Entries categorized "beekeeping"

winter beekeeping......

Winterbees1

Winterbees2

Winterbees3

Winterbees4

Winterbees5

Winterbees6

Winterbees7

Winterbees8

Sunday was warm and drizzly. Over 50 degrees. Usually this time of year a beekeeper just watches and hopes. But because the weather was so warm, we decided to open up the hive and see how the girls were doing. I made up a fondant patty for them, Joe got the smoker going, and we headed outside....

First we added shims to the back of the hive to slightly tip it forward. This encourages any moisture build-up to drip out towards the front entrance. We should have done this a few weeks ago when we wrapped it up...... but better late than never I guess. I've been gently tapping on the hive once a week or so with my head pressed against the outside to listen. The soft hum that responds has seemed strong.... but peeking in let us know how things really look.

Lots of bees greeted us! No doubt grumpy from our intrusion. We quickly placed the fondant and a small wedge of pollen under the lid and closed everything back up. The bees were flying, but slow and we smoked them heavily in hopes of keeping them in their hive as much as possible. If they get too far away it's just so cold for them to make their way back.

Bees cluster together in the winter to keep warm and stay in a ball like shape to keep the hive above 90 degrees. They are such amazing little creatures! A cluster five frames wide is a good sign and it appeared to be what was in our hive. 

We noticed a lot more black bees! Our hive re-queened over the summer and we think the new queen mated with local Carniolan bees from other hives.... which is lucky for us because we've been told they winter better and are calmer. (Italians are more golden, Carniolans are more black) The hive was still heavy, so heavy it bent the tool Joe used when he added the shims. This is good! We hope they have a lot of honey inside. We actually wintered them four (hive boxes) high instead of three high to make sure they had enough. The large fondant patty is for emergency food if they should need it. (I used this recipe) Hopefully we'll get a warm day next month sometime to add more. Our bee mentor told us at this point as long as they don't starve, they should make it. Here's hoping!

xo~

s

 


sweet as honey......

Did I mention that Joe wasn't all that interested in becoming a beekeeper?

It seems the bees (or the universe) had other plans. All my time away this summer made Joe the accidental beekeeper. I think he got to know them better than me.... and he got to know my our bee mentor, Wayne, while they chased swarms, combined hives (again), and checked on the hives progression. I was kind of jealous and happy all at the same time. Joe was the first to know we would get some honey....... and said they would wait for me to get home to harvest it. 

Joe is still the safest of the bunch.... fully geared when interacting with the bees. One bad wasp sting will do that to you. I'm a little less cautious, ditching my gloves for inspections at times. Wayne is usually out there pulling hive bodies apart with a veil over his head at most, short sleeve shirt, never wears gloves..... and this time while helping us pull honey supers to extract he had no protective bee gear at all. He got stung at least twice and seemed to barely notice. Once he told me it helped with his arthritis.... Sophie thinks he is one of the bravest people she knows. (and yes, she is in a full suit with gloves out there) 

honey harvest......

honey harvest......

honey harvest......

honey harvest......

honey harvest......

honey harvest......

honey harvest......

honey harvest......

honey harvest......

It's lucky to get honey the first year. Of course, it helped that this hive's neighbor had a failing queen in the spring and therefor got combined into one huge hive early in the season.

Just a few days after I was home, Wayne told me a list of what we needed to extract : the club extractor, a bucket, a contraption he built, and a knee high. He was bringing it all. At first I had no idea what he meant by knee high. Shows you what kind of lady I am. It's just a nylon sock. Turns out they still make those. He builds that little wooden tool for everyone he helps. With a knee high stretched over it, the wax is filtered out. Simple, cheap, and genius. 

We took 9 frames from the hive to extract. It was a warm afternoon which made the job easy. I can't even describe how sweet it smelled while we were working, chewing on bits of bur comb filled with honey. Bur comb is irregular bits of comb that you have to scrape off to keep things nice and tidy inside the hive. Extracting is a sticky job and you end up with bits of honey everywhere no matter how you try not to. Especially when we were getting the last bit of honey out and Joe handed me a spatula and said, you are the only one who can scrape the inside of that extractor out. Honey up to my shoulder, but we got the last cup out. We bottled two gallons of pale golden honey. It's got a strong but delicious floral taste.... so much different than anything I've ever had. Summer in a jar.

Thank you bees....

(and Wayne)

 

xo,

S

 


backyard bee notes :: and some great bee books for kids

backyard bee notes :: and some great bee books for kids........

backyard bee notes :: and some great bee books for kids........

backyard bee notes :: and some great bee books for kids........

backyard bee notes :: and some great bee books for kids........

backyard bee notes :: and some great bee books for kids........

backyard bee notes :: and some great bee books for kids........

backyard bee notes :: and some great bee books for kids........

backyard bee notes :: and some great bee books for kids........

Well it certainly hasn't gone smoothly.

I had a queen disappear from one of my hives. Before we could give the hive a new queen, some worker(s) started laying. This will result in only drones (males), or perhaps a sterile queen if they try to make a queen from layer brood. The female/worker bee does all the work to maintain the hive, so laying workers are a sure end to the hive as they slowly die off and have no replacement workers. I bought a beautiful dark carniolan queen for them and they straight up hated her. Even after a week they were still gnashing at the cage to get her out, and not to invite her tea. I was so bummed because the carniolan breed is known for over-wintering really well up north.....

"So what now?" I asked my mentor. "Well," he says, and he gently brushes the bees off the queen cage and watches as they quickly jump back on, frantic and biting at the screened cover. "You can combine your hives." So, I send the queen home with him to find a more appreciative hive and receive instructions to carry my queen-less hive to the back of the property, gently shake the bees off of each frame, and leave them. I slid my other hive to the center of the stand and before I could even get the old hive pieces into the garage, the bees from the queen-less hive began making their way back. There was a bit of confusion, but by dusk most everyone was settled into their new home. (everyone in the one hive) About 8 bees remained out back, they never did make their way to the hive with the others. My mentor suggested maybe laying workers don't fly well and the may not know where home is... it's good riddance if they don't come back to the hive anyway. It was really quite the experiment! The good news is that the queen in my second hive is thriving and everything is moving along twice as quickly with the bee numbers doubled overnight.

I thought you'd enjoy seeing a few pictures of what should not be happening in a hive. If you look into the cells, you can see several eggs in each one. Queens will lay nice patterns with just one egg in each. Workers lay all over, leaving some cells empty and putting several eggs in others. The nanny bees have to remove the extra eggs, and it just creates a lot of work and a big mess. 

All is not lost though! I was gifted with a swarm from another beekeepers hive..... and I was excited to see they are beautiful dark carniolans! They did not have a queen, so my mentor included some queen cells on one frame and I'm hopeful to find a queen on my next inspection. Fingers crossed!

On another note, the kids and I have read every bee book we could find at the library and we have three favorites to share with you. All of them share good information about bees, have beautiful pictures & are a joy to read. I'll be adding all three of them to our personal library, we love them that much!

 

DownloadedFile

The Beeman : A story of a grandson and his beekeeper grandfather, it rhymes and has less words making it a perfect read for the youngest crowd. 

 

DownloadedFile-1

The Honeybee Man : More text and scientific information then the Beeman, making it a good fit for elementary age & beyond. I love that this book is about a beekeeper in the city! 

 

335

Life & Times of the Honeybee : Very well written and engaging honeybee facts. We read a lot of "factual" books on honeybees and this one was hands down our very favorite. 

 

Enjoy!

xo,

s

  


a hive split...... and other bits......

DL Hive Split 5/2/14

DL Hive Split 5/2/14

DL Hive Split 5/2/14

DL Hive Split 5/2/14

DL Hive Split 5/2/14

DL Hive Split 5/2/14

DL Hive Split 5/2/14

DL Hive Split 5/2/14

DL Hive Split 5/2/14

DL Hive Split 5/2/14

DL Hive Split 5/2/14

DL Hive Split 5/2/14

DL Hive Split 5/2/14

The kids & I got to watch a friend split her hive last week. Amazing stuff! For those of you that might not speak bee, a split is when you divide the colony to keep them from swarming. When bees overwinter their colony increases quickly in the spring and they often run out of room. This hive did wonderful over the winter and my friend split it into four hives! There were really that many bees! I took about a zillion pictures for my friend and the kids really loved watching. Their favorite part was when our bee mentor Wayne, who was also helping with the split, told them drones (males) didn't sting. To prove this point he popped one into his mouth and then let it fly out. The kids were awestruck..... and Soph couldn't wait to catch a drone at home and let it buzz around in her hands. (not in her mouth though, that Wayne is a hoot!)

If you really love bee pictures, you can check out my flickr album to see more. I only shared a few favorites in this post, you can see the whole process of the split starting with this photo. (ps ~ the queen can be seen in picture six above... can you spot her? she's got a longer abdomen with no stripes.)

I had a busy week in the shop too. My first wholesale order went out & I finally got pictures taken of the new silks I have dyed up. Plus a few new things... so there will be a shop update next week! I have one summer festival lined up in Rhode Island and put in for one in Portland, ME. I would sell my silks in a parking lot to have an excuse to go to Portland for the weekend. Fingers crossed on that one.... should find out near the end of the month.

I'm heading out of here with the two youngest in a few hours.

We're driving north to visit family and pick up three small furry bundles. The puppies. Soph has been looking forward to this puppy-sitting gig for weeks. I've been looking forward to wine with my sister in law and our annual trip to the river... a girl can never have too many rocks, you know?

So..... we'll be getting in late Tuesday night. I'll be away from this space until then. 

Have a lovely couple of days....

xo,

s


and then there were bees........

and then there were bees........

and then there were bees........

and then there were bees........

and then there were bees........

and then there were bees........

and then there were bees........

and then there were bees........

and then there were bees........

and then there were bees........

and then there were bees........

and then there were bees........

 

We did it. 

On Saturday we waited for hours, the arrival of the bees was delayed and I checked facebook far too many times to watch for updates. Finally they were on their way to Berkley, MA where we were to pick them up at one of the Beekeeper Association member's home. We watched them install two packages into hives in the backyard. One skillfully done by a young girl just two years older than Sophie. 

We headed back to the table and looked at the boxes and boxes of bees.

Pick out your two, Ed said to us. 

Is there a trick to this? I asked. Is it like picking out a puppy?

Sort of, he said. Pick the ones that speak to you.

Sophie and I each picked one out. 

We sprayed them with sugar water and put them into a cardboard box and headed home. We had the ac on full blast in hopes of keeping them cool. We should have left the box lid wide open or gotten them their own boxes.... they got a little warm in there together. 

Home. A bustle of activity. Gear. Bee suits. Sugar water. The bees sat in a cool dark corner of the garage.

We followed the instructions of the experts and memory of so many videos watched in the past few weeks. Everything went off without a single problem. After the first package was in, Sophie asked if she could do the second one. I can do this mama, she said to me.

I pulled the queen out and then let her take over from there. Calm and confident that girl. Bees all over us and she was so relaxed.... amazing. All of it. No one was stung either.

Sunday morning I drifted out there first thing with my coffee. They are amazing to watch. I could sit there forever. 

I peeked in this afternoon to see if either queen was out. They're both so close, but not quite there. You can see the queen box in that last photo. Everyone looked well in there, at least to this very novice set of eyes.

Oh my. We really are beekeepers. She and I. 

xo,

s

{Thank you to Joe for taking pictures of us installing the bees & thank you to all the incredible members of our Bee Association who give so much of their time & answer *so* MANY questions for us novice beekeepers!}