The Queens have been released


This picture is of a couple of the students checking the queen cage for a  healthy queen and preparing for their first hands on experience installing a package of bees into the hive.

Its been a week now since we established 9 new bee hives from 2 pound packages purchased at Glory Bee in Eugene.  One of those packages contained a dead queen and arrangements were quickly made to secure a replacement.  Though its never happened to me before, it is possible to acquire a new package of bees that contains a dead queen.  One of the first things you need to do when installing a package into a hive is retrieve the queen cage from the package and check to make sure the queen is ok.  Most businesses that sell bees will guarantee a healthy queen and we were able to obtain a replacement with no problem.

What does one do with a package of bees that has a dead queen you might ask?  Knowing the queen would still retain some pheromone scent, I placed the cage inside the hive and proceeded to install the bees, hoping the dead queens scent would be strong enough to keep the bees around.  This seemed to work fairly well, although it has been noted the hive next to it has a lot of bees in it.  Most likely the stronger pheromone of the healthy queen in that new hive drew in some of the bees from the dead queen hive.

The replacement queen was placed into the hive on Monday and today my protégé’s in Colton will have a look to see that she has been released from the queen cage.  If so, then all the new hives will be off and running.  Other than to check the hive top feeder occasionally to make sure feed is available, these new hives will be left alone for another week or two and allow the bees to get settle in.

There is one other queen story waiting to be told.  I have a queen in an existing hive that is not laying well – certainly not keeping up with the other hives that made it through the winter.  So when I picked up the packages of bees I also obtained a new queen to replace the old lagging queen.  A couple days ago I inspected the queen cage and this queen too has been released, however, the bees were not bee-having as if there is a queen in the hive.  This is just a feeling, but I closed up the hive to allow then to settle in anyway.  In another week I will look to see if there are any eggs or larva.  If not, I will have to decide if the old queen can still get the job done and then return her to the hive or if I need to order a new queen.  The old queen was placed in another hive (a nuc box) in hopes that the change of environment would prompt her to get with the program.  I will follow up on this developing story next week.

With the new hives established and getting settled in, its time to focus on the four hives that wintered.  Today is expected to bee about 60 degrees and calm, a perfect day to inspect bee hives.  Its been a couple weeks since I looked at them and things have really come into bloom this last week or so.  I’m hoping to see some great progress in the hives that wintered and will be looking to find the healthiest hives that I can use for splitting in the first few days of May.  I will be trying out a new approach to splitting hives this season and you will certainly want to stay tuned for that.

Next, I want to take a moment to talk about the food we eat.  There was a wonderful fella at the class who brought his son (seen in the picture above) with him to learn about bees.  They would really like to have a couple hives but he asked me about the blueberry field that is just a couple hundred yards away from his place.  I asked if they spray when the plants are blooming and he said “Oh yes, they spray all the time, even just before the fruit is picked.”  Well, I knew blueberries were one of the most sprayed fruits you can buy but I was not aware of the timing of the sprays.  Unfortunately I had to tell him it would be likely his bees would suffer from all the sprays being applied to the blueberries.

These are things for all of us to think about.  Its so easy to assume the food we eat is safe, but is it really?  Gluten intolerance, and a multitude of other various stomach ailments – these are recent issues that didn’t used to exist in the numbers we are experiencing today.  It’s not a coincidence.

Soy and corn – two foods that are found in literally everything we eat – are nearly 100 percent GMO produced crops these days and more and  more wheat is coming from GMO crops too.  I believe the discussion about GMO’s has completely missed the point, as both sides discuss whether genetically modified food is healthy to eat or not.  This is not the issue!  These plants are engineered to be able to absorb the chemicals they are hosed with, without harming the plant.  So the plant stays healthy, but the chemicals they absorb go right into the food that is produced.  Do you really want to eat food from a plant that can absorb and withstand roundup and neonicatinoid pesticides??????   Its not a mystery why we have so many new gut ailments that didn’t exist or were considered extremely rare when I was a child fifty years ago.

Just like I have stated in my past postings here about honey, get to know the people who produce your food and find out about the practices they employ when growing it.  Support your local organic farmers!  Its good for the bees and its far better for you!   And if you need to find a good source for healthy food, check out Azure Standard.   The link is below.

Until next time, eat healthy and support your local chemical free beekeep.

Long Live The Queen (well ok, she died anyway)




Last weekend was busy, but quite rewarding.  Friday began with a three hour trip to pick up nine packages of bees.  I think the gods of sugar (honeys competition) were out to get us.  On the way over the mountains a semi truck had turned over on a sharp curve and blocked both lanes.  We waited in line nearly an hour to get around it.  The driver of the truck was air-lifed out but word had it he was alright.  Then once down from the mountains an accident on the freeway in the on-coming lanes had traffic blocked for at least a couple miles, it was the very route we had intended to return home on.  Lastly, as we approached within half a mile of Glory Bee, where we would pick up our bees, traffic was once again stopped because a pickup truck had been struck by a train.  Fortunately our drive home was a safe and uneventful one.  Drive safe folks, stay off those phones and watch out for the other guy.

We picked up our bees and one queen and came home in a buzz, the trunk full of at least 60,000 bees.  I said to my wife, “you didn’t think when you married me that getting up at 5AM to go buy boxes of insects was part of the deal did you?”  She smiled and took it in stride like she always does.  No way I could do all these things without her.

We returned home and added packages to the two new hives set up at a friends home.  It went smoothly and the bees seemed ready to settle into their new home.  Today I will be checking those hives to see that the queens have been released from their cages.

Then at our own house we immediately went to the hive with the weak queen so we could remove her.  Once again my wife saved the day as I was becoming a bit frustrated that the queen was no where to be found when she saw her.  We removed the queen with some other bees and brood and put them in a hive of their own.  I would like to see the change wake up this queen so she gets her butt in gear but am not really hopeful of that.  We left the hive she came from queenless while we installed the packages in three more new hives.  Leaving a hive queenless for a while helps them to accept the new queen as it only takes a few minutes for them realize the queen is gone.  More on this in a moment.

Then my wife went in to pack for our trip to Colton where we would install packages in four more new hives while I proceeded to install three packages in three new hives.  This took about half an hour or so and then I was ready to put the new queen into the hive I had removed the queen from.  I found what happened next very interesting and it demonstrates how focused the worker bees are on the queens pheromone.  After returning to the house to get the cage with the queen I set it on a bench in the shade near the hives.  When you hive new packages of bees there are a lot of them flying around in the air.  These bees have been taken from their hives, placed in a wire mess box with a new queen and are basically homeless.  They do all eventually dial in on their queens pheromone and get into a new hive but some of them were really taken with the new queen I had just set down on the bench.  In less than 10 to 15 seconds a bee had landed on the cage, soon to be joined by many others.  Workers bees are lost without their queen as her scent directs all activity in the hive.  I hived the new queen in her little cage without incident and after adding some feed to the feeders on the new hives, left to get ready for our trip north.

Fortunately the trip to Colton was uneventful and we were warmly welcomed into the home of our friends after a long day of busy bee activity and numerous road miles.  The following morning I built and then set up the hive stands in preparation for the begining beekeeping class that would be held at 1PM.  It was a small class but the people were engaged and asking good questions.  That always makes it rewarding for the presenter – me.  :)  After my short presentation we moved to the hives and I demonstrated how to install a package of bees into a new hive.  Three more hives remained and most of the people attending got some hands on experience installing packages into new hives.  You can talk all you want but there is nothing better than hands on experience and I know they all benefitted from it.

In the end, we returned home on Sunday, having established nine new hives this weekend in addition to teaching a class and providing one of my existing hives with a new queen.  As is often the case with new equipment and new bees there can bee a few bumps in the road and we have experienced a couple of them.  The last package of bees we installed had a dead queen.  This is the first thing you check when installing a new package and I had never seen one before but she was quite dead.  Knowing that the queen would still retain some pheromones  to attract the bees I installed her in the hive anyway.  Knowing there were three healthy queens right next door I was concerned the bees in this last hive would go looking for a new home without the scent of a queen in their own hive.

Last night our friends – new to beekeeping – installed the new queen that the company provided as a replacement for the one that died.  That’s pretty cool for me.  They hadn’t been around bees like this until the class, but jumped right in and installed the new queen.  They also found that a feeder on the first of their new hives is not keeping the bees out of the feed and a number of them have drowned.  We will deal with that today by emptying the feeder and then fixing the problem which is likely the screen inside the feeder not fitting tight enough to keep the bees out of the liquid feed.

Today the adventure with the new bees continues as I get to visit all five of the new hives I established here at home to make sure the queen has been released from her cage.  I’m also very interested to see if the new queen has been accepted into the hive where I replaced the old queen.  It usually works but is not a guarantee.  The hive must have time to adjust to the scent of this new queen and to facilitate that a candy plug is put in the end of the cage the queen is in.  By the time the bees can chew through the candy to release the queen, her scent has filled the hive and she is normally accepted into the fold.  If this does not happen the bees will kill her.  So tonight after work I will see if I can find out the answer to this question, plus check in on the other new hives.

Tomorrow I will give an update on what I have found and an update on the Colton hives and how they are doing.

Roar of a Queenless Hive

This is a short note to those new beeks out there who are just getting started in beekeeping, or those who hope to do so soon.  Two days ago I was placing hive top feeders on some hives.  This requires removing the inner cover and setting the feeder on top of the hive in its place.  Apparently I’ve become a little casual about checking the inner cover for the queen because you simply never find them there.  True, the under side of the inner cover sits just above the top bars of the frames where the bees are working and there are always some bees on the inner cover, but I have never found the queen there.

On the last hive I had pulled off the inner cover and replace it with the feeder.  I poured the feed in and then got distracted going back to check on another hive.  When I returned about 5 minutes later I noticed a loud roar coming from the last hive.  I went back and listened to some of the other hives and they were quiet as can bee.  Then it dawned on me that the last hive I was working on must be queenless.  It only takes a few minutes for a hive to realize they are without a queen and when they are the entire place gets into a major uproar.  No, the bees weren’t anymore aggressive – quite mild mannered in fact, but the noise was unmistakable.  I picked up the inner cover that was standing up against the front of the hive and on the underside was a huge mass of bees.  My first thought was to move a few bees aside to find the queen but then stopped myself for fear of harming the queen.  I have no doubt the queen was on the inner cover when I first removed it from the hive and the bees were quickly mounding up over her to protect her,

After dropping the ball of bees back into the hive I replaced the feeder and left the bees alone for about a half an hour.  When I returned I found the hive nearly as quiet as the other hives.  Clearly the queen had been outside the hive and I was lucky to have found her.

The lesson here is to pay attention to your hives with more than just your eyes.  When your ears tell you something is different about one hive you had better check it out.  A queenless hive will most certainly roar in a way that you rarely hear otherwise.  So for the new folks out there, tuck this thought into the back of your mind and don’t forget it.  It just might save you from losing a queen.



Queens, Brood and Sunny Days

Image Image

Beautiful 60 degree day today!  Just right for getting a good look inside the hives.  Lots of new capped brood, tons of pollen being stored and overall healthy, good looking hives.  The pollen they are bringing in is from pussywillow that is in full bloom right now.  You can see this in a few of the pictures at the end of this posting, including a couple where the bees are stacked up waiting their turn to enter the hive.


Can you find the queen in the first picture?  She is at the center of the frame near the top.  Dark and quite elongated compared to the other bees.  The background that the bees are crawling over is capped brood.  When the larvae reaches the pupa stage the bees cap the cell.  In eleven days the adult bee will emerge.  This time of year we are looking for lots of capped brood.  It means the hive is healthy and preparing for the nectar flow that is soon to come.  In the next picture you can see another look at the tan capped brood.


Here the caped brood is in the center of the frame.  The ring of darker cells just outside the brood is filled with eggs and pupa that have not yet been capped.  Just outside of them you will see a ring of stored pollen (the yellow colored cells) and outside of that is stored honey that remains from last season.

In the next picture, see if you can figure out why there is a big hole in the center of the capped brood.


What we are looking at here is brood that has already hatched.  The first brood of the season was laid in the pancaked sized area in the middle of the frame.  Those bees have now hatched and that is why the cells in the middle of the frame are now empty.  Before long the workers will clean those cells out, the queen will fill them with eggs and they will be capped once again.

Below is another picture of the bees bringing in pollen to the hive.  Bee well and bee kind to your local Beek.  (Beekeeper)  :)


Are You a Beginner Establishing a New BeeYard this Year?


Every year there are new people entering the field of beekeeping – an honorable endeavor I believe.  If you’ve been following along you know that I have the chance to establish a new apiary at a lavender farm in a very mild climate and I’m quite excited about it.  I’m including a link to the web site for the Meadow of Lavender for those who are curious about where the bees are going to be located.   And if you want some hands on experience, you might consider signing up for their class.

For those of you who are starting up this year and that new package of bees is about to arrive, or if your thinking about it for next year, here are a few things to keep in mind.

Bring along buddy and go to a local beekeepers meeting.  Beekeeping clubs can readily be found in most locations.  Once there, don’t sit in the shadows at the back of the room because your new and don’t know anyone.  Instead, tell them your new and ask to be coupled with an experienced beekeep.  Immediately you will gain more confidence simply by allowing yourself to be led by someone with experience.  If you cant find a bee club to join or if it simply works better for you to go it alone, below are some things to keep in mind that are good for the bees and for you.

First off – involve a friend!   Even if they don’t want to gear up and “play with the bees” they can be great moral support and most people develop a real interest once they understand more about bees.  Then –  READ READ READ READ.  I can’t emphasize that enough.  There is a lot of information out there and each person has their own approach.  You need to decide what is best for you and your bees and the only way to do that is to educate yourself.  “Beekeeping for Dummies” is a great place to start for the Newbee.

Next – When you consider a location for your apiary you want a place that is easy access for you, the beekeep.  A southeastern exposure will warm the hive and get the bees out flying early in the day and you also want a ready source of water for the bees.  Otherwise they will find it at your neighbors and once focused on a pool or hot tub you will likely get complaints.  A strong hive will keep people out of the pool.  Establish your own water source (a tub with rocks in it is what I use) early in the season and once the bees find it as a reliable water source they will keep coming back.  Just don’t let it go dry!

The location for an urban apiary should be out of the way of major traffic areas.  If you are walking through the flight path (beeline) of bees traveling from the hive to their food source, it is likely some of them will get caught in your hair or in your clothes.  This can happen to your neighbors as well so be sure to locate your hives away from property lines.  Most cities allow beekeeping but with restrictions and often times you will find that a 6 foot fence or barrier of some kind is required around the beehives.  This gets them up in the air and away from people.  For those of you in the country you likely wont have a need to create any sort of a barrier.

Now for the exciting part.  Your new bees have arrived and both of you have a date at the new hive.  There are plenty of video’s out there that show how to install a hive and plenty of folks doing it without a veil or protective clothing.  I would not suggest this for the new beekeeper.  Wear your gear so you can be comfortable and relaxed around the bees the first time you are exposed to them.  You will need to move calmly around them in the future and now is the time to learn to do this.  Packaged bees are pretty mellow as they have no resources and are focused entirely on getting their brood nest established.  They must build comb and collect pollen and nectar from the field and they simple aren’t going to take much notice of you because protection of the hive is not a priority.

Awe but let that hive get established and the guard bees will be working hard protecting the area in front of the hive.  You see as the hive gets strong they have more bees to spare for protection.  First thing you will notice is the “head-butts” you get when you approach the hive.  Don’t let me mislead you.  I sit on a stump and watch my hives from only ten to twelve feet away all the time.  I enjoy watching them and observing how much pollen is coming into the hive.  But I also know when my veil is on and I’m about to open up the hive (remember this is a strong hive) that at least one or two guard bees will almost immediately thump the front of my veil.  Right now, with low numbers in the hives, this does not occur, but in the summer with 50,000 to 60,000 bees in the hive you can be sure the guard bees will be doing their job.

All that to say that the mellow little package you installed in the spring will not stay that way when they have an established hive to protect.  If you take measures in the spring as described above to minimize incidental human interaction, you will all be happily living together by fall.

The plight of the honeybee is a serious one.  Neonicatonoids used on GMO crops are having a devastating effect on our bee populations.  More and more countries are banning the use of this poison, but with Monsanto in charge of the FDA, the US lags far behind.  You can help!  Invite a friend to this blog – in fact invite more than one friend to visit this blog.  Some of them will become interested and you can begin beekeeping together.  The great thing about individuals keeping bees is that many of us are located away from commercial farm fields where other bees are being poisoned.  YOU can create an isolated hold of strong bees as a reserve against the losses taking place elsewhere.  If you have the interest and the time I encourage you to take the plunge.  No, its not cheap, but few hobbies worth your time are.  There is still time to order up your bees for this season and I hope to see some newbees commenting on here.  There plenty of resources out there, but I am always willing to answer your questions here and assist in anyway I can.

I hope to see some stories posted here about your new beekeeping adventures.

The Truth About Honey – is it Raw or Processed

There is a lot of information out there about honey.  You might be surprised to learn that much of that on grocery store shelves is not honey at all.  As is the case with most food, there is the natural kind that is good for you and the faked, man-made version that is not so good.  If you enjoy honey and want the most from it, you would be wise to check out the link below which contains a summary of much of the information that is out there, plus two short videos that demonstrate the difference between real (Raw) honey and the fake stuff you find in most grocery stores.  Check it out for yourselves, but bottom line, find a local beekeep, look into his practices and see if his bees are exposed to chemicals (you might be surprised) and buy Raw Honey.  Here is the link.  Let me know what you think.  I’m guessing many of you will be quite surprised.

An Afternoon With My Girls

Just a short update after my trip to the bee yard yesterday.  It was the kind of day every bee keep dreams of for an early spring visit to the hive.  No wind, sixty one degrees and a nice warm sun.  Its been two weeks since I first peaked in the hive and what a change the warm weather brings.

The first hive I went to was the hive I did not locate the queen in during my last visit.  With nice weather and feeling like I could have the hive open longer I had no trouble spotting her.  I proceeded to find the queen in all three of the remaining hives as well.  The big change from two week ago is the amount of brood.  Brood is capped larva.  The queen lays the egg, which becomes a larva after three days.  The larva is fed by the worker bees until on day eight or nine is transforms into a pupa at which time the workers cap the cell containing the pupa.  Two weeks ago there was little capped brood, just enough to know the queen was active and only a little larva.  Now the area of larva and capped brood has been expanded to a couple of large areas on two to three frames.  The warm weather has the hives ramping up and everyone looks healthy.

The other thing I took notice of was the pollen coming into the hive.  A dirty white colored pollen and a bright yellow.  The yellow has to be from crocus as that is the only thing in bloom that I know of and the dirty white is from pussywillow catkins.

It just occurred to me that some of you may not know what a hive is made up of.  If I can find a diagram I will make another post and describe a hive.  In the mean time, check out this link and see what a grocery store produce section would look like if we didn’t have bees.  Its a terrific visual example of the value of our little fuzzy friends.

Interesting Facts About Bees

  • It takes 12 bees their entire lifetime to make just one teaspoon of honey.
  • Honey bees visit 2 million flowers to make one pound of honey
  • Field bees visit 50 to 100 flowers during each trip.
  • Honey bees fly 12 and 15 miles per hour.
  • Honey bees flap their wings 12,000 times per minute.
  • Honey bees are covered in hairs designed to trap pollen. Even their eyes have hair on them! As they collect pollen for their hive the bees bodies transfer it from flower to flower and that’s how pollination occurs.
  • Honey is essentially dehydrated nectar from flowers.  Bees eat honey and pollen from flowers. They ferment the pollen first and mix it with honey in order to be able to digest it.
  • One honey bee hive visits about 225,000 flowers per day.
  • A strong hive may contain up to 60,000 honey bees.
  • All the worker bees are female.  The drones or male bees have only one job and that is to mate with the queen. The drone mates one time then he dies.
  • The queen bee can mate with up to 45 drones. But the average number is 13.
  • The queen goes on a mating flight several days after she emerges. Once a queen bee is mated, she keeps the drone’s sperm alive inside her for the rest of her life. She never mates again.
  • A queen bee lays up to 2000 eggs a day (an average of one every 45 seconds) and may lay a million eggs in her entire lifetime.
  • The queen bee decides to lay a fertilized egg which will be a worker bee or new queen or an unfertilized egg which will develop into a drone.