A Bee-autiful Experience

I thought this little outhouse was the perfect picture for this post, because we had bee problems this week and the word was Sh*t!

Outdoor toilet

Gerald (my brother-in-law) and I have three hives between us.  Last Sunday, two were very strong (one of his and one of mine) and one (mine) was weak–we suspected the queen was dead since we could not find her in two searches and the hive continued declining. By late Sunday afternoon, half of Gerald’s strong hive had swarmed, and while I was trying to get my protective clothing on to help him get them off the apple tree they were hanging on, they flew off.  Gone.  Just so fast. I could not believe it because we take such good care of them. They’d rather live in a tree where no one brings them sugar water? Stupid bees!

So…two things became really apparent after this. We had to do something about my weak hive, and we had to do something about my strong hive that might be planning to swarm and as well as the bees remaining in Gerald’s hive (still a lot of healthy bees). The strong hives were very crowded and this may have influenced the fact that his hive swarmed, so the first thing we did was add supers to the two healthy hives to give them more room.    A super is one of these white boxes.

Bee Hives

I then emailed John Rhoten at Poor Valley Bees to discuss getting a new queen for my weak hive. Thankfully, he had some queens arriving this week. I got the new queen yesterday. Here’s John….

John Rhoten

And here’s the queen…she’s the large bee in the tiny little box. My queen!!

Box of Bees

I also talked with John about moving some of the healthy bees over to the weak hive that we believed to be “queenless”. He said to move five frame over. We swapped out five empty frames from the weak hive with five frames full of bees, honey and brood (eggs). This is called “splitting the hive.”

Here’s Gerald doing all the work..I was just out of reach of the picture.

Gerald and the Bees

The picture below is the healthy hive…about to lose five frames full of bees. When you pull the frames out, they are covered with bees. We had to check and make sure we weren’t moving the queen bee. That would be bad.

Healthy Bees

In this picture, all the frames are swapped and we’re preparing to leave the tiny box with the queen bee and her helpers on top of the frames. Over a three-day period, the hive will accept her as their queen, and they’ll also eat her out of the candy part of the little box. On Tuesday, we’ll open the top of the hive and see if this happened. Hopefully all of this occurred, she’ll be free from the box, and her presence will restore order to the hive.

Installing the Queen

I’ve got sugar water with Honey Bee Healthy in it on the hives.

Hive No 1

I’m not sure if feeding the bees is necessary because Mendota is in bloom. Here’s some pictures…Swinging Bridge Road…just in front of the house.

Swinging Bridge

Back to the little outhouse just down the road…have you ever used one of these? Tell me!! I have! My grandmother used to have one.

Outdoor toilet

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Bittle Ones of Itches

Polecats — that’s what my daddy called them. I call them skunks, or something that rhymes with “Bittle Ones of Itches.”

Skunk

So these Bittle Ones of Itches used to treat me with respect. Of course, that is when I had young dogs that didn’t mind getting stinky. Now, since Luckie and Gracie’s retirement, and their hunting is more aligned with eating fried worms on the driveway (see picture below), the Bittle Ones of Itches are taking over.

Worm Eaters

My beehives are behind fencing because of them. Carefully constructed so a skunk cannot dig under the fence, the Bittle Ones of Itches are climbing over or squeezing through the fencing. They sit out in front of the hives and when the bees fly out to protect their hive, the skunks eat them. They can destroy a hive.

It’s war. I was thinking of shooting them. I can shoot a 22; it’s easy — however, everyone says there is still a bad stinking problem. Someone suggested trapping them as a more humane resolution but who wants to check the trap? Not me. John Rhoton of Poor Valley Bees came up with the fix!

A welcome mat of sorts…

Welcome Mats

But it’s a special welcome mat…look closer.

Welcome Mat 3

Aha! Some Bittle Ones of Itches are not going to have happy paws when they try to get my bees! It’s a great resolution. They’ll leave unharmed except for an “ouchy” on their feet, and my bees will live another day.

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Honeybees Are **Really** Back!

I’m taking you with me to feed the bees. Shhh…it’s early in the morning. The world seems new and clean. Does it seem that way everywhere or only here?

Wet Morning In Mendota

I added Honey B Healthy to the 1:1 sugar water I’m feeding my two bee hives. Beekeeping is not cheap. This little bottle of Honey B Healthy is $24.95, and I am lucky enough to live near Poor Valley Bees so I don’t have to pay shipping.

Honey Bee Healthy

Just takes a teaspoon per quart jar of sugar water…they love it. Lemon oil, spearmint oil…all things bees like and need.

Honey Bee Healthy Teaspoon

At the hive, which is blissfully near the house, I look in and see an empty jar. They are drinking one quart every 24-36 hours. This means they are alive so this is a good thing for me.

Empty Jars

So I swapped them out. It was so easy since the bees were in the hive due to the early hour. This afternoon I visited the hive again…it was reassuring as I could see the bees coming in and taking off. The ones that were coming in had their little hind leg baskets filled with pollen. Not much of the sugar water is gone — maybe they are all foraging and just using it as a “bar” where they go for a drink at night???

Hive 1

They are working hard. I’m going to work hard, too — I’m going to go outside and work on my garage organization and plant some tomatoes!! But before I go, I was a little concerned that my super duper potatoes might be all potato vine and no potato…so while walking back from my little apiary, I reached down in the raised bed and felt around and pulled out this! Taterhead rules!!

Tater Today

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