Orienting Flights

Just had to include a very short video of the latest orienting flight that I was  thrilled to observe. The first time I saw this, I was certain that they were either being robbed or were planning on swarming. As the bees began to quiet, I approached the hive. In the walkway, there was a dead nurse bee.  Petite and fuzzy, she was very sweet. I’ll take her to school in the fall so that my students can see a new bee up close.


Hive Inspection, where is that queen! & No sugar syrup for you!!

It has been two weeks since my last hive inspection and boy have the ladies been busy. They had drawn 16 of the 20 frames in both hive boxes. I was grateful that my local mentor assisted me in this inspection because it was the first time opening the hive since I added the second hive box with 8 blank frames and 2 frames of brood. I couldn’t remember the order in which you inspect two hive boxes. At any rate, the first thing my mentor noticed was that it looked like much of the honey was made from the sugar syrup I have been feeding them.  Some days they have taken a quart morning and night! She was concerned that they may become “bound” which may lead to swarming so…….no more sugar syrup for them!  I fed them one more jar of syrup that evening and removed it the following morning. I was a bit nervous about removing the jar and hive box then lowering the telescoping lid for fear of crushing the many bees hovering around the opening as if “waiting” for a new jar of syrup. Now, I know that the bees truly were not waiting for me to replace the jar. Perhaps I have become attached to the connection with the bees when “feeding” them twice a day!  Once I stopped feeding them sugar syrup, there is no real need to go to the hive and I miss that.  At any rate, they continue to be very busy coming and going with definite purpose, their legs packed with a variety of shades of yellow.

Regarding the inspection…. I have not actually seen the queen in 4 weeks but there continue to be an abundance  of eggs along with capped and uncapped brood therefore, I know she is there somewhere. During the next hive inspection, I will had a honey super for them to work. I will need to do some research regarding the use of a queen excluder as well as checking the bees for any health issues.

Bees up not one but both pant legs

An interesting moment at the hive this morning. After I swapped out the empty feeding jar, I knelt down next to the hive to look underneath to see if bees were still gathered on the outside of the screened bottom. The screen was covered with bees on the outside. I walked away hoping that they would figure it out and move out. 

As I walked back to the house, I could feel something crawling up my leg under my pants. I pulled up my pant leg, received a sting, and a bee flew out. I continued inside my house and felt something crawling up my other leg. I took off my pants as I hopped across the kitchen floor and into the bathroom. A bee stung my pants as I took them off. An unfortunate loss that could have been avoided had I been wearing something other than flip-flops.

It has been a 1 1/2 weeks since the last inspection  so I plan to open up the hive Friday to look for eggs, check on new frames placed in the second hive box. Perhaps I will catch a glimpse of the queen this time.

Grumpy bees, is it possible?


After three days of 90 degree weather, I would say that the ladies are grumpy and lack patience! They have been consuming about 32 ounces of sugar syrup every 10-12 hours resulting in two trips a day to the hive. Don’t get me wrong, I love an excuse to see what they are up to, to watch them waddle into the hive laden with pollen, and to watch them zip out of the hive on their way to forage. But…the simple act of changing out the mason jar of syrup is becoming, well, less simple.

I swear that there is 1 bee that has it in for me!! I know that may sound ridiculous but both yesterday and today when I swapped out an empty jar for a full jar, there is one bee who (I am convinced that it is the same one!!) hits the net covering my face, repeatedly. Certainly, she must realize that I am bringing sustenance! Certainly, she must realize that I mean no harm but rather that I bring love and good wishes! 90 degree weather and this 1 bee pushes me to make sure that I have long pants on, a shirt (well I always wear a shirt but now an elbow length shirt), and gloves. Perhaps this 1 lone bee smells fear 🙂

My hive has a screened bottom but I have the sticky board still in place. After talking with a couple beekeepers, I pulled it out a third of the way to give them some ventilation. I know there are different schools of thoughts regarding keeping the board in along with screened bottom vs solid bottom hives. At any rate, I had hoped opening up the bottom would help them keep cooler easier. When I swapped out the syrup jar this evening, there still was a traffic jam of bees covering the landing board, the sticky board had numerous bees crawling on it and a number of bees outside of the bottom of the hive (on the screen). Perhaps just all trying to keep things cool, perhaps I worry too much about aspects of beekeeping that I cannot control….the bees themselves. 

Sugar Syrup Consumption & Robbing or Orienting???

Ok, I let them all down….two days in a row…they ran out of sugar syrup!! In my defense, they forgot to include me on the memo that they were going to increase their consumption, considerably, of sugar syrup, again. Rainy day after rainy day then super hot days; I need to pay better attention to the weather!  I’ve researched online: to feed or not to feed and boy there are so many differing thoughts about what to do. I understand that package bees are starting from scratch, a lot of work, and require sugar syrup until there is a combination of sufficient number of worker bees and a sufficient amount natural nectar flow. 

Robbing or Orienting? There was A LOT of activity at the opening of the hive again today. The sound was loud enough to capture my attention when I was walking in our yard. And the swirly of bees was impressive. Some rough-housing was observed but no deaths. Initially, I wondered if they were swarming but decided that they were not because it did not look as if they were actually leaving but rather that there was a major traffic jam at the entrance and that everyone was in a holding pattern waiting for clearance to land. The swirling activity went on for approximately 20 minutes, then it was back to normal with bees coming and going.

Hmmm. I was not going to go through an inspection until next weekend but think that I will move it up a few days. During the last inspection, I noticed a clump of larger-than-the-others cells. If it was a queen cell it was in progress. That is what I will be looking for during the next inspection. I did not see the queen during the last inspection but did see eggs so I know that she had been around recently. I’ll see if I can locate her during the next inspection or at least evidence that she is present.

I have to say that I love the idea of caring for bees, I initially typed “keeping bees” but think that perhaps that they are keeping me instead. Keeping me because I find watching them to be so mesmerizing, so very calming. At the same time, I hope that I provide them with what they need to be successful. Ok, and provide me with a little honey.

Visit to Brown’s Bee Farm, changing sugar syrup in a nightgown & other notes



When I checked the hive last weekend, the ladies had drawn 8 of the 10 frames! With the help of my mentor, Linnea, we moved two frames with brood from the bottom hive box to the newly placed second hive box, then added 8  foundation frames. We didn’t see the queen although there was one frame which was just covered with fanning bees. I assume she was on that frame but just not visible; there was larvae so she is around some place.

What I did not think about was how to continue to provide them with sugar syrup so I made a trip to Brown’s Bee Farm in Cumberland, Maine. Stan Brown is a well-known beekeeper in our area who has been beekeeping since he was young; he is in his 90’s.  He knows a thing or two about bees and is always willing to share his knowledge.  I told him that there was a lot of activity at the front of the hive. It looked like lots of bees flying in circles, around and around. A few fighting on the landing board. I was concerned about robbing but Stan felt that it was more likely that what I was seeing was new bees, who not knowing what else to do quite yet, orienting themselves. I was relieved. I also explained that I witnessed, on two occasions, two bees literally dragging a bee out of the hive and flying off with it. Stan explained that if the ladies feel there are too many drones doing nothing more than eating their labors…. they are out of there for good! Interesting 🙂

So, I shared with Stan one of my finest moments as a new beekeeper: I needed to give the ladies a jar of sugar syrup before I left for work and I was running late and as I opened the front door, my husband inquired, “What do you think you are doing, Julie?!”  I stood, in my sleeveless long summer nightgown, and assuredly stated that I was simply going to change out the jar of sugar syrup! “Seriously, in your nightgown?” he again inquired. “Its only going to take me, what, 15 seconds maybe, they’ll never know I was there I’ll do it so quickly.” At this point in my story, Stan shook his head and chuckled, “You all do it in the beginning, so what happened?” Well, I marched out to the hive, no gloves, no veil, just my nightgown and flipflops. I approached the hive and said good morning to one and all, I lifted the hive top and leaned it against the hive. And, I am not making this up although my husband thinks otherwise, a bee rose out of the hive like a helicopter and hovered directly in front of my face and had the look. How can something SO small scare me SO much!!!! I immediately backed up, marched quickly back to the house, put on pants, gloves, shoes, veil, and returned to the hive properly dressed.  Shaking his head and still chuckling, Stan said, “And you thought they wouldn’t hear you coming…they know the second you start walking in their direction!”  

Stan appreciated the story from a new beekeeper and asked me if I would be doing something like that again. I told him that I would not!

Getting Started

Caring for a hive of bees was something my father and I talked about doing together for a number of years. We talked about it but just never got around to doing it, then he became ill and passed away. Last year when I was going through a box of books to make a trip to Goodwill, I came across the book we had purchased, First Lessons in Beekeeping by C.P. Dadant (1980 edition). Immediately I knew that now was the time to follow through with “the plan”. 

I began looking for a course for beginning beekeepers and thought for sure I would easily find a class given that I was looking in November. But, I was wrong; the only classes available were geared for the advanced beekeeper. So…I watched video after video on Youtube and read and re-read First Lessons in Beekeeping. I eagerly placed my order for three pounds of bees and an Italian queen bee for delivery in May 2013 and then purchased a Bushy Hill bee hive kit from Brown’s Bee Farm in Cumberland, Maine.  Then came the hardest part of all, waiting for their arrival! Next post: arrival