How I spent my Friday night.

7 Jun

Well first, I got a pedicure with one of my besties, and then I thought….well….I drive right past my studio on the way home….I’ll just spend a quiet little hour in the wood shop….which dissolved into two…and a half….

But! I built stuff!

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Exhibit A) a new nuc out of repurposed floor board scraps I trash-picked! It can fit bars from Cleo’s hive (unlike Jean Grey, which can’t). So I can use it as a transport box when I split Cleo, which I plan to do in the next week or so. This baby still needs a proper roof.

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Exhibit B) milled all the top bars for what’s likely to become my community garden hive…aka the residence of Queen Daphne. I also started gluing comb guides, but I got tired of it….more to do later, and of course, legs and a roof.

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Exhibit C) assembled the boxes for Betty’s foundationless Lang. The finish came out darker than I anticipated, but I think it will be ok.

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Exhibit D) not tonight’s work…putting the frames together and adding starter strips of foundation. Frame assembly: easy. Adding starter strips: stupid hard.

As soon as this rain clears…Thursday? I’m going to go check Cleo and see if she’s ready to be split, she was on 13 bars after just a month. There are 15 in the hive right now and I’d intended to give her a few more today, but it’s raining cats and dogs…I haven’t checked since Wednesday and it’s supposed to rain until Thursday, could get a little crowded in there. Maybe they’ll get bored in all this rain and cook me up a baby queen!

Once I’ve split Cleo into Alice hive, which is in Zephyr yard….I’ll move Betty’s nuc up from Zephyr to Scratch and hive her up…that way returning foragers who can’t find the new spot (it’s about 1/4 mile away) can go into Alice hive and be just fine!

Last thing on the to do list for “when the rain clears” is check in on JuJu Bee. Her ladies were festooning down into box 2 last Saturday when I checked, so hopefully they’re building it up down there and about ready to be nadired!

Mess-up Updates + Expansion News

5 Jun

So, I had this super strong urge to stop out and see how zephyr bee yard was doing. I’ve been calling the three hives there “Betty” (the styrofoam nuc), “Alice” (the top bar), and”Jean Grey” (the top bar nuc).

So when I got there, the roof had blown off of Betty….who knows when.  Some time between Saturday at 6 and this morning at 10.  Possibility of 4 days roofless. Ugh.  The girls were PISSED. And I’m frankly a little annoyed that the farmer who is out there every day and drives right by the bee area didn’t mention it.

So I put the roof back on Betty and weighted it down with a bigger rock.  I also pulled out the top bars I’d wedged in there for lack of a better solution (that they’d been ignoring anyway) and put in two foundationless Lang frames (with starter strips). I’m hereby resolving not to touch them for at least a week….although I’ll be out there on Friday and an at least observe the entrance.

I figured Jean Grey would be all robbed out by now, it was just a few random chunks of comb….but there were bees coming and going, so I decided to leave it be.

Alice the top bar hive had lots of bees going in and out, but when I crawled under to look, there was no new comb being built…not sure what that means for the half transfer I’d made. It’s possible that the bees were just robbing out both and they’ll eventually stop and settle back to Betty exclusively.

Meanwhile out at Scratch, I checked on the farmer’s messed up hive…

i don’t really smoke my bees, so I don’t always even think of it.  I went in, sprayed the bees with sugar syrup, took off the roof and the inner cover, removed the queenless top box, found the paper bag pretty thoroughly eaten….and was just about to start consolidating the very few occupied frames into the brood box when I got stung and chased out by some angry guard bees! Even though I sprayed the sting spot with honeybhealthy spray, they still followed me out.

I took a second to regroup and then decided to just restack the boxes without the unnecessary inner cover and leave them be for at least a week as well.

Since I was at Scratch anyway, I peeked in on Cleo- looking amazing! She’s got comb on 12-13 of the. 15 bars provided and it’s all nice and straight. She’s my blue ribbon queen. When I’m out at the farm again on Friday, I’ll have to run up and give her a few more to work with.  I’m thinking of doing a walk away split on that hive either to Alice if the terrible nuc transfer didn’t work *or* to the hive I just got asked to put in the community garden down the street from my house!  Sooooooo excited about that!  So that will put me at:

Juju Bee – the teaching warre in Lincoln

Cleopatra –  the top bar hive at Scratch

Betty – the Lang nuc that I’ll move into a foundationless Lang up on Scratch

Alice – the top bar at zephyr that I either accidentally split Betty’s hive to or will purposefully split Cleo’s hive to

Daphne – the community garden hive that I will either split Cleopatra to or have to source other bees for… Hive style tbd.

-and-

Scratcth Hive – the hot mess foster child

Also, I’m just about finished a second TBH that will probably go to the community garden for daphne. Once Jean Grey is cleared out, I want to move that to the woods near JuJu as I know warres cast swarms on the reg and I also wouldn’t mind grabbing a feral swarm….and I want to build another HTBnuc that fits Cleo’s bars (Jean Grey doesn’t) so I can eventually split Cleo for either Alice or Daphne.

I’m a little spread out right now, but if (once Alice and Daphne are set) more bees come to me (or I need to make splits) I know I can add more hives to Scratch, Zephyr, and new hives to Zephyr 2 (newly acquired) which is hive less currently.

June Garden Tour!

3 Jun

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Heirloom Helios Radishes – First Harvest!

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Not my usual garden helper – Connie the Basset Hound!  She belongs to my neighbor.

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Baby Raspberry.

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Black Currants waiting for their garden space in black, Minnesota Midget Melon in the white bucket, grill, Mexican Gherkin cuke, loooooooofffffaaaaassss!!!! and carrots in the long boxes.

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Baby watermelons that needed more space, carrots, loofas with a few early beets because I needed a spot for them.

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My prettiest part.  Top Row: Basil, Rosemary, Mint, Passiflora Incarnata Middle: Chamomile, Poppy, Calendula, Tarragon, more Chamomile, more Tarragon.  Bottom: Strawberry, Dill, Tomato Seedlings (up for grabs), Bee Balm, More Seedlings, Stevia (I think), more Bee Balm

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Lavender ,Cabbages Onions, Salad, Beans/Peas

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Proper Beet fields, Sprouts, Onions, Cabbages, Salad is hiding but it’s there, beans and peas….another cuke by the fence…and the corner of my asparagus bag.

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Baby Tomato Forest…and Marigolds…and a gnome…and some chard.

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Close up on the passiflora and my newest adorable pot.

June 1st, 2013 – Part Three – Finally, the good stuff.

1 Jun

Ok, so the rest of it.  I stopped by to check on Juju Bee and her gallies are going like gangbusters.

20130601-225608.jpgLike so!  I was thinking of opening her up and checking for brood, but I could actually see some through the window, and I feel fine about not poking around in the warre too much.  The bars are fixed (not my choice, and I think I’m going to pry them out of other boxes and make guides…but this box is from last year) – so opening it up is sort of just tipping up the box and looking inside it.  But I decided to channel Emile and leave it….BUT ALSO, IT’S FILLING UP WITH HONEY!  GO JUJU GO!

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This is what I could see into the second box…it looks like they’re making chains…hopefully they’re soon to be making comb!   I’m really cheering them on to moving down.  There’s a chunk of seed comb in there, so hopefully they’ll take the hint!

Then I went to check on Cleopatra – I haven’t opened that hive up yet, just looked through the window…but the comb is much newer and there hasn’t been as much to see, so today I opened her up and looked around.  I really enjoy the process of inspecting a KTBH – it’s sort of like looking through a filing cabinet…and the ladies don’t seem to mind it at all.

Oh, also, they’re still on as many combs as they were last week…which made me worry that they might be honey bound…they were brood, brood, mixed brood and stuff, mixed brood and stuff, honey, honey, little comb with honey.

So I slid the whole operation back two bars and inserted two bars into the brood nest between some of the mixed bars.

20130601-225816.jpgThat’s one of the mixed bars.  Cleo was walking around and I was trying to get a picture of her, but I am not sure she’s visible in there.  I also reached down and pulled the queen cage out.  Easy peasy.

20130601-225824.jpgThis is through the observation window right now…some bars, a blank, a bar, a blank, some bars.  They look happy and healthy though!

So after all the bad stuff…that’s the good stuff.   I like to end on a good note…even if my day didn’t.

 

June 1st, 2013 – Part Two – OMG, someone else messed up. Or, the Red Queen is Dead.

1 Jun

Ok, moving along from the utter embarrassment and shame of ME messing up….

I keep bees at two farms, and on one the farmer decided (prior to the arrangement with me) to get a pair of packages and try keeping bees on her own.  She ignored them and they died out…that was last year.  This year, I’m keeping bees (Queen Cleo’s hive) up on her farm and she decided again that she wanted to get a pair of packages and she’s ignoring them…again.  In conversation she mentioned that she thought the queen had maybe died in one, it wasn’t doing well…could I look in.  I don’t keep a langstroth hive, but I know well enough what goes on, that I felt ok doing it.

I observed the entrances for a bit and determined that indeed, one hive was looking a lot sluggish.  They’ve been there for about 2 months and the empty package boxes were still at the entrance….which should have prepared me for what I found inside.

In the sluggish hive, I found a dead queen in a cage, spotty brood on one frame (laying worker) and bees starving to death head first in honeycomb.  Terrible.  Also the empty feed can in a deep super….still.

20130601-223328.jpgThe red queen is dead.

I closed them back up and then opened the second hive.

Same empty feed can in a deep super…an aluminum mixing bowl of dead bees…???!!??

20130601-223341.jpgWhat the what?

And then this:

20130601-223359.jpgShe’d clearly left too much room between a pair of frames and they went au natural…attached to nothing.  And they’re on three frames.  After two months…which makes me think that they’re probably honey bound.  Oy gevalt.

So I did the only thing I could think to do, which was stack the boxes with paper between them (a dsw bag, actually…because I’d been shoe shopping this morning…).  Slide the complete hive into the middle of where the two had been and hope for the best…?  Also, all of her inner covers have entrances in them….so there’s now a lower entrance (fully open), a middle entrance that will only go into the bottom box, and an upper entrance that will only go into the top box.

What a freaking nightmare.  I wonder if I should move the front frame to somewhere else in the hive?  Or if this is going to fix the problem…I can’t have made it worse.  I really, really, really want her to stop trying to keep bees, though…I’m hoping I can convince her of this.

I know she doesn’t want to actually “keep” bees, she just wants them on her property.  Anything I can do for this hive better or differently to hopefully get them to survive?  Other than steal them away in the night?

 

June 1st, 2013 – Part One – OMG, I messed up.

1 Jun

I messed up.  Badly.  I am still reeling at how badly I messed up.

I have to tell today in three parts – part one is utter failure, mine.  Part two is utter failure, someone else’s.  Part three is, good stuff and possibly a tasty cocktail recipe….I’ve been holding onto the tasty cocktail recipe, I think I may need it today.

I’m also telling today all out of order.  This is the most recent part of the story.

I am headstrong and impatient.  I know these things about myself.  But today, I attempted to do something that is DEFINITELY a two person job…on my own…and I messed it up…and I got stung…for the first time since I was about 6.  I’m not allergic to bees, thank Jiminey Cricket….having not been stung in 26 years, I wasn’t completely sure.  She got me good, right in the middle finger knuckle of my left hand through my glove and I completely deserved it.  Completely, completely deserved it.

So I built a new hive…which if you’ve been following along, you have seen.  It’s a KTBH  and it’s reasonable considering that it’s my first attempt at carpentry.  Today I finished it and I built a little baby nuc for fun and just in case I needed it.  Betty and her girls have been crammed into their nuc for a while and I wanted to have an HTBnuc on hand in case I spotted a swarm cell and wanted to split them up.

So loaded the car, did a bunch of other bee things that I will detail in other posts, and then went to chop and crop my langstroth nuc into my KTBH hive.  By myself.  I really, really, really shouldn’t have done this….but I don’t know any other beeks in the area and think I can do things by myself and I just can’t.

So first, I watched a video of Phil Chandler doing it about 8 times…of course he makes it look as easy as pie.

Then I laid out all of my stuff:

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(New bars, hive tool, loppers, small cutters, bread knife, spray bottle, brush, gloves)

Then I set to work…I moved the nuc away from where it was, put my HTBnuc into its place, just in case, and then took out the first frame.  Checked both sides for Betty, didn’t see her.  Shook the bees into the new hive and began chopping and cropping.  The frame was their most recently built out and mostly was uncapped honey/nectar.  It went ok – it was not as easy as Phil makes it look, mais oui, but reasonable.  The comb ended up coming loose from the bar, I got stung in the hand (had a momentary freak out and then just started an “It’s ok, I’m ok, you’re ok” mantra) but I got through it.  I chucked the extra corner pieces into the HTBnuc as a sort of expedient storage place for them, and then figured I’d leave it in there so they can rob it out but have it not be just laying on the ground.

Then I went on to the next frame…and it was plastic…through and through…I was unprepared for that.  No Betty, shake shake, and then commence cutting….and the cutting was really hard…  And it was mixed brood, so I was making a total mess of brood soup, ugh….I just couldn’t cut it in a way that made sense…it wouldn’t fit…the bees were all freaking out…I think I got stung again, although I barely (and still don’t) feel it.  The sun was setting, it was getting cooler…I just couldn’t handle it anymore and was worried about the giant disaster I was making…and so I just stopped.  Which I’m not sure was the right decision either.

It was too late in the day for me to be starting that, I shouldn’t have done it on my own, and I’ve made a total disaster of one of my bee yards.  So right now out there it looks like this:

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My baby HTBnuc where the styro one was with a bunch of weird corners of comb in both nectar and brood varieties.  The big KTBH with a frame of nectar and a frame of mixed brood awkwardly chopped and cropped into there…  And finally Betty in her original styro nuc, facing the opposite way it had been facing…with three proper frames, and two of my top bars propped in there awkwardly.

Worst case scenario, the styro nuc and Betty are fine and the rest of what I did is a disaster….but I still have to get the rest of the damn thing taken apart.

Middle Scenario, the big hive raises a queen.

Pie in the sky, somehow the the HTBnuc raises a queen out of the wreckage…and I will name her Jean Grey.

I started working on a new KTBH in my workshop the other day, but I think I need to take it apart and make a conversion one so that I can just move the stupid lang frames into it and not do anymore of the cutting.  I hate the cutting.  I think conversion hives are ugly things…but I’d rather an ugly thing to what just happened.

So, learned some lessons…feel like shit…think I shouldn’t touch them for two weeks and see what happens.  I’d love some constructive feedback…if possible light on the negativity, I know I messed up.

My First Woodworking Project : Building a Top Bar Hive

29 May

I’m feeling both really stimulated and a little stymied by this project. As it’s my first woodworking project, I’m pretty impressed with myself…but I’m using Phil Chandler’s plans and they’ve been frustrating to follow for an absolute beginner.

I’m now to the roof and kinda stuck…at this point the directions basically say: do whatever. Whatever is less than helpful for me.

Anyway, here are my pictures.

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Day one, part one: Body, sliders, a couple of top bars.

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Day one, part two: Top bars, all the comb guides glued up and weighted down, screened bottom stapled on.

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Day two, part one: entrance holes drilled, landing board glued on (upside down, oops)

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Day two, part two: legs on, roof frame built.

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I’ve also built dividers for a second hive…and want to build at least one nuc while I’m at this….but before I get too ahead of myself…what to do about the roof? I think I may need to put fabric into it so that the bees can’t get up into it (through the gap between he edge of the bars and the roof frame…) and then….how to build the top? Any tips for a complete novice?

–Update–

So based on some input from readers (and the beesource.com forums – love it there) I’ve come up with approximately this:

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The glue is still drying on the triangle pieces (there are 4) and somehow between the parking lot and my office, I lost the foam inserts that go in to seal the ripples off…so I have to take my car apart later and find those before screwing it all together….and then I’m going to staple some burlap into the underside of the roof frame so that bees can’t get up into it, but it vents ala warre quilt…and I’m probably going to try to put it on in overlapping pieces so I can still fiddle with it to stuff insulation in for the winter…..but at that point….I’m done!  Hive 1!  Oh, and then the linseed oil/beeswax coating and the beeswax on the bars.  This is labor intensive, but I’m learning a lot -and- getting a pretty thorough working knowledge of the tools in the woodshop!

Bees Loose in my Car! (and a bunch of other little updates)

28 May

The weather has been pretty cold and rainy this week again, but since JuJuBee and the newly named Cleopatra have observation windows, I was able to peek in anyway.

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That’s the full panorama of JuJu Bee’s workings.  On closer inspection, there’s definitely honey being stored away!

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Also, out on the front porch, there’s the definite posture of Nasanov fanning going on.

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Over on Scratch Farm, Cleopatra has a lot of work going on as well.   Her girls had 7 bars built out on Friday and so I popped another one in for good measure.

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Even though there was intermittent drizzle happening, the entrances were hopping. Now that they’re pretty set up, I’ve opened two of the front three holes and have popped off the Winter bottom board (well, I took the picture first and then took the bottom board off).

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On a neighboring farm, the farmer has asked me to keep a few hives for her as well.  Finding bees after package season is a bit of a pain, but I found a nuc in New Haven, CT and dashed over there to grab them on Friday afternoon.

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There’s a whole lot going on in there!  Because Betty was a close 2nd in the naming poll, I’ve decided that this is Queen Betty.  And, unbeknownst to me, I got a pic of her little butt as I was grabbing the shot of the frame.

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On the far left side about a third of the way down the frame is Betty Bee’s Beeeeeehind.  Doing her job!

On the hour and a half drive between New Haven and Cranston, I had the nervewracking experience of having bees loose in my car.  One got out pretty quickly and soon several more followed.  It was a bit of a nail biter to be sure, but they hung out on the ceiling, for the most part, and didn’t come see what I was doing….which was definitely for the best.

 

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This is their temporary hive in their new home – woods, and farm fields, oh my!

IMG_5767Coming out to explore a little…

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And this is a few hours’ progress on their new home!  I’m working on it in the wood shop in the studio where I teach.  I’ve got the followers and about 5 bars made (although with no comb guides) and the body.  Before I head home tonight, I’ll make a bunch more bars and figure out some kind of comb guide and then I’ll probably put together another set of followers so I can make a second hive body tomorrow (I have the bits for it).  I also need to figure out roofing and legs.  I have some legs-material at home, but not enough I don’t think.  I’m hoping to have at least one complete hive for Friday…and if I have two, then I have two and that will be exciting!

Spring is bursting into summer and I’ve got a lot going on!  I’m hoping to find another nuc or  two if anyone knows of one in New England!

Name the Scratch Hive Queen (poll)

21 May

Well, I did it…I asked a bunch of 15 and 16 year-olds what to name the queen bee in Scratch Hive, these are the answers they came up with. Please choose from among them, or give me another idea….I’m going to check on them on Friday and it would be good to have a name for her by then. 🙂

Queen JuJu Bee, released!

16 May

I went over to visit Queen JuJu Bee and the Warre hive this afternoon.  I’d been meaning to check all week, but with the cold/damp we’ve been having, I didn’t want to open up the hive.  77 degrees and sunny today and with a free hour in the afternoon, I headed over to check in with the girls.

First, I peeked in the window.

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Lots of bees doing lots of bee things!  It’s hard to get a clear picture because the windows are reflective, but it looks like they’ve already got a *little* honey going in there.  Which, obviously, is what we like to see!  There’s clear evidence of both new comb and some work being done on the old comb they were given, so go girls!

I popped the feeder off, which was bone dry, and then looked down in between the bars – lots and lots of activity!

Then I pried up the corner of the top box and looked in to where I’d left the queen cage.  If it were empty, there wouldn’t be a lot of mind paid to it, and I’d be able to reach in and grab it.  When I looked in, I noticed that it was totally COVERED with bees.

I reached in, pulled her out – she was very much alive, thankfully!  And I popped the cork out of the non-candy end of the cage and then lay her back on the bars and got to watch her walk out through the hole and down into the hive!  It was really exciting to me.  I tried to take a quick pic, but of course when I looked at it WITHOUT the veil in front of my eyes, I realized that it was blurry.

 

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Picture fail.  But if you give a good squint at it, you can see that the queen cage (covered with bees) is laying on one of the bars.  She had just walked out and down.

I gave her a minute to be sure that she was clear before I started brushing the girls back in and closing the hive up for the day.

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And just so your eyes don’t explode from blurriness, here’s a clear picture of some action at the hive entrance.  In three weeks the first JuJu Baby Bees will be born and the hive population will start climbing to its summer peak!

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