Monday, October 3, 2011

The buzzness of bees

We tend to have a very minimalistic, hands-off approach to managing our bee colony.  We check them often enough to make sure they are doing their thing and to manage any pests or disease we may find.  Last year we did not collect honey because we wanted to leave the majority of it for the colony to make it through their first winter.  So this year, Hubby was really looking forward to collecting some honey from our girls.  

You may remember that back in the Spring we had a little trouble with replacing our queen.  We finally had an active queen but by the time she was "large and in charge" our colony had dwindled to quite a low number.  Because of this, we were not sure if we would have a strong colony to make enough honey for collecting.  Our thought process is, we only collect honey if the bees have stored enough for themselves to make it through the winter, that way we just get whatever is extra. 

A few weeks ago we noticed the bees were not as active and we suspected an issue with the colony.  When Hubby went into the hive, he found lower numbers, but also saw evidence of an active queen and a healthy looking hive.  

This weekend, Hubby decided to visit the hive to see if we had any honey to harvest before winter.  What he found was quite a different story from a few weeks ago.  The bees had set up shop in only one of our two hive bodies and the other hive body had been completely destroyed by wax moths (go here to learn more about these destructive insects).  Most colonies can fend off these nasty bugs but ours, dwindling in size, were unable to protect their entire hive.  

In hindsight, this was partially our fault for not reducing the size of the hive when the colony dwindled....but this has been a learning process for us and we try to be the least invasive when managing our hive.  

Hubby removed the damaged hive body (sorry no pictures...but you can go here to get an idea of what we saw) and cleaned up the frames.  There is still a honey super on the hive but we decided to leave this for the bees to eat during the winter.  So not a lot of extra honey for us (sniff, sniff)

However, we did get one frame of good honey, which yielded a nice amber colored jar of sweet goodness!  

 That's the honey super in the background.

Now for our other dilemma.  The remaining honey super we removed from the hive had a few partially filled frames of honey.  We wanted to "return" this honey to the bees and the only way to do this was to have them find the frames and collect the honey themselves.  

We placed the extra honey super on the porch (so we could see what happened but also to keep other insects off the honey).  It took our girls a few days to find the honey...but today they did!  Over a 10 minute time span the number of bees on the frame went from 1 to at least 40 coming and going.  What an amazing activity to watch!  
 The first few to find the frame
 Look closely and you can actually see their proboscis (straw-like mouth part) sucking the honey out of the comb.

Good to the last drop!
The same frame after 10 minutes.  The picture didn't pick up the 20 or so bees that were flying around the frame (and my head!)
Of course, Waylon (our bee-fearing pup) was not so happy that the bees are buzzing around his favorite lounging spot!


  1. OMG I love bees and this post and the pictures were sooo fun!!! Thanks for sharing! :D

  2. Darn those moths! I'm really sorry they got in. But as Clifton reminds me, this is just one big science experiment we're running here--i.e. live and learn! We'll get 'em next year.