a boots-on-the-ground view of the change that's a-foot

My co-housing community keeps bees. I’m still enjoying the last drops of honey from our first hive harvest last Fall and looking forward to more, but mostly, I am enthralled to see nature and humans working together for the common good. As you have heard, the pollinator bee population is in serious decline and as they go, so goes our food and well, just about everything. Give Bees a chance by making your yard and garden bee-friendly, starting your own hive (available to city dwellers!) or hanging a “bee condo” in your area.

Below is an early Spring update from our Arcadia queen of the bees, Elisabeth. It’s really interesting and I hope, inspiring. For information on home hives, visit Tao

By Elisabeth Curtis, Carrboro, NC

When we opened the hives for the first time since last fall and looked inside on a sunny day last week, we found that two of the hives seem in pretty good shape, with active bees and plenty of honey stores left. Neither had evidence of brood laying, but it is still early for that. The north hive, however, was in a precarious condition, with no more than a couple hundred bees and evidence of the dreaded small hive beetle. We thought we might have seen the queen, but she was not all that much bigger than the bees, so we were not sure. If she is a virgin queen, not yet mated, she would not be big, but the queen we would expect to see in that hive is a mature queen of good size. If the one we saw is the queen, that means that for some reason the hive has replaced the original queen. I put in a quick call to Will Hicks, one of the NC state bee inspectors, and he advised us to reduce the size of the hive so that the bees would have less area to protect.

You may have noticed that the hives are now white, the traditional hive color. We painted them less for aesthetic reasons than to protect the wood and make it last longer. You may see them decorated at some point.

Today we opened the north hive, took the three frames that had bees on them and moved them to a nuclear hive (a nuke), which is a small hive holding only five frames. We saw capped brood (larvae metamorphosing to bees) and some recently-laid larvae and actually saw the queen (and she is indeed somewhat petite) backing up to a cell to lay an egg. Very cool! With so few frames to care for, the small amount of bees should be able to keep the small hive beetles under control. As the bee population grows, we will add more frames and soon should be able to transfer them to a regular size hive body. The extra frames from the hive bodies have gone back to Bubba’s house to be frozen for 24hours to kill small hive beetles and wax moth larvae. Then we’ll store them for later replacement on the hives.

The other two hives show a healthy amount of bees and activity. We did not look for evidence of egg laying, but assume it is happening there as well. We are now feeding all hives sugar syrup and pollen, which will make the queens think spring is here and they’d better get busy. We should be able to stop feeding pretty soon, as the red maples are already starting to blossom.

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