Archive for the ‘Journal’ Category

During winter in Minnesota, honeybees cluster and vibrate, generating enough heat to keep themselves warm and the colony alive.  If you drop a thermometer into the center of a bee cluster, it will register 80 – 90 degrees F.  Hives are covered in the fall, and the bees are generally left to winter over with their honey and pollen stores to see them through. Then, in the spring, the hive is eventually uncovered, the bees are given supplemental food, dead bees are removed, the colony is divided, another queen is introduced, and the cycle begins again.

My involvement with the Isanti bees has ended, and I learned a lot about bees and about friendship in the process.  The Isanti bee colony came to fruition because of a dream that I had.. that I shared with a friend.. and although I am no longer involved with the colony, I know that they wouldn’t be there now if it weren’t for my dream.  I am grateful for what I’ve learned, and I am happy that other people have been inspired to keep bees of their own, have stopped using pestcides, or have planted bee-friendly gardens because they read something that I posted or listened to me tell bee stories in the pub.  Maybe I didn’t build a honey farm empire, but every little bit of effort makes a positive impact on the world.


To laugh often and much; To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.  ~  Ralph Waldo Emerson


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Hive update: July 20th

The bees quickly filled up the second box and the third was added.  No pics available, unfortunately, but all seems to be going well in bee land.

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The bees have filled up the first hive box with comb and brood, and so a second hive box has now been added.  No signs of foulbrood, varroa mites or other infestations.  We think the queen made a special flight appearance while we were checking the frames, as a large bee with a very unusual buzz appeared.  Hopefully all are settled back into their larger, expanded home and doing what bees do.

second hive box

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The bees have filled 75 – 80% of the frames in the first hive box.  Going back up to the apiary on Sunday to add a second box.  So far, so good!

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Despite the recent cold and rainy weather, the bee colony has been busy!  To this point, their food supply has been supplemented with sugar syrup, which helps maintain their nutrition while the spring blooms continue to appear.  Because flowers & trees bloomed earlier this year, there was ample pollen in the area, and we didn’t have to provide supplemental pollen patties, which is normal.  As soon as we approached the hive, we could see the bees were in a bit of a traffic jam, with the entrance reducer on the hive still set at it’s smallest opening.  As soon as we opened the entrance to its next largest setting, the bees didn’t hesitate to use it in greater numbers.  We carefully inspected the frames and found evidence of what appeared to be a healthy brood — many brood cells sealed and incubating larva, soon to be young bees!  The colony had not yet drawn comb on all of the frames, but the center ones were pretty covered in comb, and the yellow pollen color was apparent throughout.

May 23

We saw no evidence of foulbrood (identified by its foul odor) and no evidence of the varroa mite, two of the most common problems facing honeybees in Minnesota.  After the hive was closed and we took a lunch break, we returned for one last visit.  Sitting on the ground, just a few feet from the hive, I watched bees exit, hover in a circle just above the hive and then take off in a southwesterly direction.  I could also see others returning, and as they carefully landed and entered the hive, their rear legs were bulging yellow with pollen.  I couldn’t help but smile — what amazing little creatures!  I am in awe.

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Today’s visit to the apiary was a quickie.  Because the weather has been windy, cold and rainy, we were glad to have made the decision last week to keep the entrance reducer at its smallest opening, thus giving the bees more protection from the cold.  Although the sugar syrup bucket was nearly empty, we didn’t see a lot of activity outside the hive boxes.  The bees inside seemed to be quite active, but we didn’t disturb them by removing the inner cover… just peered into the feeder opening.  So, we filled the bucket with sugar syrup, watched a gorgeous sunset over the lake and scuttled back to the city.

One more thing… Sondra’s parents have been busy planting blueberry bushes near the apiary, and Sondra’s dad told us that a scout bee was circling around him while he was planting, stopped to read the blueberry sign near one of the plants, smiled at him and flew back to the hive to tell the others.  True story.  🙂

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Yesterday was my b-day, and today was a very happy bee day, indeed!  The colony has been left to their business for nearly a week, and we approached the hive with cautious optimism.  As soon as the hive cover was lifted, we could see evidence of honeycomb!  Workers were flying around the hive, heavy with pollen, and on examination of the frames, we were thrilled to see their progress with building comb, filling it with nectar & pollen… and, best of all, we spotted what appeared to be larva!  Great news, as this means the queen was accepted, and the colony is doing everything it should be doing.  I’ll let the photos tell the story; click to enlarge:

We leave them alone for another week.  🙂

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