Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The house swarms! and then this years nuc! Free bees!

Monday the house hive swarmed. 
We saw them just as they gathered together. 
16' up

I made 3 trips up the ladder.

I didn't count all of them, but it seemed like a lot of bees at the time. Probably half the size of the barn wall swarm last year that I was sorry I didn't have the knowledge or equipment to catch and hive them. That's what got me into bee keeping. Joined the club, took the class, and read everything I could all winter. Now I'm at the stage where I'm really good at thinking I know what I'm doing, and then when I go into the hive, I realize I don't really. In any case, somehow I fumbled around and managed to get them into a deep, while squishing numerous bees when the box slipped out of my hand, the queen somehow survived my assault and decided to stay. Lesson #1: Using an extra box to shake them into doesn't work well with a swarm. They just want to climb up into it.

While I was starting to write this today, the nuc-hive swarmed.

A couple of days ago when the rain stopped.
Just like the other swarm, we watched them starting to clump up.
 Guess I was feeding them too much & not keeping a close eye inside. I installed it about eight weeks ago, and thought it was to soon & they would freeze, but they made it.  However, I am pleased that they did swarm. One more free hive.. They all landed in a small plum tree about 8” up.

 In the meantime, I scrambled around making up 10 wired frames of foundation for this hive. The last swarm I made 8 top bars and 2 foundation & leveled it really well because I’m hoping they may want to make small cells as they are feral and the hive has been active for 30 or 40 years.. Of course I didn't have a top or bottom board made yet, so that was next. The bottom board is not screened as it was a quickie. Naturally this happened the day my #8 screen arrived at the hardware store. The top is temporary and is just a inner cover & an empty deep on top with a couple of 1qt. feeders inside. This time I just pulled the some of the center frames out and I dumped them in the hive and waited to see what happened.

 In about 30 minutes there were still lots of bees outside the box. I saw a clump of bees on the sheet in front of the hive and am pretty sure I saw the queen. I picked her up & she flew out of my hand, to return shortly & land on the frame I set on the ground for them to use as a ladder. She went in & everyone soon followed. This is the first time I've seen one of my queens! Now I have four hives! & of course the two in the buildings. I hope the barn hive doesn't swarm right away, I‘m way not ready. Last year it was a really big swarm, maybe too big for my 5 frame nuc?

The barn bees I missed,  maybe 12' up.

                                            Later, we went through the over-wintered hive.

It was in good shape with lots of bees and no sign of queen cells. I scrapped off a lot of burr comb.

 We found the queen, in the second to the last frame in the bottom deep. I think they know you are coming and the survival instinct kicks in & they run away. At least it seems that way. Plenty of honey & the workers were cleaning up the super of drawn comb we added last week. They hadn't drawn out comb on the five new frames of foundation we replaced in the bottom deep. It replaced some old black, crappy comb and frames. I'm wondering if I should switch the bottom deep with the top. This is the hive we were given last August that wasn't supposed to have any bees in it. It did, as well as about the same number of ants. I am kind of surprised they survived the winter. They had very little honey & a small population. I didn't know any better and didn't have feeders much less even know how to mix the sugar-water, so I just dumped several pounds of sugar on the inner cover. Evidently it was enough. Ignorance is bliss as they say. Which brings up the fact that the internet has been out since about 10:00am today and I never noticed it. Bliss I tell you! It's been an exciting two days.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Camera fun

I just received a present! A 105mm f/2.8G ED-IF AF-S VR Micro-Nikkor Lens. The bees will have no peace for a while! It seems to work jut fine on my old obsolete D80. Click as usual to enlarge.

While waiting, I played with my old manual 55mm micro-nikkor.

I got the email an hour ago that it was in the box at the gate. The UPS guy is to lazy to drive to the house from the gate, or possibly afraid of friendly cows. Just then the rain stopped & Theresa got this next shot with the point & shoot Canon.

An omen?
The new lens is incredibly sharp judging from shots I've been taking of everything from the carpet to the dust on my keyboard. Maybe there will be a sun break tomorrow & the bees will be back out.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Dangerous duck feet! A new farm hazard.

Just in case you missed this!  I will refrain from making the obvious puns. 

ESTACADA, Ore. – A Washington woman said she was attacked by a duck with “abnormally dangerous propensities” and is seeking $275,000 in damages, according to court documents obtained by
Cynthia Ruddell said she fell down while trying to escape from the dangerous duck, injuring her right wrist and rotator cuff, according to documents filed with Clackamas County civil court.
Ruddell was leaving her motor home parked on land in Estacada owned by her mother when a duck owned by Lolita Rose assailed her, documents said.
The filing, prepared by attorney Gregory Price of Vancouver, said Rose needlessly endangered the public when she failed to maintain control of her animal, failed to keep her duck on her own property and failed to warn neighbors of “her duck’s dangerous propensity” to attack people.
Ruddell is seeking damages of $275,000 for medical expenses, “pain, suffering, inconvenience, humiliation” and interference with her normal activities that resulted from the accident.
Rose was responsible for Ruddell’s injuries and should have known she had an “abnormally dangerous” duck, documents said.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014


Did you catch the NPR show that showed the “by hand” pollination industry that is in use in many parts of China?  Silence of The Bees? Pesticides and mono-culture of crops has killed off all the natural pollinators and they are collecting pollen and hand pollinating fruit trees. The conclusion was that despite the low cost of labor, they weren't doing very well compared to before, with the native pollinators. 
In the UK, for example, recent studies suggest that about one-third of pollination is delivered by honeybees, the rest being carried out by a range of wild insects. These animals need undisturbed places to nest, and flowers to feed on when the crops are not flowering. 
However, bee diversity has declined markedly in Europe, with many species disappearing from much of their former range, and some species going extinct. The UK alone has lost three species of native bumblebee, and six more are listed as endangered. Four bumblebee species have gone extinct from the whole of Europe, and there is good evidence for similar declines in North America and China.   

Unbridled industrialization with almost no environmental regulation has resulted in the toxic contamination of one-fifth of China's farmland, the Communist Party has acknowledged for the first time.
The report, issued by the ministries of Environmental Protection and Land and Resources, says 16.1 percent of the country's soil in general and 19.4 percent of its farmland is polluted with toxic heavy metals such as cadmium, nickel and arsenic. It was based on a soil survey of more than 2.4 million square miles of land across China, spanning a period from April 2005 until December 2013. It excluded special administrative regions Hong Kong and Macau.
In a dire assessment, the report declares: "The overall condition of the Chinese soil allows no optimism."
I guess we don’t have it so bad in comparison. As irrational as the EPA often is, China shows what can happen without any regulation.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Giving the girls in the new hive more room.

The 10th frame with comb drawn and one side filled with uncapped honey and pollen. Time to add another brood box.
The new hive stand from salvaged deck wood from my friend Jake, and left over paint from my house. Room for another. I built it so that a frame will hang between the outer boards when inspecting a hive.

Ok. at the least, I need to lose the gloves. I don't think a single bee landed on me. These girls are really gentle and with my arthritis I could probably use a few stings.

I have another hive ready for this stand when the feral bees in the barn wall swarm and with a little luck they will be as easy to reach as last year.
The overwintered hive is already two deeps and they are very busy. The pears are almost finished blossoming, but now the apples are in bloom. There are also lots of wildflowers. Wild strawberries carpet the hills and the camas is starting to bloom. All four hives were raking in the bounty today. I left some 1:1 on the hives to be safe, as they are making lots of brood and it looks like a week of rain coming up.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

The “chicken corsage”

I think the world is ending sooner than we thought.
It’s a corsage made of flowers and fried chicken.  This is a real product. 
The video is worth watching It's hard to believe this is not just a joke.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Frogs and Bees

(not a photo of the actual fungicide)

Ok. This isn't really a joke.
Researchers at my alma mater, the University of South Florida, recently found that the fungicide chlorothalonil, in the same family as DDT, killed almost 90% of the frogs exposed to it. They tested several species of frogs, and all had the same reaction. They are now testing the chemical's mortality rate for other organisms, including bees.

The link is here.

That frogs are in decline and have been for some time is a well known fact. They have been compared to the "canary in the mine shaft" as an indicator of a healthy ecology. It will be interesting to see what further study reveals and if there is a honey bee connection..

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Getting frames together for the bees!

Lots of ends, tops, and bottoms for the frames

First on the list was to build a jig for putting frames together. I built a couple the hard way one at a time and I could see this was going to get really boring very fast.

Some of you that understand these things may notice that the slots are in the wrong place. The frames are wider than that! A brighter lad than me might have made it square, then it wouldn't have mattered.  This is a result of thinking that I really don't need to draw this out on paper, it's so simple. What could go wrong?
Fortunately there was an easy solution. I could still cut the notches for the sliding boards where they belonged and it might even look right to anyone but someone that knows what they are. Those people will see right off what I did and perhaps laugh a little later, but undoubtedly would be too polite to do so in front of me. At least now that I have a nail gun near by.
The two sliding boards temporarily hold the ends of the frames in place so the bottoms and tops can be added. I found that it goes a lot faster to hold one ends worth of the pieces together and apply the glue all at once, and then place them in the jig, as opposed to applying the glue once they are jigged up.

First glue & nail on the bottom boards.

It works just fine, and sure is easier than holding the pieces with one hand, stapling or nailing with the other, and pulling the nail out of my thumb later. It's also ten times faster and they end up perfectly square when they are finished..
Almost done  a set of ten plus an extra. Flip the whole thing over and glue and staple on the top boards, remove the two sliding boards, & they come out of the jig.

I didn't get the last photo, but you get the idea.