Tuesday, July 27, 2010


It's been a few weeks since my last post. I was out of commission for awhile but the bees haven't been.

On Saturday, I checked on Clare and the population was up, the 3rd story was close to fully drawn and things looked good. I added a 4th story and pulled the feeder.

In Galway things were that much better. The 4th story was fully drawn and loaded with uncapped honey.

I pulled one of the frames and used some homemade frame spacers to evenly space the remaining seven frames in the 8 frame hive body. Why? Nothing is ever simple but the reason in a nutshell is that it makes it easier to harvest the honey. It has to do with leveraging something called "bee space." Here's how it works.

Bee space is the space between comb and parts of the bee hive that allow a bee to pass through. It measures 1/4" to 3/8". If anything in the hive violates bee space, the bees will fill it with comb if it exceeds the 3/8 inch or glue it shut with propolis if it is less than 1/4 inch. Propolis is a resinous mixture that honey bees collect from tree buds, sap flows, or other botanical sources.

So by giving a little extra space beyond the standard 3/8-inch spacing between the frames, the bees will draw out the existing comb further and fill it with more honey, thus closing the space between frames back to within bee space. When they cap the honeycomb, the caps will protrude beyond the wooden edges of the frame. This will make it easier to remove the caps with a capping knife when it comes time to harvest the honey.

After rearranging the 7 frames of the 4th story, I took the frame I pulled and used it as one of the frames of the 5th story. This will encourage the bees to move up and begin drawing the comb in the new addition.

We finally got some rain over the last week. That should keep things blooming. The lack of rain in the weeks prior had kept me from having to mow the lawn. Maureen would take issue with that -- she's been "encouraging" me to mow. I look at the lawn full of clover and these little yellow flowers that the bees love and I am conflicted. It gets crazy, doesn't it? So now I mow at night when the bees aren't foraging. And I mow as infrequently as possible. And people keep commenting on how nice the lawn looks. Seems like I've struck a balance. I think Maureen would agree albeit reluctantly.

One last thing before I close regarding Queen Anne's Lace. We've all seen that beautiful weed blooming all over the roadsides and meadows. I wondered if the bees liked it so I went looking yesterday and found that they do. I brought up the topic with a fellow beekeeper and she asked if I was sure the bees were working the flowers or just curious about them. It seemed to me they were working them but I did some web research to see what I could find.

I was surprised to learn that Queen Anne's Lace is also known as wild carrot and that its taproot is indeed an edible carrot. My grandmother probably knew it but I never did. Oh, and yes, the bees like its nectar.

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