Friday, April 29, 2016

The up's and down's of beekeeping

Earlier in the week I was quite elated with all the new bees that had unexpectedly showed up or were rescued.  It was a lot of work but seemed worthwhile.

I spent a day and a half building, caulking and painting new equipment for the bees.  However when I went to install the new hardware, I was greatly disappointed to find the rescued hive I brought into the apiary had vanished !!!!   Completely absconded.   There was a queen and they were mild mannered beautiful bees so it was a sad moment.

Why?   Well first off, it was stressful for the bees to have their home (a tree) crash down and then when I arrived, a chainsaw was used to get to the hive and the bees.  This made a big mess of sawdust that covered all the brood and a great deal of sawdust was vacuumed into the temporary base which was the bee vac base.  And the brood was pretty covered in dirt and dust.  But that was really the only way to get these bees out of the tree.  A trap out wasn't in the cards because the county needed the hive removed before the weekend as it was close to where people walk.

Also .... the nucs with the new swarms were different.  Only one Nuc had some bees remaining and it didn't look like the swarm that was there the other day.  Who knows what happened there.  Oh well, easy come, easy go.  I don't even try to figure it out any more.  They do what they're going to do.

And one of my other hives was queenless and not doing so well so I borrowed some brood from a stronger hive to build it up.  So many queens seem to unexpectedly disappear.

Today I'll put some bee swarm traps out at The Florida Bee Farm and try to re-capture some of these bees.  Maybe we'll get some of them back.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Blueberries and bees, bees, bees

Tomato plants are almost all gone now and in a way I'm kind of relieved because I spent a couple hours a day working on them.  It was pleasant working on them but a lot of work.  Now the blueberries are just going crazy and we're getting a lot of berries.  My wife and I were out close to sunset picking blueberries and got several quarts of them.  And boy are they delicious.  We're also getting a lot of various peppers and papayas. 

Papayas, blueberries, tomatoes and peppers for today

delicious blueberries
The Honeybee and pollinator garden is also blooming like crazy and the sunflowers are making their debut.  It's so wonderful sitting out there and watching all the butterflies and bees zipping around among the flowers. 

Sunflowers starting to bloom
I had a phone call yesterday asking if I could remove a hive from a fallen tree in one of our local parks.  For some strange reason I said yes even though I don't have enough hive parts available.  That and the fact I had a dozen other things going on.

The guy from the county said he thought the tree was hollow and would be easy to cut into.  But that was not to be.  It was a massive tree and where the bees lived it was slightly hollow but mostly solid wood.  The guy from the county offered to help but said he couldn't because he didn't have a bee suit.  So I said "I have a spare you can borrow" and suited him up so he could run the chain saw while I vacuumed the bees into the bee vac.  It turned out to be a good amount of work but the good news is I got the queen which is always a concern.

The big dilemma I was facing however was the fact that I didn't have any more bases for my hives.  So I decided to set up the new hive using the bottom of the bee vac contraption I built.  The entrance (temporarily) would be the hose hole for the vac until I could build, source or buy another base.  So problem solved for the moment.

But the big surprise of the day happened when I arrived back at The Florida Bee Farm and was greeted with two new swarms that had taken up residence in two empty Nucs that were sitting on a bench.  Bees everywhere !!  When I woke up this morning I had no desire to get any more bees as the apiary was pretty full.   Now I have three more hives counting the squatter bees in my nucs.  Time to build more bee stuff !!!

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Making a stand, Honeycomb from heaven, and a busy bee month

What a month !  The Florida Bee Farm needed more room to accommodate all the new arrivals (3 swarms caught) and one split so a new stand was built and squeezed into the apiary.  A large Oleander bush and one papaya tree needed to be relocated and the ground needed leveling in the area of the new stand and it turned out nice.  Not as shaded as the other hives but there is some shade.
New hive stand and 2 of the 3 new hives at the Florida Bee Farm

New brood boxes needed painting and stands needed to be finished to work correctly.  Also bought several migratory covers to experiment with instead of the covers I'm currently using which seem to host more pests and ants than I care to deal with.  But I remember a couple old time beekeepers saying that migratory covers are best in Florida and they're probably right.  I'll probably change all my hives to use migratory covers because I'm tired of finding ants, spiders, frogs and lizards under the cover.

The tomatoes have really been getting most of my attention and have been producing quite a few delicious tomatoes.  Between many nice meals with them and multiple canning sessions, they are just about done for the season.  I learned a lot and picked up a few tips for next year when I plant tomatoes again.  This weekend we probably did our last canning of the season.   It's a bit of work but so very satisfying. 
Final tomato canning session of the year

My latest experiment that was started about a month ago is Hops.  I purchased a few starts from a company in Michigan and they're already 5' tall !!!  They're growing like mad.  It will be an interesting experiment and if successful they may be grown on a larger scale next year even though they're not officially a Florida plant since they may need cold to go dormant.
Honeycomb from heaven The Florida Bee Farm

More honeycomb from heaven at The Florida Bee Farm

The other day I was sitting under a tree and got up to do something.  When I came back, a 8" piece of honeycomb with some bees was sitting next to the chair.  Looking up, I couldn't see through the canopy of leaves to determine if any bees were up there.  Next day I walked by and there were two more pieces of fresh beautiful honeycomb on the ground.  Something's going on up in the tree but not sure what and why the comb keeps falling out.  Fresh made comb is quite amazing.  Very light, perfectly formed and just beautiful.

Finally, for the first time I did a split of one of the hives that was getting too large.  Stacking too many boxes on top of each other is too heavy for me to lift up high and it's also not good for the bees unless you add an upper entrance to the hive.  Because you don't want them coming in with their nectar and pollen and having to climb through a couple brood boxes and honey supers to drop off their load.  So I'm keeping my fingers crossed.  Another hive I was in this week may be in trouble as the brood wasn't looking good.  Possibly needs a queen. 

There's been an abundance of fresh vegetables, herbs and fruit on our table this month.  Delicious.  And the extra has been sold at the Indian Rocks Co-Op which has been a great group to work with.  A good place to get organic veggies, plants, and all sorts of things. 

Monday, April 4, 2016

Being there to welcome the new arrivals

There's nothing like being there when the bees swarm. You can feel their excitement and it's such a special moment to be there when they arrive.   The air is filled with thousands of beautiful honey bees flying around and around while their comrades fill the entrance of the hive to check out their new home.  The bees couldn't be any gentler in this state either.

The next morning it looked like there were no bees in the box.  No guards, nothing.  No foragers.  So I thought they were gone.  BUT a few hours later they emerged from the box and are there.

I guess they had a rough swarm and slept in.  I don't know.  Only thing I know for sure is more boxes need to be built and painted.  I'm running out of room at the The Florida Bee Farm.