Category Archives: BeeFacts

180° of Worrying

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When we last visited the Kingdom, hopefully you’ll recall that Catherine had employed some crazy architects.  I suited up and went in to revoke their building licenses.  I opened the hive, and sure enough, for some odd reason they had started to build comb perpendicular on the last large piece of comb.  It was bizarre and odd.  It was “cross comb” !!

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I easily removed it and put it aside to take into the house to add to the wax collection in the freezer.

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One day, when I have enough, I’ll render the wax and maybe make a candle !  Or some fabulous lip balm!

I switched out their feeder and closed them up.  As is typical for these Girls, they were feisty and annoyed that I was bugging them.

I checked on them two days later and they had started to rebuild the cross comb again.  I decided I needed to relocate that particular piece of comb between two already completed combs.  The Girls would not continue to build cross comb if it would interfere with their “bee space”, which essentially represents the amount of space required for bees to walk between two pieces of comb.  It was the only chance of halting this insanity.  After the last cross combing incident, I had done a little reading and found out that instead of taking the cross comb and adding it to the frozen wax ball, I should have simple attached it to one of the top bars.  This makes sense seeing as how much energy and resources it takes to make wax.  So this time I decided to affix the cross comb to one of the top bars with comb currently being constructed.  I also determined that it would be an ideal time to perform a full inspection.  So once again, I suited up and went in.

Removing the cross combing was once again a simple procedure, as was affixing it to the top bar.  It was fresh wax and so beautiful and soft.  It molded easily to the top bar.  I started to begin the inspection.  I noticed a lot of drone brood as I started going through the combs.  In fact, it seemed to be all I was seeing.  I was starting to get worried.  Is Catherine a “drone layer”?  Oh great, that’s all I need.  But then I saw some, there it was, worker brood!

Hooray!!  But there was still more drone brood and more drone brood.  And the laying pattern of the worker brood was spotty at best.  The Girls were becoming extremely annoyed at my presence and dusk was approaching.  I closed up the hive and went back to the house, followed by a few angry Girls, that I finally managed to shake about half way to the house.

My heart was heavy.  Was Catherine going to rule with dignity ?  Or would I already need to be thinking about a plot to replace her?  I would give it a few days, I told myself.  I crossed my fingers, I crossed them Hard… Let’s see what happens.

And I guess a few days was all it took for her to get back on track, because now we are at the opposite end of the spectrum.  Catherine has generated so many offspring that I now am worrying about “swarming” !

Is there no peace for beaks ?  Is this all a huge exercise in worrying?  I haven’t done a full inspection, but was carefully observing the kingdom’s progress through the looking glass (i.e. the window).  I could see definite worker brood in most cells.

I was continuing to feed them regularly, until their comb approach the back of the hive !  Yes !  The Girls have constructed comb on almost every top bar !  Which is another reason for me to worry about swarming.  If the Girls feel overcrowded or confined, they may decide they need a new home.  That could lead to ALL of them leaving, which is called “absconding”, or they could decide to start raising queen babies.  If this were to happen, the Girls would build special queen cups and Catherine would lay eggs in those cups.  Those eggs would hatch into larvae that are feed a magical potion called “royal jelly”, which is a white goo loaded with carbs and other goodies.  It like a magical Merlin potion, because it turns a regular ol’ egg that would normally turn into another worker bee into a royal princess.

Catherine would then command about half, maybe more, of her loyal subjects to chow down on honey in the hive and then they would all take off for another kingdom, leaving my kingdom with half its original Girls, half its honey, and after the gestation period, a VIRGIN queen.  This new queen would then have to go out and find available drones from other hives.  This would be less of a concern if the Ferals were still around, but since they were evicted, I’m not sure how close the nearest hive is.  I do know of a few down the road, but am not sure if it is within 3 miles.  I’m not sure how far the Virgin Queen would fly to mate.

If she could not mate successfully, doom and gloom would quickly engulf the kingdom.  I would have to be able to quickly identify this situation, and if available, purchase a new queen.  Either way, my second year of beekeeping becomes another bust.

And starting on Monday, the Girls started “bearding” outside the hive in the evenings.

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The bearding was so great on Wednesday evening that it was still there at 5:30 am Thursday morning.  However, by 7:00 am the Girls had mostly left to start their day.  I am considering whether I need to get a bed sheet and hang it in the tree to block the sun in the afternoon, even though the hive is only getting mottled sunlight.  The following day the bearding had expanded to this !!!

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I know I must do an inspection quickly; however, I worry that doing it in the afternoon when i get home from work is too late and the comb may be too soft and might collapse.  That would be utter disaster, plus a lot of the Girls are already bearding by that point and I don’t want to disturb their ball.  So I plan on doing it Saturday morning.  The rain chance is low and the temperature will be lower.  I will give the Girls a chance to get out and about and then i will perform the inspection.  I will need to determine if there were/are any queen cells.  If there are not, which will be the best case scenario, I will need to see if there are any combs with only honey in them.  If there are, I will need to harvest one or two so there will be additional empty top bars for Girls to continue expanding onto.  If there are not, I will need to make difficult choices.  I need to have empty top bars in the hive, so I could have to cull some brood.  I would attempt to cull any drone brood first and I would also like to cull any of the old comb from last year as well.  The Girls have really boomed in their wax production this year.

Oh!  And who knew that boxwood shrubs actually bloom and that the Girls LOVE boxwood nectar!  Last week I noticed quite a bit of activity in the front of the house.  Come to find out, boxwoods have tiny little bell shaped flowers !

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And on a final note, the Girls have seemed to calm down considerably.  I can perform looking glass inspections without any bother lately, which is an awesome sign.

A few other point of note:

1)  I have Golden Boys !  The drones are an incredible gold color, unless it is just because they are still young, I’m not sure.  In any case, I always like to appreciate the Boys too.

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Also, the Girls have finally found the pond.  I periodically see Girls going in for a sip.  However, alarmingly, I’m not seeing more.  It’s been quite hot and humid lately and if the Ferals had still been around there would have been a steady stream of visitors.  However, my Girls haven’t really visited, which is somewhat perplexing.  I would assume they are getting water, but from where I don’t know.

What’s Bloomin’

Here is where my Girls play and dine…

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  • Cat Mint (daily nectar foraging all day)

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  • Spiderwort — Widow’s Tears (daily early AM pollen foraging)

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  • Widow’s Cross

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  • White Clover (daily nectar foraging)

  • Chinese Privet (potential for pollen)

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  • Box Woods — at front of house (daily nectar foraging)  —  who even knew they bloomed !!

  • Dandelions — blooming again

  • Prairie Larkspur — still in bloom, but going to seed

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  • Gatinger’s Prairie Clover (never seen Girls on this, only Bumbles)

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  • Wine Cup

  • Primrose

  • Lavender — almost ready to flower

  • Tennessee Echinacea

  • Yellow Wild Flowers

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  • Purple Spike Flowers

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  • Ox Eye Daisy, the small Hairy Daisies, and the Skinny Medium Daisies

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  • Purple Butterfly Bush

  • Gerber Daisies

  • Dutchman’s Pipevine — still flowering

  • Wysteria – GONE

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  • Tangerine Cross Vine – GONE

  • Nashville Breadroot – GONE (but greenery is still around)

  • Tennessee Milk Vetch – GONE

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  • Little Yellow Ball Flowers, except in front of house  – GONE

  • White Baby’s Breath like stuff – for most part GONE

  • Rosemary – GONE

  • Crown Vetch

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  • Goat’s Beard

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  • Nine Barks

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Oh No….

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So this morning I take a peek inside the window.  Things are looking GREAT !  The Girls have built the new comb so big they are starting to connect it to the side.  Looking in the front… looks good.  Looking in the middle…. looks good.   Looking at the back…. Hello… what’s this?

It’s a piece of new comb, being built perpendicular to the last comb filled with honey!  What!!  They want to start cross-combing?

Well we can’t have any of that!  It’s not a lot, but they’ve started.  I’ll have to correct that as quickly as possible.  Hopefully I’ll be able to suit up when I get home and put a stop to this.  I may also insert a few empty top-bars to promote some additional comb building.  I will try and get some pictures of their crazy cross-combing.

Stay Tuned !

Bee Gone Ye Wretched Freeloading Boys !!

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(Remember… Sir James is a terrible Scribe !)

So yesterday evening I witnessed the expulsion of a few of the Boys.  Oh that’s right… since the last time I blogged, Queen Vicky felt like laying, or the Girls felt like raising, some Drones!  Just a few, but enough to peak my interest, since there hadn’t been any all summer long.  Not sure if the boys accomplished anything, but it’s now obviously time for them to go !  One Boy was already kicked out and dead on the ground.  I watched another being dragged out the entrance by one of the Girls, only to ever so luckily escape her grasp and slowly lumber back inside.  You days are numbered, my son.

Much has happened since last we scribed in the middle of August and fall is definitely in the air.  In fact, it was down right winter this morning.

So we apparently have this plant in our yard called Glade Privet.  And on August 18th, it bloomed.  And when I saw it bloomed… I mean it BLOOMED !!  I had never even noticed the plant/shrub before.  But one evening as I was out looking at the vegetable garden, and I heard Girls… it’s crazy how I can hear Girls now and I can even tell when they are Honey Girls or Not Honey Girls.  I was like, “Wow, I can hear Girls, where are they”.  Then I saw them and it was like Little Monsters at a GaGa concert!  They were everywhere, and they were partying down !  Apparently Glade Privet is the Bees Knees…. literally !!  (pun intended).  I started looking around the yard and discovered this stuff is all over, but only the big bush by the vegetable garden was really blooming.  I suspect it is because it gets significant water from our neighbors sprinklers, as  I know that our sprinklers do not water that back part of the yard.  The Glade Privet party lasted for about 6 days, non-stop, and then it was over as quickly as it had begun.  It an odd lanky shrub with almost insignificant greenish flowers.  But it does have an intoxicating smell that the Girls loved.  I hope some of my Girls got to partake in the fun and it wasn’t just all Ferals.  I tried to watch as Girls were leaving to see which hive they returned to, but it was just too difficult.


I have actually been bee-zuly, (get it… busily ??) reading a great new book all about top-bar beekeeping, nothing else… just top-bars.  It has definitely enlightened me regarding a number of things.

First, when I had the comb collapse tragedy after the first month, I shouldn’t have removed the comb.  I actually should have placed it at the back and just leaned it up against the wall and left it.  I had originally down that for a brief time, but then did finally remove it.  That was a mistake.  Lesson learned.

Secondly, I should have been moving empty top bars in front of that last honey comb all along.  My idea turned out to be correct.  Turns out this is an actually top bar beekeeping manipulation method to coax them to generate new comb.  I’m annoyed that I didn’t think of this sooner and try it earlier because I am concerned that the Girls don’t have enough reserves to make it through the winter.  Had I been utilizing this method all summer, I’m sure they would have built more comb.

I did actually feed the girls for 4 days straight with a 2:1 sugar syrup, AND… I placed the feeder inside the hive !  When I originally did it, I was all suited up.  I didn’t really bother the girls.  I basically opened the back of the hive and place the feeder within.  I did check on the last comb because the Girls did have some nectar that I could see on the back side for the longest time.  Then it suddenly disappeared.  I started to panic thinking that they had been robbed, but there was still capped honey on the front side.  That was also when I noticed the Drone cells and found it interested that Vicky had laid some Boys so late in the season.  Also, the comb that they were laid one was quite unusual.  It was very wavy and different thicknesses.

As I had said, the Girls were very very calm, so the next day when I went to take out the empty feeder and replace it with a new full one, I decided to try my luck sans suit.  I was a little nervous, but took my time and made sure to exhale away from the hive.  My heart was racing and I began sticking my hand in to retrieve the empty feeder.  I’m there… I’ve grasped the feeder, now to slowly take it out. Gently… ever so gently.  Almost there… Almost there… Just a few more inches… And then it happened !!  My fingers slipped !!  The empty feeder falls back into the hive with a very loud bang!  I panic and hold my breath waiting for the inevitable massacre that is about the happen to me.  I can run, I tell myself.  I can run to the house and put on my suit and fix the mess, I say.

But nothing happens !  A few girls fly out, but not even right at me.  Wow.  How lucky was that?  But the feeder is still in there, and now it’s LAYING down.  Am I crazy for thinking I should stick my hand back in AGAIN?  Wouldn’t a smart and sane man go get the suit ?  Or at least the gloves ?

But I was living on the edge that day and threw caution to the wind…. Woooooosh !! (That was my caution being blown away by the wind!)… (Actually there was no wind that day … so in actuality my caution would have just thudded to the ground!)

I licked my fingers and wiped them on my shorts to make sure there were not slippery.  I took and deep breath.. and exhaled AWAY from the hive… and slowly re-inserted my my hand and arm into the open hive.  I slowly grasped the feeder again and began to retrieve it.  Slowly.. slowly… gently… let’s not drop it again… slowly… almost there…. SUCCESS !!  I DID IT !!

I removed the empty feeder without one sting.  I gently placed the the full feeder into the hive and closed her up !  I was extremely proud of myself.  And repeated this three more times on the following three days.  It’s been cold the last few mornings and days, in the 60’s during the days and the 40’s at night.  However, it is supposed to be in the 70’s Thursday through Sunday, so I am hoping to feed the Girls again on those four days.

I am quite anxious over the approaching winter and whether the Girls will survive.  I purchased some insulation panels for the hive in hopes that I can give them any edge possible to make it through.  Another concern is their propalizing.  The Girls have done an excellent job of propalizing the small cracks along the bottom of the hive, along the cracks along the false back and the top bars, but they haven’t done anything at the entrance.  The Ferals next door have started to close up their front door.  I’m worried that my Girls have not.  I’ve read that some bees have lost their genetic instructions for surviving the winter and the Beeks need to help them by placing grass or twigs in the entrance, something small enough that the Girls can move if they warrant.  The front insulation panel will narrow and close off the entrance considerably, but I’m not supposed to use the panels unless it will be prolonged days below freezing.  I’m crossing my fingers for a mild winter, like last year, but this early blast of cold air is giving me pause.

Bearding is a normal occurrence for bees and happens when they congregate at the hive entrance, typically on warm and humid summer evenings.  The thinking is that the Girls know that their presence inside the hive would raise the temperature or the humidity level to high, so they hang out, literally, outside the hive.  An interesting formation occurred a few weeks ago however, just as it started to turn cool.  I went to visit the Girls in the morning, as I normally do each morning, and I found this strange little bearding formation.  It’s unusual because it was early morning and was somewhat cool out.  However, I think it was a little humid, and that may have been the contributing factor.  In any case, I’ve never seen the Girls do Bearding THIS way.  This whole little group was hanging on to only two Girls.  It’s crazy the strenght those little Girls must have to be hanging on by their little legs with all those other Girls just hanging on to them.

And that brings to a conclusion this latest scribe entry.  Until next time (hopefully BEFORE winter), everyone cross their fingers for the Girls.  And I’m going to try and get some pictures of the Ferals also.

Hear Ye… Hear Ye….

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Although Sir James is undeniably brave and valiant when it comes to vanquishing Small Hive Dragons and other such matters, be it known throughout the land that Sir James is a very, very, Very, Very, let’s say it again, VERY, very, one more time for good measure, Very, BAD Scribe.

It has been far too long since the last Royal update, and much has happened!  So let’s begin.

When last we left, it was the start of July, and our suspicions of a new Regant had been confirmed.  We were also in the midst of a Honey Girls “No Comb Building” Strike !

On Sunday July 22nd, I re-entered the Kingdom to see how QV2 was fairing.  I would venture to say that her reign is mediocre at best.  She is laying; however, her laying pattern is somewhat spotty.  I noted both capped and uncapped brood.

I put on my Cecil B. DeMille hat, as I believe I faintly heard “I’m ready for my close up”.  Here she is!   Can you find her?  She is the spitting image of what a Queen should look like.


I’ve been at my wits end regarding the Girls’ “No Comb Building” Strike.  Granted, it has been a very hot, dry almost drought-like summer here in Nashville; however, I keep feeling like for some reason something wasn’t right.  I was feeling almost like the Girls thought they were at the end of the hive for some reason.  Even though they still had enormous amounts of space.  There were still at least 3 empty Top Bars (“TBs”) and then 4 Honey Top Bars (“HTBs”).  The False Back is still in position as well and there are additional HTBs behind the False Back.  HTBs are merely regular TBs separated by small spacer bars.

Bees like to build combs at different widths to accommodate the use of the comb.  The regular TB has a 1 ⅜” width.  The spacers add ¼”, resulting in 1 ⅝”.  The Girls prefer to build brood comb with the 1 ⅜” width and honey comb with the 1 ⅝” width.  Apparently this allows them the correct spacing they want because they will build the honey comb thicker than the brood comb.

I had been mulling over a thought in my head for weeks.  When the comb collapse tragedy happened back in the middle of May, the Girls quickly rebuilt the comb on the empty bar that I had erroneously left.  What if I put an empty TB in front of the TB where they were storing their honey?  Would that persuade them to build new comb?  I decided to put an empty TB on position #1 and another empty TB right in front of their honey comb.  So the pattern in the hive was now as follows:

TB#1 — empty
TB#2 — pollen comb
TB#3 — brood comb
TB#4 — brood comb
TB#5 — brood comb
TB#6 — brood comb
TB#7 — brood comb
TB#8 — empty
TB#9 — honey comb
TB#10 — small comb (2 little pieces)

Well the Bee Goddess must have been smiling on the kingdom, because the following week, there was a beautiful new piece of snow white comb built on TB#8 !  Huzzah, Huzzah !

So that basically brings us up to last weekend.  When I again went into the Kingdom to slay Small Hive Dragons (small hive beetles).  Nasty little creatures, but the Girls do a pretty good job of quarantining them into the back of the hive and propolizing the cracks so they can’t get back through.  But there were A LOT now, probably 8-10 (in actuality, that isn’t a lot, but I don’t like looking at them when I looking into the hive), so I wanted to try and get rid of some of them.  I opened the hive and squished as many as I could.

I did a very brief inspection.  I checked on TB#1 and it was still empty.  I did not look for the Queen this time, but briefly looked at the laying patterns on the pieces I checked.  It was basically still the same.  Spotty capped brood.  Not a Drone in sight.

The Girls had already started storing some pollen and honey in the new piece of comb.  There were no spacers between any of these TBs and I worried that they might attempt to cross-comb the honey comb, so I moved some of the spacers around to give them the extra width on the honey comb pieces.  I also moved the last TB with the small pieces of comb, which by the way they had now connected (TB#10 above) to be in front of the new piece, TB#8, hoping they would also expand this piece and put honey in it.

If the Girls can at least get that done, they would have 3 combs of honey.  That would make me feel more comfortable going into fall.  Everything I’ve read says they need about 7 combs of honey for the winter.  I’m not sure if they will get there or not.  If they don’t, I hope they will survive.

I want to try and buy another False Back  in an attempt to devise a system to feed the Girls from within the hive, but I’ve been emailing the people I bought the hive from for two weeks now and I haven’t received a return message yet.  I swear the only time they have communicated with me was when I was buying something.  Sort of pisses me off.

I’ve read that honey production this year has been very negatively impacted by the severe drought and that everyone should be diligent in feeding their Girls.  I’ve been feeding them typically once a week with 1:1 syrup.  They typically take it very quickly, but the last time I tried giving it to the Girls, it took them over an hour to show interest.  I did not feed them last weekend as we’ve had some good rain.  However, I’ll continue to watch and feed as necessary.

One thing I find odd, we have a very LARGE rosemary plant and when it first bloomed in the early, early spring, it was covered with Feral Girls.  However, it recently re-bloomed but no one visits it.  Not my Girls or the Ferals.  Maybe there isn’t any nectar in it, but that would surprise me since it gets regular watering from the irrigation system.  All the Girls, mine and the Ferals, still spend a lot of their time getting water from the pond.  I’ve noticed a little foraging on these little blue-ish/purple flowers that basically grow like some sort of grass weed, but apart from that, I’m clueless as to where they do the majority of their foraging.

Here is one of my Girls foraging on one of the bushes in the yard.

I will probably wait a few more weeks before I enter the Kingdom again.  I’ll just observe through the window.  Hopefully September and October will remain warm enough for the Girls to be out and about.  And then I’ll have to button the girls up for winter and cross my fingers.

The Life of a Worker Bee

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Worker Bee Life Cycle Time Table

Hatching of Egg — 3 days

Larva stage (fed by other worker bees) — 5 days

Pupa stage — 13 days

Total (New Bee is Born !!) — 21 days

Life Span of Worker Bee After Emergence

House Bee –

Cleans cell and warms brood nest — 1-2 days

Feeds older larvae with pollen and honey — 3-5 days

Feeds young larvae with royal jelly — 6-11 days

Produces wax and constructs comb, also ripens honey — 12-17 days

Guards hive entrance and ventilates hive — 18-21 days

Field Bee –

Forages for nectar, pollen, propolis and water — 22 days –  death