Bee Rescue/Removal · Pests - Bees · Queen Bee

Happy People: Happy Bees

Last night, as we were deciding which trees were ready to fend for themselves at the farm, hubby spotted another swarm of bees in our yard.  Once again, they were behind the trealis and a fence post. The poor honeysuckle is still recovering from the last swarm extraction, and this time the two grapevines got to share the pain!   (I should know in a couple of weeks whether or not grapevines can be rooted from “cuttings”!)

Swarm – April 7

These bees were quite cooperative.  Hubby scooped a couple of handfuls into a NUC, I squirted some Honey B Healthy onto the inner cover, we gave them a stick to use as a bridge and they pagenented right on in.  By the time we’d checked the other hives, only two lost bees were still wandering around on the fence.

One of our other splits now has the fattest queen I have ever seen, so that NUC made the trip to the farm and the bees are already bringing in loads of white pollen.  We moved them up to an 8-frame so that they could get over all of their confusion about the new location at once and they seem to be as happy as clams.    The queen cells in the sister NUC have hatched, but we didn’t see a queen.  Hopefully she will find her way home in a couple of days.

The other hives at the farm are all active, but we didn’t check them today.   Hubby is digging more tenches for water lines and I planted some tomatoes and thyme.   We are really curious to see whether the diatomaceous-earth we sprinkled on the ground two weeks ago has had any impact on the small hive beetles.  It’s supposed to kill them when they go back onto the ground to pupate.   Now that the hives are stronger, we aren’t seeing as much of a problem as when we came out of that really cold snap, but we’d love to see no beetles at all.   It still seems like having the hive in a sunny spot works wonders, but that is going to make hive checks challenging in July.

The dog is chewing on a pine-cone, hubby is working hard, and I’m enjoying sitting out in the 72 degree sunshine.  It’s amazing to sit here at this time of day and see just how many insects are flying around at any given time and at how many spider webs are catching the sunlight.   Even with the sound of the Ditch Witch, the farm is so peaceful and just a good place to be.   We are just so very lucky and happy to be here.

Bees · Queen Bee

Spring is back – maybe?

Farm hive, March 2017

We were so happy to see that our farm hives are winning the battle against small hive beetles when we were down there last weekend.  The Beetle Blaster traps are working well, although I still struggle to remove them without spilling at least a few drops of oil in the hive.   Our bees are propolizing like crazy right now, so the traps end up firmly glued in.  If I don’t loosen them up enough, they get stuck and then spill.  If I slide my hive tool along the sides too deeply, I tear a hole in the side.  Maybe I just need more practice.

All of the hives at the farm have gained strength now that the bees are not spending all their time chasing beetles and there is a plethora of nectar available to them.  We took one of our older hives from the city down there to see if the bees are any happier there.  The hive has served us well and the old queen laid many eggs when food was available to the hive.  The problem is, they have become increasingly mean.  Inspecting them was no fun at all and once in a while one would “get a bee in its bonnet” (bad use of an idiom, I know) and chase us into the house.  I don’t know if they feel threatened by my long hair, but angry bees often became tangled up in it, which made both them and me more angry!  We decided they could no longer live in the city.   The hive replaced the queen a couple of weeks ago, so bees from the new queen could well be more friendly.  If not, we’ll replace her with a queen from one of our gentle hives.   If hubby had had his way, the old queen would have been replaced in January, if not last fall.  I am becoming more practical and believe I will eventually be able to see an aging queen as disposable, but I’m wasn’t there in January.  After being chased across the yard a few times over the last few weeks, I may be there now!

Our city hives came through the most recent cold snap well.  Only a few were using the feeder buckets last weekend, but the buckets were crowded yesterday.  Once it warms up, I’ll put hive top feeders back on our new NUCs so that they can rebuild their stores.  The first swarm capture was a little low on bees last weekend, and we had queenless and broodless bees in one of the queen castle sections.   We combined them by stacking a second NUC body on top of the first and adding the lonely bees so that they could keep the beautiful new brood warm and have a queen to worship (or boss around.)  The NUC with the bees from the second swarm capture had 3 full frames of bees last weekend and the queen was busy searching cells.  There wasn’t any capped brood last weekend, and I have a hard time seeing eggs with my bi-focals and the veil, but she’s healthy and active so we expect to see something when we do our next check.

We also have three batches of bees in the queen castle that had hatched queen cells last weekend, but we didn’t see the queens.  It was a beautiful day, so they may have been out mating.  I so much want to go look, but it’s not warm enough yet.

Hubby will check the farm hives tomorrow, weather permitting.  He’s helping his brother with some projects today while I’m stuck here with a crate full of essays to grade!   So much of what I planted in fall is coming up right now that I really want to go to the farm every weekend, but sometimes we just have to stay home and get chores done!

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!