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  • Archive for the ‘Bees’ Category

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    (Airplanes > bees !)

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    Four years ago we brought our first package of bees home to the hive and they thrived for three years, more or less, until last year’s rainy mess of a spring and a hive beetle infestation took over the hive. Since then the hive sat unused, other than for the odd roach and other insect, in the flower garden. While the hive was an interesting aspect to the flower garden, after tending to the bees there for so long I really began to re-think where the hive should be located. It was frustrating for me not to be able to enjoy the garden to its fullest while having to think of bees—not only for myself but for guests and especially for Forest.

    Over the last year I brainstormed a variety of places we could move the hive before Chris ordered more bees. And through many discussions and frustrations we finally settled on moving the hive to a grassy area along the fenceline, adjacent to our driveway. It’s more out of the way from daily activities but it is easy to access and we can still pop in to check on how the bees are doing. I’m much more happy with this location and hopefully they will thrive there.

    Bee day round 2 came a week ago and the three of us drove over to Navasota to pick up a fresh package to try this bee keeping thing once again. Forest enjoyed scoping the bees out before Chris installed the bees into the hive. Chris had to go out of town a few days later so it was up to me to check on the bees, replacing their sugar water and keeping track of them building new comb in a straight manner. It isn’t my favorite thing to do now because I’ve become more uneasy since getting stung between my eye and nose a few years ago, but I’ve managed to do it without too much anxiety. I mean, I have a suit on and all but still—a little nervous there!

    So far they have settled in well and we’ve seen them flying around the yard, gathering pollen and doing their job pollinating the plants. Chris said he’d noticed a decrease in honeybees in the yard since we stopped keeping them over the last year. Sure we have some native bees hovering in and out but after I thought about it, he was definitely right. Hopefully we will get a new batch of honey later this summer. I still need to get around to making mead with the honey we have in our pantry from the last time Chris harvested comb!

    More talk about bees on my blog here.

    This year the bees have been doing very well. Last year we had the freak freeze/ice storm in early March just as we were leaving for Florida. We had left the hive unprotected and thus at least half of the bees perished. It was touch and go for awhile and then we ended up with a bad hive beetle infestation. I believe Chris pulled only a comb from the hive, giving us a quart of honey for last year. It was rough last year for the bees. Chris got the hive beetles under control and has been able to take care of the bees better this year and so we ended up with an almost full hive this summer.

    Chris got in the hive a week ago so that he could harvest honey for the year. The bees had done a lot of cross combing so he ended up taking off more combs of honey than anticipated. That yielded 3 gallons of honey for us! Ok, it isn’t all for us, we shared! I stayed inside and shot photos from our little window in the stairwell while Forest played before bedtime. I did dash down to Forest’s bedroom window to try to get a different angle, too. Hopefully next year I will be able to help out again, but we’ll see.

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    It had been several months, really since we harvested honey that we’ve done any kind of good hive inspection. We’ve been in the hive a couple of times for small checks, but this time we needed to look to see if small hive beetle had completely taken over the combs and were hatching larvae. It could have been disastrous, losing our entire hive—they would just up and leave because the beetles might have been too much to handle.

    I was worried.

    Over the last two months I had been hoping that the bees would have put on several more combs of honey for winter and they haven’t. The hive split sometime in early August and since then it has seemed as if the hive was in some kind of homeostasis, just living but not really thriving. We’d first noticed the beetles when we harvested honey but they weren’t too bad yet. I got in the hive sometime in August to put in some beetle traps that Chris had bought and I noticed there were vastly more than before.

    This weekend we needed to get around the hive to weed and put in decomposed granite for our garden pathways and after having been stung by a bee on my nose near the corner of my eye, I’ve been much more hesitant to do work around the hive without a suit on. We were planning on plugging up the entrance to the hive last night so we could get everything done but the bees were slow in returning home after dark. I waited upstairs for awhile and Chris finally came in much later to say that he thought we needed to get in the hive because it seemed that maybe we were having a bigger problem with the bees than we thought.

    Oh boy!

    Tonight we opened it up and started squishing hive beetles as we saw them. The bees have only put on about a quarter of a new comb and have started lining two other bars with wax, so that seemed promising, or at least not as despondent as I was thinking. The beetles were definitely around the first three to four combs and their amounts decreased as we worked our way further back in the hive. That’s good. However, Chris thought he saw larvae in one of the combs and as much as I tried to look I couldn’t see anything. So, that’s not good.

    We’re looking at trying to get this problem under control so we don’t lose our hive. It is possible we will have to move our hive out of the garden, too. It is a bit shady, around moisture (the sprinklers), which assists in attracting the hive beetles. But moving a hive isn’t easy. You can move it three feet or three miles but anything else will create chaos and bees who can’t find their way home. We might have to temporarily move it elsewhere and then bring it back to the house after the bees are adjusted and put it in a less shady and moisture prone area. Maybe. That’s a last resort fix at the moment.

    The fall blooming flow is on, so let’s hope they can knock out a couple of combs before the first frost.

    We harvested two bars of honey this morning! The bees are in crazy comb making mode right now and Chris thought we might be able to nab some honey from them while they are still building comb and storing up for the winter. Around 6:58 the volume goes off, so no it isn’t your computer. I forgot to turn the volume back up for that segment and didn’t realize it until the video was uploaded. Sorry! I’m a newbie at this video editing stuff. Around 8:30 we switch to indoors and show you the crushing up of the comb.

    This was our first time noticing small hive beetle in our hive which means we’ll be keeping a close eye on that population and killing any by hand that we see.

    Enjoy! I promise to get better at video editing in the future!

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    What? You thought I was getting broody? No, not yet, but the queen of our hive sure is! See there in the middle, the white capped cells? That’s brood, eggs that were laid by the queen waiting to develop into full grown bees!

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    Last weekend Chris and I took out each comb in an attempt to try to find the queen. We didn’t end up finding her, silly girl was hiding in the mass of workers and drones.

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    Our colony has been busy building up their comb and adding more in the last week. Now when I open the window I can actually see the combs—usually. With this freakish cold front on Thursday they were balled up tight to keep warm so I could barely see it then.

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    Yesterday I refilled their sugar water and I didn’t even bother to put on my suit as the bees were being docile, still balled up over the comb. I flipped up a couple of bars and spacer, reached my hand in, switched the lids to the mason jars and in a few minutes their sugar water was refilled. I did notice a couple of dead bees and was unsure if I should have picked them out or let the bees take care of them. Shortly after we put the bees into the hive Chris said he saw one of the worker bees ferret away a dead bee to the hinterlands of the garden, so this is kind of why I thought I’d let the bees do their own dirty work. I guess if they don’t bother in the next few days I’ll go get them out.

    As for bees dying, it is natural for that to happen, while the queen will live several years workers only live for a few months, less in the summer. This is why you need brood!

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    *note the pollen in the cells on the right*

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    Our bees are so friendly! Chris got in there on Saturday to switch out the sugar water and to see how the comb building was going. I hadn’t been able to see any comb being built through the window, but sure enough there were at least seven bars with comb, at least three of them with a decent amount of comb too. As I noted in one of the photos above, you can see pollen in one of them. Soon the queen will be laying brood cells and the hive will really be under way. The bees have been more active over the last few days with the rise in temperature once again. However we’re going to be getting another cold front late tonight that will probably make them stay closer to home for a day or two.

    I really love having the hive so far!

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