Category Archives: Bees and Beekeeping

First Warm Spring Day

Well, after an excruciatingly long winter, spring is finally making an appearance. It’s officially been here for over a week, but it’s been very cold and windy. I was happy to see that the bees survived the winter. Today was warm (for here — 42F) and sunny in the afternoon, and they were out and flying around. They seemed to be having a tussle of some sort at the hive entrance. I wish I knew what that was about.
They were all over the Winter Aconite that’s blooming now. We have a lot, although I’m not sure how much pollen they’ll actually get from it. Now I’m looking forward to looking inside the hive as soon as it warms up a little more, to see how much food they used over the winter.

Bee on the Winter Aconite

Winter Aconite glowing like neon because my camera was set to overexpose.


Honeybee Tussle

Are they removing a dead bee? That would make sense, but it appeared to be alive.

Bee Update and Spicy Tomato Jam

My blog has been languishing for most of the summer because I’ve been so busy working, making jewelry, cooking and canning.

My bees are thriving. Around the time of my last post, I decided to try leaving them undisturbed for as long as possible, so I’ve only been checking on them every three weeks or so — mainly to peer into the upper boxes to see how they’re doing in terms of comb and honey. I read that each time the hive is pulled apart, it sets the bees back three or four days work, so I’ve been trying not to disturb them and have instead, been learning to monitor them from outside the hive. I’ve tried to learn to identify when they are bringing nectar back home and have seen them defend the hive against intrusion by balling and smothering the intruders, which was strange and fascinating. I did take each box off a couple of weeks ago to check their weight for honey stores and there seemed to be about a box and a half. I know they’ll need more than that, so I’ll be checking them a little more frequently from now into the fall.

We planted about 35 tomato plants this year and as you can imagine, have been eating them every day (which is no problem for me — I wait all year for this) and doing some small batch canning. Today I’m making a batch of this spicy tomato jam from the New York Times. I’ve made it a few times. It’s easy and delicious, sweet and savory. It’s very easy to modify — just taste and adjust as you go. I usually make a double batch, use less sugar, more spices, and use Sriracha sauce for the heat. Today, I’m adding curry powder and chili garlic sauce. Recipe follows, below.

Tomatoes — some for lunch, some to turn into jam.

Tomatoes — some for lunch, some to turn into jam. Big Rainbow, Anna Russian, Cherokee Purple, Green Zebra, Red Zebra and Green Grape.

Here’s today’s version:
3.5 lbs mixed ripe tomatoes, chopped (do not peel or seed)
1 cup sugar
juice of 4 limes
1.5 tsp cumin
1.5 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp allspice
1 tsp pepper
2 tsp curry powder
.5 tsp ground cloves
1 tb Asian chili garlic sauce
Put everything in a heavy bottomed sauce pan, bring to a boil and cook, stirring often, for 1.5 hours or until thick and sticky. Pack into 4 hot, sterilized half pint jars and process in a hot water bath 5-10 minutes.

First Days with Bees: June 22

I put a new box of frames on the hive about two weeks ago.  I cut the foundation into thin strips and put them in the frames to get the bees started  — some were very thin — 4″ x 2″, some were squares that touched the top and bottom of the frame. I’m experimenting. They don’t seem to need much to get started. After 12 days, the bees had made lots of comb and were filling it with honey. I was surprised that they had made so much progress! I checked the brood nest and it looked very full, so I think I’ll be adding another box to the hive this week. I had to scrape off a bit of comb to check the frames and got to taste the honey and It was light and slightly lemony.

For my next box, I’m going to use wooden strips dipped in beeswax for at least half of the frames and see how that goes. I want to go completely foundation-less if I can. We’ll see how those frames develop. Here are a few photos:

12 Day-Old Frame with Honey

I was surprised to find so much honey, but I’ve read that it can happen really fast.

Honey, some capped

More honey, they’re already starting to cap some of it.

Looking Down into the Broodnest

Looking down from the honey fromes into the brood nest

Worker and drone cells

The outer frames had some drone cells. I hadn’t seen any last time I checked.

Last Frame from the Broodnest

This frame had barely anything on it 12 days ago. Look at it now! I’m glad I have a lot of extra woodenware.

First days with bees: May 23 – June 9

I brought my nuc home on May 23. It was late, and I was in a hurry to get the bees into the hive. Since I was hurrying, I didn’t see the queen.

nucleus hive, honeybees

This was the only photo I got. I was preoccupied with getting them into the hive.

10 days later, I opened the hive for the first time. I found the queen, capped brood, pollen, nectar. I didn’t check all of the frames because I didn’t want to leave the hive open too long.

The queen has the yellow dot.

Today, I went back to check their progress and found new comb, eggs, more brood and many, many new bees. I added a box of frames to the top, I’m not sure if I’m a bit early doing this, but I don’t want to open the hive excessively.

Lots and lots of new bees.

You can’t see it, but there are eggs in there!

They’ve been busy in the last few days.

Lots of capped brood in this frame.