Did We Make a Mistake Going Natural?

Modeling my new bee suit.

Modeling my new bee suit.

Last week my very own bee suit came.  Originally, the bees were supposed to be more of my husband’s thing.  I had planned on making yummy treats with the honey and candles and things with the wax, but that was going to be the extent of my involvement.  Well, if you’ve been following the blog, you know that I have become very enamored with our bees.  And with the realization that we need to have an “us” thing, my husband bought me a bee suit as a late anniversary gift.  (You know you’re starting to get older when you ask for practical gifts!)  

Since I received my bee suit, we decided to do a hive inspection last week as well.  When we opened up the hive, my heart sank.  A month or so ago, we added frames to the fourth box on the hive and took out the feeder.  My husband talked about getting another empty box to put on top so that we could add the feeder back because we only bought the four boxes so far this year.  We fed the bees a mixture of white sugar and water, mostly because we were told that the bees needed an extra supply of food because they were starting their hive from scratch.  However, I have been doing some reading, and natural and organic beekeepers do not feed sugar water.  I talked to my husband and he said that he would leave the decision on sugar water up to me, and I decided to let the bees forage for all of their food instead of providing the sugar water.  When we opened the box, the frames were empty.  No honey.  No comb.  (Sigh.)  I immediately had the “Oh, crap!” feeling.  Had I made a mistake in wanting to go more natural?

Where's the honey?!

Where’s the honey?!

My husband has reassured me that these empty frames should not be a problem for the bees.  We kept a queen excluder (a metal grate that keeps the queen in the bottom boxes to prevent her from laying eggs in the top box) on top of the third box, because this ensures that only honey is made in the top box since the top box is usually extra honey and where a beekeeper will harvest from.  Okay.  I felt better.  We were only missing “extra” honey and we aren’t going to harvest this year anyway.

You can see here that they have not built any comb on the frame. You can also see the metal queen excluder.

You can see here that they have not built any comb on the frame. You can also see the metal queen excluder.


The queen is too large to fit through the excluder so the beekeeper doesn't jeopardize any brood when harvesting honey.

The queen is too large to fit through the excluder so the beekeeper doesn’t jeopardize any brood when harvesting honey.

We put the top box aside and found that the bottom boxes are FULL of bees.  We found a lot of brood (eggs and larvae) and honey.  We didn’t see the queen.  I have to say that I was disappointed at how much harder it was for me to distinguish the different bees and their jobs in real life versus a picture in a book.  I’ll have to study more!  We also took a spoonful of honey from one of the frames.  I just couldn’t resist.  I HAD to try it, and let me tell you, it was delicious!  The honey had a much more subtle taste than store-bought which I liked better.  I’m definitely looking forward to harvesting next year!

That is a lot of bees!

That is a lot of bees!


Here are the bees with uncapped honey.

Here are the bees with uncapped honey.


This is capped honey.

This is capped honey.


The top portion with all of the bees on it is honey and the bottom portion that is an opaque yellow is made up of brood cells.

The top portion with all of the bees on it is honey and the bottom portion that is an opaque yellow is made up of brood cells.


You can see the bee larvae all curled up.

You can see the bee larvae all curled up.


We did spray sugar water as we opened the boxes. This makes it harder for the bees to fly, but it also keeps the bees busy. Bees are very tidy and the sugar water is messy to them, so they will clean it up instead of bothering you. Here you can see them cleaning each other off.

We did spray sugar water as we opened the boxes. This makes it harder for the bees to fly, but it also keeps the bees busy. Bees are very tidy and the sugar water is messy to them, so they will clean it up instead of bothering you. Here you can see them cleaning each other off.

Hopefully, my husband is right and the lack of honey and comb in the top box doesn’t mean disaster for our bees this winter.  I think we will do at least one more check before winter, and hopefully we’ll see some change in that top box then.

6 thoughts on “Did We Make a Mistake Going Natural?

  1. I have been feeding all summer and right now when it is so dry it is crucial to feed. There in not enough pollen or nectar for them to make honey naturally. My bees can’t wait for me to fill the feeder.

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  2. Pingback: Did We Make a Mistake Going Natural? | The Farm on the Hill | WORLD ORGANIC NEWS

    • We are currently exploring feeding options beyond sugar water. While after discussing feeding this week with others, we all have to realize that feeding doesn’t guarantee winter survival. I definitely see another post soon about our decision…whenever we make one. And thanks on the picture compliment!

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  3. Pingback: Yes, I’m Trying to Kill My Bees | The Farm on the Hill

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