Sunday, August 19, 2007

We Love You, But Please Leave Us Alone

Our little girls were very happy this weekend. They were buzzing around and bringing in lots of pollen. Which is really quite amazing, seeing that we are in the middle of a drought. But thank the heavens for weeds. Thistle and Golden Rod are in full bloom right now. And that makes our girls very happy indeed.

We had discussed opening the hives again this weekend to see where everyone is. But we decided against it. We worry about stressing the hives and I can't imagine a better way than to smoke them and pull apart their frames every weekend. So we agreed to give them a little break. We'll check on them next weekend. Even our week hive is looking strong and happy. We filled a gallon jug of sugar water and fed them last weekend, so they should be fine until next weekend. We even saw a few coming in with pollen baskets full.

I've been rendering some bees wax using a method that Bob the Bee Expert told us about. I'm taking pictures of the entire process. When I finish I will put up a page on rendering bees wax on The Bee Buzz website - complete with pictures and step by step directions. When I first began rendering wax, I tried every method imaginable. This method is the simplest way I've found. And I'm happy to share it.

We had a really nice time on the homestead this weekend. You can read about it on the Back to Basic Living blog.

So that's it for now - we're happy and the girls are happy. How can it get any better?

Bee Happy,

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Our Welfare Case

Well, the good news is that our weakest little hive is bustling with activity. We opened it today and examined the brood box. It's full of bees and plenty of brood. We were very pleasantly surprised. They've come a long way. The bad news is they still need to build up their food stores. So we won't be robbing any honey from that little puppy, and it will be our welfare case this year. We filled the food box with drawn out frames in the hopes that they'll start making some honey and then added a feeder box on top and put the jug of sugar water up there for them. We'll feed them heavy until next spring and hopefully they'll rebound. They sure were cute today - all busy buzzing about and bringing in plenty of pollen in their little pollen baskets. They are just too darn adorable.

The other four hives are doing really well. We're going to give them a couple more weeks and rob honey from them. They have plenty. One hive has three supers on it - and the last one is just about full. Good girls!

We also put up the "Critter Gitter" we got from Mann Lake to scare off varmints that come with range of the apiary. This thing is pretty cool - it's a motion sensor that flashes lights and lets out a shrill noise when it detects something within range. We bought two, but one isn't functioning property so I'm sending it back. We mounted the one that is working and I tested it be walking up right into it's 90 degree range about 30 feet away. It detected me before I made it to the fence. I also crouched down like a bear and it nailed me pretty quickly. I stopped short of trying to imitate a skunk.

I believe, through trial and error, that I have finally figured out the most efficient way to render wax. I'm still working on documenting it with pictures, but I'll soon have a page, complete with pictures and instructions, on the Bee Buzz Website. Today Bernie built me a really great screen to syphon out the trash as I render the wax. I'll also include directions on making that. It took less than $5 and 45 minutes - and that time included dragging out and putting away all the tools. Bernie rocks. He really does.

Bernie also has plans to build me a Solar Beeswax Melter. THAT will be nice! I'll put directions up for that too. You'll definitely want to know how to do this. Did I mention that Bernie rocks?

I guess that's about it for the bee news. We have other news, and it's kind of related to the bees because it means they'll be seeing a lot more of us in the future. You can read about it on the Back to Basic Living Blog.

Bee Happy,

Sunday, August 5, 2007

You Bears are Plucking at My Very Last Nerve

My last blog entry had pictures and details of the damage bears have caused to our hive equipment, and as I wrote about on the BackToBasicLiving blog last night, we found that something large and annoying had tried to get into the apiary. The electric fence was in pretty poor shape - but it did survive and apparently keep the unwelcomed guest out. I'm certain it was a bear. We had a lot of repair work to do this morning on that fence and I went to bed last night worrying about it.

At about 4:30 this morning, Bernie and I were startled out of our sleep by a very loud "thump". We immediately knew it was a bear. Bernie and I quickly flew out of bed and grabbed flashlights and a shotgun. We staggered out of the house, half awake and looking like insane asylum escapees, and immediately saw that the stack of bee hive supers was again strewn about. Bernie walked into the backyard and said "Oh, man." I screamed "WHAT????" He said "He got into the grill and knocked it over." About then we heard loud scurrying through the woods. I screamed "SHOOT HIM! SHOOT HIM!" Bernie calmly explained it was pitch-black-freaking-dark and he couldn't see a thing. Soon we heard nothing at all. But we were both uneasy. The bear was heading toward the apiary.

I held the flashlight and Bernie quickly cleaned up the mess the bear left for us. Then we got into our little Trail Blazer and headed down to the apiary. All was calm. We sat there a while, and nothing happened, so we headed back to the house. Bernie couldn't get back to sleep, so he got up to watch CNN. I managed to doze a while longer and dreamed about bears the whole time. When I got up we went down to the apiary and fixed the electric fence. Then we put the stack of supers and all hive equipment into the sea container and locked it up. It would be nice if we could have left it out a while to make sure all the wax moths were dead and given the girls a chance to clean out any extra honey left over, but those darn bears spoiled all of that for everyone. I was sure to let the bees know exactly what happened.

On the lighter side, we checked out the weak hive today and found they had managed to slurp up 1/2 gallon of sugar water. We topped off the gallon jug and put it back in there for them. We checked on another hive to see if it was ready for another super, but they had only managed to cap off one frame with honey. But we did see them flying in with lots of pollen in their pollen baskets, so I guess we'll give them a little time and check again.

Those bears are really at the top of my list right now. I've never hunted bear, but I am going to do a little research on the best method. Next hunting season I'm planning on having a nice bear skin rug in front of the fireplace. And I plan to be eating on some nice bear stew while I lay on it.

Bee Happy,

Friday, August 3, 2007

Hey Hey, Boo-Boo - This is Better Than a Pick-a-nik Basket

Well, last weekend we took apart the hive that we lost and stacked it with some other spare hive parts in the back yard. We staggered between each super and brood box so that they would get sun and hopefully foil the plans of any wax moths that hoped to move in. Well, I think we accomplished that - but we also allowed the wonderful aroma of honey to fill the area and that was, apparently, taken as an invitation for our bear to come check it out and hunt for some honey. This is what we were faced with when we arrived:
The bear only tore apart two of the stacks we had put up - but he did a fine job of that. Many of the frames have been chewed upon. There were even a couple of frames he toted off a ways to enjoy in an area that apparently offered more ambiance:

Based on the huge section missing in the middle, this one must have been especially tasty:

Here's a little upclose picture of some damage the bear inflicted on the front of this brood box:

Our hives are about 1/4 mile from where we had these hive boxes stacked, but the girls were all over these frames when we got there. There were several dozen cleaning up any residual honey the bear left. I swear, those little girls are definitely busy little bees.

We fenced up and added electric fencing to the apiary. I'm not sure how we're going to handle keeping bears out of the area we have extra hive boxes. We'll come up with something. I understand that it's hard to blame the bears for being interested in that wonderful honey. I just hope they understand that we shouldn't be blamed for wanting to see them laying in front of our fireplace.

Bee Free!