Tag Archive | bees

This sting hurts

I am having a large, local reaction (according to WebMD) to the bee sting in my index finger I got yesterday. I took my glove off for about 10 seconds, and a bee dive bombed me and stung me around my knuckle.

I have noticed that one colony is definitely more aggressive than the other. In beekeeping class, the more experienced bee keepers talked about that colonies could have totally different personalities and our two are very different.

Anyway, one of the bees from the aggressive colony got me good yesterday, and several hours after the sting, my finger and hand started to swell. Today, I also have the bruising and blistering.

It looks like the beginning of a flesh eating disease attack.

Anyone else have reactions like this? I’m treating with ice, ibuprofen and antihistamine. Anything else?


Working the hives

Being a beekeeper (or playing one) is even better than I thought it would be.

I’ve been in the hives a couple of times to check that the queen is laying eggs, that the workers are drawing out the comb, to feed them sugar-water and to generally ensure that things are progressing on schedule.

Actually getting into the hives is SO.  MUCH.  FUN.

You can’t think of anything else when you working with the bees.  No thoughts of work.  No thoughts of bills.  No thoughts of the other stresses in your life.  I am totally absorbed by what is going on in the hives.

And completely fascinated by what these girls are able to accomplish.

Last week I added another deep hive box to each hive.  This, we hope, will be where they store all “their” honey — the honey that they eat during the winter to get them through the time of year when they can’t go gather the necessary ingredients to make their food.  A lot of beekeepers call this hive box the “Winter Super” since it is the hive box that contains the honey for winter feeding.

I went into the hives this morning to see if the bees had started to draw comb on the frames in the winter super and how the brood comb (the comb where the baby bees are made) was looking.

I got stung once today and my finger hurts like a SOB.  The price you pay for the things you love.

I took a few pictures today, but it is hard to work the hives and take pictures at the same time.  Especially if you don’t want to get your camera equipment all dirty!

Love, love, love my bees.

Pollen sacs are full

Pollen sacs are full


Working a section of brood comb.  If you look closely, you'll see some larva

Working a section of brood comb. If you look closely, you’ll see some larva

A new bee eating her way out of the comb

A new bee eating her way out of the comb


Three beautiful girls, all in a row

Three beautiful girls, all in a row

Our girls are here.

Finally.  The day that we having been waiting for since we decided to keep bees — we brought our bees home.

We drove to a local beekeeper’s house at 8 AM this morning to pick up the beginning of two new colonies.  Three weeks ago, I took him two hive bodies with 9 frames in each.  He split two of his existing colonies and with two new queens, created two new colonies and transferred them to our hives.  He’s been watching over them the last couple of weeks to make sure the bees accept their new queens.

So, now they are going to spend the spring and summer drawing out their comb, the queen’s going to be laying thousands and thousands of eggs to get the colony numbers up where they need to be and they will be making honey for survival during the winter.

This morning was FANTASTIC!  It was absolutely as fascinating as I hoped it would be.  I got stung twice in the right hand, but we learned a valuable lesson — always, always, always use smoke, even if you think you’ll only be in the hive for two seconds.  Two seconds are enough for a very pissed off bee to sting you.

Click on the pictures to get an even better view.

The Bee Photographer–great site

I stumbled upon this website yesterday — it has the best pictures of bees. I’ve posted a few examples. You should check it out: The Bee Photographer at www.thehoneygatherers.com. The photographer’s name is Eric Tourneret and his work is fabulous. Enjoy these few pics and check out his site for more.

Building combs – from www.thehoneygatherers.com

Detail of a wing under microscope – from www.thehoneygatherers.com

Multitude – from www.thehoneygatherers.com

Crops and wild bees — NPR story

This was a story on NPR on Friday, March 1. Interesting theory that “kept” bees can’t be as efficient at pollinating the crops without the help of local feral bees. The link will take you to NPR’s website where you can actually listen to the broadcast.

Link to story

Wild Bees Are Good For Crops, But Crops Are Bad For Bees

Wild bees….play a key role in boosting crop yields.

Some of the most healthful foods you can think of — blueberries, cranberries, apples, almonds and squash — would never get to your plate without the help of insects. No insects, no pollination. No pollination, no fruit.

Farmers who grow these crops often rely on honeybees to do the job. But scientists are now reporting that honeybees, while convenient, are not necessarily the best pollinators.

A huge collaboration of bee researchers, from more than a dozen countries, looked at how pollination happens in dozens of different crops, including strawberries, coffee, buckwheat, cherries and watermelons. As they report in the journal Science, even when beekeepers installed plenty of hives in a field, yields usually got a boost when wild, native insects, such as bumblebees or carpenter bees, also showed up.

“The surprising message in all of this is that honeybees cannot carry the load. Honeybees need help from their cousins and relatives, the other wild bees,” says Marla Spivak, a professor of entomology at the University of Minnesota. “So let’s do something to promote it, so that we can keep honeybees healthy and our wild bee populations healthy.”

Unfortunately, a second study, also released in Science this week, makes it clear that wild bees aren’t having an easy time of it.

That study essentially follows in the century-old footsteps of Charles Robertson, “one of America’s great scientists that nobody knows about,” says Laura Burkle, an ecologist at Montana State University.

Robertson taught biology and Greek at Blackburn College in Carlinville, Ill., and he was fascinated by the close connection between insects and flowers. He spent years in the forests around Carlinville, carefully noting which insects visited which wild flowers at what time of year.

Burkle and Tiffany Knight, a colleague at Washington University in St. Louis, went back to Carlinville to see how much of the ecosystem that Robertson observed still exists today.

Much of the forested area around the town has been converted into fields of corn and soybeans — or suburbs. In the fragments of forest that remain, Burkle and Knight found all of the flowering plants that Robertson recorded in his notes a century ago. Of the 109 species of bees that Robertson saw, though, just over half seemed to have disappeared from that area.

“We don’t know why,” says Burkle.

One possibility might be a loss of nesting sites for these bees. But a changing climate may also play a role.

The bees that disappeared tended to be species that depended on just a few kinds of flowers for food. For those bees to survive, their preferred flowers have to be blooming when the bees start flying and need food. The warming trend might have thrown off that timing.

In fact, Burkle says, if you map the interactions between flowers and bees, they seem more tenuous now. Some flowers may get visited by just one or two kinds of bees, and maybe just for one week.

“I don’t know that these systems can take a lot more environmental change without something drastic happening,” she says.

Many bee researchers are trying to figure out how to help those native bees — and how to help farmers who benefit from them.

Claire Kremen, a conservation biologist at the University of California, Berkeley, who’s a co-author of the first study in Science, says one of the biggest problems for wild bees is the agricultural specialization that has produced huge fields of just one crop.

The almond groves of California, for example, are a sea of blossoms in February. It’s a feast, as far as the eye can see, for honeybees that come here from all over the country.

“But for the rest of the year, there’s nothing blooming,” she says.

That means there are no bees. “In fact, in places where we have very large monocultures of almond, we don’t find any native bees anymore,” Kremen says.

Planting other flowers in and around these almond groves, maybe as hedgerows, blooming all summer long, would help, she says.

Even better would be farms with smaller fields, and lots of different crops flowering at different times. Wild bees, Kremen says, need diversity.

Beekeeping Association Meeting

The Iredell County Beekeepers Association monthly meeting was last night.  When Matt and I attended the New Beekeepers school last month, our fee for school also paid for our annual dues to the association.  It was the second meeting that we have attended and I am really glad that we went.

There was a record crowd (or so we were told) last night.  I overheard someone say that 73 people showed up.  I can confirm that it was SRO (that’s “Standing Room Only”) and that it was very, very warm.  We were sitting on top of each other with little elbow room.

I am going to take personal credit for the upsurge in popularity of beekeeping in Iredell County, NC.  I’m blogging about it (we’ll ignore my very limited audience), I’ve posted the awesome picture of me in my beekeeping suit on social network sites, and I talk about it to lots of people.  I mean, is really coincidence that so many people are getting into beekeeping just as I am getting into beekeeping?

Uh….yea.  Just a coincidence.  I’m 99.99% sure.

Matt and I are still waiting to get our bees, so we’re not actively working in any hives.  In fact, I feel like I’ve already forgotten a lot of the things we learned in Bee School.  Last night, one of the experienced beekeepers went over how to install a package of bees, giving tips and things to avoid.  He also showed a video that he found on YouTube (below):

Matt and I got tickled during this because it seemed like the speaker showed this video as more of a “what not to do” rather than a “what to do”.  Almost every time the guy in the video said, “And then you should do x, y, z”, you could hear all the beekeepers in the room start to murmur, “Oh, no, I would never do it that way.”  “That’s crazy.  You should never do that.”

One thing that Matt and I have already learned about keeping bees — everyone has an opinion on how to handle a situation.  And everyone has told us to find the way that works for us and use it.

The way to install a package that made the most sense to us was to take out 5 frames from one side of the hive, spray the bees in the package with sugar-water, remove the sugar-water and the queen cage from the package box, hang the queen cage between two of the remaining frames in the hive, shake a couple of handfuls of bees on top of the frames with the queen, then set the entire package box into the hive where the five frames were removed.  Leave alone for 7 days, come back and remove the box and replace the frames.

Now, Matt and I wish that we had bought at least one package to try this out, but we are starting our brand new colonies with nucs.  And with at least one of the nucs, we’ll take a hive box to the seller and he’ll install the five frames of brood, honey, pollen, and bees into the box and all we have to do is bring home the hive box and put in 4 more frames (we’re going to do 9 frames in a 10 frame hive).  So, for at least one nuc, we don’t even have to do the install.  😦

The veteran beekeepers also shared tips on splitting hives.  That was interesting, as well, but not as relevant to us at this stage.

The association has talked about creating a mentor program for newbies, especially to help them through the first couple of years.  I would LOVE it this would get up and running.  Several beekeepers offered to let us work with them when they were tending their hives.  Hope we get the chance.  I can’t wait to have my first bee on my finger!