Host Hive Inspection with a Guest

A member of the beekeeping club that I belong to has shown interest in top bar beekeeping. I invited him to inspect the host hive with me. We met up at eight am on August first. The weather was good and the sun was out. We looked in the observation window first. They had a couple of empty bars still. The rest of the hive looked full and busy.

The smoker was proving to be difficult for me. It took a bit of work to get it lit and going. I smoked the entrance of the hive and then opened it. The first bar that I took out, the comb broke. When I looked at the comb they had “glued” it to the side, there was quite a bit of propolis on it. The comb was empty and unused. There were three more combs that were full, but unused. I got a little further into the hive and inspected several more combs. There was uncapped and capped honey, but no brood it the any of the combs that I looked over.

The bees were getting very agitated by this time. The hum of the hive had turned into a very loud buzz. At this point the smoker went out. My guest and I agreed that it was time to close up the hive. Neither one of us wanted to continue into an angry hive especially without a smoker. The colony is strong and seem to be doing well, so I felt comfortable ending the inspection.

As it turns out, it was a good thing that we closed up the hive. Not long after we did the dark clouds rolled in. There wasn’t any rain or thunder, just thick cloud cover. This colony has already expressed how little they like cloudy days. I will have to come back when the day is clear.

Window view
Window view
Small comb
Small comb
The smoker
The smoker
Next bar
Next bar
New comb
New comb
Full comb
Full comb

The Beekeeper who is Afraid of Bees

Fear is defined as an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat.

After I was stung while gardening, I began to feel more anxious when working in the garden. Any buzzing around my head made me jumpy. The last inspection that I did on the host hive added to my fear. My reactions to bee stings are very painful and I really want to try to avoid being stung as much as I can. I know that being a beekeeper means that I am going to get stung, but I expect it while I am doing an inspection not while I am tending to my garden.

The bees are mostly docile, but occasionally they seem grumpy about us being in our backyard. I have spent very little time in my garden this year. My veggies are feeling neglected and I have not been able to enjoy the relaxation that gardening brings. I have done some gardening while in my bee suit, but the weather here can be too hot and humid for me to be wearing it at length.

The top bar hive in my yard was in need of an inspection and with having my full suit, I thought I would be okay. I opened the hive and the fear took over. I was shaking all over and unable to go on. I moved the divider board to the end which added four more bars to their space. That was all that I could do, so I closed up the hive.

Then on July 18th while out in the garden, I was chased by a relentless bee. I was more than ten feet away from the hive, but she was determined to get my attention. My husband was right there and I let him know that I needed help right away. We both walked toward the house and once we were on the patio he tried to get her away from me. She landed on his arm and he told me to run into the house. I ran into the mudroom and she followed me.

I went back into the yard and we worked on trying to get her away from me again. She went back to my husband and I bolted for the house. He decided to walk around to the front of the house to loose her and it worked. He came up to the front door and I wouldn’t let him in until I was sure that the bee was gone. Luckily, she didn’t follow him to the front of the house.

The same day I called a beekeeper that I know to see if she would be interested in taking my hives. She wanted to come see the hives, she had never worked with a top bar hive before. She came over the next day to check the top bar hive and the Langstroth hive. She started with the top bar hive, she lit the smoker, and then opened the hive. The bees were so calm and pleasant. This beekeeper has a very good relationship with the bees and they respond so well to her. She and I inspected the hive and everything looked good.

Next she went through the Langstroth hive and the bees reacted the same way. They were so calm and didn’t mind her going through their hive. This colony is very strong and doing very well. Their hive looked great and we saw all of the important things that we needed to see. I found it strange to hold a frame with foundation. I was able to easily move it around and turn it however I needed. Top bars are very different and you need to be careful when picking up the bar and moving it around. You don’t want to turn a bar wrong and have the comb break off.

The beekeeper told me that she would take both of the hives, she just needed to figure out the logistics of moving both of the hives. I was sad, but relieved. The anxiety has been such a challenge for me, but I wasn’t ready to give up yet. She had asked my to become her assistant, she needed help with keeping hives and I wanted to continue beekeeping. It seemed like this was going to be the best solution.

A few days later she called me and let me know that she had changed her mind. She was too overwhelmed with all that she has going on. I understood her, but I felt let down. Now I have to come up with a new plan.

Inspection of Host Top Bar Hive

On June 16th, I inspected the hive at the host house. The weather was warm, but it was somewhat cloudy. The bees seemed grumpy today, I am assuming that they do not like me opening their hive on a cloudy day. I have spoken with the family at the host house to see if the bees have been at all agressive. They let me know that the bees are very active, but have not been aggressive.

This colony is growing and building comb quickly. They had sixteen bars and I added seven more. While inspecting the bars I found eggs, larvae, capped brood, pollen, and honey stores. The bees had also built three queen cups, but they were empty. The colony is looking very healthy and doing well.

As I said earlier, the bees were very aggressive today. Toward the end of the inspection I got stung on the leg through my jeans and my rain pants. She must have worked very hard to sting me! I finished the inspection and got everything closed up. I found some plaintain leaves, chewed them up, and put the salve on my leg where I was stung. It helped some and my reaction wasn’t too bad until the evening. Then my leg had a very large welt on it and the burning started.

My husband was also stung. One of the bees crawled into his boot and stung him through his jeans. At first he said that it wasn’t too bad, but by the afternoon his leg was completely swollen from hip to toes. His leg stayed swollen for about two weeks. This was the first time that his reaction was worse than mine.

In the future I am going to do my best to inspect on a sunny day, I am hoping that the bees will be happier. I will also be using the smoker, which means that I have to practice lighting it! I am am not very good at having the smoker stay lit long enough to get me through the inspection.

Hive entrance
Hive entrance
Inside view
Inside view
Brood
Brood
Moving a bar
Moving a bar
Drone brood
Drone brood
Hexagons!
Hexagons!
Emerging drone
Emerging drone
Queen cups
Queen cups
So many bees!
So many bees!