Experimentation

One of the things about an eclectic life is one gets exposed to many different things. While in the Cast Guard i brought an airplane flight navigating tool onto a ship I was on and used it to calculate set and drift (the effects of wind, current, and ship characteristics) and what course/speed it would take to compensate for these effects. Since those above me did not understand it i got in trouble for using a tool that made my job much easier.

What does this have to do with bees?

I was thinking the other day about a tool i used to use to peer into the combustion chamber of motorcycles and VWs I worked on to give me an idea of the condition of the cylinder and piston. It’s called an borescope, or endoscope. Basically a camera on the end of a flexible shaft. If it works in engines and up people’s butts, it should certainly work inside a beehive.

Of course an engine doesn’t care, and people are usually asleep. Bees get pissed off when you shove a camera on a flexible shaft into the hive. Controlling the view direction of a cheap-o borescope is hit-n-miss at best, and the bees don;t much like it.

I got this poor quality video and a sting on my leg for my efforts.

The ladies arrived

Yesterday was a big day for me. As i’ve written, i wanted to get back into beekeeping and have been steadily working towards that end.

Got an Email the night before informing me the state bee inspector had arrived and approved the Nucs I was buying for transfer. A Nuc is a Nucleus colony – 5 frames of brood, honey, pollen, and the colony of bees (queen and workers). A hive in a little box basically.

The state inspector checks the Nuc for disease, parasites and either approves it for sale or doesn’t. The weather has not been cooperative for him and so he has been running almost a month late! Since the person supplying the Nuc was leaving to travel, there was little time to waste getting my 2 Nucs full of ladies.

Drove the twisty roads to his place and picked them up. Driving home carefully, i managed to not tip the Nucs over, much to the annoyance of the people behind me who knew the roads and seemed to be in a hurry. Even though the Nucs were sealed, about 20 bees managed to have an escape and were flying around in the car. We had a grand time having a one way conversation and navigating unfamiliar winding mountainous roads.

Once we arrived Chez MUD, I put on the bee suit, fired up the smoker, and moved the ladies into their new homes. I have no video of this since I didn’t have a helper. This may sound like a simple process. It usually is but I was 10 days out of ankle surgery so i’m on crutches. Carrying things, general maneuvering, absolutely NO weight on the leg, and am supposed to wear this massive plastic boot. The massive plastic boot didn’t fit in the suit, so I was barefoot on one side.

The ladies were quite docile, i probably didn’t need to smoke them. I put the tops back on the hives, put some entrance reducers on to give them a more defensible hive opening because i didn’t know how well the 2 colonies were going to get along. Left them alone for a while while i instructed the dogs that under no circumstances were they to molest, bother, aggravate, or eat the bees.

Took off the suit, moved things around a bit in the house, grabbed a cigar, and went out to have a smoke and watch what happened. One hive seems stronger than the other. They took to the feeders right away. The stronger hive was consuming the 1:1 sugar syrup faster than the other. The foragers had already found pollen sources. It was interesting, the weaker colony had found a nearby pollen source, the pollen was a creamy white. The other hive had found a further away source, bringing home an orange-red pollen. I figure the relative distances because clusters of bees would come and go, and the one cluster came and went in a shorter time than the other. There were no signs of conflict at the openings of the hives.

Some videos for your enjoyment!

There bee boxes on my porch!

In the area i live in, there are many skunks. That in itself doesn’t bother me in the least, since i view skunks as beneficial animals. They eat all kinds of insects and small creatures i can do without. Thing is, they will also come up to a beehive, scratch at the entrance, and eat the bees that come out to see who’s knocking.

Since I like bees and skunks (though i do prefer bees), and want to keep the bees around and the skunks away, i knew i had to do something about the skunks liking to eat the bees. Also, at my advanced age and frail condition I prefer to not have to bend way over to tend the hives. It made sense to raise the hives above skunk level. I could put a couple planks across some blocks like the last time I kept bees, but since the front porch is the apiary, i thought something a bit more aesthetically pleasing would be preferable.

It also gets very windy here on the hill. One day a few weeks ago on a nice day i thought i would assemble hive frames (where i want the bees to put comb) sitting outside on my front porch. After my hammer blew away for the third time i moved the assembly line into the living room. Since it does get so windy, i wanted a way to hold the hives down so they do not blow over.

So i figured the solution to both issues would be to build boxes to raise the hives, and weigh the boxes so they don’t blow away, and give me something to strap the hives down on the boxes.

I am not going to go into complete construction details here. The idea was originally to use concrete pavers to weigh the boxes down but whilst in the masonry area of the big box lumber store i noticed that for the price of a single paver i could buy a 50 lb bag of sand. So the plan changed right then. The bag of sand could go into a bucket that fits on a frame inside the box. Honestly, i now think it would have been easier to simply make a floor inside the box and set the sand bag on the floor. But that was an after-construction epiphany. If i build more boxes that is what i will do. Photos follow

So there you have it, now we wait for the ladies to become available to fill the hives!

To bee or not to bee

For several years I kept bees. Not just because I like honey and other bee products (i truly do). There is just something Zen about the process of working the hive, watching the hive grow, and just sitting back watching the ladies come and go on a summer afternoon. The honey was the sweetener in my Kombucha and it made the most amazing flavors as part of the Kombucha.

When I moved to Peru (not NY, the one in South America), I passed on most of my beekeeping stuff to Ashley, our self proclaimed daughter (she worked at our favorite restaurant and was a potential hippie). Far as I know, she still has bees

Peru has a variety of honeybee that is black. They would swarm around the sugar cane juice vendor on the corner near our place. I would buy cane juice to use as the sweetener for Kombucha. I would have ultimately found a swarm and taken them if I had remained there.

But we left Peru and moved to Waterford, Ireland. I tried contacting a couple bee suppliers in Ireland but they were a cantankerous bunch. Just as well, since we really didn’t have the space for a hive there. Plus we had to make an abrupt departure and I can just imagine trying to find a home for a colony on top of all the other logistics involved with coordinating an international move from go to out of country in 2 weeks.

So what’s all this ramble about? Since we’ve been back, I’ve wanted to get bees again. In Roanoke, the apartment we lived in wasn’t likely to be bee friendly. Here in lovely Radford, I have the space and the neighbor kids are ok. I started looking for bees for sale and came across the local beekeeping association. Saw they have a beginning beekeeping class starting this weekend. Since its been a while since I have kept the company of the ladies, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to take the class. Plus, the association has good deals on bee packages so I figure some learning and a good deal on bees is a great way to get back into it.

I kept my suit and gloves. Our new favorite store around here is Rural King. I had been eyeing their “everything you need to keep bees package and the other day when I went in, it had been opened so they had slapped a half off price tag on it. So i left the store poorer, but with a complete hive setup. I was going to build my own hives but the cost in the basic tools alone would have been much more than the ready made kit. At least i have more time to build more hives and can start the first colony when the season gets here.

So here we go again, all the yummy goodness and a box full o’ladies to play with. Ain’t life grand?