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Random Bee-ness

More Isaac photography.


#4: Marking the queen.

This is the Italian queen box.  The worker bees have built comb on it during their trip.

We brushed off the bees.

After breaking off the comb, we all shared it, chewing it like gum.  There wasn’t much to it yet but it was sweet.

The queen in her box was set inside the muff (in the house).  We took out the cork and out she came.  Charlie tried catching her but no luck.  Steve, Sr. caught her and marked her but it wasn’t quite good enough for us to be sure it’d be durable.

Steve, Jr then took a turn.  Those big ol’ sausage fingers managed to get her marked good & solid.  He ended up doing both queens.

We found a couple of hitchhikers.

There have been a few stragglers in the house since Friday.  I’m sure some came in with us from the installation, maybe riding on our clothes undetected.  Some others, I’m sure, have come in the window that we leave slightly open as a “cat door”.  That huge lilac-like bush is right outside that window and the bees love it.

Voila!  Queen marked and safely back in her box.  Poor thing was our guinea pig, the first one to get marked.  The Italian bee, the second one marked, is much neater.

We put her back in her hive where she’ll stay corked in her box for a couple of days.  Monday or Tuesday, after the workers have had a chance to accept her and make the hive their home, we can safely release her to do her thing without worry of the other harming her.

Now, when we inspect the hive, we’ll be able to more easily spot the queens.

#3: Installing the bees.

FYI:  Since I was part of the installation, I gave Isaac a three-second lesson on my camera.  (1.  Here’s the display.  2.  Here’s the on/off button.  3.  Here’s the button to push to take a photo.  Oh, and 4.  Break my camera and you will die a horribly slow and painful death.)  He did an amazing job!

First step is taking the can of syrup out of the top of the package.  It’s what the bees feed on during their trip.  The Carniolan bees had about half of theirs left but the Italian’s can was empty.

The stuff of nightmares for those of us who grew up with “Killer Bees!” movies, eh?

The package was set aside for a moment while we removed and futzed with the queen box.

The queen is shipped in a little box within the bigger package.  Steve brushed off the other bees clinging to the outside, then we took her in the house to mark her in the queen muff.  (I’ll get to that in the next post.)

After spraying the bees with sugar water, I started dumping them in their new home.  It’s not terribly easy.  You shake the snot out of them to get them to fall out and you have to slap the sides to get the clingers to let go.

Bzzz!  I felt a burning so did the girl thing by making a face and stopping all progress to check my boo boo.  But I didn’t see a boo boo.  Must have been my rather active imagination.  It felt real!

Okay, back to dumping bees.

Steve got the last of them out and this is what remained in the box.  It was set beside the hive so the stragglers could join their group whenever they got around to it.

We had to temporarily leave the last couple of frames out because of the giant clump of bees sitting there.  One will stay out until the queen box is removed but we did manage to get the other one in Saturday.)

This was just the Carniolans.  Then the two Steves handled the Italians, with the kids’ help, of course.  Isaac started taking more random bee pics after that so not so much to post about the installation of the Italians.  No matter, it was the same thing, just with hairier arms doing the dumping.

A HUGE thanks to Steve, Sr for helping and being a part of this and to the beekeepers’ group for the incredible sharing of knowledge!  And, of course, to Charlie who got us all started on this adventure.  This is gonna be fun!


#2: Building a queen muff.

We wanted to mark the queens when we got them so that, later on, they’d be easier to spot in the hives.  To do that, you need a “queen muff” which is a cage sort of thing to keep her from flying away while you mark her.  We could have purchased one but, at last Tuesday’s beekeepers’ meeting, a fella named Bernie brought in a homemade queen muff and I was inspired.

Charlie and I set to work Thursday and knocked one out.

We made a cube out of scrap wood that was laying around.

Attached screen to five sides.

Charlie inspected pantyhose.  No, really, it was part of the project!

Okay, maybe not this part.

Ta-da!  The black tape covers the scratchy edges of the cut screen.  The duct tape gives something more sturdy to staple the pantyhose to.  Later on, when I’m really, really, really bored, I’ll edge it with some bias tape and sew it down onto the pantyhose & screen edges so it’s a bit sturdier.

Stick your hands through the pantyhose legs (hose feet are cut off) and do your thing with the queen.

Steve was quite proud of his giant paws being able to fit into queen-size pantyhose.

More later!

#1: The bees are here!

In anticipation of the bees arriving, Steve finally got down to business and built a stand for the hives.  This will keep it off of the ground so they’ll get more air flow and less pestering by critters.  (It’s way too tall — or will be as we add more boxes to it.  I’ll wait for Steve to be a good mood before I point out to him that he made a boo-boo and needs to make it shorter.)

Hives in place with single brood boxes to start.

The bees arrived Friday afternoon and pick up was arranged in a Hannibal hotel parking lot.  Lots and lots and lots of bees.

We got one package of Carniolan and one package of (Italian) Minnesota Hygienic.  Each package has one queen and three pounds of workers & drones.

I’ll admit to being a tad bit nervous, knowing that there were hitchhikers:  bees who were not actually inside the packages but just hanging on to the outsides, walking & flying freely.

Of course, I had nothing to worry about and all was well.  Except for Charlie’s enormous, goofy head.

(I’m going to split the bee pics into a few different posts so you don’t have to put up with an enormously long post.  I’m also adding a new post category:  Bees & Chickens.  That’ll help keep this a bit more organized.)

A fairly productive weekend

After several issues with the bee hive supplies, we managed to get them built.  (The quality just flat out sucks.  We’ll make our own from here on out.)  Yesterday, the weather finally cooperated for painting.  One hive will be white and the other will be yellow.  The different colors will help both the bees and us with identification of the hives.

And we’ve decided on a location for them:  Out by the shed, near the drainage creek.  They won’t be continually annoyed by the kids’ playing, nor most of the lawnmowing.  Steve & Cody worked on finishing the clearing in that area that I started a month or so ago.  The bees will do better in sun than shade, plus that chunk right there was nothing but honey locust and cedar anyway.  We’ll be leaving the Bois d’Arc.

We harvested the first of the worm tea and I’ve started feeding the seedlings with it.  I know, it makes for a pretty boring picture but I still think it’s exciting!  The plants agree with me.

The inserts from TekSupply arrived — in two days!  I managed to get the rest of the true potato seedlings separated, along with all of the mass-planted tomatillos.

A gardening buddy, Jay, sent me some leftover seed potato tubers he wasn’t going to plant:  Red Thumbs, Cherry Red, Kennebec, Yukon Gem, and Yellow Finn.  There were about six of each until I robbed them for an experiment.

I’m planting half of each variety in the normal manner but the other half I’ve shallow planted in soilless media.  I’ll be experimenting with pulling starts and/or taking cuttings.  Thanks to Wendy, Tom, and other potato-crazed gardeners for the inspiration!

Dreaming of a White Christmas…

It’s supposed to snow Thursday and Friday so we might have a white Christmas!  Of course, we’ve already had snow but it’s mostly melted by now.  We got several inches in one snow plus a few more snows of just dustings up to an inch.  Pretty exciting stuff!

We’ve begun our yearly tradition of making and delivering goodies to neighbors.  And guess what?  Some of them do it, too, so we’re getting a few goodies!  (More on that another day.)  Have I mentioned how much I love this place?!

We’re only about half done with our deliveries.  Someone keeps eating it all as fast as I pull it out of the oven…  I hope to finish Christmas Eve — very late for us!

A quickie update on the new fresh-air chicken coop:  It’s working great!  Temps have been to 0* F, plus wind chill, and the birds are all doing very well.

Back to my last-minute sewing.  Much Christmas frenzy a’happening!

The new fresh-air chicken coop

There’s still much to be done, of course, but the main part is finished and the birds have moved in.  The run will be completed as we have time and money for fencing, adding more and expanding it over the next several months.  Eventually, there will be a chicken “moat” surrounding the gardens.  (The cornfield in the background will be the main veggie garden.  To the right of the chicken house, in the grass you see, will be the herb garden.  Raised beds are in progress right now for that.)

The east, west, and north walls, along with the roof, are sheet metal.  The front, south-facing wall is expanded metal (think chicken wire on steroids).  This allows lots of air movement, keeping the environment nice & dry.  With the opening facing south, that also allows the sun to enter and warm the coop in the cooler months while, with the summer’s sun being higher in the sky, much less sun enters, allowing for more shade.  When we get a few warmer days, we’ll scrub the accumulated dirt from the sheet metal and paint the front wall to look nicer.

The interior will have a half-wall sheeted to keep out the accumulation of crud.  We still have to make a good nest box but, for now, buckets will do.  They have one simple 2 x 4 for their roost but we will expand that as we get more birds in the spring.  We did manage to bring the cool feeder Steve made from Oklahoma.  And see the pumpkin pile?  Yummy (and free!) chicken food!  We’re giving them a few days to have fun eating up the grass and its bugs.  Once they’re through with that, we’ll throw in corn stalks and leaves for some fresh fun & bedding.

The new, fresh-air chicken coop

It’s a different world up here.  So a different coop is needed.  In Oklahoma, we had pretty heavy pressures from predators and the heat was more the issue than cold.  Now that we’re in the frozen tundra of the Arctic, we need to worry about the winters and not as many predators.  We’ve decided to go with the fresh-air concept, basically a three-sided building.  The open air design keeps it drier.  Chickens can handle the cold.  Cold & moisture?  Not so much.

Corner posts were set and concreted in over the weekend.  Now we just build the rest as the time is available, hopefully completing it by the time the real cold arrives.

That’s the lagoon you see behind it.  We’re looking west in this photo.  The creek and its trees are beyond the lagoon.  The house is to the left and cornfield/soon-to-be garden to the right.  If, and I do emphasize the “if”, my grand plans are realized, the back property lines (off the right side, out of the photo) will be fenced.  Inside that fence will be a line of trees/shrubs to screen from the neighbors and whatever they spray on the cornfield throughout the year.  The dogs will have run of that perimeter area to keep out critters and (I hope!  I hope!  I hope!) moles.  Inside of that perimeter dog area will be a chicken run from the back of the coop to the front:  The Chicken Moat, if you will.  Within that will be the veggie garden.

Are you with me?  We’ll have a big garden, surrounded by fence, then chicken run, then more fence, then dogs, then trees, and the final property fence.  Sound slightly insane, anal, and Fort Knox-ish?  Ah, so you do know me well.   Deer are a big problem here and they will not get to my garden.  Dang it.

Freezer Camp

The excess roosters got sent to freezer camp this past weekend.  Have fun, boys!

As for the other animals around here…

they seem to be making themselves right at home.

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