I mentioned previously that I was working on editing a video of the last hive inspections I was doing. That still isn’t finished, but it is still in progress and not abandoned.
Until then, I present to you this: yes, you can and probably will get stung even if you’re in a bee suit. On the upside, once you’ve been stung x number of times, your body will likely be used to it and after the initial sting – which, to me, still hurts for a second – it might not even swell any longer, as with these I got while doing the inspections: four each on and around the knee, and four on the upper arm. The mosquito bite on my forearm I got the other day while weeding itches more than the stings did at all. Unlike [nerd alert!] some people, I lost none of my strength or abilities after taking the stings.
The knee – and if bee venom therapy really works, I should never have arthritis in this knee. Ever.
Three of four on the upper arm. I have to say the inside of the bicep tends to be the most painful, initially. And I say this after having taken about five over the years to that same area, mainly from accidentally crushing a bee that has landed there when I bring my arm back close to my body. The fourth sting is not visible; one of the girls got me on the tricep.
After being sick with pnuemonia almost constantly for two years (2016-2017), the beeyard ad taken quite the hit. I lost a number of hives over that two year period, as I simply was not well enough to manage them as they needed to be managed. I’d ordered some packages of bees to pump up the colony count on the ranch. I’d been planning to take video of the installation of the packages when they arrived in May, but the camera had different ideas about that. Instead, we only got a couple of action snaps. It was toward dusk, and I observed quite a bit of drift as wee got each package in their new home. That resulted in some hives having more bees than they would ordinarily.
In the end, though, that’s perfectly ok. The hives that suffered drift repopulated without issue, and the hives that were the beneficiaries of the drift simply built up more quickly, which is fine with me.
My sister lent a hand with this, and she’s also been very helpful in working with me to keep the colonies going as they get themselves built to a point they no longer need much help from us mere humans.
This time around, I used feeders inside the hive instead of entrance feeders, to avoid hives robbing one another of the syrup. A couple weeks ago, I switched them all over to entrance feeders, as they were all strong enough to withstand any incursions into their territories. A few of them have even had a second box added to them – quite exciting, as we may be able to get a late season honey harvest from them as we move into fall and our second nectar flow begins.
Sometimes you get a swarm in the yard, but it is simply uncatchable.
This is a zoomed-in image of a swarm that was likely from the monster hive #8*, about 50′ up in a water oak near the beeyard. It looks a lot larger than it was, but it was still a nice swarm, and if it had been lower, I’d have made a big effort to get it. As it was, the only thing I could do was set up a bait box about four deep bodies high under the tree, with a touch of lemongrass oil, to try to lure them down. They didn’t go for it. The next day, they were gone. I’d already done two splits from #8, and if this swarm was from that hive, that queen’s genetics are still in that hive, which is what I want: it’s a survivor queen, the last of my bees from 2016-2017, two years lost to chronic, recurring pneumonia.
*I say probably from #8 because that is the largest hive out there. however, #1 was acting a little squirrelly that day, and it may have been from that hive. Weirder still: when the swarm vanished, #1 had an absolute ton of activity going on. I’ve seen swarms return to their home, and if this was from #1, they may have gone right back to the original hive, as we were being pounded by big storms every single day during this period (this pic is from June 1) and hanging out in trees, unprotected, isn’t a good thing.
I’m planning on going into #8 and #1 on Thursday, to see what the girls have to say for themselves, and possibly to make another split from #8 to keep those good genes alive.
Some years ago, when the state and city were blowing up (well, technically, down) the pilings from the original Fuller Warren bridge here in town, I was standing on the roof of a building near the river, capturing it. Those pics are around here somewhere. It was the first (and only) implosion of any structure I’ve ever seen live, and it was pretty cool.
Yesterday, two giant cooling towers from a now-shuttered coal-fired plant were imploded. My brother played hooky a bit from his work to go up and try to see it. Alas, the general public was kept well away from the event, only getting to see the tops of the towers over some buildings and trees. The media and the company’s own cameras, though, got the full show. As always, it’s amazing how quickly something can be brought down, neatly, with proper placement of explosives and detonation timing. Clicking the arrow on the picture in this article will show the video of the towers coming down.
Today, I’ve finished mowing the beeyard and whacked around and under the hives. The new bees have also been fed. I was soaked when I came back in because it is simply hideous out there. It’s the time of the year that I wonder just how in the world the settlers to this place got anything done and made it through to the next season. Were they made of tougher stuff? Maybe. Did some of them give up and go back or move elsewhere? Almost positively, they did. I can’t say I would blame anyone who did on days like today. But there’s still work to be done here at the ranch, and I see out my southern facing window the clouds starting to build. Even if it’s just ten minutes at a time, it’s better to work on something versus nothing.
Until next time, peeps: be well. And if it’s broiling where you are, take care of yourselves and any people or animals for which you are responsible.
Here’s the first day of my “holiday weekend”. For those of you outside the US, today is Memorial Day here. Some years ago, it would signal the official beginning of summer for us here, and we’d have a giant party and feed a bunch of people. The kids (and some of the adults) would go swimming and everyone else would just be visiting with one another. That hasn’t happened in years now because we had a falling out with one group of relatives, and of course I’ve been sick on and off for over two years.
But here’s my day.
0730 Up, take care of the dogs, check their food and water, check the weather
0800 Breakfast and work
0915 Out to gather grass clippings from the beeyard and septic mound to add to my new compost pile
0945 Break for hydration and “work” work
1015 Out to sow the second round of green bean seed
1040 Break for hydration and work
1310 Break for lunch and work
1520 Wake up from falling asleep in my chair
1540 Feed bees and do inspections
1800 Bring in empty bottles and pulled hive bodies, put away tractor, detach wagon, close up shed, make shake with skyr added, meds
1815 Sit down at desk for feeding and work, empty camera memory card to computer
1825 Actually start feeding after playing with the dogs
1838 ACTUALLY start feeding after taking pictures and video of the dogs
1840 Realize just how much my back hurts now that I’m sitting down
1930 Back outside to bag weeds I turned up earlier today, before Alberto pays us a visit
2100 Back inside, treats for the dogs, refill their food and water
2110 Back to the beeyard to close the hive where I left the top propped open a bit, so there’s no chance of getting rain in there
2120 Make a shake, mix my meds, and taking care of business
2221 Power goes out, right when I’m making a response to a ticket, and Alberto hasn’t even arrived yet. Read on my amazon fire to wait it out
2249 Power comes back. Start the tedious task of booting up my system and then getting all my apps started once more, my screen layout in place, and get back to work
At some point doze off in my chair again
2340 Wake up, get some formula and some kefir, set up for another feed, do some more work
Doze off here and there
0130 Have an itching episode on the left side of my neck. Desperately try to scratch an itch that can’t be scratched; down a slug of benadryl before I wind up drawing blood.
In other news, Alberto may be paying us a visit. Not in person, but from some of his hangers-on, the outer bands and what moisture he draws up from south of his center.
We’re going to get some of it tomorrow, and possibly Monday, as well.
This is why I needed to take care of things I took care of today. Wandering around not doing anything in particular is a recipe for disaster here: you have to focus on what needs to be done (a TON of stuff) and how to prioritize it (take care of the bees before anything). And that’s how it went. It was a VERY productive day at the ranch. Tiring, but worth it.
I have a mound of horse poop (courtesy of a neighbor) in the southeastern area of the property that is heating and composting itself, but I wanted something nearer to the front (north) area gardens, so I started a compost pile there as well. It started off with kitchen scraps, paper, some leaves, downed branches I broke down. But now, it also has the grass clipping I mentioned up above, to get a better mix of green/brown material. This is how it looked after that work yesterday.
How the weeded row where the shelling peas and lettuces were, after getting through another weeding session – I literally worked until dark today, which was almost 9 PM.
How it looked in the dark after I had to stop because it was getting too hard to see, so I had to head in.
Another long, busy day in the books. Until next time, peeps: be well.
Today: a respite from the rain. It wound up being hot and humid and miserable anyway, because it’s just that time of year for us.
While watching another storm blow up the other day, though, and waiting to see if I could capture some lightning on my camera (alas, no), I met this guy, looking fabulous.
Just one of the may critters that hang out at the ranch now, thanks to years of patient (and not so patient, sometimes) rehabilitation of the property.
The break in the rains allowed me to get a lot of mowing done – a good thing, as some areas were getting pretty hairy. One last section to go: in the beeyard, right up to the hive stands. I got most of yard mowed late, without having to climb into the beesuit to do it, luckily. The last bit will probably take all of ten minutes to complete, but since the vibrations from the tractor will disturb them, better to suit up and be safe.
Tomorrow is also supposed to be clear for much of the day. That will allow me to get more cuke seed in and – as ever – do more weeding. I really need to find a way to mulch or weedblock for things like carrots and lettuce to cut down even further on the overall amount of weeding that has to be done. I’m sure it will come to me when I least expect it.
My apologies, dear readers, for the unplanned hiatus. Those of you who are aware of my chronic aspiration-induced pneumonia issues will be happy to know that the latest round of grue was not pneumonia. It was, however, a gigantic sinus infection so bad that it made me want to chop my head off. I wound up in the ER last week for fluids, since I spent one day with everything coming out one end and the next with dry heaves virtually all day (that was the day of the ER visit). Why sinus? Probably coughed something up in there that didn’t come out. Thankfully, that’s over, my head is intact, and I’m back to the things I need to do. Well, almost there. The strength is coming back slowly. I also lost four pounds over the course of two days, so I’m working on that, too, although the food intake is just making me nauseated all the time – an incredibly unpleasant sensation. Pain you can usually work through or around. Nausea is just different. For me, anyhow.
On to better things!
I got my new packages of bees Friday a week ago. Unfortunately, my camera battery croaked after my sister and I were already out there, and since I was in the end throes of the crap I had, there was no way I was going to go get the other one. So, no video of the installs this year. I did take video of several days after that, though, and I’ll be editing those – time to really learn Adobe Premiere instead of screwing around, I guess – to put up on the Lazy Dogs Ranch channel on YouTube.
We had some challenges with the package installs. The shipper is no longer putting a feed can in the package, but just throwing some marshmallows in. The bees don’t seem to really care one way or the other about sugar products, so I understand this is an effective, cheap method of dealing with the feed can issues. However, when pouring the bees into the hives, the marshmallows also go in, which means reaching in and fishing them all out (ditto for pine needles, etc., that win up in them). That was annoying.
We also had big issues with drifting. For those of you unfamiliar with this, it means when bees drift from their own hive to another one that is close to it. Usually, this sort of thing happens if you’re making splits and don’t move the split hive a bit away from the original. For the package installs, since the bees weren’t really imprinted on their caged queens yet, it meant some hives wound up with a ton of bees in them, while some wound up with half or less of their package. I worked on this the Saturday after the install, moving frames and just taking handfuls of bees from one hive to another. It seems to have worked out all right.
One package obviously had a queen in it, though: the bees killed the caged queen and swarmed away before I even got into the yard on Saturday. So I had an empty box and a dead queen.
They were insured, so the shipper is going to send me a replacement. I’ve also asked for a package without a queen, to bulk up the hive that suffered the most drift.
Meanwhile in the beeyard, the monster hive #8 is still performing well. After the last split I did, it had three deeps and one super on.
I peeked in, and they were ready for another super.
I grabbed another super and popped it on to give them some room. I’m going to have to do a deep inspection at some point.
For now, though, I’m letting them do their thing.
That’s all for now, as I need to deal with the nausea here. Until next time, peeps: be well.
There are times when I go out to the beeyard just to watch the activity at the hives. The girls zipping in and out, guards on the landing boards (along with drones, hanging out, drinking honey and talking up the girls), the occasional midair collision that harms no one, the (at times) clumsy landings and then crawling over other bees….it’s all a day in the life in the yard. The bees I see foraging today will be dead by next month, having worked themselves to death, and will be replaced by newly graduated foragers, heading out into the world to find its bounty and return it to the hive for the benefit of all. Have I mentioned I’m a writer?
I captured this with the new camera (a Canon Powershot SX730 HS as my pocket camera to replace my Fuji FinePix, which is good, but very old). I stuck it on a tripod in front of the mega hive (#8) while I went and had a look at the second split from that hive (#11). It’s very relaxing – so much so that the other night I almost fell asleep watching it. I should keep that in mind the next time the insomnia is really bad. (Of course, it could also be because I was sick, on meds, and had been doing some things outside that absolutely had to be done when I should have been resting. Who knows?)
No, I’m not framing up walls so they can move in to the house here. I’m building frames for the hives that need to go to the beeyard so they’ll be ready when the new bees arrive on Wednesday. I’ve been sick most of the week, which scuttled my plans to be building frames during that time and making sure the new setups were ready to go. Such is life, though.
I also did some cleanup of bee gear, which was rather unpleasant in some cases, as I’d let frames hang out in hive bodies on the driveway until I could get to them. And I never got to them, which is how this saga happens. Both wax moths and small hive beetles love it when you do this, because it allows them to go in, undisturbed by bees, and create messes in the unprotected frames.
You can’t really see it in this image, but when you open a hive and get hit with a sickly-sweet, rotting sugar kind of smell, you’ll know there have been wax moths and small hive beetles in the box. Then you pull out a frame.
This is web and cocoons of wax moths. They like the dark comb where brood have been, and will invade it if the hive is not strong enough to fight them off or – as in this case – the hive bodies are just sitting around outside, empty.
This is a closeup of some of the crap: some webbing and dead cocoons. The larvae will eat into the wood of the frames and the hive bodies. The moths will happily go right into the carveouts the larvae have done and lay more right in them. It’s a nasty business cleaning up damaged gear and sometimes just not worth it.
Some of the frames in the hive bodies had honey in them – good honey, not honey rendered worthless and useless by small hive beetles and THEIR larvae. The bees will find the good stuff, go to the frames, chew open the capped honey, and start transferring it back to their home hive. The bad honey that has (or had) small hive beetle infestations they will not take. We also do not take it: it goes in the trash.
All those open cells that make sort of a rainbow above the bottom middle have been painstakingly chewed open by the other bees in the yard, and their content transferred just as painstakingly back to their home hives. Here’s a closeup of how ragged it looks afterward.
The edges are jagged and you can see some of the cappings inside the cells. normally, were this just a frame of honey that for whatever reason we wanted them to take – in this case, we wanted the beeswax from this rainbow area, because it was lighter in color and that is what we want for our beeswax melting – we would wait for the girls to do their thing, then put the frame into a hive. The bees would then clean this up, taking out the debris and repairing the outer edges. This frame, though, had hive beetle-contaminated honey on the other side and was trashed. On this side, I scraped the wax off into the bucket where we hold our wax that is to be melted so it can be turned into whatever it will ultimately be (lip balm, candles, and so on).
I wound up making about 60 frames today, and between that and what I’d already done pre-sickness, we are now ready to give the newbees their spaces. I have a video of some of that process on my youtube channel, and I’ll put it here in a post tomorrow. There are videos dating back to a few years ago, before chronic pneumonia and hospitals became my besties.