Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Apartment for Rent..

Originally this little darling was going to be a bait hive.
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It’s a five frame medium Nuc box but…plans have changed. I now want to build two bait hives that will take top bars.  My idea is to use some of the comb from my last hive to bait the box, along with a swarm lure and if all goes buzzingly, I’ll have some free-bees to put into the newly modified top bar hive.  Now you may ask yourself why I would want to do that, so I’ll tell you!
Bees are getting harder and harder to get, you have to order your bees in the winter and because demanding is increasing, so has the price.  There is also the belief that bees that have swarmed are the cream of the hive.  They are coming most likely from a hive that has survived the winter, built up fast and decided that they need to move out!  My goal is to get some apartments up for them to move in to, you know the pre-furnished kind that scream if you lived here you’d already be home!  
So what happens to my five frame Nuc, well it’s still useful and who knows it may still end up as a bait hive!  In any event I’ll post pictures as soon as we get the bait hives built!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Top Bar Hive Redo..

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In which we have new legs..
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A repaired window..
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A screen in the bottom..
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An adjustable bottom board…
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Two custom supers…
Still more to come!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Foundationless..

So while I or rather we are using Langs this year (we because if Randy wasn’t helping it wouldn’t be happening) I’m still not using foundation.  After much research, I decided to use the wedge from the frame as my comb guide.
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So here’s the frame, looks just like a medium Lang should.
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Here’s the wedge put in place to be used as a comb guide.  According to what I’ve read (wonder if the bees read the same stuff??) this will be enough to get them to draw straight comb on the frame, let’s hope so because I’m incredibly anti-foundation.  I don’t want plastic in my hive, I don’t trust the wax from commercial sources as being clean and pure, so what’s a beek to do if this doesn’t work?
I have no idea!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

We got it covered…

Another day spent in the workshop, another set of covers with upper entrances created!
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This time around it’s a solid entrance.  Randy used the same framing and cut out for the entrance as the double screen he just replaced it with a solid board and he maintained the all important beespace.  The Langs are ready to go out as I spent the time he was making these, placing the wedge from the frames into the top groove as a comb guide.  Now to paint some tanglefoot on the legs of the hive stand and set them in place!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Upper Entrances and Inner Covers and French Kissing Bees…

I’ve been reading a lot about entrances, there are of course many views on where it should be placed.  Some say bottom only, some say top only, some say both!  From a bees stand point I’m not sure that they even know what they prefer, the ones in my TBH were a testament to that.  The hive had holes along the top that were supposed to be for ventilation and holes along the bottom that were supposed to be for the entrances. (I use plural because my hive is designed so that you could potentially have two colonies in one hive.)  Well, the girls decided that they liked a top entrance better and chewed through the mesh to gain access at the top and that was the entrance that they use the most, well sort of.  They also located and removed a spot in a knot on the front of the hive and were entering through that (at the top) and when the window bowed they used that as an entrance as well! Let’s not forget that some were using the original bottom entrance too. So what did I learn from all of that?  Nothing concrete that’s for sure, it seems that given an entrance or the opportunity for an entrance they will use whatever is available. 
From my view point I know I don't want the entrance on the front of the hive, I know that I don’t want mice, skunks or raccoons to be an issue and I don’t want dead bees or deep snow (if it ever snows here again) to be an issue either.  So what does that leave me with?  A reduced bottom entrance and a custom made double screened (and solid) inner cover and telescoping top.
Let’s start with the screened cover.
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Now I don’t know how true things are that are written about bee behavior and I’m certainly not saying that the person who said this is wrong or right.  We liked the design of this, we liked that it was sturdier than some of the other ones we’d seen and we wanted to make sure that ventilation wasn’t an issue in the hive when the humidity is at it’s peak.  Now if this design stops the French kissing and discourages robbing that’s even better.  What?  You didn’t know bees French kiss?  Yeah, neither did we!  Supposedly, some of our devious little girls when given the chance will head off to a hive with a screened inner cover  offer the occupants some nectar from their tongue to gain trust and acceptance.  Once they’ve established a friendship with the bees in the hive, it opens it up to robbing. Since this screened cover has 2 layers of screen it stops the tongues from meeting.  Hmmm… I’ll leave it at that.
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The other reason was this, a nice opening for an upper entrance and to make sure that it doesn’t get blocked ever by a hasty top replacement we notched the telescoping cover too.
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We are going to use the same frame design and notch location to make a solid inner cover that will replace the screen in the winter so that in the event of snow, or a build up of dead bees in the winter the bottom, the bees aren’t blocked in.
I guess like us, honey bees like to have more than one door in their house and apparently like kissing too!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Framed…

I know it doesn’t look like much but what a lifesaver this turned out to be! 
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Originally, Randy had bought some pine from Home Depot to make this with, but the wood wasn’t square enough for his liking.  So he used some shop scraps to make it, what is it you ask..It’s a frame jig!
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This process made me truly appreciate the beauty and simplicity of my top bars!  We assembled 70, we have 80 more to go!  The jig lets us do 10 at a time, it holds the end bars in place, letting you put the glue on and then nail (we were using an air nailer).  The spring holds them tight (I’ve also seen frame jigs with a latch on either side) allowing you to flip the box over and repeat the process on the other side.  Slide the finished frames off and load it up again.  The process wasn’t too painful, but I could see how for one person it could become mind numbing after a while.
Of course Randy didn’t have exactly the tool that “I” needed for this project, so he had to buy me a new one.
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I’m not quite sure how it works out that it’s mine because most things that go into the workshop fall under the rules of if it’s in here it’s his, but he at least does share.
The plan for the frame jig came from a recent issue of Bee Culture magazine.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Hive Stands..

This weekend was all about woodworking and I had a blast in the shop with (the husband) Randy.   In an effort to space out all the wondrous things we built you are going to get multiple post, starting with the hive stands!
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We made two of these out of cedar post and decking boards.  The plans came from the Building Beehives for Dummies book that I reviewed last week.  Randy has a bone to pick with the person who wrote the book because he suspected (and was right) that putting screws into the cedar on the ends would cause it to split.
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Things like this lead to a lot of swear words being tossed around in the shop.  It only took one split for Randy to decide to counter sink all the screws.  The end result was two hive stands, well… three actually…
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This one is for the top bar hive, no more wobbly legs!  Also all the hive stands legs are going to be treated with Tanglefoot in an attempt to stop those stupid acrobat ants from pestering my bees this year!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Adding to the library!

I’ve added some books to my bee library, at this rate I’m going to need another bookshelf!
Building Beehives for Dummies by Howland Blackiston.
I’m a dummies fan!  Seriously I know some people shudder at this books but in all honesty they are usually really, really good!  This one is pretty new and it is loaded with information and images on building all kinds of hives as well as hive accessories.  Langstroth, Top Bar, Warre and the British National are in there, as are hive stands, screened bottom boards, hive top feeders and even Nucs.  The directions are easy to understand and the images are easy to read.  There are several things in this book that we will be building!
Top Bar Beekeeping by Les Crowder and Heather Harrell
You know my love of TBH’s, you know that I’m a hobbyist and have ever desire to make sure that my bees are happy and healthy and I think Top Bars will help with that goal (not to say that they are the only way).  I haven’t finished this one yet but so far it’s been very informative (not that I expect less from Les Crowder!) and I’ve already learned some things I didn’t know.  My favorite tid bit thus far has to do with 120 degrees and the shape of comb and TBH bodies.  Want to know more, get the book Winking smile
Swarm Traps and Bait Hives by McCartney Taylor. 
This guys got YouTube videos that will keep you busy for hours!  If you’ve got free time look him up, they aren’t flashy but they are informative, like did you know that a bread knife makes a better TBH tool than anything else?  Nope I didn’t either but watch his video and it makes sense!  So this book is written like someone sitting down and having a chat with you.  He doesn’t overload you with facts, figures and what not, it’s very reader friendly.  So basically he goes over what to use as a bait hive, what to put in it and where to put it.  I was happy to see mention of Top Bars and how to use them in a bait hive as I’d never seen that addressed before!
The Thinking Beekeeper from Christy Hemenway
Ok I confess that a large part of the reason that I got this book was because of the guy who pitched a fit on Amazon in the review section.  He was upset and took the title to mean that anyone that wasn’t using TBH’s wasn’t a thinking beekeeper. Open-mouthed smile  The fact that the title alone could conjure so much emotion made me want to read it even more.  I was already familiar with Christy and Gold Star and their belief in more natural beekeeping methods.  This book follows right along with what they teach on their website with a little more information and details.  If you are just getting into TBH’s it’s a good book to read, if you’ve been doing it a while and are pursuing a natural means it’s a good book to add to your collection.
I don’t know if it will ever happen where people stop associating Langstroth hives with commercial beekeepers and everything else with hobbyist.  I don’t know if those that use Langs will ever broadly accept that bees can be kept in other ways, or that even if someone is using a Lang they can do it without chemicals.  In any event educating yourself on any and all means of beekeeping can only help you and the bees in the end!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Apiary Planning

I guess I’m a lot like a honey bee.  As soon as the warmth from the sun, that mild warm air stirs around me I want to be outside.  I want to feel the sun and enjoy it for as long as I can.  I go out and look to see what flowers are blooming, Spring is in the air… 
This weekend the first hints of Spring being close beckoned me into the yard and because time is of the essence I spent the day cleaning up the future apiary location.  If you were following along before you know from this post Spring Planning that we were making some changes, well some came to fruition.  The beech, well it still stands, albeit a bit thinner.  Our tree guy convinces us every time he comes to keep it, this time he agreed to prune it at least.
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I started prep on the flower border area, I spent a lot of time digging the white rocks out of the ground as this is what it use to look like.getting there
The far back left is or rather was the bog garden and that black stuff showing is plastic that was used to hold moisture and peat in place.  It had to be removed to turn the area into a planting spot, two things I will never, ever do again, put black plastic down and put rocks down like that. What was I thinking!
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I actually did clean up all the leaves, but experience has taught me that when I do that a cold snap comes and causes problems.  So after I had raked them all into a nice pile, I shredded them so that I could spread them back out on the plants that had emerged from the ground already.  Mountain mint has made a lovely patch and surprisingly enough I saw a tuft of yarrow.  That means however that hive placement is going to be a little harder.
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I’ve toyed with several spots but can’t quite decide what is optimal.  I know that I want the entrances facing the woods but if I place the hives in the front, I can’t do that because it would mean they would be flying out where the flowers are and we know that bees don’t eat where they take their elimination flights.  Also I suspect that they wouldn’t enjoy me working on the flowers right outside their door.  I don’t want to put them too far back because I don’t want the soft loamy soil under the hives encouraging small hive beetles.  In any case I’m thinking that the Langs will be off to the left and ride and the TBH will be in the middle, exactly where is the question…

Monday, March 11, 2013

First blush of Spring…

What is a girl to do when she walks outside, the sun is warm on her skin, the air is fresh and the chill has been removed with that breath of Spring?  She spends the day outside of course!
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The fruits of my labor, was a pond area removed of all leaves.  (Too bad I can’t say the same for the pond!)
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I cleaned the leaves out of the bog, it was great to see green sprouts in there!  I don’t know how many plants made it, but at least I know some did!  Of course I can’t wait till they really get growing and help with the algae.
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The stream got a through cleaning too, leaves cleaned out and Oxi-lift poured over the rocks to kill of the string algae.  The filters got a good cleaning too, messy job but makes a big difference.
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The fish were happy with the tidying and were also enjoying the warming water I’m sure!  As soon as all the leaves have been cleaned up and shredded we will be able to take the net off and get the debris out of the pond and the new plants in. 
Spring has sprung at least a little!

What kind of gardener are you?

  Recently in an attempt to find some other gardeners to chat with, I joined several gardening groups on facebook.  It all seemed so normal...