Aug. 12, 2021

How Are My Bees? (034)

How Are My Bees?  (034)

Every spring we beekeepers buy packages and set up nucs. Come summer, we start to look at what is going right and what may be going… well… not so right. Or at least, something is going but we’re not quite certain just what! In this episode, Kim...

How Are My Bees?

Every spring we beekeepers buy packages and set up nucs. Come summer, we start to look at what is going right and what may be going… well… not so right. Or at least, something is going but we’re not quite certain just what!

In this episode, Kim and Jim discuss the hives they started this past spring and compare notes. They’re only 30 miles apart and you might think weather and time have treated them equally and… you would be surprised.

How was the new queen accepted? How has the honey flow from tree crops such as Tulip, Poplar, and Basswood? Is any clover blooming?

How are the over-wintered colonies doing this summer? Are they kicking it into overdrive and really producing? Or were they super swarmy, and/or busy replacing the queen and/or highly defensive compared to the prior season?  Can the Queen be root of all the problems?

Speaking of problems… who’s dealing with Hive Beetles? Kim or Jim?

Listen today as Kim and Jim discuss all things honey bees.


We welcome Betterbee as sponsor of today's episode. BetterBee’s mission is to support every beekeeper with excellent customer BetterBeeservice, continued education and quality equipment. From their colorful and informative catalog to their support of beekeeper educational activities, including this podcast series, BetterBee truly is Beekeepers Serving Beekeepers. See for yourself at


Honey Bee Obscura is brought to you by Growing Planet Media, LLC, the home of Beekeeping Today Podcast.

Music: Heart & Soul by Gyom, Walking in Paris by Studio Le Bus, original guitar music by Jeffrey Ott

Copyright © 2021 by Growing Planet Media, LLC


Honey Bee Obscura

Episode 34 – How Are My Bees?


Kim: Jim. Hi, how are you doing? I want to tell you. I got out to take a look at my bees yesterday. It's been a while; it's been raining, and it's been hot, and I haven't been here. It's been a while and I got a good look at all three of them, and they're doing pretty much what I expected them to be.

Jim: I could identify with that. I took the same walk you took about 30 miles away and we have the same spring, wet and wet. Things look okay right now, Kim. I had that episode with European that we talked about, but right now I'm a beekeeper.

Kim: I want to tell you about what mine looked like, because another set of eyes, I think, will help me evaluate what I've got. Hi, I'm Kim Flottum.

Jim: I'm Jim Tew.

Kim: We're here today with Honey Bee Obscura. We're just looking at our bees, how they do, and we're 30 miles apart, and I'm going try to bounce off Jim what I saw, he's going to bounce off me what he saw, and maybe you can gain something from that and maybe not.

Jim: A lot of bouncing going on, but I want to say right up front, Kim, this is conversational. This is not me offering advice. I'm trying to figure out how things are going and what to do.

Introduction: You are listening to Honey Bee Obscura, brought to you by Growing Planet Media, the folks behind Beekeeping Today Podcast. Each week on Honey Bee Obscura, hosts Kim Flottum and Jim Tew explore the complexities, the beauty, the fun, and the challenges of managing honey bees in today's world, engaging in informative discussion meant for all beekeepers, long-timers, and those just starting their journey with bees. Sit back and enjoy the next several minutes as Kim and Jim explore all things, honey bees.

Kim: How's that? Well, we got packages this spring, both of us. How's your packages looking?

Jim: Everything built up nicely. They're in two deeps, at least. I didn't really push them. I didn't feed them night and day. I basically expected them to make it on their own. I did give them mostly drawn comb. Right now, they're all three beehives. Now, one of those, Kim, is the one that got sickly on me with this outbreak of European foulbrood that I've talked about in previous segments.

It's alive, but when those colonies get that European disease, that European foulbrood disease, they don't thrive. They just hang on. That's where those packages are. Happy enough, all the queens were accepted, everything looked okay, no real surprises. I have to say because of the wet spring, this has not been a miracle season for me.

Kim: Let me tell you what happened with mine. I got three packages too, and I didn't have to feed them because I had a lot of honey left over from last year that I didn't extract. I was able to put a super on each one, a full medium, 8-frame super on each one. I didn't have to feed, but I put them in the boxes and put the honey on. I went out to look the next morning, and one of them had absconded. Can you believe that? In one night.

Jim: Oh, no.

Kim: I don't know. Did half of them go to each hive? I couldn't tell by the population. How do you know how many bees are in a three-pound package when they're spread out over? You remember, I do 8-frame medium equipment. I've got my bees in three 8-frame mediums instead of 10-frame deeps. They're spread out more.

Jim: Did they abandon that caged queen?

Kim: Yes, they did. [laughs]

Jim: I'm just sitting here not exactly next door to you, but those bees drifted, Kim. I bet you, you've got the bees. You just don't have them where you left them the night before. Were you able to split them out and get your third package back?

Kim: No, because of the weather and things, they just didn't explode. They just grew linear, in a line as opposed to a curve, and they've done exactly what I would expect a package to do. I don't think either of them will make any honey to harvest this year unless we have a bodacious golden rod flow. You and I got a nuc too this spring, didn't we?

Jim: Can you call a 7-frame split a nuc? I got a small beehive is what it amounts to. [chuckles] That was really a jump-start because it's all those bees and all that brood.

Kim: There's a lot to be said for getting nucs or to have overwintered nucs from last year. I think we've talked about that. Having a nuc is like having a bee store in your bee yard. You can get anything you need from it. That one is doing well. It took off really well. The two packages that are not exploding, I'm probably going to have to feed over winter. I can use honey from that nuc.

Jim: For any of us who are listening who are just starting this or still initially playing with bees or learning bees, the difference between an overwintered colony and a package can just be stunning, because I had several colonies that overwintered and, boy, they're the ones right away. You've got to watch for swarming. You got to watch for under supering, and those things grow at significantly faster rates than those packages do. By now, I'm probably saying that those overwintered colonies are still about twice the size of the packages. There's just so much to be said for a successful overwintering.

Kim: We need to talk about that sometime soon, successful overwintering, because like I said earlier, it's early August and winter starts right about now.

Jim: Right about now. Here we go on the wrong subject, great topic for wrong subject.

Kim: [laughs]

Jim: Maybe we will talk about this later, but winter actually started last spring, and the bees have got to build it up stores. They’ve got to get it, they’ve got to harvest it, they’ve got to store it when it's available.


Sponsor: Betterbee is pleased to sponsor today's episode of Honey Bee Obscura podcast. For over 40 years, Betterbee has supplied beekeepers across the country with the tools, equipment, and knowledge needed to succeed. Because many Betterbee employees are beekeepers themselves, they understand your needs and challenges and are better prepared to answer your beekeeping questions. From their colorful catalog to their supportive beekeeper educational activities including this podcast, Betterbee truly lives up to their tagline of "Beekeepers serving beekeepers." See for yourself at


Kim: How was the honey flow in your part of the world? What do you think was your best crop this year?

Jim: I get it from the usual places. I got a little bit from basswood - I went blank for a minute - and just mixed crops, a little bit from tulip, poplar, the tree crops. You and I have talked about tree crops at various times, and they are always productive for me. I get a little bit from clover, and there was locust this year.  I’m in one of those areas where I'd be hard-pressed to say, "This is a particular type of honey." Mine is always mixed in from wherever the bees catch as catch can.

Kim: You know what? Just driving around Medina County this time of year, almost always there's on the side of the road a fairly good crop of yellow and white sweetclover. I haven't seen that this year.

Jim: Yes, that's around, but you're right. Sometimes, larger populations of it are around.

Kim: Interesting. I had the tree crops, too - same ones that you did, and I had the clover in my yard, the plants were all there. They were all rained on. They were all watched by the bees sitting on the front door of the hive, watching it rain. Best crops in the world this year ended up being a little bit less than average.

Jim: Yesterday on my walkabout, it's so typical. I've gotten old doing this. I've talked about it. You said you didn't see it, but I'm wanting to argue for it again. The personality changes. These are big colonies, no nonsense colonies, a lot of strong nectar flow going on. If you're going to go out there and putz around, you probably want your protective gear going on and you want to smoker lit up. This is not a good time to go have a quick look thinking you can be in and out and do the things you could do with that smaller package colony last spring. These are serious beehives.

Kim: I got to be honest, I've never been in and out without some kind of protection. I'm cautious, I guess is the word. Speaking of which, being in and out, have you seen any small hive beetle this year?

Jim: I always see the Small Hive Beetle some -- I actually have mine named.

Kim: [laughs]

Jim: There's about five or six of them, and I feel like they're all friends. (We're chuckling now).  One day I'll go out there and I'll find out that I've been beetle-slimed. I see enough to know that they're there, but they're never doing anything. I think, "Oh my stars, there's a small hive beetle. I need to get a photo of that." Then by the time I get the camera out, phone out, whatever I'm using, I can't find it again. That's my level of small hive beetle. I know there's people right now who were just throwing things at me because they have such problem with these insects. Right now, so far, I've been lucky. What about you?

Kim: Not a one. Not one small hive beetle on a top bar, or on a frame, or on the bottom board, or on the entrance all summer long.

Jim: There's people all across the country right now saying, "Well, I can send you some."


Kim: That's okay. [laughs] I'll pass on that, but it's been odd because small hive beetles have always been present ever since they've been around, and I wonder if all that rain has something to do with the population.

Jim: I don't know. I like that, Kim. Let's blame the rain instead of blaming the queen.

Kim: Okay. [chuckles]

Jim: We always have to blame something, and it's usually the queen so this time, it's the rainy season that we had last spring. One thing I do want to point out - without a shred of science - and just a casual observation is this.  I needed a frame of open brood. I've got that colony that I was going to have grow its own queen, the one that had European and I de-queened it. It needed a frame of open brood for emergency cell production.  I can find frame upon frame upon frame of really solid, dense, older brood or capped brood, but I couldn't find much open brood. I don't know if the cycle of the season is changing, if my bees are responding to the seasonal change, or if they're just crowded. I had a hard time finding open brood, but capped brood was abundant.

Kim: Well, let's pretend it's the cycle and the queen is slowing down and there isn't any brood in there because she's not laying because she's looking at the sky going, "Winter's coming, I better slow down."

Jim: I had some honey there. I must admit, the taller they are, and you take that top deep off, you take that lid off, and there you can see capped combs on it, you think, "This one is good, let's go to another one that's not quite as tall and doesn't have this heavy honey super on the first level to take off." I have a quick look if that colony has three deeps and two supers - if that top supers mostly full, what would I accomplish opening that big thing up? I give it a check mark and move on, looking for those that have problem issues that are easier to open.

Kim: I agree. You get what you see, and you make your decisions on that. I think we need to talk about, like I said, it's early August and we got to be thinking about winter, so down the road here and a couple of times, we will you have to start talking about getting ready for winter.

Jim: Well, right now, Kim, I'm a happy boy. A few days ago, I was complaining about European when we were talking, but right now, happy days are here again. They'll be gone soon enough, but right now, blue skies.

Kim: Good enough. To all you who are listening out there, if you think of it, you like hearing what you're hearing here today and every Thursday, tell a friend, pass us along, and share what you know. We'd be glad to get everybody in here.

Jim: I know some of you are regular. Becca, you're one of them. I've said that I'd say hi, so thanks to all you folks who've listened regularly. Thanks for doing that.

Kim: All right. See you next time.

Jim: Bye-bye, Kim.


[00:13:16] [END OF AUDIO]