Sunday, March 1, 2015

Planting seeds, monarch butterfly plants and a new plan for catching bees

I'm kind of skipping over a lot of projects lately so there's a few things missing in the blog.   It's been quite busy.
2nd attempt at a successful swarm trap

First thing is I'm reading a fascinating book called "Honeybee Democracy by Thomas Seeley.  It is based on research by some of the top bee scientists / animal behaviorists that describe how the honey bees make collective decisions and how they communicate.  It completely leaves you in awe.  One chapter talked about all the experiments that were done to determine how bees choose their homes when they swarm.  After reading this chapter I made several modifications to the swarm trap in front of our home and moved it up into a tree as well as changed the direction it was facing and made it more desirable to honey bees.  Now we'll see how this works out.  Only down side is if I catch a swarm I'll have to retrieve it with a ladder which will be a bit tricky.

Today we planted seeds in our miniature greenhouses we made from items bought at the dollar store.  My earlier attempts at planting seeds were not thought out and researched as carefully as I should have.  This time the seedlings will have a better chance.  However it looks like we're running a takeout restaurant with these containers lined up on top of the rain barrels.  The seeds will be more protected and controlled in that humidity and water delivery will be accurate.  Not quite sure if I want to put them in direct sun as it may cook the seeds.  Still working out a few details.

milkweed (on the right)

Not long ago I was at a friends home who had raised beds with flowers that attracted monarch butterflies.  There were butterflies everywhere so I inquired what type of plants they were.  They were milkweed and the more I researched milkweed the more intrigued I became with this plant which is not easily obtained.  But thanks to the internet, a dozen plants were located not far from where we live.  Milkweed is also loved by honey bees and supposedly makes top grade honey which will be another benefit.

The raised beds are as healthy as can be and the plants are growing like mad.  I cooked up a 55 gallon barrel of delicious compost tea for the plants and spent the other day going all around the yard feeding plants.  A giant tea bag was made from a paint strainer bag and it was loaded up with compost and some rock dust.  After dipping and hanging in the barrel, an aerator was added to keep the tea oxygenated.  I used an electric pump to fill the barrel with rainwater from the rain barrel setup.  The resulting bacteria in the compost tea needs a couple ounces of molasses a day for food.  In the near future the plan is to hook the compost barrel up to a garden hose with a pump so it can be easily applied anywhere using a garden hose.

Tomorrow it's time to inspect the hives and see what's going on in there.  Should be an interesting (and beautiful) day.

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