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Posts from the ‘bees’ Category

Get Bees, Will Travel

bees20are20home-mWe really wanted to set up a hive or two or more on the farm. I had four hives in Texas but they would have been a real challenge to move—much easier to get a nuc (small hive of 5 frames instead of the usual 8 or 10) and move it to Wisconsin. Some beekeepers move their bees all around the U.S. to pollinate various crops—it should not be a big deal. Right?  So maybe not!

I had previously baked a nuc of bees in our hot Texas sun and worried about traveling with a nuc in the bed of my truck—no-way were they going to ride in the cab with me. Although I did have some friends who took home a hive in their car and had to wear their bee suits all the way home—all 30 miles or so. I had no intention of wearing a bee suit for 18 hours of driving.

My good friend and mentor provided me with a nuc with a nice opening on top—covered with hardware cloth providing plenty of air flow. The doorway was blocked with hardware cloth—lots of air flow—no baked bees.

We put the box in the bed of my truck and I started off.

I stopped to fuel up and noted a bee flying about the bed of my truck. I thought perhaps it had hitched a ride from my friend’s apiary.

I stopped again for fuel and this time there were about a half dozen flying about trying to figure out where they were. I could not see where they were exiting the box but it was quite obvious they were not bees that lingered around the gas station just coming over to make friends with the Texas bees.

So I started throwing a tarp over the top of the box whenever I stopped—hoping they would think it was bed-time and they would stay inside—I’m sure I really messed up their internal clock and they had so many more days and nights than really passed by in ordinary time.

I stopped for the night, threw the tarp over the box and registered at the motel. Did I have any pets? I said I had a box of bees in my truck but they would not be staying in the room with me. The clerk looked surprised and noted that they welcomed pets but maybe not honey bees.

I made it to the farm and unloaded them by the garage.

I felt the box and it felt warm. Bees maintain the internal temperature of the hive at about 93 degrees year round. In the summer, they sit outside the door and on top of box flapping their wings to move air—-and in the winter they huddle together like penguins in the Antarctic.

We pulled the entrance and immediately they flew out.

Did we keep enough bees in that box to maintain or make a hive? Or did I leave a trail of bees behind me?

I worried about those bees last night when a huge thunderstorm passed through—was the covering over the top enough to keep the rain out—or did that covering get knocked off in the wind?

I put my ear to the box and could hear them buzzing—they may have been discussing their plans for the day or trying to figure out just exactly what had happened—going to bed in Texas and waking up in Wisconsin with different flowers and different birds and different landscape and no nearby neighbors.this20is20their20view-m

It seems silly to worry about a group of insects when I have no qualms about squashing cockroaches or dumping soapy water or poison in ant beds—

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Baked Bees

Yep–they were baked.

I pulled two frames of brood from my lovely gentle ladies–two frames mostly filled with honey and one drawn comb frame.

I closed the door to allow ventilation–but no escape.

I put it on the picnic table.

I could hear them buzzing around in there–let me out! Please let me out!

Today there was no buzzing–just hundreds of dead bees. I guess the baby bees were baked too.

And then there were the Mean Girls. They were honey bound–never mind they had another box to put honey in–they just kept stuffing it all in one box–like an overflowing closet so full you can’t close the doors or a drawer so full of socks and T-shirts–you can’t close it–of the suitcase you have to sit on to make it close.

I pulled a frame of brood and moved it up–suggesting–looky here girls–Another nursery is available–the honey was all put top-side–how I will ever lift it down because it was a big project with just four frames about 80% full of capped honey.

Then those girls followed me around. I walked and walked; tried to walk around trees and bushes–those are supposed to confuse them. No-one of the many cars passing by stopped to ask if I was all right –thank goodness-those mean girls would have had them for snack and thought nothing of it.

Finally they settled on a nearby magnolia blossom and I was able to go inside and de-suit.

I downed a bottle of water, locked the door, and headed out to the truck—the mean girls met me half-way buzzing around my hair and my hands. I snatched off my glasses–so I wouldn’t look like a really big insect with my sunglasses and quick-stepped to the truck. Somehow they knew that they were not supposed to fly past the gate and I was able to escape.

No photos today–dead bees were not a pretty sight–and those mean girls were more interested in chasing me around than in posing for photos.

Another Buzzy Day

Inspecting bee hives is part of being a responsible beekeeper. Unfortunately the best time of day to accomplish this task is mid-day—a lot of the bees are out gathering nectar and therefore–not at home. I wear a full suit, leather shoes, gloves and come equipped with a lit smoker and a wagon full of boxes and empty frames.

I now have four active hives–the original from a friend who did a removal on an old lady’s house, a hive from my class–the mean girls–gosh they are mean–they follow me around and pop at my gloves and veil—then there are two new hives with Winnie queens–nice and easy going bees.

hive20four-mHive Four was first–the single box was FULL of bees–so added a second story–easy peasy.

Hive Three must be lazy girls as there didn’t seem to be much more done than 10 days ago.

hive20one-mHive One had a lot of bees on the outside–were they thinking of swarming? Not sure–but took two frames of capped brood to put in a nuc (baby Hive) to give that lovely lady queen more room.

The Nuc I had split from Hive 2 was a no-go–and I can’t say I was sorry–that queen and her bevy of girls are just plain mean. So I put the two frames of capped brood in, closed the door allowing ventilation and put it on the picnic table.

Then I gathered up my courage and ventured into Hive Two. It has two deep boxes which are supposed to be the brood chambers-where all the eggs and baby bees are—but those mean girls were storing honey in there–lots and lots of honey–but only one frame was capped. Took that frame out, replaced with an empty frame.

Those mean girls were not happy I stole their honey–I had to walk around the yard for about fifteen minutes in my beesuit with them popping me periodically–mostly on my gloves. I’m sure the passing cars and trucks wondered what was going on.

Then I came home, processed that cut-comb into boxes–it’s easier to do when everything is warm. Also managed to strain some honey into the honey bucket. There is wax to be processed using the cute little crockpot–and maybe some batiking to happen next weekend.

All of this sounds quite technical–and no doubt indicates some of my level of understanding of how hives work–and probably more than anyone really wants to know about bees.

However, I find them infinitely fascinating–to watch, to see the various personalities of each hive. And there’s just something wonderful about fresh bread topped with fresh cut-comb honey.

 

Buzzing Around

My earliest memories of honey was the block of honeycomb dripping with honey that sat at my grandfather’s place at the kitchen table. We were never allowed to have any while he was there but when he was on his accounting trips for the State of Wisconsin, Grandma let us have whatever we wanted–including sampling that honey.

Since that time I thought it would be fun/cool/interesting/challenging to raise bees–or more realistically manage a hive or two.

working20beeyard-mOne year for my birthday I got a complete bee suit with gloves; I ordered a bee hive and then we waited for the bees to arrive. Nothing happened until I noticed bees flying in and out of the corner of my shop out in the country. I attended local bee keeping meetings and i was advised to wait until spring to remove them.

Wow–what a challenge that turned out to be! We lit the smoker, suited up–horribly hot in the upstairs of a tin roof building; cut open the wall and faced thousands of bees–none of whom were happy to see us. We plunked as much of that comb and bees into a waiting box.

That did not work very well–but we did seal up the outside of the building.

Then a good friend told us he had done a recovery and would we want those bees. Of course we said YES!!!

work20bees-mAnd so I had one hive. We carefully transferred it to a larger box and then added and added and I had a honey harvest the first year.

Second Year–the year of intermittent floods and heat in which we tried to do a split several times, successful once–and the hive moved to the chicken yard—where it was slimed out in just one month. The other hive succumbed to wax moths–and I was left with just the one hive.

I had also signed up for a beginning beekeeping class and had a school hive to manage and bring home to my apiary–duly registered with the State of Texas. Those bees tend to be a bit testy and we are seriously considering requeening to a nicer lady. Sometimes they seem to have gotten up on the wrong side of the bed–while the first hive is always calm but interested.

We have two big hives and starting to add to our flock-herd-group-not sure what several hives are called–maybe a Buzz?final20beeyard-m

And for those of you who notice such things–yes, I did have a piece of dirt on my camera lens which has now been cleaned.glen20in20bee20yard-m

Experimenting with Batik

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With an abundance of beeswax I decided I wanted to try batik. I read through several books on batik—and then used a cute little crockpot to heat up the wax and apply it to cotton fabric. My favorite tool was an old potato masher I found at an antique store for 50 cents.

Then I wanted to try crackle–a traditional aspect of batik involving fine lines in a random pattern–usually in black. So I soaked the fabric in the wax, twisted it up and then put it in the freezer. Beeswax does not crackle as well as paraffin or soy but I thought I give it a try.

Next is removing that wax. I tried ironing it with an abundance of newsprint paper—but the resulting fabric was still quite stiff–smelled like honey–but too stiff to be called fabric.

Off to the restaurant supply store to buy a large soup kettle–and a sieve to fit inside—that sieve didn’t work but suspending the fabric with a bit of chicken wire over the top did.

Here is the result of my first batik efforts. The piece on the most left has been dyed twice.batik20results-m

Bee Bread and Honey Bucket

Extracting honey is a sticky business at best and certainly time-consuming when done all by hand–not with a centrifugal extractor—I am promised one when I have several more hives than just my one very active large hive.

I now have an official honey strainer and thanks to my dear friend’s husband and son a honey buck with a gate valve to strain into. Previously I used a cone strainer from my mother’s kitchen that strained elderberries for jelly—and a large Tupperware bowl.

Timg_6144-mhe method is still the same, scrape off the cappings into a large pan, dump it into the strainer and repeat on the other side of the frame and then the next frame and the next.

I found these inclusions on a honey super–scraped a bit out and inspected under microscope to see pollen grains—this is bee bread–a protein source for the bees during the winter months.

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I now have about a gallon and a half of honey to put up into jars adding to my supply—and probably at least one more honey extraction if not two before winter.

 

 

Honey

Beekeeping can be challenging and a lot of work at times. The flow (of nectar) has been particularly heavy this spring–surprisingly so and I have had to harvest honey three times this month from just one hive and really need to do it again when the weather clears up. Bees are not particularly fond of having the roof over their head removed while it is raining–and I’m not really fond of working in the rain–walking yes, looking at it from my window and enjoying the sound of the rain on the roof particularly a tin roof, yes==but not working a hive.

Here is my honey harvest from the first go round. I had so much comb honey I used all my freezer containers and had to buy morehoney20harvest-m

from the restaurant supply store.

I do like the carafes for storing honey for use in my kitchen. They are easy to pour from and easy to see how much remains. Unfortunately I do not have tight fitting caps for all of them, I think Toby chewed up one or two and thusly the aluminum foil cap.

 

What is it?

Sylvia Weir Week 24 What is this

Last week’s assignment was ‘what is it?’. This is always a fun assignment as photos are posted and people guess as to the origin of the photo. Many of the photos are macros or cropped. The guessing is fun and frequently people are stumped. This exercise encourages looking at things from a different point of view.

My entry this year is from a morning’s work in my kitchen.

This is the wax residue from processing five frames of honey from one of my hives. It is a very sticky project and I end up washing my hands and wiping down kitchen counters multiple times during the project, followed by mopping of the floor at least twice. I now have a lot of honey in jars and some comb honey in containers.

This is not a cheap hobby but there are definitely more expensive ones.

Pink Lilies and Green Figs

img_5807-mThe sun is shining but it is still a relatively cool 79 degrees this morning. Humidity is drastically lower than the 94% it was on Saturday and the world seems right again.

Today I put another box on my chicken yard bee hive–the bees much better behaved today than the previous day but the deep box is clearly full and the bees needed more room. I found two hive beetles and scraped away at the inner cover which had been stuck to the telescoping lid. A few bees were hanging around outside the hive after I finished—so felt a success. I did not inspect the hive–figuring disturbing them twice in less than a week was not a good idea.

Then out to the front yard to check out the lilies. I bought a small pot several years ago at our local Master Gardener’s sale–and we have split it at least once–but now it needs to be split again. The blooms are huge and many.

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The fig tree is doing its best but I have yet to find ripe figs on it. I would guess the blue jay or the pigeons get to them before I do. This fig is hard; definitely not ripe.

And here is a glimpse of my neighborhood

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