Monday, September 24, 2012

Hive Drapes

The bees are making a lot of goldenrod honey these days.   I love it. 

In our last inspection, we found a whole lot of frames that looked like this one.   It's mostly capped honey on both sides and hopefully in a week or so the whole thing will be capped,  and we'll be able to pull off a few frames and harvest a few jars of honey for us.  

This inspection, we tried something new.  Over on Linda's Bees blog, Linda posted a piece that talked about using hive drapes instead of smoke to keep the bees calm when doing an inspection. 

I'd never heard of that, but the smoker is the bane of my existence, so I was happy to give it a try.  Seriously.    Keeping that smoker smoking right through the entire inspection is the hardest part about keeping bees.   [Tip:  If you're thinking of getting bees, then buy a smoker now and start practicing keeping it lighted.   Smoke your shrubs for an hour or so and see if stays lit.] 

This is how the hive drape thing works.  When you open the hive, you put a cloth over it to cover the bees and then you fold it back to work on only the area you need.  If you pull a frame out, you replace the drape so the hive stays covered.  The bees are supposed to stay calm.   You can use a couple of old pillowcases. 

It's brilliant. 

It's also a bit harder than we expected.  

For one thing, the breeze kept blowing it off.   And I'm serious about it being only a breeze.    It wasn't windy, but every breath of air popped the drape up.    We had to use the extra tools along the edges to keep it down. 

Also, our inspections take a while.   It's best not to hurry around the bees, and though they were fine for the first 5 minutes or so, they got a little testy after that.   They came right after the chisel I use to clean the propolis off from between the frames.   After that, every time the drape popped up, bees poured out.  

The bees were not calm.  It was lucky that neither of us got stung this time because those bees were unhappy.

We lit the smoker.  

After we smoked them, they calmed right down and we proceeded as usual.   

I'm thinking either we didn't do something right, or the drapes are best used for quick inspections.   Either way,  I'm sticking to the smoker. 

The smoker, by the way, stayed lighted this time for 4 hours after we were done.    Geez. 


  1. That's a bummer the drape didn't work. Would a darker cloth that simulates night work better, I wonder?

  2. Hahaha! Of COURSE the smoker stayed lit afterward. Because it was miffed you used the drape.
    I'm too skeert of bees to raise them. But I'm happy to read about YOU raising them! :)

  3. This is my first year for capturing goldenrod honey. The goldenrod is flowering all over right now in our area, and the honey that is coming in is so dark, I can't wait to see what it tastes like.

  4. We always light the smoker and puff it at the door to tell the bees we are coming in. Then we leave it by the door and do the rest of the inspection with the drapes. Sometimes depending on where you are located, it helps to put a dowel in your drape to weight it. The commercial drapes have metal rods sewed in to weigh them down. We do very slow inspections with the hive drapes - I'm usually teaching and so the inspection includes not only the work on the hive but explaining and showing it to everyone there. Try the drapes again. You should ALWAYS have a smoker lit, because you never know if you will by accident drop a frame or kill a bee and rile them up.

    1. Linda, thank you so much for chiming in on this! I really appreciate the extra information. Now that I know they need weights, I will try them again. And I will keep the smoker lit. I love how the smoker keeps them calm.


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