Category Archives: TwoBigCats Bee My Honey

The bees are back in town…

Last Saturday I headed off to Vacaville to pick up my two 4-lb packages of Carniolan bees. Since it’s a 200 mile round trip drive, I believe next year I’ll let them mail the little buggers to me 🙂

Anyway, here’s their home-to-bee before I began installing them. Note to the left of the hives are the pond and a wonderful lavender patch – both are great for the bees well-being and honey production.

The photo below is of the partially harvested frames from last season that I’d tucked in the freezer to jump-start this year’s colonies. If you click on this pic, you can peer down inside the frame to see the comb and honey waiting for the bees. Note: directly opposite the visible comb / honey is another frame that looks about the same – lots of comb / honey.

To install the Queen in this hive, I will place her “cage” (it’s a plastic holding cell with a sugar plug in the bottom end of it) in between the two frames, holding her cage in place with the comb / honey. (Can’t be too much honey / too tightly or she will drown in the honey.) When I install the bees and the Queen, they worker bees will eat the sugar plug and free the Queen, who will immediately begin laying eggs in the surrounding comb.

The pic below shows the two “packages of bees. If estimates are correct, there should be 40k+ bees in each box, though I stopped counting at “10” 🙂 See that can on the top? That’s a container of medication that will be mixed with water and placed in the solution feeder that gets placed at their hive entrance.

Beginning an hour before installation, I lightly spray the bees with a very weak sugar / water solution… several times, in fact. This keeps them hydrated and enables them to eat the sugar water (for calories); pretty soon thereafter, when they’re in the new hive, the sugar water / food will cause them begin making wax and building out the hive.

The way installation works is, holding the box at a slight angle, I bang it on the ground to loosen the can. Then I remove the can and then, holding the package / hole over their hive, I bang the snot out of the package against the top of the hive, dropping the bees down in to the hive. Because they’re full, not engaged in protecting their own hive so are non-aggressive, we can be fairly rough with them.

Once I’ve installed them in their new hive, I place the medication / water solution in front of their hive and leave their package homes outside the hive… the ones who didn’t drop out will eventually find their way in to their new homes by nightfall. (Too cold for them outside @ night – everybody’s gotta be home by dark.)

Here they are around / inside and waiting to go inside their new homes.

Close up of the action. There’s an incredible amount of bee poop flying @ this point, btw!
(edit: An important note is that after leaving the bees as you see them in the picture below, not only will they head in to the hive before dark, but by early morning the next day, they’ll also haul away any dead bee bodies so they attract as little attention from bad guys (yellow jackets, birds, etc) as possible.

And here’s the very noisy Queen bee that got away… I could never get it installed in the hive but did get this picture!

While I really enjoy many aspects of having bees – they’re wonderful for the neighborhood, our own trees / gardens, and the wonderful honey they provide – I find installing the bees to be fairly stressful… I suppose it could be the 200 mile drive immediately before installing them that takes a bit of wear on me.

I hope you like the pics – I’ll provide updates in a week when I check the Queen / hive for egg production.


Box ‘o Bees

(Click the pic to see the bees up close.)

Seeing how I’m planning on picking up 2 packages (that would be “colonies” to you, ahem, non apiarists 😉 of bees this coming Saturday, I thought it’d be a good thing to take Mr. Carrier’s “Beekeeping for Beginners” class that was being held last Saturday. (Btw, of course you remember that his website – http://www.carriersbees – is the cat’s meow for Silicon Valley Beekeepers, right?)

Anyway, I showed up at his place at the crack of 10AM and joined another 8 or so folks in his living room to talk about the lives and caretaking of the little buggers. Not long in to our discussion, it was time to watch a PBS-produced video on bees. Not too long in to the video, there appeared to be a swarm of bees forming in Mr. C’s front yard… so we put the video on hold and watched him head out front to check things out.

Sure enough, there were a bajillion bees flying in the yard… and a HUGE ball of them formed around several branches of his almond tree. So what’s Mr. C do? He places a “bee box” (cardboard box with the bottom duct-taped to prevent bees from escaping) under the huge ball of bees on the branch, then grabs a 3-pronged hoe and violently yanks the bee-branch down hard several times. This causes many of the bees to fall – WHUMP! – to the ground, in and around the box.

Bees – by the tens of thousands (!!!) – crawling and flying around so thick if you opened your mouth you’d probably swallow a handful in a second.

As if that wasn’t enough, Mr. C repeats the process 3 or 4 times in rapid succession… pretty soon, he’s got a pretty good box ‘o bees going.

By now, most of us brave souls have put on our bee-jammies and gone outside to watch the action up close. Now, to be clear, when honeybees swarm, they’re actually migrating to a new location. To survive such an excursion, nature has told them to gorge on honey before leaving their hive / home… so by the time they form up on the tree (which is their way of protecting their Queen and the only reason they exist), they’re just stuffed and want to rest… in other words, they’re extremely passive to humans and other living things.

Anyway, after watching the swarm begin to settle in to the box, we head back in to watch a bit more video; eventually we suit up and head out to his hives to have him walk us through basic hive / brood / colony maintenance. As we’re wrapping up that session, what should happen but yet another swarm began to form in his front yard. (Man, what’saguygottadotogetabreak aroundhere,anyway?) So we got another box while he yanked them down from the tree / branch (same tree, same branch, btw). In 10 minutes they’d all settled into the box, so Mr. C removed the (now empty) observation hive from his “showroom” and repopulated it with the new, “wild” swarm bees.

With 2 swarms in-hand and the class winding down, we called it a day and left Mr. C to populate a new hive with the 1st swarm of the day… the pics you see here are of that swarm. It’s just a guess on my part, but I’m betting there are somewhere between 80-100k bees in that box – notice how their weight is causing the side / top to collapse.

Everyone loved the class and especially enjoyed the multiple swarm activities.

Harvesting one neighborhood at a time…

Yup, it happened again today as it has for the past 8+ years… a crew from Second Harvest ( came by and harvested our citrus trees to feed the needy in our area.

When we moved into our home 10.5 years ago, we’d never had fruit trees so we really viewed them as a bit of a novelty and a means of having a bit of fresh fruit throughout the year.

But in the late winter / early spring of ’99 we realized the citrus trees (2 lemon, 2 orange, 1 tangerine, 1 grapefruit) put out far more fruit than we (or our friends) would ever consume, so we harvested them and took the harvest to Second Harvest food bank. (Harvesting 6 heavy-producing fruit trees by one person is no easy matter, btw)

After the citrus harvest came the rest of the trees – another 13 – each of which produced a prodigious amount of goodies we had to deal with. (except the almond… the squirrels got those and left the rest of our fruit alone 🙂 You guessed it: We made pies, started a bit of canning jams / jellies and harvested and donated several thousand pounds of fruit to Second Harvest.

Then one day we got a call from Second Harvest saying they’d started a program to harvest entire neighborhoods, would we like to participate? You bet, sign us up for that program!

So since then, Second Harvest has harvested all of our trees – leaving on the tree or giving us whatever we want of the harvest – and fed the needy with the rest. In turn, we get (1) a feeling that we’re helping those less fortunate that we are and (2) a tax break for our donation of the fruit at the then-current value of the harvested materials (3) nicely harvested, no rotting-fruit orchards to clean up – talk about win-win!!!! (Over the years we’ve become something of the neighborhood coordinators of the harvest and are pleased to lend additional support in that manner, too.)

Every year in the past, we’d give a jar of jam / jelly to the lead coordinator of the harvest. But today I decided to thank the young people / harvesters by having them nominate their hardest working volunteer to receive a jar of TBC Vamoose Juice Honey. Turns out they couldn’t settle on just ONE so nominated two and, well… I’m a wuss and folded like a cheap card table – I handed out two jars. BUT THAT’S ALL YOU FOLKS GET!!! 🙂

Our entire neighborhood thanks Second Harvest for the good work they do on behalf of the less fortunate. See you at apple harvest time. (Oh, and we’ve bought two new fruit trees so in another year or two, you better bring a lunch and back-up cause it’s going to be an all-day project.)


The boys, er, BEEs are back in town…

Well, not just yet, but they will be soon.

I just ordered two four-pound packages of Carnolian Bees from HoneyBeeGenetics. They’re the same folks I ordered from in early April of last year… nice folks. Looks like I should get them by mid-April… not sure if they’ll ship or I’ll take another morning drive up their way… they’re nice folks to watch and hang out with – very laid back. (Note: My casual observation of beekeepers is they’re all pretty laid back – nobody, BUT NOBODY – wants to attract extra attention by moving too fast around the hive. At least, not after the first time 😉

Thx for stopping by and write when you get work.
btw, Best I can figure out, a four-pound package of bees is ~ 30,000 little buzzers. That’s a lot of buzzers.

Bee My Honey?

Yesterday I added our first honey super and took a pic of a frame from the 2nd brood super. As you can see, they’ve created a great deal of comb, have filled quite a bit of it with nectar and in the upper white area, have capped some of the cells.

I don’t know about you, but to me it’s pretty ugly looking and not at all what I think of when I think Honeycomb and Honey.

Anyway, there you have it – honey is on the way 🙂