The Healthy Honeybee

Learning about Beekeeping


Every time I open my hives, I am on the lookout for my queens. It’s a good idea to know where they are, so they are not accidentally misplaced or incapacitated. However, for some reason the queen in my second hive seems to see me coming and vanish. I haven’t seen her since I installed the bees – that’s about a month. I know she’s there, I see the proof: there are always wee eggs in the comb, so I know she’s been there within 2 or 3 days.

This hive is also my stronger hive, with more bees and more frames filled with brood and honey. They’re also the hive that built the honeycomb on top of the frames rather than in the frames. Definitely have their own style, these ones. They’re the messy sisters. And they like to keep busy.


Can you find the queen? She’s a bit hidden, but you can tell which one she is.

Here’s a better picture:

She’s marked for easy identification purposes. It’s always a good thing to make sure you know that your queen is in the hive and well, not lost or squished. I’m not sure what this one was doing way over here on a pile of capped honey – maybe trying to hide from me, who knows. Usually she can be found on empty comb laying eggs, with workers bringing her food to eat, grooming her, and carrying away her poo.

what the heck

To my Dear Bees: Why would you build comb and fill it with honey in the squishy little space between the top of the frames and the inner cover, when you have more than two empty frames yet to fill in your hive?


Some of the ladies came to visit me as I was watching the swarm settle into their new home. They hung around for a bit, let me take some pictures, then flew off to see what was going on with everybody else. Very docile. We thought the bees might be on edge, given the cloudy conditions and pending thundershowers, but they were fine. It was a busy buzz, not an angry buzz. Yes, there’s a difference. If I have a pressure headache, I will not go anywhere near my hives. Bees feel it too, and get a bit cranky. Just like me.

a new home

Continuing the saga of the swarm: it didn’t take long – about a few minutes – for the bees to head down into the hive box between the frames. They’re exploring the possibility of this new place, probably walking all around the box to measure it and figure out if it will work for them to live in.

Meanwhile, back at the branch, some bees are still trying to cluster, not quite sure what just happened:

They’ll eventually figure it out by following the pheromone that the queen releases – they’ll find her by smell and join their sisters in setting up house.

beautiful bees

I’m so glad I was able to go see the swarm yesterday. There’s something wildly different about seeing bees up close without the familiar constraints of the hive box. Wow are they gorgeous. A solid mass of bees, hanging from a branch. They didn’t mind me poking around with my camera, inches away from their cluster. They were too focussed on taking care of the queen and trying to find a new home.

swarm capture

Today turned out to be pretty exciting after all. Around 10:30 I received a phone call from Michelle, Ken’s wife, asking if I wanted to come help capture a swarm. I would say I didn’t do much ‘helping’ – but it was amazing to be there. Here you see Steven sizing up the situation. He’s considering his options for capture. He’s placed a hive box under the swarm on the ground, and now the options for getting them into the box are being pondered.

It didn’t take long – I had the camera ready to show the process, but by the time I took the picture it was over:

He bent down the branch, then gave it a good whack to shake the bees into the box. Most of them landed right on the box. Some were in the grass, and others still clung to the branches of the bush. Steven thinks the queen landed in the box, though, and that’s the important part. If she’s there, the workers will find her and make the box home.


Somebody got stung on Monday when we were out inspecting the bees. The bee had crawled up her sleeve and found it a bit too claustrophobic and threatening, so she ended up with a sting. No big deal, that’s what the pennies in my pocket are for.

hanging out

This pic is a bit blurry, but it captures the moment. These bees are connected to each other by their legs, forming a chain that bridges the gap between the two frames. This was after I had completed the inspection and was putting the frames back into their proper places, I noticed the gap at the end had a pile of bees forming chains. I’m not exactly sure why they did this, but I suspect it has a lot to do with the large gap that was left with the frame missing.

If you squint a bit you can also see the bit of wax that are leftovers from the scraping I did last week. The bees have completely cleaned it of any residual honey.

Beekeeping definitely not a monotonous hobby – there’s something new to see every time I open the hive.

bees and kids

It was nice to have friends along on our trip out to the beeyard yesterday! My girls have been very interested in the bees, and I think this has rubbed off on their friends. We all went out for the inspection, and they were able to see the queen, workers, honey, pollen, brood, and eggs. We also saw some workers with pollen in the pollen sacs on their hind legs. We didn’t notice any drones, though, which was a bit disappointing because my girls have been asking me if they can hold one ever since I came back from the beekeeping course in Guelph and told them about my drone-holding experience.

All the kids had no qualms about being up close and personal with the bees, asking lots of questions and making sure they saw everything there was to see!