Bee Mama Missive: Adding To The House!

As a family grows, sometimes the house needs additional space. Though it seems like I’ve tried my darndest to kill my hives Scar and Mufasa, they’re buzzing along just fine, thank you very much.

Recently I’ve felt like Bee Daddy and I are the Laurel and Hardy of beekeeping–just one blunder upon another.  After our bee drama of rolling (aka: killing) our queens, then not recognizing that we needed new queens, then finally realizing that we needed to re-queen and working weeks to see that process through, both Scar and Mufasa are re-queened and thriving.

I think.

Scar is the more advanced hive–he didn’t go long without a queen and his population didn’t decline much, if at all.  In Scar’s top box, each bar has fully drawn comb,

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…meaning that the bees have made full comb and that comb has capped and uncapped honey.  It’s remarkable how heavy all that sweet honey is.

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The gals will need the honey stores for winter, so we will not harvest it.  The last time we checked the bottom box, there was also fully drawn comb, but with capped and uncapped brood in cozy little incubators for the next generation of worker bees.  Worker bees change careers throughout their lives, driven primarily by the needs of the hives and their pheromones.   But workers don’t live long, so the queen lays eggs constantly for on-going repopulation of the hive.

Scar appears active and healthy.  However, the last two times I’ve opened both hives, I’ve seen several  Small Hive BeetlesAethina tumida–the nasty nemesis of the honeybee.  Oh, good grief, what now?!!

The Small Hive Beetle is an invasive species that damages comb as well as honey and pollen stores.  There are chemical solutions for the hive beetle, but those chemicals can also hurt honeybees.  Duh.  There are other less toxic products as well, but I found the beetles at the low point of my angst about my hives–Queens or no queens? Oh-no-I’m-killing-my-hives! I wasn’t sure it was worth doing anything for the hives. Beetles attack hives which are vulnerable–like those tended by rookie beekeepers.

Ahem.

I didn’t feel like I had much to lose, so I commenced a squishing campaign to eradicate them whenever I saw the little creeps.  Well, actually, squishing those few visible beetles isn’t going to annihilate an infestation, or even make much of a dent, but it makes this beekeeper feel like she’s taking care of her bees. For whatever it’s worth (and the beetles could still rear their rather unattractive little selves), I haven’t seen any of those devils since my hives were successfully re-queened.  I’m also feeding the bees, which will help them maintain strength through their endeavors, our mistakes and the dearth of blooms that is August in Austin.  The only thing beekeepers should feed bees is the bees own honey (if there’s a surplus) or a 1:1 or 1:2 ratio of sugar-to-water.

Fingers crossed that we can avoid a Small Hive Beetle catastrophe.

In opening my hives in these last few weeks and acknowledging that Scar is progressing well, I thought: if I don’t totally screw them over with my incompetence, it might be time to add another box to Scar.  Mufasa is also doing well, but doesn’t have fully drawn comb, nor full honey in the top box.  Mufasa has some work ahead before needing a third floor addition.

But Scar?  Verily bursting out of his seams!  Or boxes.

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So, I added some wax to eight unused bars to give the girls a place to start,

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…and we opened up Scar, ready for the opportunity to expand the digs.   Scar’s bees are busy, active and yeah, they still sting–even when smoked.  She got me right on the thumb. I put gloves on after that.  Some people never learn.

So much wax, comb, honey and bee activity!

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I pulled out four bars with full comb and placed  them into the third (new) box,

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…and placed four new (empty) bars to the second (now, middle) box.

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I evenly spaced the bars in the hives.  The bars must be three-eighths of an inch from one another for the bees to safely crawl around in the hive. This is known as bee space.  I’m so OCD that when checking my hives, if I have to move the bars and I usually do for one reason or another, I measure each space.  Thoroughly, I would say.  Obsessively, others would say.

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My family loves me in spite of that particular personality quirk.  Trait.

Lastly, I assured that the hives were set evenly on the ground–no tilt allowed or the bees might build cross-comb and that could become a whole thing, which you can read about here.

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I popped on the tops, while Bee Daddy cleaned up and put out the smoker.  I stood back and smiled at my hives.

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Scar and Mufasa.

Nice little hives with nice little bees who make delicious honey and pollinate…everything,

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…and their crazy beekeeper lady.

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4 thoughts on “Bee Mama Missive: Adding To The House!

  1. My little gardener’s heart leaps with joy to see all those bees busily doing bee stuff. With so much bad news about bees it is reassuring to know that a few very lucky bees are being fussed over so nicely. Besides, the line between caring and crazy gets thins some days. I think you paying extra attention to your hives is natural for a starter Bee Mama. Didn’t we all hover especially closely over our firstborn children when they were young (OK maybe all their lives – jury is still out). Go bees! Go Bee Mama and Bee Daddy!

    PS – I think you deserve a medal for suiting up and doing bee care taking when it must have been nearly triple digits without coveralls, a hat, and gloves. I can’t imagine how hot those protective garments must be!

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  2. It is HOT in that bee suit. I’m perspiring so heavily that I drip water from my face into the hives. I get in and out as quickly as possible, but man-o-man it’s toasty. Makes me appreciate fire fighters. And construction workers. And roofers. I hope that in some small way, I’m helping to heal certain troubles in the world by tending these bees and having them in my corner of the world to pollinate and educate. It’s such a learning and experience curve for me, but I am learning and hopefully won’t make the same mistakes again. I’m certain there are plenty of other mistakes to make with this venture–no doubt I’ll find those mistakes :).

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  3. I just love these bee posts. I think bees are wonderful and fascinating creatures. And I am struck by how delicately balanced even these small systems are. Do bees need a water source or do they stay hydrated just from their food?

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    • Thank you, Debra. I’ve enjoyed the bees–it’s been quite an experience. The bees do require water. I have a number of birdbaths on my property, though they favor two of them–a solid blue one and one that is a neutral terracotta and blue. They love the blue one–there’s always about 10 little bees hanging on the side of the bowl, sipping away. I have rocks and a ceramic ball in the bowl so that if they fall in, they can easily climb aboard the rocks/ball so as not to drown. I still find drowned ones sometimes, but not that often. I have to top that bird bath once or twice a day. The other bird baths get sporadic bee visits, but not as much, so the birds still have plenty of water. I also will see bees in my pond on the lily pads and rocks lining the pond. I’m sure there are other water sources too that they partake from.

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