Tag Archives: gear

June 1st, 2013 – Part One – OMG, I messed up.

1 Jun

I messed up.  Badly.  I am still reeling at how badly I messed up.

I have to tell today in three parts – part one is utter failure, mine.  Part two is utter failure, someone else’s.  Part three is, good stuff and possibly a tasty cocktail recipe….I’ve been holding onto the tasty cocktail recipe, I think I may need it today.

I’m also telling today all out of order.  This is the most recent part of the story.

I am headstrong and impatient.  I know these things about myself.  But today, I attempted to do something that is DEFINITELY a two person job…on my own…and I messed it up…and I got stung…for the first time since I was about 6.  I’m not allergic to bees, thank Jiminey Cricket….having not been stung in 26 years, I wasn’t completely sure.  She got me good, right in the middle finger knuckle of my left hand through my glove and I completely deserved it.  Completely, completely deserved it.

So I built a new hive…which if you’ve been following along, you have seen.  It’s a KTBH  and it’s reasonable considering that it’s my first attempt at carpentry.  Today I finished it and I built a little baby nuc for fun and just in case I needed it.  Betty and her girls have been crammed into their nuc for a while and I wanted to have an HTBnuc on hand in case I spotted a swarm cell and wanted to split them up.

So loaded the car, did a bunch of other bee things that I will detail in other posts, and then went to chop and crop my langstroth nuc into my KTBH hive.  By myself.  I really, really, really shouldn’t have done this….but I don’t know any other beeks in the area and think I can do things by myself and I just can’t.

So first, I watched a video of Phil Chandler doing it about 8 times…of course he makes it look as easy as pie.

Then I laid out all of my stuff:

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(New bars, hive tool, loppers, small cutters, bread knife, spray bottle, brush, gloves)

Then I set to work…I moved the nuc away from where it was, put my HTBnuc into its place, just in case, and then took out the first frame.  Checked both sides for Betty, didn’t see her.  Shook the bees into the new hive and began chopping and cropping.  The frame was their most recently built out and mostly was uncapped honey/nectar.  It went ok – it was not as easy as Phil makes it look, mais oui, but reasonable.  The comb ended up coming loose from the bar, I got stung in the hand (had a momentary freak out and then just started an “It’s ok, I’m ok, you’re ok” mantra) but I got through it.  I chucked the extra corner pieces into the HTBnuc as a sort of expedient storage place for them, and then figured I’d leave it in there so they can rob it out but have it not be just laying on the ground.

Then I went on to the next frame…and it was plastic…through and through…I was unprepared for that.  No Betty, shake shake, and then commence cutting….and the cutting was really hard…  And it was mixed brood, so I was making a total mess of brood soup, ugh….I just couldn’t cut it in a way that made sense…it wouldn’t fit…the bees were all freaking out…I think I got stung again, although I barely (and still don’t) feel it.  The sun was setting, it was getting cooler…I just couldn’t handle it anymore and was worried about the giant disaster I was making…and so I just stopped.  Which I’m not sure was the right decision either.

It was too late in the day for me to be starting that, I shouldn’t have done it on my own, and I’ve made a total disaster of one of my bee yards.  So right now out there it looks like this:

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My baby HTBnuc where the styro one was with a bunch of weird corners of comb in both nectar and brood varieties.  The big KTBH with a frame of nectar and a frame of mixed brood awkwardly chopped and cropped into there…  And finally Betty in her original styro nuc, facing the opposite way it had been facing…with three proper frames, and two of my top bars propped in there awkwardly.

Worst case scenario, the styro nuc and Betty are fine and the rest of what I did is a disaster….but I still have to get the rest of the damn thing taken apart.

Middle Scenario, the big hive raises a queen.

Pie in the sky, somehow the the HTBnuc raises a queen out of the wreckage…and I will name her Jean Grey.

I started working on a new KTBH in my workshop the other day, but I think I need to take it apart and make a conversion one so that I can just move the stupid lang frames into it and not do anymore of the cutting.  I hate the cutting.  I think conversion hives are ugly things…but I’d rather an ugly thing to what just happened.

So, learned some lessons…feel like shit…think I shouldn’t touch them for two weeks and see what happens.  I’d love some constructive feedback…if possible light on the negativity, I know I messed up.

Scratch Hive Bee Check & Queen Release!

10 May

Today I checked on Scratch Hive (queen still nameless)….it’s such a pleasant drive to get out there. Farm fields, chickens, butterflies, and bees!

I rolled up as close as I’d prefer to put my car to the hive and peeked in the window to find a bar and a half of pure white virgin comb and the girls bustling in and out with full pollen baskets of about 10 different colors!

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Stuart had suggested that I not even remove the cork to candy release the queen for 3 days so that they could really get used to her. He’s such a quick turn around for package delivery, that they haven’t even been together for 24 hours when he drops them off. I was skeptical, but I’d rather not lose a queen in such a difficult bee year. I also have heard a lot about KTBH hives absconding more often than other types, so I figured…caged queen = less likely to wander off.

When I installed them, I put the seed comb in one end and the queen cage in the other (on the bottom), hoping they’d build on the opposite side from where she was…easing my release of her today.

Of course….I was wrong.

That beautiful comb? Yeah, it’s right over her regal little head.

So I decided….today is the day to light my smoker (for the first time…). I’ve been meaning (for over a year) to light it up at least for practice, but I never felt like I needed it with my warre. Reaching down into a hive full of bees, picking up the queen, uncorking her, and putting her back….seemed like a smokin’ sort of activity.

I loaded up the smoker with light cardboard and leaves, pulled out the matchbook that’s been in my bee box for over a year, and opened it….to find that it was completely empty. Like defective and never had any matches to begin with empty.

Heart rate rising.

I’ve never had a problem using my bee-calm spray before, but I’ve also never opened a hive to this degree.

Heart rate rising.

So I suited up, got my bee calm spray and set to work, slowly and carefully. I opened the hive, pulled a few empty bars out, slid the comb bars over…which they didn’t like, but it was necessary…and then I took a deep breath and reached my arm down into the hive. It took a little maneuvering to find the queen cage in the mass of bees, but I found her, picked her up, uncorked her…really hoping that she’d prance out…to no avail…set the cage back into the bottom of the hive….closed it back on up (which involves a lot of brushwork and coaxing) and backed off!

I was really nervous the whole time (still a newbeeeee) but I got it done and they seem really happy there.

I’ll be back next Friday to make sure there’s a good lay pattern and to see if they need more bars. At this rate, it seems like they will in pretty short order. I started them with 10 or 12 bars and they’ve already mostly filled one bar and started on another.

I also need to decide if I’m going to open the hive floor or not. I worry it’ll be too bright in there if I do.

So 1) What should I name this queen. And 2) Should I open the hive floor?

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Found a Kenyan Top Bar Hive builder in Boston (ish)!

29 Feb

Just found an AWESOME guy in central MA who will build for such reasonable prices – he does carpentry and he keeps bees, so it seems logical that he’s building hives now.

He sent me pics, they’re great!

Plain Hive – love the hexagon up top!


Plain Hive


Observation Window


Window Open

Window open, hinged lid.


Top bars in place.


Sweeeeeet comb guides.

The plain hive, pine unpainted is $150, the window adds $50 and the hinged lid adds $20. Adding a bee friendly coating adds $20.  Obviously, he could change his prices at any point, so take this with a grain of salt.

Mine is going to have a window, but no hinges on the lid.

He lives in Boylston but also will deliver “for a fee” not sure what fee, I’m picking mine up. His name is Scott and he’s nationalginger@gmail – he’s super quick with email and really friendly and accommodating. If you email him, tell him Kelly sent you. 🙂

Some Bee Stuff

14 Feb

I have been slowly gearing up this month in anticipation of the arrival of my bees on April 2nd.  So far I have a bunch of little things:

I don’t intend for the smoker to be a regular part of my practice, but I wanted to have one – especially at first, I know I’ll be nervous a lot and want the back up.  I’m going to try to light it and play with it in a day or so.  I’m also modeling a $150 bee suit I found on eBay for $50 because it has “blemishes” – I’ll take blemishes.  I also already had a spray bottle and a pocket knife – which will go in my kit.

In that same batch of ordering, I got a pair of baby chick watering bases so that I could make water stations for my bees.  Then when I was out in the yard the other day, I saw bees flying around looking for things and so I put it together and voila – drinking bees!

Which made me so happy that I’ve been stalking the weather since then, hoping for a 45 degree day that I’d be home during the day for.  Tomorrow might fit that bill – but it looks like Wednesday definitely will.

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