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Mama Dog

One of the most unfair things in life is that our dogs can’t live as long as we do.  We lost our Goose dog last weekend. She was almost 14 1/2 years old.  We had taken her for mammary cancer surgery twice over the past couple of years but it returned and I decided not to put her through it again.  The surgeries really took a lot out of her and were very painful.  She was doing relatively well until just a few days before she died.  Thankfully she went easy with loving arms wrapped around her.  We buried her along side her old friends on a deep bed of leaves wrapped in a favorite blanket.  She loved laying in the leaves.  She will be missed terribly.

After my post on Saturday, I was puttering around the place when I noticed there was a larger than normal amount of bees in the air between the hay barn and my bee yard.  I stood and watched this mass of buzzing for a while, mesmerized by this odd occurrence.  Suddenly the cloud started settling on a large polk berry bush.  I instantly realized it was a late Fall swarm.  Everything I have read about late swarms discouraged hiving as you must feed and baby them throughout the entire winter.  I just couldn’t let them fly away without giving them a chance.  To the house I flew, grabbing a bed sheet, my camera, bottom board, medium super of partially drawn comb, inner cover and a lid.  Spreading the sheet on the ground, I set the hive up and placed a strap around it for carrying purposes.  Ran back to the house, threw on my gloves, jacket/veil and grabbed my hand pruners.  I gently but firmly held onto the polk bush limb while cutting it away from the main bush.  The 3/4 gallon size ball of bees stayed put.  I then walked to the sheet and held the limb right in front of the hive.  Two quick shakes and the bees were on the sheet and landing board of the hive.  It is the most incredible thing to watch (the hiving of a swarm).  The bees automatically know this is a potential home.  They all stick their bottoms into the air, aiming towards the entrance of the hive and furiously fan their wings.  It took about 10 minutes for the “silent order to occupy” to take place.  Everyone started marching into the hive like tin soldiers.  There was a cluster on the front of the hive which I assumed contained the queen.  This cluster also gently disappeared into the hive.  At dusk, I placed the hive onto a hive stand and added a front mount feeder with sugar syrup.  I also placed an entrance reducer on the front to discourage robbing from other colonies.   The next day a beekeeper friend gave me enough fully drawn comb to fill a super.  This will make it much easier for these bees to get started.  I also took a full medium frame of capped honey from a hive that had plenty and added it to the super of drawn comb.  That night I lifted the existing super up and slid it on top of the prepared super.  I feel like the bees will go down to the honey and better comb.  This coming weekend, I will remove the partially drawn super and seal them back up.  I also added a pollen patty for extra nourishment.  I have decided if the re-queened colony that I am rechecking this coming weekend does not have a queen, I will combine this swarm with queen and hopefully things will work out.  I will keep you posted! 

Viola!!!

Sorry I haven’t posted in a while.  It’s been a busy late summer/early fall.

It is somewhat common for beekeepers to re-queen in the Fall.  This means finding the existing queen in a colony (usually one that is not performing well), killing her and introducing a new queen.  Some beekeepers never re-queen; they either combine a struggling colony with a strong one or let the colony try to make it on their own.  After much research and discussion with seasoned beekeepers I decided to order a couple of new queens for two colonies that I felt needed some help.  I did this so I could keep my hive numbers consistent.  Well, I checked my hives this morning and have had a 50% success rate.  One hive has new eggs and larvae while I could not find any eggs in the other but did find small larvae.  I did not see the queen in either hive but as long as I see eggs and larvae, I am not too concerned with finding the queen.  I am of the opinion that the more you mess inside a hive pulling frames/replacing frames, the more chance you take of injuring your queen.  By the way, queens are not cheap!  $23.00 each and that was with a large order discount.  (Several went together and ordered)  I am going back into the hive without eggs later this week to see if I just missed them or if I have lost this queen.  While checking the new queen hives I felt it a wise decision to check my other 3 hives and boy am I glad I did!  One colony had a nice large queen but only one small frame of brood, no eggs or larvae.  It was obvious that she wasn’t doing her job.  The colony had a whole super of honey but no new population coming along.  I made the hard decision to kill this pretty queen and combine this colony with one who had loads of eggs, larvae and brood but not a lot of honey for the winter.  Hopefully this decision will create one strong, winter-ready colony.  I will make plans to have new hives ready come early Spring so I can make splits off these larger colonies.  This should help with swarm prevention and in turn, build back my hive numbers.

I used a single sheet of newspaper to combine these two colonies.  The weak on top and strong below.  By the time the bees chew through the paper, the hives smells will have combined and they will think they all belong together.

These are the two hives which were re-queened.

I will keep my fingers crossed that I find eggs at the end of the week!  If not I will have to decide whether to try to re-queen again or just combine.

When it is hot and humid (and boy is it hot and humid) bees have to find a way to cool down.  They do this little thing called “bearding.”  If the heat is too high inside many of the bees will work their way to the outside of the hive.  Sort of like sitting on the front porch in the evening.

It was already hot this morning at 7:30am.  There is a thick haze over the mountains; you can barely see them in the pictures.  Quiet though, just the faint “crunching” sound of the cattle grazing and the occasional buzzing of a bee.

While taking the girls (goats) for a walk one day, I noticed the oddest little mushrooms growing in the side of a tree.  I took the picture below and then just a few days later, look what happened!

The girls love to go on walks.  There are so many wonderful things to eat.  How about a Japanese Maple?

Sage loves to herd the girls.  We keep a close eye on her to ensure that she doesn’t become overly aggressive.

Hydrangea, simply beautiful.

Feeding the Bees

As the nectar flow slows down we go into a time of the season called the Nectar Dearth.  Trees, flowers, shrubery, etc have finished blooming and offer the bees no more nectar or pollen.  An existing colony can usually handle the dearth because they have built up stored honey and pollen.  New colonies such as hived swarms and colonies from package orders might not have enough to eat.  This is when the beekeeper can step in to give a little help.  We have 4 hives that will need a little help this year.  3 were swarms and 1 is a split from my original hive.  I have mixed up some sugar syrup using a 1:1 sugar to water mixture.  An easy way to feed a colony is to use a gallon size zipper bag which is placed on top of the frames.  You need to use a spacer so as to give adequate room for the baggie with syrup.  When filling bag, fill to 3/4 full and gently press excess air out before sealing.  Place bag on top of frames taking care to not smash any bees.  Then you take a razor or very sharp knife and make a single slice in middle of bag approximately 2 inches long.  The bees will feed through the slit and there will be little drowning if any.  This also discourages robbing from other bees as the feed is enclosed inside the hive.  You can also add a pollen patty for added nutrition.

Below is an empty baggie and a partially eaten pollen patty.

Below I have placed a spacer on the hive and then put a baggie with sugar syrup on the top bars.  The girls will be crawling up soon.

Make a small slit with a razor so the bees can sip the syrup without drowning.