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  • Ella Hobler

The Weekly Buzz Vol. 2 - 2023 Season

Welcome back to another volume of the Weekly Buzz! We have lots of exciting news to share

with you from the past week at South Hill Apiaries.

Last week I wrote about swarms: how we capture them and why they occur. Well, this past week we discovered an afterswarm in our apiary. An afterswarm is similar to a regular swarm, but it typically consists of a much smaller number of bees. Afterswarms can occur if the workers of a colony raise multiple virgin queens and more than one of them survives. While the first virgin queen takes over the existing colony, and the old queen leads the initial swarm, additional virgin queens that aren’t killed by their sisters will swarm again with more of the existing colony population. While afterswarms aren’t always a bad thing, they could leave the existing colony with too few worker bees to maintain the health of the colony. Additionally, the number of bees

is potentially too small to be able to create a new,

thriving colony, as was the case with the

afterswarm we found. Unfortunately, there were

not enough bees in this afterswarm to be able to

collect pollen and nectar and raise brood

sufficiently, so the fate of these bees is death.

We were able to capture more healthy swarms

this week, however! When we headed down to

the apiary on Monday, I noticed a large bivouac

(temporary cluster) of bees up high on a tree

branch. I thought that it would be too high for us

to capture, but Jason insisted that it was possible.

He grabbed his orchard ladder while Adriana,

Eddie, and I gathered the supplies we needed to

capture the swarm. This was the first swarm that

our new beekeepers got to help capture, and they

did a great job. The weather on Monday was gray

and rainy, so we were surprised to find a swarm

that day. Either the bees swarmed the day before

and we didn’t find them until the next day, or they decided to make their own rules and swarm in poor conditions. Honeybees typically avoid activities outside the hive on days when it’s cold or wet, but maybe these girls just couldn’t wait to find a new home.

Jason raises the nuc over the bivouac up in a tree.

Placing drawn out frames (frames that already have comb on them) in the nuc for the bees to use or resources and brood-rearing.

On Tuesday, Eddie and Adriana got to help perform hive inspections for the first time. While it is important to read about honeybees and do research before entering a hive, perhaps the most crucial part to becoming a beekeeper is being able to work inside a hive and get up close and personal with the bees. To be able to learn to read the emotions of the bees and be gentle while ensuring that the colony is healthy, you need to see how the bees interact with you while you tend to their hive. Through hands-on learning, we are able to identify when the bees become stressed due to our presence and we need to close up the hive for the day. We can also learn more personally how the bees interact with one another and work to create a thriving colony.

Jason removes propolis (bee glue) from the sides of the hive to remove the frames easier, while Adriana learns how to wield a hive tool.

On Wednesday, we performed our first honey harvest of the season! This was my first honey

harvest since fall of 2021, and Adriana and Eddie’s first harvest ever. This was as much a

learning experience as it was an opportunity to get honey for ourselves, so we only extracted

honey from one super this time. Jason taught us how to use an uncapping knife to remove the wax cappings from the honey, and then how to place the uncapped frames in the extracting machine. Once we uncapped six frames of honey and placed them in the machine, we turned it on and it began its work of extracting the liquid gold. The extracting machine spins the frames around very fast, and using centrifugal force the honey in the frames is flung outwards, then falls to the bottom and out a hole where it goes through a strainer and into a bucket to be bottled later. This first harvest of the season was not intended to make a ton of money for us, but rather to teach us the proper way to extract honey from frames. While we don’t have honey for sale yet, keep an eye out in future newsletters, because we

will soon!

Uncapping honey using uncapping knives. Our honey extracting machine in action.

Until next time!

Ella Hobler, Head Beekeeper

City Boy to Hive Boy

-By Eddie Santos-

Hi everyone, welcome to my new corner of the Weekly Buzz. It's been 2 weeks and I've

now been stung twice. For veterans this is nothing, but for someone who has not been stung

since they were 13, this has been an awakening. Itchy and hot - that is the only way I can

describe it to those who haven't had the luxury of being stung by a honey bee. I've learned that a bee's sting is a level 2 on the Schmidt Insect Sting Pain Index so quite a bit higher than a fire ant! But it's not the pain that sucks the most, it's the itchy sensation afterwards.

Despite the sweet sensation of being stung, learning about this crucial key species has

been super beneficial. I've even looked into the idea of building hives in the city! My parents are a little hesitant but I don't think they'll notice a couple of bees on the roof of our house. Growing up in New York City, I’ve never heard of urban beekeeping. In my experience, bees are feared and misunderstood and often treated like cockroaches. They are however more important than cockroaches (more pretty too). The importance of educating people about bees has been one of the biggest takeaways I’ve learned so far. In the short two weeks of being an apprentice beekeeper, I already see bees as a major part of my career. Bees are vital to the health of our crops and help feed the billions of people on our planet. So, you would think helping our bee species would be a priority. The truth is much more scary and alarming. That’s why despite bees, apiaries, hives and all that comes with it are all new to me, I'm excited. I’m eager to learn more and help the best I can. Maybe I’ll get stung a couple more times.

Native Bee of the Week!

-By Adriana Sulca-

Hi everyone, welcome to my new corner of the Weekly Buzz. Native bees account for almost

20,000 different species in the world and sadly do not get the recognition they deserve compared

to honey bees. Education on

native bee conservation is very

important because if they are

wiped out, there would be an

ecological crisis on our hands

as well as a rapid rise in food

prices. The native bee of North

America I’ll be talking about

this week is the Blue Orchard

Mason bee or Osmia Ligriaria

pictured to the right. These bees

feed on fruit trees such as cherry, pear, and apple on orchards and other commercial crops andare thus very economically important. Osmia translates to “odor” which refers to a unique

lemony scent that females use to mark their nest entrances, presumably so they can distinguish their nest entrance from those of other Osmia bees nesting nearby. Mason bees are a part of a group known as tunnel nesting bees that lay their nests in pieces of wood blocks, hollow stems, abandoned burrows, or even entirely out of mud. The ability of Osmia to nest in preexisting holes makes it easy to provide habitat for them. These fast and efficient native pollinators belong to the family Megachilidae and are solitary meaning the queens live individually and raise their own young. An Osmia female starts at the back of the nest and works her way forward so eggs that grow into female bees will be at the back and male will be near the front. They also have a more efficient way of pollinating flowers called buzz pollination compared to honey bees.

Fun fact: fewer than 300 of these blue orchard mason bees can pollinate the same number of trees that takes over 90,000 honey bees!

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