and behold, when she arrived home, there were TWO queen cages in the little bag. Obviously, I had not communicated effectively. But not to worry.

Since I had so many bees in this particular hive, I split the hive and installed a new queen in each half. I did, of course, find and "deal with" the old queen before placing the new queen cage inside.

Such a pity. That queen was actually my best producer last year. Hated to see her go, but when you're done, you're done!

Today started out a bit on the wet side, but now the sun's out and we're hoping for dryness and warmth!

Signing off,

Bees Keeper


Max xx has certainly captured the process for us.

These are truly great shots!

Signing off,

Bees Keeper

To Bee or Not To Bee...

Bee Birth 2 - shoulders next
Originally uploaded by Max xx
This one looks like she's seriously considering just popping the lid back on and going back to bed.

But, of course, the sisterhood wouldn't stand for that.

C'mon! Let's get crackin'!

Signing off,

Bees Keeper

It's a Bee!

Bee Birth 1 - chewing her way out
Originally uploaded by Max xx
Once the new bee is fully developed in the capped cell, she chews her way out into the world.

Now, since the worker bees lifespan is only five to six weeks from the day she emerges from this cell, she gets busy right away.

When you figure that a vibrant queen bee lays 1500 eggs in a day, you can see how the population in the hive increases rapidly as spring sets in.

At peak summer season, each hive will be home to anywhere from 50 to 80 thousand bees.

Signing off,

Bees Keeper

They're Called "Brood"

In the hive 6
Originally uploaded by Max xx
Here's a terrific shot of the later stage larvae along with what we call "capped brood."

So first, it's the egg. Then the "uncapped brood" as you can see here. Finally, the bees cap off the cells with a wax covering and the new bee develops through the pupae stage and into the fully developed BEE!

Good stuff here!

Signing off,

Bees Keeper

Friday, April 25, 2008

From Egg to Larva...

Bee Babies ... Larvae
Originally uploaded by chrissie2003
You can see here after the three days in the egg stage, the developing larva lays down in the bottom of the cell in the fetal position and like any other baby...GROWS!

When inspecting your hives, you always want to see lots of cells in this phase of development as well.

Soon these little gals will be capped over with beeswax for the final transition into an actual bee.

Signing off,

Bees Keeper

Bees Besieged!

Great name for a great book!

"Bill Mares travels the U.S. interviewing hobby, sideline and commercial beekeepers, honey packers and importers, honey bee researchers and scientists and many others related to the beekeeping industry to identify the status of beekeeping in the U.S. and looks for answers to questions on varroa and tracheal mites, resistant diseases, cheap imported honey prices, research problems, the economics of American agriculture, and the decline in the number of beekeepers in America.

During this odyssey, Bill captures the beekeeping industry in its glory and in its wisdom, in its innocence, and with its pants down. He paints the whole picture as no one has done before. He examines, too, the common aspects of the beekeeping industry...its past, the present and even the future, the many personalities, and the diverse parts and pieces and places that make up this tiny, esoteric, but critical cog of modern agriculture.

This snapshot, developed from the perspective of someone who needs honey bees in his life, makes our understanding easier and, perhaps, the troubles less threatening."

I'd highly recommend this book to anyone who has even the remotest interest in the state of the honeybee today!

If you're interested, click on the link at the left for The Best Bee Space. At the bottom of the page you'll find a link to Beekeeping Books. It's in there.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Aladdin's Cave

Aladdin's Cave
Originally uploaded by chrissie2003
No wonder she's all yellow when she arrives at the hive!

The apparent pollen "baskets" on the rear legs are really not baskets at all.

What you see there is really just a pollen WAD. It's sticky stuff, you know, and therefore simply clings to those legs until she off-loads it into the appropriate cell deep within the hive.

Have a good night all!

Signing off,

Bees Keeper.

Field Trip...

Bee Catch!
Originally uploaded by da100fotos
Now this is how it's done!

Did you know that the honeybee cycles its wings 11,000 times per minute when flying?

And even at that, the "experts" in flight tell us that the way they are constructed, there's no way they should be able to fly at all.

Must have something to do with Who made them rather than how they were made.

Signing off,

Bees Keeper

Zoom Eggs!

Originally uploaded by techmeister
Be sure to click on this photo of, once again, newly laid eggs. Then follow the directions in Techmeister's comment below the pic.

You'll have the best view you ever will of what the egg looks like in the cell. Fabulous!

You can see why it's so much easier to do hive inspections on bright sunny days. When the slightest little cloud comes by to darken things up, it's darn hard to see these little buzzers-in-the-making!

Signing off,

Bees Keeper

Eggs, Eggs and More Eggs!

More Eggs!
Originally uploaded by techmeister
For a thriving hive, upon inspection you must be able to visualize EGGS! Once the queen has laid the egg in the bottom of the cell, as seen here many times over, it is only an egg for three days. After that, it has developed into the larval stage.

Therefore, while inspecting the frames in your hive, if you don't find eggs it means that the queen has not been present and laying for at least three days. This is not good. You must re-queen right away in order to maintain the essential life cycle within the colony.

This is tremendous photography of what you want to see each and every time you open your hive. If you've never seen them before, the eggs are those little white rice-like things standing up in the bottoms of those otherwise empty cells. Only one egg per cell is allowed!

Signing off,

Bees Keeper

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

There She Is...Miss Queen!

Queen bee
Originally uploaded by Max xx
This will be my parting shot for today.

As you can see this mature queen is significantly larger than the workers around her. She's an egg-laying machine.

Also, notice the blue dot up on her back. That is placed there manually by the beekeeper to make her easier to spot in the hive. This makes her a "marked queen."

Well, stay tuned. I'm sure we'll be seeing more of the hive and it's activity in future posts.

Signing off,

Bees Keeper

Pollen Count...

Galápagos interlude 2
Originally uploaded by Max xx
And this is what that same pollen looks like after they've off-loaded and stored it in the comb.

I wish my storage was this organized!

Signing off,

Bees Keeper

Speaking of Saddle Bags...

Galápagos interlude 1
Originally uploaded by Max xx
Here's another great shot of some of our pollen-laden friends getting ready to enter the hive with their offerings.

For those interested, any time you see this activity occurring, it's a sure bet that there is an egg laying queen inside. And that's a very good thing!

The healthy queen bee lays about 1500 eggs every 24 hours.

Signing off,

Bees Keeper

Saddle Bags

Saddle Bags
Originally uploaded by Dalantech
I'm trying out a new feature this evening that allows me to post photos - really good ones too - from Flickr.

I'm hoping this will make for added interest, since you've been kind enough to come visit here.

I think the term "Saddle Bags" is an appropriate description of what we're seeing here: a worker bee with a developing load of pollen.

Signing off,

Bees Keeper

Bee Facts...

Here are some interesting facts about the honeybee:

A colony of honey bees during the peak of the season is made up of a queen, several hundred drones, 30,000 - 80,000 workers and brood (up and coming bees) in various stages of development.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

More of the kids...

So, in "Still Praying for Heat," you met Jesse, grandbaby #6 of 10.

I'm sure you'll have fun meeting #'s 7 and 9, Evan and his new brother Kingston.

Evan is two now and whenever possible loves to have a good romp with Grampa.

Of course, I like to make sure he gets a chance to see the world through my eyes every once in awhile!

Being as proud as any of the rest of you grandparents out there, you'll see that from time to time I have to let some of the grandbaby news slip in here.

Whereas all of these little ones are miracles to us, Kingston, in his short four months has had more than his share of time at the doctor's and in the hospital. But just look at him now! Not to worry, he's catching up on the good times. And for this, we hereby give all glory and honor and praise the Lord Jesus, The Healer!

Signing off,

Bees Keeper

Friday, April 18, 2008

Bees Herded Here!

So anyway, the next step was to let the little buzzers settle down a bit and trickle down into the hive box. This box, by the way, is what will soon become the "Brood Box" or "Brood Chamber" and is where the queen will very shortly start laying eggs to begin the rearing of many new bees.

Once the cloud of bees began to simmer down, I carefully placed the "Inner Cover" on the top of the hive so as not to crush the new arrivals. The inner cover, for me, is simply a board with a hole in the center that allows the bees another entrance and exit from the hive. The inner covers that are purchased commercially are simply "glorified" boards with holes in them.

Now, thanks to Global Warming, our outdoor daytime high temperatures this year have been consistently running only about five to ten degrees below normal for this time of year.

Without going into all the particulars on that, it simply means that the fact that it's April 18th and it's snowing outside as we speak will probably keep the girls inside the hives until who knows when.

Therefore, it was important that I made sure to install a feeder with some syrup on all three hives the other day. Actually, this is something I always do anyway to be sure that the startup of a new hive is successful. Give 'em some carbs to keep their energy levels up while they're in the process of hauling in their first batch of groceries.

Once the inner cover and the feeder are on the hive I put an empty deep hive box on top in order to "house" the feeder. This also keeps out the weather so that the bees can come up out of the hive into a sheltered space to draw syrup.

Now, just before I put the "Outer Cover" on the top of it all, I took care of one other detail. It's very important that the hive has an upper entrance and exit.

With what I've described thus far, you can see that the bees get up through the inner cover into the feeder space. But if I had simply slapped the outer cover on top, there would be no opening to the outside.

So what I did was place a "bee space" block on the top edge of the feeder house to hold up the outer cover just enough to allow bees passage in and out. This also allows for a measure of hive ventilation which is also extremely important.

One thing I probably should have mentioned long ago is that whereas most beekeepers use what's known as "10-frame" equipment (meaning 10 frames, or "combs," per hive box), I primarily use "8-frame" equipment. All that to say that my hives are a little narrower than what folks usually see out there. This allows for the effective use of the "bee space block" that I've just described. I'm able to do it this way because with the narrower hive bodies, there is more clearance between the box and the telescoping lip of the outer cover.

So, this is what herding bees looks like. If you should have any questions I'd be more than happy to try addressing them for you. I hope to have the capability for you to contact me on the site here before too long.

But for now, I'm going to watch it snow. Thanks for visiting!

Signing off,

Bees Keeper

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Bee Day!

Wow! The time: She goes by!

The past two days have been overflowingly full. As projected though, Global Warming kicked in and what had started off as a gray, cold day turned into a fairly warm afternoon complete with...you guessed it...hints of sun and suggestions of blue sky.

Since I knew that the prime portion of the day was going to be taken up with herding bees, I didn't even start stressing over all the other things that I knew wouldn't get done. It was actually a bit refreshing.

I did some work in the office for most of the morning, fed Beth at lunch time and went next door and talked with the folks (Yep, Mom and Dad live next door and we have lots of fun!).

Finally, along about 1:30 the time had come. I piled in the van, stopped by the local latte stand for a Mocha Grande, extra hot with whip and headed down along the River Road to Snohomish.

What a pleasant drive. No rush. Good coffee. River running past me on the left heading the other direction. Farmland. Asking God for just a little more heat.

Rachael had orchestrated a very organized, low key, even-paced process out at the Beez Neez. Apparently, she had done some calling earlier in the week letting folks know that if they paid for their bees in advance they'd be able to get in the short line come Bee Day. That, coupled with the fact that she's just plain good at what she does seemed to keep the whole "Snohomish County-come-pick-up-your-packages-of-bees" thing chugging along very well!

So before I knew it, I'd stood there and watched a couple people pick up their packages, chewed the fat a little with Rachael, picked up my own three boxes of bees, chewed the fat a little with Jim and was headed along the River Road for home. River on the right, going my direction.

I arrived at home just in time to meet the folks returning from a walk, so I enlisted the Poor Old Man to take some pictures of the bee herding process so I could prove to anyone reading this that it actually happened.

Following a few preliminaries, like making sure all three hive bodies had good drawn comb frames in them and that I had plenty of syrup on hand for the California girls to haul down into their new digs, I began to commence to begin.

My neighbor, Jeff, was out in his back yard (taking advantage of Global Warming) and I thought he might get a kick out of watching so I let him know what was about to happen. He and a couple of his cohorts were eager to watch...from their vantage point on his side of the fence.

Got the first box ready to go by using my Leatherman needle nose pliers to grab the rim of the syrup can that shipped with the bees and easing the can up out of the package for just long enough, I removed the queen cage with its pheromonally potent resident.

With Miss Queen removed from the masses, I set about to ready her for introduction to her new domain. We don't just turn her loose in the hive, you know. There's protocol to be followed. This one is called the old marshmellow-in-the-queen-cage trick. You see, with every package of bees comes a queen bee. And every queen bee ships in her own little "Queen Cage." That cage is first removed from the package so that a very important detail can be addressed.

During shipment, it is undesirable to have the queen escape from the queen cage, so the escape route is blocked with a cork. Once placed in the hive, however, it's not only desirable, but critical that the queen escape into the hive itself, there to rule and reign over the kingdom. So we use a timed-release method of sorts. Before placing the queen and her cage in the hive, we remove the cork and replace it with an obstruction her Retinue will eat through within a few days: a mini-marshmellow. I know, this is a nasty picture, but you get the idea. By the time the bees remove the marshmellow, the queen's pheromone scent will have permeated the hive and colonization will have begun! Long live the Queen!

With the marshmellow in place, I inserted the queen cage between two of the frames in the hive and snugged them up against the cage.

Now this is where the fun was to begin. With Miss Queen ready to receive her many subjects, all that was left for me to do was deliver them, quite unceremoniously, to her.

I've tried this particular step both with and without beekeepers gloves. Given the fact that in each package there is a population of about 15,000 bees, and given the fact that in order to remove them from the package a fair
amount of shaking is required that seems to exasperate them to no small degree, I've pretty much adopted a policy of always using gloves for this task along with my usual Square Folding Veil and Vented Helmet.

And so I let the festivities begin.

I removed the syrup can from the package, opening up a four-inch hole in the top.

With great dispatch I turned the package upside down immediately above the queen cage and gave the box a couple good swift downward thrusts, depositing the bulk of the herd in a pile altogether on the tops of the hive frames.

Funny. They all seemed to know exactly what to do. Many were airborne immediately. Most stayed on the top bars of the frames and many began filtering down onto the sides of the drawn comb in the hive.

That queen pheromone is truly an amazing regulator!

Well, since I'm a day and a half late getting this posted (Blogger.com was having some internal problems uploading images last night.), I think I'll let this portion rip and come back shortly with the end of the process.

Signing off,

Bees Keeper

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Beez Neez

I'll be checking in at The Beez Neez in Snohomish tomorrow with the masses. The truckload of package bees is, more than likely, working its way north from California as we speak.

Usually, about 1:00 pm I arrive to join the lines of local beekeepers there to pick up their packages. All in the high hopes of the ultimate prize - the honey!

Jim and Rachael, the shop owners will be there scurrying about in their white beekeeper suits trying to keep everyone happy while they field questions and collect money.

Fortunately, I've already paid for my bees in full and will therefore get to stand in what's usually a somewhat shorter line. This should expedite my exit from the mob so I can run home with my 12 pounds of new bees and get started hiving them right away.

Thanks to Global Warming, I'm sure it will be an extra sunny day and the bees will be able to take their leisure getting inside their new digs.

It's always a good time hiving bees. A fascinating process that the family seems to enjoy watching, along with any courageous visitors that may pop in for the festivities. When it's all said and done, I'll be sure to let you know how it went this year.

Signing off,

Bees Keeper

Still Praying For Heat...

Bees are in tomorrow and it's still not warm enough to where I want to be outside, let alone for the bees to fly.

One starts to wonder if all the late cold weather this year will begin to add even more colony losses to the already significant toll taken over winter. According to the Apiary Inspectors Of America (AIA), who commissioned a survey of many of the nations commercial beekeepers, the overall losses this winter were slightly over 35% of the hives. This represents a 10% increase over last year.

So the news isn't particularly good, but with tomorrows arrival of three bee packages, I'll be back up to six strong in my bee yard. On top of that, I usually pick up two or three good swarms from folks panicking over the horror hanging in their back yard fruit tree.

One way or the other, I'm sure we'll get a honey crop of some sort this year, but to my way of thinking we need to do something to get either the government or private industry or both to kick the bee loss research in the rear.

Let's get this thing figured out so that Jesse here (one of my many grandchildren) will have some honeybees to keep when the time comes! As you can see, he's pondering just who should be stepping up for the task.

Meanwhile, out the office window I hear the neighbors blowing the newly mowed grass off their driveway. I'm stunned that the grass has even grown enough to mow. Wasn't it just snowing a day or two ago? Must be the Global Warming. Keeps it warm enough for the grass to grow while it snows!

Signing off,

Bees Keeper

Monday, April 14, 2008


It's Monday and the temperature along with the sleet tell me that spring actually has not sprung after after all! Good grief. What will it take to get more than a day and a half at a time above 50 degrees! Bees still arriving on Wednesday.

I've had several calls already this spring from folks wanting me to come get bees out of their walls and other easy-to-get-to places. Unfortunately, I tell them, I don't do bees in structures. If they're holed up inside like that it's almost always a losing proposition trying to get them out intact (in some sort of usable form), at least as far as I'm concerned. Just give me a nice big swarm hanging on a tree branch. That's what I'm talkin' about! Even if I have to get the extension ladder out.

One of the things in my usual Monday routine (has nothing whatsoever to do with honeybees!) is head down to the church to do the bookkeeping and pay the pastor. I try to get that done first thing in the morning so that the rest of the day can be spent doing things like fooling around in the apiary.

Today it didn't really matter that the schedule got rearranged beescause it's so darn cold still that there's no way I could have opened a hive.

You've probably heard it said, "God is good." "All the time!" Well, I like the variation on that: "God is good. Therefore, my day will not go the way I planned it." Today was a little like that.

Had an appointment this morning that ended up lasting about two hours. Came home. Fed Beth (my sister-in-law, who lives with us). Then, went and paid the pastor, during which trip I encountered the rain and sleet. April 14th for cryin' out loud! I don't know what we'd do without Global Warming. Throw another log on the fire, another blanket on the bed, roll over and keep hibernating!

At any rate, somewhere along about the middle of the day, I had a call from a long-lost friend. Probably hadn't talked with Jeff for close to 20 years. Really hard to believe it's been that long. He had Google-d my name a few weeks ago and sent me an email wondering if I was the same Bees Keeper whom he'd know way back in the day. I'd fired one back saying that, yep, he'd found me. Blah, blah, blah. Well, today we actually spoke on the phone and on the 24th we're having lunch. Hey, Jeff, looking forward to it! I'm sure we'll talk 'til our jaws are sore.

Signing off,

Bees Keeper

Friday, April 11, 2008

Fading Fast

It's the end of the day and it's dark, but out my upstairs office window I can hear the sea lions "Ooor"-ing down along the Everett waterfront.

I did quite a bit of poking around today, reading what other beekeepers are telling about on their blogs and forums and web sites. I thought a couple of them were pretty neat and figured I'd put their links in here for you:

Hive-Mind Honey - Ruminations and Adventures in Beekeeping
I'll have to let him know that we get our bees from the same guy!

Bird Chick
She's got some pretty cool photos, etc.

Hey, happy over-nighting!

Signing off,

Bees Keeper

Very First Post!

Well, what a day! It finally feels like spring. The sun's shining on beehives and the girls are out stretching their wings. Hallelujah for Global Warming or we'd probably be under five feet of snow still here in the middle of this Seattle April!

Having never blogged before, this is an invigorating experience. I guess you're just supposed to type and get it all out there. Let 'er rip, eh? I guess we'll just see how that works.

I've heard it said that the definition of a "bore" is a person who has nothing to say...and says it. I'm sure I won't have something for everyone, but I'll do my best not to be a bore.

You may have guessed, I'm a beekeeper. I have three new four-pound packages coming next Wednesday to replace at least some of the colony strength I lost over the winter. Normally, I run about eight hives and in fact, that's the number with which I went into the winter. Came out with three.

Although Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) is obviously a huge concern these days, my losses this year were not to that. I know where all my bees are. They're either happily re-populating the hives or they're laying on the bottom boards - dead.

Yes, to date I've been fortunate not to have had any of my bees simply disappear. I can definitely wait for that day. No fun. Especially, if you're livelihood is dependent on those rascals.

In future posts, I intend to talk about what can be done - besides turning off our cell phones - to help the plight of the honeybee. I hope you'll join in!

Signing off,

Bees Keeper