Tuesday, October 28, 2014

They're Alive! I'm Alive!

Yes, I'm a bad blogger.  Yes, I've been busy.  Plus I was hoping to post some pictures with these updates, and that just isn't going to happen yet.  Here's some drafts I recorded earlier this summer . . .

June 2014
Sarah and Jason helped Mr. HPL and I do hive checks last weekend.  After the incident with Queen Elena's hive, I'd lost a bit of confidence.  On went the gloves and veil.

Overall, it was pretty good news.  There was capped brood in both Queen Elena's and Queen Fiona's colonies.  We spotted both the queens, and there was nectar and pollen in both hives.  Looks like the direct release of the queens didn't have any issues.  Yeah!

The one spot of bad news was with the swarm hive, Queen Dulce.  We saw bees bringing in pollen, but no brood, and didn't spot the queen.  She's had plenty of time to be laying, so my worry is that they didn't get the queen when they captured the swarm.  One possibility is that it was a secondary swarm with a virgin queen, and she's needed time to be mated before she starts laying.  However, we didn't spot any eggs or larvae either.  Another possibility is that the queen was injured during the swarm capture and install.  In this case they would try to make a new queen.  There were a few queen cups, which aren't unusual, but they were all empty.  Again, they need the queen to lay eggs in order to make a new queen.  I'm stumped.  I'll give them this week, but if I don't find any brood this weekend I'll have to take action.  Not sure what that will be yet . . .

I still need to check the hive I placed in Rustic Hills, but I've got a good feeling about that.  Stay tuned.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Bees 10, Me 0

The weekend before last I was going into the hives to do the first checks of the season, when I got a face full of bees.  I was being overconfident, not wearing any gear, didn't light my smoker, and it was overcast.  I knew better. 

Well, the hive with Queen Elena was a little hot.  I'd pulled maybe two frames when I got stung right on the nose.  After that all I saw was bees headed straight for my face.  What did I do?  I dropped the frame and ran away, of course.  I pulled my shirt over my head and tried to keep the bees away from my face.

Mr. HPL, who was suited up, behaved like a rock star.  He calmly replaced the frame, closed up the hive, and came to help me get rid of the bees around my head.  ROCK STAR. 

The final count was around 8-10 stings.  They got my nose, chin, ear, nape x 3, and arm.  The bees totally won that round.  Somedays being a beekeeper is hard.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Honey Bees 3.0

This is the start of my third year as a beekeeper. Year One was about Learning and Firsts and getting comfortable with the bees. Year Two was about disappointment and confusion and learning even more, while I watched two separate hives dwindle and die. Year Three is going to be the Year of Survival. I am determined to have at least one colony survive into next spring, and in order to stack the odds in my favor I went a little overboard. I purchased 3 packages of Italians. That’s right. THREE. They came in this Monday. I picked them up, setup my equipment, and got everything ready. Then, while I was installing them, I got a call from the swarm coordinator with the PPBA saying that I was next on the swarm list and they had one for me if I was still interested. Umm, yes! In case you aren’t counting, that makes FOUR colonies of bees for me now. So in three years I’ve gone from none to one to none to one to none to four!

While I’m excited about all these hives, I had to find a place to put them. I’m making a tough decision and deciding not to put any bees out at Dick’s place again. While it was a nice spot, and Dick was great about us doing inspections, it was just too far of a drive. So no bees at Dick’s place. Instead, I went across the street to Homestake Nursery and spoke with the manager. They were very amenable to me keeping some bees at the back of the property in exchange for some honey. So I have the swarm (Queen Dulce) and two of the packages (Queens Elena and Fiona) installed at Homestake Nursery. While I’m concerned about the bees having enough resources with three hives in one location, it will make supplemental feeding easy, if necessary.
Swarm installed in hive, using improvised bottom and top cover (from my beevac)
The final package (Queen Gwendolyn) I installed at a very nice couples place. Judy and Arney called last year about me moving their hive because they couldn’t take care of it anymore. So I moved their hive to my place, and they ended up dying anyway. My husband calls me The Queen Killer. Not this year! I called Judy this week and asked if they’d like to have a hive in their yard again, but I’d take care of it for them and do all the work. They really liked the idea, and I like all the mature blooming things in their neighborhood. Plus, it’s not that far from me.

There is a reason behind me wanting multiple hives, and yes, I should have listened and done two the first year. With more than one hive, I am able to make comparisons to watch for really strong or weak hives. I have the resources to pull frames of brood from one hive and introduce to another if necessary, like if a hive goes queenless and I need them to make a new queen. This might have saved our hive last year.
Two packages after installing in hives
A few comments about installing the packages; it was so easy this year! It took Sarah and I such a long time to do the install our first year, they wouldn’t come out of the box for anything. This year, I did the installations by myself, and it took no time at all. I removed two frames, pulled the feed jar out, removed the queen cage and sat it to the side, then dumped the bees in with only a few shakes. Then I gently replaced the frames. There wasn’t any candy in the queen cage, just the cork, and I didn’t have any marshmallows with me, so I took a chance and did a direct release into the hive. I figured the bees had already been with their queens for a few days, and they weren’t attacking the queen cage, so I gambled on them not wanting to kill her. Also, with frames already having comb on them, I’m hoping she starts laying immediately. That will make the bees happy, too. And keep them from absconding. In all cases, she walked right out of the cage and into the hive. Keeping my fingers crossed that I find some eggs and maybe even larva when I check on them Saturday.


Sunday, February 2, 2014

Is Anybody Out There?

I apologize for the time warp, but there's so much more time to post during the winter, when I'm not actually handling the bees.  

Aug 2013:

I thought all of our bees would be dead by now.  What with no viable queen laying since May, they should be.  Granted, we picked up some homeless bees during the Black Forest fire, but that was in June.  It's been at least two months, during which there has been no worker brood.  What the hell is going on?  I'll tell you one thing, being a beekeeper isn't boring.  I'm sure it will be keeping me on my toes 40 years from now.

After the last hive check, where we removed the second deep box due to the drop in population, we assumed it would only be a matter of weeks before it was completely empty.  There was no sign of Queen Catherine, the Carniolan queen I tried to introduce in July.  Then I get a message from Dick saying that there were still bees flying into the hive.

Sarah, Jason and I drove out and suited up to check for ourselves.  This is what we discovered:
Pile of earth beneath where the hive used to be.
A gopher (or something, not ants) had built a little hill of earth beneath the hive.  And there were still bees left!  We knew it wasn't viable, so we made the decision to walk about 100 ft away from the hive, shake off the bees, and load the bee-free equipment in my car.  We packed it all up and left nothing but a pile of dirt with lonely bees flying around it.  

I had a few stowaways in my car, but none of them bothered me on the drive home.  I unloaded the equipment and stored it away for the winter, with plans to start again next spring.

I love bees.

Monday, January 27, 2014

They Might Be Finished

Well, they might be finished, but they sure as hell don't fit.  (silent scream)  That's right, I'm talking about my Camp Loopy project 1 Skew socks, the ones that were supposed to be finished in June.  Hah!  I knew when I started the heel I'd gone too far in the foot pattern.  I should have stopped at 6.5" and instead I went 7.5" before I'd noticed.  Instead of ripping back like I should have (banging head into desk repeatadly) I told myself it would be ok, my fat feet would take up some of the length, I wasn't quite on gauge anyway, it would all be good.  Well, it's not.  It's about 1/2" too long in the foot.  Since the toes and heels are designed to fit snugly, that's not a good thing.  No, they won't shrink in the wash (unless they felt, which is BAD).  So instead of fitting size 6 feet, they are more around a size 8.5.  

I am nearly heartbroken.  Nearly.  I love the yarn.  I love the pattern.  But they are just socks, after all.  
The almost finished socks

Into the gift box they go.  So who wears a size 8, 8.5 shoe, anyway?  Anyone?
Turns out, my little sister does!  Yeah!  So I made them a Christmas present for her.  Of course, I forgot to get a picture of the finished, blocked socks.   Typical.