Winter Solstice Quick Check

I noticed the other day that there were quite a few dead bees in front of the “Bees Rules” hive.  This got me a little bit anxious to see if there were more serious issues going on.  It was 47 F. today so I figured that I could take a look at the hive tops and see if there were any dead-outs.  I also thought that I might as well put a little fondant on the top bars.

The first look was at the “Bees Rules” hive.  It is the one that caused my original concern.  It is two eight frame deeps with a medium on top.  Over that I have a vivaldi board filled with wood shavings.  I noticed that the wood shavings were a little damp so I opened up one of the 2” vent ports on the side of the vivaldi board.

On removing the board and looking at the top bars there were a lot of bees between the center five frames of the hive.  There was a scattering of bees on top if the top bars.  They seemed to be moving and active so I put a square of fondant on the top bars and closed things back up.

The next check was a look at the “Tardis” hive.  It is also two eight frame deeps with a medium on top.  It is set up with a 3/4 inch feeder shim, a regular inner cover, and an outer cover with 3/4” insulation cut to fit the inside.  Lots of bees between the inner and outer cover.  They had eaten some of the insulation directly above the hole in the inner cover.  On removing the inner cover I found that the top bars were completely covered with bees and they seemed to be filling the space between the frames rather well.  I put a square of fondant on the top bars and closed things back up.

My next check was the ‘Misty” nuc.  This is a 5X5 deep nuc with a feeder shim and a regular inner and outer cover. The top was just packed with bees.  I have no idea if they are also covering well between the frames as there were so many bees on the top bars.  I carefully slid in a square of fondant and closed things back up.

The ‘Utah’ hive is really just a nuc in the wrong boxes.  It is an eight frame deep with a medium on top.  It is set up with a vivaldi board instead of an inner cover.  The wood shavings in the vivaldi board were dry so I did not add more ventilation.  Under the vivaldi board the bees were covering more than half of the top bars and there seemed to be bees between the center five or six frames.

So it looks like everyone made it at least to the solstice.  I’m surprised that “Bees Rules” seemed to be the least populated of the bunch.  It was probably the most populated back in November.  The dead bees in front might be an indicator that they are having a tough go of things, but are hanging on for the time being.

If we get a nice day in mid January I think I’ll go over them again and add a little fondant to each.

Closing Out Year 1 – Nov 23

What an interesting year.  It has been a real learning experience.  I’m fairly confident that there are more interesting things to learn during Year 2.  I have to say, year 1 exceeded my expectations.

The weather has gone unseasonably cold early in November this year.  I have not gotten into the hives this month and I don’t have any plans to even attempt to get into them next month.  I’m comfortable that I have the varoa mites under control, the populations are in good shape, and the resources in the hive will get them through to at least March.  My next planned excursion into the hives will be to put fondant and pollen substitute patties on the top bars as soon as practicable after Valentines Day.  I expect to keep fondant and patties on from then until the end of March.  The flow here should start around the 15th of April.  I need the foragers ready by then;)

My primary year one objective was to get as much built out comb as I could.  Not having a good grasp of the role that nurse bee population and nectar flow/syrup, I could have done better.  I am starting next year with more frames than my plan needs so there is nothing to complain about here.  Objective met.

I also wanted to have two good hives with two deeps and a medium going into winter.  Both of the hives had enough bees in them in late October that I was concerned they might swarm on me.  In addition to the two hives, I have two pretty solid nuc hives full of bees going into winter. 

If everything makes it through the winter I will actually have a lot more hives/bees than I actually want to keep.  If I should be so fortunate I’ll be breaking up a couple of these into spring nucs and looking for a new beekeeper who needs some help getting started out.

I really want to get a hive scale on one of the hives before spring.  I think it would be real helpful to see how strong the nectar flow is and how the bees are able to take advantage of it. 

I’m also really fascinated by a hive design “The Nat Hive” by a couple of guys up in Pennsylvania.  This is a multi-queen hive where the queens have their own brood space and the worker bees share the honey supers.  they have a configuration where frames from the brood area can be demareed (moved up out of the brood nest) without having to un-stack all of the supers.  If my goal was to produce a lot of honey I would be out building boxes this week.  We’ll see if I jump on their idea between now and next Spring.

Ready for Winter – Oct 20

Last pass through the hives before we get into Winter.  I had feeders on all four hives up through October 7th.  Each hive seems to have a solid medium of honey on the top box.  The Misty nuc is heavy on top.  All of the hives are loaded with bees.  Pretty much solid from side to side and front to back.

I bought a five pound box of fondant just to see how setting it up in the hives works for early next year when I ay have to feed them.  This worked great on the Bees Rules hive and the Utah hive where I put my home built vivaldi boards (they have a 3/8 inch spacing on the bottom).  It also worked out well on the Tardis hive which has a feeding shim in place for pollen patties (works great for the fondant as well).  Unfortunately, trying to fit the fondant between the top bard and the inner cover on the Misty nuc there was not enough room.  Into the garage to make a nuc sized feeding shim. A couple of scraps of 3/4 pine, a little work on the table saw, some glue and a couple of staples solved that problem.  I’m glad I tried it out before February. 

I also loaded up the top of my vivaldi boxes by filling a burlap bag with pine shavings and scrunching the full bag into the box.  I installed moust excluders on the entrance reducers of the Bees Riles and Tardis hive.  As the day warmed up the bees didn’t seem to be too fond of the unexpected restriction so I pivoted them out of the way.  I’ll put them back in place when the bees stop flying later this month.

I removed the screened bottom boards and replaced them with solid bottom boards.  All of the hives get a bit pissy when I work on the entrances.  I wonder what I’m doing wrong here.  I started putting the foam insulation on the brood boxes, but the bees were still agitated from my playing around with the entrances.  I’ll have to finish this task up later in the month as well.

So all the hives have strong populations, have lots of food, have been treated for varoa, and are set-up for winter feeding.  Must bee ready for Winter.

Busy Prep Day – Sept 8

I’ve had two tasks that I wanted to get done with the bees before winter sets in.  These were to lower my hive stand by about 10 inches and the other was to treat the main hives for mites with formic acid (formic pro).  Formic Pro should not be used it the temperatures are expected to get above 92 F. during the first three days of treatment.  This weekend was the first shot at that since August.  Shortening the hive stand involved moving all of the hives, sawing off most of the legs on the stand, then placing the hives back on (might as well do an inspection or two while everything is in motion. 

First, I set up a small pallet next to my hive stand.  The plan was to move the ‘Tardis” hive over a bit to free up some work space anyway.  Did an inspection from the bottom box up moving the hive from the hive stand to the pallet in the process.  The bees are filling every slot of the two deeps and a medium.  I’m very surprised at how many frames of wet larvae and capped brood there are in this hive.  It is bursting at the seams.  I looked carefully for swarm cells and didn’t see any, but this one may swarm late.  Found the (overly productive) queen and carefully caged her while working on the hive. I added two strips of Formic Pro between the bottom brood boxes and buttoned things up.  Set it up with an empty super on top with a 1 qt feeder.


I’m going to hold feeding this hive until we see some ‘clustering’ weather.  It looks like they have used all the syrup I have given them thus far to raise bees instead of save for winter.  They have about a half dozen good resource frames, but that won’t last long with this many bees in the hive.

Next, I temporarily moved the ‘Misty” NUC from the stand to a spot next to the “Tardis” hive.  I only briefly peeked at the top box.  They only had four frame sides built out in the top box on my last inspection.  It looks like they may have expanded the wax to part of two more frame sides.

Next, I set a spare hive bottom on the ground and unstacked the “Bees Rules” hive in reverse order onto the new bottom (intending to do an inspection as they were restacked later).  One more bottom on the ground and attempted to unstack the “Utah” hive the same way.  I set down the bottom, took the top medium off of the hive and placed it on the bottom board.  When I tried to move the bottom brood box on top of the medium I was reminded that I had screwed the bottom of this box to the brood box!!  Well, the plan was to replace this woodenware anyway, so I just moved the bottom and the brood box (attached) to the top of the medium box. 

Whew!! The hive stand had been emptied.  I flipped it on its side and proceeded to shorten the legs with a skill saw.  Set back on its base bricks and leveled!  Now it was time to put things back together.

Because the bottom of the “Utah” hive was attached, I was short one bottom board that I needed to put things back together.  I placed the existing (screwed together) base and brood box on the side of the hive stand.  I then set an inner cover on the stand and placed the medium super on the inner cover.  This freed up the base that I had previously relocated the “Utah” hive to.  I put the base in its position on the hive stand and sat a newly painted and properly sized brood box on the stand.  I then proceeded to to an inspection on the “Utah” hive.  As I inspected (and photographed) each frame from the brood box, I moved the frame to the new brood box.  Six well built frames of comb and two poorly built partial frames.  I figure six is good for a small hive.  I then proceeded to inspect the medium and place it on top of the new brood chamber.  Six nicely built out frames in the medium, two untouched frames.  I guess this is a six over six NUC for the winter.

Lots of bees, lots of larvae and capped brood.  Percentage wise, this one had more resources than the “Tardis” hive, but it is still light for the winter in my beginner’s opinion.  Will need more feeding after the bees start to cluster a bit.  Added one of my combination feeder/quilt boxes to the top and then closed things up.

The last hive to reposition was the “Bees Rules” hive.  Two deeps and a medium.  The plan was to do an inspection and put Formic Pro between the two deeps.  When I took off the top the bees were boiling out of every opening they could find and they were not in their normally cooperative mood.  In fact, they were rather agitated.  I guess they took exception to being re-arranged twice in the same day.

Of course, as Murphy would have it, this was the perfect time for my smoker to run out of fuel.  I spent a few minutes puffing air at them before I realized that it had either gone out or was out of fuel.  By this time, the tops of all three boxes were completely covered in multiple layers of pissed off bees.  By the time I got the smoker reloaded and relit there was no smoking them back into their boxes.  One thing that I didn’t notice at the time was that a lot of them had exited from the front of the hive (on the ground) and were covering the ground in front of the hive.

I unstacked the boxes where I could find room for them and set the base up on its position on my newly lowered hive stand.  As I was getting set to inspect the bottom brood box I became aware of the fact that there were bees trying to staple my socks to my ankles!  I had walked through the area where the bees had gotten out on the ground from the front entrance.  Quick change of inspection plans.  I took a brief break to get out of my hood and jacket, went inside the house and took off my pants to shake the bees out of my pant legs. 

At this point I had decided that I should forgo the inspection and just put “Bees Rules” back together on the stand.  I suited back up and quickly put the first brood box on the base.  I applied the Formic Pro strips and then quickly stacked the second brood box on top of the first.  Next to add was the medium (with a beetle blaster and a swiffer pad). 

Mission accomplished.  I had lowered the hive stand and applied the formic acid.  Granted, I only got half of the inspections done that I would wanted to have done, but they weren’t the purpose of today’s effort.

Incidentally, I unintentionally reversed the brood boxes on “Bees Rules” and took at least a dozen stings on my ankles and lower legs.  I guess I have some problems with keeping my focus when there are bees climbing up my pant legs.  I’ll want to avoid that in the future:)

Bizzaro Queen Search – Aug 18th

Ran out this morning and bought a replacement queen for the “Bees Rules” hive. Very carefully went through every frame multiple times to find the queen(s). Only found one nicely plump queen with all of her bits and pieces in place (on the 23rd frame I checked). Caught her in a clip and went through the hive one more time looking for Quasimodo. No supercedure cells, a couple of empty queen cups, but no mutant queen. I decided that the existing queen (new in July) was the safest bet. Marked her with bright orange and put her back in the hive.DSCN3483

Ended up using the new VHS italian queen to replace the 2017 queen in the Utah hive.  I managed to get the old queen into a wooden queen cage and placed her in the Tupperware bowl with some fondant, a sponge of water, and a few attendant bees.  I’ll try to keep her alive this way until I can verify a good acceptance of the new queen.  It will be interesting to see how this experiment works out.

New experience with Eversweet Apiaries in WV purchasing the new queen.  Real nice guy in the shop and I had a great visit with him.  I should have gotten his name, but I have a feeling I’ll be back next spring.  Spotted him a 20 to remember me when he starts taking reservations for New River queens next year.  It would be very much in keeping with my plans to get a red-line mite mauler and a Perdue ankle biter for the main hives next May.

In the process of marking the queen orange, I moved to my garage patio, took off the leather gloves and bee jacket.  Marked the queen and gave her a while to dry before suiting back up and putting the hive back together.  Somehow, I didn’t remember to zip up the front of my jacket.  In the middle of pissing the bees off by stacking the boxes back up I suddenly became aware that there was a bee inside my veil!!  The little bugger stung me on the right cheek before I could move out of the area and take the veil off.  It does not hurt too bad.  We’ll see how much swelling it causes.  Benedryl tonight before bed I think.

Tough August for Bees Rules Queen – Aug 17

I did an inspection of the Bees Rules hive on the 15th and, once again, didn’t find the queen during the inspection.  In reviewing the pictures of the frames taken during the inspection I did find a beaten and battered queen. 

Queen Plan is to get a new queen for this hive over the weekend.  We’ll see if she has any better luck than the last couple of queens in this hive.  With any luck I can get one that is brightly marked!

Into the Tardis! – August 9th

The Tardis hive seems to be real active and healthy.  Time to tear it down and see how things are really going.  While I have observed what I think are good quantities of wet brood and capped brood, I haven’t found the queen the last couple of times I’ve done an inspection.  Today’s plan was to see if there was enough brood to steal a frame to reinforce the Misty NUC (which has had back-to-back brood breaks due to queen supercedure).  Chris, the queen breeder from H. T. Krantz said that he does not mark his queens because they are so hygienic that they clean off the marking.  Sounds like marketing to me, but I did mark here at my first opportunity.  Time will tell.

Before taking a frame of brood for Misty, I wanted to be absolutely and positively sure that the Tardis queen was not on the frame that I was transferring.  The only way I could think of to be positive would be to find and cage the queen before taking the frame.


So here she is, caught in a queen clip before the transfer.  You can see her marking at the leftish bottom of the clip.  Looks just like it did when I marked her.  No wear and tear no the marking yet.  While I did find her rather easily (on the 20th frame that I looked for her on) I have to remember that I did not see her on my two previous inspections of this hive.  I’m having second thoughts about using white markings, but I’m not sure what would work better.  I might try emergency green next year.

Tardis looks to be in great shape.  Lots of stores and brood in the two deep brood boxes.  About half of the frames in the medium super on top are built out in wax and they are storing phony honey (from sugar syrup) there.  I felt real comfortable taking a frame of brood for the Misty NUC.


I put the frame of brood in the middle of the new upper brood chamber (5 over 5 frames) to draw more of the Misty bees into the upper box to get them started on building it out with Winter resources.  The other side of the frame only has about half the capped brood that this side does.  It will be interesting to see if they follow my plan:)

New Queen in Misty NUC – Aug 8

The little NUC that I split off of the “Bees Rules” hive with a couple of the supercedure cells raised a new queen in July.  After she had laid up all of the available space in the NUC, the bees – once again – sperceded her.  Not sure if it was a problem with the queen or if I may have accidentally killed her (or if she may have been killed in a robbery).  Anyhow, that was on July 20th and I figured that if the new queen was going to bee bred she should bee there by now.

DSCN3350 Finding a queen is a lot easier in a NUC than it is in a big hive with supers and multiple brood boxes.  Found her on the second frame and took the opportunity to mark her to make the job easier next time.  Not a lot of larvae to be seen yet, but she is just starting out.  I’ll need to keep the feed on this NUC through the fall.  I did add a second five frame NUC on top with foundation two days ago.  If they can build all of that out they might actually make it through the Winter.

Took a look at the Utah hive (really just a NUC in an eight frame brood box with a medium of foundation on top).  They are building up resources.  They have a lot more pollen stored than I have seen in the other hives.  They have a couple of heavy frames and are building wax in the medium on top.  I’ll keep the feed on them until they have built out all of the frames or it gets too cold for them to make wax.

Sustainability Planning

One of the current problems that bee keepers are having relates to low hive survival rates, particularly over the Winter.  A lot of hobbyist bee keepers just accept the losses and buy replacement bees in the Spring.  I think I need a more sustainable approach.

I would prefer to just have one single beehive.  Unfortunately, it seems that you need to keep at least two to allow reinforcement of week hives and moving bees out of crowded hives to reduce the risk of swarming.


With my recent experience in getting the bees to make new queens, I have decided that using what I learned in the process I should be able to cover normal winter hive losses by running a couple of small (NUC) hives just for bee and queen building.  This would allow me to breed my own queens for annual replacement as well as providing insurance hives to cover me if one of my main hives succumbs to winter.  I have most of the woodenware (and bees) to do this, so I guess I have a plan.

The plan then, is to go into Winter with two hives and two NUCs.  If I do well (no losses) I will have two hives ready to take advantage of our Maryland Spring nectar flow.  If only half survive I can populate the main hive losses by moving the NUCs over and have a great start on our short spring nectar flow with built out comb without having to buy bees and wait.

If the NUCs survive I will unstack the boxes making four 5 frame NUCS, place an “egg layer” frame in the best hive.  Once it has fresh eggs (larvae less than three days old) I will move the frame into a queenless NUC and let the bees there make new queens.  These will then bred in the four NUCs and the best two will be used to replace the queens in the main hives later in the year (June or July).

I’ll move the old queens from the main hives into the NUCs (pinching the queens there) and restack the NUCs to build for the following winter.

Busy Summer Bees

Need to catch up here a bit.  Had a bit of excitement this summer.  I tried to replace the queen in my “Bees Rules” hive.  The process had gone so smoothly in the Tardis hive that I actually thought I knew what I was doing.  Wrong!  Went into the “Bees Rules” hive a week after changing the queen and there were supercedure cells everywhere!!  No queen to be found!  Seems the bees didn’t agree with my choice.

Pulled a frame with cells, a capped brood frame, and a resource frame and tossed them in a five frame NUC.  Then I patiently waited a couple of weeks to see if they could raise a queen or two of their liking. 


Checked both the original hive and the NUC once the cells had time to hatch, harden and get bred.  Eggs and larvae in every available cell in both boxes. 

New queen in the “Bees Rules” box is kicking butt.  The little NUC, however, is a different story.  Either the bees there didn’t like their hyper productive new queen, or I damaged her doing the inspection.  There were about a half a dozen supercedure cells and no queen to be found when I did the hive inspection with a plan to mark the new queen.  This was on the 27th of July.  This is rather late in the summer for the hive to get their new virgin queen out in time to get bred. 

I’ll probably end up having to combine the NUC back into the “Bees Rules” box in the fall but for now I’m being optimistic that they can build up before then to the point that they can make it through the winter.


New queen in “Bees RUles”