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bee1 03/23/07 - We're having a nice, warm day today. After all the snow we've gotten the past few weeks, we are particularly happy. And the bees are too! They were out and about. If you click on this picture you will get a larger version and see all the bees down at the entrance to the hive. I took this picture around 10AM when it was just over 60 degrees. As the day warmed up to almost 70, the girls were buzzing about in complete happiness.



This is a picture of one of the girls on a flower. She was extremely patient with me as I squatted down pretty closely to her to snap a few pictures. She finally had enough and flew at my face before buzzing off. We have Russian bees. They like to greet you by getting in your face. Although they are really mild mannered, you can annoy them and I end up doing that regularly because they are so darn cute I like to get a little close. Click on the picture to get a better look.



Here's another one of our girls out looking for something to pollinate. Makes you want to just plant a kiss right on her little head, doesn't it?





Here's a picture of the apiary. You can see them buzzing around the hive entrances. They really love these nice warm days!





And here's the reason for all the buzzing - at 10AM it was over 60 degrees! I wrote a little about our day with the bees on The Bee Buzz blog. Check it out!




Girls Cleaning House



04/07/07 - It's gotten cold again. We were in the 20s last night. I went down to check on the girls around 1PM and it was about 30 degrees. The girls were staying close to home and they were busy doing a little house cleaning. If you click this picture you can see a couple of the girls coming out of the entrance - and all the dead bees they've been busy removing are scattered on the landing in front of it. I added a blog entry about how they're doing. Check it out!





04/22/07 - We're hoping (read praying) that the cold weather is finally out of here. Yesterday it was in the 80's and were so many bees trying to get in and out of the hive reducers that were added for winter protection that we decided to go ahead and remove them. In this first picture, Bernie is prying the reducer loose.



In this picture he has removed both reducers from the hive. You should have seen how darn happy the girls were to be free to go in and out without waiting in line to do so!



All of the hive reducers have been removed in this picture. If you click it you'll get the larger version and be able to see all the bees buzzing aound the hives. They truly were grateful and with the weather heating up, it will keep them cooler on those hot days in the sun.



Although some trees and flowers are just starting to bloom, we have a bumper crop of dandilions and they are available all around the apiary. I got a few nice pictures of the girls enjoying the weeds. They really tickle me the way they dig deep into the flowers for the good stuff.



Here's another one of our girls really enjoying the dandilions. I view dandilions a little differently now - I kind of dread Bernie having to mow them down next week. But the grass is a little out of control - and I'm certain the bees will have more wonderful dandilions to enjoy within a day or so of mowing.




The girls get a little tired of me following them around with a camera. I tried to snap this picture while she was on a flower, but about the time I snapped it, she flew off. I actually like the picture, so I cropped it to just show her flying, and if you click it the larger picture will show her wings are a blur as she runs away from me. I updated the blog with the latest on our bees. If you are interested in seeing the damage we sustained from this last storm, check out the Back To Basic Living website. The girls held up amazingly well and we are really proud of how strong and healthy they are.



04/28/07 - Today was only around 60 degrees, but the girls sure were active. They established a flight path to some dogwood and redbud trees that just started blooming. It was really quite awesome to watch them. With 6 hives containing at the very least 10,000 bees each, there were quite a few bees buzzing about. The flight path was almost black with so many bees.



I didn't get any pictures of the flight path because we were mowing and weed eating when we noticed it. But we did go back and get these couple of pictures of the hive entrances. It was much later when we got there, and while there were still a few buzzing about, it was nothing like it was earlier. I wrote about it on the blog.



05/05/06 - Wow! You should have seen the pollen these girls were bringing in on their back legs. It was really amazing to watch. We managed to get a few pictures, but it really doesn't do justice to seeing it in person. Click these pictures to get a bigger view of it. You'll notice the bee with bright yellow back legs. That's the pollen.



A lot of the girls would attempt to land at the front of the porch, but their weight would throw them off and they'd land in the grass. Then they would get to the top of a piece of grass and manage to fly up to the porch. It was really cool to watch. I can't imagine how heavy all that pollen was. I wrote about this on our blog.



I put up a sign to warn people that there are bees in our yard. One of our neighbors down the road told us their dog got stung by our bees. I said "Well, you know we have bees and that's what they do when they feel threatened." He agreed and said he wasn't blaming us, and that he'd do better at containing his dogs. None the less, we decided a warning sign might be wise.



We have two hives that we consider our "weak" hives. They've just never done as well as the other four. This weekend we noticed scat at the front of both hives - not just a little scat, ALOT of scat! We think a skunk has been into the bees and picked the two weak hives. Tomorrow we'll string some more electric wire just a few inches from the ground in hopes of distracting the skunks from the bees.



Dealing with predators is a part of living in the country - but it's still not very pleasant. We'll expand the electric fence in the hopes of keeping the skunks out. If that does not work, we'll have to come up with plan B.

Read about our weekend on our blog.



05/20/07- This is a picture of the "skunk fence" we added to the electric fence. We layed about 1/3 of the chicken wire on the ground, folded it and then put the remaining 2/3 up on the fence post.



Here's a picture of it from the second hive on up the hill.



Click on this picture and look to the left - about halfway down - and you'll see one of the girls returning to the hive with her pollen baskets full. That yellow on her back legs is actually florescent in real life! Too cool.



If you look at about the middle of the entrance, you'll see another girl going in with her pollen baskets full.



This is a picture of a drone next to a worker bee. It's difficult to see his large size next to hers because he is shriveling in his death, but you can clearly see his larger features, including his larger head and larger eyes.



Look to the center left and you'll see another girl's pollen baskets full as she heads inside the hive to announce her bounty.



Look from center to right in this picture and you'll notice most of the girls have thier heads down and rear ends raised. You can't see in this picture, but thier wings are going 90 miles an hour. This is how the girls regulate the temperature in the hive. When it is called for, the girls frantically fan thier wings to circulate air through the hives.



This picture didn't come out as clearly as I would have liked, but I included it because it fascinates me. Look in the middle of this picture and you will see one of the girls headed into the entrance with her pollen baskets full - but they aren't bright yellow like the others. I have no idea where she gathered this pollen, but it looks almost gray. Very interesting. I can't wait to see the color of our honey!



You can see the girls checking each other out in this picture. The "guards" typically check out every one entering the hive to ensure they belong to this particular hive.



I believe we've detected a suspected honey robber! Notice how everyone's attention is focused to one particular honey bee being attacked in the bottom left of this picture. We have two weak hives, and I wouldn't be surprised if they occasionally send someone to rob honey from the stronger hives. Regardless, someone is trying to enter this hive and is not being well received!


Just a nice picture of a guard checking out someone trying to gain access to the hive. I wrote a little on our blog about the weekend and how the girls are doing.


05/28/2007 - Happy Memorial Day! When we arrived at the homestead on Friday night, we were greeted by one of our hives having a bunch of bees globbed onto the front of it. We know bees will do this when it is too hot, but it was in the low 80s all weekend, and they never went inside when it dropped to around 60s each night. A quick check with Iddee (username) on Homesteadingtoday.com left us knowing we had a hive that is indeed hot - and way too crowded. It is, by far, our most active hive, so it makes sense that the girls are too crowded.



Since it's a long weekend and we had guests coming out Sunday, we waited to add supers to the hives until Monday. Certainly with all the pollen and the nectar flow, it's time for supers for all of them - and it will make some room for the crowded hive and keep them gainfully employed drawing out comb and making honey. Bernie weed wacked around in the apiary to make sure we wouldn't loose any tools while working in there. Click to enlarge the picture and you can see the "crowded" hive - 4th from the very front.


This is our weakest hive. Once we opened it and removed a frame we realized beyond doubt that this hive is in a little bit of trouble. The frames on either end were completely empty and had not been drawn out. The hives in the middle were full of bees, however, so there is hope. We added a super, said a little prayer, and closed it up. It's up to Mother Nature at this point. Keep your fingers crossed. This picture was before we removed the feeder box and added a super.


Since this was the very first time we ever opened the hives, I was busy helping Bernie for most of it and didn't get as many pictures of the process as I would have liked. But after doing three hives, I did step back and snap pictures on occassion. Here is a picture of Bernie smoking the upper entrance before he removes the strap and pries open the lid.


Here he is removing the lid. The girls had sealed all the lids pretty well with propolis. The strong hives had girls in the top feeder box that greeted us. We didn't even use smoke on the last two hives we opened. It became very apparent that our girls were in a great mood and not aggressive in the least. I had a few fly up and head butt me, but went on their way pretty quickly.


This was one of the first few that we did, so Bernie smoked it before removing the feeder box.


He took off the top hive entrance to get a look inside.


Once inside, we could see this hive was buzzing with activity.


Bernie replaced the top hive entrance, and then placed a super on top of it. We're hoping to find these supers pretty full of honey in the next few weeks. Before we started on the hives, we placed a super with nine frames beside each hive. It was interesting that by the time we got finished with the first couple of hives, the girls from the other hives had already found the supers and were checking them out.


Once the super is on the hive, the frames are adjusted to space them evenly. Most people put ten frames in each super, but John (the guy we bought the hives from) only used nine frames per super to allow room to remove them later. This made sense to us, so we followed his lead. Each of our supers only has nine frames.


And here is Bernie after removing the feeder box and adding a super to our busy little over-crowded hive. If you click this picture you can see that they are globbed up at the bottom entrance and hanging down just above the ground. By the time we left today, the girls had discovered the new super and started moving inside to clean up the frames and begin drawing them out. We'll check on the progress next weekend.


And here is the apiary - all feeder boxes are removed and supers have been placed on top of each hive. Yee haw! It feels like quite an accomplishment. Oh, and you may notice that now we have black straps around all the hives. We removed Bernie's motorcycle tie downs and replaced them with hive tie downs. We'll be checking in with them again in the next few weeks to see how much honey they happen to make. I'll be sure to get pictures this time - I'd love for you to see the frames and all the girls working on them! In the meantime, check out the blog - I'll give you all the details of the weekend with the girls!



06/23/07 - My parents came up from Georgia to visit us on the homestead for a whole week. We had a great time. While they were here, we had Bob W. come out from the Virginia Department of Agriculture to help us do a thorough hive inspection on all of our hives. Since we're new to beekeeping, we wanted the assurance that we're doing everything ok. Well, we didn't exactly get that, but we do now have some idea of what's going on in our hives. This goofy picture was one that Bernie took of me and really likes, so I'm putting it on the website to remind all of you that you should avoid cameras at all cost when you are having a bad hair day.


This is a picture of one of the frames from the hive that we have been losing sleep over. We thought it was our weakest hive and were really worried about it. As it turns out, Bob showed us that this hive has some brood cells and really isn't doing so badly after all.We were feeling pretty darn good about ourselves until we went to the next hive.....


These are drone cells and they are in the hive we knew was weak but thought was doing ok. As it turn out, there really is nothing more than drone cells in this hive - and Bob tells us this means there is probably no queen. When the queen is missing, the worker bees will start laying eggs - but they can only lay drone eggs. Which really sucks - because drones are really a pain in the butt for workers. Their only job in life is to mate with a queen. And when a queen is absent, they have no purpose what-so-ever. And to make matters worse, they can't even feed themselves, so the workers run around feeding and caring for these worthless men for no reason at all. Bob is coming back in a couple of weeks and hopes to have a queen for us to introduce to this hive. At least we'll get a little work out of those worthless drones.


Mamma was a real trooper. She suited up and went right on into the apiary with us. She seemed to enjoy it. Daddy sat a safe distance away and observed. Rock on Mamma!


The peanut shaped cell at the far left is a queen cell. Chances are this hive is getting ready to swarm or they are unhappy with the current queen.


Right slap in the middle of this picture is a queen bee. Click on it to make it bigger and you will clearly see her. She's much longer than the workers and she rules the hive. She's in darn good shape considering how many births she's given in her short life time!


Here's a close up of her. Her role in the hive is so critical it's scary. Imagine how stressed she must feel knowing that she's responsible for laying thousands of eggs in a year, keeping everyone together by spreading her pheramones, and squashing out any queens that may hatch in her hive. Unbelievable.


Click on this picture and take look at the lower portion of it. Bob tells us these are swarm cells. He also tells us that four of our six hives swarmed. That left us with not so strong hives all the way around. But those four are getting stronger - and one of the four is really strong. Of the two weak hives, one is coming back. The other is not doing so well. But Bob will hopefully bring us a queen and we can correct that. We'll take a look inside each of them in a couple of weeks. I'll let y'all know about it on the blog - and I'll post some pictures here on the website.



07/28/07 - Today we saw a couple of hives that seemed to be fending off honey robbers. This poor girl got a lot of attention. We saw a few bees stinging her, but she fought on for quite some time.



In this picture they have her on her side pulling on her. Poor thing. It was hard to just let nature do it's thing and not step in.



Another hive was busy with a suspicious bee too. This one got stung and kept right on trucking for awhile.



She tried crawling up the super, but she attracted enough attention to stop her in her tracks.



This is just a picture of the girls fanning the hive. I just think this is one of the cutest things ever! They put those little heads down, butts up, and flap those wings as hard as they can. I swear it makes me want to just kiss their little wings off of them.

I wrote a little about our visit to the hives to day on The Bee Buzz blog. Check it out!




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