Saturday, April 22, 2006

Night Hiving

I was feeding the bees late yesterday, so that the smell of the sugar water wouldn't start a robbing episode, where the forager bees get all excited and start invading other hives to steal honey, killing each other in the process. Robbing usually happens when there's a lack of adequate nectar, as there is right now, before the main clover bloom. While on my rounds with my 5 gallon buckets of sugar water, i spotted another swarm in the dogwood, So, I did my hiving in the dark routine and put them in the garden apiary. I'm hoping that this swarm was the Purvis queen that was marked blue. That hive was strong enough to swarm. If I'm unlucky, it was a swarm with one of those virgin queens I saw hatched out, and half the hive went with her, leaving a very weak hive behind. Sometimes when there are lots of unmated queens in a hive small swarms will leave with one or more of the virgins. Usually these don't survive. Even knowing this I couldn't kill those queens. I'm too soft to be a 'good' beekeeper. I'm sure I've lost at least 5 swarms this year alone, populating the woods with them. Maybe the survivors will be the beginning of a feral population.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Birthing Queens

I spent the day finishing up the driveway apiary, and found three more hives that had already swarmed. I foolishly thought that if they had enough room they'd stay put. No, these are Russians who swarm fast in the spring.

In one hive I saw several queen cells that had hatched, but there were at least a dozen more that hadn't. I could tell a couple were cutting themselves out, so I helped them. Light brownish with darker tips, like identical twins. So, I cut out about five to save for another hive, putting them in my little bucket. By the time I had gotten to the next frame of bees, and saw more queen cells I could hear the queens croaking, creaking, and quacking to each other, and making very high pitched buzzing sounds, like a plane getting ready to take off. They were all ready to hatch! So, I watched them come out, find each other, move away and get a deep draft of nectar from a cell, and run over the worker bees with their wings buzzing full tilt. In that hive they were all identically marked. I just sat there and watched. Some flew up and then landed, others ran down to the other side of the frame. I finally put that frame back and worked on the rest of the hive.

Each frame was similar. Finally, I looked into the bucket where I'd put the cells I'd cut out to make sure they were all OK, and they'd hatched, too. I found about three queens. When I was closing that hive up I kept finding queens wandering around, on the sides, in the grass, etc. No telling what I did to their impressionable minds.

I found three hives like that, made up a 5 frame medium nucleus with two new queens and a queen cell, three frames of almost hatching workers and pollen and a full frame of honey/nectar. I hope it takes.

Lottery Winner!

I won the manure lottery yesterday! We have a horse-training stable just down the road and I'd been slowing down to see if I could catch them outside and meet them. Of course, I wanted to know if they needed someone to haul away their manure.
Ohhhhh! Yes!!!! They have both bunkers full and a hillside that has been filled with aged stuff. RB is coming over tomorrow to look at it and plan how to move it. The stuff may be free, but the haulage isn't, especially with the price of fuel going up! I helped him buy his dump-trailer so he's glad to pay me back with its use. We'll use a front-end loader at both sites and do most of it in a day. I've promised a load to my brother in law and to my friend with the chickens. I also called a man for some straw and found that he has a mountain of old straw to give away. Unfortunately it's about 15 miles from here, so that will have to be later, when the press of Spring is gone.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Beeing in the Dark

I hived a small swarm last night in the dark. The glow from Farmville, 5 miles away helped. I spotted them at twilight on my way home from putting up a neighbor's chickens. They were just a dark blotch on a white dogwood and looked like a piece of trash that'd blown in. By the time I'd gathered my stuff and got back it was full dark. I found out a few things: Bees don't like to fly in the dark, but they will if pushed. When the branch bends down, the bees crawl up. Making sure you have the queen in the box is harder in the dark. Flashlights make the bees fly more, but do help. A branch full of bees is heavy, and a controlled fall may be all you can manage.
They eventually got into the deep I'd brought. I put them under the shed, closed them up with a feeder and went to bed. This morning I found most of them clustered on the front of the box. They'd gotten out, but couldn't get back in. I put them all in again and left the box open. They've stayed, and have half emptied the feeder.
I figured I'd better find the mother hive. I'd already set today as the bee working day, so I loaded up, and went looking. I found one in the driveway apiary that had about 3-4 hatched queen cells and 3+ unhatched. I opened a ripe-looking one and the biggest, sleekest, black queen walked out that I've ever seen. As big as a fully mated queen. I put that frame in a 5 frame deep nuc that I had almost full of honey, pollen and brood and will hope for the best. I hope the new queen of that hive looks as good as her sister. If the swarm came from there then it should have a marked queen.
I was surprised at the strength of a couple hives. One had 6+ medium frames and 4+ full deep frames of brood. In a couple weeks that hive will swarm. I gave them a super to draw out and expand into.

Saturday, April 15, 2006


Cliff Morrow's Blog about 'Farm Monopoly" got me thinking. What do I hope for from life:
Enough resources to sustain my family
Work that makes me glad to get up and satisfied when I go to bed
A stable environment that doesn't interfere with the above

Think about those things that you hope your life will give you. On your deathbed, what will you be glad you did, and what will you wish you could still do?

Are experiences, such as seeing the world, important to you? Is accumulating enough for retirement or leisure important, or are these necessities? What is the purpose of education: Brain food, a means of achievement, a way to find work? What gives you more satisfaction: internal or external things? How do your emotions affect your life: all consuming or just feedback? Is your life a voyage or is the destination more important? How does your family affect you (both nuclear and extended), are they just window dressing or the center of your life. When riding in a car (train, etc) do you look out or in?

Thursday, April 13, 2006


There's so much work to do in the Spring that I resent having to eat, sleep, or keep up with the daily tasks of living. The house is a mess, I'm losing weight (yea!), and drinking caffeine full time.

I worked the Garden Apiary yesterday: 8 hives, and looked at the hives BO gifted me (a nuc and a deep with a shallow of Honey and nectar). His large hive was not well behaved, but I found the queen, who was laying drones, and may be out of sperm, split them into 2 boxes and left one with a queen cup with an egg. Saw 2 Varroa on top of a drone larva, showed them to CC, who was helping so he'd know next time. We had to scratch out about a full frame of drone brood. I need to check back with that hive and see how she's doing. We saw some Varroa poop in the bottom of the drone cells, but most of the larvae were too young to pull. I figure they were going to supersede the queen shortly. I added a queen cell on a medium frame of mixed brood to the nucleus box and treated with Terramycin

The Garden girls looked OK, but I was chagrined to find EFB in 3 hives. Several had suspicious shotgun brood, so I treated them too. One was bad enough that I smelled it when I opened the top: that sweetish sour smell. The swarm bees had really nice brood patterns, but the 3rd generation queens from the Jester Russian lines are the weakest. I'll be happy to get the Purvis Gold line that I've ordered. I've asked to buy 10 nucs from BO to put them in.

The garden is disked, and laid up in rows. BG planted all the Cole crops, including about 72 broccoli. She'd like to have covered it with spun row cover, but that had to be shipped and got here late Tuesday. I'm hoping that we can risk planting out the tomatoes soon; if we cover them well to keep them warm. They are leggy, 18" tall, but the root systems aren't crowded yet. I've potted up almost all the larger plants, mostly peppers and tomatoes to give their roots room

The raised beds are full of Cole plants and peas, but we left 3 beds for tomatoes and will plant a row of tomatoes in cages in the field. I think there's room for 3 more raised beds. but 4'x6' this time.

I'm hoping to have a bunch of plants to donate to the Master Gardener's group for their Heart of Virginia sale on May 6th, so I've been working in the greenhouse seeding the little holed flats. Don't know if they'll be ready or not.

The diet is doing well, now that I've recovered from visiting DC and eating too much. It was fun for a while, & emphasized that I still have the old behavior lurking around.

The nieces' visit was a wonderful time. They are so nice to be around, so well behaved and responsive to guidance. My complements to their parents. SH started a blog, populating it with cute pets and composing her stories like a pro. At home she's been writing books for some time, so a blog is not surprising. Most of the time was outside, so we came in tired and only looked at the computer or TV after baths and dinner. We did eat some junky food, though. We took all our cans to the junkyard and used the money to buy pizzas.