Saturday, December 25, 2010

Inserting wax foundation into frames

We are getting ready for Spring.  One of our first steps is assembling new hive bodies and wax frames.  Below is a slideshow of pictures showing how to insert wax foundation into frames. If you click in the picture below you can pause it to allow you to study it in more detail. Double-clicking a picture will take you to the Picasa Web Album where you can see a larger view of the picture .  My mentor, Frank Clements, aka the bee boss, was kind enough to show me how to do this.  Not sure why but it stuck and I can actually insert the wax foundation into wooden frames.

Excuse all of the pictures but thought you might enjoy how my Queen Bee, Rayleen, painted our hive bodies.  Some of our beeyard compatriots may be none too thrilled but what are parents for.

Good luck with your own wax foundation installation.  If you have ideas or questions, please send them our way to

Saturday, September 11, 2010

How to move a Beehive

In an earlier post we discussed how NOT to move a hive of bees.  This is the counter to that moving experience and discusses HOW TO move a hive of bees.

While much of the nation was commemorating the fallen of 9/11/2001 on 9/11/2010, we were moving our bees.

We had studied the process under the expert tutelage of one Frank Clements, our mentor for our first year of beekeeping. He explained that when late evening arrives and the last of the bees have returned to the hive, screen them in and you are ready to move your hive. After repeatedly asking what time that might be, he repeated that it would depend on the last bee. 

We acquired another hive of bees from a former beekeeper that decided to fly off in a different direction. As a reminder, we live in a condominium and had our bees living in the backyard of our mentor, Frank Clements, the bee boss. For first year beekeepers this turned out to be of great advantage as our mentor would periodically peek in on our bees and let us know when we had stepped in some bee paddies. Our second hive of bees was an additional hour drive away. Since we would be moving the new bees shortly, this didn’t pose a huge problem but it did require some late night driving down country roads in the dark.

FRIENDS – So what do you do when you don’t own a pickup truck to haul bees and lack the expertise and equipment to make it all happen, call on your beest friends. One of our bee buddies, George Beckwith, lent us his pickup for the weekend. Oh my gosh, I cannot begin to say thanks enough. He even showed up at 7:00 in the morning to help us load our screened hives into the back of his pickup. My other friend and mentor, assisted in loading the hives into the pickup as well. My wife and I need to pay it back and forward to repay their kindness. Once arriving at Plan Bee in Liberty, NC, the new home for our bees, my son helped me unload the hives onto the nifty bee stand he and a buddy had constructed.

When things go wrong – Remember I told you that my mentor said to screen up the bees late at night. Well when it is warm, late at night turns out to be early in the morning, about 5:00am to be exact. My wife and I left the screen for hive one we are naming Aleph and our great mentor wedged in the screen late that evening just after the last bee returned home. We drove out at about 10:30 pm on 9/10 to do the same with our newly acquired hive which we called Beit. When we arrived at our second hive the bees were still bearding. (Bearding means that the bees are hot and hang on one another outside of the hive forming their version of a beard.) Now the first hive, Aleph, is a happy hive of friendly, no downright passive bees. With Aleph we are more likely to sting them then have an Aleph bee sting us. However, the Beit bees are their opposites. When approaching Beit, you better have them smoked. (Smoking is used with bees to confuse their communication which is primarily olfactory (smell)). The Beit bees are angry awnry bees which we have grown to love but as we were first getting acquainted, they were a problem. We called our mentor late at night and he answered his phone when many would not. He also offered us the loan of a handy dandy moving screen which he left on his front door step. Beekeepers usually don’t worry about thievery as most thieves stay away from stinging insects. (Me smiling)

05:00 on 09/11/2010 – We swung by the home of our bee boss and mentor and quietly grabbed the moving screen. From there we drove out in the dark to our Beit hive. The location is …. but fortunately Evelyn, our GPS, directed us in the middle of the night/early morning directly to our hive. As we bobbed and weaved over back roads in the dark we frequently questioned Evelyn. My wife got into an early morning cat fight with Evelyn, my GPS and I had to pull over to calm both of them down. As we arrived at our hive, the headlights revealed bees were still outside the hive. Our second hive was located in the back of an organic blueberry farm. Because of the location we could drive right up to the hive and shine our headlights on the hive.

Tools – So I had an electric screw driver, 2 screws and the moving screen. With my bee suit on, I carefully snuck up on my bees and gently placed the moving screen over the entrance to the hive. With two quick zips, I had screwed the moving screen into place and our prep work was basically done.

06:00 – We were on the road to pick up our pickup and drive with our driver. We arrived at our mentor’s about bee sunrise, which on this day was about 07:00. We finished tightening the two ratcheted straps we had around our hive and moved it to the pickup. It took two men and my wife to move the hives. My queen bee provided valuable adult supervision as we jockeyed the hive into position in the back of the pickup.

Straps – So I tried small thin straps that I use in backpacking but they didn’t get anywhere near tight enough to prevent the two deeps and one medium from sliding around. When moving bees disaster is spelled like this: “Separating bee boxes while driving down a highway”. So we tried another level up with no success. We finally followed the directions of our mentor and got industrial strength, approximately 2” wide straps and ratchet. The ratchet allowed us to tighten down the boxes and make sure nothing slips during transportation.

We repeated this with our second set of bees and dropped off our kind lender of the pickup and loader of beehives. My wife and I felt like kids borrowing the vehicle from our friend and tried in every way to be careful as this was his pride and joy. It is a trusty vehicle with lots of bells and whistles such as a remote sliding cover for the bed of the pickup. On the drive up we stopped to buy some sandwiches to eat while driving. We figured all of the bees were neatly in the hive, WRONG… As my wife waited for me to return with the sandwiches, first one bee and then another came out from where she had been hiding and began an orientation flight. Seems these bees didn’t get the word about staying in the hive.

Arriving at Plan Bee – We drove the pickup past our bee stand about 50 feet. My son and three year beekeeper was kind enough to help me unload the hives and place them on the stand. I was suited up and once the straps were removed from the hives, he went back to the truck while I removed the screens from the front of the hives. Can you say angry bees?? Our bees didn’t like being moved. They didn’t like being locked into their hives! They were just plain angry and our gentle application of sugar water didn’t help much. Thankfully our bee suits protected us from their wrath.

Lessons learned:

1. Friends, particularly beekeeper friends are key to a safe successful move.

2. Plan on screening in your bees EARLY morning.

3. Have your screen and/or moving screen ready.

4. Use 2” wide straps with ratchets to secure your hives.

5. You will need at least 2 beekeepers to lift and move the hives.

6. Being kind, gentle and slow moving with your bees seems to have a settling effect on them.

7. ALWAYS be in your bee suit during the move or plan on being stung.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Honey Harvest

As you all know, we are new beekeepers so this is our first time participating in a honey harvest.  We are fortunate to have a great mentor, Frank Clements, the bee boss, who has worked with us this first year so we can learn as much as possible.  He mentioned that he was going to one of his friend's house, Boyd Falls, to help him harvest the honey from his hive.  My queen bee and I thought this would be a excellent chance to learn more. We had been to Boyd's once before just to help out but after a number of months we had a whole new appreciation of his hives and backyard. 

To get the best look at the pictures above, hover over the bottom of them in the black area, click and arrows show up that let you look at each picture at your own pace. If you go to the button in the middle of the picture it takes you to my picasa web album and you can look that way as well. I hope the tech info is of assistance to you.

As you can see by looking at the pictures above, Boyd has created bee food heaven.  He has all manner of flower plants including cucumbers, asparagas, apples, figs and an assortment of flowers that are in constant bloom.  In this environment his bees have a nice source of food all spring and into the fall. 
Below are pictures from the day before we actually started harvesting the honey.  The hive had 13 BOXES and it was determined that we would attempt to harvest honey from the top 10 boxes.  The first challenge in harvesting honey is getting the bees to leave all of the honey harvest boxes.  This must be done within a day or so or else other critters like wax moths or hive beetles will ruin the unattended boxes.

The process begins by taking all of the boxes off until we got down to the 3rd box from the bottom.  The bee boss put on a handy dandy bee exiter/extruder which allows bees to exit the boxes above but not to reenter.  There is a picture of the bee extruder in the slideshow above.  So we took all of the boxes off which meant bees everywhere, yea great bee suits, and inserted the nifty bee exiter.  The bees are not NASCAR bees since once they hit the hole in the extruder they turn right and leave.  We left it overnight hoping to return to empty top boxes.

Note to others, bees don't like to leave quickly.  So the next day we still had lots of bees in the top boxes. We applied Bee-Quick, which smells like almonds to me and this drove the bees down box by box.  By the time we got to the bottom few boxes the bees were still hanging in there which made it interesting in the honey house where we were NOT wearing our neat bee suits.  Did I mention the extruder only lets bees out single file and they don't like to leave quickly??


The next step in our process was once the bees were gone from a box was to put the box into a black plastic bag and into the back of a waiting pickup for transportation to the nearby honey house.  We quickly would put the recently de-beed box in the black plastic bag so it would not become re-beed. "Not sure about beed boxes as a word but as a native speaker I think you will understand me."  Below are a few pictures of the hive bodies in plastic bags that are stacked in the honey house.

Honey House & Extracting Honey
We are finally getting to the part you have been waiting for, extracting the honey. With the honey laiden frames in the wonderful air conditioned honey house, we begin the fun work of extracting the honey.  The bee boss has a wonderful electric honey extractor.  He keeps in neat and shiney and insists that when we are done it is all clean and neat.  We all agree and really like his style and cleanliness.  It takes a bit to set it up but finally it is in place.

Frame by frame, we vacuum off the bees so we can decap the frame without being stung. When we are done we open the vacuum cleaner and all of the bees come flying out and back to the hive.  Kind of a bee recycling.

Decapping is done with either a hot knife or a Jeff Hackler Honey Punch.  My favorite is the honey punch for just getting the frames ready to extract the honey but if you want the pure wax on the end of the comb you want to use the hot knife.

Next the decapped frames are loaded into the extractor.  This nifty device can handle about 12 frames at a time.  It uses centrifugal force to extract the honey which then falls to the bottom of the extractor thanks to regular gravity. 

The spigot at the bottom of the extractor is opened and the honey is strained before dropping into a five gallon bucket.  I am guessing we extracted about 20 gallons of honey. 

When we were all done with extracting, we cleaned up and returned the hive bodies back to the hive for the bees to clean up the remaining honey from the frames. 

Boyd was kind enough to provide generous samples of the his honey, an unexpected suprise.  Frank, the bee boss, provided a generous helping of new knowledge in beekeeping.  Wow, a perfect day.

Like we say, keep your veils tight, your hive tools sharp and your smokers lit.
This is the bee boy out......

Friday, July 9, 2010

A restart for Wild Things in a Box using Google's eBlogger

Okay, so here's the deal. Sabba (Hebrew for grandfather), aka Dave the Bee Boy, is also an Amazon Associate. From a technical point of view I have been trying for weeks to insert a recommendation of a book where Amazon will say thank you to me in a financially meaningful way. With Mr. I couldn't figure it out. The Amazon code just dropped into this eBlog slicker than hive beetle larve sliding down a frame. (A little bee humor) So the switch is on.  Savtas Creations refers to my creative wife that, in addition to working with bees, likes to make handcrafted dolls using natural materials.  There is a bit of Zen in each doll.

Anyhow, I hope you will join us on eBlogger where we hope to do even more.  Some items I need to check out are inserting pictures, galleries and videos. Hopefully Mr. Google will make it even easier that Mr.

Below you will see Rudolph Steiner book, Bees.  If you are a beekeeper and don't own a copy, you need to get one.  Rudolph was way ahead of his time in studying bees, crystals and other Zen things. I may be misusing the word Zen as I mean it to refer to the interconnectivety of all living things.  Got a better word, le'me know.  I will try and paste past blogs into eBlog so my Rudolph referral will make more sense.

If you want to see the main blog site for Wild Things in a Box, go to

For past posts of Wild Things in a Box go to -