Tuesday, July 21, 2015

In other happy news...

The new queens in both the Swarm and Fish hives are doing their job!  We saw larvae and capped brood (pupae) in both!  Go girls!  Go girls!  Go girls!  And we saw the Swarm queen, but unfortunately I was too slow to get a photo.  But larvae!  Pupae!


The Fish hive was stronger, but since the Swarm population was so small, we took two full frames of capped brood (pupae) from two of the new hives to add to the Swarm.  Once those hatch out, they'll be nurse bees to the queen's eggs and larvae, then guards, and then in a few days ready to forage and help bulk up the hive's population.





Sunday, July 19, 2015

We're Farmers?

Eric tells me that as a kid, he actually dreamed of being a farmer.  I didn't.  He went to an agricultural high school in New York City.  I went to public school, started undergrad as a bio major, and finished as a politics major on my way to law school.  Agriculture never even crossed my mind as being within the realm of anything I wanted to do.

Silly me.

'Cause somehow Eric and I have become farmers.  Weird.

Wednesday evening after work, we decided that it was time to pull some honey supers from the hives.  OK, so we're not experienced or bright farmers.  The bees are less than thrilled in the evening, you see, even just before dusk.  All of the girls are home, all of the foragers are back from foraging, and they're not so keen on dim light or humans (read:  potential threats) breaking into their homes at that hour.  They're never keen on humans stealing their honey, but very much so not at dusk or just before.

So, yeah, not bright.  And I deserved the message I got from the Pooh hive, via a sting in the tush, right through my jeans.  I did, I know it.  And it was fine; because it was through my jeans, she didn't get me badly, just enough to feel the pinch and then itch for a couple days.  Of course, that didn't stop me from calling to Eric, "Smoke my butt!  Smoke my butt!" because when bees sting they release a "danger" pheromone that calls other bees to join in the defense of the hive.  The smoke blocks those pheromones.  All very logical, and in hindsight, funny as all get out, but I'm still glad our neighbors are far enough away that they didn't hear "Smoke my butt!  Smoke my butt!"

Because I'm sure we would have been getting some pretty sketchy looks in the neighborhood.

Eventually we got one (ten frames) of the two honey supers off the Pooh hive, and the one super (six frames) off the Wonderland hive.  And we brought them downstairs to our nifty brand new Kelley Bees extractor we got (which is actually pretty old and we bought used from a fellow beek, perfect for our first year!).




It's a manual, three-frame extractor, and we're definitely getting our exercise!  Turning the handle had me quoting the witches from Macbeth.

Double, double, toill and trouble
Fire burn and cauldron bubble.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.  First, we had to uncap the wax off the honey.




To do so, we used our nifty new uncapping knife.  It's heated and does a great job slicing the caps off.  Turned out I was better at it than Eric, so we figured out quickly how to divide our labor, with Eric holding the frame steady while I sliced.  It smelled so good as the honey was exposed, you have no idea!

From there, the frames went into the triangular metal basket in the extractor, and we started spinning.




The centrifugal force causes the honey to be flung from the cells of honeycomb onto the wall of the extractor and drop down from there, where it's poured through a coarse strainer (to get out any large wax and bee particles but leave the beneficial pollen) into a bucket.



And then?  We bottled our first 18 lbs of honey!!!  There's a bunch more yet to be bottled, and ten more frames we got off the Pooh hive on Sunday to be extracted, and we still need labels, but bottled honey!!!



I'll take the farmer's life.  I love it.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Truckin' Along

While we wait for honey extraction and the forever home for three of our five new hives, I knit.  And knit, and knit, and knit.

And it makes me happy.


Saturday, July 11, 2015

These Go to Eleven

So... our apiary just expanded to nearly double what it was today.  If you're counting along, we started with two hives last spring, one of which died.  So we came into this spring with one hive, which we split.  We then bought three nucs, making five hives.  And Eric caught a swarm, making six.

And now?  They go to eleven.


Another local beekeeper has chosen to downsize his apiary from two locations to one, and was selling his hives.  Someone else bought six, we got five.  Five new (old, established) hives.  All at once.  Whoa!

Two went to the yard of friends, who are hosting them for us.  The funny thing is that the wife said yes, and then forgot to tell her husband!  Thankfully, he's got a good sense of humor and is really laid back, because he accepted the concept immediately, even saying, "this will be fun."  When we got there today, he'd dug up a bit of his lawn to make it flat to accommodate the hives, and spread mulch in front of them so his landscapers don't have to mow that area.  Perfect possible host for our girls!


The other three were planned for another yard in our town, but the logistics there didn't work out, so they're currently, temporarily, living in our yard until they can be moved, which should happen pretty shortly, since we've got a potential "forever home" for them already.



Yeah, I think we're real beekeepers now, just in case I had any residual doubts.

We're getting some honey this year... but just wait 'til next year's crop!

Thursday, July 9, 2015

The Queens Have Been Released!

Eric checked on the new girls this week, and was able to release the new queen into the Swarm hive on Tuesday and the Fish hive yesterday.  Now it's up to them to get to work and build the populations back up.  Looking forward to next weekend, when we should be seeing larvae!

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Busy, Busy... as a Bee

On Friday, we inspected our two queenless hives, to find that they'd both been unsuccessful in making viable, mated queens.  Sigh.  We had such high hopes, especially for the Fish Hive.  It's been raining a lot, so it's highly likely that any new queens that hatched were unable to mate or simply unable to get back to the hives.  It's a precarious thing, going on a mating flight.  She could get caught in the rain, eaten by a bird, or any number of other mishaps might befall her.

Sorry, no photos, we were moving quickly to check them out after my half day at the office.

So we headed on up to Hudson Valley Bee Supply on Saturday morning (yes, the 4th, but it's become evident that there are no holidays when you're dealing with agricultural concerns), where we picked up two new mated queens and their attendants, together with just about everything we'd need to extract honey.  Except the extractor.

But then Saturday evening, after I face painted at a country club July 4 party, a beekeeper friend let us know he'd ordered a new extractor and was selling his old one... so we went over there and bought it!  We are now the proud owners of a three-frame Kelley Bees extractor, unlike any of the ones currently on their site, but I suppose the predecessor to this one.  We're so excited!  Now the biggest problem (aside from the fact that we still need to order jars and design/order labels) is waiting for the bees to be done making their honey!

We're not patient types.

I guess it's ok, though.  Where we are, the echinacea, black-eyed Susans, daisies, butterfly bushes, and balloon flowers are just starting to bloom, and we still have a bunch of our fruits and veggies flowering - zucchini, cantaloupe (although if you watch Alton Brown's Good Eats, what we're really growing is apparently muskmelon, no matter what the label says), tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, etc., so if the nectar from those blooms all get added into our honey, that's just fine with us!

In the meantime, I've been knitting my little heart out.  This photo shows the bee blanket as it stood a few days ago; at this point, I've got the second motif (with hearts and another row of dots) completely finished, and I've started in on the third motif, the big bunnies and bee.


Besides that, I got my ceramic bee bowl back from firing!  I think it came out really cute, and find it amazing that this...



... became this.



Monday, June 29, 2015

She Got Me

Yesterday afternoon, although it was still grey and cloudy, it finally stopped raining, so we decided to take a look into the honey supers on the Wonderland and Pooh hives to see if they needed any more space.  Turns out they didn't, but they're doing well with the space they've got.

But I got my first sting in 35 years, my first sting since becoming a beekeeper.  Totally my fault, too.

I was dressed in a dark, short-sleeved shirt and nice pants, and I wasn't in the mood to take part in going into the hives, as I'd just gotten back from a 3-hour face painting gig, so I was across the yard while Eric donned his gear to take a look.

Well, me being me, I got curious and wanted to see too, so I got closer and closer.  Eric took the top super off the Pooh hive, put it on the ground, and was looking at honey frames in the second super, as I got closer to have a look at the top super, which was now uncovered, wide open, on the ground.  I stood right next to it, leaning over to look in from the top, for all intents and purposes, looking to the bees like a big ol' looming bear about to attack (to a bee, dark clothes a human looks like a potential bear, and therefore a huge threat) their indefensible hive.

Whoops.

I felt her land in the crook of my elbow, realized I'd scared them, and immediately walked away from the hives, not freaking out (kudos to me!) not swatting at her, trying to shake my arm to shake her off, but it was already too late.  I felt the pinch as she stung me, and immediately scraped out the stinger, which is what you want to do if you're ever stung, FYI.  It was weird, then.  I felt a gradual, but quick heat start to build, and I knew it was going to hurt.  Not deathly, not intolerably, but it definitely hurt.  I got an ice pack from the freezer, which immediately numbed the pain, and kept it on until the pain subsided on its own.

Later last night, while I was knitting, I was fine.  Every time I straightened my elbow all the way, it felt sore, but not bad.  That's mostly gone now.  What I'm left with is a crazy amount of itching, that's driving me a tad insane, but I'll live.  And for the record, that Benadryl topical anti-itch stuff?  It's useless.  Just so you know.

I'm actually glad it happened.  I'm sorry I scared them, and I'm sorry one of the girls felt the need to go kamikaze, but I'm glad I got stung.  It's good to know that it hurts no more than I remember it hurting 35 years ago, and I've proven to myself that I can handle it fine.  So I'm good!
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