Archive for the ‘Beekeeping’ Category

Winter Beekeeping

February 22, 2015 Leave a comment

Pakis has been keeping a close eye on the bees, especially on the days when the temperature got above 45 degrees.  That’s when the bees go out flying.  They drag their dead brethren out of the hive, they orient themselves with figure eights, they expel waste, and they even find pollen to bring back.  We have ordered a new package of bees that will arrive sometime next month, so we’re gathering supplies and preparing a new hive.
On Valentine’s Day we needed to move the current hive to a newly created platform, and it was heavy enough that I was afraid to try lifting it. A neighbor graciously agreed to help with the move.

Thriving hive 2-22-15

First day of flying from new home


After Valentine’s Day, it stayed cold for a whole wee Finally today the bees could get out again–it was good flying weather.  The picture shows happy bees getting oriented to their new home.


Sadly, there was no activity at all today at the hive of our neighbor, Jennifer.  She got her bees at the same time as ours, and all last summer, hers seemed to be more industrious than ours.  She bought a honey extractor and was able to harvest an entire super (10 frames, about 20 quarts of honey), while we just got a couple of frames’ worth dripping in our kitchen.  We jokingly complained that we somehow got the lazy bees.

A couple of weeks ago, Pakis started noticing less activity in Jennifer’s hive than ours, and today there was none at all.  They opened the hive to find a great honey supply and a large cluster of dead bees.  Even the queen, with her neon green back, was dead.  We all knew the recent cold snap could be treacherous, but it was crushing to see its effects up close.

Dave Fruchtenicht is our local professional and all-around beekeeping guru.  Pakis called him and he came right over to look at the situation.  It’s likely the bees got too cold and couldn’t move to the honey supply.  There was mold in the hive, too, giving evidence of moisture.  But why should this hive die when ours didn’t?  Beekeeping seems to be a mix of guesswork and knowledge.

examining the hive

Post mortem with bee guru Dave Fruchtenicht


Categories: Beekeeping

A Hive of Activity

April 12, 2014 Leave a comment
a frame from the hive

The new beekeeper trying to figure out what’s happening in there

The bees are getting used to their new home in our backyard.  They slurp up sugar water at a great rate, buzz all around on sunny days, and are quiet at night.  Sometimes we walk around the neighborhood inspecting flowers.  “Do you think that’s one of ours?” we ask when see a bee in a blossom.  The honey bees and the bumble bees seem to work side by side, though I notice bumble bees are still out when we take the dog for an after dinner walk.  The honey bees head home at sunset.  Such fun to have a new view of neighborhood life!

At this point in the season, the bees get home from work(!) a little later than we do (though they take rainy days off).  It’s fun to watch them coming in for a landing as they return to the hive.  Some are fairly precise, landing right at the opening, while others crash somewhere in the vicinity and crawl the rest of the way.

We’re filled with questions that arise in this process.  Should we cut down on the sugar water to encourage them to go for nectar and pollen sources?  How many flowers does one hive (12,000-15,000 bees–unless we’ve lost some) need to feed itself?  Are they eating pollen, nectar, or both?  Do they seek out the closest possible sources or go straight for the biggest ones (e.g. Duke Gardens)?  The queen is supposed to be laying by now, and Pakis is going out this afternoon to buy a second box.  We’re going to paint it and have it ready to put on top of the current one as soon as they fill up 6-7 of the 10 frames; that way they’ll have a new house ready and waiting, encouraging them not to “swarm” (fly away en masse to take up residence elsewhere).

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Beekeeper to Be

March 23, 2014 3 comments

“Pakis, this is Dave Fruchtenicht calling.  I placed my order for bees and included two packets for you and your neighbor.  They should arrive in mid March.”  With that message, beekeeping crossed over from a topic of idle conversation to a new reality.  Pakis grew up around beekeeping, and his father had taken it up after Pakis and his brothers had moved to the city.  Going into it here in Durham  had been an interest for years, and sometime last summer we realized that our neighbor, Jennifer Sosensky, shared it.  We all went to the Durham Farmer’s Market one Saturday to talk to talk to Dave Freuchtenicht about it.  We had a fun conversation but totally failed to follow up, so the answering machine message came as quite a surprise.

And today the two packets arrived on Dave’s pickup truck, driven from his supplier in Goldsboro, who drove them up from Georgia yesterday.  I’d been wondering what “packets” of bees look (and sound) like.  Here they are!


Note to followers:  Sorry if this topic seems like a totally random from teaching and education-related topics.  The bee thing is just too interesting to ignore!  It’s fun to observe a learning process up close without responsibility as either teacher or primary learner.

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