Something very strange is going on with our bee hive.

This is our third year with bees, and we’ve gotten used to the way beekeeping goes. You get a hive in spring, and it looks good for a while. You open it up, and there’s some spotty brood, enough to keep the colony limping along. You feed it until summer, and then you take the food away and add honey supers.

And then nothing happens. They don’t draw any comb, you don’t harvest any honey, and the colony dies over the winter.

That’s beekeeping.

This hive, though, is weird. Every time we open the hive, we see big swaths of solid capped brood. We’ve spotted our queen several times, and she’s probably the biggest honeybee we’ve ever seen. She’s created a colony that looks large and robust.

We took the feed a way a couple weeks ago to add two honey supers, and today we opened the hive.

It’s going gangbusters. They’ve started to draw the comb in the bottom super, and several of the frames in the deeps have significant amounts of honey. There’s lots of brood, and only a little of it is drone (those useless males). There are no queen cells, and no signs of swarming that we can see.

What’s wrong? I keep waiting for something catastrophic to happen because I’m fully convinced that hell will freeze over before we have a successful hive. Kevin has started talking about getting one of those big glass jars with a spigot at the bottom to hold honey, but I won’t allow any chicken-counting.

Even so, against my better judgment, I harbor a faint hope …

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  1. marthaeliza says:

    See? See? They are lulling you into complacency, waiting for that feeble flicker of hope to ignite into a blaze of confidence. That’s when it will all go sideways. Nature can be so cruel.

      • Naw, this is the distraction while nature sends a plague of weasels to eat your chickens or a woodchuck to mow down your garden. There you are, enthralled by the beauty and industry of a thriving hive, meanwhile, nature is doing an end run on your kale.

  2. Why can’t you just chalk it up to a warm spring? Maybe things will go well for you this year.

    I am going to hope on your bees for both of us. You’ll succeed where I failed so miserably.

  3. So glad to hear your bees are doing well this year; ours are behaving strangely but we think we know why and will fix it today

  4. Same situation with me here in Ohio this year. We had a super mild winter, but even so, only one of my three hives survived. Ironically, these are wild bees that moved in after I lost a hive in late summer last year for no apparent reason. It’s now enormous. I made two splits off of it and just harvested about 5 gallons of honey out of the supers. The brood boxes were becoming full of honey too, to the point of them wanting to swarm and so the reason I made the splits. Watch out for that -what they call a “honey bound” hive. They get so busy bring in nectar that they forget to leave room for brood. Then they try to swarm on you..which are only good when you can catch them 🙂

    All was shear dumb luck. I am a novice and had to do a lot of googling and asking for help to get the splits made. I don’t think I will be so lucky next year.

    • Nice! We added the supers to make sure they’d have plenty of room. What I wouldn’t give for 5 gallons of honey! At this point, I’d settle for half a cup.

      I’m convinced a lot of animal husbandry is sheer dumb luck. As they say in golf, better to be lucky than good.

      I hope your hives thrive!

  5. Hi Tarmar,

    I have just started beekeeping and even though it has only been a few months I am finding there are a lot of ups and downs. My blog has the stapline “regaining my sanity through beekeeping” but to be honest I am finding that I am losing my sanity!

    This page explains why I got into a beekeeping and to be fair, I am LOVING it.

    I will read your blog with interest.


    • Hi Roger — Nice to know you! Thanks for visiting. I think we’re on the same page, bee-wise. It’s been maddeningly frustrating, but also incredibly interesting. Unlike most of what we do here, which is pretty straightforward even when it’s difficult, bees are enigmatic. You never quite know what’s going on with a hive, even if you’re very experienced (we’re not) and very assiduous (we try to be).

      The more of us can compare notes, the better. (And I liked your Beehaus review.)

  6. Susan Sharko says:

    All beekeepers will do well to check out Gunter Hauk in Spikenard Farm and Bee Sanctuary, in Floyd, Virginia. A new magazine “Dirt”, summer 2012, from the Black Dirt region of Warwick, New York has an informative article about his very successful approach.

  7. Susan Sharko says:

    I’m sorry for misinformation on my posting about Gunter Hauk. The magazine title is “Out There” summer 2012 and produced by Tractor Supply. I had the magazine on top of each other and read the title of one looking at the cover of another. You can get more information at or get Hauk’s book “Toward Saving the Honeybee”. Much as I would like to I can’t keep bees but as a gardener I have worked around bees all my profession. Witnessing CCCD in gardens was heartbreaking, I watched many bees trying to fly and only being able to climb up a grass stalk, launch and spiral down again to grass as it lost altitude at every attempt to fliy. My neighbors was trying to keep a hive and lost every one over the past 6 years and I believe it was her bees visiting my garden. I grow medicinal weeds and sorely miss my fuzzy friends foraging among the many blossoms. The bees visiting now are tiny little things that I believe are solitary native bees. I have seen one honey bee near my home drinking stream water from a nearby creek and suspect she comes from my neighbor, who is trying again to keep a hive. The only places I have seen lots of honey bees are coming from pesticide free properties with lots of wild flowers in fence borders and deliberately planted in organic gardens. I hope this information is useful as I would like to see every bee keeper be successful.

  8. Sigh, One hive of bees gone; there were some deformed wings we saw so we started treating with powdered sugar. Was too hot to use the commercial miticide. 2 weeks ago the hive was empty. A few dead in the bottom. We think the healthy ones just packed up and absconded. New hive finally took off so we’re hopeful for them.

    • Ach, Myrna. I’m sorry about your bees. We haven’t checked mites since early summer, since we found very few and the hive has been so healthy. We’ll do it before winter and see if we can plan accordingly.

      I’ve read that powdered sugar isn’t terribly effective, which is a bummer since it’s so easy and benign.

      God I hate varroa.

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