Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Bee Log 39; May 19, 2010

Swarm Capture Bucket

Beehive with Swarm

I captured a swarm today. No, this video is NOT me. It was my inspiration and what I wish I had looked like. Thank you Jeff McMullan for your excellent footage of a very experienced beekeeper.

I had seen this video on Youtube and had a similar situation developing at my house. The bees landed in a pear tree on the alley about 4 houses down the block. I was home alone so it was up to me or wait. Bad weather was forecast so I chose to act. I taped a 5 gallon paint bucket to the bottom of a 12 foot pruning pole with duct tape (see photo). I prepared a box to receive the bees complete with bottom and top. I practiced getting near the swarm but not hitting them. I practiced dumping the bees in the box from the ladder. I prayed and then I bumped the bucket as hard as I could up under the swarm. I did not anticipate the weight of the swarm. I must have had 5 pounds of bees. It took me a few seconds to readjust to the weight and get the bees safely out of the tree. I dumped the bees in the waiting hive and put the lid on askew and sat down to wait (see photo). There were still a significant number of bees in the tree. I was worried that I did not get the queen. I waited. The bees started fanning at all open points on the hive. Bees started filling the air. I could not tell if the bees were headed out or in the hive. I waited. The bees were going in!

About this time I talked to a neighbor, Tony, who was taking out his garbage. I explained what was happening as there were still a lot of bees in the air. It is a bit alarming to see a swarm.

I waited for about an hour until most of the bees were in the hive. Then, I put a strap around the hive and pulled it home on a dolly. I hope they like their new home!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Bee Log 38: May 13, 2010

This video was taken by Theo while we are going through the hive we placed in his yard.

Bee Log 37: May 13, 2010

I deposed a queen today. We had one bad tempered hive placed with Mike as host. This is the hive of bees that stung me on the nose and cheek two weeks ago. I was worried about their aggressiveness after that event. The bees had followed me well away from the hive area and got the second sting in. Well, they did the same thing to Mike two days ago. He was mowing well away from the hive area and we walked toward him after we finished our examination of the hive. We must have brought the guard bees with us intent on stinging because two of them got him. We still had our bee veils on.

Today when we left the hive area we walked away from the house and homeowner and waited until the guard bees stopped flying around us before we walked back to the house (it is a big yard). They were following us and it took a few minutes of patience to get them to forget about us.

This kind of nasty temperament is not what we want when we place bees in someones yard. Genetics determines temperament so we decided to requeen. We are thankful to have found her majesty on the fifth frame that we examined. So it was off with her head and tomorrow we will place a new queen on the throne. It will take a few weeks for the new queens genetics to take over but if the hive accepts her, this should help.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Bee Log 36: May 11, 2010

Busy time of year. Beautiful time of year.

Our 12 new hives are mostly doing really well. We have two problems in the group. One hive ended up without a queen. They swarmed out of the hive and then went back in alarming Russ, the homeowner. Then there was a big bee battle with the other hive on the property. I still don't know what was going on there. Maybe one group tried to rob the other group. Russ reported that both the hives at one point were just covered with bees. I wish I could have seen it. There were dead and dying bees littering the ground. I purchased a new queen and she is dangling in the hive in a little cage while the hive gets used to her pheromones. There is a candy plug in her cage that the bees will eat through releasing her in about 2 days.

The second problem hive has all drone brood. See the picture for what it looks like. I think we have an unfertile queen because the eggs are laid in the bottom of the cells and are laid one to a cell. A laying worker, which would also produce only drone brood, lays eggs that are on the side of the cells and usually puts more than one egg in each cell. We hunted and hunted for the queen but couldn't spot her even though there are not a lot of bees. We put a frame of brood from another hive in the hive in hopes that the bees will raise their own queen. If this fails, I think this hive will not make it.

I had another bee sting last Saturday. A bee crawled up my pant leg and I was stung at the top of my leg. This sting swelled up much more than the last one. In fact the redness and swelling covers most of the inside of my thigh. I spent one day on benadryl which I should have started sooner. Ice helps. I have an appointment with an allergist because I can't go through this with every sting. In the meantime, I have learned to tuck my pants into my socks.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Bee Log 35: May 5, 2010

It is time to write about gardening. The last few years have been frustrating for me as a gardener. First of all, each year I have not known whether I would be around for the harvest. My husband is a frustrated farmer planted in the city. We have been shopping for a farm for about 10 years and each time we have almost purchased a farm, something has gone wrong. One farm was in probate. In Washington that means that, until the judge's gavel drops, someone can come along with a higher bid and scoop the property away. We lost out just before the judge's gavel dropped to a bid too high for us to top. Last summer, our house was on the market, we had an offer on a farm contingent on selling our house, our house sold and then it unsold. Another summer, we had the highest bid on a farm near Duvall that had multiple offers only to have the owner decide that he wanted to sell to his nephew to keep the property in the family (his prerogative). One farm did not have a well. They collected surface water for their needs. There is no way to get the loan we needed (that we could find) without an approved water system. The owner tried twice to dig a well and came up with too low a flow to count as a well. One farm suffered a record flood event just as we were about to make an offer. Every square inch of the farmland was underwater. The first floor of the house was above the flood by about 6 inches. We felt unprepared for such a disaster. There were more near misses.

The second problem with gardening has been my recent inability to get seeds to grow. I have never figured out exactly what is happening. I don't know if I have some sort of sprout killing fungus in the garden or bad cut worms or rampant slugs. We have had chickens all along that do a pretty good job on the slugs. Not even zinnias and nasturtiums have grown in the last two years. I have tried seeds each year and finally in desperation, gone out and purchased starts for the garden. Paper collars around the seeds have allowed some lettuce to grow so the chief suspect is cut worms.

The third problem I have been having is lowered futility of the soil. Last year, in an effort to remedy this problem, I brought home two pick-up truck loads of horse manure-uncomposted. I understand now that this was not a good thing. Something about the bacteria that break down the manure taking the available nitrogen for themselves and leaving none for the garden. I am currently reading a soils textbook as a result of my errors. I am learning about things that I should have known like limiting reagents or in this case limited futility due to not enough of some key soil ingredients.

Our first gardening task this year was to purchase 6 cubic yards of booster blend compost from Cedar Grove Compost. This is the cities chopped up yard waste composted with dairy manure. The dump truck that delivered the manure deposited it right where I wanted it in the driveway between my house and the neighbors. I did not anticipate the smell. Sorry neighbors. (I gave them some of the offensive substance as a compensation!) Well, you can't have good anaerobic bacteria without smell. I should have known! We have put the compost all over the yard and are seeing amazing results in greener grass and bigger weeds. Most of the compost went on the garden. We are busy mixing it in with the soil. We wanted to build raised beds out of concrete blocks but that was too expensive for this year so we shaped raised beds as best we could without side supports.

I have not planted seeds yet. That is next. I will buy tomato and pepper plants as I did not start any early myself.

For the present, we have decided to be urban farmers. We have a large lot and deep, almost rock free top soil. The bees and chickens are legal in Seattle in limited numbers. (Small goats are legal too but I have had experience with billy goats and have no desire to get a goat.) We have nice raspberries and grapes that are well established. We have a great walkable neighborhood and great neighbors. Our church, family connections and friends are all centered in Seattle.