Saturday, March 21

Swarm Removal

In my browsing of bee-related sites, I came across Bill Owens' Swarm Removal website. He is a beekeeper in Georgia and, like many accomplished beekeepers, offers the service of removing swarms from homes, public buildings, etc. (All of these links from my favorite bee-site on the web, Beekeeper Linda.) He has excellent photography of sites he's worked at. The photos are daunting, and I have spent some serious time marveling at them from my desk.

What a job that must be! I am both completely awestruck by the work the bees have done in these places and simultaneously terrified at the thought of having to be in the position of the beekeeper who is going to remove them. Wow.

Friday, March 20


It was pretty mild on Wednesday, and had it not been so windy, I'd have opened the hive up for a spring inspection. Alas, it's March, and any day off I've had has been either windy or drizzly or cold... no fun for bees.
I was surprised to see so much industrious movement at the hive. It seemed as though they never stopped - they were so active and it was so familiar. Naturally, I was elated. I made a list of the things I can now prepare for, knowing that they'd made it through the winter.
They were gathering pollen - as I'd seen a few days before - and it seemed to be in two shades: a bright, orange-y yellow and a dusty green color. (In the photo above, you can see the bees' pollen baskets full of the green color pollen.) I want to learn what plants are providing them with so much pollen so early in the spring.

March/April Checklist

Order supplies:
- Medication: Terramycin, Fumigilin B, possibly Apistan
- Honey supers
- Second hive (?)

On the hive:
- Rotate hive bodies - The cluster moves upwards in winter. If I rotate the chambers, they will begin expanding upward into the formerly empty box.
- Possibly, replace bottom board - I am thinking about getting a screened IPM board to manage the mites that drop.
- Start feeding sugar syrup (with medication).

For the upcoming months:
- Build second hive - I might be able to start a second hive from this one, and it will prevent swarming.
- Prepare honey supers before the nectar flow - This year, I'll harvest...

Sunday, March 15

Getting Warmer....

I know it's been a while since I've updated, but as I've been telling people, my concern for this hive's overwintering has been so great that I can't even think about it for any great length of time, let alone talk or write about it.

However! Today was a good day at the hive. I haven't had a chance to open it and check the food supply/hive population in there, though I need to. It's been warmer, but on the afternoons when I have been free, it hasn't been warm enough for me to feel safe about cracking it open.

I sat to the side of the hive, watching tons of ants crawling around in the grass below and up onto the hive. I want to check and make sure that they are not a great threat to the bees. I poked through the grass below the hive entrance and noticed a pretty substantial mass of dead bees. From the varying stages of decay I felt certain that they were just the visible product of winter cleaning - a few bees tossed out one day, a few the next.... as opposed to a big wave of bee death.

Slowly, the bees came out of the hive to take cleansing flights. They were leaving from the top entrance, which supports the fact that bees always move upwards through the hive. Specifically, they will move upwards to consume their food, to lay their eggs, etc., starting in the lower chambers and moving towards the top as they need to. I am presuming that the bottom box is cleaned out of honey stores and that they are on the last bits. I have read that if you are concerned about the level of food in the hive, that you can lay a sheet of cake fondant (maliable, dough-like cake icing) across the frames for the bees to eat.

In other news, I ran into a friend of mine from high school, Jess, who I knew kept bees of her own a few miles away from mine. It was great to have a sounding board - especially someone who I have always respected. The things she said came right from my own brain, especially when she proclaimed, "I saw them bringing in pollen today!!" (I had marveled at that earlier in the afternoon, trying to imagine where that little bee had found the pale white pollen that filled her packets as she returned to the hive.)

Things seem good for this hive - I hope to have a better idea before the end of the week...!


The ground is muddy, the trees are still bare and March has come in like a lion. I placed a brick on top of the hive earlier after I woke up from nightmares driven by a particularly gusty day outside my window several weeks ago. I had seen, in the dream, the hive blown open and all of my bees freezing. Literally jumped out of the bed and drove over to make sure things were okay... which, of course, they were.

At any rate, on one of the calmer days recently I took away the entrance reducer to sweep the bottom board of the hive out of curiosity. I found a pile of wax dust and brownish flecks crowded under the entrance reducer. I looked at it for a few seconds before I realized what the flecks actually were - Varroa Mites. These mites cause all sorts of problems in the hive and are suspected as a contributing factor to CCD, for causing deformities in the bees and for weakening hives in general. There are a few chemicals available to control Varroa mites, but nothing to completely wipe 'em out.

After discovering the mites, I realized that despite the warmth of that afternoon, I'd seen no signs of life. I held my breath and stared and stared at the hive, dread accumulating, before I finally saw one little bee fly into the hive. Within seconds, she - or a sister of hers - appeared at the hive entrance and tossed a small hive beetle off the landing board. I probably cheered out loud at that, for several reasons. It was an encouraging sight.