Friday, April 22, 2011

Bee Hill on Tuesday

In addition to driving all over, Mark went out to Bee Hill to check on a couple of hives. He was dismayed to see the vast swarm he'd added to Hive 4 covering the outside of the hive boxes. He called MSU Extension Service and talked to Audrey Berry, the new entomologist who said sometimes swarms don't like their new homes and will just swarm off.  He talked to Harry Fulton, who said if Mark would put a frame of brood in there from another hive, they'd stay to take care of the baby bees.  After watching them for a while, Mark decided they were probably just hot, and hadn't chewed through the newspaper to access the lower deep box.

Since the stormy weather and flooding, we haven't been able to get back there, so we don't know if they stayed or left.

Mark checked Hive 1, which we'd though was queenless after they'd swarmed.  He found a queen in the second box, but still no sign of eggs.  He thinks she may be new, so he's going to give her a few more days to start laying.

On Wednesday, Mark drove to Alabama to pick up more equipment (lids, oil trap bottom boards, and feeder boards) from Green Beehives.

Swarms, Trap-Outs, and Combining Hives

Tuesday when I got home from work, Mark told me to hurry and change, and to grab a notebook because we had bee work to do.  We jumped in the truck, Andrew joined us, and off we went to New Hope.

As we drove, I took notes on his day.

1. The porch hive was moved to Harley's place.  Interestingly, we were unable to move them the night before because it was so hot they were bearding on the outside and fanning to keep the temperature down inside the hive.  Early Tuesday morning they were still outside, so Mark smoked them in, put on a vented entrance closer, and drove them out to Steens. He added a deep super, a feeder board with feeder, and oil. Their population is good and we'll check on them this weekend to see if they need more feed.

2. At the Barhams', he added a medium and removed the feeder from BB1, added feed to BB2 and saw the queen and eggs so hopefully their population will soon increase.

3. As for BB3, they got a healthy new dose of bees and hopefully a queen, thanks to a swarm call.  Jeff, "the big friendly guy" in New Hope had some bees move into the soffit on his house that day. Since it was rotten, he allowed Mark to tear it out to get to the bees.  He observed from his truck and was really interested in the entire process.  Thanks, Jeff, for the bees!

Mark took the bees, and had to wrestle newspaper in the wind so he could put the new bees on top of BB3.  "The lesson for the day is that wind + newspaper + being alone = need staple gun."  Fortunately he had one in the truck, but I would have loved to have gotten pictures of that process!

4. Our top bar hive caller from Monday night lives in New Hope, so Mark stopped by to see him.  He gave us the top bar hive he'd built!  Thanks, Mr. McGarity!

5. The other task of the day was a trap-out in a tree. Mrs. Beatty wanted the bees removed as she was afraid her great grandchildren might get stung.  She has a glorious backyard people called "Beatty Park" back in the day, and a feisty wienie dog.  Mark built a platform and funnel, and left.

That brings us up to the time we were all headed to New Hope. A family had bees in the upstairs wall of their house, but there was no good way to get to them either from the outside (siding) or the inside, so we were unable to rescue them.

Since we were out, we decided to visit the Barhams' Bee yard and Mrs. Beatty to check on them and see how everything was going.

At Barhams', the two sets of bees seemed to be flying out of their respective entrances. Their job is to chew through the newspaper, and in the time that takes, get used to one another. We hope the downstairs bees will accept the upstairs queen (if she's there) and we won't have to requeen.

At Mrs. Beatty's the weight of the bees trying to get into their tree home was so heavy it crushed the funnel.  Mrs. Beatty reminds me of my dear granny, who happened to turn 91 on the same day I met Mrs. Beatty!  (As an aside, we're not sure if these bees are going to make it. Mark visited them on Thursday, after the tornado/hail/straight line wind/thunderstorm episode on Wednesday.  They were still hanging on the funnel, soaked and cold.  He moved as many as he could into the hive and added a feeder. We'll see how they are tomorrow, after a day or two of better weather.)

So many bees!
She could be my granny's twin.  So sweet!

This is about the time Mark pointed out I'd stepped in dog poop.

Monday, April 18, 2011

A Day of Calls

Mark has had a busy day of bee work, due in part to yesterday's editorial. We've heard from neighbors who have bees in the wall of their house, an older lady who had bees congregating on the back wall of her house, and one of the county supervisors who had a swarm in a tree in his yard.

When they got there, they saw immediately that there were *a lot* of bees, relatively high up.

The box containing the swarm of bees.
Andrew is not fond of bees. Thus, there aren't any pictures of the process of capturing the swarm. Mark said he tried his best, but wasn't able to get all of the bees.  Even so, he thinks the swarm likely weighed five pounds total, and he got a majority of them.

Mark called me to talk through what to do, and we decided to try to combine this vast new swarm with Hive 4, which has struggled for a while. We've been unable to locate a queen close enough to the route Mark plans to take to pick up equipment, so this will -- if he was able to capture the queen -- get Hive 4 up and going again. To learn about combining hives using the newspaper method and bees' ability to shape wood, visit The Peace Bee Farmer.

Don't let this small number of bees fool you.

The box is full of them.

Mark sprayed them with sugar water to prevent them from flying off and ease their transition into the hive body. Obviously a few escaped!

Here is the final shot of the super.  "There were bees filling up half of the cavity where the frames go, they were so deep," Mark said.

As for the other calls, Mark said he and Andrew arrived in time to hear such loud buzzing he figured the entire backyard was filled with bees. When they got around the house, the air was full of bees in flight, swirling around a fruit tree. Then they began flying toward the woods. "The scout bees had decided on the colony's new home. We saw bees in a stream a quarter of a mile long, across the pasture. If we'd been there thirty minutes earlier we would have had a second swarm," Mark said.

He also looked at the hives at Barhams' Bee Yard.  The Kudoz bees (BB2) are doing well, though their population is small.  He saw the queen and eggs, so they'll be fine.  BB3, from the white oak tree, is queenless. No eggs. BB1 has filled the medium we added, and we need to add another super.

Tonight we're going to move the bees who have been on the porch.  Bees have to be moved at night when they've all come home, so that you have the entire colony. They came from a peach tree in Brooksville and have done very well. They'll be the first bees in our third bee yard, at the home of the Barhams' friend Mr. Harley.

Mark mixed up some bee tea, and soon we'll hit the road. Interestingly, he's on the phone with a gentleman who has built a top-bar hive he's interested in showing us. I've wanted to try a top-bar hive out by the garden, so we'll see if we try this free-form comb approach.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

We made the local paper!

Birney Imes wrote about us in today's editorial of The Commercial Dispatch. He included the blog URL, so if you're here as a result of the editorial, thanks for stopping by and welcome!

Here is a picture of Mark holding a frame with some capped honey -- we hope to harvest in May or early June, leaving the frames with brood and honey for the bees.

Growing More than Bees

On Thursday, Mark bought plants at the MSU Horticulture Club's annual plant sale. He found a helpful student who sold him everything from pineapple sage to a t-shirt for me.  We got up Saturday morning ready to plant. The only remnant of last year's herbs is sage. The mixture of basil seed I planted has sprouted.  I love seeing new life push its way through the soil!

Considering the dog ate the first parsley I'd planted (purchased at the Everything Garden expo), I opted to put the parsley in a raised bed far from the porch where he likes to hang out with Sarah.  Let's hope cilantro and lemon basil are less to his liking!

Out in the raised beds, we planted salad tomatoes (a sister to the one already planted, but the greenhouse resident already had small fruit growing on it!), Early Treat and Better Boy tomatoes, okra, and zucchini. I'm sure this photo documents the last time the entirety of both zucchini plants will fit in the same photograph.

We also planted some flowers designed to make pollinators happy, including lantana.  I attempted to transplant some borage seedlings, but today they're looking limp and distressed. Time will tell. Bees are supposed to love borage blossoms, so I hope these survive!

What are you planting this spring?