bee stories

A day in the life: why do I do this?

Why, oh, why do I keep bees? Yesterday was one of those days when I couldn’t remember. First of all it was totally wet outside. This is no surprise, since I live in the Puget Sound region and it’s still June. One goes with the other. Still, I’d been waiting for a break in the weather because I had to pull out my drone frames. If I didn’t get them soon my apiary would look like a CAFO for mites.

So when the sky lightened a bit in the afternoon—and it wasn’t actually raining—I decided the time was ripe to get those drone frames. I gathered some empty frames, a few tools, pulled on my suit, and headed up the hill.

My hives are on a hillside surrounded by woods. I have to cross a couple wooden bridges and trudge through the undergrowth and up an impossibly steep hill with switchbacks to get to the hives. By the time I got to the first set I was drenched. Although it wasn’t raining, the undergrowth was sodden and water was dripping from the trees. Worse, the air was muggy and dank.

All was quiet around the hives. I knew I was in for trouble because all the foragers were home—drinking beer and watching television, for all I knew—and they wouldn’t want to be disturbed.

And I was right. Once I popped the first lid they came at me with a vengeance. Within a few moments I couldn’t see through my veil because it was black with angry insects. Conveniently, the tops of my drone frames are painted bright green so I can find them easily, but I couldn’t see a thing! And the bees were making such a racket I couldn’t begin to think.

After parting the bees on my veil with the hive tool, I was finally able to locate the drone frames and replace them. At one point I had to kneel down on the ground, and I promptly got stung where my suit pulled tight over my knee. My suit, of course, was over my jeans. Those bees were annoyed.

Before it was over I had to go further up the hill—and then further. By the time I was done I was easily as cranky as the bees. My clothes were stuck to me, I had stings on my hands and knees, and I kept tripping over sticks and vines that I couldn’t see through the dark hood of bees that accompanied me back down the hill. I do this why? Am I sane?

By the time I got to the chicken coops the bees were pretty much gone. I cut the drone brood out of the frames and flung it to the chickens who thought they’d died and gone to heaven. At least somebody was happy . . .



  • My bees are really cranky, too. Is it the weather? I get stung for no good reason. Oh, yeah, and they swarmed. Beekeeping seemed like it would be…. fun.

  • Welcome to the club. Yeah, I think the weather is why they’re swarmy. They feel all cooped up and out of sorts. There’s really no other reason a first year hive should swarm. Did you get them or did they get away?

  • When my girls get a little to grouchy and are all in the air I ‘glue’ them to the ground.

    I don’t smoke the girls—just one of my choices—I make a super thick sugar water and put it into a sprayer that can spray a broad fine mist. When they are too grouchy I spray them in the air and they fall to the ground. I am careful not to walk on them and they can’t sting me through my boots or my suit that I have adjusted to fit the boots super tight. (I have to be extra careful – am terribly allergic to stings).
    Gluing them down works almost instantly and thins them out super fast. I get a kick out of it every time!

    Mixture recipe: 2 to 2 1/2 cups of sugar to each cup or water. I make around 5 cups of mixture—that is what my hand sprayer will hold.
    They look like little winged bears walking on the ground. They don’t know to be mad or to be excited over the sugar water. And I get the giggles!

    • Monica,

      I will have to try this. I seldom use smoke because it gives me sneezing fits, so this might work. I would need a better spray bottle than I have now.

  • Just found this great site. Last spring I got a nuc. When 8 frames full I added another box but the bees filled with honey instead of brood. Now I have a very full box of bees with a very full honey box on top. They are crowded and winter is almost here. (Ontario,Canada) Will they winter ok or should I do something about the over crowding? Thanks, Jack

    • Jack,

      I wouldn’t worry about over-crowding at this time of year. The number of bees will decrease naturally as the weather gets colder. The more bee bodies in there to generate warmth, the better off your colony will be. Since more bees eat more food though, you should check the honey stores during the winter and add feed as necessary. I feel a lot better about going into winter with a big colony than a small one.

  • Thanks for the reply Rusty. I asked two local bee dealers the same question and neither seemed to understand my question so their answers were of no help. You got it right on and I now feel better. I plan to add two or three new hives in the spring so I’ll be a faithful follower from now on. Thanks again. Jack

  • What a great site, I’ve added it to my favourites.

    I have 3 hives & changed the queen last week in one hive which was a swarm I caught, which was very successful, However I have 2 hives that I wish to change the queen, but can’t find the queens in either hive, guess I will have to try again in a few days, hopefully the weather will be a little cooler here in Melbourne, I don’t want to order new queens until the old ones are gone, the 2 hives at the moment are very angry, hence the need for change.

    • Jerry,

      You won’t need a lot of time after you get the old out of the hives. I’ve read reports that state (or strongly suggest) that a colony will realize they no longer have a queen very quickly, I think 15 minutes or so was mentioned. Most beekeepers will give a hive at least 24 hours before introducing a new queen.
      I’d personally shoot for a day before offering a new queen in the cage. If the population comes gently to investigate, place the cage as normal. If the new queen cage is met aggressively, back off and give them another day.
      Depending on the time it takes for you to get your order fulfilled, you might be waiting a bit longer than maybe you should. That, and if you remove the old queen and then cannot get a new queen to install, that would be problematic.
      Think about getting replacements in hand before removing the old queens if there’s a question of timing.

      G’luck in any case. 🙂

      Kent, WA

  • Hi Rusty,

    Since I am a late comer, I like to read your old stories, comments, and I always notate the date of those comments.

    Great story and I love this paragraph: All was quiet around the hives….drinking beer and watching television—it brought a smile to my face. Sometimes I think God made the bees a little bit like us, unpredictable, fun and mysterious.

    I think your closer to the truth then you realize.

    • Thanks, Steve. I notice you’ve been commenting on older posts. Every now and then someone goes through a reads everything, which is getting to be quite a chore.

  • Hi Rusty,

    I’ve tried to subscribe a few times and that window seems to get stuck. I’d love to keep up with daily comments. What works fine for now is I have you in my favorites and check in that way, but I have to look for the latest and greatest. Will you please add my email from your end. Thanks so much. My hives are ready and I’ve included ALL of your suggestions: follower frames, slatted bottom, and ready to go with mountain feeder and blanket box this winter. Thanks again! Elena C.

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