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  • Harvest

    Fall                                      New (Harvest) Moon

    Second round of apiguard in the parent and the divide.  The top box on the package colony has gotten heavier, but I plan to feed them some more as I will do to the parent once the apiguard comes off in two weeks.  Sometime in early November I’ll get out the cardboard wraps and cover the hives for winter.  That will pretty much finish bee work for the year until late February or early March.  I’ve given away honey and plan to give away more.  Part of the fun.

    A quick walk through the vegetable garden shows kale and swiss chard looking good, a few rogue onions that escaped the harvest, plenty of carrots, beets and butternut squash.  The harvest is 2010-10-04_0351not yet over and will go on until the ground threatens to become hard.

    While I drove through the countryside on my way back to Lafayette on Monday, I passed field after field of corn and beans, some harvested, some not, about half and half.  Seeing those scenes put me right back at home, especially the corn fields.  Here’s a field near Peru, Indiana with the combine spilling corn into a tractor trailer for transport either to a corn bin, grain dryer or even straight to the grain elevators, all depending on the price and moisture content of the corn.

    Indiana is no longer home, Minnesota is, but Indiana has a large section of my heart, the chamber of childhood and early young adulthood, a room full of corn fields, basketball, small towns, a baby sister and brother, county fairs and James Whitcomb Riley poems.  I was glad to be there the last few days and to walk again in the part of my heart filled there so long ago.

    We move now toward Samhain, Summer’s End.  Blessed be.

  • Bee Diary: August 6, 2010

    Lughnasa                                     Waning Grandchildren Moon

    Hive inspections today.  The package colony, the youngest of the three, began life here in late April.  Now it has three hive boxes full of brood and honey, a honey super full and has two near empties for the rest of what the summer offers.  I’m pleased I’ve gotten honey from this colony so soon.  The parent colony still has two full honey supers, a third nearing full and two near empties.  The divide has expanded itself to the necessary three hive boxes for overwintering, but early on filled the third hive box with honey.  Since then it has shown little interest in the two empty supers I put on a month or so ago.

    The upshot of all this, at this point, is that we will have honey.  How much depends on the nectar flow over the next couple of weeks, but enough to justify purchasing extracting equipment.  It also means that I have two strong parent colonies going into next spring, the divide and the package, assuming, that is, that they survive the winter.  My mentor indicated that some people “knock the old queen on the head” in a parent colony, then requeen it.  If I decide to do this, it would see me next spring–again, assuming winter survival–with three parent colonies.  That would mean that in May I would have six colonies instead of four.

    Right now four seems about right for what I’m trying to do.  I don’t have commercial intentions, though I may sell some honey.  I want honey for us, for friends and family, for gifts and I want to continue learning about bees.  I’ll decide over the next few weeks.

    After extracting the honey, I also have to check my bees for mites and nosema.  A bridge not yet crossed.

    Also spent time in the vegetable garden where I found my onion crop ready for harvest.  I pulled them out, whites reds and yellows, put them on another raised bed, now empty of its parsnips, so they can cure in the sun for three days.  Then, some weeks on a screen drying further and finally downstairs in the storage room cum shop.  Picked green beans from the plants I put in between the potatoes and also gathered in some swiss chard.  Greens tonight.  New potatoes aren’t ready yet.  I look forward to them.  Potatoes fresh from the garden are like a different vegetable.

    Under my new schedule I’m supposed to work out now, but I’m going to do it after the nap.  At 4:00 pm I claim an hour of my birthday present from Kate, a massage at the oddly named, Massage Envy.

  • Bee Diary: July 2, 2010

    Summer                                   Waning Strawberry Moon

    Just sent an e-mail to the Minnesota Hobby Beekeeper’s Association.  I need help.  We’re in mid-season now and I don’t understand what I’m seeing in the hives, nor do I understand enough about where things should be right now.  The two  make a whole.  That is, I don’t understand what I’m seeing because I don’t know where things should be right now.

    I did a reverse on the parent colony, the last one, according to the book.  I do have more weight in the second honey super, but little action in three and four. This colony continues to be defensive, much more so than the package and about on par with the divide.

    The divide has filled the third hive box with honey, no brood at all.  I don’t know what that means, though I suspect it might mean I’ve had a swarm and am now queenless.  I did see brood, but workers will lay if a queen is gone.  Trouble is, since they’re not fertile, the only thing they can produce are drones.  There did seem to be a number of drone cells–they have a higher cap to accommodate the drone’s larger body.

    The package colony looks pristine, the larvae laying pattern seems ok and there is a general air of healthiness.  Not that there isn’t in the other two, but this one is like a puppy, all fresh and perky.  It has not, however, done much work at all on the third hive box, a bit of drawing out comb, but that’s about it.  Again, I don’t know what that means.

    I did get stung a couple of times, but I smoked the stings, scraped them off–rather than pull them out which injects more venom–and applied sting-ease.  The parent and the colony both have a more defensive posture than the package.  It could be, too, that I’m still somewhat clumsy with my frame inspections and crush the occasional bee.  There are many more bees in both of these colonies, so more chance for accidents.

    So much to learn.

  • Bee Diary: June 24, 2010

    Summer                              Waxing Strawberry Moon

    I got through 2.5 hive inspections.  The package colony has beautiful comb, an excellent egg-laying pattern and is now ready for the third hive box.  That’s as far as it needs to go as soon as it fills out at least 8 frames in the new hive box.  That should happen over the month of July.

    The divide has had three hive boxes for a week now and has begun to fill up frames in the third hive box though they are far from full.  I see no evidence that either of these two have swarmed and I saw few swarm cells.  Still a bit difficult for me to recognize for sure.

    All of the colonies were a bit more aggressive than usual this morning, a surprise to me since it’s sunny and warm, a good day to go gather nectar and pollen.  In my opinion there was no need to harass the bee-keeper, but the divide began whacking at me and got me in a tender space right on top of my thumb’s joint.  That hurt!  I completed that inspection, too, trying to follow the check every frame idea.

    When I got to the parent colony, I removed the two empty honey supers I put on last week.  Nothing.  Nature’s Nectar, a blog about bee-keeping kept up by the guy who sold me my queen and my package, however, said he had little new honey, too.  He’s thinking it will pick up this week.  It’s nice to have that kind of confirmatory message since it makes me think things are ok here at Artemis Hives.

    When I got the honey supers removed, I began my inspection of the top hive box.  It is full of bees.  Mad bees.  I to about half way through the inspection of the top box and the bees had begun to dive bomb my hands as I reached for a frame.  Game over.  I’m not willing to spend a week with swollen hands.

    I’ll go out tomorrow or Saturday to finish the inspection.  I don’t know for sure whether the irritation of hive inspections transmits from colony, but if it does, then the parent colony was ready for me.  I may try starting with it next time.

    Other than that my fears of a foul-brood infection seemed to be misplaced.  I saw none of the signs.  The egg laying pattern in the parent colony seems uneven to me, where the other two looked more compact. (better)  I’m still a long way from feeling sure about what I see and what to do with the information.  But, I’m much further along than I was in April.

  • Bee Diary: June 7, 2010

    05-31-10_colony1Beltane                                           Waning Planting Moon

    Hive inspections today.  Looking to see how the bees are using the other two honey supers I put on last week, now a total of four.  They have two almost full, but they have not begun to draw out much comb on the two with bare foundation.  At least not yet.  I did another reversal of the hive boxes–at least I think I did, the bees got pretty mad about the time for the reversal and I couldn’t recall afterwards if I’d switched the boxes or not.

    Novices leap ahead where veterans fear to tread.  In the bee newsletter from the MN. Hobby Beekeepers Assoc. this month, Gary Reuter of the U Bee lab recommended taking frames out of a bustling parent colony, one per hive box and putting them in a divide or a package colony.  The divide, if you recall, is the hive box I moved from the parent colony late in April.  It received a new queen, a marked Mn. Hygienic.  I’ve not seen her, but I have seen brood.  The package colony is the one growing from the two-pound package of bees I got in mid-April.

    There is, of course, a possible major problem with this maneuver.  What if you take the queen from the parent colony over to the new colony?  So, I decided that careful observation would take care of that.  I scanned both frames and tried to do it in an organized fashion, looking for a longer, more slender bee with her abdominal end deposited in a cell.  Didn’t see any.  Of course, as I learned long ago in philosophy, you can’t prove a negative, so all I can say for sure is that I did not see her.  If I was wrong, I guess I’ll know next week.

    The divide and the package colonies have made progress since last week.  I decided to put another hive box on the package colony so all three now have two hive boxes.  The parent remains the only one with honey supers.  If the divide kicks into gear as the nectar flow starts (I’m not exactly sure what that is, but it’s good and a big deal and supposed to be happening about now this year.)  The goal for both the divide and the package colony is to have three hive boxes before winter with enough honey stored to feed the colony until the spring.

    That’s what my current parent colony did, so I have evidence that it can be done.  It seems to me they’re both on track to get that much done and I would be surprised if I didn’t get some honey from the divide.

    No stings.  I’m moving slower now and have mastered the art of keeping the smoker going for the length of time I’m working in the bee yard.  The package colony needed another bucket of syrup, but the pollen patty was fine.

    I closed them all up, took off the bee suit, put my hive tool and smoker away and came in the house to make these notes.