Tag Archives: bee keeping

Homestead Update 4/16/2017

16 Apr

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I had some slopes on the Homestead that were starting to wash and develop the beginnings of gullies so I went to the Nursery and bought 1/2 of a pallet of Zoysia Sod.

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I used my Kubota tractor and disc to work and loosen the soil before laying the sod. Since then I have been watering the sod every day and it is supposed to rain several days in the coming week so I hope it takes hold. If this works out I plan on doing more of this next Spring because I have several spots with washes starting.

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The lettuce in the raised bed is doing really well. Sweet Thing picked a big mess to take to the in-laws for Easter dinner and I expect it will be delicious.

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Speaking of Sweet Thing, she has been working to straighten up and organize her sewing room. I noticed 5 different sewing machines over there and I asked her why she needed so many. She asked me how many woodworking saws I had so I just shut up and smiled!

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She really has everything neat and organized. Maybe I should ask her to come straighten out my workshop!

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On the bee keeping front, I caught my first ever cluster swarm. This lady called three weeks ago and said she had a swarm in a bush, but before I could get there the bees left. Then she called a few days ago about this swarm.

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The swarm was so low to the ground I couldn’t rake them into the box so I just reached into the swarm and pulled off several double handfuls of bees and dropped them into the box. Eventually the stragglers began to go into the opening on their own.

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After the cluster got smaller, I got brave and removed my glove and scooped up a handful of bees barehanded. That is a really strange feeling to have a hand full of bees, and not one single sting! I transferred them into a hive when I got home and now after 5 days they seem to be doing fine.

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I was out and about putting out my swarm traps and I noticed this shrub. There were many of them in this fence line and most of them had really pretty red flowers on them. I researched it and determined it is a native plant “Red Buckeye”. I think it will be suitable for naturalizing so I am going to dig up some of the smaller ones and replant them. Have any of you had any experience with this plant? And oh yeah, my swarm traps. I put out 22 traps, some of them have been out 3 weeks, some 2 weeks and some 1 week. I checked them all Friday and I had no bees. Skunked! 0 for 22. I still expect to capture several swarms and I’ll keep you posted.

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I hope all of you had a peaceful, blessed Easter. Keep prepping everyone!

Homestead Update 9/24/16

25 Sep

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I finally had a good rain on my garden area to bring up the turnip greens and deer browse I planted 2 weeks ago. I checked yesterday and it appears I’m going to have a good stand of greens to pick in a couple of weeks. I love some fresh winter greens! I found this good, heavy metal barrel on the side of the interstate. I’m not sure what it held, but the label said it was some sort of coating and sealer. It looks like it was full of thick, tan, rubberized paint. I might use this for collecting sawdust in my workshop. When I start working on a lot of wood working projects, that creates a lot of sawdust that I want to keep.

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I started feeding my bees with this 5 gallon community feeder. I know I am probably feeding bees from all over the area, but I haven’t had time to put the screened feeders on the hives, maybe next week. I lost another hive recently. The hive was fine two weeks ago, then I noticed a lack of activity yesterday. I opened the hive up and found no bees, and it was full of wax moth larvae. Nasty! I still had 15 swarm traps out because I couldn’t pick them up as I have been housebound. Well, I went out yesterday and picked up 6 of them and low and behold, there were bees in one of them. I brought them home and transferred them over, but they are really strange. I don’t think they have a queen. They have built 4 pieces of comb about 6 inches square, but there is nothing inside the cells, there is no honey, pollen, or brood. It will be interesting to see how long they last.

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These are some commercial hives beside a field I check each week. I know commercial bee keepers do things differently than us hobbyists, but these hives are on the north side of the tree line. These hives will be shaded all day long and the books say put your hives in the sun to help reduce small hive beetles. I have my hives in the sun and I always worry they are getting too hot. I have lots to learn about bees, I guess. Keep prepping everyone!

Homestead Update 8/27/16

28 Aug

I thought my psoriasis was getting much better until I went out to look at a cotton field and walked around for a couple of hours and got hot and sweaty.

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Now I have this red, itchy rash again! Oh well, I guess Sweet Thing was right, it is too soon to get out and work. Man, I hate it when she’s right!

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We were out looking at some cotton with a new disease for our area called Target Spot. If you look at picture closely, you can see a pile of leaves on the ground underneath the cotton plants. The leaves are supposed to still be on the plant, but the disease infected them and caused them to prematurely defoliate. That caused the cotton bolls to be underdeveloped and probably not be harvestable. There is really not a good cure for this disease, so that is just one more problem to worry with!

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I did manage to check my bee hives again, and they were doing quite well. We harvested 4 frames of honey and ended up with almost a gallon of honey. Sweet!

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My bees have been searching for water and I noticed them drinking out of this bucket I placed under the dripline of my barn. I use this water for watering my plants when the bucket catches some rain. I sliced some 1/4 inch slices of swimming pool noodles and placed the slices in the bucket for the bees to land on and get a drink. So far, they are not using the slices, they still land on the bucket and walk down the side to the water.

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I filled up this plastic tray with rocks and fresh water and they started drinking from it as well. I guess I am going to start feeding them sugar water again. I have been looking around for plants that might be blooming to provide forage for the bees and I see very little available. I guess we are in the late season dearth. Some of the fall plants such as Goldenrod will be blooming soon, but until then they could use some supplemental feeding I think.I promised myself I would take better care of my bees this year. Last year I neglected them due to beginners ignorance, and this year I was unable to tend to them for 8 weeks due to my allergic reaction and psoriasis. Well, even though I missed the summer caring for them, there is no reason to neglect them now. Hopefully next year will be the year they finally improve and excel. Until then, keep prepping everyone!

Homestead Update 6/25/16

26 Jun

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It has been so long since I posted anything I hardly know where to start. The picture above is what a good garden should look like, unfortunately it is not mine. I just grabbed one from the net to show what I hope to obtain someday. I do have my one raised bed that is looking very good, but now is the time of year to determine whether the raised bed gardening method is do-able. It is becoming very hot and dry so I will have to see how the bed holds up with the amount of irrigation I can apply to it.

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My longtime readers know I am a fan of Hostas. I recently received these Hostas in the mail. I was real leery of the condition these Hostas would arrive in, but they looked great! I ordered them from Hostasdirect.com and I have received one other order from them and it arrived perfectly as well.

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I planted them in pots and placed them under a tree. You might notice the two pots on the right seem to be empty. That is because they ARE empty! These pots are sitting on an 18 inch tall table, so the only thing I can figure is a squirrel got up there and ate them. Well, if it’s not slugs or Voles it is going to be squirrels. Just another reason to hate those filthy treerats!

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I’ve had another bad experience with my honeybees. I ended up with 7 swarms captured, but through my own neglect I lost one of them. I went out late one evening and picked up the trap then placed it atop the new hive where I intended to transfer it to. When I went out at 7:30 am to do the transfer, there was a passing, brief, pop-up thundershower occurring. I needed to go to work so I left, planning to be back by 10:00. It turned out to be 1:30 and when I opened the trap I was sick. Those bees were dead, suffocated from heat. I killed those bees plain and simple. Well, I will chalk it up to  a lesson learned. You can’t leave the traps out in the direct sun when the temperature is 85 degrees. That is making me wonder about my other hives sitting there in the full sun. I am definitely going to construct some wire vents to put on some of them when it really gets hot to check if they do better than the conventional hives.

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Two weeks ago, I developed a case of shingles. I had these red sores under my arm and running down my ribcage. I went to the doctor and got some medication for the problem. About one week after I started this round of medicine, I had a severe (and I do mean severe) allergic reaction to the drugs. The rash started out as whelps on my stomach and back and it has steadily gotten worse.

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Now I am covered with this rash, front and back, from my neck down to my knees. As you read this, I will be checked into the hospital receiving treatment, so I will update you on how this works out. Keep prepping everyone!

Honey Bees!

30 May

I want to do a quick post about my bees.

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This is what my best hive looked like yesterday. I have just been dying to get in there and split that hive before they swarmed again, but I just have not had time until today. Not only did I split the hive, we kept 3 frames of honey for ourselves, which was our first! Oh, and as I was looking through the frames, I actually found the queen! That is the first time I had a positive ID on her! That made me really paranoid, I VERY carefully put that frame back into the super and carefully put the next one beside it so I would not smash her. That would have been tragic because she seems to be a super egg layer!

 

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I don’t have an extractor so I used the scrape and crush method.

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We scraped 3 frames and ended up with just over 3 liters of honey. It seems to be a bit foamy after we screened it through a screen colander and a nylon mesh paint strainer. I’ll look in the morning to see how it looks then. Of course we had to sample the goods while we were working, and it was the best tasting honey the world has ever known!

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I also ended up with 2 quarts of this honey/wax mix. I don’t know what it is good for so I will just freeze it for now. I managed to transfer two hives that I caught in my swarm traps, and I have 4 more swarms trapped that I am sure about. I need to get them this week if at all possible.

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This trap had a swarm for at least 2 weeks before I brought it in. The trap was so heavy, I had trouble lifting it. When I opened it, I found lots of bees and lots and lots of brood. I put them in a hive and immediately gave them another empty super to build in. I am going to keep a better check on this hive than I did my other hives last year.

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This is one of my traps that ended up on the ground because the limb holding it up broke. When I discovered it, I had my ATV in the back of my truck so I had nowhere to put it. I moved it to the side of the field and came back in two weeks to pick it up. Low and behold, it had a swarm of bees in it! It was sitting on the ground, the entrance hole about 4 inches off of the ground, facing North. I guess those bees didn’t read the bee manual! Keep prepping everyone!

Homestead Update 5/1/2016

1 May

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Well, it looks like we are going to be keeping Brandy after all. You look at this picture and say “Ah, Isn’t she a sweety.” No, she is not! She is so bad! I know why she was dumped. She bites and chews on everything, including our fingers. I understand that is partly from being a puppy, and partly from being a Terrier. We are trying to break her of the habit, I hope we make progress soon, I can’t stand to loose much more blood. We are also working on house breaking her and we are probably 80% there. Hopefully we will be 100% very soon.

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I had to work on getting my parent’s house ready for them to move in, and we are almost there. This is the dining room after I added the beadboard and trim. I think it looks pretty good.

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I was looking at my deer browse area in the back of the property and saw a lot of bees working the blooms. As I was watching that clover I noticed lots of Bumble Bees feeding there.

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As I was out working, I saw this field, probably 80 acres, just covered in some sort of Winter crop which was blooming heavily. I sure wished this field was closer to my hives, they could do a lot of foraging there!

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I saw a recipe in a newspaper that looked interesting, so Sweet Thing fixed it for me. This is a mix of Jalapenos, red and orange bell peppers, with a clove of garlic all steeped in a mixture of vinegar and sugar. Man that stuff is good! I could eat this every day! Keep prepping everyone!

Swarm Traps!

20 Mar

I would like to welcome my newest follower, Jon. Jon has his own blog detailing his Journey To Homesteading, and his interest in honey bees. Go check him out at The Sweet Beeness. Jon asked for some details on my swarm traps so I will answer him here.

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I make my traps out of 8 frame deep supers. That seems to be the proper volume to attract bees. I started out just nailing a piece of plywood on to the bottom of the super, but I came up with an idea. Normally, when you transfer a captured swarm to a hive, you take the top off of the trap. Then you pull the frames out and transfer them to the hive, all the while, bees are swirling all around in the air. After the frames have been transferred, you will still have a bunch of bees in the bottom of the trap which you will have to try to shake out into the hive. I thought there might be a better way. I thought if I had an easily removable bottom on the trap, I could just remove the bottom and set the whole trap onto a bottom board and they would be transferred in a matter of seconds without even opening the top. But how to do this?

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I thought I might make a similar bottom like I use for the top. But no, that wouldn’t work well. Anytime it rained, the water would run down the sides and collect in the bottom of the hive.

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Then I thought, what if I made the frame for the bottom fit inside the trap instead of the outside? It would be almost rain proof and I could just take out two screws to remove the bottom. I made five of the traps like this so I will see how it works out.

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Oh, I made these 5 traps out of 1X12s that I did not rip down to the proper size to be a deep super. My box is an inch and a half deeper than a super. I needed the extra space so my deep frames will fit inside with the bottom attached. The only real negative I can think of is the bees might not like that extra space after I set the trap onto a bottom board. The old Beeks in my bee club are interested in my idea and they think the bees will just draw out a little bit of comb hanging from the bottom of the frames. That shouldn’t be a problem since these frames will be brood frames and won’t go into an extractor.

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This is a picture of one of my traps hanging in a tree about 15 feet high. I put out four traps today while the temperature was 40 degrees with a 20 MPH wind. I even saw a few flakes of snow flitting by! That sure doesn’t seem like swarm weather does it? Well, last week we had temps in the 80s! I have 15 traps to put out, so I need to get started because it will take a couple of days to get it done. Oh yeah, my two surviving hives are doing really well. Last week I went through them frame by frame. As a matter of fact, one of the hives was so strong I did a walk-away split. I don’t know how it will work out but I thought if it will ever work it should be now because that hive was so strong.

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I made this 5 gallon pail feeder last week and it is working really well. I drilled holes all around the bucket so that the little indentions around the top will hold the sugar water when you invert the bucket. The capillary pressure keeps it from spilling out just as it does with a jar feeder with holes punched in the lid. I have some other topics to discuss but I will save that for later. Keep prepping everyone!