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A Week Post Nadir and Still No Downward Motion – Some Other Random Updates

19 Jul

So it’s been a week since I nadired the hive (a little longer, actually) and the girls are still firmly ensconced in their top box and a half.  I’m getting worried that they’re not going to have enough to over-winter on.  I really want to take the half box off – what was the feeder is now a rank mess of dead ants, fermenting sugar – I can’t lift it off to dump it out because the comb in the half box is all built onto the bottom of it… so I keep trying to mop it out and add more water every time I go out there to thin down the fermenting sugar junk.  Unfortunately, it’s also splitting open on the side (which they’re taking as an opportunity to make an upper entrance) — but because of that, the feeder only holds a tiny bit of water and somehow also never seems to totally dry out.  I want to leave the top off and let it evaporate, but I think the ladies would dislike that course of action.

I did try to lift it off when I was just out there…but when I lift it up it’s just comb comb comb….I broke one lifitng it and felt badly about it and put it back down.

Upper left you can see the split/entrance they’re making.  Luckily it’s below the level of the feeder “floor” so they aren’t getting into where the water sort of is.  The other three shots are just a few angles on what you can see when I try to pry the feeder off.

The full version of my favorite part of that grouping – some gorgeous comb and a bunch of capped honey – yay!


This is the rain barrel from the tutorial sitting in place – the tube coming in from the left is overflow from the third floor barrel and the tube leaving just below it goes into the gutter for right now.  We got a big storm today (finally!) and the top barrel filled up and if I leaned way out the window I could see the overflow tube pumping it out into this barrel.  I don’t know what the status of this barrel is, won’t until next weekend – which is also the next time I can see the bees…but it seemed like it was working.

This is the water going into the top floor barrel.  When it was super pouring, the water was shooting out over the top of the barrel – but I think it was pretty full at that point anyway.  Previous barrels that I’ve made have had the pipe go straight down into the barrel – it’s a little more finnicky but you get ALL of the water.  Which, it seems, might not be necessary.

This is the last barrel currently planned – I need to get a good drill bit and put a bajillion holes in the top of it as well as some screen to filter out the junk.  I’m super excited about the hand-pump part – suddenly we can do dishes and fill watering cans outside.  I just need to figure out what to do with the waste water.  I’ll probably put a 5 gallon bucket under there and then just take the greywater and dump it in the flower garden.
Speaking of the garden, there are tiny bits of food happening:

Tomatillo flower, green Believe it Or Not tomato, and a baby pickling cuke!

Also, I’m a sucker for plants in need – I found these lemon-boy tomatoes all mashed up and bedragled (but fruiting already) on a clearance rack– took them home, planted them next to the huge mama tomatoes that I’ve had in for months, pruned ’em up and made sure they got plenty of water – it’s only been since Saturday and these girls are ripening right up!  A little TLC turned them right around!  I have hopes that once these early fruit come off, they’ll do a little growing and maybe give me another set.

Nadiring the Warre!

8 Jul

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Today, I suited up and nadired the warre. Look at my grouchy face! It’s really hot and I was not wanting to put that thing on.

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I sprayed sugar water in the entrance, took the lid off and them tried to pick up the top box (and a half). It didn’t go so well. I’m a pretty strong girl, but it didn’t budge….so I got out the hive tool and crammed it in there (gently) and wiggled it around in a few spots. I knew there was probably some burr comb connecting the two boxes.

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Once I got the box off and set it on the ladder (I thought that would make a good box-stand, give the girls room to fly out), I made the split second decision to add the new box between the original 1st and 2nd. There are a few reasons for this:

1)There’s no comb in the bottom box yet, so there’s no box order to worry about.

2) The burr comb and other happy, home-smelling things that the bees may have left behind on the top boards of the 2nd box (formerly the floor of the 1st box) will hopefully coax them into the new box as those things are now on the floor of that box (and not comfortably close at the bottom of the full box they are not wanting to leave).

3) The returning foragers and the bucket brigade that brings pollen up into the hive was all down in the 1st box…so I thought it best to leave them be.

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I quickly restacked the hive, no need to keep the hive open any longer than necessary, put the lid back on, and backed off.

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I peeked out again about two hours later (and did some work in the roof garden) they seem to have returned to normal, they didn’t seem perturbed by my presence, and then as I was leaving, I watched them fight off a yellow jacket. Go, girls, go!

I won’t get out there again until Saturday, but hopefully by then they’ll be working on comb in the new #2 box.

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. 🙂

Do I have a laying worker and no queen? Part 1 – the Question.

21 Jun

I went out to look at my hive as soon as we got back from honeymoon expecting to see some building in the lower box on the hive.  It’s been nearly 3 months and there had been some action that looked like the beginnings of a bulge down there just before we left for the wedding:

The upper left is view into the bottom box that I thought was being worked on, the rest is upper box, some honey, some capped brood (although on second look, I think that’s all drone brood)….things looking really hopeful.  This was memorial day.

Three weeks later, still no action in the bottom box and combs that look almost…empty…in the upper box….no capped brood visible, no real major honey stores, and lots and lots of drones….or to my eye lots.  I took a video of the hive entrance – toward the middle you can start to see drones being pushed out or coming out, one after another after another.

You can also see one of the girls fanning her Nasanov glands.  I wonder that they should still be doing that after 3 months, but I don’t know enough to know.

If I have a laying worker – which all this could be a symptom of – the queen didn’t take after all and a hormonal gal just started filling in for her – unfortunately she’s only built to lay drone eggs, so lots of lazy dudes, no new industrious girls and a hive that’s doomed to failure unless I can appropriately intervene…..it’s a lot of pressure.

I contacted my teacher about my fears and he wants me to suit up, smoke ’em up, and open ’em up to see what I can see from the inside of the hive.  This will be my first time opening the hive, my first time lighting the smoker, and some real inexperience on the part of me in doing all this….so obviously, I’m going to try to make a video or at least take a bunch of pictures.   I’m not going to be able to get out there to do it until Saturday, so Part 2 will have to wait until then.

As far as I can tell, though, the best inervention method for this situation …if it is a situation… might mean getting a little creative.  I don’t have another hive from which I can “borrow” capped brood and some open eggs – which I’d need…and in a frameless hive, it’s not like I can stick in a lang frame with which to repair this – they won’t fit in my box – not so plug and play over here in warre land!  I think I’ll have to find someone willing to give or sell me some chunks of comb with brood on them and then attach them to the top bars in my warre box with a little creativity and some floral wire and hope that the bees accept them and then rear themselves a new queen.  If this sounds crazy to you….well…it is.

The one positive thing I can say from what I’ve observed is that they had a big Flight School day the other day -aka orientation flights.  I was out in the yard with the dogs and all of the sudden the hive got LOUD and when I looked up there were a TON of bees just flitting about around the hive.  Eventually they settled down and all went back in.  I thought they were swarming or worse! absconding! but I watched as they stayed quite close to the hive and did the characteristic circling motions and then seemed to all return to the hive – no dark beeline in the sky – just a happy little flying lesson.

Bee Roller Coaster – with 100% more Nasonov Fanning

4 Apr

I’ve been pretty nervous about whether the girls had accepted their queen or not.  Stupid human error and poof.  Yesterday, I peered into the windows, and unfortunately I think they’re building in the spacer 1/2 box that I put in under the feeder, so I can’t see anything.  More newbie issues.  I took some pictures to share:

That third pic is up inside the window on the top box looking up toward the spacer box that I think they’re all in.  Harrumph.

They’ve been doing a lot of sanitation – bringing dead bees out – which I took to be a good sign.  At first, they were just booting them out the entrance, but now they’re flying them a few feet from the hive, although there seem to be a few very energetic worker bees that are flying their dead sisters out over the yard and dropping them there.

This morning, I decided to sweep up the roof – a bunch of dead bees from install combined with what they’ve brought out and it was getting a little depressing looking out there.  As I was sweeping I found a really big bee in the dust pan and got all mournful.  They killed the queen!  They dragged her outside!  I failed at install!

Spoiler Alert : not a queen bee.

I called up to my bee place and explained the situation asking what I could do – they asked me if I’d seen the queen marking on her back – I said no, that I thought I had gotten an unmarked queen.  They checked the list and apparently, I’d gotten a marked queen – no paint = not my queen!

Relief!  Then I checked my book, and that looks a heck of a lot like a drone bee.  Phew!  Not the queen.

I went back up to finish sweeping and then sat down to watch them for a bit and I took a video thinking that I’d like to watch it more closely inside.

It’s hard to see – it turns out that youtube likes it better when I video sideways.  I’ll probably make another video soon, but the key part about this one is that on watching it, I noticed that one of the girls (center left and she doesn’t really go anywhere, so you can sort of see it) is Nasonov fanning!  Head down, ass up – fanning her wings like mad!

Super blurry, very cropped video still - the posture is unmistakable.

This is exciting news!  I’m pretty sure this means that they’re queenright!  Please correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m choosing to be excited about this.

Now if they will please start building into the correct box and not onto the bottom of the dang feeder, so I can really see what’s going on, that would be great.

Package Bee Install – Warre Hive

3 Apr

I got my bees today!  I went up to North East Bee Supply and picked up my girls from Rick.

Safety first!

I think they were pooping out the bars all over my car seat…weird.  They also got REALLY angry sounding and loud in the tunnel – I’ll bet the pressure threw them off- they calmed down again when we got beyond it.  I brought them home, took them out on the roof, grabbed my tools and then…

I installed them into the hive!  I wasn’t as nervous as I thought I’d be – in fact it was pretty exciting, and I’d love to do it again – unless it meant my bees were dead, then I wouldn’t like it.  I made a video with the help of my neighbor, Ashley.  It gets a little silly and motion-sick-y toward the end, but it’s 9 minutes of good, clean bee install.

I made one major mistake – I took the cork out of the wrong end of the queen cage – which either means she is dead right now or it’s fine.  They seemed to be really interested in her and had even started building comb on the outside of the queen cage near her – which to me means they’re strong and active and into it (I can’t find any reference online to bees building comb in the package anywhere!) – but I’m a newbie, so I could be wrong.  I emailed the guy I got them from (Rick) and my teacher (Mel) to see if they had any thoughts or advice – I’ll go out there tomorrow and see what I can see through the windows.

Also, another friend who was over today informed me that her mother wants us to call it Sweet Honey in the Rox (our neighborhood : Roxbury).  Popular opinion on this is yes…so maybe that’s what our jars will eventually say…and maybe I’ll change my blog title.

When I told everyone that we probably wouldn’t have honey until next Spring they were pretty dismayed and are all doing mondo nectar flow dances.  I told them if we had 4 full boxes, I’d take one off – meaning honey in September – but we’ll see.

Warre Hive on the Roof

1 Apr

For my birthday, Marla built me a gorgeous Warre style hive.  It’s about 97% done – the observation doors need knobs and insulation – but other than that, she’s complete and gorgeous and on the roof waiting for tenants.

Speaking of tenants – they’ll be here tomorrow!

Mel also had a hive opening today so we could get up close and personal.  I took a few pictures.

His ladies have been busy!

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