Saturday, June 2, 2012

A Visit from the Reyers

When we first got started beekeeping in 2010, Jody Reyer welded our first bee stands.

These bee stands -- the prototypes of the current Back Saver Hive Stands made from aluminum -- will be on Bee Hill until the end of time. They are beyond solid.

When we went to visit them & discuss the design, Brittany was pregnant with their first child. We finally got to meet their sweet daughter on Memorial Day.

Brittany used to be an Extension Agent, but is now home raising her baby girl.

And about 2,500 tomato plants. Plus squash, zucchini, blackberries . . . you get the idea. The Reyers have started what Mississippians call "truck cropping" -- growing produce to sell from a truck or farm stand, or at the local farmers' market.

While in our neck of the woods, Mark called our neighbors, the Ellises of the Mayhew Tomato Farm. While AP and I stayed in the air-conditioned cool and played, Mark, Robert, and the Reyers went to the farm to pick Mel's brain about how to make a go of it in the tomato business. Mark said, "I think they could have stayed a couple more hours and Mel would have stuck with them -- he answered all their questions because you can tell they're smart, hard-working young people who want to do it right."

Thanks Mel, and thanks to Jody & Brittany for coming to visit!

Photo highlights:

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Our girls get the job done!

A few weeks ago, Mark got a call from a man who has a very interesting garden on the edge of Columbus. Bob grows tomatoes year-round, and he grows row upon row of cucumbers, squash and peppers in pots, all fed though a drip system of water that is exactly the pH he wants it to be and contains fertilizer.

Bob needed bees. He noticed he didn't have any pollinators visiting his squash and cucumber blooms, and if he didn't get some pollinators, his garden wouldn't produce. So Mark set up a hive, and on 5/27 we drove out to check on them. They're doing well, they're not aggressive, Bob's got cucumbers growing like crazy -- nice and straight -- and he has fallen in love with the bees.

"Where are my guards? Usually I have about 12 bees on the sides of the opening there," he said. "I come out and watch them, and I read they don't start work until 8 o'clock, but these will be up and working around 6!" he bragged. He was tickled with how hard our girls work!

Bob bought a book to learn more about the bees. He chatted about behaviors he's observed, how quickly they ate the sugar water he put out for them . . . all in the tone of voice I've heard in those of us who are engaged in this hot and perplexing task called beekeeping because we are fascinated with the insects.

I suspect that Bob is going to end up becoming a beekeeper himself.

Photo highlights:

Bob is at the end of the growing season for these tomatoes -- they were planted last July!

Yellow squash growing like crazy.

These bees are picture-perfect brood makers -- just the right pattern of brood with honey stored on the corners.

While Mark chatted with Bob, I watched the bees in the box.
 Thanks, Robert, for taking the photos!

An online seminar on how swarms choose a new home.

Linda's post links to author Tom Seeley's online seminar on his work studying "honeybee democracy."

You can see clear video of the famous waggle dance. You can also see video of bees piping the message, "ladies, warm up your flight muscles!"

It's a fascinating and easy-to-understand lesson on swarm behavior. It runs about an hour, which may seem long, but it's still shorter than reading his book. ;-)

Monday, May 28, 2012

Three hives for Prairie Wildlife

Remember Hattie?

Mark has been working with her bees to get them ready to move. On Friday night, 5/26, Mark and I went out to eat at Pop's BBQ in Columbus, sold 3 jars of honey while we were there, then went to Hattie's to move the bees. In the near dark, Mark stapled screens to the front entrance to keep the bees from flying out, and carried them to the truck. Lightning bugs kept me entertained while he dealt with the work!

Saturday morning we got up early and were on the road before 6 a.m. We drove to Prairie Wildlife, where Mark set out 2 hives, and newspaper-combined a third because it was queenless. (Well, Mark had killed the queen because these were some seriously aggressive bees.) It was a lovely sunrise, with mist rising off of the pond, ducks waddling in the road, and morning glories blushing in the early light. It was also lovely because we stopped at Hoover's Bakery afterward and got apple fritters.

Photo highlights:

Sunrise from the truck.

The pond in the morning mist.

This is the row of hives after Mark got done adding the new colonies.

This is a slatted bottom board before the oil trap slides in below. It gives the bees more room and air circulation during the hot summer.