First Hive Check

The day after I hived my bees, the rain came and didn’t really let up until Friday afternoon.  I had checked on my girls every day, but hadn’t seen much activity since poor weather keeps them inside the hive.  Friday there was a ton of activity from one of the hives and if I came close to it, the girls would run into my head.  This gave me the impression that the hive was cranky and I was worried that something was wrong with it.  Luckily, I know some sage beekeepers online and they assured me that a cranky hive is one that stings you when you walk by.  This was just an active hive.   Active is good.  That was music to my ears and I decided to venture out to the bee yard before my daring husband came home from work to see if I could at least get started on my bee tasks alone.

The first hive I checked was Hive Ruby.  It’s my quieter hive and therefore I figured it would be safer for a solo hive check.  There were quite a few dead bees in this hive (three or four dozen) and the swarm was tightly packed around the queen cage.

Hive Ruby Large Clump of Happy Girls!

I was pretty excited to see them doing whatever it was that they were doing.  Very glad to see them in their hive and alive still.  When I realized that I had to get the queen cage out of that ball of bees that’s when I had to pause for a moment.  I hadn’t really expect such a mass around the cage.  I don’t really know what I expected, but there you go.  I separated the bars slowly and took out the push-pin holding the cage in place.  With bare hands (I’m pretty impressed that I wasn’t wearing gloves) I pulled the cage out and there were roughly two dozen bees hanging on.  Since I had forgotten to purchase a bee brush, I used my dust pan brush (bee people please don’t judge me) to gently move most of the bees back into the hive.  The queen had successfully been released!  I was overjoyed.  I know that my next step was to search for the queen, but I was not sure of how to go about doing that so I figured it could wait until my next check.

Hive Ruby Queen Cage

Next I removed the sugar can that came with the bees and was surprised that it still felt mostly full.  With having nothing to compare it to, I wasn’t too concerned at the moment.  I had prepared two different feeding methods for my bees and decided to give Hive Ruby what I imagine is the easiest to access food.  Their next meal consisted of a long plastic tray filled with granulated white sugar.  I sprayed the top of the sugar with water laced with lemon grass essential oil.  One particularly successful beekeeper I read about uses this method, so I thought I would give it a try.  The girls seemed to perk up as soon as I gave them their food.  That was a proud moment for sure.  I closed up the bars the best I could, but a few of the girls didn’t want to get out-of-the-way, so I left the hive like that.  Frank came home just in time to help me get the lid back on the hive.  He was impressed that I had gotten into the hives alone and was very excited to help out.

Hive Ruby is named after one of my all time favorite literary characters, Ruby Thewes.

Hive Bonanza Jellybean is my more active hive, and that had me a little more nervous when Frank and I opened the lid.  I repeated the same sequence with Bonanza and had nearly the same results.  Hive JB got a bag of sugar syrup with slits in it instead of a dish of sugar.  We’ll see if there is any difference in how the bees treat their food.  Whichever seems to be the more successful feeding method is the one I will continue with.  There were much fewer dead bees in this hive and surprisingly, the sugar can was empty (this got me thinking that maybe Ruby couldn’t get to their sugar somehow and they were starving).

Hive Bonanza Jellybean Clump Close-Up

Hive Bonanza Jellybean wasn’t any more cooperative when it came to closing up the bars.  The girls just wouldn’t move.  At some point while I was trying to close up the hive I saw why people liked the smokers.  I’m sure that is just the thing to get the bees to move.  Not knowing what exactly I should do next, I left gaps on those bars as well and with my lovely assistant’s help closed up the hive.

Hive Bonanza Jellybean Top Bar gaps

Hive Bonanza Jellybean gets her name from a character in one of my favorite books Even Cowgirls Get the Blues.

Here’s a quote from the book.

“Cowgirl Interlude (Bonanza Jellybean)

She is lying on the family sofa in flannel pajamas. There is Kansas City mud on the tips and heels of her boots, boots that have yet to savor real manure. Fourteen, she knows she ought to remove her boots, yet she refuses. A Maverick rerun is on TV; she is eating beef jerky, occasionally slurping. On her upper stomach, where her pajama top has ridden up, is a small deep scar. She tells everyone, including her school nurse, that it was made by a silver bullet.

Whatever the origin of the extra hole in her belly, there are unmistakable signs of gunfire in the woodwork by the closet door. It was there that she once shot up one half of an old pair of sneakers. “Self-defense,” she pleaded, when her parents complained. “It was a [sic] out-law tennis shoe.   Billy the Ked.” 


― Tom Robbins, Even Cowgirls Get the Blues

This really is just the beginning of the story.  The funny and much more interesting part happens the following day.   My eyes are heavy and my sweet girl needs snuggles, so the story will have to be continued tomorrow… come back for it!  It’s totally worth it.

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9 Comments on “First Hive Check”

  1. Jenn says:

    Beautiful bees, beautiful hives! I’m glad they are doing well! Ruby Thewes is definitely among my top five favorite characters.

  2. Sam says:

    OK for getting the bees out from betwean bars I used a thin slat (about 1/8″ thick) you slide the bars so that they are almost closed then gently slide the stick into the resulting space (the stick is the same length as the top bars) then bees wont be able to fit into the two new spaces you created you can slide your top bars all the way up to the 1/8″ slat then pull the slat and slide the bars all the way together bees wont be able to get into the 1/8″ space left by the slat. this because an issue when your hive gets bigger. You do NOT need to look for the queen untill you have comb, then all you have to do is check for eggs, looking for the queen is pointless since if they have eggs they have a queen (from egg to larva from a newly laid egg), from the entrance you can tell if they have eggs because they wont bring pollen in unless they are feeding young (there are unusual situations that differ from the ones I listed, eg a laying worker)

    • Thanks for all of that great information, Sam. If my new method of closing the gaps doesn’t work next time, I’ll try your way. I’m hoping next time I go out and look at my girls I’ll be able to look for eggs. This really is an exciting adventure.

  3. Love the names of your hives and boy are you brave. I am fascinated by bees but I am also truly, truly scared of large groups of them. Awesome for you getting in there by yourself!
    xo

    • Thank you Angela. I don’t know if you read further back into the blog, but up until recently bees have been hard for me to deal with. I’m working on overcoming the terror because bees are so interesting to me. It’s a process. ;)

  4. keileigh says:

    I love reading about your bees! They’re so beautiful, and you’re pretty cool yourself for conquering your nerves and handling them. I was actually nervous just reading about it, but I know you’ve done plenty of research and prepared yourself to work with them.

    Ruby Thewes would NOT like my rooster, who flogs me every chance he gets. She’d have him dealt with in two seconds flat. I lent my copy of that to someone years ago and never got it back. Must buy it again. We live not too far from Cold Mountain, right on the edge of the Dark Corner of SC. Lots of interesting history and beautiful places.

    • Thank you for you sweet compliments Keileigh! I have done a lot of reading and youtube video watching. It just isn’t the same as getting your hands in there and doing it.

      My goodness, K! You let a mean old Rooster on your farm? Do didn’t put him in a pot? Lucky fella. I’ll bet he’s super at protecting your girls though. Ruby would have eaten him by now for sure!


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