Capitalist honeybee aggression

Despite having lost 3 out of 5 colonies over the winter, I am working towards expanding the apiary. I am building another stand to hold 5 more hives.

I may have mentioned that one of the hives is somewhat aggressive. I don’t mind that much, except for 2 reasons: there are a couple little kids across the street, and I can’t do anything within 15 feet of the hives. Once the foragers are really active there’s no work happening nearby.

This queen is a red-dot, which means she is going on her third year! Although she is ageing, she is a phenomenal layer of bee eggs – perhaps the best I have ever seen. The downside is her progeny are aggressive. As much as I hate to say it, I may commit regicide and replace her with another, in hopes that this hive will lose the aggressive tendency. Like so many things in life, this is a crap shoot and I may end up with an even more aggressive hive, or a queen that just can’t lay eggs worth a darn.

Most of the building happens near the house where there is power and I can hear whatever I have decided to listen to while I work. Yesterday was The Disco Biscuits, today is Daft Punk. It is also far enough away from the hives that I can work unmolested. Even though I have a couple containers nearby of uncappings and honey that didn’t make it to the bucket, the bees are too busy cleaning them to be bothered by me.

Yesterday I measured out where the new stand was going to be whilst dodging aggressive bees. Waited until almost 7 pm to fire up the auger to drill the holes. Why an augur you ask? It’s really quite simple. I hate digging. Turning the goon spoon rates right up there with impacted teeth and walking on a broken ankle. I know this because I have been through these things. The augur was less than $200 and in my book has already earned its keep, having drilled over 20 holes so far.

One of the ladies cleaning a bucket

While starting the rails I also processed some wax, mostly uncappings and burr comb cut out of the hives while doing inspections. Put them in a pot of water and bring to a boil. The wax floats to the top, then a layer of nasty stuff, then the water with dissolved contaminants. I used a foam paintbrush to apply the melted wax to some plastic foundation. The rest of the wax was allowed to cool and harden. I will re-melt and strain it then pour into a container for later use.

Melted wax
Black plastic foundation with wax applied

Put the posts in and poured the cement, using stakes and small line to keep them level until the cement hardened. While I was out with the dogs yesterday, we stopped at the local lumber place and got the rest of the supplies to finish the project. I will spare you the details of the build, if you want to know that stuff contact me.

Posts in place

Today I built the rails and carried them up to the posts, only got stung once for my troubles. Think I will fire up the little mower and do around the house and wait until 7 tonight to finish assembling the stand.

So here is the result, newly finished. I still have to install eyehooks for the straps to attach to. Had enough for today, this wasn’t the only project on the list. Tried to get the wee mower to start, but I didn’t get all the old gas out of the tank and the plug is likely coated with varnish. How I miss the days of Gulf Purple (103 octane with real lead). You could leave the tank full of that stuff, let the bike sit through a northern New York winter, jump the battery and the bike would fire right up and do great smoky burnouts (soon as I let the oil circulate and warm up enough to vaporize the condensation from sitting all winter).

The finished product

Not what I had planned

Today was supposed to be about making more beehive components. Made a hearty and tasty breakfast so I wouldn’t have to stop for lunch, planning instead to work through the day.

Went down into the shop. Set up the table saw to make the first series of cuts. Fired up the vacuum system, hit the switch on the saw.
The roar of the vacuum system did not get drowned out by the whirr of the saw because there wasn’t any whirr.


Since vacuum and saw get their power from the same place, it just had to be the switch on the saw.
It wasn’t.


Bad outlet.
Goosenargh (nonsensical word inserted to protect the tender eyes of the easily offended who may read this)


Off to Tractor Supply, closest place that might have outlets and boxes. They have outlets, no boxes.
Goosenargh!


Off to 84 Lumber. They have outlets AND boxes! Got a double box and 2 outlets and the appropriate cover.


Spent the rest of the morning removing old single outlet box, stretching wires so I had room to make connections without having to deal with too-short house wiring, and installing my shiny newly purchased double outlet box.


Left the 15 amp breaker for this circuit instead of upgrading it to a 20 amp in the circuit breaker box because I’m not sure what is downstream of the new double outlet and I don’t want the house wiring to do the toaster element thing when I’m not here.


Still, I made an inner cover, a telescoping cover, and primed the undersides of the 3 screened bottom board hive stands I designed.
I would normally make a run of the same item, but I am teaching myself to set the saw up to make different cuts so making different items means more time spent on setting it up.

Beekeeper’s work is never done

So most people think that beekeepers get to take the winter months off. That’s not necessarily so.

I plan to at least double the apiary this coming year. That means I need to build hives and frames. The hives need painting. I am going to build some top bar hives as well, meaning hours of woodworking. I’m a mechanic not a carpenter so I have to work twice as hard to build them.

There’s all the back issues of beekeeping magazines to read to review what I need to be ready for next year.

There’s also armor to make so I can go fight next season.

No, in all reality the winter is the busiest time of the year for beekeepers in the northern part of the country.

330 A.M. beekeeping

One day last week i was walking past the hives and noticed that there was a lot of traffic around both of my NUCs (a NUC is a small hive used for making a new colony).

I had added anti-robbing screens to both NUCs to help the small colonies keep what they had worked so hard to put away. Robbing is where bees, wasps etc who don’t live there come and steal what the residents worked so hard to store away for winter. The small piece to the right of the jar (a feeder) can be removed. It was out of place and there were bees coming and going through that opening instead of climbing up the hive body and out the opening at the top of the screen.

I pushed the misplaced pieces of wood all the way into the hive openings and continued about my day.

At 3:15 this morning i realized what i had done – completely closed the openings to the NUCs!

By 3:30 i was out there, pretty much dressed, flashlight gripped in my teeth, removing the screens, feeders, and small pieces of wood, replacing them with simple entrance reducers.

You would thing that at 3:30 in the morning with the temperature under 60 the ladies would be blissfully asleep or at least lethargic enough that my bumbling about wouldn’t bother them. This was not quite the case. One lady really didn’t like my poking about in the dark and buzzed around telling me all about how she didn’t appreciate being woken up, the door to her house being ripped off, some wooden monstrosity shoved in its place, and how her sisters just don’t listen…

Of course there’s no going back to sleep after early morning gonzo beekeeping so i had time to breakfast and write this missive. Hopefully they didn’t consume lots of the winter stores while shut in the NUCs for many days. Might have to feed these two. I’ll check in a few days when i can look when there’s light outside.

Morning would

In the mornings before I leave for work, I take the dogs out for a while before they spend the day cooped up in the house. While they are doing dog stuff I tend to look up at the sky checking out the stars now that the days are shorter.

The constellation Orion is very easy to spot, and is known as a winter resident of the night time sky.

Orion is now in the morning sky ahead of sunrise. It always makes me a little bit sad because seeing Orion means that soon I will have days where I won’t see the sun except for maybe a total of 5 minutes when I take breaks at work and have to go outside to get to the break room.

Not a fan of winter though Virginia doesn’t get real winters like we had when I was a lad in New York state near the Canadian border.

We will make it through the winter, not complaining about the cold because in six months summer will be back with the 90+ degree days.

Each has it’s downfalls and pluses, so there’s no sense in complaining about the weather each season brings. Better to enjoy what each offers and look forward to enjoying what the next will bring.

Wheeeee!

I used to have a great memory for things like usernames and passwords. As the years have gone by. I have cluttered that space in my brainium with the usernames and passwords of so many past web sites that I no longer can reliably keep them straight.

This results in getting locked out of my current websites/pages then I say bad words and then am ashamed of this.

Mud