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Crazy New Beekeepers

July 7th, 2009

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while you know we’re new beekeepers. We got our first hive back in April. We’ve been checking on the bees regularly and they’re doing quite well.
The week before last Mr Chiots checked on the bees one day while I was gone and he got stung. He looked inside the hive and didn’t see any eggs so he got worried that our queen was MIA. He called Dave, the guy we got our bees off of, for some advice and Dave suggested requeening the hive. So we ordered up a new queen. We were hoping to get an Ohio Queen Project Queen, but the guy we wanted to buy from was out of queens for the year. So we ordered up another lovely Italian lady.
We got the queen. We decided to do one more hive check to see what was going on inside. Low and behold the hive was bustling with activity and the queen was in there doing her job laying eggs and everything looked just like it should. We called Dave and he suggested requeening anyways, which would involve catching and killing our old queen. We didn’t really want to do that because she’s been such a great queen so far, so we decided to do what any crazy beekeepers would do, we decided to split our hive.
We ran out and bought the few things we needed and went about splitting our hive. Basically when you split a hive you take some of the bees from the orginal hive and put them in a new hive with the new queen. You leave her in her cage for a few days so the bees accept her as theirs and then you release her and you’ve got yourself another hive of bees.
Now of course, nothing is as simple or as easy and it sounds on paper or in our heads. There are a lot of steps involved in splitting the hive, the most tedious task being finding the old queen to make sure she’s not in the frames you move over to the new hive.
After searching and searching we finally found her (she is unmarked). She was of course not in the same spot she’s been every other time we’ve checked our hive, which made us a little nervous at first. But we finally found her and put her safe and sound back into her old hive.
The smoker comes in quite handy during these times since it keeps the bees occupied while you’re trying to work. Since we were in the hive for so long looking for the queen we were glad we had it around.
We then moved some frames over to the new hive and put the new queen cage in. Dave suggested we wait 4 days to release her, so today’s the day we plan on doing that. If they accept her, which they should, we’ll how have hive #2 at Chiot’s Run. The one thing we have to worry about is that both of our hives can build up enough reserves of honey and pollen for the winter. We plan on feeding them some sugar syrup through the dry nectar flow in July-Aug so give them the best chance of survival.
So we now have 2 hives at Chiot’s Run. We hope they both are strong going in to winter, if not we may combine them again for better winter survival chances. We haven’t even named the first one and now we have another.

Have you ever done anything crazy where you had no idea what you were doing but went ahead and jumped in with both feet?

Bees in the Garden

May 23rd, 2009

I love seeing the ladies in the garden working while I’m out and about. I’m always trying to take photos of them, but they’re always so busy and working so quickly. I finally got this one.
These chives are obviously delicious as you can see since she’s diving right in! I’m also very happy to see the ladies enjoying the strawberry blossoms. They’ll get lots of pollen and I’ll get lots of berries.
This year I’ve been noticing more and more pollinators in the gardens. We have many different kinds of bees and wasps around. I think it’s because we’ve been working on making our gardens more diverse with plants that are beneficial for the pollinators.

What are you doing for the pollinators in your life?

Checking on the Ladies

May 13th, 2009

This past Saturday we did a hive check on the ladies. I figured you’d all be wanting an update on them so I took some photos for you. We removed all of the frames from the brood box (that’s what they call the bottom boxes on the hives where the bees live). We checked each frame to see how much of it the bees had covered with comb and how much contained capped larvae.
What you see on the left hand side of this frame is capped brood, those are baby bees that are forming. On the right hand side you can see the empty hive cells, those are bees that have hatched out already.
We were super excited to see that we had our first batch of hatched bees! That is a good sign for sure. We even got to see one bee chewing her way out of her cell. We also spotting the queen, which is much easier now that we’ve gotten the hang of it since she’s not marked.
We’re quite excited at how well the ladies are doing. We added a new brood box because they had just about filled up the bottom one entirely, so now our hive is taller. It’s very exciting to see them doing so well. I’ve been spotting the ladies at work about the yard when I’m out working. It’s kind of nice to see them every now and then.

Anyone else noticing the pollinators this spring now that things are starting to bloom?

The Balance of Nature: Bugs, Good and Bad

April 30th, 2009

The insects world is quite an amazing thing, there are so many of all shapes, sizes and colors.
Insects can be good or bad; spiders are good, aphids are bad (I realize spiders aren’t technically insects, but we’re going to include them). The good insects are predatory and they feast on other insects, these are the kinds of insects you want to have around.
Some bugs are very beneficial, but they creep us out – spiders are the main culprit here. I have made peace with all of the big wolf spiders that live around our home (and boy can these guys get HUGE). I have to remember that they eat tons of bad insects.
You can order beneficial insects from various dealers and release them on your property. Certain insects can really help deal with an infestation of another insect. For example: Ladybugs LOVE aphids. If you have an aphid problem, order some ladybugs or some green lacewings. Here is some great information about the best predatory insects for your gardens.
Insects are also beneficial to the gardens because many of them are pollinators. Pollinators are great in the garden because they increase your crops.
There are all kinds of pollinators you can encourage in your gardens without actually having to keep bees. The easiest way is to buy a Mason Bee house to encourage these little orchard bees to reside on your property.

Do you welcome bugs into your gardens?

Setting up our Bee Hive

April 10th, 2009

Yesterday afternoon we moved the ladies outside (for those of you that didn’t visit yesterday, read about the ladies here). We carried the hive outside when it was warm and set up in the spot we picked at the back of our property.
We chose this location because we are surrounded by woods and this is the least likely spot for our bees to bother any neighbors.
I tell you what, this bee suit cracks me up every time I see it. It kind of looks like a space man landed in the back yard.
The ladies were much more active today since it was warmer. You can see them all clustering around the opening where we had the feeding jar (we removed the jar for this photo).
We set the hive up just like it was in the garage. Tomorrow morning when it’s still chilly we’ll take off the bottom box and remove the original cage that they came in. We removed the covering from the door and replaced it with a smaller one, allowing them access to the outside, but not opening it up too much so predators don’t get in.
The ladies sure were happy to get out and stretch their wings.
They were all taking their orientation flights. Bees take short trips that get progressively longer to orient themselves to the position of their new hive. I was out working later and some of the ladies were getting quite brave in their trips out, they were buzzing by me in the front yard.

So does our experience convince anyone else to try keeping bees?


This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.