First Hive Check: Part Two

I really hadn’t planned on making this a two-part post but the last one ran on long and my toddler and my cold medicine got the best of me.

As you may recall from a previous post,  bees have not always been my most favorite thing in the world.   I thought I’d put that out there just in case anyone is new to this new blog.


Continued from yesterday

After I closed up the hives I went inside and shared the pictures of the bar gaps to the  Facebook beekeeping group that I belong to.  Knowing that if I put the question out there, one of the more experienced and wiser beekeepers would help me along.

One of the first responses told me that I had ‘VIOLATED BEE SPACE’ and that the bees could and would more than likely start building comb where I don’t want them to and I’d have a mess of epic proportions on my hands.  Violate bee space???? I certainly didn’t want to be doing that.

{Bee space is the amount of space that bees like to have around them.  If there is too much space, the bees will build comb to fill it.  If it’s just a tiny gap or crack, they usually fill with propolis.   Here’s a link if you want to know the dimensions.}

It was late in the day and I didn’t want to go bugging my girls again so I decided to wait until tomorrow to fix the gaps in the bars.  The next morning Hubs and I went out and got a bee brush and spray bottle at the local apiary.  I wasn’t going to try to move the girls with my dust pan brush again.  They got all tangled up in it and I don’t want to hurt anyone.  I also chatted up the guy to see if he knew any top bar beekeepers, as I’d love to have a mentor that’s more experienced than me.  He said he’d call if he thought of anyone.  I haven’t heard anything about that yet, so I’m guessing the answer was no.   No matter, I’m doing alright on my own so far.

On our way home from the shop, Bodhi fell asleep and after we got her settled in her bed we went straight out to the hives.   Armed with my new bee brush and a squirt bottle of water, I decided to forgo the veil and white shirt.  I didn’t feel like they were necessary and perhaps feeling like I needed to shield myself from my bees was making me feel more guarded around them than was actually needed.

I started with Hive Ruby since I’m a creature of habit.  At first I thought I would just close up the gaps, but I was in there and feeling brave and oh-so-curious about what my girls were doing.  So I decided to take out one of the bars and see what they were up to.

I don’t know if you know this, but bees link together in the hive.  They make chains and hold hands.  It’s really a spectacular sight.  When I ever so slowly lifted the bar out of the hive, the bees were hanging on to one another for dear life.  I reminded me of the end scene from Titanic when everyone is freaking out and grabbing on to each other.  I felt a little bad for disturbing their world for curiosity’s sake, but I was as gentle as possible and I don’t think anyone actually got hurt.

Hive Ruby's first comb.

Hive Ruby had a beautiful little comb going.  It was incredibly bright yellow.  I’m assuming the color is coming from all of the dandelions in bloom at the moment.  I didn’t look around for a queen or even check for eggs.  I just wanted to see that they were building, and they were!  A very proud bee mama, I gently slid the bar back in place and with the help of my bee brush and plain water squirt bottle, I was able to close up the gaps between the bars without a problem.  Frank and I put the lid on and we were done.  So easy!

I think I’ll always start with Hive Ruby.  It’s a gentle hive and definitely a confidence booster.

Busting at the seams with my can do attitude I forge into Hive Bonanza Jellybean with perhaps too little healthy fear of the bees.  I know what I’m doing.  I’m not afraid.  Look at me in the hives with no gear on working with the bees.  Blah. Blah. Blah.

Pretending to lick Hive Bonanza Jellybean's Comb.

Look at those bustling girls making such a huge comb!  I was so pleased with their work,  and possibly high on endorphins that I got a little hammy and decided to be playful with my bees.  After this picture was taken I had the urge to see what was under all those bees.  What was in that gorgeous comb they were building?  Would I be able to see eggs?

Being that my hands were full, and you can’t lay a top bar comb on it’ side to inspect it as it would snap off and create havoc.. I blew on it.

It took exactly half a second for me to realize the mistake I had made.  The bees tone changed from buzzing about ‘what a beautiful sunny day it is’ to ‘Get her girls!!!’

They started flying at my face and I freaked out.

Lost it.

Somehow I had the presence of mind to hand the bar off to my sweet husband before I lost complete and total control.  After I thrust the bar into his hands…


My pinky finger was throbbing.  Sting one.

My neck burned as I brushed off the stinger in-bedded by my jugular (this one was trying to kill me)  Sting two.

I could feel and hear the bee in my bangs trying to get to my scalp like the wasps from when I was a little girl.  I ripped out my favorite ponytail holder, tossed in the grass and tried to get the bee out.

Screaming still.

Wondering where my knight in shining armor was.  (Wait, do I hear him laughing?)

Just about the time that I had decided that it would be worth it to pull out all of my hair to rid myself of the bee stuck in the tangles, Frank showed up and freed me from my tormentor.   He gave me a great big hug and we just stood there for a minute.  My husband has an amazing calming effect on my nerves.  Thank goodness for that.

Knowing that it wasn’t all that warm out and that I needed to get the lid on my hive so my girls didn’t get cold, I somehow got my game face back on and went back to the hive.  I looked around frantically for the bar that I nearly tossed at Frank.  Where was it?  He couldn’t remember what he did with it and started looking in the grass (are you kidding me, the grass?).  At this point I was sure I was the worst beekeeper in the world and that the Bee Protection Society was going to roll up in yellow and black vans at any moment and take away my hives.

It turns out that even in all of the commotion of his wife freaking out (which he thought was a joke at first??) he put the bees back in the hive right where they came from before he came to save me.  That man is a wonder.  A fantastic  bee handling, wife calming wonder.  I love him so.

Using the same technique that I did with Ruby, I got the bars closed on Bonanza Jellybean and we got the lid back on.  The girls must have noticed my contrite manners and let me go about my business without further scolding.  Thank goodness for that.

What I learned that day:

  • Always respect the bees.  A little healthy fear is a good thing when working with a large group of creatures that will chase you down and make you pay for your sins against them.
  • Childhood fears and their corresponding reactions surface quickly when the need  arises.
  • Probably the most important thing I learned is DON’T BLOW ON THE BEES

I do feel badly that two of my gals died to teach me that those lessons.  I promise from this day forward, no matter how brave and confident I’m feeling to always be on my most gentle and respectful behavior.

For everyone’s sake.


19 Comments on “First Hive Check: Part Two”

  1. Vanessa says:

    Wow, sounds like an exciting day! I like how you write, it’s fun and interesting and I can totally see it all unfolding in my mind. Glad you didn’t get too many stings or loose many of your gals. I will remember not to ever blow on bees. :-/ yikes! Glad your hives are doing so well, I kinda want to peek in them and see it myself, but then again…. not sure how brave I would actually feel if I were there. 🙂

    • Vanessa, you are welcome any time your heart desires and your gut feels brave enough. You can stand as far off or as close as you want. I promise, if you are gentle and slow (and don’t blow on them) you’ll be fine. I’d love to have the company on a hive check any time you feel up for it.

      Thanks for the blog love. I haven’t written much since High School when I wrote often, and enjoyed it. I feel like it’s starting to come back to me.

  2. Awesome story. 🙂 Agreed with Vanessa that you’re a great writer – your story flows. Pretty awesome that Frank was able to put the bees back all calm like. Would have loved to see that go down. 😀

    • Thank you, Erika. Frank is the bestest, isn’t he? It really was awesome that he did that. I think we need to set up a bee-cam to catch the antics at the hives.. although hopefully, there wont’ be any more hive antics.

      • That’s actually a great idea! Either something recording you guys doing work with them or a tiny camera recording the bees in their hives. I could also see how videos of you handling the bees would be helpful for those who are interested in having their own and/or who need bee guidance/reassurance. Definitely would be interesting to watch.

      • 🙂 I wonder if a video camera would make it in a hive? I’ll be the bees would cover it with propolis and you’d never see anything.

        Perhaps one day when I’m a bit more confident, I’ll made a video. That’s definitely something for me to work up to!

      • We are toying with the idea of a chicken cam, however.. 😀

  3. Erika Preston says:

    Heh heh…..imagine all the chicken drama. “No, no, no. That is MY egg you’re sitting on. I’ve been sitting on that thing for two weeks now and I take two minute out of my day to eat my breakfast and you just waltz on in here and sit on it like it’s yours? BAK!”

  4. Jenn says:

    Oh my! Great storytelling! I actually chuckled out loud during the reading and could visualize the mayhem, but was glad they didn’t swarm you! You should make one of those fun hand-lettered old-fashioned looking signs that states simply “Don’t Blow on the Bees!” and put it up near the hives. 🙂 You’d chuckle every time you saw it and it would be a gentle reminder of the awesome power housed in those hives.
    It’s amazing how fast they are working building their comb! Incredible little tireless workers.

    • Awesome idea about the sign. I think I will do that Jenn! I could use that reminder. In fact, it’s a good reminder for all of life.

      They are such amazing creatures, aren’t they? I’m astounded every time I see them by what they can accomplish.

  5. keileigh says:

    Oh my word. I laughed very hard while reading this, then had to go back and try to read it to my husband while laughing just as hard as the first read-through. I imagine this slow-mo voice in your head as you blew on the bees going “Noooooooo! Bad idea!”

    Good job, though, for going back and finishing the job. Hearing about how relatively laid-back the bees are (when not being blown on!) makes me think I might actually be able to have some one day. So cool, too, that Frank is such a calming force for you and them. I am totally loving reading about your adventures. 🙂

    • So glad you enjoyed the post! I can absolutely say that it’s pretty funny to me now. You’ve got to be able to laugh at yourself, right?

      I can’t wait to read on your blog that you have bees. You can totally do it. Seriously, If I can, anyone can.

  6. AKGherman says:

    oh, oh, oh my! They are amazing. And thank you, thank you for helping our planet replenish of bees.

  7. Sam says:

    Oh my, no vail, I read vail-less and knew that wouldn’t end well? hmm I might go in a t-shirt but not vail-less, they like to attack your face because of the carbon-dioxide you exhale smart little critters. Gently blowing on a comb is a great way to get them to move a little but this is a new hive so I imagine you have a lot of older bees and not so many nurse bees, plus they are a lot more gentile in the spring then in the fall, being able to open a hive without at least one bee buzzing your head is a very gentile hive indeed. One time I was doing a cut out I blew into the hole trying to clear bees so I could see the comb, then swooping out of the smoke I could see an attack force charging me right to my face, fortunately I was well protected 🙂

    • I’ve seen all kinds of beekeepers do it and I figured it could be done. I’m an optimist, I guess. I don’t really plan on wearing a veil again, until it becomes a problem.

      Yikes. I’m not even entertaining the thought of catching swarms or doing cut outs. That is some serious stuff.

  8. Suzette says:

    Monika, you are amazing. Frank is equally as amazing for keeping calm, laughing, and hugging you all in just a few short moments I am sure. I am awed that you remembered (can’t spell tonight) the sound the girls made as you pissed them off. Keep up the good work honey.

    • Hee hee. Thanks Suz! Thanks. Frank is amazing, that is so very true.

      Let me assure you, it is not hard to remember that sound. It was a sound that let me know I did a very very bad thing, and that I would pay. I hope to never hear it again!

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