Bee Stings · Construction · Gardening · Honey · Lazer Creek Apiary · Pests - Bees · Queen Bee · Storage

Slowly Moving West

We have started taking plants and boxes of household goods to the farm — just what will fit in the vehicles each time and what we have had time to pack.  Most of the bee stuff is down there now, which makes getting around in the 40-foot container challenging!   Still, the bees are rapidly going through the frames we’ve built, so empty totes come back to the city with us in time to be refilled.

Shop Site
Shop Site

Building the shop has become a priority so that we have more space to put things and so that we have a clean space to sling honey this summer.  As we want to sell in Georgia, we need to be certified in Georgia.   Hubby spent most of the weekend leveling the shop site and was working on trenching to install conduit last time I talked to him.   (I came back early to get laundry done for the week.)    Our neighbor has been a great help, both in terms of giving advice and helping on the tractor.   His company will be pouring the slab next week and then the construction can start.  It’s exciting!

Spring border
Daffodil, iris, crinum lily, and other spring transplants.

Even though there was a lot to get done, hubby was still willing to help me get spring bulbs transplanted.  They’re all looking rather sad right now, but I know from experience that they’ll look great next spring, if not before.   The grass and wildflower seeds are doing well, and I added some clover seed and fertilizer yesterday.   If we can just get enough growing to slow down the erosion, we’ll have a less muddy driveway when we get those Southern downpours!   The drainage ditches hubby, my brother-in-law, and I have cut are making a huge difference, and plants will just be the final touch we need.

Smoker
Smoker with new bellows

Of course, we didn’t neglect the bees this weekend, even with all the other tasks we needed to accomplish.    We had to replace the bellows on one of our smokers, and we love this new Pro Bellow from Mann Lake.   There’s a nozzle at the bottom that blows air directly into the smoker, and that has made it easier to get the smoker lit.   I’ll let you know how it holds up, but for now I’m sold!

I intended to just check the queenless hives, but we ended up checking all the hives for space after seeing how much nectar the bees have brought in over the past week.   Two hives have already started capping honey, and I only saw three small hive beetles all day.  There were no new wasp nests started in lids, but there were enough cockroaches on top of inner covers to keep the hair on the back of my neck standing up!   Talking of hair — if you have short hair, don’t pull your hat too tight — hubby got stung on his head through his cap yesterday!

Bricks on hives
Bricks on hives to indicate which hives have queens, and which do not.

We continue to use a combination of methods to track what’s going on in hives.   A flat brick indicates that the hive has a laying queen, and an upright means that the hive is queenless.   In addition, I write notes on the lids with a Sharpie.  We have three hives with queen cells that have hatched since last weekend, but I didn’t see a queen yesterday, so I like having that history at my fingertips when I go to recheck.   Then we have a spreadsheet in which we track hive inspections, treatments, and mite counts.    That’s becoming quite time-consuming and I’m working on automating some of the reporting and tracking, although I probably won’t get much done until summer.   As my new school starts the new year 3 weeks earlier than South Carolina schools, and we need to get this house on the market, and build the workshop, and move my work clothes, I may not find much time to refine the database while keeping up with a growing apiary!    It’s a good set of problems to have!

We’re looking forward to May’s Mid-Carolina Beekeeper Association meeting on Tuesday.  Has it really been a month since the last meeting?   Time flies in spring, which is why we all have to get hive equipment ready in winter!

Enjoy the (finally) warmer weather and take time to smell the roses.

Bee Stings · Lazer Creek Apiary · Pests - Bees

Helicopters and Bees

For the past three days, helicopters have flown low over the area, usually in the mornings.  The timber company across the creek is either thinning trees or clear-cutting, so maybe they’re checking the progress.   During the fly-overs today, hubby was checking hives across the road at the neighbor’s sunflower field and I was checking some of our hives — we both found out that bees don’t like helicopters.

https://pixabay.com/en/bees-angry-insect-yellow-black-44527/
Angry Bee from pixabay.com

It’s interesting to listen to the recording of my hive inspection because there is a clear change in the tone and volume of the bee buzzes after the chopper made the first pass.   The bees were nervous at that point, but not too aggressive.  After the second pass, the bees just boiled out of the hive and started stinging in a way that I have never experienced before.   I was able to fend off some by pulling my BDUs away from my legs, but I ended up with 8 stings — a record for me.   Even more unusual was that a handful of bees followed me all the way back to the RV and kept up with me driving at 12 mph on the ATV!

We wish we could find out when any future flights are likely to take place so that we could schedule hive inspections around them.   We both know that if we hear a chopper coming and we’re in a hive, we’re going to end that inspection there and then and get the hive put back together.

To end on a positive note,  7 of the hives we inspected today are full of nectar.  This time last year, we were in a drought and had to feed sugar water to sustain the hives.   Sunflowers and sourwood trees are blooming and our bees are clearly taking advantage of all the resources they can find.   We may even be able to pull some more honey before the end of summer.

 

Bee Stings · Lazer Creek Apiary

Bee in the pants….

English Hive
English Hive

There’s nothing quite as unnerving while working on a hive on a hot day as wondering whether what you feel is a drop of sweat running down your leg or a bee wandering around like a lost and irritated soul inside your pants — unless it’s hearing a loud buzzing around your head and realizing that there is an angry bee is inside your veil!    There’s also nothing quite as amusing to listen to when transcribing hive inspections from Voice Recorder than hearing:

“Is that sweat?”

Pause

“Oh bleep

“Bee in the pants, bee in the pants, bee in the pants….”

….with a rising pitch and a falling volume as I leave the area as quickly as possible while trying to walk in a way that does not make the bee any less happy than it already is!

Over the years, I’ve beat myself around the head with a bunch of lemon grass, had hubby hit me on the head, dropped trou in the bee yard, and hurriedly fought with zippers and Velcro while trying to watch a bee about 2 inches from my nose!   Most of the time, this doesn’t result in a sting, but yesterday’s bee in the pants episode followed 2 stings through the pants, so we skipped checking additional hives today!

This is the first year our bees have had the propensity to crawl up our boots and into our pant legs!   Tucking our pants into our boots has not worked well, because the bees then end up in our boots — stings on the feet or stings on the thigh?  We ordered some blousing garters from Amazon yesterday to see if we can keep them out that way!

Come to think of it, I haven’t had any bees sting me from inside my pants, but I’m sure I’ll feel better knowing that there’s a greater chance of them staying outside my clothes.

Now, bees won’t sting unless provoked, because a bee that stings subsequently dies,  unlike those pesky yellow-jackets that set up home in our gate.  We have one hive with irritable bees, but most of the others are generally very well behaved.   However, one hive yesterday had expanded honey stores to beyond what would fit well in the space available, so when I removed the first frame to check it, I broke the cappings that protected the honey.   Bees don’t like people messing with their honey.  I guess it’s the same as a hacker raiding my bank account or someone breaking into the house and emptying my pantry!    I can’t blame them for being angry, so I’m quite content to apply Stops the Sting and ice packs a couple of times a day and go about my business!   Past experiences have shown me that my body doesn’t deal well with too many stings at the same time, so that’s the main reason to postpone hive checks for a day.

Neither avoiding the hives nor these stings have slowed us down any.   We’re making progress cleaning up the loading deck.   As that’s where the trees were trimmed prior to being loaded on trucks, we have a lot of small branches or even tree trunks all over the place that hide in the tall weeds and make using the bush-hog difficult.   We’ve settled on weed-eating paths into the weeds to expose logs and stumps before hubby bush-hogs just to protect our equipment.  With weeds that are well over 8 feet tall in places, we just have to do that this year.   Now that we have our own tractor, we’ll be able to maintain areas of the land that we need to keep clear and avoid getting lost in the jungle!   It’s slower and more tedious work than re-clearing areas that hubby previously cleared, but we are seeing progress.   As the tree canopies increase, the undergrowth will become less of a problem, but we’ll have somewhat of a battle on our hands for the rest of this year.