Preparing for the 2014 Season

mold bees

Spring is finally here. It did snow today, but Spring is here. Last month we hit a warm 50 degrees and I was able to peek in at my three hives. My hive on the roof was alive and active that day. Success! Unfortunately, the two hives at the community garden did not make it through our brutal winter. I was disappointed and left the cleaning of the dead bees for another day. After a couple weeks without cleaning, mold quickly began to grow. Now not only did I have a mess on my hands, but 8-10 of my frames were molding. In order to remove the mold, I had to destroy a lot of built out wax that the bees spent a lot of effort to make.


This season I will be working with the help of an aspiring beekeeper, Darek. He’s already helped me on inspections and building equipment to replace molded parts. One of my goals this summer is to catch a swarm, either with a bait hive or by removing a swarm. A bait hive is essentially a welcoming home for any colony looking to move. More specifically, it is a box with some frames in them with a scented lure. I will likely use lemongrass oil on a Q-tip as it replicates the pheromones of a queen. Swarming colonies can smell this up to a couple miles away. Hopefully this summer we will be able to catch Darek his own hive.


These past few months I’ve been building new equipment. I have three new hives I am adding to my fleet in Chicago.


Two hives will be placed at the Roots & Rays Community Garden in Pilsen. One hive will be placed in the yard of my friends the Spiewak brothers.


Here are some of the bees’ new neighbors.


While I am installing these three hives, I will also be replacing two hives at the Met West Community Garden in Ukrainian Village. In total I will be installing five 3lb packages of bees. They should be coming any day now!


To get my surviving colony through this cool part of Spring I have prepared some fondant for them as their honey resources have run low. By feeding them a drier form of sugar, it prevents them from needing to fly and relieve themselves.


My hive was loving the fondant. They consumed a whole plate worth in a matter of days. My hive finished three plates worth of fondant before Mike’s hive even finished one plate. His hive population is approximately half the size of my hive.


Mike’s hive is hanging on. They have a very small population, but hopefully they will build back up quickly. You can see here there are probably 6-8lbs of dead bees sitting at the bottom. There were so many dead bees that they actually blocked the entrance to the hive. The live bees were able to wedge their way through the screened bottom board to exit the hive before we cleaned out the dead bees.

More to come soon on the arrival of the new packages!

Ready for another super?

I went into my beehive last weekend with my friend Christina. With her artistic background, we were able to get some nice shots.  In the photo above, the bees appear to be walking back to the hive. But they’re not.  They are just sitting there with the abdomens in the air.  One thing I read was that elder bees sit at the entrance of the hive and open certain glands that release a pheromone that travels with the wind to help direct younger foraging bees back to the hive. They may or may not be doing that in this image.

The main purpose of this inspection was to see if the bees were ready to have an additional super added to the hive.  The last time I was in there, there were 4 empty frames with no built out comb on them.  If these were still empty, I would not add the super.  Thankfully, my bees have been very productive.  Comb was built out on the previously empty frames and the hive was ready for an additional super.

This is the empty super I will be adding to the top of the hive.  These frames have no comb, just the plasticell foundation. Once the bees build out the comb in these frames, they will be filling it with honey!  These frames are what I will be harvesting from in August, hopefully.

As I separated and lifted out a frame, there was some burr comb built between frames.  The action of lifting ripped them apart exposing a couple cells.  Here you can see a fresh larvae being exposed.  The bees will probably clean house and remove the larvae from the hive since it can no longer be born.

Here you can see a worker bee carrying a dead bee away from the hive.  They not only remove any dead bees from the hive, but take them away from the hive entrance.  This could be to keep a clear flight path or possibly to keep pests and mites from being attracted towards the hive.

Here’s a look at what’s going on under the super as I lift it off the ground.  Busy bees!

Scoot out of the way girls! Daddy is here to feed you.

Here I am laying their sugar water mixture in place.  I will continue to provide this to them until they stop taking it, which I imagine will be soon.  My sugar water mixture is an even 1:1 ratio of sugar and water this time of year.  I also add a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar to balance the acidic levels to something similar to nectar they would take from a flower. Providing the bees with sugar water gives them a boost of energy to continue to build out their new home with more comb.  As they become a more mature hive, I will be feed them only at certain points in the year.  As it is now, they consume an 8 cup sugar water mixture bag every 10-14 days.

I’ll end with a photo of me and Christina. Here we are excited and ready to enter the hive with our proper hive protective gear and tools.