Bummer Summer with the Bees

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Psalms from the Hive

by Jeannie Saum

This summer, what a bummer

Cold spring, summer rain

Not to the bees liking.

Busy multiplying, but eating the honey they’re supplying.

Not leaving us any!  What a pain!

Clover, Bee, and Revery

Reverie (revery) –(n.) state of dreamy meditation or fanciful musing; a fantastic, visionary, or impractical idea


We headed out to our hives today, hoping to harvest some honey to bottle and sell at the upcoming HoneyFest next weekend.  A month ago, one of our thriving hives had at least 6 frames of uncapped honey, so we were hoping to have a super of honey.  Our HIve and Honey BEEpothecary partners, the Dotsons, headed out to their hives at the same time and we planned to get together this afternoon to process our honey together.

But, it was not to be – or BEE? – not for the Saums or the Dotsons.  In our 2 thriving older hives, we found boxes full of drawn comb, much of it empty.  We also found tons of bees and brood, some pollen and a little bit of capped honey on a few frames around the brood.  But NO full frames of honey.  They evidently have eaten it as fast as they are making it!

In our 4 smaller new hives, one was completely empty – not even bees.  The other three had lots of bees and bIMG_1456rood, and a little pollen, but NO HONEY!  We were shocked and disappointed.   We called the Dotsons, and learned that they had found the same thing.   By this time last year, we had pulled a full super of honey or more off of hives twice, and got a third batch in the fall.

Later today, a first year beekeeper from down the street,next door to our son, called.  He asked if he could come down with some pictures from his new hive, to see if we thought he had a problem.  The pictures on his tablet computer, looked just like our hives!  Lots of bees and brood, some pollen, and that’s it!  He felt reassured that he had company in his misery, and that  we did not think he had a big problem.

I posted our results on the local beekeepers’ association Facebook page, and found that many others in our area are experiencing the same.  Guess it’s just the whimsy of the weather and the bees and we have no control!  The spring was cold and damp.  The spring bloom happened late, all at once.  Then we had four weeks of daily rain in June and July, followed by unseasonable cool weather in August.  Guess this all was not to the bees liking or need!

As of tomorrow, we will start feeding our bees sugar syrup and hope that this and a good bloom of goldenrod this September will help the bees make enough honey to get them through the winter!  And we are glad that we have other things to sell at the HoneyFest than honey!  I hope other beekeepers have honey to sell.   Might be kind of a weird HoneyFest if there is no honey available this year!


Jeremiah 17

“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,   whose confidence is in him.
They will be like a tree planted by the water  that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought  and never fails to bear fruit.”

Spring is Finally Here

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Psalms from the Hive

by Jeannie Saum

Come out! Come out and play little bees!

The weather is warm.  There’s buds on the trees

Dandelions blooming, just waiting for you

And chickweed, and clover and dead nettle, too!

Clover, Bee, and Revery

Reverie (revery) –(n.) state of dreamy meditation or fanciful musing; a fantastic, visionary, or impractical idea


After a long and cold spring,  the weather has finally changed and warmer weather is here.  The bees can come out and gather pollen and nectar.  No more sugar syrup necessary.  Time to go inspect our 6 hives and see how they are doing.

Steve and I went out one morning while it was still relatively cool, since we always wear our bee gear and it can get hot under all that protection.  We gathered up some propolis traps, inner covers, a can for wax and a can for propolis, lit the smoker and headed down the yard.

Inspecting hIve 3

Inspecting hIve 3

As we inspected each hive, we removed the hive top feeders, looked for brood, larva, the queen, any problems like mites or beetles and just generally looked to see how the hive was doing.  If the hive was doing well, we put a propolis trap on top.  If the hive was not doing too well, we did not – figuring that we didn’t want the bees working on plugging up holes with propolis if they needed to be doing something else.

A frame of brood

A frame of brood

Of our 6 hives, we found 3 that were doing well, but could only find the queen in one.  We found no eggs in 2, couldn’t find the queen in either one, but did see larva. One of these hives had several empty queen cells, so we figure they re-queened.   We’ll check these 2 in a week to see if they have eggs.  One hive, our 8 frame that made it through the winter, did not have much of a bee population and we didn’t see any capped brood.   We think this hive either doesn’t have a queen or the queen is not laying.  This hive had the same queen since we got it 2 falls ago from OSU, so guess it is time to re-queen.  We had to order one that will be here in a week, from  our bee supplier.  Hope this hive can make it.

Honey in the corners, brood in the middle - perfect!

Capped honey in the corners.

The last chore on the list was to collect some bees in a jar for use in bee sting therapy.  I got our mason jar with a honey soaked coffee filter in it.  I pulled out the coffee filter and set it on top of the frames in one of the hives and left it.  Later in the day, when we headed down the driveway on an errand, I hopped out, pulled the coffee filter, now covered in bees, out, and put it in the mason jar.  Now we are ready for bee sting therapy!! More on that next time!

Romans 1

18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness,

19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them.

20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.

A Reluctant Beekeeper

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Psalms from the Hive

by Jeannie Saum

How did it happen?

I can’t really say.

All I know is, I volunteered one day

To help with the bees

ME, a beekeeper?  Oh, Please!

Clover, Bee, and Revery

Reverie (revery) –(n.) state of dreamy meditation or fanciful musing; a fantastic, visionary, or impractical idea.

I don’t really remember the day it actually happened.  What transformed me from being  just a supportive wife for her husband’s reverie – er hobby? I don’t know.   But somehow, one day this first summer of beekeeping, I actually VOLUNTEERED to go out and help with the inspection of the hive! I don’t know what possessed me!  I guess those bees really got under my skin!

I donned a long-sleeved shirt over my T-shirt, put on jeans with rubber bands around the ankles, my gardening gloves and my heavy helmet and veil.  I was ready to go, so out to the hive we went.  Steve put me in charge of the smoker, while he opened the hive and started pulling out frames.  Before I knew it, I was asking to hold and turn the frames, looking for the brood and the queen and the honey stores.  It was addicting.

Me! Helping?
Me! Helping?

I wasn’t really afraid, as I had worked around bees in my flower gardens for years.  At first , all the buzzing around you is a little disconcerting, but after a few minutes, with attention focused on what you are seeing, you kind of tune out the frenetic bees buzzing around you. And I had read that honeybees are not usually very aggressive.  They don’t usually sting unless squeezed or trapped.  I felt pretty safe and protected in my make-shift suit.

I did, however get stung on my hands a few times   – right through my gardening gloves!  I had worn the knit kind with the rubber palms.  Even though I had not squeezed them, I think their feet stuck to the scratchy knit fabric of the gloves and they felt stuck!  Oh, well, I’m tough!  A few stings I could handle.  Just treated them with toothpaste when I got in – though now I’ve heard, I should have used honey!

Gosh, I actually had fun!  Does this mean I might be a beekeeper after all?

Genesis 1

28 God blessed them and told them, “Multiply and fill the earth and subdue it. Be masters over the fish and birds and all the animals.”

29 And God said, “Look! I have given you the seed-bearing plants throughout the earth and all the fruit trees for your food.

 30 And I have given all the grasses and other green plants to the animals and birds for their food.” And so it was. 31 Then God looked over all he had made, and he saw that it was excellent in every way.

The First Inspection

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Psalms from the Hive

by Jeannie Saum

Wanna come see

While I check on the bees?

                     Just coming to watch.

                    I’ll stand way back

                   And wear my hat.

Wow! Look at ll the girls

Tending eggs, bringing pearls

Of pollen in

To feed their kin.

Clover, Bee, and Revery

Reverie (revery) –(n.) state of dreamy meditation or fanciful musing; a fantastic, visionary, or impractical idea.


Steve went out to check on is hive for the first time.  He asked if I wanted to come out

Steve's reverie,  beekeeping!   The start of our journey learning about the amazing treasures from the honey bee!

Steve’s reverie, beekeeping! The start of our journey learning about the amazing treasures from the honey bee!

and watch nd take notes for him in his log book.  So I donned my pith helmet and bee veil and went out to watch from a distance.  Man those hats are heavy and hot!  Steve identified eggs larva and hatching bees and found the queen.  I dutifully wrote these findings down for him, from my distant vantage point.  I wasn’t really afraid – I work around bees all the time in my gardens.  They don’t bother me if I don’t bother them.

I just didn’t want to act too interested, or get to involved.  I had other things to do – like paper grading and lesson plans, and laundry and cleaning, and gardening and . . .   but it was fun watching Steve be so excited about what he saw.

Check out this site for information about the first hive inspection.  http://www.honeybeesonline.com/blesson10.html

Psalms 144

3 O LORD, what are mortals that you should notice us, mere humans that you should care for us?

4 For we are like a breath of air; our days are like a passing shadow.

5 Bend down the heavens, LORD, and come down. Touch the mountains so they billow smoke.

6 Release your lightning bolts and scatter your enemies! Release your arrows and confuse them!

7 Reach down from heaven and rescue me; deliver me from deep waters, from the power of my enemies.

8 Their mouths are full of lies; they swear to tell the truth, but they lie. 9 I will sing a new song to you, O God! I will sing your praises with a ten-stringed harp.

Back from the Bee Yard

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 Psalms from the Hive

 by Jeannie Saum

Interesting!  Cool!

Guess what we did?

You should have gone!

Dad put in a bid

For a hive from the bee yard.

At the end of the season

It will be his to keep on pleasin’.

Clover, Bee, and Revery

Reverie (revery) –(n.) state of dreamy meditation or fanciful musing; a fantastic, visionary, or impractical idea.


They’re back from the Bee Yard  – Steve, and our daughter and son, Sarah and Nate – and IMG_0022bouncing off the wall.  They are so excited by what they saw and learned and spent a full hour regaling me with their enthusiasm.   They watched hive inspections, learned to identify different members of the bee colony, looked for evidence of mites and moths and saw a bar top hive.  Many of the new hives were built by COBA and were up for dibs, to buy at the end of the season, after being used for instruction.  Of course, Steve had to have one,  the benefit being that at the end of the summer, he gets a strong healthy hive that has been well taken care of.  So come fall, he will be the proud owner of a third hive! It’s official, he’s in deep!

How to Perform a Basic Beehive Inspection

By Howland Blackiston from Beekeeping For Dummies, 2nd Edition

Beekeepers always follow certain procedures and always look for certain things. After a few visits to the hive, the mechanics of all this become second nature, and you can concentrate on enjoying the miraculous discoveries that await you.

Removing the first frame of the hive

Always begin your inspection of the hive by removing the first frame or wall frame. That’s the frame closest to the outer wall. Which wall? It doesn’t matter. Pick a side of the hive to work from, and that determines your first frame. Here’s how to proceed:

  1. Insert the curved end of your hive tool between the first and second frames, near one end of the frame’s top bar.
  2. Twist the tool to separate the frames from each other.
  3. Repeat this motion at the opposite end of the top bar.
  4. Using both hands, pick up the first frame by the end bars.
    removing a frame
    removing a frame

Now that you’ve removed the first frame, gently rest it on the ground, leaning it vertically up against the hive. It’s okay if bees are on it. They’ll be fine. Or, if you have a frame rest (a handy accessory available at some beekeeping supply stores) use it to temporarily store the frame.

Use your hive tool to pry the wall frame loose before removing it.

Working your way through the hive

Using your hive tool, loosen frame two and move it into the open slot where frame one used to be. That gives you enough room to remove this frame without the risk of injuring any bees. When you’re done looking at this frame, return it to the hive, close to (but not touching) the wall. Do not put this frame on the ground.

Work your way through all ten frames in this manner, moving the next frame to be inspected into the open slot. When you’re done looking at a frame, always return it snugly against the frame previously inspected. Use your eyes to monitor progress as the frames are slowly nudged together.

work through all the frames
work through all the frames

Holding up beehive frames for inspection

Holding and inspecting an individual frame the proper way is crucial. Be sure to stand with your back to the sun, with the light shining over your shoulder and onto the frame. The sun illuminates details deep in the cells and helps you to better see eggs and small larvae.

hold it up and look at fro all angles
hold it up and look at fro all angles

Here’s an easy way to inspect both sides of the frame:

  1. Hold the frame firmly by the tabs at either end of the top bar.
  2. Turn the frame vertically.
  3. Then turn the frame like a page of a book.
  4. Now smoothly return it to the horizontal position, and you’ll be viewing the opposite side of the frame.

Knowing when it’s time for more smoke

A few minutes into your inspection, you may notice that the bees all have lined up between the top bars like racehorses at the starting gate. Their little heads are all in a row between the frames. Kind of cute, aren’t they? They’re watching you. That’s your signal to give the girls a few more puffs of smoke to disperse them again so that you can continue with your inspection.

Understanding what to always look for in your hive

Each time that you visit your hive, be aware of the things that you always must look for. Virtually all inspections are to determine the health and productivity of the colony. The specifics of what you’re looking for vary somewhat, depending upon the time of year.

Checking for your queen bee

Every time that you visit your hive you’re looking for indications that the queen is alive and well and laying eggs. Rather than spending time trying to see the queen, look for eggs. Although they’re tiny, finding the eggs is much easier than locating a single queen in a hive of 60,000 bees. Look for eggs on a bright, sunny day.

Storing food and raising the bee brood

Each deep frame of comb contains about 7,000 cells (3,500 on each side). Honeybees use these cells for storing food and raising brood. When you inspect your colony, noting what’s going on in those cells is important because it helps you judge the performance and health of your bees.

Inspecting the brood pattern

Examining brood pattern is an important part of your inspections. A tight, compact brood pattern is indicative of a good, healthy queen. Conversely, a spotty brood pattern (many empty cells with only occasional cells of eggs, larvae, or capped brood) is an indication that you have an old or sick queen and may need to replace her.

Recognizing foodstuffs in your beehive

Learn to identify the different materials collected by your bees and stored in the cells. They’ll pack pollen in some of the cells. Pollen comes in many different colors: orange, yellow, brown, gray, blue, and so on. You’ll also see cells with something “wet” in them. It may be nectar. Or it may be water.

Psalm 92

1 It is good to give thanks to the LORD, to sing praises to your name, O Most High;

2 to declare your steadfast love in the morning, and your faithfulness by night,

3 to the music of the lute and the harp, to the melody of the lyre.

4 For you, O LORD, have made me glad by your work; at the works of your hands I sing for joy.

5 How great are your works, O LORD! Your thoughts are very deep!