Bee Help

Part of the excitement of this new project is the help that is offered by near and far friends. Friends I have met through this blog and friends that I have met through other friends. The local one, recently introduced to me by a spinner friend, with her husband has 14 hives and she was excited to see our set up. She came over yesterday and made a few suggestions. One was to lower the bottom strand of the electric fence as it was high enough for skunks to go under it without touching it. She said a skunk would scratch at the front of the hive at night, causing bees to come out to examine why and get picked off as they left the hive.

Last night after dinner, bee jacket and veil put donned, fence equipment box hauled down to the enclosure and the electric fence reworked with strands 6″ off the ground, 14″ off the ground, 30″ and about 42″. This should discourage most of our local predators. There are now 4 strands instead of 3, lower and closer together. If I can figure out how to use the volt meter, I will test it’s strength.

When the enclosure was reached, all 4 feeders were empty and the hives were very active. After fencing was finished, syrup was made and the feeders filled. The activity at the hives was encouraging and many of the bees were out foraging. Soon it will be warm enough and they will be settled in enough that the feeders can be removed.

She also suggested placing a brick or rock on top of each hive. That didn’t get done today but will tomorrow.

The distant friend from the blog has offered many suggestions on predator deterrent and winter feeding, providing a website link and all that has helped and will help as I move forward with this project.

I did learn that that the bee suit is very hot when the outdoor temperature is above 70f. I can just image what it will be like come August. But the bees are very docile. I have filled their feeders from behind the hives twice, reaching over to pull the feeder to fill and today mowed a 10 foot wide path in front of the electric fence both with no protection on and no bees bothered me.

None of this would have been possible without our youngest son asking to put hives on our property and teaching me how to work with them between his trips up here to check on them.

Our local teenage grandson came today for riding mower lessons after farmer’s market. It was nice having most of it done while I stayed on the porch or in the house. Since this was his first time, I did the “difficult” parts, the steeper embankments, orchard, around obstacles, and the section below the garden that used to be garden and is very rough. He did a great job and seemed to have fun zooming around the yard.

Crazy Weather and Bees

In spite of 3 nights of freezing temps and graupel coating the deck two mornings, the bees seem to be thriving. They have emptied their pint syrup feeders twice already. Today I purchased 20 pounds of sugar. I don’t think I have bought that much sugar cumulatively in the past decade, but they need the 1:1 syrup until they are fully established and the weather settles in. They will feed in the winter too, but there are online recipes for making sugar bricks that are placed in the hive for their consumption during cold weather when they can’t fly about and there is no pollen available. Since the bricks have to dry thoroughly and as this is a fairly humid area, the making of the bricks will begin during the summer, dried, and stored in airtight containers for winter feeding. This is a good use for a dehydrator, but we don’t have one.

After the frigid three days, the temperatures have moderated and this weekend it is going to feel like summer and return to near freezing nights part of next week.

The asparagus are producing, peas, sugar snap peas, and potatoes are sprouting. There is a fair amount of spinach, and more goodies are coming to the Farmer’s Market each week now. The hens are being generous enough to share with family.

It really seems like spring is here for real. We are still about 3 weeks from last average chance of frost, but the potted herbs and tomato and pepper starts are spending more time on the back deck.

The week had two living history events with tours from local schools to the museum. We had about 100 sixth graders yesterday and a smaller group of 4th graders, scheduled for tomorrow that has had to be rescheduled due to illness among the teachers of the school. I love these events. For yesterday’s event, I set up in the “loom house” an original log cabin from around 1768. The original Newbern community along Wilderness Road was what today we would call a planned community. The residents were required to build a 16 foot square home with a fireplace and a storage/sleeping loft along the road. Many of these original homes can still be seen by placement of windows, though mostly now covered in siding and all expanded. The museum property also has the original German barn that has been restored, several other original buildings, and a reconstructed summer kitchen with a loft. The loom house is next on the renovation schedule, it will get a new roof and the chinking repaired, the chimney also repaired, though “real” fires are not being burned in any of the fireplaces, many have electric logs to simulate fires. Only about a dozen students and a teacher at a time could be in the house with me as the loom and a bed take up most of the space. The loom has enough space around it for a single file of students to stand and still leave enough room for me to set up the small quill wheel. Though not a lot of spinning gets done in the length of time, because each class had to be split in half to fit them inside, history of where and how the fiber to make their clothing was obtained and processed, lessons on fiber preparation, spinning, weaving of tapes and fabric and how family members were all involved in this process. Types of fabric made and how it was used, why certain fabrics were used for particular items. And personal grooming during the period. Kids are either fascinated or repelled by some of the information, and they are all left with the question of whether they would like to return to that lifestyle.

A most excellent day

Thursday night, Son 1 arrived late and Friday was spent with him, as he made some repairs for us and we all took a walk. Friday in time for dinner, Son 2, a granddaughter , and the bees arrived. We visited, unpacked the pallet of boxes, frames, suits, and other accouterments needed for raising bees, and I found out that the two hives I thought we were starting with was actually 4 hives.

Hubby and I had purchased a post, ground rod, and pavers (for two hives) earlier on Thursday.

This morning, the work began, first pulling a huge pile of Autumn Olive bushes, clearing the space to set up the electric fence to surround the hives, and the guys pounded in poles and dug in the post while I goffered for them and prepped Easter Eve dinner for 10. When the post were set, I strung the electric wire and they determined that the charger wasn’t generating sufficient current to deter bears.

Daughter, her kiddos, her friend and his daughter arrived and we had a scavenger hunt style Easter Egg hunt for the kiddos. The two younger ones had clues from one egg to the next, finally to an Easter basket of mostly crafts. The two teens and Son 1 had escape room type puzzles to solve to move them from egg to egg and finally to their baskets. Son 1’s prize was Easter dinner, a huge spread with lots of delicious food, ham, roast beef, au gratin potatoes, green beans, asparagus, deviled eggs, rolls, and a honey cake with strawberries and whipped topping.

After we gorged, Sons 1 & 2 donned the bee keepers garb and moved two of the nucs down to install two of the hives. I sat at a reasonable distance and watched, one of the nucs had allowed a lot of bees into the net sack around it and that batch was angry, but settled nicely once their queen was in the hive. The second nuc may not be as healthy, though they did find the queen.

Sons at work in a cloud of angry bees

Then I got my jacket, gloves, and veil and Son 2 and I installed the third and fourth hives, he did one and showed me, then I did one. They were both healthy hives, though we didn’t see the queen in the last one, there was evidence of one.

Me setting up a hive while supervised.

These two were much calmer, but wow, what an experience to be setting up the hive with the swarms of bees surrounding you. He has two more nucs to take home tomorrow to set up two more hives there.

Today was great, all three kids, some of the grands, good food, good company, and a brand new experience and addition to the farm.