Honeychick Homestead

Homestead, Health, and Happiness


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To Bee, or Not to Bee

 

The bees from Verbena colony finishing up a pollen patty this past October

The bees from Verbena colony finishing up a pollen patty just a couple of months ago.

Earlier this week, I experienced my saddest day as a beekeeper. About, ninety percent of my Verbena colony died. I found myself suddenly scrambling to keep the remaining bees alive! It was not a happy way to end my first year as a beekeeper  😦

Heading into winter, I thought Verbena would be my “strong” colony. I got this colony in April of last year, you can read more about their first day on the homestead here.

Before leaving for Germany for thymus and stem cell therapy, I left both colonies with enough food to last two weeks. When I got home in mid-October, they had eaten it all up, so I fed them more!

At the November bee guild meeting, the mentors suggested it was time to stop feeding so the colonies could reduce in size, just like they do nature. I was a bit nervous about doing this but figured the mentors knew more than a “new-bee” like me did.

The bee guild members, and several books I’ve read said that starvation, or mites are usually the cause of a new colony dying off during the winter. Another concern can be moisture inside the boxes, this can happen during our rainy, wet winters.

To help counteract moister entering the hive, they recommend slightly tilting the boxes of the colony forward so any water that entered would easily run out the front entrance. They also recommended building an “awning” to keep the colony dry.

My awesome husband got busy building a very sturdy, “awning” for each colony, and we had them on before any major rain hit our area. Here’s a picture of the colonies with their “awnings” on top of the boxes.  The bricks on top help keep it from being blown off during windy weather. Continue reading

Hive Check with Pictures of Lorde!

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Last Sunday I finally got the chance check my hive! This was my first time opening it since I removed the top feeder, and I really didn’t check much that time. I’ve been reading more about beekeeping, and one book recommended not disturbing the hive for more than ten minutes. Umm, that’s not much time for this newbee!

My goal for this hive check was to look for Lorde, make sure there weren’t any ants in the hive, check the brood, look for eggs, see how much comb they’d built, and feed them. Over all, things went well. My skills working with the hive are improving…I only killed two bees this time! Injuring, and killing bees is part of being a new beekeeper, at least that what the book said! I have to move much slower than I realized when removing, and replacing the hive boxes. Those boxes are already heavy, and they aren’t even full of honey!

There was lots going on in the hive, and thankfully there were no ants, or mites! I was surprised that very few bees had moved up to the top box, it was almost empty. I saw some eggs, and some capped brood. Capped brood have larvae in them, and soon new bees will hatch. There was also a little bit of honey, and possibly the start of a queen cell. I’m not really sure if that’s what it was. Next time I check the hive I’ll see if it’s still there.

Here’s pictures of the process, enjoy!

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Ant Attack!

My bees in Verbena colony are still alive, and they didn’t swarm while I was on vacation, YAY! I added another box before leaving, to make sure they had plenty of room. I also added an extra barrier method to make sure ants didn’t get into the hive. I put Tanglefoot on each leg of the hive stand, and I put it on the trunk of my fruit trees too.

Tanglefoot is a very sticky, organic product that is applied around tree trunks to help avoid insect infestation. Any insect that attempts to climb up the trunk gets caught in it. It must be reapplied periodically, so first I wrapped the legs and trunks of my trees with plastic wrap, then applied the Tanglefoot on top of the plastic wrap. This method will allow me to easily remove, and reapply the Tanglefoot.

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Busy Bees!

We are leaving for two weeks and I’ve been debating if I should add another hive box to Verbena. I asked the guild members, and most recommended checking the box. If it was 60-70% full several members recommended adding a box.

I decided it would be a good idea to check on them. The last thing I want is a swarm while I’m gone!  Yesterday was my first time I working with them alone. I took several deep breaths before approaching the hive, envisioned things going smoothly, and said a quick prayer of protection for me and the bees. Thankfully, everything went smooth, and I didn’t get stung! The most difficult part was removing the top feeder, that thing is HEAVY!

I’m trying to use very little smoke when working with them because they can become desensitized and its becomes less effective. I always have it ready to go, just in case. I have a soft bristle brush that I use to gently move them.

After I removed the top, feeder, and inner cover I was able to peek at the frames. They were at least 70% full, those bees have been busy! It’s amazing in three weeks, how much comb they’ve built. I didn’t remove any frames, or look for the queen because I didn’t want to disturb them more than necessary.

I added a new eight frames deep box to the top of the first one, and then replaced the parts I had removed.. Overall, I accomplished my goal, however, I did kill a few bees 😦 The top feeder was so heavy that I wasn’t able  to move as slow as I wanted before I had to set it down, and few bees were underneath. Once that feeder is empty, I’m going to use a different one that’s easier for me to handle.

I’m excited to check them out when I return. I’ll have more time, and my “assistant/photographer” will be able to help me look for Lorde. We’ll hopefully be able to see how many eggs she’s laid. There may even be new baby bees being born!


 

Releasing the Queen

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This weekend was another exciting one! I needed to check on “Lorde”, and make sure the bees in the colony were ready to have her released into the hive. If they were calm, and not biting her cage, that would be a sign it was safe to release her.

This would be the first time I opened the hive by myself. I was nervous! According to the beekeeping mentors, during the release the queen sometimes flies away, or is dropped, stepped on by accident, and killed. Thankfully, nothing like that happened! When we got her out of the cage, she went right into the hive….Success!

Of course, my super assistant/husband was there to photograph. He’s also agreed to be nearby while I handle the bees, until I’m 100% comfortable doing it myself. I’m extremely grateful for his support!

Now for the pictures! View the pictures →

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Quick Update on Verbena Colony

Things are “buzzing” around here 🙂 Here’s a quick update on what’s been happening since I shook the bees into their new home.

The next morning, the 100 or so bees that I couldn’t shake in were huddled together, trying to keep warm. It was about 46 degrees out, so I’m surprised they made it. I was also surprised that I stood right next to them, and not one moved. By that afternoon, those bees made their way out of the package, and into the hive. Continue reading

The Bees are here!

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Yesterday was a very exciting day, I introduced my bees to their new hive. I was a bit behind prepping, I thought they needed to hang out in their package for a week, before introducing them. When I picked them up I learned it should be done within 48 hours of picking them up. I was not ready for that! I spent most of Saturday working on another project, so Sunday was a mad dash to get everything ready. Thankfully, my very patient husband helped me put the comb into the frames, and we got it done within an hour. I was not able to paint the hive box, which helps it last longer. Oh well, the next box will get painted!

Overall, things went smooth. I didn’t get stung, and neither did my assistant and photographer (aka husband). I had lots of emotions while I got the queen out of the package, and shook the bees into the hive…nervousness, exhilaration, excitement, happiness, and scared, all at the same time!

While I was shaking them in, bees were flying all around me, and they were loud! After I got them in, I had to walk away for a minute, because I was starting to get nervous. I took a few deep breathes, and came back to finish up. Most of the night I had the buzzing sound in my head! View the pictures →

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