• Tag Archives queen
  • Busy, Busy

    Lughnasa                                  Waxing Back to School Moon

    Whew.  The new queen came today in a perforated UPS box, complete with a court of five worker bees.  After spraying them with sugar water, I took them out to the honey queen-bee-mdhouse where I pushed in the cork at the end of her wooden home, inserted a marshmallow (tiny) into it firmly, then opened the divide, took off the honey filled top hive box and inserted the queen in the middle of the second box.  This is called a slow release.  The queen and her workers eat away the marshmallow from one side, workers in the hive from the other.  Over the time this process takes, so the theory goes, the new queen becomes less threatening to the workers, who then allow her to come out and become their new monarch.  If it doesn’t work, they kill her.  I won’t check for another week.

    With the queen in her new castle (hopefully), the grocery store was next on my list since Kate has a cold and she likes my chicken noodle soup when she’s sick.  While I made the chicken noodle soup, I also cooked lunch.  After we ate lunch, Kate went back to rest and I went outside and picked yet another several cups of raspberries.  Our bushes have been prolific this year.  The chicken noodle soup had our carrots, onion and garlic.

    When the raspberries were inside, I worked downstairs answering e-mails while I waited for the soup to finish cooking so I could add the egg noodles and the peas.  At the end of that.  Nap.

    After the nap I had to sort out a vote on legislative priorities for the Sierra Club and respond to a few more e-mails.  This took me up to the time to leave for the Minnesota Hobby Bee Keepers Meeting at the University of Minnesota.  The man who runs nature’s nectary, Jim, was there with a refractometer to measure moisture levels in honey.  Our capped honey was 16.9%, a little thick and the uncapped honey was 18.3%.  Since honey is anything below 18.6%, both of our batches were fine.

    Home again where Kate and I ate some soup, watched a little TV, put the dogs to bed and then headed there ourselves.

  • Getting Things Ready

    Beltane                                       Waning Flower Moon

    After checking the parent colony with the queen excluder in, I found larvae in the top hive box.  That’s evidence of the queen.  That meant I shifted the middle hive box over to the new foundation and bottom board.  A syrup feeder pail went on top of the new, child colony.  This calms everything down and allows for a peaceful slow release of the queen tomorrow.  Leaving the queen excluder on the hive box in which I discovered larvae, I put two honey supers on it and replaced the inner cover and the telescoping outer cover.  The parent colony now has two hive boxes, one with a queen and brood, plus the other, lower box, which will get reversed on top in 7-10 days.

    Tomorrow I’ll check the package colony for larvae a second time.  If they have none, I’ll have to get another queen for them soon.  If there is no queen in the hive, the lack of her pheromones turns on egg laying in the workers, but, since they’re not fertilized they produce only drones.  Once a hive converts to worker egg-laying apparently you have to start over.

    This has been a busy couple of weeks for the bees.  Kate’s been making supers and frames and hive boxes, too.  If the divide and the package colony take, things will calm down for a while until the honey flow ends.  Then, there’s an end of the whole process I haven’t encountered.  Honey.

    Two more bags of composted manure on the leek/sugar pod pea bed, another on the sun trap and a lot of planting.  The herb spiral has the herbs Kate bought Friday at Mickman’s.  I also planted beets, mustard greens, fennel, onions and a pepper plant in the sun trap.  The tomatoes and other peppers will go there, too.  Those two beds, along with the other bed where I have green onions plants along with radicchio, beets from seed and thyme will be our kitchen garden for the growing season.

    Kate did a lot of weeding, including the blueberry patches.  It really makes a difference to have her focused on that aspect of gardening.  She’s also in charge of pruning which has its on rules.

    The leeks, onions, kale, chard, garlic, parsnips, butternut squash, other beets and carrots will also be available during the growing season of course, but most of these will get canned or dried or frozen for the winter.

    I would not like to do the cost accounting on these vegetables and the fruit because the two fences and Ecological gardens have created a lot of sunk costs.  It will take years for them to zero out the costs, more years, I imagine, than we have left in this house.  In our case, of course, that’s not the big point.  The big point is a more sustainable and healthy lifestyle and in that regard the cost accounting has already tilted in our favor.

  • El Camino Real

    Beltane                                                 Waning Flower Moon

    Groceries this morning.  I had to get some items for a 13 bean chili recipe I had underway.  It was a lot of beans and it made a lot of chili.  A lot.  I finished that up after I got home.

    A nap, then I had to attend to a mission royale.   This involved a forty-mile journey out to Stillwater to pick up her highness, a marked Minnesota Hygienic queen.  Turns out queens travel with a retinue, a few workers to keep her company while in her wooden cage.  As her court and the queen rode beside me on the way back to the Andover, the buzzing grew louder.  My guess is that they don’t like being in motion.

    They go in the division tomorrow, the part of the division with no larvae.  Until then, the queen has to be kept warm and away from the sunlight.  Kate opened the lid of the grand piano and her majesty now rests on the sounding board of a Steinway.  The melody, however, comes from her court musicians.

    A long workout with the speed cranked up, well, not real far, but enough to make me tired and resistance and flexibility work, too.  Later tonight we’ll skype with the grandkids, see what that Ruthie is up to now.

  • A Bee Day

    Spring                                          Waxing Flower Moon

    The drought took a hit last night and this morning.  We had almost an inch of rain and it all fell right in the window when I needed to hive my bees.  Wouldn’t you know?

    Today had a bit of the comic routine to it.  I got up this morning ready to hive the bee package I picked up last evening.  All  I had to do was put the foundation into the frames.  The foundation is a beeswax coated sheet on which the bees build their hexagonal cells that house larvae, pollen and honey.  It’s flimsy and I remembered from somewhere that it just snapped right in.  Right.

    The first two I tried I bent the metal holding the edges together and in bending it loosed the beeswax from its sheet.  So, I went on the internet to see if I had the idea wrong. Well, I knew I had it wrong, I went on the net to find out how to fix it.  I came away convinced that you had to build foundation into the frame.  Which meant I had ten empty frames I couldn’t use.

    OMG.  I have bees to hive and no frames with foundations.  Long story short I drove back out to Nature’s Nectar where the guy said, “Bullshit.  Let me show you.”  And so he did.  It was a long drive for a lesson in frames and foundations, but worth it.

    When I returned, I did indeed pop the foundations in the frame.  All in knowing how.

    So, I gathered the copper clad hive cover, the hive box with its ten frames and foundations, the bottom board, the entrance reducer and a top board that goes over the topmost hive box.  My plan was to do the complete reversal on the existing colony as Jim of Nature’s Nectar suggested, take the feeder off of it and reuse it on the new colony.

    The smoker, still the least understood part of the business right now for me, lit, I went out to the colony that stung me five times just a week ago.  Since this was an extended operation, I put on the gloves this time.  The bees got mad, they don’t leave home much on rainy days and don’t  like getting off their loungers while watching the bee olympics or whatever.  Well protected, I went on about the business of putting the top most hive box on the bottom, the bottom most box on top, removing the feeder and reclosing the hive.

    No stings.  I had the feeder.  It was all good.  Except.  Several, by several I mean a lot, of bees had set up house keeping in the area under the feeder.  They did not want to leave.  Not even after I shook the feeder, whacked it on hay bales and generally tried to evict the squatters.  I couldn’t put it on the other hive with strangers living in it, so I had to go to the hardware store and get pails of the right size to make feeder pails.  Which meant I had to get an empty hive box from downstairs to cover the pail. After taking the hive box out, I realized I had to go back inside to get a pollen patty.

    Finally, I had everything and proceeded to whack the bee package on the ground to move all the bees to  the bottom of the wood and wire package.  The feeder, a tin can with holes in it, pries out and leaves a hole through which you pour the bees onto the bottom of the hive box from which you have removed the four central frames just for this purpose.  The bees, after being liberally sprayed with sugar and water syrup, should fall to the bottom of the hive.  There you spread them around.  That worked for most of them, but some of them didn’t get the memo.

    So, I had an opportunity to test whether I have a developing allergy to bee stings.  Nope.  I’m just fine.  The bees are in their new hive, and so, I hope, is the queen whom I’d forgotten to remove in my excitement.  When I did get her out, I released her by the direct release method–pry up the screen covering her small box and let her walk out–but some of her subjects took it upon themselves to sting me right about then, so I’m not sure she’s in the hive.  Though I think she is.  I’ll find out in a week when I check the frames to see if there any larvae.

    Anyhow, the bee day has ended.  Tomorrow is plant day.  Time in the garden.  After that, who knows?

  • Saling. Bogota. Bees.

    Beltane                 Waning Flower Moon

    And on the second day of May we turned our garage into a retail establishment.

    This reminds me of my first ever off the continent trip to Bogota.  The neighborhood of our small hotel was residential, living areas above garages, sort of like the San Francisco versions.  A middle-class to affluent neighborhood, not poor.

    I went out one morning for an after breakfast walk, just to take in the unusual experience of a people who lived in a  country in South America, who spoke Spanish.  I was not at home and loving it.  As my walk went on, the neighborhood began to wake up and the garages, too.  Doors slid up to reveal small businesses.  This one had groceries, that one had cleaning supplies, another with snacks and pop.  The neighorhood was one giant, apparently perennial garage sale.

    They had to do better than we did.  You’d think with a recessionary economy that people would turn out in large numbers.  But they didn’t.  The day was slow.  None of our big items the telescope, the dining room set, the bed sold.  It was a nice day, too.

    The only significant retail moment for me came when I sold a Che Guevara t-shirt to a Mexican family.

    Onions got planted today, a large bed weeded and prepared for peas.  The hive came open, too.  Inside the bees had gathered all at one end, working furiously on something, what I could not tell.  The smoker, filled with wet hay, smoked and the bees remained calm. The white bee suit and mesh head covering worked.  No bee got inside.

    Did they accept the queen?  Couldn’t tell.  I’m glad Mark plans to come tomorrow.  We’ll look together and he’ll help with what I need to see.