Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Bee Log 23: March 31, 2010

I decided to combine one set of split hives and leave the other set alone. The pictures above show the new very large hive with the unoccupied pieces lying around. I will wait for the bees to go in tonight before I put those pieces away. The piece of newspaper between the combined hive bodies is for peace. It gives the bees a little time before they are combined as one unit again. The queen is in the topmost large box (deep box). The workers will chew up the newspaper into little tiny pieces and drop it onto the bottom of the hive. We combined hives one other time and the bees sounded like they were snipping with a thousand tiny scissors. This hive may have three deep boxes all summer or we may try to do a split again when we can get a queen.

Today turned out sunnier and warmer than expected. The other set of split hives were from the day of the swarm one week ago. That was the swarm that went back into the hive. I understand that the swarms tend to happen about 5 days before the new queen hatches. We left plenty of queens developing in their peanut shaped cells when we did the split so I imagine that the new queen has now hatched. If the queen can mate at temperatures in the mid to high 50's then we might have a viable hive. What we need to do in about a week is go through those hives and check for eggs. In that way we will know which hives have a queen. We never did see that old queen when we were doing the split. Both hives seem normal from the outside. With the two hives that I combined, I knew which hive had the queen (saw her) and the other hive was acting frantic flying all over the place in front of the hive.

Bee Log 22: March 31, 2010

I think I have called all of the queen breeders in California that advertise in the American Bee Journal. None of them have queens that they will ship me. One firm would ship 20 queens. Not much help when you need 2 queens. I may combine the hives so that the bees have their old queen back and 4 deep hive bodies each. I may just wait and hope that the queen cells hatch in nice enough weather that the new queens can mate. I may call queen breeders in Texas, Georgia and Florida.

Meanwhile, an extremely sad event at the firm that supplies most of our bee-ware. The husband of the couple that owns the business died suddenly of a heart attack early last week. It is a tremendous tragedy and will be deeply felt by his wife who is also his business partner. The family is still planning on delivering the bee packages that have been ordered. I am hoping that I can get the parts of the bee hives that I need before those bees come.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Bee Log 21: March 30, 2010

Well the weather in Seattle has turned lousy. I really must order two queens. We have done two splits anticipating a maple honey flow so there are two hives without queens(they do have queen cells developing). The bees might not get out for the maple this year. The queen cell developing in the split hives will not get out to mate. Oh, the life of an urban farmer! I think that to farm you have to manage the stress caused by things beyond your control. You also have to guess a lot. I guess I will call an apiary in northern California and mail order queens.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Bee Log #20: March 29, 2010

We are now veterans of a bee hive move. One of the people wanting hives in their yard was very concerned about pollination of some lovely old fruit trees that have suffered from lack of pollination in the last few years. We decided to move one of the hives from our back yard into his yard. We waited until dark, taped a piece of wood over the opening, put a truckers strap around the hive and started moving the hive with a hand truck. Since we had just gone through the hive that day, the hive bodies kept shifting relative to each other (bees glue everything together and we had broken the seal). I was really worried about bees pouring out of the cracks! The bees didn't come out and we quickly re-shifted the boxes and tightened the strap.

We got the bees into the bed of our pick-up and fastened the hive into the corner. On arriving at the host home we unloaded the hive, set it in the driveway and then put in a base of cement blocks for the hive. Next time we will put in the base before the bees are delivered as were digging in the dark. It looked like we were burying things by the light of the moon.

The bees were hand trucked up a wet slope and placed on the base. When we took the wood block from the entrance, a lot of bees came crawling out. It scared the homeowners and I have to say got me a little concerned too. We left the area quickly. Anyway, the hive is in place and if we get some decent weather, the bees should be very happy and, hopefully, make lots of honey.

This beekeeping is one adventure after another. And, we keep meeting the greatest people!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Bee Log #19: March 26, 2010

Swarm. Swarm. In March!!!

A swarm is a bee hive's way of making new bee hives. The old queen leaves the hive with about half of the bees. The group forms into a ball of bees on a tree or bush or something and scouts look for a place to move into. If a beekeeper can catch this bunch of bees, they can be moved into a bee hive and will probably set up housekeeping.

I looked into the back yard at about noon on the 24th of March which was a beautiful sunny day with a temperature of about 70 degrees F and saw a cloud of bees. I went out into the bee-storm to try to see where they were headed. They circled around. Some landed here and some there. I was praying for a nice low branch so we could catch this swarm. The bees unaccountably decided to go back in the hive. We had that experience last year when a swarm of bees went back into their hive. It is like a practice swarm. A rehearsal for the real thing that will take place shortly.

We got into the hive and found it bursting with bees (see photos). Burgeoning with bees. We decided to split the hive putting frames with queen cells in each hive. We looked and looked for the queen but could not find her. One of the two hives created has a queen and one does not. Both have frames of brood and lots of worker bees and stores of food. Both have room to expand.

A split like this is a messy operation. It really messes up the bees and now one hive has no queen. There are the queen cells that are developing and a new queen will hatch. But,when a newly hatched queen is ready to mate, there needs to be a day when the weather is about 70 degrees and not too windy so she can get to the place where the drones hang out (drone congregation area). I think we need to consider buying a queen and requeening the queenless hive. Otherwise, we may be stuck with a hive that is not queenright.

The weather has gone back to rainy and chilly. I had better order that queen. Imagine ordering a queen!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Wallingfor Urban Honey becomes Seattle Urban Honey

Please continue to read this blog at There is a link under my profile. Also, to my three followers, I would like to invite you to follow Seattle Urban Honey. We are changing the name as our hives will be kept in a total of 7 yards in north Seattle (including ours).

Bee Log #18: March 22, 2010

Honey Bees Need Water Taken 3/22/2010

Bees really need water. The bees like this water source because it has sloping sides with a textured surface that is easy to grip. A few bees are floating around in the middle. Some of these will make it to the side and crawl out. Others will drown. I save bees when I see them in this situation by lifting them out on a stick and leaving them to dry in the sun.

We have 3 honey supers on one hive and 2 on another and one on the weakest hive. Last year we did not put on supers until May 2. This has been such a warm February and March that the bees are already reproducing in large numbers for the maple honey nectar flow that is soon to start. The bees are building out wax and cleaning up the damage that we did to their honey storage cells when we extracted honey last summer. The cells get cleaned by the bees and reused saving the energy needed to produce wax. The bees will not reuse wax from a lump but they will repair and refill cells that are already built. This season has come on so fast that we have not even had a chance to really go through the living hives and clean up from last winter. Our inspections have been cursory either because it was a bit chilly and we were worried about chilling the brood or because we lacked time.

Our equipment is still incomplete but I have a promised delivery date of March 31 for the lacking hive parts.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Wallingfor Urban Honey becomes Seattle Urban Honey

We are changing the name of Wallingford Urban Honey to Seattle Urban Honey to reflect the fact that our hives are now going to be located throughout the Seattle metropolitan area. Thanks for your interest in this project. Look for us at the Phinney Farmers' Market.

Bee Log #17: March 17, 2010

Honey bee in heather taken March 16, 2010

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

The vote so far on changing the business name from Wallingford Urban Honey to Seattle Urban Honey is overwhelmingly in favor of a name change. 3 to 0. There is still time to vote if you have not weighed in.

I am off to Auburn, WA to get the bee-ware that we so desperately need before the bees arrive. Yea! It is just a partial order but it will keep us for now.

Starting a new business is a series of puzzles and worries and unknowns. The puzzles seem to be getting solved one at a time. The worries are just part of what I do and wish I didn't. The unknowns seem to be linked to the worries and the puzzles. So, one little bit at a time. Life is an adventure. Every day is a new installment of the story. Pray God for his providential care for today.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Bee Log #16: March 15, 2010

Honey bee on ornamental pear. Taken 3/15/2010

I have a question for my readers. Should we change our name to Seattle Urban Honey? We will have bees in Queen Anne, Fremont, Green Lake-Wallingford, Northgate and Bothell. If you are reading this please take a minute to let me know what you think.

The bees are flying. Some maple are putting out buds. The season for honey collection may be really early this year if the maple blooms this early.

We are trying to get the rest of our hive parts so we can get them painted, set up and ready before the bees arrive April 17. The sellers of bee-ware must be very, very busy if they can't stop to fill a rather large order. Perhaps there is a shortage of merchandise due to the great interest in backyard beekeeping. I don't know why we can't get the goods pronto and I shouldn't speculate ahead of the facts.

We are set to put hives in 6 yards in north Seattle. 12 packages of bees are arriving shortly. We need hive parts! NOW, PLEASE!

I have located a firm that sells product liability insurance. I had no idea where to look for that product and did not want to call just anybody. I guess I needed a referral from a trusted or at least known person. The broker that handles our home owners insurance had a knowledgeable agent. He did not even seem to be thrown by a backyard beekeeping business in the city that sells at Farmers' markets. I got a City of Seattle license. I registered the name "Seattle Urban Honey" with the state. I got a resale certificate so I don't have to pay sales tax on jars . Anything else?

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Bee Log #15: March 2, 2010

There are 72 medium hive bodies assembled, primed and packed into our little shed. Our venture of placing hives in homes around north Seattle is off and running. I ordered 12 packages of bees. Ready or not here they come so we had better be ready! These are living creatures and require our attention. We are getting all the associated hive parts and will be setting up the hives sometime this month so the empty hives are in place and ready for the bees arrival sometime around April 17. Then the fun starts.

So many things are running through my head like insurance, bee feeders, sugar supplies. (The bees need to be fed for awhile until they get established and feed on their own. We do not have honey collection supers on the hives when we are feeding sugar.) We want our host families to be not just satisfied with the placement but excited and happy. We want a honey crop and a market for the honey and wax.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Bee Log #14: March 1, 2010

One hive (hive 2) consumed the sugar water with thymol and two hives did not touch the stuff. The two hives (hives 1 and 4) that are not consuming any sugar water were formerly given frames of honey from the deceased hives. I am continuing to feed hive 2 sugar water without thymol.

We have taken all sugar water away from the front of hive 1 and put on supers since it is so active. We peeked inside after seeing a lot of bees out front and saw that all ten frames were full of bees. This hive has been active at cooler temperatures then the other two hives since early in January. Earlier inspections showed empty frames that were not all the way drawn out in the top deep box. (A drawn out frame is one on which the bees have made wax cells.) It would be nice to prevent swarming in this box but on the other hand, it would be nice to perpetuate this queen bee's genetics since the hive is so vigorous at lower temperatures. We need to watch for queen cells and make a hive split if we spot them.