• Tag Archives smoker
  • 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?

  • Excluded Queen, Clean Fins

    Summer                       Waning Summer Moon

    The smoker worked.  Mostly.  The bees have had 2 to 2.5 months of breeding, brooding and comb building.  There are a lot more bees than there were in April when Mark showed me how to load a box a’ bees into the first hive box.  Weekly I’ve checked each frame, when there are three hive boxes on as there is now, that means checking 28 frames each time.

    The bee’s propolis had welded together many frames this time, so prying them apart proved more difficult than it had the first weeks.  With smoke to discourage angry bees each frame came out with minimal interference.  After checking a few frames in each hive box, I put the top box on the bottom, left the middle one in its place and put the bottom one of top.  If I understand it correctly, this encourages the bees to continue producing brood, making the colony more healthy for the winter while also expanding their honey base in the honey supers where the queen cannot go.

    In this way the colonies survival over the winter gains a higher probability while still allowing the bee-keeper to harvest some of the honey flow.

    Today, after the hives, I cracked the case of the outside air conditioning unit, took it off and sprayed off the literal blanket of cottonwood fibers that had collected around the fins which guide air past the cooling coils.  I could have done this three weeks ago, but I forgot about it.  It’s not fun for me since it involves lot of little screws, a cantankerous body of sheet metal that must line up with the holes just right and more bending than my deconditioned joints can stand.  A good prod to get back to the resistance and flexibility work as well as the aerobics.

    I tend to emphasize the aerobics since the heart and circulatory system and the respiratory system tend to cause death if not tended with care.  That’s only half of the battle though, the other half is having enough strength and flexibility to live the life time saved by regular aerobic exercise.

    The cantankerous sheet metal awaits.  I’ve written this while letting it dry off.  This all falls under the British category of estate management.  Where are all the servants again?  Oh, that’s right.  They are me.

  • A Real Honey

    Summer                              Waning Summer Moon

    Today the queen excluder goes on my three hives after I shift the bottom to the top and the top to the bottom.  On top of the queen excluder goes two honey supers.  A honey super has half the depth of a hive box.  The queen excluder makes sure there is no brood in the part of the hive from which I will harvest the honey.

    The bee keepers refer to this as the fun part, but I’ve enjoyed the whole process so far.  The learning curve, steep at times, has leveled off right now.  I can work the smoker, know how to check frames and have mastered at least some of the know how necessary to bee keeping.  The next lesson comes during the honey flow work.  After the honey flow stops in the fall, there is the question of hive maintenance over winter.  Over wintering comes later.  Now, the honey.

  • Smoke Gets In Your Bees

    Waning Days of Beltane                   Waning Dyan Moon

    We near midsummer; it’s only 15 hours away.  The Summer Solstice, the hot sister of my favorite holiday, the Winter Solstice, comes to Minnesota at 12:47 am tomorrow, the early hours of father’s day.

    To celebrate I plan to work outside in the garden and do some pre-Raphaelite reading, maybe look for a PRB take on midsommer.

    To start, this morning I checked on the bees.  There are many, many more bees than came in the small wire and wood box in April.  They come and go, searching the area for nectar and finding plenty at this time of year with the bumper crops still ahead.  Nectar flow precedes honey flow and we are hind leg deep in pollen and nectar.

    The bees did not meet the threshold of 8 sides substantially covered with brood that indicates the need for another hive box.  Maybe next week.

    There must be a trick to getting the smoker lit and working.  It has challenged my bee-keeping more than the bees so far.  In order to use it  you have to a fuel burning, then smother it, but not put out the coals so the fuel will continue to smolder, producing smoke for the duration of your hive check.

    Like many learning curves this one imposes a double penalty.  While taking time to keep the smoker lit and producing, I can not work the hives.  Once in the hives, which I work slowly anyway because I’m still learning, the smoker punking out (pun!) puts me at risk from angry bees.  Meanwhile back to the smoker which means I’m not checking the hive.  Normal learning process.  Frustrating and exhilirating.

    Now for some deadheading, trellis building and potato and beet mounding.  Check you on the flipside.

  • 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.