Just a quick note

Checked on my bees this weekend and all 4 hives are still doing well.  I was concerned with hive #4 (back, right hive), since the previous week they started spilling out when I had placed my stethoscope against each deep/super to see where they were. It was ~30 degrees F and as they came out, the ones already out were trying to get back in.  There weren’t a lot of bees, just a silver dollar size.


It got me thinking, normally unhappy bees can indicate a problem.  Perhaps the queen was no longer alive or perhaps they were starving?

So this weekend, I returned to my apiary.  It was in the 20s and there wasn’t much I could do.  I pressed my ear on the top box and only heard a faint hum.  I moved down to the next box and was happy to find, that, that is where the colony resided. There was a nice calm hum, no angry bee sound.

I am thrilled that my bees have made it to February… now to make it to March.

~ May all your wandering take you to many wonderful places.


Pork chops with Spinach salad

I’ve never been a big fan of pork chops.  When I was young I found them to be dry as leather.  If I could get away without my mom noticing that I didn’t take one for dinner, it was a good night. I didn’t have my first good pork chop until the day my husband cooked one. It was then that I realized pork chops were good if they were not overcooked and especially when paired with a tasty side.

The spinach salad in this recipe is the perfect pairing for the pork. It is tossed with a warm honey-mustard dressing, that is made using the tasty bits of pork left in the pan after they are cooked. The salad is also topped with a pickled shallot garnish, which is delicious. (Yes, I am one of those strange people that love pickles, especially sweet pickle. I will even drink the pickle juice right out of the jar.)


My family found this very tasty and I thought it was a nice way to easily compliment a pork chop.

It was simple and quick!  I marinated the shallots the day before and then all I had to do for dinner was make the honey-mustard dressing, fry up the chops, add the honey-mustard dressing to the pan and reduce, pour the dressing over the spinach and serve!

garnish dressing chops  spinach  dinner

You will find that both the honey-mustard dressing and the shallots use honey!

Pork chops with Spinach salad


  • 4 bone-in pork rib chops (about 12 ounces each)
  • 1 medium shallot, thinly sliced into rings
  • 1 bunch mustard greens, tough stems trimmed
  • 1/4 c plus 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 4 t honey
  • 1 T whole grain Dijon mustard
  • 2 t mustard seeds
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 t kosher salt, plus more
  • 3 T olive oil, plus more for drizzling


1.Shallot garnish:

  • Slice shallot into rings
  • Place shallot and 2t mustard seeds in a small bowl or heatproof jar.
  • Bring the following items to boil in a small sauce pan, stirring to dissolve sugar and salt
      1. 2 t honey
      2. 1/4 c vinegar
      3. 1/2 t salt
      4. 2 T water
    • Pour over shallot and mustard seeds
    • Set aside.

2. Pork chop prep:

  • Season with salt and pepper.

3. Honey-Mustard dressing prep: Mix together in small bowl

  • 1 T Mustard
  • 2 t Honey
  • 2 T vinegar
  • 1 T water

4. Spinach prep:

  • Wash spinach and remove tough stems
  • Spin dry
  • Place into serving bowl

Let’s get cooking:

  1. Heat 3 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium-high.
  2. Working in batches if needed, cook pork chops until browned and cooked through, about 3 minutes per side.
  3. Transfer pork chops to a warm plate
  4. Reduce heat to medium-low and add Honey-Mustard dressing to skillet.
  5. Bring to a simmer and cook, scraping up browned bits from bottom of skillet, until liquid is slightly reduced, about 1 minute.
  6. Season with salt and pepper.
  7. Remove pan sauce from heat.

Toss salad with dressing

  1. Season with salt and pepper.
  2. Drizzle warm Honey-Mustard sauce over greens
  3. Toss to coat

Serve shallot garnish

  1. Drain liquid, keeping shallots and mustard seeds
  2. Place into small bowl for serving

Call everyone to dinner and serve

  1. Serve pork chops with greens topped with Shallot garnish drizzled with more oil

You can find the original recipe here,  at the following location.  From the original, I replaced the sugar in the shallot garnish with honey and used spinach instead of Mustard greens.

If you give this a try, let me know what you think.

~ May all your wandering take you to many wonderful places.






How do you store used frames?

As a 3rd year beekeeper, there are things that I just don’t have a lot of experience with, for instance, knowing what the best ways to store used frames are.

Therefore, I could use some advice on how to store frames of drawn comb, partial capped nectar, capped honey, etc.



  • Empty drawn comb:
    • Is it ok to just leave the drawn comb in clear Rubbermaid bins?
    • Should I tape them closed so there is no way for moths, wasps and the like to get in?
  • Frames of dead brood, from winter dead outs:
    • Should I just scrape that out, all the way down to the plastic frame and then melt down to save the wax?
    • If I leave it in will it rot and stink?
  • Frames of open nectar/honey (Most of these frames include sugar water and also made with candy board, where I had added some mint extract and other essential oils. I can actually taste the mint in them.)
    • Should I just leave these out for the bees to rob?
    • If I let them rob them out, will the bees just tear up the comb?
    • Should I instead rinse them out with the hose or use my extractor and then feed back to the bees? Then I could put the empty comb out to be cleanup.
    • If they ferment do I have to extract or rinse out with a hose?
  • Frames of capped honey (which has the same issue as the open frames)
    • Last year I sandwiched these frames between 2 tops and some I placed into black plastic bags and sealed them in. This worked and I had no issues, but it would be easier to just pop them into a Rubbermaid bin. Will this work ok?

Any feedback that you could provide me is greatly appreciated, and perhaps there are others that would also benefit.

~May all your wandering take you to many wonderful places.


Autopsy 3 – CarniW

This next hive that I will perform an autopsy on, is one of two Nuc hives that I purchased in the spring of 2015, from a local beekeeper. I went local since the queen would be from local stock and not brought in from down south or from CA. I was hoping that a local queen would result in a hardier colony.

3 - colony 3

During the summer, this hive had some problems with the queen and superseded her, but by fall, the colony was full of bees. At the start of winter, I was sure that out of all my hives this one would make it through the winter.

So let’s begin and start with the bottom box:

After looking at these pictures above I thought for sure I had the frames out of order.  The far left frame in the box is the frame at the top of the 1st picture, while the far right frame in the box is the frame at the bottom of the 2nd picture.  Looking back at my notes, when I added the second box I had moved up a few center frames to the 2nd deep to encourage the bees to start building out the 2nd box.  Looks like they didn’t ever focus 100% back on the empty frames in the bottom box.

A few of the frames are packed with bee bread (frame 1 on the left side and frame 9 on the right side), but most are empty of their honey stores.  The whitish sections are the only capped honey left in this 1st deep box.

The 2nd deep box:

Here it is evident that the bees did move up into the 2nd deep, but they didn’t venture much further than the gap between the 5-6th, 6-7th and 7-8th frame. All other frames were full of capped honey.

This colony was quite large, you can see their size from the “outline” they left on the 6th, 7th and 8th frames. So we must now look further up in the hive to see if they started to eat the sugar block provided them in March/Feb timeframe.

There is evidence that the cluster moved up to the sugar block and started to eat it.

We can also see from the bottom board below that this hive was very large, but not so large that they had eaten all of the food stores in the box.

3 - bees on bottomSo why didn’t they survive?  They were a large colony with a lot of honey around them, with sugar above and more to come if they had just lasted longer. Also from the bottom board we can see that there is no mouse infestation and with the screen bottom board no excessive moisture in the hive.

Perhaps it was due to diseases?

3 - closeup beesWe can see in the above picture that they looked healthy when they died, no deformed wing or K-wing virus.  We can also see from the picture below that there is no evidence of dysentery on the inside of the boxes.

3 - no dysentery.jpg

What I don’t have a picture of, is the number of dead varroa mites that I saw on the bottom board in January.  I saw evidence of the bees alive at the end of February and then we went through a week of very cold temperatures, after that the colony was still. I thought they were managing the varroa mites, and it looks like the size of the colony was doing ok, so what could have happened?

After I looked a little closer to the frames, here is what I saw:

Queen cells, telling me that the queen was not well or was not alive and they attempted to supersede her.

Autopsy results:

  1. Size of the cluster when it died – Large
  2. Evidence of moisture in the hive – None
  3. Evidence of Varroa mites – Dead ones on the bottom board corrugated plastic
  4. Evidence of Varroa feces in the cells – None
  5. Evidence of Dysentery – None
  6. Evidence of deformed wing virus – None
  7. The amount of honey stores remaining – Lots of food stores remaining in the 2nd deep and sugar block.
  8. Evidence of pests living in the hive – None
  9. Evidence of queen problem – many queen cells

Conclusion and other observations:

  1. They ate all the honey in the 1st deep and then worked their way up to the top of the 2nd deep, eating the sugar block that they were provided.
  2. Large amount of bees on the bottom of the hive.
  3. The outline of bees left on the frames of the 2nd box, indicate that this was a big colony.
  4. Multiple queen cells, which tells me the queen had either died or was doing poorly. With it being winter, the colony was doomed.

A few things to do/changes to consider in preparing for next winter:

  1. Not much I could have done about the bad queen. Last summer was wet and most of the queens that were hatched and mated failed.
  2. Puling a few frames from the bottom box to the top box is still a good idea. I now have a lot of drawn comb and never plan to use empty plasticell when performing this operation.
  3. Save a medium or deep full of honey for placing onto my large hives for the winter. (I know some of you would prefer the honey, but I would prefer to have my bees overwinter each year. I’m good with this plan, since I only need a couple of gallons of honey for eating, gifts and mead making.)

~ May all your wandering take you to many wonderful places!

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Autopsy 2 – CarniE swarm cell

Aut2 - 1a

Last spring, I purchased 2 Carniolan Nucs from a local beekeeper and each Nuc consisted of a locally raised queen.  I named them CarniW and CarniE and of these 2 hives only my CarniE survived.

In early July, the CarniE hive went into swarm mode and I pulled the queen, a few frames and some bees into a deep box and then made another 3 hives using swarm cells from the swarming CarniE hive. The hive that I am performing an autopsy on is one of these offspring from the CarniE hive.

This Nuc consisted of 2 deeps, 1 medium full of honey, a sugar block added in Jan/Feb timeframe, an upper entrance and quilt box.

Since a colony normally starts in the lower box, in late fall, and works their way up to the top, we will first take a look at what the 1st deep box looked like this spring:

Aut2 - box1

We can see evidence that the cluster was very small when it died (right side of frame 2 and left side of frame 3), that it stripped most of the capped honey from the frames (right side of frame 1 and then all of frame 2-4) and that it remained in the bottom box. We can also see that the colony didn’t expand out into the sides of the box very well.

Next we will inspect deep box #2 and see if we can figure out why the cluster did not move up from the bottom box:

Aut2 - box2

In the 2nd box it is very obvious that this hive was small going into the fall, for it only had filled in the equivalent of 3 frames with drawn comb and honey. It does appear that the colony may have ventured up into the second box and then perhaps back down again (as evident by the missing honey on the right side of frame 2 and on both sides of frame 3).  When bees only build within the middle of the box, it is called towering. There are tricks to fix this, but we won’t go into detail here, but leave it for another day.

We also can see that the frame directly above the bees (right side of frame 2 and left side of frame 3) did have honey stores, but there was a 3-4″ gap of empty drawn comb. There are times, because of this break in honey that the bees are not aware of the honey stores above and around them.

Finally, we see that the medium super that sat above the 2nd deep box and the sugar block above that was untouched.

Aut2 - box3

Finally, we need to check to see if there was any evidence of disease or pests.

In the top 2 pictures we can see that the wings of our bees look fine and that there is no evidence of deformed wing virus (passed from the Varroa mite) or K-wing virus (passed from the Tracheal mite).

The bottom left picture shows that 1) there wasn’t any moisture that accumulated on the bottom, 2) that there is no streaking of feces from a varroa sick hive and 3) that there wasn’t a huge number of bees to begin with.  The area cleaned off, is from us removing the dead bees with our hive tool to ensure that their entrance was not blocked.

The bottom right picture shows that the bees had been dead for quite a while, at least long enough to mold.

Autopsy results:

  1. Size of the cluster when it died – Very small
  2. Evidence of moisture in the hive – None
  3. Evidence of Varroa mites – None
  4. Evidence of Varroa feces in the cells – None
  5. Evidence of Dysentery – None
  6. Evidence of deformed wing virus – None
  7. The amount of honey stores remaining – Lots of food stores remaining in the 2nd deep, the full medium super and the added sugar block.
  8. Evidence of pests living in the hive – None

Conclusion and other observations:

  1. Colony too small to survive winter – This was not a very big cluster at the start of winter as shown by the fact that they hadn’t filled out the frames on the sides and that there weren’t a large amount of dead bees in the hive.
  2. Colony too small to survive winter -The colony was able to move around the deep box it was in, but perhaps due to its small size it was unable to cross the gap to the honey above. Either it was tightly clustered for warm and couldn’t move, or it didn’t realize there was honey above because of the small gap in the drawn comb.
  3. While performing this autopsy I realized that the original CarniE hive survived winter, while all hives made from CarniE swarm cells in early July did not make it through winter, even though most had built up nicely before winter began. Last year with it being so rainy, I don’t believe the queens ever mated well.

A few things to do/changes to consider in preparing for next winter:

  1. Seriously consider combining all small colonies with another to give the bees a better chance of surviving the winter.
  2. Take a look at my homemade Nuc boxes and see if the space between the frames in the lower box is too far from the bottom of the frames in the 2nd

~ May all your wandering take you to many wonderful places!

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