Bees · Hive equipment · Lazer Creek Apiary · Supplemental Feeding

Cause for celebration!

New hive stands
New hive stands

While our spring results are not perfect, we are very happy to have only lost two hives this winter.    I thought we went into winter with over 20 hives, but when I updated the records yesterday morning, I found that we have 15 hives.   However, that makes the percentage we lost this winter even better — and our best year yet.   Even the two we lost probably would have made it through if we hadn’t had that incredibly long cold spell.  In fall, we long debated combining them with each other or with other hives as they were not strong, but they also weren’t quite that weak and they had honey.  We added candy boards in December and hoped for the best.   Neither hive even went into the candy boards.  There were actually some resources left in the frames, but the bees died clustered — about 3 cups of bees in each hive.    Sixteen degrees is just too cold and we are counting our blessings that the other hives are doing as well as they are.

With temperatures in the mid seventies on Saturday, many bees were out gathering pollen and every hive still had a good number of bees in the hive.   We even had to add a super to the English hive and the best other hives have 10 frames of bees.  A couple of hives only have three frames, but there was a variety of ages so the queen must be ramping up production.   Despite the sunshine and the warm temperature, the intermittent breeze had a chill to it so I didn’t pull any frames.  I counted frames of bees and tested the weight of the boxes.  It feels like some of the ladies have really been packing sugar into frames!   Hubby helped out on the last two hives and pulled some frames without a large number of bees on them and saw lots of wonderful bee bread, pollen, and nectar.

I was impatient (and over confident) in the morning and did a quick check of candy boards before suiting up.  Our generally worst tempered hive had no sugar left, so I decided to give them one of the candy boards from a dead-out.   The unappreciative little critters stung me right above my top lip, so I spent the rest of the weekend looking like I was trying to do that stupid duck-face thing!   Hopefully I’ll abide by “we live and we learn” in the future.   I almost look normal again today, which is good because I have to get a new ID made tomorrow.

New Wood Ware - New Colors
New Wood Ware – New Colors

While I was checking hives, hubby installed some more hive stands in the new location and then he painted all the new wood ware with paint from the reject shelf at Lowe’s.  I love the new colors!    I know some beekeepers prefer an all-white apiary, but bees orient on color.   That’s my excuse for our rainbow hives, and I’m sticking to it.   I know for sure that hubby would not pick magenta if he was the only one working the bees, but he does like making me happy!   It works out well for both of us as I’d rather have pretty bee hives than jewelry, and you can’t buy a diamond ring for $9.00!

It was so wonderful to spend a weekend at the farm, even with a mouse in the camper!   (That was my motivation to get up at 6:00 a.m.)   I love waking up to the quiet and a view of pine trees.  While we’ll make frequent trips back before then, I’m counting down the days until spring break and a whole week in paradise!

Beekeepers Associations and Groups · Lazer Creek Apiary · Pests - General · Queen Bee

Getting ready for spring

Frames - February 2018
400 Frames waiting for foundation!

The weather hasn’t been conducive to trips to the bee yard the past two weekends, but that doesn’t mean we’re not thinking of our bees.    On days when the temperature in the garage has been above freezing, Hubby has been busy putting frames together in preparation for another year of growth in the apiary.   I’ll help with the foundation just as soon as I get a break from grading, but as soon as I finish one batch of essays, students write the next batch.  This will be the story of my life for the next couple of months, but I will go visit the bees next weekend!

Hubby has been reading a  book about rearing better queens and one of the suggestions is to include frames with starter strips as comb that the bees draw “freeform” apparently leads to bigger queens.    Old comb with all the cocoon remnants in cells can also negatively affect the size of queens — or the bees have to extend the queen cell out and float the egg into the larger area in a sea of royal jelly.   All in all, we’re going to try some new things this spring.    We’ve also been watching many videos on YouTube to get a variety of ideas.   One guy we really like is Ian from Steppler Farms in Ontario.   While he clearly has different weather conditions to us, his experiences are relevant most of the time.   We missed this month’s Mid-State Beekeeper meeting this month because of a conflict with work, but we also really look forward to getting to the next one and learning more from people in our area.   January’s presentation about fire-ants was enlightening and fascinating — and it will change the way we apply fire ant chemicals.

I’ve always noticed the first signs of spring, but now I notice them differently.   That red haze around some maple-trees — that now means pollen and nectar!   A dust of pollen on the car means bee food in addition to allergy flare-ups.  Bee-keeping does indeed change us.

Leveled embankment
Leveled embankment

Before beekeeping, I would have seen the newly leveled area along our driveway as prime land for daylilies and maybe a rose bush or two.   Now I have dreams of buckwheat and clover to provide early food for the bees.  Instead of having a greenhouse full of tomato seedlings, I currently have basil, rosemary and lavender growing.   These plants repel moths, mosquitoes, house-flies, and some beetles, so I plan to plant them around the new hive stands.  Of course, they are also nectar and pollen sources and the rosemary and lavender repel snakes.  That alone shows how much I’ve changed — protecting the hives has become more important than keeping snakes at bay.   Of course, we haven’t seen a rattlesnake in a while, so my priorities might well change with the next sighting!

I don’t know which of us is more impatient to get out of the city, but I doubt the dog will need any more encouragement than the two of us next weekend.   All the hives were active a couple of weeks ago, but we have no idea what’s going on inside them.   My new pollen feeder was popular, so hopefully the queens have been ramping up production and all those frames in the garage will disappear into the new boxes that await paint.  Spring is just about here and I can’t wait to get back to the bees!

 

 

Lazer Creek Apiary

You Know You’re a Beekeeper when…

This brought tears to my eyes as I read the entire list to my husband. I also fit the beekeeper description far more than the “married to a beekeeper” section! That made me very happy on this dreary winter day.

Beekeeping365

IMAG1739.jpg

You know you’re a beekeeper when… By John Caldeira, with contributions from many others.

The windshield of your vehicle has at least two yellow dots on it.

You have answers ready for questions about Africanized bees and the value of local honey in preventing allergies.

You eagerly await the phone call from the post office asking you to please come pick up your bees.

You check out all the honey labels and prices at the supermarket.

You’ve gone through the supermarket checkout line buying nothing more than a big load of sugar, and maybe some Crisco.

You’ve estimated just how much money you spent to control mites.

You pick up matches at restaurants, even though you don’t smoke.

Your friends and neighbors think you are the answer to every swarm and bees-in-the-wall problem.

You are keenly aware of the first and last freezes of each winter.

There is propolis on…

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Lazer Creek Apiary

Pollen patty experiment

The pollen powder and powdered-sugar mixture I’ve been putting out has been so popular with our bees, but it’s pointless to put that out on a windy day like today.   It’s also too cold for the bees to fly, so we want something we can put in the hives.  Of course, it’s too cold to put anything in the hives, and I agree with the bees that staying indoors is the best place to be right now.  Even the dog agrees, and she usually loves the freedom she has to run around at the farm.

So I thought it would be a good day to try to make my own pollen patties.  I really like all the information I found on honeyrunapiaries.com, so I figured that was a good place to start — on a much smaller scale.     With that in mind, we brought my 20+ year old mixer with us this trip, even though I know the inner beater falls out when the mixer gets warm or the going gets tough.   I haven’t used the mixer to make bread dough for as long as I can remember for that reason.   You’d think I’d have realized that things probably weren’t going to go any better with a much thicker mixture!   What can I say?  It’s been a tough week.   The only way I could get everything blended was to warm the mixture in the microwave.

First pollen patties
First pollen patties

Tim Arheit, owner of Honey Run Apiaries, writes that he makes bags out of freezer paper and then rolls the patties out in the sealed bag.   That sounds great and so easy.   He seals the edges of the bags using an impact sealer.   I don’t even know what that is, never mind have one.   Oh well — it’s a small batch — improvise.    Improvising worked, but my beautiful new 2-foot long rolling pin and my 18 inch counter are clearly not a good match.    (The 18 inch counter is the only counter space I have in the camper.)   With a whole lot of twisting and turning, I managed to get some packets together, and now I just hope that the forecast for tomorrow is equally wrong as the forecast for today was — just in the opposite direction.    If not, we’ll freeze the patties — or maybe just refrigerate them as we don’t have time for them to defrost on weekend trips and we really don’t need to drop ice cubes into the hives.

The bees in my personal hive prefer to live and work in the top box, regardless of whether it’s a deep or medium.   They have to run completely out of room to ever use the bottom box — and all the splits we’ve made from that hive do the same thing.   When we put candy board on that hive last trip, we were worried about squishing bees because so many were above the frames, so we ended up putting the candy board above the inner cover thinking that it would be better to ensure they have enough food with the cold snap than hope they had enough in boxes we couldn’t check.   Because they have the layer of sugar and the inner cover between the lid and cluster and the hive is in direct sunlight for another two hours, I figured it was minimally risky to remove the lid long enough to toss a warm pollen patty in.   I was happy to see bees chowing down around the hole they’ve made in the center and to see lots of sugar left to get them through what is predicted to be another cold week.   The other hives are in shadier areas, so there’s no way we’re going to check them, but I assume they have enough to last them too.

Lessons learned — I need a new mixer and I need to make the next batch of pollen patties in the city in my full-sized kitchen!    Another lesson learned — despite the difficulties today, doing something is better than doing nothing.   We made the almost 300-mile trip to check on the bees and visit family.  It was supposed to be 58 degrees today.  Hubby is turning into a Popsicle using the excavator he rented to start prepping the new hive location.    There are lots of reasons to feel frustrated, and I wasn’t feeling the normal falling away of stress that I normally experience as soon as we leave I-20 to make the final leg of our journey.   I was feeling very sorry for myself this morning.   Walking down to the shipping container to get the pollen was cold, but beautiful.   Making the pollen patties cleared the cobwebs out of my head.   Now it’s time to make some hot chocolate and take it down to hubby, to breathe in the fresh air, and to look around our beautiful land and appreciate all the things that are good in our lives!

 

Bees · Lazer Creek Apiary · Nature

Heater Bees

This is less a blog, and more a quick post to share an interesting article about the bees that keep a hive warm in winter.    As most of the country is in the middle of this long cold-spell, I’m sure that most of us who are beekeepers are concerned about our hives.   We placed candy boards on every hive before we returned to the city, and I hope they add a layer of insulation as well as food.  Still, I worry…..   and we won’t know how well each hive pulled through until it’s warm enough for bees to fly again.

There are some new-to-me facts in this article, such as why it’s not a bad thing when a queen leaves some cells empty when laying eggs.   Enjoy!

How Honey Bees Keep Their Hives Warm Given That They are Cold Blooded

Lazer Creek Apiary

Come on baby, light my fire.

I know I’m showing my age with my recent music references, but it doesn’t bother me to let people know I’d be retiring next year if I still lived in England!

Bonfire at the future house site
Bonfire at the future house site

We were both so tired last night that we didn’t think to check the propane tanks.   Even the luke-warm air flowing from the vents didn’t clue me in, so we awoke this morning to a chilly camper.   Thank goodness for electric blankets and the electric radiator.    Hubby got up to make coffee and found we also had no water.  Thank goodness for the Brita pitcher in the refrigerator.    Now heat and water are both restored and we’re planning ahead for colder temperatures tonight.   I’m also keeping an eye on temperatures in the city as I may need to go back to make sure pipes don’t freeze at the house, although we have everything well insulated there.  Still, it’s a concern when we’re a few hours away.

Again, I have to concede that hubby was right when it came to spending money on a new furnace.  Not only is this one more efficient, it is quieter than the old one.  Never mind that hubby was correct in his assumption that the electric radiator would be insufficient once winter arrived and the old furnace stopped working Thanksgiving weekend.  That’s also the weekend someone hit my car at Starbucks and the washing machine had a violent-sounding death.   The new furnace is better; the new washing machine is bigger and better; and the repair shop detailed my car inside after repairing the front fender, so the interior of the car looks and smells better than it has in years!   Now that Maggie travels better, maybe it will stay that way — I can deal with clay, but I can do without dog barf in the cup holders!

Cold as it is this morning, both fires still had hot coals, so I was able to get the one by the future house site going again very quickly.   As we’ve been bush-hogging more land, we’ve been adding to the burn pile up here, and even though I doubt it’s raising the temperature much outside, it looks warmer out there.  Still, it’s a good morning to stay inside and get some more grading done.

Hubby is building shelves for the 20 foot shipping container.   We had to take everything out to slide the back shelf in yesterday.  Surprise, surprise — everything that was on the floor except for some wood and the old couch from the camper fits onto the new shelf, with space to spare.   We’ll be able to start moving some things from the house down here now.   Hubby is also going to build a base for the old scissor couch.   While I hope we never have to ride out a tornado in the shipping container, I’d rather have a semi-comfortable seat if we do need to!   That was the main reason for putting the container up here and it does give us peace of mind.   Apparently this part of Georgia had a record number of “weather events” in 2017.

Along with the less pleasant surprises of no heat and no water, we had the pleasant surprise of a visit from our real estate agent, Kent Morris, this morning.   He specializes in land sales and is the best real estate agent we’ve done business with in decades!  We hope we can find someone like him when we sell our house in the city.

2017 is drawing to a close, and it’s been another good year.  True, we haven’t won the lottery or found that elusive gold nugget on the land, but we have our health and we have this land.   Our health is better because we have this land.   Life is good and we’re looking forward to see what 2018 brings.

 

City Life · Construction · Lazer Creek Apiary · Products and Vendors · Supplemental Feeding

A Mule for Christmas (and other distractions from grading).

During a job interview many years ago,  I was asked whether I’d rather be an art critic or an artist.  I’ve never figured out what that had to do with being a computer programmer, but I do finally know the answer — I want to be an artist — or at least be creative!   I only spent 90 minutes grading this morning before the urge to empty the compost pot became the most important thing in my life, and that led to seeing a bee flying, which led to visiting the bee yard, which led to taking pictures, which led me back to the computer and this blog!   To grade, one must be a critic, and I find it hard to “criticize” according the criteria on a rubric.  Yes, I agree that it’s a fair way to grade, and, yes, students knew what the expectations were for their oral exam, but the happy feelings that blue skies and sunshine evoke makes it hard to give a student a failing grade!   Never mind that my dominant learning style is hands-on activity, my second most dominant is visual, and my least dominant is listening — and here I sit with 17.5 hours of oral exams to listen to.   I should not have procrastinated, and I probably shouldn’t be blogging, but just like every other year I’ll get through it somehow.

Feeding pollen and sugar to bees
Feeding pollen and sugar to bees

It’s only 48 degrees out this morning, but the bees are foraging and we want them to have as much stored as possible going into the predicted 20 degree nights next week, so it wasn’t just procrastination that led me down to the bee yard.  Cold as it is, there were so many bees on the pollen feeder station that I couldn’t get to the trays and had to scatter the pollen-sugar mix where the bees can get to it but the dog can’t.   (Maggie climbed a stack of shipping pallets to get to a pollen tray yesterday — you’d think we didn’t feed her sometimes!)   I so enjoy standing there listening to the sound of happy bees, especially on a day as beautiful as today.   We are just so lucky to have this little piece of heaven to call our own.

Boots
Work boots

What does any of this have to do with a mule?   Not much, but our Christmas present to each other this year was a Mighty Mule gate opener.   Well, it was hubby’s Christmas to me, and my gift was to graciously concede that it is money well spent!    Even on a good day, having to get out of the car and walk across the gravel to unlock the gate becomes tedious.   If I’m wearing anything other than my trusty work boots, the likelihood of a twisted ankle increases with the height of the heel.   Rain makes the process even less fun.  Last week’s thunderstorm actually made it somewhat hilarious.   If we do end up moving here before retirement, we need to somehow be able to get out of the gate in all weather still looking presentable enough to show up at work.

It took hubby a while to install the gate opener, partly because of the instructions,  partly because of all the adjustments and settings, and partly because the dog and I were hibernating in the camper instead of helping for much of the time.   By the end of the day on Christmas Day, he had everything working, but then spent most of the next day trying to get it to work right!   The gate opens fine, and even closes after 30 seconds.  The problem was that it randomly re-opened.   That doesn’t offer much security and is likely to run the battery down.   I searched the Internet for answers on our way to the family dinner and found that many people have problems with the wand that detects when a car pulls up to the gate to leave.   Hubby spoke with tech support and tried many things, but the final solution was along the lines of Hotel California — guests who have the code can check in any time they like, but they can never leave!   The wand is going back for a refund and hubby will research other solutions.

Maggie - exhausted
Maggie – exhausted

Well, it’s time to listen to at least a couple more exams — 7 down, 30 to go!   It makes me want to curl up with the dog and just take a nap.