Beekeepers Associations and Groups · Bees

Hats off to South Carolina Beeekeepers Association

On Saturday, we picked up bees for BIL and us that we purchased through South Carolina Midlands Beekeepers Association.    I am still in awe over the fantastic organization and the cooperation of all of the members present.   There were 450  packages of bees to be picked up, with most people picking up 1 – 3 packages.  Everyone parked where directed and waited patiently for the bees to arrive.  Once they were there, we were directed to move from the parking space to the front of the building.  Right before we picked up our bees, the barcode on our receipt was scanned and our order called out.  The volunteers loaded the boxes in the back of my car, and we were out of there in under 15 minutes.   Now, we were about 2/3 of the way back in the queue, so the 15 minutes tells you how efficiently everything was handled.  I wish the volunteers could handle parking at graduation!

It was almost dark when we got home and our bees were going to out yards, so we sprayed them down with sugar water and put them in the greenhouse overnight.  Early Sunday morning, we headed out to our two out yards and shook bees into hives hubby had set up the day before.   After the first hive, I felt like an expert!   The practice was good, because the bees became more animated as the day warmed up and our spray bottles ended up being uncooperative for the last two hives, but we got them all installed.   Our friend has been giving us frequent updates on the bees in his garden and I suspect the bee-bug has bitten him too.  I’m glad there are so many others who find bees so fascintating.

Then it was back to the house to load the vehicles for a trip to BIL’s house.   He let us shake his bees while he filmed the process with his phone.  (I just realized that I never saw the film!)   He wasn’t wearing gloves, but the worst thing that happened to him was when I stuck him with a thumb tack while I was trying to hand it to him.  My gloves shrunk when I washed them, but there is still a good bit more glove than fits which gives me a good excuse for being clutzy.

His bees seem quite happy today, although I didn’t see any bringing pollen back to the hive yet.  The bees in his established hives are finding plenty of pollen, but I guess the new guys haven’t figured out where the best stores are.

The next step is to go back to each hive and make sure that the queens have been able to get out of the queen cages and that they are happily cohabiting with their new servants.   Hopefully we will be selling and not buying next year.

Bees · Gardening · Queen Bee

A castle fit for a queen…

My husband went to a class about producing queen bees on Saturday, and came back talking about a queen castle.  Of course, I had no idea what he was talking about, but now I do.  A queen castle is an oversized bee box with entries on every side.  There are slots on the inside that allow you to divide the box into four segments, each of which is accessible from a separate entrance.  It’s probably a whole lot easier to look at the picture from the link above than to follow anything I might describe!  I’d show you the inside, but I forgot to take a picture before we put it in use.

As this is a queen castle, I wanted to paint it in a way that was fit for a queen — or for multiple queens.  For me that meant gold paint.  I really like the way all four sides turned out, but the design with the honeycomb is definitely impractical for frequent use.  I love it, but I used an entire tube of paint and it took far more time than I really had to spend on it.  Still, it stands out and it was both fun and relaxing.

We decided to label each entry to make talking about what’s going on with each section a little easier.   Now that we have pretty much everything painted for this year, we’ve decided to color code the boxes when we add or repaint, also to make communication clearer and easier.

The first of the new bees will be here Saturday evening, and hubby is out setting up hives at new locations that are still close enough to home for us to maintain them, but far enough away to minimize competition for resources.   We’ll need to drive back and forth from the farm and home next week so that we can keep checking on the new-bees.  It would have been a little easier had they arrived on their original due date, but nature has its own time table and we are learning to be flexible.

Another thing we are trying this year is planting vegetables in straw bales.  If this works, we’ll plant our first veggies at the farm this way.  We may even try moving these bales to the farm at some point, but I suspect that will be impractical.  It will take us a while to soften up the packed clay and condition the soil on our future garden plot, and this appears to be a solution.  I don’t want to go a entire summer without fresh tomatoes, peppers, or squash, especially now that I know how easy it is to make and can salsa!

Last week was also the week that our 43 trees arrived from Arbor Day, so I spent two evenings planting trees in pots and setting them up where they will get enough sun and plenty of water from the sprinklers.   The daylillies are burgeoning and the trees I am growing from seed are still hanging in there, although my tomato seedlings are currently bigger than my magnolia seedlings.  In retrospect, having to make multiple trips to and from the farm is not such a bad thing as we are rapidly running out of space to store all the things that are sooner or later heading south!






Putting down roots.

We planted two gardenias by the gate in November, but this weekend we started our orchard with two fig trees we received as a gift and two blueberry bushes.   The fig trees did great in the greenhouse over winter and we moved them outside a couple of weeks ago.  The first leaves opened at the start of this week, so this was a good time to get them in the ground.  The roots were less pot-bound than we thought and there was a good soaking rain overnight.  I think they will do well.  We are so looking forward to adding the trees we ordered from Arbor Day Foundation — hopefully over spring break.

Our plans for the house change from minute to minute, but we know where the RV will go and we plan to watch the woods go through the seasons from there before we make a final decision on the house.  Every time we visit the farm, we see reasons to place the house in one place, then another, then another…..  It will all work out in time.

We cooked supper and breakfast in the RV and had my brother-in-law (BIL) over for both meals, which was fun, even if I clearly don’t yet have the oven figured out.   It didn’t help that I thought I heard BIL yell yesterday while he was using the table saw (he just sneezed), so I turned the gas burner and oven off and ran to check on him and then couldn’t relight the pilot light on the oven because it was too hot.  So much for biscuits…   Then I burned the biscuits this morning, so I need to find the middle ground between barely cooked and black next time!

As usual, leaving was difficult.  Daylight savings time stole one hour of our day, and then we fiddled around doing bee stuff with BIL until 2 hours after our planned departure.  It was worth it to see how his hives are growing and then to see a series of beautiful rainbows on the drive back home.

Life is good.  We have redbud trees in full bloom down by the creek and more surprises to come, I’m sure, in the coming weeks.

Bees · Hive equipment

Bee ready


It’s official — if we are going to expand the bee business, we need to build a workshop at the farm!   We have bee boxes everywhere, and we have locations to set them up when the bees arrive at the end of the month.  It’s been a lot of work getting everything painted, but it’s been fun and stress relief, too.

As you can see, we have no room in the garage and we still have boxes in the dining room.  We have to put foundation in a bazillion frames over the next two weeks, and I’m hoping we can do that sitting in front of the TV because it sounds like tedious work.   So tedious, that grading essays might be more enjoyable, especially as my students are writing very well right now.

The existing hives are doing well and we have had to add to each of them.   I like seeing some of the new colors out there mixed in with our original blue boxes.

We realized that we will need to make multiple trips to get everything we need to move down to the farm before spring break, so we’re hauling a load of supplies down there later today.  It will be good to stand on our land and see the early signs of spring for the first time.    We’ve seen it late summer, fall, winter, and in torrential rain that was more befitting a hurricane coming in than a winter storm.    If we can fit them on the truck, we’ll take a few plants down and get them in the ground too.

It will be a very quick trip there and back because we both have a bunch of deadlines for projects for our day jobs before spring break.  It’s been too long since we sat around a camp fire with family, so a quick trip and a day dream is better than no trip at all.  Of course, I’m hoping to find that giant gold nugget in our churned up soil so that I can be a step closer to sitting in our workshop, painting hive bodies and bird houses to my heart’s content.