Hive Inspection in the Middle of January

Lots of bees coming in and out of one hive.

Lots of bees coming in and out of one hive.

The temperatures were warm enough on Saturday that I was able to do a bee inspection with David here.  Looking inside the green hive, the bottom hive body was completely empty and the bees were all in the top half.  This hive also had the most activity of the three hives.  All three hives are still alive and well.

While we had the hives open, we added emergency feed to the top.  This is basically five pounds of sugar with just enough water in it to make it into a paste-like consistancy.  The feed was directly on top of newspaper layed over the top hive body with holes punched in the paper. This way, the bees can get to the feed without the feed falling down into the hive and making a giant mess of things.

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Garden is Finally Doing Something Again

Finally, some more bean pods.

I just got back from a week-long trip for work and came back to find that the beans are putting out pods once more.  The last round of beans I planted were pretty much a dud as I got not even a full handful of beans out of the crop.  So far, this is looking to be my largest crop yet.  The plants are packed in much closer than my first attempt at beans and there are flowers on everything.  Some of the last round of beans  decided to start flowering as well, so I will probably end up getting a some beans from that as well.

One double row and a partial single row of pinto beans.  There is communal bee feeder  at the very top of the picture.

The two latest plantings were both directly seeded into the ground in double- and single-rows. I am liking how this is turning out much better than my first plantings started in the greenhouse and I will probably be doing this for all but very earliest crops started before the chance of frost has completely passed.  I think that I will be doing that from now on to try and get as much in before the high summer heat stops everything from producing fruit.

Flowering chives. I hope I can get some seeds off of this.

When my grandparents came to visit, they left me with a bunch of chives in addition to other plants and flowers.  Regardless of what I get out of this plant, the flowers are quite beautiful. I think it was worth getting for just for that.

Once the summer heat wave broke and we were no longer dealing with highs of 115, the plants have sprung back quickly and the flowers are seem to be trying to make up for lost time.  I’ve seen more growth in the past couple of weeks than I have in the rest of the time I’ve had them.  It makes me hopeful that I’ll have some really nice flowers to show off next year.

The pecans are getting nice and big as the harvest starts getting closer.

After I finish with harvesting all the apples, the only tree harvest remaining will be the pecans.  This will be the first pecan harvest I have here.  I’ve had one other place that I have lived where there was a pecan tree, and that produced a freezer full of pecans from a single, giant tree.  I don’t think that any of the trees I have will produce that much, but I do have four trees, so I might end up with more pecans.

A bunch of bees and one wasp on the communal feeder.

While I was gone on my business trip, my brother in law stopped by to build a communal hive feeder and to do inspections.  This should make it quite a bit easier to provide large quantities of feed to the hives without a lot of work.

During the inspections, it looks like the blue hive has no eggs in it.  This may be because the queen stopped laying, or because the queen died.  I hope it is just the first.  But to be safe, a frame of brood has been moved from one of the other hives so the bees are able to raise a new queen if the old queen died.

The Dead Hive Cleanup

Wax moths quickly invaded the dead hive.

Today, David came by to help tear down the dead hive.  When I last checked the hive, I found zero brood, larva, and eggs, so it was only a matter of time before the hive was dead.  I sealed the hive up so that the other hives wouldn’t be able to rob the honey and contract European Foul Brood.  Today we finally were able to pull the hive apart and start sterilizing the hive body parts for reuse.  The first step of this was getting all the wax out of the frames.  When we did this, we found lots of wax moth larva on the wax.

Baking a bee box.

After clearing off the wax, we sprayed everything down with a bleach solution to kill any bacteria on the parts.  European Foul Brood is caused by a bacteria that eats the larva from the inside out and it is not something I want getting into my other hives.  After that, we also put the parts into the oven for thirty minutes at 275°F (135°C) to kill off any bacteria that survived the bleach treatment and to further clean things up.  I’m just finishing things up as I write this post.

Looking in the top of the blue hive.

We also inspected the other hives to see how they were holding up to the drought and to check for any European Foul Brood.  In all three other hives, we found a few dead larva, but at this point, we are not sure if it is EFB or starvation that is the primary cause.  Unlike the hive that died, the remaining ones are doing alright.  As a precaution, we are administering antibiotics to the three hives and putting on hive feeders either until winter or the drought breaks, whichever comes first.  The surviving swarm was very aggressive today, causing myself to get stung four times today and David to get stung seven times.  Because this is not the first time this hive has been aggressive, we are planning to requeen the hive in the spring with a more docile version.

One of the Hives is Doomed

The hive in healthier days.

This morning, I went out to dust the struggling hive again.  Before I did it, I did a full inspection of the hive.  Turns out that The hive is already dead and just taking a while to die completely.  There is no sign of a queen in the hive.  No eggs.  No larva.  No capped brood.  I’m not too happy about this setback.  The silver lining on this all, however, is that because this was a swarm, I am not out any significant money because of this.  Pretty much just what the foundation cost.  I’m going to end up melting down all the wax in this hive as I don’t want the European Foul Brood to get into any of the other hives by accident.

Nearly Finished Super

One of the seven completely capped frames.

I inspected the super I am planning on harvesting this year.  This will be the first honey harvest I will be getting from the hives.  I would probably have gotten more honey this year had the swarms not happened and all the supers were already drawn.  With all fresh frames, the bees had to use a lot of the nectar they collected to draw the foundation out instead of turning it into honey.  There were seven completely capped frames of honey, two frames that are still being filled with honey and only a small number of the cells were capped, and one frame that still hasn’t been fully drawn out.

Checking In On Things

Burns look and feel a lot better than yesterday.  I ended up going to an urgent care clinic to have things checked on.  I’m a computer programmer when I am not working in the garden, so making sure my hands are working properly is fairly important my livelihood.

The newly dubbed “White Hive”. This is the second and stronger swarm I caught this year.

Before I was burned myself yesterday, I did an inspection of all four hives.  The green hive continues to fill out the super on it and the blue hive continues to ignore its super.  I can’t really blame the blue hive as it swarmed this year. The second of the two swarms, in one white hive body and two supers, has filled the majority of the deep and the top supper with honey, with only a few cells capped in any of it.  I would not be surprised to get a super of honey from this hive.  The other swarm is still  in two supers.  I have a bit of time before that hive needs to be expanded.

Pinto bean pods on the largest bean plant.

Today, I was pleasantly surprised to find that my pinto beans have bean pods growing on them.  The larger of the plants started flowering a week or two ago.  I will need to start putting poles next to the larger plants as they are getting rather large and are starting to topple over.  Altogether, I have about fifteen pods so far on four plants.

The tomatoes are still green, but growing larger every day.

The tomatoes are starting to come faster.  At last count, there are thirteen tomatoes growing.  There are more than fifty small yellow tomato flowers on the plants right now.  Before much longer, I won’t be counting tomatoes because there will be too many.  I’m going to be up to my ears in tomatoes, with a grand total of twenty-seven plants in various stages of development.  Only about a third of those have flowers on them so far.

Very small pecans. I won’t have any pecans ready until sometime this fall.

My wife and my mother noticed that the pecan trees are starting to produce nuts.  Judging from the sizes of the four pecan trees I have on the property, I am going to have a lot of pecans this fall.  I rather like pecans and I’ve lived in a house that had a pecan tree before.  The tree was much larger than any of the pecan trees on my property, but there was only one tree and that one produced enough pecans to fill half a deep chest freezer.  I am probably going to end up giving lots to my family and I may be able to sell some at the farmers market in town.  I don’t know yet what needs to be done for that.

Lots of green grapes.

The grape vines are making some nice bunches of grapes.  I’m not sure how to preserve these yet.  If they were concord grapes, I would be making a lot of the grapes into jelly and canning it.  I will probably try making some raisins from them to see how they are.  I’ve never been a big fan of raisins, so I’m a bit hesitant to make the whole harvest into raisins.  I would also like to try making grape juice from it.

Home Made Frames and Hive Inspection

All of these were made yesterday from 2x4's

Yesterday, I tried making frames for a beehive from scrap 2×4, a table saw, a miter saw and a sheet of plans.  I wasn’t able to make everything I wanted because I ran out of time.  But I managed to make ten top bars, ten bottom bars, and started twenty-two deep side bars and completed one of them.

I only had about two hours to spend learning how to use a table saw in somewhat creative ways, making several mistakes, and then finally making usable products.  All without loosing any fingers.  For which I am glad.  I won’t have another chance to make frames for another two weeks, so I had to break down and order new hive parts for the larger of the two swarms.  The smaller swarm can probably last a while before I need to expand its hive.

A finished vs unfinished deep side

Speaking of hives, all the hives currently have laying queens.  David was here today to help me inspect all four hives.  The blue hive finally requeened itself and there are eggs in at least two full frames. The green hive is still filling supers and drawing out comb.  The one frame with no foundation in it at all still has nothing in it.  I will be putting some foundation in it sometime in the next week.

The larger of the two swarms is doing exceptionally well.  It is quickly drawing out frames.  The bottom of that hive is made up of an open box.  I suspect that the bees will start filling that with comb before I get in the hive body parts, so I will be learning first hand how to do a cut out.

The queen of the smaller hive was spotted today, along with eggs and larva.  It has also done a good job of pulling out the foundation, but for some reason it started at one side of a super.  It has expanded the brood nest to three frames and is working on a fourth.  The frames with bees got moved to the center of the super in the hope the bees will expand the brood nest more quickly that way.