Sunday, December 12, 2010

Another Round of Feed; Another Deadout

After the November feeding--- where I put roughly 4 gallons of sugar/water syrup onto each of my hives--- we had a number of cold, blustery days where the bees weren't foraging much, plus I've been seeing an unusual number of dead bees outside one of my stronger hives. So, I figured it couldn't hurt to throw on another couple gallons per hive, which I just did this weekend.

In the meantime... a few months ago I removed a hive from a friend's house. I did it the easy way--- it was in a birdhouse, and my friend let me simply take the entire birdhouse. Unfortunately, I had removed a portion of the roof and never repaired it, and when we got some unseasonable rains I think the poor hive got too cold and didn't make it. Also, per my concerns regarding foragers, it looks like those that didn't succumb to the cold just plain starved to death.
Here's what it looked like when I opened the roof:

And here's how I can tell some of the hive starved. If you look closely, you can see the little bee butts sticking up. That's indicative of starvation; they're literally licking the bottom of the cells as they perish. Obviously, this provided the impetus I needed to feed the other hives right away.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

One Hive Starves; Sugar Feeding Commences

Well, I was trying to get by this year without artificially feeding the bees; that is, mixing up some one-to-one sugar syrup and feeding each hive to help them get through the dearth, as I did last year.

Backfired on me, unfortunately, as one of my hives (the one I cut out of that garage in Venice, CA, see archives) simply starved to death. I opened up their hive to find a pile of dead bees, and a number of bees with their butts sticking out of the cells--- a sure sign they were scraping the cells for food when they perished. Here's a somewhat blurry photo, but you get the idea...

So, I mixed up some syrup (1 lb (pint) water; 1 lb sugar) by boiling the water, then mixing in the sugar. I use hivetop feeders, which I pour the sugar into.

The downside is that this attracts ants. I set the legs of my hives stands into tin pans, and pour either motor oil or vegetable oil into the pans to prevent the ants from overwhelming the hive.

So, I fed them once on Oct. 30, and again on Nov 6. Every hive had thoroughly cleaned out the sugar-water, so they're hungry all right. Good news is that some trees are blooming right now, including some California Pepper and at least one species of eucalyptus.

Meanwhile, I should note that the hives at the Community Garden are loaded with honey and bringing in pollen, no need to feed them at all. I'm not going to remove any honey from them until after the winter, so they'll have plenty to live on.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

September Swarm Capture; Deadout and More

Been getting a number of calls over the past couple weeks about swarms or newly formed hives. The odds are stacked against a hive swarming right now; food sources are drying up, especially in the hills where there's virtually a total dearth. Obviously, suburban neighborhoods offer more options for bees, but still--- not much blooms in SoCal in September. It'll be a few more weeks until some of the eucalpytus kicks in, and I have seen some rosemary and red sage showing some early fall blooms... but it may be too little to sustain a newly established hive from a swarm.

That said, I got a call from Britney in Camarillo, a very nice woman who had an eye-hight swarm in her tree. I decided to go get it since I've had some deadouts recently (more on that later) and it sounded simple enough.

It was, thanks to Britney and her husband supplying a few random tools I neglected to bring along. I've noticed that my swarms do better if I immediately get them into a hive box, as opposed to bringing them home in a cardboard box and then shaking them into a hive box. So that's what I decided to do this time.

Here are a couple pix of the swarm:

Interestingly, they were gathered on the crotch of the trunk and a fairly thick branch on what I think is either a young sycamore or a liquid amber tree, so the first time I tried shaking them into a box not much happened, I didn't really budge them. I decided to get enthusiastic, and gave a really good pull--- and busted the branch right off! Which simplified things a bit--- I just carried the entire branch over to the waiting hive body and shook the bees onto the frames. I did a couple more passes at the glumps that kept reforming on the original swarm spot, brushing them into a box and then dumping that into the hive body. I waited until I saw plenty of fanning behavior, (the Nasonov pheremone I've discussed before), screened off the entrance with hardware cloth, strapped the hive into a single unit (bottom board, hive body, inner cover, telescoping cover), stuck the entire thing in the back of my Honda Element and headed for one of my beeyards.


When I got to the beeyard, I saw that one of the nucs which held a previous swarm had failed--- either they bailed out, or they died out. Which makes it nearly a hundred percent failure rate for this locale in terms of going from nuc to hive--- six total nucs, and only one has survived to become a regular hive, and they're going strong. Don't know if the high failure rate is because of yellow jackets, (there was a nest nearby, which I recently eliminated) or they just didn't have enough food stores to prepare for the dearth.

Later, back at one of my two beeyards at home, a rudimentary check showed suspicious activity outside one hive. Looked like robbing, instead of normal hive activity. When I noticed yellow jackets entering without opposition, I figured the hive was a deadout. I opened it up, and I was right. In fact, the wax moths had gone to work. Wax moths infest weak or dead hives, laying eggs in the comb (where there's honey and brood) and the larva tunnel their way through the comb, leaving a kind of webbing behind. Here are several pix of the affected comb. You can clearly see the "trails" caused by the larvae burrowing eating a burrow through the comb...

The hive that died was the one I got from the compost bin (you can see the story and pix on this blog). I had noticed what seemed to be a vastly disproportionate number of drones at that hive a few months ago; so I have a feeling the queen died and a worker became a drone layer. It happens sometimes; and once it happens a hive is doomed, because drones are useless to a hive. They do no work, they don't forage, they don't contribute in any way other than to go out and try to mate with a queen. Whereupon, they inject their sperm and die. What a way to go.

Finally... ALL my honey sold out! I've got nothing for my two wholesale accounts until next harvest, and my goal is to double my output next year by splitting my hives and catching lots of swarms.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

One Beeyard Shrinks; A New Account Lands

Just checked in on the beeyard at a ranch about a mile away, where I'd placed some of my smaller swarms. The only one still in healthy condition is the one I trapped myself in a "bait hive" placed in an old treehouse on my property. The three smaller swarms in nuc's all left, and their hives were robbed out--- maybe in reverse order, actually, since I also found and killed a yellow jacket nest about 15 yards away from the hives.

Tuesday I'll check the hives at the Community Garden. They seem to be doing well, and I'd love to extract honey from the larger hive there--- it should have a very unique taste!

By the way: my wife landed my first wholesale account for me! I sold a case of twelve oz jars of Summer Wildflower honey to a great cafe in Agoura Hills called "Blue Table."

They specialize in healthy fare, with absolutely awesome sandwiches and salads at very reasonable prices. I noticed they were selling 7oz "Lavender infused" honey there for around 12 bucks, and it was coming from out-of-state, so I'm hoping my local honey does well there. It's an ideal place to have my honey, so I'm eager to see how it does. Here it is, ready to sell...

Monday, August 2, 2010

No Luck With New Swarm

Well, that picnic-table swarm (see below) stuck around for exactly one day. I got 'em on a Tuesday, and when I checked on Thursday the hive was empty. I'm wondering if they reacted badly to the comb I'd put in from one of my other "vanished" hives... maybe there's something in the comb they find repugnant?

At any rate, I charged $100 for this particular removal, so I still came out okay. One thing seems clear; there's never going to be a shortage of "bee calls!"

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

One Hive Leaves; Another Served Up On (or Under) a Table

After harvesting a full super of sage honey from my strongest (of only two) Carniolan hives, I placed the empty super back on the hive for them to clean up. Bad news is, this resulted in two things; an invasion of ants, and evidently some serious robbing by the other bees in the yard. The unfortunate result was that the Carni's absconded, leaving an empty hive. I broke it down and stored the frames, only to get a call from a trailer-park manager that a swarm had set up on their premises and they needed it removed.

The location was in Ventura, which is too much of a drive to do a free swarm removal. As it happens I was heading in that general direction for another reason today, so I told him I'd stop by and get the swarm, but I'd have to charge $100. Still way more affordable than an exterminator, and he was fine with that.

When I got there, here's what I found:

I suspected that this swarm had started to set up shop and create a hive, as they'd been there for 4 days and seemed to be behaving like a hive. Lots of waggle dancing going on, and when I looked underneath, just a boatload of bees.

I put a cardboard box underneath and slowly pushed a paint scraper along the underside of the table, causing a good portion of the bees to fall into the box. I closed that box up; obtained another box from the park manager, and repeated the exercise with as much of the remaining cluster as I could. I sealed them up, took them home, and dumped both into the previously abandoned deep hive body. To give them a running start, since we're closing in on a dearth here, I alternated frames; using four of the drawn-out comb frames from the Carni hive, and six fresh foundation frames. (I didn't like the looks of some of the other Carni frames, and in fact found wax moths and/or wax moth larva on three of them, which I set out for foragers to clean up).

As of tonight it seems the relocated bees have settled, so I'm fairly confident I got the queen. Time will tell.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Bottled and Awaiting Labels

So I filled a variety of bottles with this honey, which this time around is what I call, "Amarillo." The Spanish sounds so much better than "yellow," doesn't it...

Taste-wise, it's amazing. Very subtle and buttery, with an understated sweet after-taste. Really good.

From the four hives, even with the extractor difficulties I described earlier which rent a few combs asunder, we pulled about 86 lbs. Here's the haul, all bottled and waiting for labels:

One additional note: Saturday I did a short "bee seminar" for the Los Flores Community Garden where I have two hives, and I brought the last of my April honey harvest to sell. They snapped them all up; I LOVE gardeners!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

A Honey Extracting Party

I decided to celebrate Independence Day this year by liberating some honey from several of my hives. In all, I took nearly five full supers from four hives. Other hives weren't quite ready; whether they had lots of uncapped honey or were too young (swarms; hive cutouts) to have excess honey.

My longtime friends (a million years ago from high school, for cryin' out loud!) Rob and Catherine came over to lend a hand. Both were very interested in the process, and I was more than happy to get the help! Here's they are, learning to uncap the honey frames:

And here's a shot of one of the frames. We had approximately 40 or so that looked like this:

Notice the dark patch? We actually had a surprising mix of honey; ranging from very dark (I'm guessing California buckwheat, Hollyleaf Cherry and wildflowers/domestic flowers like red apple and lavender) to nearly clear (we had an awesome sage bloom this year, with at least three different sage types). Can't wait to sample what that eclectic blend tastes like!

We ran into some delay when the extractor started "binding," meaning the gears weren't properly meshing and it was nearly impossible to spin. Fortunately, Rob is the next best thing to McGyver, and he had it disassembled, cleaned, lubed and up and running again in no time.

We left a heap of cappings in the extractor to drain through the filter when we were done, and it looks like we just about filled the holding tank under the extractor--- meaning we got about 100 lbs; which is about what I estimated. Remember, I took honey from some of these same hives on April 10 of this year, so in just under three months they replenished their reserves quite nicely. Depending on how the summer/fall flow looks, I hope to do another extraction right around this date in October.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

An Easy Hive Cutout

I got a call a couple weeks ago from a very nice lady named Kim, who said a newly formed hive over her garage was becoming quite the tourist attraction in her neighborhood. She felt the hive needed to be removed, but was quite adamant about keeping the bees alive in the process. I assured her I could and would. I've started to shy away from cutouts, as I'm finding only about a 50% success rate in terms of the bees staying in their relocated home, but Kim's hive was very accessible and I was so impressed with her concern for the bees, I decided to do this one.

Here's what the hive looked like:

I set up a ladder and a makeshift platform to hold my homemade bee vacuum:

Then, I started vacuuming bees from the comb:

As I removed a majority of bees from each comb, I'd slice them from the stucco using my hive tool. Then I vacuumed off any leftover bees on each comb, and put the comb into a covered bucket.

The activity drew quite a crowd in the neighborhood, so I took the opportunity to give a little bee education to the kids, and let them taste some honey fresh from the comb. Note the amount of capped brood on the comb; I was actually able to show the kids all stages of larva and even some emerging bees.

Once I got all the comb cut away, I had to chase after the holdouts inside the light fixture that was hidden under the hive. I didn't want to miss the queen, and I was worried she might have skedaddled up into a hiding place in the fixture.

It was nearly dark by the time I finished, so I left the vacuum box filled with bees in my truck until morning. Bright and early I rubber-banded most of the comb into frames, loaded the frames into a nuc, and took the nuc and bees over to the Las Flores Community Garden in Thousand Oaks where I have another hive. That's where I opened up the vacuum box and shook them into the nuc. Here's their new home:

Notice the tin pie pans under each leg of the hive stand? I had to put those there because the very first night this poor hive was inundated with ants. So, I put oil (it's an organic garden, so I used corn oil, although at home I often use old motor oil) into the pans, and the ants can't access the hive. All's well; it appears I definitely got the queen, because they're doing fine, bringing in pollen and doing all the regular bee stuff.

I'll end this post with a look at an absolutely humongous hive that I declined to remove. I would have needed three of the vacuums I have at least, and the comb was gigantic. Weird to see it completely exposed in a tree about 15 feet off the ground, but that's where it was. Here's a look; hope the size translates in these photos...

Monday, May 31, 2010

Bee-zy Come, Bee-zy Go

Haven't posted in awhile because I've been too damn busy answering swarm and hive cutout calls! After giving my name to the Ventura County Fire Dept. as a resource, I've been getting 2-3 calls a day, which of course I have to handle after work. Many times the swarm leaves before I can get there; sometimes the "swarm" is actually an established hive entailing a complicated cutout (which I turn down).

In the meantime, while I've been capturing swarms, a few of the hive cutouts I did do (one as a favor to a neighbor) immediately absconded after I hived them. A lot of work for nothing. In fact, my experience has been that 50% of the hive cutouts aren't happy with their new home, and take off for parts unknown. That little hive I showed below, the one inside the utility closet? Gone. Same with a HUGE hive I cut out of a neighbors garage cabinet. Three hours of work and one torn veil--- down the drain, they left after one day.

On the other hand, I've been lucky enough to catch several swarms. One in a tree in Newbury Park:

Another from a bush in Simi Valley; another from a tree in Moorpark (a weird swarm, it'd been there for five days and seemed very lethargic; jury's out on whether that one will survive); and this one in a Simi Valley rose bush:

I hived all of these into nucs, and the ol' beeyard was starting to get a bit crowded. Plus, I was desperate for a location for the swarm I trapped with a bait hive (a hive body filled with frames, and "baited" with a little lemongrass oil to catch a wandering swarm). I needed to expand that trapped swarm to a larger hive, and I didn't want to do that up in the treehouse where the bait hive was!

Anyway, GREAT NEWS! A neighbor at a nearby ranch was kind enough to offer an excellent location for a an "outyard," so I moved four of the nucs there on Saturday night. I went back Sunday morning to expand the one hive into a deep hive body, and let me tell you, they were PISSED OFF! Sent all my audience (some of the folks from the ranch) scurrying for cover, and I literally had to go for a walk before the bees would stop head-butting my veil. I then had to sneak up on my truck and take off, because I didn't want them finding me again and getting in the truck with me!

I got the hive transferred into a deep, but had to leave the old nuc body there. It still had a generous number of bees, and I just didn't want to shake them into the already boiling-mad hive. So, I left it in front of their new home, and I'll go back next week to retrieve it and see if the hive has settled in. The other three, by the way, did just fine with the transition.

I'll take some pix of the new location for my next post.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

More Free Bees!

On Saturday I got a call from a neighbor who was having some tree trimming done. Seems midway through one cut the guy sliced into a hive, and bailed out of the tree post-haste (leaving his chainsaw imbedded in the tree).

Anyway, Mike gave me a call for help, and I headed over. It was WAYYY up high, so I climbed up the biggest ladder I've got and sawed through the rest of the trunk while Mike supposedly belayed from below. This shot might give you an idea of the size of this thing:

Actually, I guess it doesn't. Trust me, this was Paul Bunyon territory. The hive entrance is that huge knot on the left. Anyway, when I cut it through the damn thing swung around like a battering ram. I ducked close to the ladder so it missed my head, but it gave me a good whack on the shoulder. Didn't knock me off the ladder, fortunately.

So we lowered it to the ground, I stapled hardware cloth over the openings, and three of us lifted it into my truck. When I got home I just rolled into an empty field next door and pushed the thing out. I pulled the hardware cloth off the openings, and when I last checked the hive is doing fine in their newly mobile home.

And then today...

I got a call from a homeowner with a "swarm" in their utility closet--- you know, the outside closet where the electric meter and the fusebox live. Here are a couple shots:

I grabbed a cardboard box and put it under the cluster, and then used a drywall knife to scrape along the ceiling, the idea being to dislodge the cluster. Only it turns out this wasn't a swarm, but a new hive with three or four combs started! I sliced right through the comb, dropping the entire mess into the box. With no other idea, I simply poured the whole thing, comb and all, into a nuc, and added some frames. I repeated the process several times to continue to remove clustering bees, but I could tell from the fanning activity at the nuc that I'd captured the queen on the first try.

So, I got as many bees as I could and then closed up the nuc, stuck it in my car, and took them home. Here they are on their temporary stand in one of my beeyards:

And finally... one that I let get away. This was a call from the Simi Valley Police Dept regarding a hive that supposedly had bothered some kids. Here's what I found at the end of a cul de sac:

I told them it was not something I wanted to deal with. for one thing, ground-based hives have a better chance of being Africanized, making them more aggressive. For another, I would have needed a city employee to open the manhole cover, and I would have had to bring a generator to power the bee-vac in order to get all the bees.

I also turned down a call to get two hives out of a guy's attic. The idea of laying on my stomach in a hot attic in my beesuit with the (loud) bee-vac going for an hour next to my head was just not very appealing.

But I keep getting one or two calls a day, mostly due to the flier I gave the Ventura County Fire Dept. Tomorrow afternoon I go to Simi Valley again, this time to pick up a wine barrel with a hive inside. The homeowner said I could take the barrel, so this'll be an easy one.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Caught One of My Own Swarms

So, I was tooling around getting ready to feed the emus at about 10:30 AM on Saturday when I heard an unusual amount of buzzing overhead. Turns out that a swarm must have issued from one of my own hives, and they'd taken up residence in a pepper tree immediately outside the beeyard. Can you spot 'em?

First, a little perspective. Then a close-up:

I grabbed a ladder, a cardboard box, and a nuc (smaller, five-frame hive) plus five frames of new foundation. I keep supplies like this on hand, as Foghorn Leghorn used to say, "For just such an emergency." Anyway, climbed up, held the box under the ball o' bees, and shook. Most of them dropped in a glump down into the box, and I immediately shook them into the nuc. There were a lot of them!

I watched for awhile, and started to slide the top closed. I had to go back up the ladder twice to shake in smaller groups; some of them kept re-congregating at the original swarm location. I kept getting them and shaking them into the nuc, closing the top a little each time...

It was at that point I got really lucky and actually spotted the queen scooting down between the frames! So, I quickly shut them up and took them to their new home... really just about 150 yards uphill at my other beeyard. Here they are:

They immediately started "fanning," a behavior that shows they are marking this as their new home. They stick their abdomens up and release a pheremone from their Nasonov gland (named after the famous beekeeper, Joe Nasonov, who used to mark his territory in much the same way after a plate of refries)and fan it into the air. Other bees fly around orienting themselves visually and with the help of the pheremone, and before you know it, the new hive is up and running! You can spot the fanning behavior here, if you look closely:

It was a busy weekend. On Friday evening I went over to the Community Garden and switched out the nuc for a single "deep" hive, as they were starting to get crowded. I set them next to each other, like this:

I checked the frames as I moved them (briefly, it was really windy) and they were full of capped brood, so another population explosion is on the way in a week or so. Not a lot of capped honey, so they're living hand-to-mouth right now, but they'll catch up once they've got a larger number of foragers. Here they are, all ensconsed in their spacious new digs:

Sunday, April 25, 2010

And the Bees Just Keep On Comin'...

After spending all day Saturday at an Earth/Arbor Day Event--- I had a booth there for my fund-raising company, E-Waste Fundraising--- I got a call from Kim, who heads up the Los Flores Community Garden where I've got a hive (see post below).

A fellow garden member had called her saying there was a swarm of bees that had settled in her compost bin, and could I please come get them? There was an hour or so of daylight left, so I grabbed a nuc box (a small, five-frame hive box; same size as I have in the community garden) and motored over for some free bees!

When I got there, the homeowner had left the lid of the bin on top of her other trash can. Seems she'd opened the compost bin, was a bit surprised by the horde of bees inside, and beat a hasty retreat without replacing the lid. Here's what I found underneath:

If you said, "Hey, that's not a swarm, that's a brand new hive!" you'd be right. You can see the beginnings of comb there in the middle. The homeowner was sure the bees hadn't been there for more than a day or two, so they were working fast. Bees love compost bins, presumably because they're dark and warm and well-protected from the weather.

Anyway, I treated them like a regular swarm. Just picked up the lid and shook it over the nuc, with several frames removed. I waited a bit for all to settle, and then put some more frames in. I scooped up by hand any globs of congregating bees that had missed the box, stuck the top on (I had the entrance blocked with hardware cloth) and went home.

The whole operation took about 15 minutes, most of which was spent waiting to give all the bees a chance to reorient from the trash can lid. To help that out, I actually leaned the trash can down onto the open hive box, so they could sense the queen inside and would walk in on their own.

I brought 'em home, left them for the night in the back of the truck, and put them on a hive stand in the AM. I checked a couple times today; they were orienting themselves and doing very well.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Cupola Cutout

Well, in spite of the imminent threat of rain I headed over to Newbury Park today around 4:30PM to remove a hive that had ensconced itself in a cupola (an architectural flourish to add character to the roofline; in this case basically a little triangular projection above a window).

The homeowner, a former fire chief and a current carpenter, was a huge help. He built a platform for me to stand on, and had already removed all the nails from the sheeting on the front of the cupola. Plus, he had an extension ladder in place. So, all I needed was:

- The bee vacuum (see my log removal video to view this in action)
- Hive tool (for cutting away comb)
- Smoker and additional smoker fuel
- Bucket with a cover (for the comb)
- Veil and jacket
- Thick rubber gloves
- Flashlight

I pulled away the sheeting, and here's what I saw:

Here's a closer view. Doesn't look like too big a hive from here, does it?

Suffice to say there's more than meets the eye. The hive was six combs deep, with a good-sized population hiding away from me on the opposite side of each comb. I started by smoking them thoroughly, although I have to say that this was an extremely docile hive throughout the procedure, even when my smoker petered out due to user neglect :-)

Anyway, after smoking I started vacuuming, and as I cleaned each comb up I'd reach in, cut it free, and carefully transfer it into a bucket. Each comb had a good mix of capped and open brood of various ages. You can see the multi-colored pollen on that foremost comb in the photo above; there was also a decent amount of stored honey--- all in all, a very healthy hive.

When I finished, here's how it looked:

I hurried home with a boxful of bees and a bucket full of comb, trying to beat the oncoming darkness and rain to get these gals hived. I strapped their brood comb into frames, like this:

I added some regular frames of foundation, and got them hived just as the rains started. As I write this it's really coming down; wind is howling, and absolutely pouring. I know there were some stragglers when I hived them; I'm sure they got caught by the rain and probably didn't make it into the hive. I scooped as many as I could by hand and put them in, and I made sure I didn't see the queen wandering around anywhere before I closed them up. Hopefully she's in there; you never can tell with a cutout, because there are inevitably a number of "leftover" bees and plenty of casualties. I never actually saw her, but I was careful to vacuum any "glumps" of bees in particular, thinking that they may be crowding around the queen. Time will tell.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Winter's Honey Extraction and More

First, I'll follow up on the hive that I placed at the Community Garden (see below post). It's doing very well. I opened it up and took a look; a solid two frames of bees, and they immediately started drawing out the foundation-only frames I'd put in there. They're going to do just fine. I'll give 'em a couple more weeks, and then I'll move them into a full-size 10-frame hive.

Now, on to the subject of this post: honey extraction. One of the best things about beekeeping in the SoCal climate is that we actually can get an "end-of-winter" harvest. We had some nice rains in Feb., and the combination of Ceonothus, Eucalyptus, various Rosemary strains, and Lavenders led to some excellent build-ups in a couple of my hives.

Here's a shot of one of the frames from a 10-frame super; every frame on the super looked roughly like this. You're looking at capped honey, and along the sides some uncapped but perfectly extractable honey.

Here's another frame, this time immediately after I uncapped. I just use a serrated knife, which I dip frequently into very hot water, and slide it along the bottom bar of the frame to slice as thin a layer of cappings wax as I can.

When I pulled the frames from the hives, I use Fisher Bee-Quick, a natural repellant which I spray on a special "fume board." Here's the video I did last year, showing how that's done:

Which all looks and sounds great in theory. Unfortunately, sometimes you run across supers that have some brood in the frames, and the bees are very reluctant to leave. That's what happened in the case of one of the hives, so I had to use a "bee brush" (a soft paintbrush works well too) to brush bees off the honey frames prior to putting them into a tupperware container. You don't want to leave the honey frames out in the open, or you start a robbing frenzy when the other bees in the yard get a whiff of the honey.

All that brushing makes them mad, and I learned something: if you wash leather glvoes enough, they eventually lose that sting-proof quality that made them so desireable in the beginning. I got nailed THROUGH the glove; which meant the poison sac was actually outside the glove, and the doggone stinger was puncturing my hand again and again as I moved around inside the glove. I had my hands full, so couldn't remove it.

So here's my regular, unstung hand:

And here's the other one, about twelve hours after I finished pulling the frames:

Finally... I got a call today from a guy that has a beehive in a kind of soffit under some gables--- they're entering through an opening in the roof. He's going to build be a platform I can stand on while I pull this hive out tomorrow. I'll post some pix--- wish me luck! :-)

PS- By the way, the honey is friggin' delicious! I extracted a total of 16 frames from two hives, (ten from the hive I did a split on just a few weeks ago!) and I'll weigh all that to see what it comes to, pound-wise. The purple sage flow is starting, so I wanted to clear all the supers in preparation.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Placed the Swarm Hive in a Community Garden

A few months ago I got the idea of contacting some local community gardens and asking if they'd like me to place a hive or two on their grounds. After all, if anyone appreciates the hard work honeybees do, it's gardeners.

It took awhile to get the okay from the Thousand Oaks Park and Rec, but finally I got a call from the president of the Las Flores Community Garden, telling me that everyone was very enthusiastic about getting their very own "community garden beehive."

So, after work on Friday, right around dusk (so all the foragers would be back in the hive) I grabbed the nuc which had just functioned as a swarm trap, stuffed a little hardware cloth into the entrance to keep all the gals inside, grabbed a spare stand and headed over to the garden. I set up the hive in a low-traffic area, off to the side of a storage shed and within easy access of a nearby gate. Here we are on moving day:

Yes, I remembered to remove the hardware cloth before I left :-)

Tomorrow I'll stop by and see if they adjusted okay. I'll probably open the box and take a peek, just to get some idea of the population size, too.

I think this may be a great way to educate people about bees, and to help beehives gain acceptance into suburban areas--- many of which have rules that severely limit or curtail beekeeping.

And what a great environment for the bees! All kinds of blooming veggies, herbs, decor plants, even citrus... they should have a great time!