2017-06-13

Looking Ever So Good!

I headed out to the apiary to put syrup in the feeders of the two weakest hives. It is a rather hot day with the temp hovering around 90 degrees F. There is an occasional breeze which helps some, but only when the stray cloud wanders by. The tractor ride out to the apiary is about a half mile, and it became clear that this was going to be a sweaty trip.
I generally don't do the selfie thing, but figured one would not make me a complete narcissist. Was glad the bees were docile today as it was hot enough just wearing clothes to keep from sun burning. A bee suit would have been the ultimate in masochism. 

Winding between the fields of what is now primarily bird habitat, I saw that they are very healthy! Lots of clover and orchard grass, foxtail and timothy and assorted other grasses.  There is some milkweed and the ever present thistle of course.  I don't mind the milkweed, but the Canadian, Russian and bull thistle are a problem. I am going to have to spot spray and do some spot mowing as well. That said, there are birds everywhere. The redwing blackbirds are prolific. I have seen turkey, starling, killdeer and others.  And there are a lot of them! It always amazes me the way they will fly up and land on a tall plant that is swaying in the breeze and just stay there. It is fun to watch.

By the time I reached the apiary on the far NE corner of the farm I was pretty well heated up. I pulled the tractor and trailer next to the hives and shut off the engine, then just watched the hives for a bit.  There were bees flying all around, heading out to the fields and coming back. That made me feel good... lots of activity of that sort means the ladies have things going well enough in the hives to spare the effort to go out and gather food. I also noticed bees collecting at the entrance and some on the hive front; a good sign that they are too warm. Beyond that, the hives themselves looked like they made it through the last wind storm just fine.  A previous windstorm had blown the telescoping cover and the inner cover off of three of the hives, so I am a bit paranoid about wind.

I did not want to be in the hives for long today. Too hot, and I have been checking a bit more often than is optimal to be honest. The rough start this year with the cold and rain has had me worried, and then having to re-queen all three new hives, then a storm that left four of the hives exposed for a half a day...it has been a bit nerve wracking. On top of that, I am inexperienced and thus worried that I will do something stupid or miss something that I should have seen. Never the less, they seem to be doing a good job of recovering in spite of circumstances and my ignorance.

There is absolutely no sign of disease that I can see. No verroa, no AFB...nothing. And that is encouraging!

The Italians are of course going like a bat out of hell.  They have already filled one super 70%, and that super was put on less than ten days ago. Population is heavy. One would not even notice that I used this hive for a walk-away split. I added another super and left these ladies alone.

The Carni hive from last year really took a winter beating, but it is recovering nicely now. Brood pattern looks good and some honey is being stored. This hive will be left alone to recover this year unless they really take off and populate fast. I find that unlikely, but think they will recover nicely and be ready for winter when that time rolls around.

The walk-away split worked! There is a nice brood pattern with plenty of capped and uncapped brood. Population is clearly growing steadily. There are honey stores being worked on and comb being drawn. I really look forward to a second(and maybe more) hive of Italians. They are very strong through the winter and incredible producers too!

The three new hives took to their queens! I was unsure a week ago and actually started preparing to re-queen them myself. I rendered wax from last year and made some queen cells, attaching them to a frame.  They are ready to go. I would still need to build a nuc and a finisher, but that would not take long.  However, that is not needed right now. There is brood in all three new hives.
One of the new hives of Carnis. This one will be working into the second deep (not shown ) very soon. I had a bit of cleanup to do removing the burr comb. The ladies were very tolerant of me doing that task... no sting today. 

The weakest hive is still short on population, but it is coming around. I see young workers in the mix and there is a small but well formed brood pattern. Very encouraging!

Both of the other two new hives are in good shape, with the far West hive already breaking into the second deep.  If things continue, these will be good hives next year!

One thing I did today was shimmed the inner covers to allow more air exchange in the hives. I need to drill some entrances in the boxes to enhance that and also to allow the bees to get to the upper chambers without having to work their way all the way through the brood chambers.  I will do that this evening when it cools down a little bit.

Always something to be done....

2017-06-10

Days Remembered

Some days one looks at the common, even mundane perhaps, and finds wonder.  I think the photos speak for themselves. At least they do for me.

Where cattle graze and bees draw nectar 

Across the Vale

The Old Deer Stand

2017-06-06

June Bee Check..

Hive Check

Well, the first week in June is just about over and after a couple of weeks away I finally got back to the farm, rested for a day or two, and just today went out to check to see how things look. The first hive I checked was one of the new ones which had such rough start. It looked very good! I added a second deep, as the population and the full frames indicated it was needed.  Lots of capped brood and larva in this hive.  Clearly the new queen was accepted.
Example frame from strongest of the new hives.

The second and third new hives are not nearly as strong with the second being what I would call very weak.  Not much capped brood, and almost no eggs or larva.  Population in these hives is much lower too.  I need to do something but am not sure exactly what.  I am not sure whether the queens introduced were accepted. I think I may try and graft a queen for these hives. I have most of what I need to set up for a starter nuc. Will see ....

The original Carni hive is also struggling.  I don't see any sign of disease. It just seems these girls are a bit lethargic.  Will watch and see...

The walk-away-split of Italian is well populated.  I don't see a queen yet though, nor sign of one.  It may be a bit early as the split took place only a bit more than two weeks ago.  Otherwise, this hive is very active and looks good!

Frame Cleaning and Wax Processing

I spent the evening cleaning up frames. I am keeping all the wax for further use in restoring frames. My frames use a plastic foundation. My plan is to use a hair dryer to apply a thin coat of wax prior to putting them back into the hives. Nice clean wax comes off the super frames, but the wax from brood frames tends to have a lot of gunk in it. Thus, once the wax is removed from the frames, it is added to a pot with two inches of water in it. The water is brought up to about 175 degrees F, and the wax added. When the was is melted, the heat is turned off and one just lets it sit overnight.  Then the gunk  is scraped off the bottom of the chuck of wax that has solidified as it floated up to the top of the layer of water.

The whole process is repeated one or more times to ensure that all the gunk is separated.  What one ends up with is a nice chunk of wax to use for foundation coating, or candles or whatever crafty thing one might do with bees wax.  I will have to try making a candle or two at some point.

Propolis

Propolis is a sticky substance that the bees use to plug holes and cracks in the hive.  The term propolis comes from the greek, and means pro(before, or in front of) polis(city).  Propolis is often found at the entrance to a hive, more in nature than in domesticated settings.  So what is the big deal?

Turns out that propolis is also full of good stuff to boost the immune system. In fact it is theorized that the fact that bees DNA has very little assigned to their immune system is because the make and consume propolis.  That said, there are folks that buy this stuff and pay really well for it. It is not the most prolific substance. If one had 100 hives, one could probably collect enough of it over time to get a pound or so and sell it.  But that is not my interest....

I hope to make my own tinctures out of it. I have looked around and found recipes to make everything from essential oils to plain old simple tinctures. So I am going to collect what I have from my few hives and when I get enough, try a tincture. It is not hard to collect it, just time consuming.  What the hell, I might as well... 


2017-05-19

Further Apiary Encouragement

Checked hives yesterday post-storm:  Two hives had their lids blown off, but no apparent impact on the bees.  The new queens have been realeased from their cages by the colony (ate through the sugar plug) in all three new hives.  Lots of activity.  Comb is being drawn, there is new honey in the deep frames.

The Italians are hard at it.  The walk-away split seems to be doing fine.  The source hive is still heavily populated and very active.  I put three supers on the source hive. Plan to just leave them there until the end of June and not bother the hive much. I figure the frames may not fill evenly, but will fully over that period of time which is fine with me.

Looking really good overall. 

2017-05-17

The rest of the Farm

Our apiary has been the focus recently as it is a new project which requires a lot of guess work, planning, research, and learning in general.  That is fine, but there are 234 acres here and plenty going on besides bees.

We have three feed lots here on the farm and we leased them to my next door neighbor this last winter.  I was concerned about the fensing around the lots, some of it is very old and I was not sure how well it would hold up to a rather large number of confined 300 pound young stock.  Not to mention folks from another farm using our buildings.  It actually worked out well for both us and our neighbor.  Well enough in fact that we have agreed to repeat the operation this coming winter.  That is good for the Farm.  Buildings that are used don't fall down.  The weterers were another concern of mine.  Cattle drink a lot of water and it is very important that they stay hydrated during cold weather.  Problems with such equipment in the winter is not a good thing.  It is expensive to fix if something goes wrong.  We were fortunate and these critical pieces held up just fine.  So this new activity was a good success.

Having sold off un-needed equipment has left us with room to work in and on the buildings finally.  We had been pretty crowded which meant some equipment sat outside, which I hate.  There are still a few pieces that need to be sold, but almost everything can now be stored inside.  That makes maintenance easier and keeps the place looking a lot better.  There are some pieces  of equipment which have not been used in years but will now have to come into service.  It all has to be stripped down and checked over: bearings, belts, shafts and pretty much any moving part has to be checked over, replaced if required or just cleaned up.  Whatever, it is a lot of work to do.

I did a fence check the other day as best I could.  We are in reasonable shape in that area, though some work needs to be done around the feed lots.  My neighbors are helping me out with this.  There is no way that I can accomplish that kind of physical labor.  These folk have gone out and patched where needed.  All they ask is that I provide the materials.  I can't even begin to say how grateful I am.  It is humbling...

The yard around the house is cleaning up nicely.  The kids that rent the house really like making things look neat.  They have cleaned up two of the larger flower gardens and are working on the rest as they have time.  It is really nice to have young renters that give a damn.  Agian, we have been and are fortunate in this regard.

The  workshop is a work in progress.  Part of the challenge is that there is so much stuff that is brand new but no longer needed for our operation.  Stuff like drive chains, sprockets, bearings, filters.  What does one do with this stuff.  It is too valuable to toss, too bulky to store.  I guess I am going to have to have a garage sale and hope I can get rid of some of it.  That too takes a lot of time, and being that I split my time between MN and the Farm, time is a challenge.  That said, the shop is looking better than it has in a while.

The CRP ground looks darn good to me.  I was worried because we had not done a burn down (herbicide) prior to planting the native grasses, thus allowing a lot of weeds to propegate through the new planting.  I did a lot of mowing last year to try to mitigate that.  It seems to have paid off.  The fields look good with most of the weeds being crowded out by the intended grasses.  I still see a lot of thistle and suspect that I will be spending some time with the hand spayer this summer.  Probably a lot of time...   The new polinator habitat is comeing along well.  No gullys in spite of some heavy rains right after plantinng.  The oats is up about 4" and that will help establlish the other 15 varieties of flowering plants that are the target of such a planting.  I have to say that the expense of three acres of pollinator habitat is daunting.  The shit is expensive!  I hope it is worth it.

The pasture is rented out again for the summer to the neighbor to the East.  He is taking good care of it, having fertilized this spring with clearly visisble results.  The smaller pastures near the buildigs will have a few head of cattle in them just to keep the weeds down.  I am going to look into getting a few goats to help keep down the muti-floral rose and other brush like plants.  Maybe we could have some goat meat in the freezer this fall.....I like goat stew.

Ran into an odd problem a couple of weeks back.  The renters called to say that the pump on the well would not work.  Breakers were re-set, wires were checked, no clue.  Turns out ants got into the pressure switch and prevented it from closing when there was demand for water.  Easy to fix, but I would never have guessed.  The damn things have gummed up the works twice since.  Kind of strange having to put Terro arond the well to keep ants out of the pump workings.....  Well, now we know.

As usual, the amount of work exceeds the amount of time, money, and other resources by a factor of at least  10 to 1.  And I move so frigging slow that one might as well take that ratio to 100 to 1.  That said, I would not know what to do with myself if it were not for the Farm.  Again, I can't express the gratitude I have for the opportunity to be a part of this land.  

Respite....

Yesterday we received three new Carni queens to replace those that died in the cold and rain while I was off convelescing.  To recap, we had three 5 frame nucs ordered and recieved April 30th.  Due to circumstances beyond our control, those bees did not get into their hives right away and the nucs sat in the cold and rain for three days.

When I checked, the queens in the queen cages had of course died along with probably a third of the worker population.  I transfered those which were left alive to the new hives and then was away for a week.  When I got back to check, all three hives showed lots of activity including drawing comb, bringing in pollen and nectar.

That of course was encouraging.

We decided to order new queens as a result.  The little buggers are not cheap: $30.00 each, but stacked up against the original investment and encourging signs of hive health, it seemed worth it.  I installed the new queens yesterday.  The queens came in three hole cages and I put each cage in its new hive, pulling the cork on the candy stuffed side so that it would take tme for the new queens to get out of the cages and into the hive.  This hopefully allows the existing worker bees to become familiar with the new queen through pheromone familiarization, and to then become a single working colony.  It is said that if this time is not allowed, the existing bees will see the queen as an interloper and kill her.  Not sure of that, but figure it makes some sense.

It is supposed to rain today again, so probably won't check until tomorrow to see how everybody is adjusting in each hive.  Should be interesting...

On a separate note, the Italian walk-away split seems to be going ok.  The source hive is active.  The target hive is less so at the entrance, but there is plenty of population working the frames inside, which means they all didn't just get up and go back to the source hive.  It indicates to me that they are setting up house and hopefully recogniing that they don't have a queen and will start making one from the brood that was transferred.  Will know by the middle of next month.  If there is evidence of new eggs and brood, that will mean they successfully generted a new queen that subsequently went out and mated, came back and started her job.

I am hopeful for this split.  The Italians are very agressive producers of honey based on last years production.  I hope we can build up more colonies of Italians with this walk-away method as it is much less expensive as compared to purchasing package bees.  Our bees also have no evidence of diseases or infestations thus far, and not bringing in bees from outside the farm will hopefully help maintain that trend.  Our apiary is quite secluded and the closest other apiary is a good five miles away.  That means our bees are somewhat quaranteened.  There will be expsure to the wild bee population of course, but I think that will be mostly healthy.

I note here also that our bees are a quarter of a mile from the nearest tilled field. That is intended to keep them away from pesticides and herbicides which are so prolific on such fields.  The bees have both running and standing water sources within 100 meters of the hives as well.  Their food sources are pretty much all native plants such as the various trees and wild flowers that one finds in woods and pastures throughout Wisconsin.  Right now, the food sources look really good.  Dandilions are thick, and the trees are now at the middle stage of full blossom.  Black berries, wild plumb, oak, maple, basswood, walnut and hickory as well as wild apple and grape are all full blossom right now too.  So the bees have plenty of source for pollen and nectar.  Should be a good year from that perspective.

We shall see...... 

2017-05-13

Recognize, Adapt, Carry On...

Well, the late April bee keeping trip turned into a saga.  We had invested in some growth of the apiary this spring, ordering three new colonies of bees as well as equipment to house and maintain them.  Additionally, we got a bit of extra equipment due to the fact that one of the existing hives grew outside its capacity to stay in one hive.

The new bees arrived on time, and I went to pick them up on April 30th around 19:30.  It was a cold and rainy day, and pickup was rather miserable for bees and people.  After loading and securing the bees to the truck bed, I headed for the Farm.  A  long drive, and I was already under the weather with what seemed to be bronchitis.  Got to the Farm about 03:00 and was too tired to get to bed, so just slept in the truck for a few hours.

Monday was wet and rainy as was Tuesday, and I was starting to feel really ill.  By Wednesday it was sunny and cool.  I did the best I could getting the bees established, but was simply too weak to do the job properly.  I headed for urgent care...and ended up in the hospital for the next seven days with atypical pnumonia.  By the time I was realeased, the queens for the three new hives had died of exposure.  About half of the rest of the beees survived and I got them into hives properly.  They seem active and reasonably healthy, are bringing in both pollen and nectar.  I ordered new queens for all three hive yesterday and will introduce them on Tuesday when they arrive here at the farm.  I think the new hives wll be fine once the queens are established.  Time will tell....

Yesterday was warm and sunny and I had a bit of energy, so decided  to do the anticipated 'walk-away-split'.  What that means is that a very strong hive is litterally split into two hives.  The walk away part means that one does not introduce a new queen into the new hive.  Only nurse bees and brood are transferred to the new hive.  The queen stays behind.

Theoretically, the bees in the new hive will understand that they no longer have a queen and will make a new one out of the brood that is transferred with them.  I am really looking forward to seeing just how this works.  Last year I managed to save a weak hive doing something similar, adding brood to a hive that had lost its queen and letting them create a new queen on their own.  It worked.

This split though is to prevent the bees from  becoming frustrated with too little space and leaving.  The hive that was split yesterday is very strong!  I hope the child hive does as well.

Overall, the apiary looks rather nice.  The new deeps and supers are well assembled and strong as well as looking rather nice I think.  There is a lot of activity around the hives in spite of the beating the bees took due to my not getting them taken care of properly.  I am hopeful.....

_________________________________________________________________

Side note:  I met with a local bee-keeper who is getting out of the business due to health reasons.  What a trove of information!  It is like sitting down with a book one does not have to read.  The stories  this guy has to tell about bee keeping and just life in general are interesting and entertaining.  I learned some, and had some things I already knew re-enforced. Just really cool to sit with this old guy and listen...  very cool! 

2017-04-09

Minor Disasters and Optimism

Finally warmed up and dried out enough that I could get out and check the hives.  The Italians are doing great!  The Carnie's took a late beating due to defective feeder buckets which leaked and soaked the inside of the hives.  Both survived with much reduced populations for starting out this year.  That is a major setback, but not catastrophic.  I think they will survive.  Both hives have queens which are laying eggs and being cared for.  There is activity outside the hives with bees bringing in pollen which is really important in the spring, as it provides the needed protein to maintain all that activity.  So this will be a rebuilding season for these two hives as compared to a production season.  That is fine, ...one lives and learns.

Looking forward, I have four new hives all set up and ready to receive shipments of new bees.  We are taking a new approach this time around.  The new bees will be coming in what are called 'nucs'.  Instead of a little cage with three pounds of bees and a jar of sugar water, these bees come in what looks like a small hive made of cardboard.  They come on established frames on which the queen has already been laying eggs.  On simply transfers the frames from the nucs to the hives, adds some empty frames and lets the bees do what bees do well.  A much better starting point.  And the cost is minimally more.  I am optimistic about this approach to purchasing bees.  So that accounts for three of the new hives that have been placed in the apiary.

The fourth hive will be a walk-away split.  The hive of Italians which is heavily populated will have half of its brood frames removed and placed in the last of the new hives along with some frames of capped honey and some of the worker bees.  The queen will stay with the existing hive.  Once the worker bees in the new hive realize they are without a queen, they will make one.  That process takes about four weeks.  There is an option to buy a queen to place in the new hive, but I think it makes more sense to have the hive generate its own queen.  There is less chance of rejection, and the new queen will mate with drones that have been reared and have acclimated to the local surroundings.  Better genetics I think.

Anyway, this has been yet another learning experience.  I expect there will be more...

Loaded with pollen and resting in the sun for a bit...

Apiary expansion.  Last years hives are white.  The new hives are natural wood.  

video

2017-04-06

Early April Farm Trip

Arrived at the Farm Sunday evening.  It has been cold and rainy, so I did one day of inside work putting together hive components (see previous post).  Tuesday and Wednesday were cold, windy and wet, and I simply did not have the energy to get out in it.  I slept most of both days and nights. Am probably still a bit weak from last Wednesday chemo blast.

Today, however, was sunny and very windy.  I have some panels on some building that I am going to have to re-screw on.  Damn wind is brutal!  I now have all the hive deeps assembled and and the wood treated.  All that is left of assembly work is five supers, which I don't need right now, and a lot of frames.  This work can wait as I won't need the supers or the frames until nectar flow comes on strong.

The assembled parts are now loaded on my work trailer behind the 686.  Had to get some sixteen foot posts off the trailer first.  Good thing my renter was around, I can't even come close to handling those posts. Justin seemed glad to help out and I appreciate it.

My next door neighbor to the East called this afternoon to ask if he could spread dry pasture fertilizer on the pasture that we rent to him. That is fine of course. Taking care of those pastures is part of the deal and I know I can count on Tim to do that. After all, it benefits his cattle as much as it does my pasture. The pasture is already greening up a bit, and seeing that feels good.  The cold rainy weather is good for something....


2017-04-04

Getting Ready - More Bees

My March check of the bees was encouraging.  All three hives survived the winter.  The Italians are very strong and I think they might swarm this spring due to their heavy population.  Thus, I/we decided to expand the apiary.  I ordered four more full hives, and some spare frames for honey.

Today is asembly day.  I ordered the hives in kit form and un-painted and did the same with all but thirty or so frames.  This saves a fair amount of money and the assembly is not hard.  This also allows me the option of using screws instead of nails to put the hive body parts together.  Screws make a world of difference in both overall strength as well as assembly ease.  Screws take longer to put in, but they do the squaring of the parts for you.  Everything pulls together tightly, and as mentioned, square.

Another advantage is that unpainted wood leaves me with the option of treatment.  I found a product called ECO which is non-toxic and is supposed to last a lifetime.  It comes in powder form, so one simply mixes with water and then sprays it on the outer surfaces of the hive.  I like the natural wood look that I end up with.  Our first three hives were primed and painted white like most hives are.  They seem to be holding up fine after one winter.  But I thought I would try this ECO product.  It may be useful for other projects on the farm and around the house.

So, assmbly day:  Batteries for the chordless drill all charged up, the ocrrect bit to match the screws I am using (exterior 1 3/4 inch), and all the shipping containers have been checked for completeness.  All good to start.  I had to futz around a bit to get my work area arranged just right.  But once that was done, the process went quickly.  I have only done hive body parts thus far, but am nearly done.  Next will be assebling frames.

That will be more delicate work.

In the mean time, I have the radio tuned to NPR, the heater on in the workshop, am sitting next to the window doing my work.  It feels good to do this work.  As simple as it is, I feel I have accomplished something each time a deep or a super is completed and the wood treated.  A good feeling...

While I was working, my neighbor Ricky stopped in to ask to borrow the pallet forks that I have for the skid loader.  He knows he can take them any time he needs, but he asks anyway.  We shot the shit for a half hour or so while his rather quiet son-in-law, Mo, listened patiently.  Ricky offered to let me use his tractor on the grain drill this spring, being that the grain drill (also mine) will be hooked up and ready to go.  I will probably take him up on that if for no other reason than to get to operate his tractor.  Ricky has newer equipment and he cares for it.  It is a pleasure to operate when one gets the chance.  And he is right, it will be all set up and ready to go, so there it not much sense in unhooking and hauling and .... well, you get the picture.

And that is part of what I like so much here on the Farm:  Folks don't stop by often, but they do stop by.  And they always take the time to jaw a bit.  The price of corn, beans, and beef....taxes...a little politics...a little gossip.  It is a method of connecting, of showing we care.  Like  driving to town and everyone waves, even if they don't know you.

And now I better get back to it.  I have plenty left to do before Thursday when it warms up and dries out and I can can back to the North East corner of the farm where the apiary is.  I prefer not to leave ruts all over the place which is what will happen if I go out there when it is wet.  I hate ruts in my fields and waterways!  They make for a rough ride and worse yet, lead to erosion.  Best to wait for a dry day.  There is plenty to do.....

2017-03-15

Early March - 2017

A warm day, orer 60 degrees F.  And a lot of wind, steady 10-15 with 25mph gusts. Bees were a bit agitated, but active and appearing healthy.  Gave the West hive a fresh pail of sugar syrup.  Had to wait a while to work with the Italian in the East hive as they were defensive and very active.

April will be interesting.  I need to order one more hive and four more supers for this year.  I will be splitting the Italians (West hive), and need something for the new colony.  The additional supers will be needed sooner or later no matter what.  Looks like some investment is in order.

Overall, I am pleased with the way the three hives have come through the winter. We will see how this all progresses this summer.  I have to kill off the three acres of CRP planting right in front of where the hives sit and replant with the appropriate mix.  There was a mix-up last year and the wrong seed was planted.  So I have to redo that planting this spring.  Not only is it expensive, but to kill off the previously planted stuff, I am going to have to use roundup.  I hate using that shit!  However, a good neighbour has offered to do the spraying for me and is aware of how carefully this will have to be done.

I will be spending some time on the tractor this spring.  I will need to double-disk the three acres after the burn-down, then plant the new seed, then cul-de-pak to ensure good seed-to-soil contact.  At $400.00/acre, this seed has to grow!  Am looking forward to seeing all the flowering plants though...

2017-02-20

Checking Bees - February 2017

Very warm temperatures for February!  Had 56 degrees F on 2/16/17.  I went out around noon to check to see how the girls held up through the winter.  I had expected the weak hive not to make it.  It was short on food stores, though I had transferred some honey from the two stronger hives and fed them sugar water in the late fall.  None-the-less, there is a strong cluster on the south side of the upper deep, and lots of activity on the warm day.

My other two hives are both strong at this point.  Italians in the east hive are very active, very strong, and a bit aggressive.  I think I would like to try splitting this hive this spring.  I would like to try it without getting a queen, letting them generate their own.  It takes longer that way, but that should not be a problem assuming some decent weather. The four week turn should still give plenty of time for the new hive to build some population and generate some food stores.

I did give the weak West hive a bucket of sugar water, as freezing temps are not expected for the next ten days or so.  And I am pretty sure they will finish that off in that time based on their previous consumption rate.

My insulation scheme seems to have worked out fairly well.  I put the entrance reducer at the bottom at the smallest opening, and then left a gap between the front of the hive all the way up to the top of the second deep by attaching the insulation to the front edge of the bottom board and to the top of the upper deep.  I cut a one inch opening about ten inches up from the bottom board on the leeward side of the hive, providing an entrance to the gap between the insulation and the front of the hive.  This seems to be working quite well based on the cleanly-ness of the hives and the activity around the exit. Will have to check that out more closely in mid-April when the insulation will come off.

I will be back to check at the end of February to see how all is progressing.

Below is a short video I made of the three hives.

video

2016-09-20

Handling honey ... and other stuff

I think I had better learn to make a sugar cake or two.  My Italians are still making honey and I have left lots for them for the winter months.  Some I took over to the stronger Carni hive.  The Italians are as robust as ever, with honey, pollen, and plenty of brood.

The stronger of the two Carni hives seems solid.  Bottom deep still has lots of brood, both capped and new.  Second deep has maybe 60 pounds of honey along with some brood in the center frames.  Lots of activity still, clearly building comb and filling it with honey,, though not nearly as agressively as the Italians.

The weaker of the two Carni hives is ....well.. still weak.  The good news is that a new queen seems to have been established in spite of the fact that I did not get a brood frame moved from the stronger Carni hive until about three weeks ago.  There is a lot of uncapped brood and some capped now as well.  But population is very low, and activity at the front of the hive is low.  Not much honey in this hive at all.  No way they are going to make it though the winter without some TLC, food and maybe some added heat.  Even with all that it is going to be touch and go.  I may have to consider moving the hive to a more protected spot for the winter, though I don't really want to do that.

Lots of learing to do yet.....

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On another note: I harvested some of the honey from the Italian supers.  They produced three full supers plus this summer.  Having decided that bees are a joy to work with and having the resources for the bees to forage from, we decided to ''just do it' and bought a little equipment.  A five gallon stainless stock tank with a stand and clamped cover.  And a six frame centrifuge, motor driven.  This is really nice food grade equipment.  I am pleased with the construction, ease of assembly, and quality of materials used.  And really pleased we invested this way just for the saving on cleanup alone.  Food grade equipment is worth the investment.



Handling of honey, frames, and wax is a thing that, I at least, need to do to understand.  One can watch all the video and read all the books, but the bottom line is that it is a hands on experience, and until one gets hands on, one does not really know.  That is true about beekeeping in general of course.  That is what makes it cool.

There are lots of little things to notice:  How the honey flows, what difference just a few degrees of ambient temperature makes in the way the honey flows, the way the wax can be handled, how the tools used interact with the surfaces of the wooden frames.

The wax is an interesting substance which I have yet a lot to learn about.  It is not like paraphine.  Bees wax tends to clump quickly as it cools, into small nugets.  Its malliability is very dependent on a pretty narrow temperature range it seems.  That said, it is a really cool substance.

Harvest was basically comb to jar.  The only 'filtering' I did was through a piece of cheese cloth to hold back a few of the cell tops that end up floating around.  And yet this honey is amaingly clear and light.  The flavor is of course sweet, but not cloyingly so.  There is a tangyness to it.  The abundance of variety of food resources for the bees on the farm is far more than I  had ever noticed before.  I have wondered what might contribute to this particular flavor, but then decided I don't really care.

One often sees honey for sale which is labeled 'clover honey', or some other particular food source is advertised.  I dont' buy into that.  I have specialty honey from various places, both domestic and international.  There is clearly a difference between vaious types from various places.  But where our bees are, there is no monoculture of pollinator food sources.  It is a constant blend.  White clover, red clover, golden rod, queen annes lace, blackberry, wild strawberry, plum, wild apple, maple, walnut, hickory, basswood, thistles, dandilion, and on and on and on.  I had no idea how many different plants were growing on our farm until we installed the bees this spring.  Now, as I drive around on the farm, doing one chore or another, I notice these different plants.  I can't name most of them, but throughout the season, there are a lot of them!

At any rate, the honey tastes great!