Tag Archives: beekeeping

Heading for a Fall

We may finally be heading toward fall here at the ranch.

The maples have discarded most of their leaves, the water oaks are following suit,  and the wind from the north carries with it the promise of our little piece of the planet cooling down just a tad.

(Two days later…)

Our forecast stands, thankfully: cooler weather will definitely help me get the gardens pruned back of weeds and covered for the next few months. And by “me”, I mean I’ll be pulling weeds and my sister will be putting the weedblock down. She hates weeding. And that’s okay, since I’m having her do the heavy lifting – I’ve done something to my shoulder and either damaged my rotator cuff or the labrum. I’m leaning more toward the rotator cuff, because of the clicking and popping and it hurts pretty damned badly to raise my arm. My right arm, I should clarify: my good arm, since the surgery from the (fuck you, cancer!) cancer removed muscle and nerve tissue from my left arm and while I can carry stuff with that arm, mostly, I can’t raise it up over my head like a normal person would. So, two damaged arms. One from surgery. The other probably from throwing the ball for the puppy without being warmed up sufficiently each round. The round where it popped was apparently the one that was trying to my attention and tell me to stop doing the stupid thing.

Cooler weather also brings in the time for making (which sounds like something out of  fantasy novel, and who knows, that may very well be somewhere in the fantasy trilogy that’s bouncing around in my head). I can make a huge batch of hot sauce made from tabascos – obviously I can’t just call it “tabasco sauce”, since McIlhenny would probably sue me to death, so I need a name for it. But that’s a thing that needs to be done with all the windows open and fans going, and I still have to wear a mask while making it. The upside is that once made and stored properly, it will not lose a lot of flavor as it ages. It won’t go bad – there’s just vinegar, salt, and tabascos in it, so it’s by far the simplest thing I make as far as processing the harvest goes. But if it’s stored in a warm, hot place, it can lose some flavor.

The other item: some more coffee roasting. We’ve decided that really does have to be done outside, because some of the roasts are darker – I made an absolutely miller batch of columbian/sumatran been mix, roasted dark – but it does smoke a little, making the smoke alarms go off, and the whole house smells like a coffee processing outfit. The latter is not so bad, but the former is annoying. Since the weather is agreeable, I’ll be roasting up some combinations for my taste testers to do some trials. I did a medium roast on some Indonesian beans that my mom really liked, so that will also be on the agenda. Want some? Drop me a comment here, or drop me a note via email (clients: in a ticket is fine, it will reach me). It won’t be packaged in anything fancy, like an actual coffee bag, but we will vacuum pack it. Specify whole beans or ground – I recommend whole bean if you have a grinder, as whole beans retain their flavor longer than ground, but the ground version won’t be so much that you can’t drink it in a timely manner.

Meanwhile, in the beeyard, the swarm I caught last season swarmed away, and one of the new hives had to have killed the queen, made a new one, and absconded. In the newer hives, the queens have one wing clipped so they can’t go anywhere. And since I’ve been ill pretty much constantly this year, including three times in the hospital, I’ve not been able to pay attention to them as I would have liked. But, I did get out there the other day, and did a few quick inspections. Most of the boxes are bursting with bees (yes, I do like some alliteration), with one that’s straggling pretty badly, and I’m thinking that next season I’m probably going to have to commit some regicide and put a new queen in that box.

I also picked up, courtesy of the vast intarwebz, an idea for controlling small hive beetles. These little assholes get into the hives, poop everywhere, go through the comb, ruining the comb AND the honey in it, and are generally a royal pain in the ass. Specialty food/bar prep towels, cut in squares, and laid on the two back edges between two hive bodies has done more to keep the small hive beetles under control than any other non-chemical way I’ve used. The towels are thicker than usual paper towels, and have some tufting to them. The bees will pick at it, because it’s a foreign item in the hive and they want to clean it up and get it out, but more importantly, bees herd the beetles into corners on their own. When they do that without anything in place, the beetles are still alive and they will break themselves out when the beekeeper removes a frame. With these towels in place, the beetles get stuck, very much like velcro, because they have barbs on their legs. Leave the towels in for a couple of weeks, and then change them out for a fesh set. I thought I had a photo of some of the beetles caught in a couple of the hives I tried it in, but I can’t find that, so I’l just take some new pics on my visit to the beeyard tomorrow. I’ll be inspecting a few more hives, feeding the ones who need it, and generally getting them ready for “winter”, such as it is here.

Enough of the almost all word dump that doesn’t even do justice to anything. Until next time, peeps: be well.

It isn’t the heat

It’s the humidity. And also bee swarms that emerge from a brand new package installation because there was a queen in the bees the provider shook into the box in addition to the (marked) queen they put in the cage. What’s the big deal, you ask?

Like the Highlander, there can be only one. Either the bees, happy with the original, unmarked queen will free the marked queen and then kill her, or they will free her and the other queen will take a bunch of bees with her and swarm out.

The latter is what happened today: a very humid, extended round of wrangling to get that swarm out of a tree branch about 10-12 feet off the ground. In the end, I wound up simply lopping the branch as trying to shake them from that height was not working after a couple of tries. After cutting the branch and setting it on the hive I’d set up, I left them for a bit, to calm down and get themselves sorted. There were a handful of bees flying around where the branch had been, looking for their landing site.

I gave them about ten minutes or so, went back out, and managed to find the queen in the box. Hooray! Now, the question is: will they stay? That question is unlikely to be answered today, as it’s overcast and we’re on our way toward dusk. The other question, which also will not be answered today because the couple hours spent working on that swarm in our humidity sapped me of everything I had left in the tank – no lunch in that tank, either – is to determine where the original marked and caged queen is in the hive from which that swarm emerged. Both questions can and by necessity will have to wait until the morning.

Thinking of keeping bees? Think on it deliberately, and don’t make an instant decision. It isn’t for everyone.

Bee checkup

I went out in the bees today, to swap out the feeders on the new hives and to make sure they’d released their queens.

Empty queen cage May 2013

 

All three had broken the queen out of her cage, and I found the queen in all three. The weakest hive, in which I had put a frame of brood and honey from an existing hive, had queen cells on the bottom, which I’m guessing they started before the caged queen was released, not understanding that they had a queen already. Since the new queen is young and strong, if any of those cells do produce a queen, the existing (and now released) queen should be able to take her out. Survival of the fittest! All three have begun to drawn comb, and the first two are storing pollen.

Comb and pollen May 2013

This  is the queen from the first packaged hive – she’s the one with the red dot on her back, just to the left of center. She was busily making her way around the frames.

Queen bee May 2013

None of the queens are laying yet, as there isn’t anywhere for them to lay until the worker bees get a bit more done. For now, I’m happy with their progress, and happier that the third hive looks like it will make it.