I have been keeping bees for over a decade
and I still make lots of mistakes.
This year I hope to do better.

Ordered my 2014 bees

January 5th, 2014

I just ordered three packages of bees from Hudson Valley Bee Supply for late March delivery.

I have four hives now, but I am pretty sure that one is not going to make it and that one or two of the others will die. The weather here has gone down to below zero and I don’t think the bees will survive.

I could have, with extreme luck, as many as seven hives this summer, but at least I will have three.


Splits looks pretty good.

September 1st, 2013

Last July, I made a “walk-away” split on on of the hives. It was very active and had a good supply of reserves so I made two hives of it. I made sure that each hive had newly laid brood so that the box without a queen could make a new one. It has been a month and a half and both hives are doing well. Bees live about 45 days, so if the split had not worked, one of the hives would be empty.

Otherwise the hives are suffering from the lack of flowers in late summer. I see now that they are bringing back lots of pollen, and I guess it is Goldenrod, Queen Anne’s Lace and Ragweed. This is good for the bees. I have been feeding them every week, but not excessively.

I hope that they will make it through the winter.

The last time I harvested honey, it rained so I did not spin the frames. When I came back the next day, the bees had found the frames and robbed back all the honey. The frames were completely stripped of honey. I did not sell any honey this summer.

I will suit up tomorrow and look at the honey supers on the hive and see if they can be harvested. I might do it tomorrow if there is enough. Otherwise I will take off the queen excluders and let the bees have it the honey for the winter.

Robbed the bees

July 24th, 2013

I spent a couple of hours with the bees today. I have needed to open the hives for a few weeks, but the heat makes the wax comb all droopy and you have to be careful about manipulating the hives. I don’t want to kill a queen or disturb any of the carefully constructed bee-works inside the hives.

Today it dropped down into the middle 80s and the humidity was low so I suited up and went to work. I have my eye on a nylon ventilated suite. The one I have is horribly hot. I have to wait until I am working again before I spend any money on bees.

I have been peeking in under the lid at the honey supers and they seemed to be filling up, but when I opened up the hives there was not as much honey as I had hoped. There was lots of pollen, indicating that the bees were finding flowers, but little nectar. I took any frames that had more than about 2/3 honey and left the other partially filled frames for the bees.

In all I got 8 mostly filled frames out of the three hives, which is a good haul and much more than I got the last time.

I split one hive. The smoker was working and the bees were not particularly upset with me, so I took the time. My method of using wet towels to cover the parts of the hive where I am not working seems to keep the bees calm. They don’t like being open so I only leave the space of a frame or two open where I am pulling them out.

I found brood, although I did not find any day old brood. I am guessing that they bees were covering the very young ones. I did not see the queen. I pulled off the top deep and put it on a base just to the right of it, and swapped some brood frames from the bottom box to the former top box. Then I put a new deep on top of each so they would have plenty of room.

With luck one box will have the queen and one box will have a frame of new brood so that the bees can make a queen in the queenless box. This is called a “Walk Away Split” and is the traditional way to increase you bees. It works about half the time.

No stings this time. The smoke kept the bees calm and I used nitrile painting gloves underneath the regular bee gloves. I almost always get a sting through the gloves, so this time I tried the trick of using a thin plastic glove underneath the regular gloves. It seemed to work. The gloves had several bee stingers on them after I finished, but none made it to my hands.

I will spin the frames tonight and filter the honey. Erica will bottle the honey when she finds time. Perhaps Sunday I will put out the honey sign.

Finished bottling honey

June 17th, 2013

I got back from Cape Cod yesterday, and today Erica bottled the last harvest.

16 12 oz bears and 4 muth jars.  Very small harvest. I am putting away a couple of bears for my personal use and the rest I will sell.

This is such a small harvest that I think it will all be gone by this weekend.

Harvested Honey

June 12th, 2013

I robbed one of the hives today. There were four and a half frames of honey in the super, which is only about 20 pounds at best. There has been so much clamor for honey that I decided not to wait.

The other hives had very little honey.

This has been the worst year for me. I lost all the bees over the winter and one of the packages that I bought this Spring. The only high point was that a dead hive somehow came back to life – perhaps a swarm found it. It is coming along, but it has nothing in the super.

I will have so little honey and my costs are so high that I am raising the cost per bear. I am still discussing this with Erica, who doesn’t want to do it.

After I bottle what I have, I will announce that honey is here, but I am limiting the amount of honey I’ll sell at  a time so everybody gets at least a little honey.


Strangers in my hive

May 22nd, 2013

I have only three hives left. The last hive from last year died a couple of weeks ago. The hive boxes are out there empty and abandoned. I plan to split a hive or two if they are strong enough so I just leave them.

I noticed lots of bees in one of the abandoned hives. The colony died last fall. I guessed at the time that there must be some honey left in it and the other colonies were robbing it.

I went back over the weekend and this hive is full of bees. I popped the top and there were solid bees inside. They are cleaning out the hive and bringing back pollen. I might have captured an early hive, or there was a queen supersedure in the next hive. This happens when the bees make a new queen. I think that a hive might have made several queens and one went next door and took up housekeeping. This seems very unlikely, but is possible. Somehow I got a free hive without having to work for it.

I now have swarm traps up in the trees in the front of the house. My brother made one 4 frame nuke for me and I had a 5 frame nuke. I filled these with nice old honeycomb and poured a little lemon oil on them. This is supposed to attract a swarm. With luck I can have a couple of more hives by the end of June and perhaps I’ll be able to get honey from them in the fall.


One hive left

February 11th, 2013

I bought pollen patties to give to my bees to start them waking up for Spring. In past years this has worked. The pollen patties contain calories including protein and the bees respond by a population increase. I had three hives still alive about two weeks ago.

I went out a few days ago when the temperature was in the mid 40s (F), and found no activity at all, just dead bees. The cold snap where the temps went down into the low teens must have done them in. I put in a pollen patty in each hive just in case.

I went out today and in the first two hives there were no bees. In the third hive, there were bees tearing up the pollen patty. I’ll go out again with another one in a day or so.

It is disappointing to lose 9 out of ten hives, but it is heartening to see one lone hive hanging on. I have something to root for.

Bees in Rockland County, NY 2013

January 8th, 2013

I ordered three packages from the guy upstate who is coming up Rt. 95 with a truckload of bees. He’ll be dropping off bees here on the way.

Adam at AZApiaries used to come to the West Nyack Mall, but this year he said he’d be stopping across the river in Westchester. That’s a hike for me and I’d have to pay an expensive toll and some expensive gas to get the bees, so I have decided to try an alternative.

Jorik Phillips at http://www.hudsonvalleybeesupply.com will be stopping by, either at my house or at the mall during the last week in March (perhaps early April if the weather is bad). He has another run scheduled for the end of April.

“Their bees are genetically diverse and are bred for honey production, hardiness and temperament. They carry the best traits of Italian, Carniolan and their local stock. The queens and bees come from the same apiary so you can expect them to have the same southern drawl.”

I think that this is a nice alternative to the Italian bees that produce lots of honey while the nectar flows and then starve to death in the fall, no matter how much you feed them.

Thinking About the New Year

January 8th, 2013

I was out over the weekend looking in on my bees. I expected them to be dead, but I was surprised to see that they are still chugging along. The fondant that I put on the top of all  the hives is about half gone. It is hard as a rock, but they are nibbling away at it. I will move some fondant from the hive that died over to the other hives this weekend. I may put water on it to soften it somewhat before I feed the surviving hives.

I have to make a decision about new hives this spring. I have found someone who is buying a truckload of packages in North Carolina and is willing to stop by my house to drop off a couple for me on his way back. These are mixed bees, which I have decided might be better than the pure Italians that I have been getting.

There are other places within a couple of hours drive who are selling nucs, so I may buy some of these. All of these are mixed types – some Russian, some Carniolans, feral bees, and even some Buckfast.

My reasoning is that if I buy a variety of bees of different breeds that I might get lucky.

The guy that I bought queens from down in New Jersey had nucs last year, so I am going to phone him and see what I can get. The advantage is that this only about 15 miles drive and with the price of gas it makes his hives a bargain. He has recently divorced so I am also hoping that he may be wanting to get rid of some hives that I can pick up now.

My brother may have a bunch of nucs for $50 that he can get from a guy who does swarm captures.

I will also place some swarm traps on a few rooftops (one at my mother’s house and possible one in the village of Nyack).

My target is to have 8 hives so I would need 5 or 6 hives, depending on how my three make it through the winter. The hive that was smashed during Sandy, does not appear to have much population, so I am a little worried about her.

That would be $600 to $700 worth of bees. That would require that I sell about 150 bottles of honey. I am not sure that these bees will produce honey the way the pure Italians did. They are all of them “Survivor” bees of mixed types.

My fear is that one of these diverse hives will be sick with “foul brood” or infested with small hive beetle or varroa. This could wipe out my investment in a very short time.

Should I Continue with the Bees?

January 2nd, 2013

I was out looking at the bees over the weekend and it I don’t think it looks good. One hive has a few dead bees at the entrance and, when I pulled off the top, I saw a small ball of live bees, but I don’t think they will make it.

On all three remaining hives, the fondant is about half gone. That means they are eating the sugar, but I am not sure if it is enough to make it.

The weather has turned really cold today. It was under 20° when I woke up this morning and it won’t go above freezing all day. There are two months of deep cold left before I can start Spring feeding. I put on top feeders with sugar syrup during the first good thaw in late February or Early March. The three hives will have to survive until then on their honey stores and the rock hard fondant that’s left. I might try some more fondant if they get near the end of the current batch. (about 6 lb. per hive).

The question now is whether or not to buy bees in the spring to get back up to 6 or 7 hives. It will cost me, perhaps $850, for 7 hives, if the ones I have die. AZ Apiaries is not stopping by the West Nyack Mall with bees this year. I will be paying at least $110 per package for bees from unknown sources.

My brother Ward thinks he can get nucs from a guy near him for $50 each. These are unmanaged hives from swarms captured last summer. They are mixed breeds, but are survivors. They may have heavy varroa mite loads. There are a dozen of these available, so I am asking Ward to try to reserve three. I don’t know if he will come through.

There is a place an hour or so north of us selling nucs for $135 each. These are mixed race survivor bees, but he claims to not treat his bees, so they may have varroa, also. $135 is expensive, at least for me. It would take about 25 pounds of honey to make this back. There is also a place about an hour south that is selling nucs for $125. They have $100 3# packages from North Carolina.

I figure that I have about two weeks to make my mind up. The bees go fast.



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