RSS Feed

Monthly Archives: July 2012

July is Going Swimmingly … Even Without the Water

Ole, Thor and Lena. Look at all those honey supers!

Woot!  We put another honey super on Ole. This is awesome! That colony is GOING TO TOWN, putting up lots of honey. We also put another honey super on Lena. Lena is the ‘mother colony’ that we split this spring to make three. She’s been kind of stressed – a little slow to get back on her feet, but she is starting to come into her own. And little baby Thor, he’ll need another honey super in a week, or at least that’s Robin’s prediction.

Mark, out standing in the prairie. Or, is he OUTSTANDING in the prairie?… 😉

I’m hearing stories of colonies doing really well, and colonies not doing as well, across Iowa. There are many reasons, but I think ours is doing so well because we’ve found such a great place with lots and lots  and lots of native flowers. (And fresh water very close.) It’s really hard to capture in a photos, but the prairie is bursting with flowers – even in this drought. Yah!


July 1 – It’s All Good

Honey supers are on! From left to right, Ole, Thor & Lena.

Yikes! Looks like we’ve been negligent in posting in a timely manner. Sorry!

We just came back from a sweaty, sticky hour at the V&P Land, Cattle and Bees Production Yard #1.  WoooWe, things are looking great. Ole, the hive on the left is abuzz with activity, and we put the third super on this morning. Looks like we will be harvesting honey this year, unless some weird catastrophe is in the wings.  The downside is that Ole’s queen has decided to lay eggs in the bottom super, because, well, queens apparently hate us.

Queen excluder, photo borrowed from

Ah, a lot of eggs. You see, the queen is supposed to be content staying in the bottom two hive bodies ( the taller boxes on the bottom) laying eggs and generally living like a queen. We only harvest the honey in the supers (the shorter boxes on top) because they are essentially excess honey for the colony. We had good intentions of driving the bees down out of the supers and putting a queen excluder below the supers. But, when we started handling the bees, the laid back attitude of the bees diminished and a bit of bee grumpiness came out. Since I LOVE getting stung, we decided to forgo the effort of making sure the queen was not going to be above the excluder – we just put it on top of the lower super and called it good.

What is a queen excluder? It looks like a wire refrigerator shelf – and the wires are spaced so that worker bees can get through, but the wide-bodied queen cannot. Many beekeepers don’t care for queen excluders, calling them ‘honey excluders’. Some feel that the bees don’t like going through the wires, so they don’t go up into the supers. We have no idea how true this, but we did offset the supers so that there are little cracks for the workers to fly directly into the supers instead of having to enter the colony at the bottom and crawl up through the hive infrastructure to deposit the goods.

Bee chores, as demonstrated by Mark.

We also supered Thor and Lena. Thor had a super on, and since we couldn’t find any misplaced eggs in that super, we didn’t put on a queen excluder. Since this was Lena’s first super of the season (she’s been putzy this year, slower to get up on her feet after split so many bess out of her) we put on a queen excluder, JIC, and offset the super for easy of entry.

Chores. Every livestock operation has some kind of chores. When you are a beekeeper, there is the usual stuff, and then there is mowing the grass. You want to see the bee’s entrance into the hive clear, and since our bee yard is OVERUN with ticks, we’re about keeping a wide berth around the hives to slow down the need for tick checks. We had no idea how the bees would react to a noisy weed whacker. Mark donned the full suit and went to town – – the bees could have cared less. Ten bucks says the next time he mows and doesn’t suit up will result in his first sting.