Honeychick Homestead

Homestead, Health, and Happiness

Robbing and Swarming!

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CRAZINESS! That’s a good word to describe my bee colonies this September!  It’s been very unpredictable, and they are keeping me on my toes!

As you know, California is experiencing the worst drought in over a century. It is dry, VERY DRY out here. It has been for the past three years. This is the hottest summer I remember since I moving here in 1996, we’ve had several over 100 degree days. The drought means nectar flow season is completely messed up.

Fruit trees bloomed 2-3 months early, and although we typically don’t get rain from May – October, we are normally able to water ornamental plants that provide nectar and pollen for honeybees and other pollinators. This year, many people stopped planting or watering their ornamental plants; that caused the flow of nectar to be less than usual and it also stopped earlier in the season, at least two months early. When nectar flow ceases it’s known as dearth, and although dearth happens every year, the drought conditions have made nectar extremely scarce this year and for the past few years.

Last year, my colonies didn’t experience any robbing. My husband made robbing screens to help protect their entrances from yellow jackets and bees from other colonies who might try to steal their honey.

This year is a completely different story!  I was going to do one last hive check of the season on September 20th, a 99 degree day! Not a fun time to be in a bee jacket and hood 🙂

When I approached Zinna colony I  noticed some weird behavior outside one of the boxes. I quickly realized that other bees were trying to get in and rob the sugar syrup in their feeder and honey inside the colony. Thank goodness I caught it early, otherwise the robbing bees may have overtaken this colony. Here’s pictures of what the early signs of robbing look like: View the pictures →

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Horray for Native Bees!

I’ve been paying more attention to the native bees in our orchard this year and it’s been really neat to watch all the different bees visit and pollinate the blossoms. Some are so tiny, I almost mistake them for a fly or gnat!

High Ground Organics is a local farm that I receive weekly updates from about their CSA offerings and other news of what’s happening around the farm. This week, they included this very cool article about a research study they participated in back in 2012.

I found it super interesting and thought it was “share-worthy” 🙂 Enjoy!

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First Year Beekeeping Lessons Learned

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One of my bees enjoying some honey last summer.

Last February, I excitedly decided to give beekeeping a try. Two months later, I was bringing home my first package of bees! You can read more about that fun day here.

If you’re interested in giving beekeeping a try, this time of year is a perfect time to do your research, and if you decide to go for it, to get your supplies. You can read about how much my first year supplies cost here. It’s easy to find packages of bees for sale via a web search, or contact a local bee guild for bees from your local area.

Speaking of bee guilds, I highly recommend finding out if you have a local beekeeping guild. This website has a comprehensive list, however I didn’t see my local guild. If you don’t see your area listed, do a web search for your city or counties name with “beekeepers guild” after it. Another important thing is to check your city ordinances. Many cities and counties allow beekeeping but may require a permit.

I’ve learned a lot my first year! I hope you find this post helpful and it encourages you to give beekeeping a try! Continue reading


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Beware of Robbers!

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A cool picture of Cosmo colony “bearding” because it got to hot inside!

Yep, you read that right, robbers! Robbing is something I had no idea I’d need to be concerned about as a beekeeper. Bees from other colonies attempt to rob weak and/or new colonies of their honey stores. Robbing season usually begins in mid to late summer, and/or during droughts. Feeding bees can also encourage robbing, this is why I cover my top pail feeder with a box, it helps reduce the potential for robbing.  Continue reading


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Feed me, feed me!

I attended a beginning beekeeper summer check-in class in mid-June, and terms like dearth, robbing, and right sizing were explained. At the time, I didn’t realize how quickly I would experience all these things! Today’s post is about dearth, and the importance of feeding a new colony, something I kind of learned the hard way!

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The Secret Lives of Bees : How Honey Gets Made

P1020885I know it’s been awhile since I wrote about my bees, and although this post shares info about bees, it’s not about my bees. But don’t let that stop you from reading. I promise the link to the article I’m sharing is worth a read!

Thankfully my bees are doing great! I quickly checked on and fed them over the weekend. I was very excited to see how much comb they’ve built and they continue to grow. The Verbena hive already has lots of honey stored for the winter! The Cosmo hive is younger so they have some catching up to do!

I’ve had less time to write because I’ve been working as a volunteer analyst with LymeLight Foundation, and that project continues to need my full attention until the end of this week. I’m grateful to be able to assist a group that gives kids grants for treatment.

Here’s the post I mentioned from Serious Eats on how honey gets made.  I hope you enjoy the information and pictures as much as I did. Next week, I will have a post about my bees!


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I’m as Busy as a Bee!

I’m the one who’s busy as a bee! Summertime is always busy, and this summer has been no exception! The plum, and peach harvest that has taken up a majority of my time is winding down. I’ll be done preserving this weekend, whoo hoo! I hope to have an drip irrigation system for the orchard set up, and that will be a HUGE time saver!  I won’t need to drag hoses around to water each tree individually, YAY!!!

My least favorite things, Lyme Disease and Babesia, decided to flare up a bit during the last week, that put a damper on my writing, and updating Facebook.

I hope to have time to write about my bee adventures in the next week. Lots of cool stuff is happening with the bees! Check out this TED Talk about bees. Hope you enjoy it!