Tag Archives: Bees

a good weekend was had by all

Here is a shot that Sophie got of me going about my Honeymilk Farm chores this morning. I look really sleepy. She said I should put it on the blog, though, so I am. I love how her photos are from such a different perspective (three feet off the ground). Often when she takes pictures of me, they go straight up my nose.

In other news, we went to check the bees yesterday. Here they are, chillin on the front porch, coming and going, shucking and jiving.

They are doing really well, bee business is booming. Unfortunately for us, however, they are booming in a way that makes it impossible to get into their hive without tearing it up. They got off to a rough start with the whole hive-missing-in-the-mail thing. Here is a shot of the inside, completely gummed up with comb.

Those bars are supposed to lift-out-able, but no way, as the bees have stuck them all together. I figure, they’re doing well, so I’ll leave them to it. However, next spring, if they make it through the winter, I’ll have to crack it open and help them start over. Sorry bees! There is a way to cut comb off and kind of sew it to the bars so you get some straight brood comb, but it is hard to do with new comb like this, new comb being so fragile. But next spring, that might be the thing to do. Well, it’s all a learning process.

And here is what Paul has been working on. The Man Shack. Okay, he calls it the ‘tool shed’ but really, its a boy’s fort house that has the sign on the door saying “no wives allowed!’

It’s kind of like a quilt sampler isn’t it? Stone work, cordwood, recycled materials, beams cut from the trees we cleared when we put the yurt in. It’s probably bulletproof, bombproof, those tools will definitely be safe in there, barring direct nuclear strike. I like the lion’s head door knocker. A fitting, masculine touch.

And finally, a happy birthday key lime pie for Paul. Happy Birthday, Paul!

a tangled mass of cross comb

Sophie and I checked the hive yesterday. This is what we found.


There was capped brood, capped honey, pollen, and open cells with nectar not yet capped. And lots and lots of bees. Yeah!

Below is a shot from one of the bars we looked at that was full of uncapped honey. Isn’t it pretty?


But we also found a terrible mess of cross combs. When we moved one of the bars, a big piece of comb that had been attached to two bars, ripped and fell off. Bummer. Below is a shot looking down into the hive where the torn bit fell.


You can see on this bar how tangled it all is. Instead of one comb on each bar, there are two or even three combs, all twisty curvy on there. This picture shows where the big piece of comb fell from–see the ripped section along the upper left?hive-check-3.jpg

Here is how I left it, with the proper sized top-bars in between the problematic big ones. The idea is that the bees will build straight comb on the skinny bars, and I’ll phase out the too-big bars. We’ll see if they buy it.


But here is what we mashed out of the piece of comb that broke off:


Oh my god, it is so wonderful tasting, just explodes in your mouth. Wow!

Sophie was so great, she held the gear (camera, knife (which we didn’t need), and water squirter) and handed me things as I needed them–which was quite an art, considering the big gloves she was wearing. She is so interested in the whole thing. Last week we watched a totally cool show on tv, Tales from the Hive. Really amazing! We were both riveted.

This last shot was almost a picture of one of our girls on one of our poppies but just as the camera clicked, she flew off. So you’ll have to imagine her, nosing around inside there, big pollen sacks on her legs. That’s a bit of Sophie’s hair in the upper left. She was leaning in close to watch and said, “Hi, bee! Thank you for the honey!” She’s the best.



images of the morning

The blackberries are blooming, and the wild roses. The smell is heavenly.

Wild roses growing along the driveway…


And here are some blackberry blooms in the gigantic blackberry patch near the pond.


We really need to manage that blackberry patch a bit more–it is an impenetrable tangle of brambles and old canes. But we still get gobs of blackberries, just from picking along the edges. There seem to be two kinds, or maybe two very different soils, because some are small, intense and bright, while in another section they are spectacularly sweet, and huge.

The tulip poplars are doing their thing, too. The ground is covered with these:


I love thinking of the bees collecting from all of these flowers. One of the cool things with the top bar hives is that it is very easy to harvest a small amount of honey at a time (one bar) letting you taste honey made from different blooms. The privet honey we had the other day tasted like sweet privet smells. I would love to try wild rose honey! Maybe I’ll go visit the bees tonight.

And here is what the kids did with the kids for at least an hour this morning.


The goat babies are totally spring loaded. The don’t run so much as speed-bounce from one end of the goat yard to another, colliding with whatever and bouncing off like rubber balls. They are hilarious, endlessly entertaining!

And did you know that goats can dance?


in which 10,000 bees are finally home

The hive finally arrived and I was able to assemble it, with some help. I had quite a little tantrum at one point, trying to figure out how a person with two hands (that would be me) was supposed to hold two pieces of wood, a drill, and a screw. “That takes four hands, people! Four! What the $#&! ????”

Well, it turns out the drill bit is magnetic (taking care of the screw) and you lean one piece of wood against something and brace it with your leg, leaving one piece of wood and the drill for the two available hands. I know this should be obvious but it just wasn’t and I kicked and swore until Paul came and took the drill away from the crazy lady and calmly demonstrated and I said, “Oh.”

Next Sophie and I carried the various parts and pieces over to the site as Luc and Paul played in the creek nearby, but at a safe distance in case the bees decided to kill me. Everything ready, I commenced to move the bars of bees and honeycomb–an amazing quantity given the short length of time!–from the plastic tub over to the new hive.

Here I am putting top bars into the assembled hive.

me moving the bees

And here I am moving a topbar with comb and bees. Unfortunately it’s blurry, sorry, but it’s still pretty interesting.


I’m using a squirt bottle of water instead of a smoker. It seems to work very well and supposedly doesn’t stress the bees nearly as much (water being “just a little rain” to them, but smoke being “death! destruction! gather the stores, we have to move!” Hey, rain is less stressful than fire, to me, too.)

Once I moved over all the bars that already had comb, this is what it looked like inside.


Isn’t that pretty? You can see the natural shape of the comb, a lot of it full of honey. I didn’t look too closely to find brood. Next time I’ll check for that. I was doing pretty well to keep my nerves steady as it was.

Okay, I got all the bars in place, maybe half the bees inside and a bunch flying in the air, freaking out, and here is what it looked like.


You can see the emergency topbars that were on the plastic tub–they are farther away in the shot where all the bees are. Those bars are too wide, really. I’ll phase them out.

Sophie and I watched for quite a while–it took about ten minutes for the bees to find the new entrance. They stayed clustered at the top where the entrance on the tub had been, until finally one bee climbed into one of the new entrance holes at the bottom and within seconds a long chain of bees formed as more and more bees went in. It was almost like they were holding onto each other in case they had to pull the brave, first bees out.

Here is part of the chain kind of stretching from the top to the bottom, plus a lot of blurred bees in motion, flying around us.

bees find the entrance

Sophie was great. She took all these pictures, except the one inside the hive. She is totally unafraid, all involved, asking questions. She is so cool! “I want to learn everything you learn about the bees,” she told me. Here she is pretending she is a bee, flapping her arms and saying “buzzzzz!”

sophie being a bee

Tune in next time for further bee updates.

first sweet taste

Yesterday Sophie and I suited up in our bee burkas and went out to check on the bees, still in their temporary home. We have received half of the new hive in the mail and are awaiting the second package–hopefully today! We are quite excited to be moving them into their permanent home. But we went out there yesterday and I took out the queen cage, now empty, the idea being that the queen is among her people now, and laying eggs. The queen is in a cage at first because she is new to these particular bees and they will kill her if allowed to. However, it takes about three days for them to eat through the candy cork in the cage and by then her smell is all over them and they love her. Long live the Queen!

Anyway, I went to pull the empty cage out and found it somewhat welded into the hive by honeycomb full of honey! Those girls are hard at work. When I freed the cage, I was able to cut off a small piece, about an inch long, of our first, sweet honey. Paul, Sophie and I shared it. Privet honey, very floral and alive. Deliciously sweet. With Fancy giving milk now and the bees making honey, we are truly Honeymilk Farm at last.

in which 10,000 bees find a temporary home

The hive body is lost in the mail. Gary, who fabulously offered to make it for me, is sending another. So there I was, with 10,000 bees under my bathhouse and NO HIVE to put them in. Here are the bees in their package:

package of bees

Okay! Time for improvisation!

I hived them for now, until the new hive comes, in a plastic tub with eight topbars balanced along the top, with a piece of tin to cover, and some rocks to hold the tin down. The package went right in the tub, along with a baggie of 1:1 sugar water. Here is what it looked like when I got done:


In a moment of cocky insanity, I thought I would be fine without gloves. “None of the experienced bee keepers use gloves. If they can do it, so can I.” Idiot. I mean, the first time a bee landed on my hand, the adrenal rush was so powerful that, for a moment, I went blind. I didn’t get stung, but I was shaking, holding in the intense desire to bat the bees away.

Meanwhile, my four year old daughter is taking pictures and saying things like “Hey, Mom, there is a bee sitting right on my veil! I can see it’s stripes!”

Here she is in her bee get up.

sophie in veil

She is completely fearless.

I, on the other hand, nearly shat myself when, after pulling out the queen cage, the bees BOILED up out of the hole before I could put anything on it to keep them in. I’m trying to move slow and steady, so as not to upset the bees, but I’m exploding with this limbic desire to RUN THE FUCK AWAY!

Here is all of that, hidden discreetly behind my bee burka.


Right in the middle of all of it, the queen cage in my hand, bees flying all around my head, I have this thought, “maybe this wasn’t such a good idea.”

But, I did it, it was okay. Whew.