Posts filed under ‘Adventures in Beekeeping’
Ouch! I was stung by my bees for the first time today – it was only a matter of time.. serves me right for thinking (and telling other people) that I hadn’t been stung yet. The story goes that my husband Graham was wearing the proper beekeeping head gear (since I am trying to persuade him that he wants to be the main beekeeper in the household) and I had on a hat with a bug net around it – which normally works fine. But today, as I was trying to look at the each frame to try and spot the (snow) queen, the sun was reflecting off the screen so, I (unwisely as it turned out), decided to lift the protective layer and boom! An angry bee (never mind the birds!) decided to seek it’s revenge on my cheek.
I would like to say that I acted calmly but NO! I screamed and ran away and adding to my panic was the buzzing sound emanating from my hair – as I was ripping the hat off and scrambling to get my hair out of it’s bun – I managed to really scrape my forehead with my nails – which, as it turned out, was a worse inury than the bee sting.. I didn’t know if I was going to swell up from the bee sting – I haven’t been stung by anything for a long time. Since I am writing this and am not in a hospital bed or significantly deformed, I guess I don’t get an allergic reaction to honey bee stings – hurray!
After I had calmed down and put the hat firmly back on my head (and changed direction so I wasn’t looking into the sun), we looked through the rest of the hive, but couldn’t find the queen. We did find eggs and quite a lot of brood – so I think all is well. I was afraid they were going to be ready to swarm with all the hot weather and the fact we haven’t got the second deep body on yet.
We collected our new bee colony (package) on Mother’s Day – from the Lehigh Valley Beekeepers Association – who drive to Georgia and back to collect the packages. We hived them on a perfect day – 70F, sunny and calm. We mistakenly took the cork out of the wrong end of the queen’s cage (we replaced back before leaving them) and so I was worried the queen would escape too quickly and then be killed by the colony. As usual, my fears were unfounded – when we checked on their progress yesterday – all was well, the Snow Queen (she is marked with a white blob) was doing fine, as were her 10,000 cohorts! They seemed to be enjoying the honey left by the previous colony and were as busy as bees! We didn’t see any sign of eggs yet, but will look again in a couple of weeks.
At last! A nice day to be out getting dirt behind my nails! (My husband loves that -not!). Torri & I spent the morning picking trash from the side of roads in our township – it’s amazing how thoughtless some people are. Anyhow, it was a feel good project and we both felt pretty self-righteous afterwards!
Then, after a short break for lunch, Torri & my husband Graham went down to clean out the hive of the dead bees – sad work. A couple of the frames were starting to rot, so we’ll need to replace those, but the rest were salvageable and we put them in the new chest freezer to keep the wax moths at bay and kill anything else that might be lurking in those oh so perfect hexagonal cells.
I set to work on fertilizing the fruit trees and some of the beds I will be transplanting and sowing seeds into soon. I used the calculations I learned during the soils course to work out how much 3-4-4 organic fertilizer to put down per square foot – very satisfying! I made a spreadsheet so I will be able to repeat the process next year or whenever I have to do it again.
I sowed some mache, radish, kale, spring onion and carrot seeds. I’m a bit worried about the carrots – I think it might be a bit early for them, they are supposed to be able to germinate at 40F soil temperature, but the seedlings may not be hardy enough for hard frosts – I think I will cover them once they start to come up. I am experimenting with a short 4″ carrot since my soil is pretty clayey and has some small rocks in it.
The big news of today however, was that we decided to do something about the hive full of dead bees that we have been mourning for the last couple of months. We started beekeeping last Spring (I’m not sure now that we are “keeping” as much as vacationing the bees – with a final deadly trip), and everything was looking good (with exception that the colony had Varroa mites – but apparently that is pretty normal) and they had plenty of honey to get through the winter. Unfortunately though, it seems they starved to death anyhow, because of the prolonged cold weather. They need a break in the temperatures to be able to move upward to get to the stored honey – ours were still in a huddle at the bottom of the hive still. Sad but true.
Anyhow the light at the end of our tunnel (not theirs) is that we get to harvest the honey that was supposed to feed them through the winter! So far, just from one deep frame we got 3lbs and there is a lot more where that came from! We just need to do a lot of sticky work to extract it and then work out how to store the honey frames between now and when the new package arrives in April (bees are the best cleaners for this kind of situation – live ones are more effective though). (More research needed – or perhaps the purchase of a chest freezer may need to happen sooner rather than later!)