Liz and Simon check out the veil

Getting our Ducks in a Row

The Georgian packaged bees and their queens arrive in less than a week. The California packages arrive about a week later. So, yesterday I helped my new bee stewards set up their new hive boxes.

Each bee steward has agreed to host two hives. I’d initially planned to have many bee stewards…I dreamed of bees in every yard…but something told me to set some limits. Thank God. I’ve settled on two stewards who live near me…these are people I like a lot and with whom I’ll enjoy visiting. This summer I’ll have to feed the bees almost daily, so keeping them close to me means they’ll more easily become a part of my daily routine. Because new bees require a lot of attention and food, I have a feeling that keeping these 7-9 hives thriving this summer will be a handful (for those of you doing math: 2 stewards x 2 hives each = 4 hives. I’ll keep 3-5 hives at my place).

For each steward family, I’ve ordered The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Beekeeping, one veil, one hive tool, and one large smoker…to be delivered when they receive their bees.  I think that’s a nice way to start off, don’t you?

This year the bees and the equipment belong to me, and I agree to oversee all management. The stewards will receive a percentage of the honey their hives produce. Next year, if the bees survive the winter, the stewards can choose to buy the bees and equipment from me and assume the management. If everyone’s happy with the way it works this year, we can also just stick with our current arrangement. If the stewards tire of the bees, I’ll move the bees to a new yard.

Liz and Simon check out a veil

 

Simon and Patti (and Molly the dog) set their hives
Eunice (left) and Burnsie (right)

 

 

A Scatterbrained Beekeeper

Some days I move around a lot with little to show for it. Yesterday was one of those days.

I put the finishing touches on the three remaining swarm-lure boxes: I added frames of drawn comb, and I drilled holes in the lids of three used plastic medicine bottles into each of which I put two cotton balls—I sprinkled three to five drops of lemongrass oil on one cotton ball; with the other cotton ball, I  soaked up my melted swarm lure…a mix of beeswax, almond oil, and lemongrass oil. I smeared the swarm lure mixture on the outside of each box and at the entrances. Then I added the used-up cotton to the vials, closed them up with their lids, and tucked the vials inside the boxes (the holes in the vial lids allows the smell of lemongrass to waft out of the box and attract the bees).

I still haven’t hung the things, though. It’s raining.

Then, I got the top-bar hives ready for bees…which means I added all the bars. Then I knocked the bars off because I wasn’t careful with the lid. So I replaced the bars. I immediately knocked them askew again. You see how it goes.

All of these little chores meant a lot of walking around the yard carrying stuff into the basement and out of the basement and into the kitchen and out to the garage and back to the yard. Then I’d forget something and have to go find it somewhere. It was tiring. Some days I’m unbelievably disorganized.

I had to take a nap.

Then, last night as the rain began and the wind whipped up, I realized I’d not replaced the large rock that anchors the Amazons’ hive cover, so I hauled out there in the rain and put that rock on top.

Bees arrive on Friday. If I don’t get more focused soon, they’re gonna wear me out.

Swarm-Bait Box (fit with top bars for a Kenya Top-Bar Hive)

My First Swarm-Bait Box Is Now Hung in a Tree

You know, I wait all winter long…think all winter long…plan and build all winter long…and still I am late when it comes to execution. Well, maybe not late, but certainly not early.

I think it’s swarm season, and as of yesterday I still hadn’t hung my home-built swarm boxes in their trees.

So, yesterday I hung one box in a tree in my beeyard. I’m not sure it’s high enough, and I may have put a bit too much lemongrass oil in the little container, but it’s hung. And even though I painted it camouflage, Deb spotted it immediately when she got out of her car. “What’s hanging in that tree?” she said. Bummer.

Come on, my little swarmies.

 

20110415-070724.jpg
Swarm-Bait Box (fit with top bars for a Kenya Top-Bar Hive)
20110415-070738.jpg
Swarm bait box decked out with camouflage and duct tape!
20110415-070749.jpg
Swarm-bait box hung in the beeyard

A Beeyard Deal

When I got home from work yesterday, I lit the smoker, changed my clothes, and headed out to the beeyard. (I say “beeyard,” but it’s not really a separate yard, it’s simply the space where I keep the bees at the edge of the wood behind our house. I just like to say “beeyard.”) I removed the bottom 10-frame deep box because it’s a ghost town in there. The bees had not yet moved into it. There were maybe a couple of cells of stored pollen in the entire box, no eggs, no other activity, so off it went.

Then, I placed an 8-frame medium box on top of my apiary’s last remaining 10-frame deep…the one that houses my awesomely surviving Amazons and their wonderfully gorgeous queen. I replaced the top cover, and that was that. No more disturbance.

Speaking of beeyards…I think I’ve lined up an 80-acre place within a 30-minute drive of my house where I can keep a lot of bees. My friend, Michael, who is building a home on a part of the acreage, has agreed to let me keep bees there; in exchange I’ll teach him what I know about beekeeping. I’ll give him his own hives to work. So, that’s totally cool, isn’t it? If I collect any swarms or if any of my future cut-out attempts succeed, those bees will go to Michael’s place.

Yesterday, too, I ordered veils, hive tools, a smoker, and a copy of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Beekeeping for each of my bee stewards. They don’t know about their bee-steward package yet, and I think they’ll like it.

I’m thinking of naming my future honey “Amazon Honey” and my own personal future queens “Amazon Queens.”  Perfect.

 

Johnny and the big smoker

And Who Wouldn't Want to See the Bees?!

On April 27, 2009, I captured the swarm that I now call the Amazons, and it’s mid April again right now….which means I think it’s time to set out the four swarm bait boxes I’ve built in hopes of capturing a few swarms.

I’m not entirely sure where to hang those things. I know I’ll put one on a tree in my own beeyard—near the Amazons because they swarmed a few times last year and landed right there in front of my eyes…right in front of my eyes, but 40 or 50 feet up in the tree…too high for me to reach. It’s a killer to watch your own bees hanging in your own yard like that knowing they’re off to find a new home.

You know, Reader, on Sunday afternoon as I set out to inspect the Amazons with Hannah, a soon-to-be beekeeper, my neighbor John appeared. He saw us getting our gear together, and he wanted to see the bees. He was in shorts, T-shirt, and Chaco sandals. We suited him up. Then Katie, John’s wife called out to say that she was leaving the house and asked if John would watch Johnny, their 5-year old son. So, we suited Johnny up, too, and we all went out to visit the bees.

But in all the commotion, I lost sight of my plans for the inspection, and though we saw many wonderful goings on in the hive, I forgot to do what I set out to do: remove the bottom hive box (because nothing’s happening in there, and it’s one of two remaining 10-frame deep boxes still in operation and I’m eager to get rid of it); and add an 8-frame medium box to the top of the hive for expansion.

Today’s temperatures should reach the mid-60s, and it’s supposed to be sunny, so I plan to quickly do those two things this afternoon.

20110413-055919.jpg
Johnny and the big smoker
20110413-055934.jpg
John, Johnny, and Hannah inspect the Amazons
Queen of the Amazons

New Mexico, Here I Come

Yes, I’ve been absent for a few months. But the bees and I are both back to flying now.

Only the Amazon hive made it through the past winter. I love those Amazons. Funny, I call them the Amazons without even thinking about it.

The fact that the Amazons, the hive I captured from a swarm two years ago, is the only of my hives to have successfully overwintered two winters underscores my determination to raise my own queens from survivor stock. I think it’s unnatural to order my bees and queens from Georgia or California as I’ve been doing, and I’m not gonna do it any more.

If I plan to raise bees successfully, I’d better get down to raising my own queens from my own strong surviving stock. Yes, it’s a big step, but I’m 52-years old and smart, and who’s gonna take the big steps if not me?!

I tried to sign up for an Ohio State queen-rearing workshop this year, but that workshop, which is capped at 50 people, was already filled. So, I called the lady at the Ohio State Bee Lab to see how I could finagle my way into the workshop. I got a little bit outlandish on the phone as I created these wild and scheming ways of getting in. I cracked myself up with my ideas, but the lady was a sourpuss. You know the type—type-A rule follower. Well, I’d already decided to drive myself the 3 hours up there in May with my $75 registration fee in hand and in cash and see if they turned me down. They would have let me in. I can charm my way into anything.

However, the thought of being in that Ohio State workshop with those people (whom I find dull based on experience at bee school these past two years) led me to explore further. And through a wonderful and serendipitous chain of one thing leading to another, I found Zia Queenbees in Truchas, NM, where I am now one of 12 people registered for a 2-day queen-rearing workshop in the mountains along the road between Taos and Santa Fe.

And I am totally flipped out with delight about it.

(Queen of the Amazons is at 7 o’clock below)

20110412-075534.jpg
Queen of the Amazons