Italian Week – Checking Out My Italian Girls

Beekeeping is so much fun!!

I opened the hive today primarily to retrieve the Queen cage and to see if the girls needed feeding.

I am the worst bee-smoker-lighter ever!!  I swear I followed instructions to the letter, but my smoke petered out after about five minutes.  So, except for a puff or two, I opened an unsmoked hive. The girls were as calm as, well,… really calm bees.  🙂

There are some guys doing construction work at my next-door neighbor’s house. When they saw me in my bee regalia, they expressed concern that I was going to “rile them up.”

When I offered the guys some honey (bad choice of words!!) and assured them the bees were going to be happier when fed, they calmed down too.

I couldn’t find Queen Maria Amalia, but I’m sure she’s there because the bees seem so happy.

They’ve drawn out a few frames of comb, but I don’t think I’m going to open the hive again for a week or so. I’ll just check to see if they need sugar syrup. They did need some today.

More later!!

P.S. I’m going to post on the proper way to light a smoker. Maybe I’ll learn something…

9 thoughts on “Italian Week – Checking Out My Italian Girls

  1. willowbatel says:

    what are those black mesh things?
    I use burlap in my smoker, because its cheap and easy, and stays lit for a long time. The key to getting it started is lighting it outside of the smoker and letting it burn for a little bit until theres a large flame. I usually fold the burlap up loosely, and leave a little thin corner out to start the flame on. Once that corner is lit, turn the burlap so the flame is at the bottom, then put the whole mass into the smoker. Don’t force it all the way to the bottom of the smoker, because the flame almost definitely will go out, even if it acts like it won’t. I pump the bellows a few times, slowly, to get the flame really going. Once thick smoke starts coming out of the top, you can push the burlap a little farther down (do this on one side, not in the center, so the burlap gets a little more spread out) and then close the lid. I’d recommend a long stick or a pencil to shove the burlap down. I use the “pokery-jiggery” weed tool that we have, because its extra long and has a handle to keep my hands free of the flames.
    That’s it there. Its cheap and something we already have, and its a great weeding tool!
    Its nice that your bees are calm enough people can be relatively near you while you’re working them. Everyone has to go inside at my house whenever I open up the hive.

    • The black mesh things are “floaters” so the bees can drink the sugar syrup without drowning. I had another kind of hive top feeder where the carnage was really upsetting. I like this one more.
      Obviously, burlap is the way to go with my smoker. I’m so glad to know this!! My other hive is “everyone in the house” and it will be great to not have my smoker give out on me half way through the inspection!!

      • willowbatel says:

        Huh. I’ve never seen it before. I’m not big on feeding, unless absolutely necessary (and even then, not so much), so anything beyond a large container with a bit of cloth in it full of sugar water isn’t something I’ve really looked into, lol.
        It takes a few tries before you figure it out, and even then, sometimes it just goes out. If you forget about it while your working and don’t pump it every so often, it’s very likely to go out. I’ve found this out the hard way dozens of times. For multiple hives you’ll definitely want to have multiple bunches of burlap ready for use. When I did my split I used one clump for the first hive, and then added the second clump before moving on. I had more smoke than I needed the whole time, and it kept the bees calmer as a result. The smoker was going so well that I rarely had to worry about it, because it was angled so that wind was constantly blowing in from the back and pushing the smoke over the hives/ through the clouds of bees. Working with the wind is an important thing!

      • I’m not a big proponent of feeding either, but there really isn’t an alternative with a brand new hive. I’ll stop in a few weeks.
        Thanks for your tips on smoker lighting! I’m excited about giving it a try with my cranky hive!

      • willowbatel says:

        I think it depends on what’s blooming/ if there’s a nectar flow. Cause I just opened my Warre’ hive after splitting them and they’ve drawn out lots of wax and have honey and pollen stores, and I haven’t fed them.
        I’d say that if your other hives are bringing in nectar, you probably don’t need to be feeding the new hive.

      • I really didn’t want to feed my new package, but I researched the books and asked around and it was unanimous that I should feed syrup, at least at first. I’m not saying my resources were right, but we aren’t always this far ahead nectar-wise in the middle of May.
        Starting a new colony is always scary for me. I’m glad to hear your Warre hive is doing so well!!

      • willowbatel says:

        Yeah, it’s probably best not to listen to me haha. I’ve never split a hive before, so I don’t really know what’s normal. I’m trying to remember if I fed the bees when I got them last year though… If I did it was a very minimal amount. Its all so variable though, its better to be safe than sorry!

  2. I’m so fascinated by your bee keeping adventures! I’ve always wanted to keep bees since reading “Linnets and Valerians” by Elizabeth Goudge as a child. In it the wise old gardener (aren’t they always?) explains how it is necessary to talk to the bees and tell them the comings & goings of the home. Do you talk to your bees?

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