Observation Day 2018

Opening the Hive Observation Day 2018

Observation Day 2018

One of my daughters friends and I are both beginning beekeepers. She is a year ahead of me and was gracious enough to let me observe and ask questions while she had a beekeeping veteran visiting her hive with her.

She had previously added space to allow for feeding at the top of her hive, but due to multiple bee stings she didn’t take it off over the summer. So when she took the outer cover off her hive she could tell the bees had built comb within the space.

It was decided that the best thing to do at this point was to leave that go for the time being. To take it apart would mean inevitably busting the comb and have honey everywhere.

The top deep brood box was removed to check on the bottom box.

Checking Frames Observation Day 2018

We could see on the bottom frames where there had been brood. Apparently, the queen is slowing down – just as she is supposed to this time of year. Drones are being kicked out of the hive. There is lots of honey in the top box for winter. Her expert said things are looking good for her hive for the season her hive is in.

The only other concern was to check for varroa mites.

Checking for Mites Observation Day 2018

This can be done using the powdered sugar method or the alcohol wash method.

She opted for the powdered sugar method. It is a little less accurate, but the participating bees have the possibility of surviving. The alcohol method is more accurate, however, it is death for about 300 participating bees.

For the powdered sugar mite check a 1/2 cup of bees are scooped up and put into a jar. A wire lid is placed on top. Then about a tablespoon of powdered sugar is sprinkled in to coat them. The bees are then gently shook to cover them. Next, the jar is turned upside down and shook over a white bin or other light surface. If there are mites the will be seen falling off with the powdered sugar.

Then the bees can be released back into the hive.

Powdered Bees Released Observation Day 2018


Luckily, she only had evidence of a couple of mites. About 9 mites in the sample would indicate a 3% (or greater) infestation. At that point the decision has to be made whether or not to treat the hive.

At the end of my little Observation Day we made a pact to help each other more with our hives or at least be accountability partners to keep each other on track.



P.S. If you want to go down a rabbit hole I like this site as a resource to learn more about bees.

No Honey

“First year beekeepers don’t usually get honey.”

Yep. I heard them say that more than once in the talks and meetings I attended. Yet that didn’t stop me from going to the store and buying an uncapping knife, honey jars, and all the rest of what I would need to harvest some honey.

Then lo and behold, when I went back to the hive, – No honey.

There was one frame in the top brood box that was messed up. The bees were building the comb oddly – basically not how we beekeepers want to see it. I removed it. The honey in it wasn’t capped so it is a bit watery. Tastes good, but it is not the consistency of honey.

First year honey harvest 🙂

I put the empty frame back in and left one super on. I don’t think they have time to fill it, but I’ve also been told you don’t want your bees to get bored. Hopefully they will have time to work on the now empty frame I left. There seems to be plenty of honey in the top brood box to get them through winter.

They also say “only about 20% of first year beekeepers are successful.” The bees are still in the hive working their little hearts out. Success! Instead of greedily focusing on stealing honey from them, I will concentrate on getting them through the winter.




Workers, Drones, and Queens

Workers, drones, and queens… this is getting interesting. This beekeeping experience truly is “learning by doing.”  Seeing the hive in action is more educational than reading about it or listening to a speaker.

I went to my first beekeeper’s association meeting this past Thursday and was overwhelmed with how much there is to know. The group was quite welcoming. They answered all my questions. Some of them even graciously gave me their contact information – without my asking- in case I had more questions arise before the next meeting. Everyone there stressed the importance of getting into the hive regularly to see what is going on. (I also bought some handmade soap made by the beekeepers at Landav Soap Company – a great gift idea for upcoming birthdays.)

Yesterday afternoon I decided to take a peek and see what my workers, drones, and queen have been up to.


In the picture above toward the top right you can see the larvae within the cells of this frame. The bumpy, pebble like tops of these cells indicate that these are drone cells.


In this picture you can see how the cells near the edge of the frame at the bottom and to the right have a smooth cap. This type of cell is that of a worker bee.


Lastly, I have this frame that I found. You can see the four places at the bottom that have been built out further from the frame. I am not completely sure… but I think these are queen cells. Either my hive is thinking about swarming or these are simply being built in case the current queen is unable to keep up with the demands of the hive.

When we first started I knew bees had different roles of workers, drones, and queens. I just didn’t realize just how it would look inside the hive.

We still have a wooden entrance reducer in place. We are continuing with two quarts of nectar infused with Honey B Healthy. The bees are still munching on the protein patty that is on the frames of the top deep box within an empty honey super.

Follow this blog to find out what these amazing workers, drones, and queens do next!

Checking the Brood Box

Today was the first day it has been warm and dry enough to get back into the hive and see what is going on in our brood box. Our frames came with a plastic inserts which we have learned may be a little harder for the bees to build on.

For our second brood box we have replaced the plastic with wax inserts. From my novice perspective it looks like the bees have made good progress. They have build on 6 of the 10 frames. Some of their work looks like what might be considered spotty, but since I’ve never examined a bee hive before I’m not sure.

From this visit into the hive I learned that it is important to keep your frames together and not leave spacing. There is a place that was open and the bees build right on into it. I’m not sure how that is going to work out in the long run. I didn’t remove it. I just put the two frames together as best I could there.



I went ahead and added a second brood box with the wax inserts. We have two feeder quarts of nectar on the front of the hive and we are keeping the entrance reducer in place. I added an empty honey super and left what remained of the protein patty in it for the bees to keep munching on.

I didn’t see the Queen Bee. Judging from the content hum of the hive, she is in the brood box laying eggs as expected. It take 21 days for the eggs to hatch. I’m expecting to see the hive begin growing exponentially around the 15th of this month.

Queen Bee

We have learned what to expect when you buy a pack of bees. Inside the package of bees will be a can of nectar and a small ventilated cage with a queen bee in side. The queen bee is trapped inside the cage by some hardened sugar substance.

When placing the bees in the hive the queen bee is still in her cage when she is placed among the frames in the brood box. Once she is placed, the rest of the bees can be released in the hive.

I went back to the hive today to ensure the queen bee was out of her cage. The sugar blocking the escape hole was gone leaving the hole open. I did not spend time looking through the bees to spot the queen. All the bees seemed busy and happy so I assume the queen bee is alive among them.


I removed the cage and I put a protein patty on top of the frames and made sure they had plenty of nectar.


Next warm sunny day I will get in the hive and check the bees’ progress and try to spot the queen bee in action.