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Supply Chains

20 Jun

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More Bee Expansion….aka I am a Bee Hoarder. Big Update.

19 Jun

So, let’s see….

After the disaster of a crop & chop, which never really shaped up to be anything but a mess, I hived Betty up the hill into a foundationless Langrstroth next to Foster hive.  I had this whole plan about how I was going to put the styronuc into this rubbermaid container I keep all my bee junk in, but it didn’t fit.

So plan B…which I had to formulate on the fly…involved closing said rubbermaid container, rolling my window all the way down, and balancing the nuc on top of the container with the door out the window….and driving really really really slowly with a smoker lit and my veil on. Luckily, I was just driving it from one end of a farm to another, so really less than a quarter of a mile and no real roads.

20130619-190034.jpgOk, there’s sort of a picture….the corner of a white thing in the mirror is the nuc sticking out my window…and then you can obviously see the smoke.

20130619-190051.jpgAnd here’s Foster hive on the left, I really need to combine that down into one box…although I’m tempted to let them sort themselves out.  Then there’s Betty all tucked into her single brood box, and the lavender styronuc waiting to be cleared out totally.  It’s empty now and stored away.

Cleo, at the other end of Scratch Yard is doing great – she’s on 13 or 14 bars and building like a little champ.  I couldn’t seem to get a good shot in the window last week, but I’m headed out tomorrow to check on them and do some other work….

I checked on Miss JuJuBee last week it seems like they’re starting to move down into the second box.  I have fingers crossed hard on that one.  Last year my girls in that hive swarmed rather than move down.  I have seed comb in the second box *and* I put a swarm trap out in the woods a bit just in case.  Here are two pictures of her girls:

20130619-191155.jpgPollen pants!  I love it when their pollen baskets are full and they have puffy pollen pants!

20130619-191204.jpgHere’s looking at you, kid.

Then!!! I got a community garden space (I alluded to that previously).  I’ve been doing a lot of work unearthing it from weed city.  It’s coming along.  They told me I could have a hive there, which I was really excited about and then the other community garden that I was on a waiting list for said I could keep a hive there too!  Two hives!  So I brought the long hive (Daphne) to the garden I am gardening in:

20130619-191441.jpgThis is Daphne in my little plot…in the distance….failing at blending in.

I think we’re up to last Wednesday now.  So I needed two nucs, found them!  Went and got them! Brought them back!  Got a hive for one of them, another foundationless Lang – I’m calling her Eleanor.  Hived her up right quickly on…I think it was Monday.

Today I went into the garden with the intention of doing an actually assisted Chop and Crop…better prepared and on a nuc that was all wood instead of all plastic…look, I’m learning.  Here’s my helpful friend in my spare bee suit:

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I pulled the nuc away from where it was, got the HTBnuc that I made (featured in my last post in all its adorableness), and went to work.  I figured, I’d chop and crop into the HTBnuc a few yards from the site of where the other hive is and nuc was so that there would be fewer bees around and that I could just drop the bars into the long hive when I was done with the traumatic operation.

I was wrong, as usual.

First, I’d accidentally switched nucs so there was a plastic frame in there, lame.  I figured I could just put that into Eleanor (the already hived Lang) no problem.

I was wrong about that too.

First things first, I shook the bees off of the first frame and into my nuc, helpful friend cut the bottom, the comb came loose, and then I noticed a little queen cell on it that was opened….so I put the brakes on.

I lay that frame out to be robbed as it was mostly nectar and set about shaking the loose bees off of every frame and into the nuc, figuring I’d shake a swarm into the nuc, check out the rest of the frames, and see what was going on.

When I really got in there and looked there were 6<<<<<<< SIX<<<<<<< queen cells in varying sizes on a variety of the frames.  Three of them were open.  Three of them were still sealed.

So I closed the nuc back up (after shaking almost all the loose bees out of it) and put it back where a mini swarm of returning field bees was congregating on the side of my raised bed.

And then I watched, thunk, and had a little snack.

A lot of the bees from the shaking process ended up outside of the new nuc.

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But within an hour they were all into the little nuc and fanning and foraging and quiet.  From that, I’d say there’s a queen in there.

I ran over to my new favorite spot, Cluck!, to get a new hive figuring that I’d just move all the frames with the other half of the bees into a new foundationless langstroth and call it good…but then as I thought about it more, I realized that I didn’t want to waste all of the queen cells and sooooooo….

I hived up almost all of the frames into the new foundationless Lang…who needs a G name…Genevieve and faced it away from where the nuc was facing and I left a different frame with a queen cel in the nuc (alone) and faced it to the side of where the nuc had been facing and stacked it up on top of the two Lang hives that are there figuring that they’d split themselves all up amicably (I hope) and I can take that frame and the bees in it tomorrow morning and take them down to the farm where Alice is empty – chop and crop that one frame, add the bees that are in the box, go get a couple of bars from Cleo and bring them down and call THAT a split….which leaves:

Alice (HTBH at Zephyr, currently empty) with a queen cell, some bees, and a few borrowed bars from Cleo.  Work to do tomorrow.

Betty, last seen about 10 days ago tucked into her foundationless Lang up on Scratch.  Next check tomorrow.

Cleo, last seen about 10 days ago being blue ribbon and wonderful in her HTBH up on Scratch.  Next check tomorrow.

Daphne empty in Sycamore Yard…but once I get back in two weeks I’ll move her to the other community garden (Brattle), bring the baby nuc over and transfer the bars into it….so next update in two weeks.

Eleanor – foundationless Lang full of happy bees being normal in Sycamore Yard.  Next check in two weeks.

Foster hive – status unknown…but couldn’t be worse than when I found her…next check tomorrow…up on Scratch.

Genevieve – newly hived foundationless Lang in Sycamore Yard, next check in two weeks, although she’s short a frame and I should probably put that in tomorrow…although they were QUITE irritable when I left today.

JuJuBee – Being a darling in Lincoln Yard, I think…next check tomorrow.

Jean Grey – Awaiting a swarm in Lincoln Yard.

And that’s that….sort of a fail…and I got chased from the yard…ha…but also sort of exciting!

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 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?

 

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. 🙂

Scratch Hive Bee Check & Queen Release!

10 May

Today I checked on Scratch Hive (queen still nameless)….it’s such a pleasant drive to get out there. Farm fields, chickens, butterflies, and bees!

I rolled up as close as I’d prefer to put my car to the hive and peeked in the window to find a bar and a half of pure white virgin comb and the girls bustling in and out with full pollen baskets of about 10 different colors!

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Stuart had suggested that I not even remove the cork to candy release the queen for 3 days so that they could really get used to her. He’s such a quick turn around for package delivery, that they haven’t even been together for 24 hours when he drops them off. I was skeptical, but I’d rather not lose a queen in such a difficult bee year. I also have heard a lot about KTBH hives absconding more often than other types, so I figured…caged queen = less likely to wander off.

When I installed them, I put the seed comb in one end and the queen cage in the other (on the bottom), hoping they’d build on the opposite side from where she was…easing my release of her today.

Of course….I was wrong.

That beautiful comb? Yeah, it’s right over her regal little head.

So I decided….today is the day to light my smoker (for the first time…). I’ve been meaning (for over a year) to light it up at least for practice, but I never felt like I needed it with my warre. Reaching down into a hive full of bees, picking up the queen, uncorking her, and putting her back….seemed like a smokin’ sort of activity.

I loaded up the smoker with light cardboard and leaves, pulled out the matchbook that’s been in my bee box for over a year, and opened it….to find that it was completely empty. Like defective and never had any matches to begin with empty.

Heart rate rising.

I’ve never had a problem using my bee-calm spray before, but I’ve also never opened a hive to this degree.

Heart rate rising.

So I suited up, got my bee calm spray and set to work, slowly and carefully. I opened the hive, pulled a few empty bars out, slid the comb bars over…which they didn’t like, but it was necessary…and then I took a deep breath and reached my arm down into the hive. It took a little maneuvering to find the queen cage in the mass of bees, but I found her, picked her up, uncorked her…really hoping that she’d prance out…to no avail…set the cage back into the bottom of the hive….closed it back on up (which involves a lot of brushwork and coaxing) and backed off!

I was really nervous the whole time (still a newbeeeee) but I got it done and they seem really happy there.

I’ll be back next Friday to make sure there’s a good lay pattern and to see if they need more bars. At this rate, it seems like they will in pretty short order. I started them with 10 or 12 bars and they’ve already mostly filled one bar and started on another.

I also need to decide if I’m going to open the hive floor or not. I worry it’ll be too bright in there if I do.

So 1) What should I name this queen. And 2) Should I open the hive floor?

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Bee-Day is the Best Day – Warre and KTBH Installs Complete! Also, Name the Queen!

9 May

On Tuesday, I zipped over to Stonewall Apiary in CT to pick up my newest lady-friends.  His set-up is super enviable…chickens, bees, little dogs, clothes on the clothes line, land all around, cute little stone walls…Dreamtown, USA.

The girls were ready to go and seat-belted into the car in short order and we were off!  Back over state-lines to settle them in.

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^^^Bees in car! ^^^ Stewart said, “The seatbelt is probably not necessary….” but I believe in safety first.  Also, I’m not the most attentive driver.  It just seemed like it was in everyone’s best interest.

First stop was to Scratch Farm where my KTBH is.  It’s SO gorgeous out there, and I’m so excited for a weekly trip to visit the girls.  I haven’t really found any definitively good way to feed in a KTBH and I want to do some research before I commit to more woodenware…so I decided to try something out…I’m not sure if it was a good idea, I guess I’ll find out tomorrow.

I laid paper in the bottom of the hive, put a pollen patty on it…and then put down a layer of dry sugar…which I then sprayed with water…not a lot, but enough to make sort of a paste.  I’m feeling worried about that as an idea now, but the damage…if it was a bad idea is done.

I also tied a piece of comb from another hive onto a bar, just so it would be homey smelling…and put some LGO on another bar.

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Now that I’m writing about this, I’m feeling nervous.

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There she is all set up.  This queen is nameless-  for now I’m calling it Scratch Hive – which is where it is.  I’m willing to accept name suggestions for this lady.  Feel free to post comments…if no one steps up, I’ll let my students name her.  No one really wants that to happen.

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My other install went easy as pie, the warre I’m a little more used to.  And my beekeeping-apprentice (aka, the willing homeowner) got her first taste of what being a beekeeper is like.  Mostly, she just watched- which for day 1 at the hive, is a good thing to do!  She named the queen in her hive JuJu Bee- pun wildly intended – but in her defense, JuJu Bee is her favorite drag queen and was at her bachelorette party.  I think it’s a pretty fun name.

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