Tag Archives: bees

T-1 Day

Tomorrow is the Big Op!

My sister came down yesterday from NC, to help out with stuff at the ranch while I’m gone (and to ferry kids around, etc., while my other sister is at the hospital with me).

My instructions for tonight, per the pre-op package: shower, put on clean jammies, wait two hours, then wipe myself down with the chlorhexadine wipes. Go to bed on clean sheets. In the morning, by 0545, I have to pour the 50g carb-loading drink down the tube. There’s also another wipedown with the chlorhexadine wipes. Then into clean clothes and at the checkin by 0745, with the OR time at 0945. It’s like flying anywhere, except with a ton more rules about how clean you have to be.

I understand the need for it these days, but it still amuses me.

I have been recording myself saying various things, so I’ll have that in my own voice versus whatever comes out of my face after the Big Op.

People keep asking me if I’m ready for this. I don’t think anyone is really ready for this. But I am prepared.

Things have been getting done left and right here as we moved toward crunch time. Early this morning, I put the second coat of primer/sealant on the medium hive bodies I built yesterday, and got the first coat of exterior paint on them.  I cleaned out the chicken coop, moved it and the poultry fence to another area, got the girls (and Sir) into the new area, mowed down the pieces they didn’t clear all the way where they were, then went over the area they were in with the cultivator, and spread some cover crop seed. Then one of my sisters, her son, and I set up the grow bags for the sweet potato slips. I’m pouring dinner down the tube, and when I finish this, I will pop into my bee suit and go tot he beeyard to refill whoever needs feed. Later, I’ll put the second coat of exterior paint on the hive bodies and build some more frames so I’ll have enough frames to fill those (40 frames total; I built 20 yesterday).

So, yet another productive day at the ranch. Tomorrow, I’ll get to rest, albeit under general anesthesia. I have my laptop packed, so as soon as possible, I’ll be leeching off the hospital internet connection so I can work and play.

It’s going to be quite the ride, peeps, so buckle up. And be well.

Buckfast bees, part two

In our last discussion about Buckfast bees, I noted how calm they were for their installs. The bees had released the queens in three of the packages, and I released one (because I had neglected to remove the cork at the candy end). Last night – Saturday night as I write up this entry – they were are fine. They’d started to draw comb and fill it with syrup.

One of the reasons I wanted to test out Buckfasts is because they are said to be disinclined to swarm. In practice, however, of the four packages, three swarmed right out today at some point before 1 PM. And they didn’t just swarm: they swarmed out, found acceptable living quarters somewhere, and then all buzzed off there.

I opened up the first box (hive #3 in the beeyard) and it was just empty. I checked the hive two spots down (#5) and there were TONS of bees in there – far more bees than in a package. Major problem!

The bigger problem was that I could not find the queen in #5, as there were just way too many bees. And despite the fact that Buckfasts are supposed to be calmer, they were flying around everywhere, dipping in from time to time to hit my head.

I went around to the front of the hive, and there, on the ground, right in front of #5, is a marked queen. Well, lucky day! I picked her up and put her on top pf the frames of #5, figuring this must be their queen. She walked along, and some bees started coming to her, and I figured that was that.

Nope.

I happened to see some bees fanning by the edge of the hive stand, near some bricks I had placed there. I stuck my head down there and found the OTHER marked Buckfast queen, along with some of her crew. I managed to capture her in a queen carrier – which the bees cannot open – I had in my pocket.

I then looked up at the top of #5 and saw an absolute mountain of bees on the two middle frames. I pulled one out, and found the bees balling up the queen I’d put there. Oops, wrong hive for that queen – clearly she was the queen from #3 hive. I managed to get her freed from all but a couple of the worker bees, and put #5 queen (in her cage) back in.

Now, of course, I had a problem: a queen bee I was trying to protect from two persistent workers trying to kill her, and no queen cage. I grabbed up the empty queen cage she’d shipped in, managed to get her into it, and plugged the hole with my thumb.

With her secured, I moved about half the bees back to #3 from #5, went in the house to get another queen carrier, moved #3 into it, then took her back outside, put her between the frames again, and closed them both. My theory is that #3 tried to take over #5, and #5 just walked out on her hive, then #3 was probably kicked out. Thus, two queens on the ground, and not a whole lot of bees seemed to want to follow out of #5, for whatever reason.

I was pouring sweat by now because it was a toasty 90F with little to no breeze, but decided I’d better check the other two Buckfast hives to see if they were pulling any shenanigans.

Empty. Both of them. Not a bee to be found anywhere in, under, around the boxes, not on the ground or in any trees. They were just….gone.

(I started this on the 7th. It is the 8th when I’m finishing it.)

So, my experience with Buckfast bees is very, very different than what all the sites say is their general characteristics. I also learned via a little deeper searching that the second and third generations of buckfasts (that is, the daughter and granddaughter of the current queen) can be downright mean and aggressive. I’m not up for that. If these two hives stay – and today when I checked them after being at the NOC  all morning (sans breakfast and coffee, I might add) and they were just as chill as when I tried to get them in the hives when they arrived on the 2nd. We’ve had a big storm pass over us here this afternoon, and I’m kind of dreading going out to the yard tomorrow to see if they’re still there.

Bottom line: no more Buckfast bees at the ranch.

Rest day


It’s been a very busy week at the ranch: an employee on vacation, new bees arriving, someone hosing their server, planting out, along with all the other everyday, normal things that make life tick around here.

The server issue took about 40 hours to recover, plus another 10-ish to iron out little things – it was that bad, from an admin standpoint – so I’ve been running on less sleep than normal. That’s ok. In a couple of weeks I’l be taking a 6-8 nap during the daytime.

I’ve got the broccoli, some of the onions, and a flat of tomatoes out of the barn and into the rows. I intercropped onions and broccoli, and put some carrots (from seed) with the tomatoes. That leaves five flats in the barn and half a flat of onions and leeks hanging out in front garden south, awaiting their places. Plus the seeds I’ll sow directly (cukes) and the flats to start the melons so they can be set out (although I may very well just say screw it, and sow them directly, too).

The Buckfast bees – a variety new to me, as I’ve only had Italians to this point – seem to be super chill bees. They were not particularly bothered by much of anything I was doing, even when I had to shake the packages. Even at that point, some of them didn’t rocket out of the packages to come at me (bro!) and just stayed in the package, hanging out. I’m working on editing video of one of the installs to show that.

This morning, though, the week finally caught me. I was just too exhausted to do anything outside. It didn’t help that it was almost 90F today, and that being short on rest makes me queasy, which itself just piles on top of the queasiness I’m having when pouring food down the tube, which I think is a sign that the balloon has deflated, as it did last time. AND: we had our first heat index day.

This is the earliest date here at the ranch for a heat index day.

Now, though, it’s about an hour-ish until sundown, and it’s cooler (82F and with a light breeze as I type this) and I can hear some distant thunder – a forecast of rain that, as usual, passed us by. I feel much better after just doing some “real” work as needed, and resting inside. I’m thinking about popping out and putting the cuke seed and the zuke/squash seed in. That would be a couple fewer things that need to be done tomorrow.

Losing my voice in 26 days

I’ve started to record myself saying certain things – mainly to my dogs, today, as we were in and out working with some crazy bees and with transplants from the barn to the gardens.

The bee craziness is just plain weird. Both packages installed without issue, but the next day were both showing far more activity than they should have. It looked like some epic battling was going on in both. I know it couldn’t have been robbing, as they had nothing to rob.

I pulled the front feeder off both, put in an entrance reducer  on both, then put the feeder jars on top of the frames in the medium box. To cover the feeder, I put an empty deep box over them and closed them. A couple hours later, there was far less activity at the landing boards. Success!

Except: the next day, the first package (from this point on, noted as #1) and the second package (#2) were still being weird: both of them had bees lined up on the underside of the bottom boards. Because I use screened bottom boards, when they fan to distribute the queen’s pheromones, some of them were actually under the  hive.

What to do? Nothing to do except the (carefully) take apart the hive and clear the bottom of the boards of dead bees and shake the bees into their home (again).

Next day: go out, find #1 bees are clustering themselves from the inner cover, like a bunch of idiots who can’t tell they have food and a place to draw comb and go about their business. Add some deep frames to the deep body that is covering the food bottle.

Next day: mowing the property, and I take a swing by the beeyard, only to find the front of #2 hive covered in bees. Great: #1 has swarmed and landed on #2.

This was not the case, though: turns out, every bee in #2 was hanging on the outside of the box.  Put them all back in, close it up, call it a night.

Today: go back out to make sure they are continuing what they started. Alas, no. The #2 hive is completely empty. I look around the beeyard, and see a dark spot in a tree about 50′ away. There they were, hanging out. I positioned a box with some frames in it where I thought they would land, then pulled the branch toward me and gave it a single hard tug. I’m happy to say I got almost all of them in the first go, including the queen: the workers immediately started fanning like crazy, and some bees that landed outside the box started marching in.

That’s three times to hive this package. It’s supposed to be rainy the next couple of days, so that may keep them home, realizing this is a pretty damn fine place to be: a roof over their head, frames to build on, and food to eat.

Didn’t get any transplants in today, as it started raining while I was getting the girls back into a hive. I’ll have a video of that swarm retrieval up as soon as I can get some time to edit.

I hope those girls are still there tomorrow. It’s a shame to waste that much energy on something if it’s just going to leave or break.

As I type this, it is March 31, 2019. That means it is 26 days until I lose my voice.

Until next time, peeps: be well.

Losing your voice in 30 days

Last time, I talked about surprises. And I’m going to talk about it again here.

Based on my last visit to my ENT, my surgery would be sometime in May, because of the 6-8 week period that they had patients already slated. People with, I might add, actual cancer in their necks, unlike me and my personal juice-filled neck that wants to kill me in a different way.

Yesterday, the scheduler called, and the surgery has been set for April 25 – about a month before I figured everyone would be on the same page and in the same OR to slice open my neck (I’ve dubbed it N-day).

What this means for me is a giant acceleration of all the things I need to get done before going under the knife, since I’ll be recovering for at least a couple of weeks afterward and won’t be able to/feel like doing anything.

Yesterday, I got all the new blackberry roots into place, in the row on the east side near the driveway, and also in the eastern side of front garden north. The latter meant quite the battle with the wisteria that thinks it should invade the entire garden.

Today: I have five blueberries to get in place, and then it will be time to go samurai on the flats in the barn: everybody gets planted out, whether they’re entirely ready for it or not.

On Wednesday, I received two packages of bees (Italians). Amazingly enough, our postal driver actually delivered them – that’s not generally what they do out here, and I’ve always had to scoot over to our very small PO and pick up the packages no one wants to touch.

They installed well – as well as any other install – but there seemed to be a lot more than three pounds of bees in the second package, the installation video for which is right here:

I have less than a month to get more than a month’s worth of stuff done. Stay tuned.

Until next time, peeps: be well.

 

Workin’ at it

Had a bit of a chat with some of the fam about this upcoming next stage of my life, to make sure everyone knows what’s going on.  It isn’t the greatest news, but we’ll all get through it.

I spent a little time today learning about “passive yawning”, which is a technique used to smell – if you’re no longer breathing through your nose, guess what? No smelling for you! Now, I can certainly see instances where this is handy: cleaning the chicken coop, or not being able to smell the fart bombs my dogs generate. But, my sense of smell  is exceptional, and that will definitely be something I will miss. It looks like this technique will allow for some intentional olfactory response. Too bad there’s no real solution for subconscious continual response as there is for regular breathing. Bummer.

In other news, one  of the chickens managed to get herself out of the fenced pasture. I got her back in, then started looking around for an egg, because I didn’t know how long she had been out. It wasn’t terribly difficult to find that it had been long enough for her to miss her date with the nesting boxes in the coop.

Prior to that eggscapade, I had worked the bees, as it was a gorgeous day: warm enough for the bees to be flying, but not so warm that you’d melt inside your bee suit. I wound up splitting #10 (to #15), and #6, in a double split, to #1 and #20. Very nice.

Then, as evening closed in, I grabbed the pizza dough I’d made and rolled into balls yesterday out of the fridge and started stretching them. After that, it was into the oven for them for a parbake. From there, they are heading for  freezing until the fam and friend group has set a date to come over and have a pizza assembly party. For that party, we have a group of people handling various pieces of the construction: sauce, veggies, meats, cheese, etc. Once made, we will then vacuum pack those, et voila! Pizzas that can be pulled out of the freezer and go   right into the oven to bake for an easy, fast dinner.

And then: work work work. I’d created a todo list of some major items to get out of the way so I could write without having my brain yammer at me. That list is now the list I need to get done (or as much done as possible in some cases) before whenever the surgery date is. Before I go under the scalpel again, I have to get bloodwork done, have a couple of CTs, meet with the plastic surgeon so he can decide where to harvest the flap of skin that will be used for the primary surgery site, and so on. It’s going to be another medical adventure for me!

That’s it for today, which has turned into tomorrow as I put this together. As always, until next time, peeps: be well.

 

 

 

Wabbit season

No, it is not wabbit season. Or duck season. It’s bee season!

Spring is a busy time for managing bees – especially if you’re in a place where winter has never really arrived. In cases like that, the bees start ramping up their numbers fairly quickly, and that means we beekeepers will spend quite a lot of time on management. You’ll forgive me, I hope, for often rattling on about bees here in the blog.

I find it quite relaxing to just sit and watch the bees go about their business. That also allows you to get shots like this:

Look at the bee in the very center of this. She has been rooting around in flowers so much, she has pollen all over her, in addition to the pollen she has in the pollen baskets on her legs. That is true dedication.

“So what about that project you mentioned yesterday, Captain?”

That was the reason I was whacking yesterday (and how I took a stinger to the face): I was clearing a lane to lay out weedblock and pavers so I could move hive stands to that lane. Keeping the weeds and grass down under the hives is important, as it helps stop small hive beetles from getting back into a hive when they have been ejected by the bees.

That meant whacking down a lane, rolling out weedblock, hauling pavers to weight it, and then pinning it with landscape staples. It looks like this:

I plan to cover the rest of the weedblock with river stones, with diatomaceous earth under those. That way, the small hive beetles that fall through to the bottom will have  a not so great experience, all around.

After I pulled the stands up where the grass and weeds had chained them down, I cleaned them off and did some minor repairs on a few of them. Once done, I moved them over to sit on top of the weedblock. This should make everyone happy. Especially me, since I won’t have to whack down weeds under their stands, something that inevitably pisses them off.

What it looked like before I got the weedblock  down:

 

Today I got this finished before the rain finally came and dumped a half inch on us. Working, suited up and crawling around, in the heat took its toll and I am exhausted. So I’ll end this one here, and bid everyone a good evening.

Until next time, peeps: be well.

 

4 w

To split or not to split

No, I am not handing out tiny eviction notices to the bees, although some days, they make it difficult to coexist.

That is a bee stinger in the bridge of my nose.  I’ve been stung plenty of times, including just under one of my eyes, but I have to say that having a sting where it’s primarily cartilage hurts quite a bit more than the others I’ve had.

It’s amazing that something this small can be so painful.  I feel like I’ve been punched in the face. Between the sting and the walk back in from the beeyard, my nose was already swelling, as you can see there, and it took a little work to get the stinger out of my face. It’s still swelling, and it won’t be long before I can’t breathe out of my nose. Fun times with bees!

How’d I get stung? I foolishly thought – on an overcast kind of day – that my using the whacker to cut grass, etc., down to the dirt (for reasons I’ll make clear) would be fine without a suit, as I was well away from them.

Wrong. Clearly.

This is how it looks right now.

My eye is not swollen shut (yet),  but the color is creeping into it and I would not be surprised to find it that way in the morning. Or maybe I’ll get lucky and the swelling will go down ovenrnight. Who can say?

So what was I doing? Sorry, that will have to wait until tomorrow when I complete the project.

Until then, peeps: be well.

 

 

“Violet, You’re turning violet, Violet”

Ah, yes. Violet the gum chewer who did something stupid at Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory.

While I might not have a three course meal with blueberry pie in gum form, I do have blueberries here at the ranch. Well, potential blueberries.


One of the blueberry bushes is taller than me.

That’s fine, though. I’ll haul a ladder out to pick them if I have to.

We’ll be awash in berries in the very near future. They freeze extremely well, so we won’t lose any of the harvest. I need to prune these back in the fall. They’ve had a wee bit of lack of management over the past few years, for obvious reasons. The same goes for the blackberries and raspberries: their canes need to be cut back after this season. I also need to run another trellis wire on my posts to train those. one more thing on the todo list!

Speaking of todo lists, I have been putting a dent in mine. I transferred all the “work” work stuff into a journal, and I’m working on getting the other items transferred over.

The only thing on my lists I have not gotten to is the reading. By the time I finish doing the normal daily things and some of the items on the lists, I am dog tired. i’m falling asleep at my desk as I try to get this done, so time to wrap it up. Tomorrow is another day filled with possibility. Until next time, peeps: be well.

 

Spring cleaning

It is not yet spring here, if you go strictly by the calendar. If you go by the weather, however, Mother Nature is telling a far different tale.

This is not to say she won’t change her mind about bypassing winter entirely here. It’s possible she will bring some random freeze and drop it on our doorstep with the same pride a cat has when it brings a dead critter home. Our forecast for the next ten days, in fact, has a random evening with a forecast overnight temperature of 34F. This is mildly concerning to me, as I have directly sowed some things, and if they have germinated and are up, it is possible they could get zapped by a sustained freeze (or even frost, in at least one case).

I’m not going to worry about that, though – I can sow those same seeds again, as they are plentiful and cheap. I sowed them early because that allows me to get them out of the way of when transplant time comes. That’s a very busy time for me, both in the gardens and in the bees. Anything I can knock out of having to do then is a plus.

Right now that means weeding and cleaning out hives that are not in active use. I lost some colonies in 2018, and also have other gear that needs to be cleaned, so I got to it.

Hives to be tidied
Cleanup time!

 

One of the things that happens as you are recovering from a couple of years of constant pneumonia and being in and out of the hospital, and then a year of recovery from that,v is that some things miss the boat as far as getting done. This didn’t rank high on the list, and what happens is that wax moths will move in and start using brood comb for their grossness. I got a late start (in the afternoon, as the rain that was forecast never quite made it) and managed to get three stack done.

As part of that doneness, I picked out some of the larvae so the girls (and Sir) could have some nice extra (live!) protein in their diet.

They loved these. I’m sure I’ll have more for them as I move through the rest of the hives to clean them. The best thing is that when I give them food – this or other food – they transform it into eggs for my family.

The hive cleanup is one of the items on the bees section of attractions on Todo Lake, and while I did not get through all of them today, I got a start, and that is what matters. It isn’t always the doing that is the difficult part. The difficulty is in the starting. Then it’s just a matter of allowing momentum to take over to power through, as many of the things on my list are not things that can be done in one sitting.

Once I get the hives cleaned and the frames and foundation dealt with, I’ll need to repaint a few of these hive bodies. And then, these condos will be ready to be put back into service by some of the new bees I’m getting and from the splits I’m going to have to make from the existing hives, as they continue their population levels. Except for a few packages, the rest are varieties I’ve never had before: Russians, Buckfast, and Carniolan. It is going to be fun learning the traits of these newbees in my beeyard.

The other day, I pulled some weeds in the rear gardens as I continue the race against “No Winter”and schedule my transplants.

One row was infested with lesser swine cress. Nice rosette pattern. Deep taproot, though, so it’s a hard one to get out completely, and if you want it done well, you cannot half-ass it.

Even the baby ones have long roots.

 

Tomorrow – as long as the rain holds off, or at least whatever time I have before it arrives for a visit, I’ll be continuing my bee gear clean up adventure.

That’s it for today, peeps. Until next time:  be well.