Bees In Our Bonnets

The (mis)adventures of raising honey bees in Minnesota

Posts Tagged ‘War

On the rebound

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Per the last post, I lost all four of our hives this winter.

I didn’t winterize as thorough as I ought to have, and the excluder bars were not set properly. Horsemen #1 was helping me today, and he saw a couple of voles scurry out of War when we began work, and there was evidence of boring on some of the frames.

My bad.

My favorite bee supply source, Nature’s Nectar, managed to scrounge together a couple of packages of Carniolans for us out of his first package shipment, so we put those in Famine and War (our original two hives).

We found that while both top deeps were heavy with honey, the bottom two deeps in each hive were pretty much cleaned of honey and pollen.

So, we now have two productive hives with Carniolans. With any luck, Jim over at Nature’s Nectar will have some spares from his second package delivery next week.


Written by beesinourbonnet

23 April 2013 at 17:50

Posted in new bees, The Four Horsemen Apiary

Tagged with ,

The casualties of War

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I did the post-mortem on our hive War today. I gave it a decent cleaning–cleared the multitudes of dead bees out, took out each frame thinking I’d find some reason for the death of the hive, and getting it squared away for a new package due in a few weeks.

Deep #2 from War

I didn’t find much. No foulbrood or off-odors, and no large parasites (we treated for mites last fall). I did find a bit of mold here and there, but nothing systemic.

War had tons of honey in it, so our little ladies must have died early in the winter.

So War is ready for a new family. Famine hive, however, held some new surprises.

There were cleansing flights going on (temperatures were in the mid-50s), and I found the cluster around the queen in brood box #2. However, I find a mess of dead bees (lots of them), and a fair amount of mold. Deeps #1 and #3 were chock full of dead bodies, and there was a fair amount of yellow-ish and blue-green mold.

Jim over at Nature’s Nectar got a slightly-panicked call, but assured us it wasn’t all that bad. He recommended I clean out what I could without disturbing the cluster, remove the outer black cover and the winter wick board (I did), make sure there was sufficient honey in the combs (there was), and to also make sure there was a pollen patty available (there has been since last week, but it hasn’t been touched much–a good sign).  He said the bees will deal with the mold more thoroughly than I could.

So I cleaned out Famine as best I could, emptied the bottom tray (full of poor little dead bodies), and got Famine squared away for the season. I hope its inhabitants make it for another month.

I know that our bees are  just livestock that we use for our own purposes (homestead garden pollination and honey). I know that.

But I feel like we just lost some beloved pets.


Written by beesinourbonnet

3 April 2011 at 17:29

Posted in Hive deaths and die-offs

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Harvest! part one

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War with its three honey supers

It was that time of the year at the Four Horsemen Apiary. It was early September, and the nectar flow is slowing down in the Twin Cities area. About all that’s left is the goldenrod, aster, and purple loosestrife (although there’s a fair amount of all left). We decided it was time.

We took Famine’s single super off first, and to no surprise there was no honey in it at all, and very little drawout. Famine had never been as industrious as War, and its super went on late in the season.

I cleaned up Famine’s hive, placed a thymol tin in the top (we decided to treat preemptorily for mites), and that hive good to go for the balance of the year (after another thymol treatment in two weeks).

Famine ready for the winter

The next hive was War. She has three supers (very industrious hive, particularly for its first year), so I took all the supers off at once and set them aside. It’s easier to do that than to take off one super at a time to clear the bees out.

Next came examination. The uppermost super was pretty bare except for the frame I’d taken out of the second super to “seed” it. However, the first and second supers were quite rich. The bottommost super had quite a bit of capped cells, while the middle super was mostly uncapped. (There are some ‘keepers that leave uncapped frames alone.)

The best way to clear bees off of frames is to take each frame and “flick” it. Writer Neil Gaiman demonstrates this here:

Any bees that don’t come off easily that way can be removed with the use of a soft brush.

You brush from the bottom up, in order to disturb the little darlings as little as possible

You have to quickly store each cleaned frame in something the bees cannot get into, because they really don’t want to give up their hard-earned work. (We had a hard lesson with this the following week.)

I cleaned up all three supers’ worth of frames, and then put a thymol tin into War, and got the lids on the hive.

Next up: extraction, and the results!

Written by beesinourbonnet

15 September 2010 at 08:29

“How high can you stack…honey?”

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Famine and War continue to develop well!

Famine got its first honey super:

Famine with its first super!

Famine has been much slower to develop than War, but the third deep brood box has at least some drawn-out comb on all frames, so it’s time.

War, on the other hand, just got its third super!

War and three supers!

I’ve gotten some drawout on half the frames on the second super, and there’s a rule of thumb that a lot of beekeepers use: when you add a super, add two. It never hurts, and it’s heartbreaking to have your hive swarm in the middle of honey production because of lack of space into which to expand.

(We had to buy pre-built supers with plastic frames this time. Jim over at Nature’s Nectar didn’t have anything else, and may not have anything at all for awhile.)

We’re heading for the downhill slide on honey and pollen supplies in the Great Frozen North Minnesota. There is a fair amount of purple loosestrife (an invasive) in our area that is beginning to bloom, and that will be one of the last big supplies for the year. We’ll likely harvest our honey after that growth is playing out.

When we harvest the supers, we test for varroa mite counts in both hives. If the results look the least bit iffy, we are prepared to treat with Apiguard, which is oil of thyme imbedded in a volatile gel. The bees get into the dish of Apiguard and proceed to move the gel out of the hive through the bottom entrance, but track the gel through the hive as they do so. That will keep the mite population under control. You have to harvest your honey first, though; otherwise, the honey will develop an  unpleasant odor.

Written by beesinourbonnet

7 August 2010 at 19:12

Honey is on the way!

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There’s been great news, and also not-so-great-we-think news.

The great news? We’ve got a honey super atop War!


We put it in on July 9, after finding that the top brood box was damned near packed full of comb and honey.

Famine and War

The not-so-great-we-think news is that Famine, our other hive, has not made significant progress in its third brood box since July 9. The third box is still about 50% drawn. Also, Famine’s bees are not nearly as active as War’s, both in and out of the hive. Famine’s population also seems significant less.

The (other) great news is that I’ve not seen so much as a single varroa mite, both in close-up personal inspection (our girls are pretty placid and put up with it) or in close-up photos we have taken of nurse, caretaker, and forager workers.

Everyone pile out!

So, we’re going to have honey in our first year! In fact, the first honey super on War had some draw-out on 6 of its 10 frames on 21 July, less than two weeks after the super went on. We should get  30-45 more days of good nectar and pollen flow, so we will have honey! Yay!

Written by beesinourbonnet

28 July 2010 at 22:36