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Sunday, June 24, 2012

Beekeeping Lessons

My apiary.

O.K. Class, today we are going to learn some lessons on beekeeping. As you can see in the above picture, there is an apiary. It's my apiary. When I mow this apiary, I suit up. White clothes, veil, gloves. So far, I have never been stung mowing. But then, I suit up. However, I do not use a weed eater around the hives. I take a pair of clippers and clip the weeds down when I'm getting ready to open the hives.

And class, to refresh your memory, this is a picture of the hive that I showed you in the last post.

"Yes Fiona?"

Fiona has a question class.

(question paraphrased)

"Sorry about your sting bee lady, but what will happen to the bees since they are so crowded. Will they swarm?"

Now class, I'm sure she doesn't care more about the bees than me, but Very Good Question Fiona.

And yes, they MIGHT swarm. Most, not all, swarming occurs in spring when the Queen starts laying a lot of eggs and us beekeepers aren't quite ready for it. The bees run out of room, make a new queen, the old queen leaves with half the hive, and it's called a swarm. So they could swarm.

In this hive, I think the queen has plenty of room to lay, but the supers are full of honey. The super is the smaller box on the top of the hive bodies, and it's where the bees store honey. I wanted to extract this honey to give them room to bring in more nectar and make more honey. But they were immediately aggressive. I got stung the minute I opened the hive, and some of the bees were constantly buzzing me. I had to walk away a couple of times. THIS IS NOT NORMAL. So I had to figure out what is going on. After I got mad, and maybe cursed a little bit, I left that hive alone and went to the hive next to it. Hmmmmm, no activity, possibly a dead hive, and no honey. Geeeesh what is going on here.

Since that hive wasn't making honey, I took one of the supers off of it, and put it on the hive that is full. This is what it looks like now. Compare this to the above hive photo. Doesn't this look much more calm.

Three supers, two hive bodies. And less bees hanging outside the hive. HOWEVER, sometimes bees will hang outside the hive anyway, because it's just too dang hot inside. So the truth is, we don't know why Mother Nature creatures do what they do.

A lesson to take from this experience is you can get as mad as you want at a beehive, but you can't do anything about it, except try to correct the problem. 60,000 honeybees will win over a human every time. So get mad, and get over it.

Now class, I've mentioned many times that honey bees are not aggressive unless they are defending their hive. And here is what I think is going on and it is a BIG problem. I'm about 90% sure I have a raccoon problem. Yes, those cute little critters are a big problem for bees. They will take their paws and put them inside the hive, pull out hand fulls of honey and bees and eat 'em up. They love it. And they will come back night after night until they completely destroy an apiary. And here is why I am sure I have a raccoon problem.

A couple of weeks ago, when I extracted honey, I left two supers sitting on top of cement blocks for the bees to come and get the honey. I didn't want to extract it because I believe it was leftover honey that the bees didn't eat from last year. I only want to extract honey that is new and fresh. If I feed old honey back to the bees, they will recycle it, and it will be brand new again. I have left supers out like this for years for the bees to clean up. But when I went back to our land a couple of days later, this is what I found. The raccoons made this mess, I'm sure of it. I had two supers with frames inside nicely stacked on the blocks.

Now remember, this was not a standing beehive. It was two supers. I, unknowingly, drew the raccoons into the bee yard.

Since very few people wear coonskin hats anymore, I'm not sure raccoons serve a purpose. Do they?

My first plan to thwart the coons from destroying my hives is to put a wire (looks like chicken wire) across the opening of the hives. The bees can still come and go, but pesky critters will not be able to get in the hives. I'll keep you posted on the progress.

But class, before we dismiss, I want to add a couple of other small lessons.

First of all, you saw the result of my bee sting. It still hurts/itches....but not as much as 2. And it did swell. That's what bee stings do. That is not an allergic reaction. It's a NORMAL reaction to a bee sting. IF YOU ARE ALLERGIC TO BEE STINGS, THEN YOU ARE PROBABLY ALLERGIC TO WASPS, HORNETS, SWEAT BEES, BUMBLE BEES, ETC. CARRY AN EPI-PEN. Because those types of stinging insects are everywhere! And if you are allergic your throat will close up, you'll become dizzy, you won't be able to breathe, and it could be fatal.

Secondly, hmmm, I was interrupted with a phone call and I forget my other class dismissed.....for now.

Cindy Bee


  1. Thanks for the explanation Cindy! I'll almost certainly never be a bee-keeper (I'm an epi pen carrier) but I am very inquisitive and have read a lot about problems keeping bee colonies alive.

  2. Cindy Bee,
    I hope you are feeling better today? I never heard the word apiary before. Matt thought that's where apes live...LOL!

    All the honey looks delicious...I saw an apiary in North Carolina in May and I thought of you!

    Good class, good talking points!


  3. I love this lesson in bees!
    Someday I really want to have a few hives but right now Six says I have to many "projects" for him to keep up with :)

  4. very nice class.....
    PS . I think racoons are cute....and i like thier little hands

  5. Found that very interesting, thank you x

  6. Cindy, That was interesting. I know what you mean about cute animals being pests. So are chipmunks, squirrels, groundhogs, and skunks. We had life trapped many chippys.:) Hope you can safe your bees, I like them. Smiles, xo, Susie

  7. I LOVE these lessons as the only thing before your lessons about honey is liked it on my toast.
    I am so sorry about your Raccoon problem, around here we had a bee man pull out all his hives last year after years of Bear problems. We have a lot of bears and coons. Not the cute little Winnie the Pooh bears but the big old mean hungry leave them alone bears. Good luck Bee Lady:) B

  8. Maybe you need to trap said raccoon and relocate him/her? You, Miss Cindy Bee, are an excellent teacher!


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