Attempted robbery

I took some videos last weekend. The ladies were in full force of fighting off robbers. They are trying to get ready for the winter and have no space for thieves. If you are interested in seeing some serious security guard work, check the links to YouTube.

Video 1: a 5 second long video that shows the quickest way to get rid of a robber. https://youtu.be/5vdw3e3MrWs

Video 2: Watch them push away the wasp.   https://youtu.be/D3YjSsCtr4U

Video 3: If the intruder tries to fight back, they will lose.  https://youtu.be/1bfmOlEROt4

Interesting fact: Bees rob other hives because their source for nectar is scarce.  They tend to attack other weak hives so that they have a better chance of surviving.

Sorry, we’ve been busy as bees

Our blog has been on the furthest back burner since July, but that doesn’t mean that the bees have been abandoned. Here’s what has happened since our last post.

“A Swarm in July, Let Them Fly”

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I thought about letting them go, but they were right in front of my face. There are risks with capturing swarms later in the summer. Firstly, they are supposed to be grumpier at this time of the year which means the beekeeper is more likely to be stung. Secondly, the chances of them building up the hive in time for winter are slim. This was a risk I was willing to take, if for nothing else, the learning experience of catching a swarm in July.

“Hey Dad, can you build me a nuc box, like right now?”

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When catching a swarm, you need a place for them to live. Well, we were out of hive boxes. They lived in a styrofoam nuc for about a week, and then my father constructed this for us. They have since filled the first box with 5 frames of honey, but the second box is empty. They haven’t even started building up comb on the frames, so we will have to insert some capped honey frames from other hives.

We extracted 6 gallons of honey at the end of July.

After extracting the honey, we rendered more wax than we’ve ever rendered at one time.

 

Then we got married and gave honey as our wedding favor. Super cute label by our Allie.

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As for September, this is what the ladies in our 6 hives have looked like for the past few weeks:

 

We should be extracting more in the coming weeks. Stay tuned!

“Shut up and let us do our jobs”- bees

I have made it a point to not check on the girls in weeks. Also, it’s been raining a whole heck of a lot. With all this time, they have been able to work without steady interruption, and in some cases, their progress is really showing.

Here is hive #1.

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This is currently competing for the award of “Weakest Hive.” On April 30th, this was the strongest hive, but since it swarmed 3 times, it is now just a tiny little thing. The last and final swarm of the season left their honey supply almost empty and without a queen for several weeks. There is still a chance it could make a comeback, as there are 2 frames filled with worker cells.

 

Here lies Hive #2, our first swarm caught, and the hive we are pretty certain that Dan is allergic to.

IMG_0284Do not let the 3rd box, our honey super, fool you into thinking that this one is doing well. This hive was once thriving and full of jerks, but it is now struggling to survive. While I was in there, I saw a queen emerge from a supercedure queen cell. Some of the worker bees noticed this happening and decided to get in there and murder her. Selfishly defying nature, I gently pushed away the worker bees so I could watch the queen. She climbed down the frame, where I’m sure the murder was completed. This hive has a whole lot going on that is all wrong. There are spotty worker cell frames in places where they shouldn’t be. There are several queen cups all over the place. I might downsize them to a nuc box if they don’t get it together soon.

 

Here is our precious hive split, now in 2 nuc boxes. Hive #3

IMG_0285While hive #1 couldn’t stop swarming, we decided to try hive splitting. We took one of the many frames with a capped queen cell, a few frames of worker bees, and some empty frames, and threw them in one of these boxes. We were pretty sure this was going to be a failure, but figured it couldn’t hurt to try. You may not be able to tell from the photo, but these boxes can only fit 5 frames, where our other hives fit 8. They are really working hard to fill up the second box. I plan to leave them alone until I treat them for mites.

 

Here is hive #4, our bees from swarm #2.

IMG_0286Ignore the crooked hive cover. These girls were mad at me for messing with them. Dan was stung twice, and I was stung once. I figured I best adjust that cover once they calm down. These are the bees who swarmed between 2 fences back in May. They appear to be doing really well right now. I do not expect to be taking any honey from them this year, but hopefully they will make it through the winter and be awesome for us next season.

 

Lastly, hive #5. Our sweet Carniolan bees who have never swarmed on us, and the lovely Queen Ruth.

IMG_0288This is what we call success. I harvested a ton of wax from them, and gladly saw that our first honey super is 90% finished with capped honey. They are working hard on the second one.

Okay, ladies, that’s enough

If they swarm again, there will be no bees left in that original hive. While we were well-prepared for the previous swarms, this one was completely unexpected.

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Surprise!!!!

Before bees swarm, they gorge a lot of the honey to hold over their appetite while seeking a new home. The hive that all of the swarms came from is now practically empty. The supers can be knocked over by poking it with your index finger.

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In comparison to our previous swarms, this one was a lot smaller. So what is their deal? Why are they doing this? Over the last month, our weather has been all over the place. On days where it was too cold, rainy, or windy, the bees stayed inside their hive. They had nothing better to do than eat and make babies. The hive became quickly overpopulated, so they had to leave. Their mind was made up, and they began the process of creating new queens. The “old” queen went on a diet (so that she could fly again), the workers gorged themselves, and planned to leave as soon as they could.

When a new queen emerges, she is supposed to kill the other queen cells. Well, she didn’t do that, hence the surprise swarm.

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This one was a very easy capture. A couple tiny branches needed to be trimmed, and the bees went right into this nuc box.

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These girls are hopefully going to a new home with another beekeeper.

Interesting fact: After all of this, we smooshed most of the queen cells that remained in the original hive. Girl, bye.

Swarm town

Today was a perfect day for swarming.

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They hang off the edge, they make a loud humming buzz that can be mistaken for a weed whacker, they crawl up the front of the box, and then they swirl through the air before landing at their first stop.

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As discussed in our last post, we prepared to have them land in a box that is perched on our tree. They chose a different location in our neighbors’ yards, in between two fences.

IMG_1916We “rescued” them by having one of us pound the fence on the wooden side, while the other swept the bees into a box on the wired side.

So are swarms really bad? They aren’t ideal for beekeepers, but they are part of the bees’ natural order. This will slow down the honey flow, which means less honey for us.

BUT! Since we were able to capture them, it’s like we got free bees! We started the year with 1 hive that survived the winter. We purchased 1 more.  Now, because of 2 swarms and one hive split, we have 4 1/2 hives.

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Interesting fact: Our Carniolan bees, the type that are known for swarming, are showing no signs of taking off soon.

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For the love of lemongrass

This is our first year being proactive with catching swarms. Our hive that swarmed a few days ago is prepping to swarm again. To increase the chance that they conveniently land in the same tree as the last swarm, we sprayed the lower branches with a mixture of water and lemongrass essential oil. Lemongrass oil mimics the pheromone that the scout bees send out when they are looking for a new place to live, so they are naturally attracted to it.

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Since we now both smell like lemongrass, the bees are attracted to us. We’ll be staying out of the yard for a couple hours.

Wish us luck!

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To catch a swarm

The beginning of May is also the beginning of swarm season. Hilariously, we posted a note to one of our neighborhood social websites early in the morning informing that if anyone sees a bee swarm, to please contact us, and we’ll remove it for free. A few hours later, this was found in our own tree.

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Swarms are inevitable, and we’ve been fortunate enough to witness at least one per year. It’s fortunate because it is one of the most mesmerizing things to see. We knew a swarm would happen soon, as we noticed that one of our hives was in the process of creating 2 new queens. We decided to try splitting the hive and creating a new one. This could create a couple different scenarios. Ideally, with a lot of luck, the original hive would decide not to swarm.  That would result in having the original hive with a new colony being created. Sadly, the queen made up her mind, and decided they have to take off anyway.

When bees swarm, their first stop is not far from the original hive. Typically, they stay in one large clump for up to 48 hours. All swarms that we have witnessed from our hives have landed about 40 feet high up in a neighbor’s tree, completely unreachable, and then they leave for their new “permanent” home within 5 hours.

You can see where our hives are located. The swarm landed right where this beekeeper is pointing:

fullsizeoutput_a7dAs a first time swarm catcher, he asked for some advice, but ultimately figured it out on his own. The bees were attached to a branch, so the branch had to be cut off. The girls were placed into a cardboard nuc box, and then we began the fun process of installing them into a deep super.fullsizeoutput_a7bWe provided them with some food, a few empty frames, and hoped for the best.

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Interesting fact: Swarming bees are harmless. Be nice.

Making of Besaw’s Bee Balm

Rendering bees wax is the hard part, which we will write about another time. That yellow thing next to the coconut oil is the beeswax. The rest of the items in this picture are the other ingredients we used.

IMG_0086First you take the beeswax and you shred it. You shred it. You shred it, shred it, shred it! This isn’t easy. It might look like it is as easy as shredding cheese in this picture, but it actually feels like you are shredding a brick.18318747_10212462425332289_1505142232_oNext, you mix in some of the oils with the beeswax, and you melt it in a double boiler until it is pure liquid. If you are feeling risky, you don’t have to use a double boiler. However, if you aren’t careful, and it actually starts boiling, hot oil shooting out at you can not only be painful, but also a serious pain to clean up. We’ve done that before, and it wasn’t pretty.18318247_10212462425252287_1967225059_oWe’ve tried several methods of pouring this hot concoction into lip balm tubes. With some 6th grade students, we tried using a beaker from science class. We tried using a teeny tiny funnel that was special ordered. Both of these ideas were effective but messy.  Finally we discovered the beauty of little disposable pipettes. We also found this cool contraption you see on top of the lip balm containers. This holds them all in place so that they can cool down easily without accidentally knocking them over while being clumsy.

18318771_10212462425292288_290528891_oAfter it dries, we cap and label them. Then we sell them for $3.00 each, or 2 for $5.00 if we are feeling saucy.

Interesting Fact: Trial-and-Error, with an emphasis on error, is what beekeeping is all about.

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Besaw’s Bee Balm and the people that like us

We owe a million thanks to our friend Allie Schnurr and my dad. We started messing around with a consistent recipe for bee balm, and with that we entered the stressful realm of creating lip balm labels.

We wish it wasn’t so difficult to come up with a decision. We wish we didn’t have to put an address on them. We wish we didn’t torture Allie by changing her free “favor” into a free job. And we are very grateful that my dad was willing to mess around with his printer, use up his ink, and drive to and from our house a bunch of times.

The labels were brought to a group of brutally honest 5th and 6th grade students who gave feedback which influenced more changes. We ended up choosing this one for our peppermint flavored Besaw’s Bee Balm. 18360848_10100229564453493_929221017_n

Our friend Robert Frank is letting us set up a mini-display tomorrow night for First Friday at the Hungerford Building. We’ll be on the 3rd floor from 6-9pm. Stop by and check out local artists, buy some stuff, and maybe buy some Bee Sauce or Bee Balm from us!

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Feed the bees and give them a drink

Part of the whole “Save the Bees” thing is making sure they have food and water. But it’s nature! They can feed themselves, right? Wrong. At least not all the time. If it’s a particularly nice day- temperature is above 50, there’s a calmness in the air, and no signs of an upcoming storm; then the bees are ready to work. They will fly out in search of pollen and nectar, and bring it back to feed the brood. Unfortunately, there is less pollen in early spring, and there isn’t enough food to go around for all of the ladies. This is where bee food comes in. At this time of year, we feed the bees sugar syrup- 1 part sugar, 1 part water. They can suck up a gallon of this stuff in a little over a week.

I don’t expect other people to be ready with sugar water for your local bees, but having accessible fresh water is a great thing. Bees become easily dehydrated and may seek out water in less than pleasant places- like your pool, if you have one.

Bird baths are great for both birds and the bees. Put a couple rocks in there for them to land on and watch them drink. Then, pat yourself on the back for helping save the bees.fullsizeoutput_7af