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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:

20130601-211015.jpg

(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:

20130601-211033.jpg

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.

July Garden Tour

5 Jul

Part of the reason that I keep bees is for the pollination situation in my garden – I’ve only lived here a year (almost) and have really just begun to make this place into the mini-homestead that I want it to become – but, like anything, it’s one day at a time.  I think I want to try to do a monthly garden tour to show what’s going on here.

To start – the front…I’m not taking a picture of the whole front because part of it is an insane, tangled jungle that I haven’t really begun to work on yet…but up against the foundation is this:

From left to right, there’s the tip of a trellis that you can’t really see which has a clematis I bought last year at a dead looking perennials sale that came back this year and *just* bloomed, purple!  Then there’s a blueberry bush, another clematis, a blueberry bush, another clematis, and a blueberry bush.  If you’re following the progression, I’m obviously missing a clematis.  On the to-do list!  I’m hoping for another dead perennial, but it’s a Ville de Lyon and the other two are Jackmanii, so I think I should probably get another Ville de Lyon.  The middle two were a wedding gift from Eve, hi Eve!  Also the blueberries are from Monadnock Berry Farm in NH.  It’s a super awesome place and I totally recommend both their plants and their PYO berries.  Yumtastic.

This is the ripest of the blueberry bushes – they seem pretty happy there!

I also put a pea teepee to each side of that bed.  I found them amusing.  I didn’t pay as much attention to them as I ought to have, probably.  But there are some pods on there.  Yay peas!

This is the side fence..I was hoping for a little faster bramble action, I put these in in late Fall – these are raspberries and blackberries from Monadnock Berry Farm.  The hope was that they’d swallow up the fence, keep the crackheads from getting any ideas (not the brown house…but to the right…grr), and make food.  All of this is a little slow going.  I’m worried that they’re not super happy.  The soil isn’t great but it’s full sun and they’re brambles.  They’ll get mulch and compost in the fall and we’ll see what next year brings, I guess.

Blackberry action!

We also have a raised bed, it’s technically on our neighbor’s yard – but I’m paying rent on that plot in the promise of food….so far promises are enough, but I’m hoping to be able to deliver on that promise bountifully.

This is the raised bed (and surrounding container items).

The rims out front (listen, this is the ghetto) have tomato plants in them…and some marigolds.  Aforementioned neighbor likes marigolds so I put some in for her.  Next year I’ll have heirloom ones that actually do what marigolds are supposed to do, but until then…they make her happy and are pretty.

The big vine-thing is in the cucurbita family, but that’s all I can tell you – it was a volunteer and the soil came from a gardening non-profit…so um.  Your guess is about as good as mine.  It seems bent on taking over before it even begins to let the flowers open.  I think it might be a zucchini, mostly because of its general enormity…but I know Ashley (hi, Ashley!) really wants it to be a pumpkin.

The recycling bin is full of red onions, I’m growing them from sets, which I’ve never done before and put them in late…so it may be October before we have onions.

Before I knew quite how insane that vine was going to get, I put in some brussels sprouts…which hopefully aren’t too mad about this whole thing.

This is the other end…bush cucumbers that are flowering, an eggplant, kale, tiny cabbage seedlings for the winter, some beets and some leeks. The buckets down this end have tomatoes in the outer ones and tomatillo in the middle…and carrots tucked in around them.  I normally start as much as I can from seed, but the wedding put me a bunch behind this year, so I bought the plants from a guy on craigslist who does all heirlooms.  He’s really cool and I might check in with him again next year, depending on how my seed-starting goes.  He had a lot of cool varieties – we got a lemon boy, a black cherry, a pink ox-heart, a zebra, and some normal looking Italian variety that I can’t recall the name of.  The black cherry is the only one I can remember which it is and it’s flowering right now.  This is exciting!

I have some black currants in the back…in a bed I haven’t really worked on much.  They’re not super happy…there…they’re shade tolerant but I think they’re too close to either the forsythia or the maple.  The larger one is fruiting a little, but I think still…they have to move.

I just moved all of my strawberries into here….they were not very excited about the transplant, but I’m hoping that they get themselves worked in here enough that I can stand the pallet up and mount it on a wall.  If I can get it to work, I’ll fill the rest in.

This is a perennial bed that Susan and I are working on….it’s probably the part of the garden that changes the most right now.  It’s actually changed since this pic was taken two days ago, and the other end which wasn’t doing much has new stuff too..but for now – bee balm, mountain sage, the lilac, and some sedum.  There’s liatris in there (aka gayfeather, har) that’s just opening now.  We’re just trying to fill it in with whatever we find cheap or on sale…the beauty of perennials.  I got a bunch of stuff (actually including that bee balm) from a craigslist ad.  The rest is a bit random.  It used to be ALL SEDUM and it made me mad, so last year I ripped it all out.  I’m looking forward to it being more cohesive – but for now, it’ll incubate things for other spots.

I forgot to take a picture of the container area on the patio.  There are a bunch of herbs and this asparagus plant that I took pity on lat week and bought.  It’s doing pretty well, actually.  There are also two cranberry bushes that I just put into this area…not photographed…they need to a adjust a bit anyway.  You can see them in August.

It’s also my sun-tea making area.  This is my current (oh god, this is about to be a pun) favorite iced tea – it’s black / black currant from Harney and Sons.  I went to their website to review it the other day and discovered that they make an iced tea version that I’m sort of pining for.

Up on the third floor fire escape, but not blocking egress, I promise.  Is the first part of my half finished rain barrel system.  This is the top barrel that will eventually catch the gutter from the top roof (as soon as M reroutes the gutter!)  The tube coming out drops down a floor to the second floor roof….

I’m still working on tube-placement for the drip-lines – but this is the corn field.  There are two pallets with corn and squashes in them.  A third pallet will join them on Sunday, when I’ll also try to mess with the lines a bit more.  Corn!  Squashes!  There’s a lot of sprouted corn that you can’t see yet….but it’s there!  And when I decide to add fertilizer, I can just dump it into the rain barrel and use it that way – no need for a fancy fertilizer injector.  Yeah!  Oh also, bee hive.

The overflow line from the third floor barrel will drop down to a second floor barrel and the overflow from that will pop into the second floor gutter which will drop down into a first floor rain barrel with a hand pump (that I just got on ebay) and then I we’ll have about 100 gallons of possible water storage as well as lots of water for the garden!  Yay for natural resources!

And this is from the 4th of July – coconut cupcakes with cream cheese frosting and home-grown blueberries, CSA beets (thanks Debra!) with garden mint and basil, my first attempt at my Great-Grandmother’s potato salad- rave reviews! Also, we played several heated rounds of croquet with a set that was made for us as a wedding gift….and no one hit their ball into the garden. 🙂

Hive in the garden and bees located…

7 Mar

So first things first, I brought home my KTBH and set her up in the garden.

 

This is my new favorite corner of the garden.  There are bare black currant bushes in the lower left, my tapped maple tree, and then of course my hive.

It was super warm today (and warmer tomorrow!) and the bees were flying like crazy.  I put a feeder like the one on my fire escape into the hive and hoped the bees would find it…and then I got impatient and opened the hive up and took some bars out…and then I got impatient and put it on top of the bars in the hive and went to lunch.

When I came back there were a million bees on the feeder – so I carefully picked it up and set it back down into the hive.

For a while I just left it there with a few bars out and the bees were coming and going through the roof.  Then I put the bars and the roof back on to see if they would get the hint and they did!

Bees at the entrance!

I also bought myself some hothouse tulip bulbs at wholefoods last week that just bloomed – since the day was warm enough, I put them out to see if the bees wanted some pollen.  Turns out, they did!

This was pretty exciting to me.  I love spring bulbs and I have some daff & crocus out front – and will plant these in a bit.  I might, though, make a tradition of buying hothouse bulbs to treat my bees with before anything is really up.  They seemed to be super into it.

 

Backtracking to the “I went to lunch part” – my cousin came to take me to lunch – tomorrow is my birthday – and as we were headed to her car, bee-type-motion caught my eye – and I finally figured out where the bees are living!

That hole is the hive entrance.  From what I’ve observed, read, and what my beekeeping instructor has told me – they probably have built a hive in the wall of this house.  It’s been abandoned for years and is just starting to be worked on.  I wouldn’t be surprised if it threw a swarm early, but they’re still going to have to get them out of the wall…Mel seems to think that removal on this scale (with the assistance of the contractor) isn’t outside of my skillset…I have watched a bunch of videos on the subject and it looks crazy, but I’ll try anything once – and I do have a whole bee suit!

This is what he says : You should wait until the weather is warmer , more than just one day of warm weather. If they are in the wall, you might be able to talk the contractor into letting you take them from within the wall from the inside, especially if they are planning on ripping the plaster out. IF THEY CAREFULLY OPEN THE WALL, you can then move them into a bucket.  This will also make it easier to make sure you have the queen. Let me know what you plan to do and maybe I will be able to come over and help. They are more than likely in the wall between the studs and have built comb out, so there is probably honey which you can maybe tell the contractor he can have some of it if they help you capture the bees.

Tomorrow is both my birthday and a full moon, so it seems like a good day to go try to talk to the new neighbors…at the risk of being that weird girl down the block who wants to rescue the bees living in their walls…

I should probably figure out how to work my smoker soon if I’m going to try this.

 

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