Monday, May 28, 2007

Excuse Us - We Could Use a Little Personal Space in Here!

We headed out to the homestead for the long Memorial Day Weekend excited to have an extra day to spend there, and anxious about finally doing hive inspections. We have been trying to coordinate schedules with John, the guy we bought the hives from, for over a month now with no success. We finally decided that this is the weekend we will just do it. The weather prediction was perfect and the hives were over due for inspection. Done deal.

Darn good thing we had a mind set of inspecting hives because as we pulled up to the apiary we could clearly see that one hive had bees globbed all over the front of it. We know that bees will do this when they are hot, but it remained in the lower 80s each day of this long weekend, dipping to around 60 each night, but the bees never left the front of the hive - and this was the only hive that was doing this. A quick check with Iddee (a friend from the Bee Forum on Homesteading Today) confirmed that we probably had a little problem. The hive was over crowded, which made sense because this is our most active hive - and it is really active!

We had company over the weekend, so we decided to head down first thing this morning (Memorial Day) and get six supers ready to put on top of each of the hives. Now that the nectar is flowing, they'll need the supers to start making honey. This will also make some room and get those girls busy that have been hanging out on the front of our active hive.

You may recall that when Bernie first got these six hives I was terrified of the bees. And when I say terrified I don't mean I was kind of afraid of them. I mean I was abso-freaking-lutely T-E-R-R-I-F-I-E-D of them. I never thought in a million years that I would get within a 100 feet of them, much less snap close up pictures and become completely enamoured with them. But these little girls quickly won my heart and I find myself hopelessly fascinated with their every movement.

So I found myself somewhat excited to open up the hives and take a look inside. That was, of course, until I realized that one of those hives had several hundred if not thousand hanging out right in plain view on the front of the hive. I became very much less enthusiastic as that reality sunk in. And as I stood there suiting up in my veil, gloves, and jacket worrying about it, Bernie bounded across the yard and picked that very hive to be the first that we would tackle. Well joy of joys. I thought I would puke.

I quickly grabbed my smoker and my camera and headed over to give him a hand. Am I a good wife or what??? My heart was hammering in my chest as I watched him puff some smoke on the globs. The bees reacted a little differently than I expected. I thought it would somehow soothe them, but it really seemed to piss them off. They began buzzing loudly - but they stopped moving around and seemed to calm right down in short order. I helped Bernie pry open the lid that was sealed with propolis and then pry off the feeder box. Next we pried off the top hive entrance. Between each step, we puffed a little smoke at the bees. Once the top hive entrance was off, we could see that the entire feed box was filled with bees. The frames were full of honey. We reassembled the hive and added a super. The lazy bees globbed on the front of the hive now have frames they need to draw out and fill with honey. That should occupy them for a while.

We repeated this process on each of the remaining six hives. Each one got easier and easier for us. By the time we got to the last two hives, we didn't even use smoke to open them up and I didn't even help Bernie. I finally got a few pictures! I was so excited helping Bernie and then watching that I didn't get as many pictures as I had hoped - and I got none of the frames that he removed. But I did get some good ones of the process, so check them out. They are the last 13 or so pictures on this page.

Next weekend we'll do a complete inspection of the weakest hive. Iddee wants us to locate the queen and any queen cells and remove the super so they can focus on the brood for now. I'll be sure to get lots of pictures.

In two or three weeks we'll open up all the hives again to see the progress on honey and whether or not we need to add additional supers. I'll be sure to get pictures of that too. Be sure to check back with us!

Bee Happy,

Sunday, May 20, 2007

No Skunks Allowed or Tolerated!

You may recall in my last post I mentioned we had a skunk that was feeding on our two weakest hives. We had enclosed the apiary in electric fence to ward off bears, but we had not considered that some freaking skunk would take an interest in eating our bees.

Last weekend we constructed a fence out of chicken wire to keep the skunks out. We installed three foot chicken wire around the apiary and folded the bottom one foot of it so that it lays on the ground and we nailed it firmly in place with large staples. I put some pictures of it up on the website.

I got a new camera that takes some awesome pictures and I took a few of the girls busy around the hives. You can check them out on the website too. I got pictures of the guard bees warding off honey robbers, the guards greeting the foragers, the girls fanning the hive entrance to regulate the temperature, a drone, girls with over loaded pollen baskets and several others. I swear I could sit and watch these girls all day long. They are simply fascinating. I took over 75 pictures (although only a few were posted to the website) and got particularly close to each hive. The girls tolerated me quite well. Only one time, after several minutes of being quite close to the hive, did a few of the girls head butt my hands several times. I decided they had enough of me and moved on to the next hive.

I also took some pictures of the homestead and some pictures of the wildlife and flowers on our property. Check them out!

Next weekend is Memorial Day weekend and we'll be on the homestead for the long weekend for the long weekend. I'll be sure to post some pictures!

Bee Happy,


Saturday, May 5, 2007

Cinco de Mayo and Scat

Happy Cinco de Mayo. We celebrated this day the same as we celebrate every weekend day - working on our homestead. I'm not really even sure what Cindo de Mayo is all about. But I do know we're not Mexican, so we don't observe it. What we did observe today was skunk scat - and right in front of two of our beehives. Our weakest bee hives. This is not cool. I put pictures on our website. Skunks like to eat bees. And they bait them by scratching on the front of the hives to alert the guards stationed at the front of the hives. As the girls march out on the porch to check out the threat, the skunk eats them, putting up with a few stings to enjoy the meal.

Tomorrow we'll string some electric wire low to the ground in the hopes of deterring the skunks. If that doesn't work, we'll have to come up with Plan B.

We mowed the yard today, and Bernie used the weed wacker around the hives. He noticed that the girls were returning to the hives laden with pollen. We got some pictures of a couple of the girls with pollen filled legs and put them on the website. Look closely and you'll notice the ones with pollen - they have thick yellow back legs, full of pollen. It was really cool to watch them. Several of the girls would aim short of their porch and end up falling in the grass in front of it. That pollen must really weigh alot! They would crawl to a high blade of grass and then launch themselves toward the porch. They would barely make it, and crawl inside. It was really amazing to watch and we stood there for quite a while enjoying the sight. Check it out.

Tomorrow we'll sting more electric wire to keep the skunks out. We're out of town next weekend, so it will be a couple of weeks before we know if it works. I'll be worried about the girls the whole time.

Bee Happy,