Backyard Beekeeping 101: When Bees Misbehave

Since today was the start of our first non-travel weekend in a few weeks, the hubby woke up bright and early to start poking around the bee box.  Today’s goal: replace the oversized brood box we’d gotten when we bought our bees with one of the regular-sized boxes Carl’s been making himself.

IMG_1830However, as soon as we opened the box, we saw a bunch of problems – our bees have not been behaving this fall!

First up, it appeared the bees had done some redecorating.  When we put the newest honey super on a couple months ago, we used wireless foundation in order to make it easier to collect the honey later on (we use the crush method and didn’t love pulling wires out of our wax–and fingers–last time around).  The bees, however, seemed to think a better look was to eat this wax foundation and regurgitate it as burr comb (aka wild comb).  (Press “continue reading” to see more!)

Secondly, it was Beatlemania in our hive!  Unfortunately, the IMG_1834beetles we saw were less of the John, Paul, George, and Ringo variety and more of the Small Hive Beetle type.  These beetles, in large enough numbers, can actually drive a colony out of their hive, so we took the time to go through every box, every frame, and get rid of all we saw–about 20 or so total.

During this process, the bees got understandably annoyed and Carl received his second sting of our beekeeping career – through his pants leg.  Ouch!

So, confession time: bees don’t misbehave so much as they have inexperienced beekeeper parents that drive them to bad behavior.

We likely expanded the hive a bit too quickly – having added the new honey super just a couple weeks after having added the second brood box. This likely caused the bees to start stealing the wax foundation from the honey super (in order to finish the brood box) and created too much extra space in the hive where the beetles could hide, allowing them to become a problem.  Moreover, once the bees started munching foundation, the Texas heat allowed the remaining foundation to curl and melt, adding to the burr comb issue – which wouldn’t have happened if we’d have used wired foundation.

In the end, live and learn.  We’re still in our first year of this grand bee experiment, so each time we go in the hive, we learn a little something new and become better bee parents. As a result of these issues, we’re unlikely to get a second honey harvest this fall like we’d hoped, so we’ll just have to wait for early spring – c’est la vie!

Whitney