Saturday, June 27, 2009

Pictures while inspecting my hive. And lookin' good (the hive, not me)..

So the sun was out today, and I was tired of looking for the elusive yellow jacket's nest. Being that my colony has been hived for almost a month now, I make it a habit to check them on Saturdays to see how they're doing. And as you can see, they're "busy as bees" on the frames. By the way, the powder you see on the top of the frames is pollen substitute. Since I got started so late, I am feeding them pollen, and they're using it too.

For a colony that was mostly dead after being shipped from Georgia in early June (and since I added a queen and some capped brood from Busy Bee Apiaries, you can see that my girls are doing fine. They're good natured and stay busy all day going to and fro the hive. Since I have a creek just below the hive, they get plenty of water, plus I feed them syrup and pollen substitute. A lot of the capped brood has hatched, but look to the right of the frame and you can see that there's more babies waiting to emerge.

Take a look at that frame! Both sides hold larvae, some nectar and pollen. And on the back side, even more capped brood. And her majesty, the queen, is on this side of the frame. Can you see her? Take a really good look and try not to cheat. Still can't see her? HINT: Look almost halfway down and to the far right. See her now? She's encircled by her attendants.

Okay, did you see her without the help of this picture? Take a good look to the left. There she is. You can see some of her green dot, but an even better indicator would be the attendants that have circled her. She is doing a great job!

Inspection is over. Time to put more syrup for the girls. This is a two quart feeder that I made myself. It once held caramel popcorn from Target. I took a picture nail, made tiny holes in the lid, put the syrup in, and put in in the hive. It rests on two pieces of wood for easy access, and then I put the empty hive body back on, then the inner cover and the top..weight it down with a landscaping paver, and all is done. And I have to admit, the girls were in a great mood today, all expect when I brushed the excess pollen off the frames, but other than that, they were fine and barely noticed me.

I am so keeping my fingers crossed that this colony is going to make it though this winter. So far, so good. Every time I inspect the hive, I get a better feeling about it. I think this buch may make it after all!

Until next time, my friends, bee cool!

They're back! The yellow jackets are back!

Okay, so I thought I had totally gotten rid of the yellow jacket's that I found in my yard this week. I was pretty proud of myself for destroying the nest and getting rid of the angry yellow menace. Boy was I wrong..

Yesterday, thinking that I would go out and see if the ground was sinking where the entrance hole was located, I peeped out of the laundry room window, which is about 20 feet from the nest. As my eyes settled to the location of the hole, and I see one, then two, then five yellow devils, all flying around. Thinking they could be stragglers, the ones out foraging on the day I poured gasoline down the hole, I didn't give it much thought, and figured they would go away.

Wrong. This morning I look out and there they are again, about five to ten of them, flying over the old entrance hole (which was filled in when I poured gasoline down the hole). So now I realize that they must have a second entrance/exit hole somewhere, but I can't find it. I have watched and waited, but they fly here, land there...but for the life of me, I can't see one point where they are coming and going. I just don't know where it is, and it is irritating me. I've encountered yellow jackets in years past, matter of fact, last year I had one within feet of where my bee hive is now, but this is the first nest I've run into that I couldn't destroy.

Now I'm a man on a mission. I plan to watch the ground to see what they're doing, then when I find the suckers, I'll go Dirty Harry on them. I hate yellow jackets. I got into a nest of them as a kid and they stung me repeatedly, getting in my clothes and hair and going crazy on me. I plan to return the favor.

Stay tuned!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

YELLOWJACKETS and divine intervention...

I have to admit that I'm not the most religious person in the world. Like others, I have my beliefs about what lies beyond and even what happens here on earth, but rarely do I ever talk about it. Sometimes its better to keep those ideas to yourself. It keeps everybody happy and out of a fuss. Same thing with politics.

But in this situation, I just had to blog about. It was my encounter with yellow jackets while mowing my yard today. Read on...

After returning from a morning doctor's visit (I have a horrible sinus infection from the air conditioning, I get one every year) I decided to mow my back yard and concentrate close to my bee hive because the grass was a little high. After having my yard graded, I planted grass, and now it is coming up like crazy, so I decided to mow and trim near my hive too. Even though I've been all around the hive with my weedeater, and without my protective overalls, I decided that since I would be using the lawn tractor, it might be a good idea to wear it just in case they get a little testy because of the noise. Besides, I'd already been stuck once today (a shot in the rear at the doctor's office) and didn't want to try for more from my girls.

I mowed all around the hive and didn't even get a response from my bees at all. I guess they had other things on their minds, and I was the least of their concerns. And while I was at it, I decided to mow up the fence line which separates my yard from my neighbor's. But the sun was beating down and there wasn't a cloud in the sky. I started to get soaking wet with sweat from my overalls so I went inside the house to take them off and come back to finish mowing the back yard.

In jeans and a tee shirt, I cranked the lawn tractor and decided to continue mowing near the fence line. I made it right to the fence line and that's when I saw it. A cloud coming out of the ground. A thick cloud coming out of the ground. A thick, yellow cloud coming out of the ground and it was in a frenzy. I bet there were at least a hundred or more and the cloud kept getting thicker.


Now mind you, they were flying in the same exact spot I just ran over with the lawn tractor while I was wearing my protective overalls. I normally just wear them when I'm at the hive, but for some odd reason, I wore them going up that fence line and right over top of that yellow jacket's nest.

Needless to say, I panicked. I turned the ignition off and jumped off the tractor with the blades still engaged, so when it shut completely down, it backfired and sounded like a pistol went off. I stood a good distance away and watched them and finally figured where the entrance was. And that's when I decided on a plan of attack.

WARNING: Don't try this at home. I just have to say that just in case you're thinking of doing it if you find a yellow jacket's nest in your yard. I don't want you to get hurt and blame me. Nuff said? Okay, so I suited up again and took some gasoline and burned the area where they were flying out and hoping that I got some yellow jackets in the process. Then when I put that out with my garden hose, I found the entrance hole..that was big enough to put my index finger inside. At that point, since there was no danger of fire, I took more gasoline and poured it inside the hole, maybe a half to one gallon, and just stood back and watched. A few were determined to get to the hole, and I even got divebombed a few times too, but they eventually went away. An hour later, I would see the occasion yellow jacket fly over the hole, make a few passes, then fly away.

I then finished mowing my back yard which looks great now. And bee-free too (except the honey bees in my hive).

About me wearing the protective overalls that far up the fence line. I have no clue why I decided to do it, but I did. Maybe I just thought about it and did it...or maybe there was some sort of divine intervention that forced me to wear them. Whichever it is, all I can say is, thank you, thank you..THANK YOU!

Until next time, watch the ground when you're mowing, and bee careful!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The tragic day my bees arrived from Georgia...

This picture says a lot. It tells the tragic story of how my honey bee package arrived to my house from C&H Apiaries of Ocilla, Georgia.

If you take a good look, you can see that all of the bees in the bottom of the cage are dead. The only ones that survived are hanging on the sides and the top. The cage itself was sticky and gooey from where it was covered in sugar syrup. Even the queen and her attendants were dead too, and the candy to hold her inside was partially melted. Some of the living bees hanging on the top and sides of the cage had dead bees glued to them, and there were living bees barely moving, crushed and smothering under the bodies of the all the dead bees below. Honestly, it was heartbreaking. If I'd known they would have to go through such harsh treatment, I would have never ordered them to begin with.

Now take a good look at the picture to the right. What you see is a United States Postal Service
crate, a cardboard box, and a large plastic bag. C&H Apiaries blames UPS..who shipped them...for sending them to me in the containers you see on the right. Whoever did it took the screened cage of bees, turned them on their side and put them in the postal service crate, placed that inside the cardboard box which was sealed tight with shipping tape, then it was wrapped in the plastic bag.
No joke, when I opened the box, I could barely hear them buzzing, and the intense heat from the inside hit me in the face.

I immediately put them in the shade of my garage and sprayed them with water because I knew they had to be thirsty. And occasionally I would shake the cage to help the living bees crawl out from under the dead ones. The last thing they needed was more syrup. But I knew they needed water, so I sprayed them throught the night and the next morning so they could get some nourishment.

I made countless calls to UPS about their incompetence in shipping honey bees in sealed containers. The customer service supervisor even said, "Common sense tells you that you don't put living, breathing creatures in a box where they can't get air..." That was on top of countless apologies from several UPS representatives. Oh, and UPS also told me they would have to refund the shipping costs to C&H Apiaries.

It appears that the bees left Ocilla, Georgia, then they went to Tifton, Georgia. From there, they were flown to Jacksonville, Florida, where they stayed for almost a day, then they were flown to Greensboro, North Carolina -- and from there, delivered to my house in a big brown truck...most of them dead.

When I finally spoke to Terry Hester of C&H Apiaries, he told me over and over that he would "make it right" -- but he hasn't -- and now I'm out of my money and my patience with the situation. And as of this writing, there are quite a few people, more than before, who are upset with their bee package purchases. Many like me received dead bees and now Hester isn't answering anyone's calls or emails anymore. Plus UPS told me that he gets my shipping costs refunded to him for the damaged freight. Don't even get me started about that!

I got an email from a guy today in the very same situation as me except he lost twice the money I did. He told me that he's contacted a friend of his who is a lawyer to see what can be done about it, and I've asked him to keep me posted on the situation. I am also speaking to people in law enforcement and the legal profession as well. Someone needs to be held accountable for bad product and then ignoring complaints from your customers. It isn't right and I don't plan to let it slide.

We'll see where it goes. And of course I'll let you know.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Father's Day surprise! I have baby bees!

In a way, I can sort of see what it would be like to be an expectant father. I have no children of my own, well, unless you count two Dachshunds, so I've never had to be through the paces of waiting for a baby to arrive.

But Sunday, which was Father's Day, I guess I could see in a way what a dad-to-be might go through when the bundle of joy makes an appearance.

I was looking out of my kitchen window on Sunday afternoon to see this dark clump on the entrance to my hive. Of course, it was just the day before that I found that my homemade Ziploc baggie feeder was leaking in the hive, and the entrance was covered with bees then, so that's what I thought again. I put a homemade two-quart inverted in the hive to replace the baggie feeder, and thinking the worse, I figured it was leaking too.

But I was wrong. When I went out to see what the clump was, the closer I got, I noticed that it was very small bees -- and the first thought I had was -- yellowjackets! But I got closer, about three feet from the hive, and it wasn't yellowjackets at all. It was baby bees! Very small baby honey bees!

It looked like my capped brood from Busy Bee Apiaries was indeed hatching! At one time, I counted about twenty little honey bees, scurrying across the front of the hive entrance. Then they would fly some...a foot...then a couple of feet...some would fly up above the hive and then return. So I knew they were conducting orientation flights to get themselves situated to their location. It was an awesome sight!

I made a dash for the house to get my camera because I wanted to show it on my blog. But by the time I got back, most of the little bees had headed back inside the ranch house to cool off, after all, it was about 95 degrees and humid.

I was able to capture a few on the entrance, but by no means was this all of them. I was just a little late with the camera! Today I counted about twenty again, and even some smaller ones, which leads me to believe that some are hatching out every day. And then my own brood, which is being done by my queen (which came from Busy Bee Apiaries too) is coming along just fine. I found larvae in all stages this past Saturday, so she's laying just fine. And with the empty chambers from all the new bees that's hatched, she has a lot more space to work with.

For a colony that was totally stressed and destined to die, they have made a grand comeback.

Should I consider this some sort of Father's Day surprise? In a crazy way, I guess it could be, and I'm not complaining!

Thanks to everyone that's reading my blog. And thanks to everyone who has helped me along with advice and ideas! I appreciate everything!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

My experience with Ziploc baggie feeders...

While some new furniture was being delivered to my house, and there were delivery guys running up and down the steps, I decided it was a great time to go take a look at my hive since I added the new frames of brood from Busy Bee Apiaries. The weather was sunny and 95 degrees (and the humidity...sheesh) - but I decided I'd rather do that than listen to feet trample up and down the steps carrying heavy pieces of furniture.

When I go out the back door to check my hive, I noticed a frenzy of bee activity at the entrance. The bottom board was covered with bees, which was great, but then I noticed something dripping out of the corner of the bottom board. It was dripping slowly, and whatever it was, the bees liked it.

It was sugar syrup. Apparently there was a problem with the Ziploc baggie feeder I installed yesterday. It was dripping out of the hive and on the ground. And I just knew it was going to attract every bee for miles.

I had to act fast. I suited up and got my smoker and went out armed with a new feeder I made on my own. I also carried along a bucket to dump the faulty baggie feeder inside. As soon as I opened the hive, there it was, the Ziploc bag was leaking at the seal and dripping inside the hive and it was leaking out of the front. I did everything like I was supposed to with the Ziploc baggie feeder; I put a couple of quarts of syrup in the bag, put it in the hive, let it settle, then made small holes in the top. Little did I expect that the seal would leak. Maybe it was because of the heat, I don't know, but the bees were having a field day with all that free access to the syrup.

I took the baggie out and dumped it in a bucket and then in my garbage can. When I got back to the hive, I installed my own device, an inverted feeder that I made from a two-quart plastic container that once held Archer Farms caramel popcorn (sold at Target). It works just like pail feeders or a Mason jar on a Boardman feeder.

To make it, I washed the plastic container out really well, then I took a small picture nail and made very small holes in the aluminum lid, and then I smoothed it out by gently tapping it with a hammer . To try it out, I filled it with fluid and tested it overnight in my kitchen sink. It worked like a charm so I knew it would be okay. The next test would be the hive itself.

To give the new sugar syrup container some stability, I put the queen excluder on top of the hive. I put two pieces of wood on top of the excluder to raise the homemade feeder up some, and then I placed it on top of the wood pieces. I gave it a minute to see if it was stable and I saw the bees finding their way to the I put an empty hive box on top, then closed it up.

It may have been unnecessary, but I kept thinking that the syrup on the bottom board, the syrup that leaked from the baggie, may attract some robbers. Heck, it sure got the attention of my own hive! So I took my garden hose, and with the water on a fine mist, rinsed the front of the hive. Some bees scrambled in the box and some flew, but I got the syrup off the landing, and then I watered the grass around the hive to dilute the syrup and the scent. As soon as I stopped, the girls were flying in and out and things were back to normal again.

I think I may try the baggie feeders again at some point, maybe even use some duct tape to seal the bag. It really is a cheap way to feed the bees, but if the bag is going to leak every time, it may be better to use the more standard methods.

Until next time, bee cool!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Good News: I found my queen and added some brood!

Well friends, I have some really great news in light of the total disaster I've experienced with my three pound package of bees from Georgia. This had been a really rocky week, but what I found in my hive today made me feel much better.

As I've mentioned before, my colony started out rather small. They had been through a lot before they arrived here, stressed from heat and poor packaging, coated in sugar syrup in transit, a dead queen, bounced around, etc. It was really nasty and heartbreaking. It was so bad that I was told by an experienced beekeeper here that I should just let them go. But not one to accept failure so easily, I decided to hang on to them and see if I could keep them going and bring them back.

If I had waited for a new queen from Georgia, from the same guy who promised to "make it right" several times after that bee package disaster, every single bee I have would be dead or gone by now. After getting bad vibes about this operation, I decided to try to find something locally..and I began my search on the Internet for local dealers.

Busy Bee Apiaries to the rescue! Busy Bee is located in Carrboro, North Carolina, and when I called, Shelley told me they had Minnesota Hygienic queens for sale, and if I wanted to drive down, I could pick one up that morning. I then spoke with Betsy who told me that she would go out to the bee yard and get one and it would be waiting for me when I got there.

Carrboro is only an hour away, so I headed east for the apiary (with plans to stop and pick up some pork barbecue at Smithfield's Chicken and Barbecue on the way home...its GREAT eastern style North Carolina barbecue). When I got there, sure enough, my marked queen was there and she was healthy and buzzing up a storm with her attendants. I had the chance to meet Betsy and Shelley who are super nice, and it was great getting to meet them.

I got back home, put my queen cage in the hive (and yes, had some barbecue later) and left my hive alone for five days. Now mind you, this colony had been without a queen for almost a week (I hung the dead queen cage in the hive to keep them there since they could still smell her). But within two minutes, they were working on the candy stopper on the new queen's cage to release her.

Time passed and on the fifth day, I opened the hive again, and as much as I looked, I could not find my new queen. I looked and looked but could not find her long body and green dot. My heart sank, I figured she may have packed her attendants and hit the road -- but then I noticed something. In the comb that the colony had already drawn, I saw these tiny white specks, sitting upright, so I knew she was laying -- and she was laying in a consistent pattern. I knew from what I read and had been told by other beekeepers that I had a good queen.

It had been two weeks and I started thinking about something that Betsy at Busy Bee told me, that if I could find some, I should add some brood to beef up my hive since the colony is so small. It was a great idea, so I made the call and spoke to Jack, the owner, who told me he would sell some frames if I wanted them and that I could pick them up on Friday.

So Friday came and I made the trip to Carrboro. Betsy and Shelley brought me two great looking frames of capped brood which I put in an empty hive body in the back of my Xterra and started for home. They didn't charge me for the 20 or so persistent bees that just couldn't leave the frames! Needless to say, it was an interesting ride with them buzzing inside my Xterra while I'm driving on Interstate 40/85 and heading for home. Heck, they even stayed inside the truck while I stopped by Smithfield's Chicken and Barbecue for barbecue to go!

I made it home and and got into the hive -- and when I pulled the third frame from the super, there she was -- my proud queen! And on top of that, I was really excited when I found larvae and new eggs in the comb, so my queen is working away and keeping the hive going. I added the two frames of brood to my hive, added more syrup, removed the entrance reducer altogether (it is supposed to be 98 degrees and humid for the next few days) -- then I closed things out. And when I got cleaned up and put my tools away, I looked over my hive and the girls were flying in and out like crazy. So this was a great day for sure!

After the tragic experience I've had with my first colony of bees, it has been tough to keep positive about my new hobby. But I have to admit, finding good people like Betsy and Shelley and Jack at Busy Bee Apiaries, who really do care about beekeepers, and believe in helping people, I feel excited about the prospects for this hive. I know they're in business, but I really appreciate them being so nice and willing to go the extra mile to help if they can.

Thanks, Busy Bee! Have no fear, I'll be back. You have a repeat customer. Plus it gives me the chance to get some of that eastern style barbecue when I come down your way!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

BUYER BEWARE: C&H Apiaries of Ocilla, Georgia

Rarely do I complain about things. A former Highway Patrol sergeant once told me that I have the Biblical patience of Job when it comes to dealing with people. And I like to believe that is true. But this is a situation that I just have to speak about in order to help keep them from losing their money and time. Long story, but I will cut to the chase.

On May 18th, I bought a 3lb package of honey bees from C&H Apiaries of Ocilla, Georgia. I saw their website (which has since disappeared) and it looked pretty good, and I watched videos on YouTube of people who bought his product and they seemed to be happy. So after several emails and talking to the owner, Terry Hester, by phone, I sent him $145 through PayPal for the bees and for shipping and handling. I even got emails from this guy that said everything was on set-to-go and he would be shipping my package to me.

On June 4th at 4:40pm, my bees arrived. Three quarters of them were dead, queen included, covered in sugar syrup, and it appeared to be a UPS problem. I called UPS and filed a claim and they told me they would contact C&H Apiaries to get the claim the meantime, I needed to talk to him as soon as possible.

I sent several emails and kept trying to call Terry Hester's phone. No answer. No return emails, no nothing. Then finally, on Monday June 8th, he did answer the phone and told me that he had countless complaints about UPS from the same shipment, that they (UPS) messed the shipment up, and he was doing all he could to remedy the situation. Then he assured me he would "make it right" and he would send me a new package of bees in a week with his next shipment. I even sent him pictures of the dead bees and the packaging so he would know I was telling the truth and help him with his claims against UPS. He sounded sincere and I even felt sorry for this guy and I told him I would be in touch.

Needless to say, nothing has happened. No bees, he won't answer his phone..nothing.

So remembering that he sells honeybees through Ebay (click to see his seller's profile...and the negative ratings and his professional responses) I decided to check his listing. Guess what I find? A slew of negative feedback (click on the picture above to see it)..many within the last few days, and many in the very same situation I was in; dead bees, no contact, won't answer his phone, etc. And it seems that all of the new negative comments were from a recent shipment..which leads me to believe he sent out a new shipment since he sent mine in early June, and like me, he seems to be avoiding his customers.

Maybe this business has been overwhelmed with bad luck, I don't know. Terry Hester says that he's sold honey bees on Ebay since 2007 and up until now, his ratings were good. And people had nice things to say about C&H Apiaries on YouTube. But all of a sudden, many people like me are getting really bad service from this guy, be it dead bees and lousy customer service.

At the time, I didn't want my money back, I just wanted a new package of bees. But now I want my money back. Its the least I deserve for the countless phone calls and the time I've had to use to track this guy down, then for him to make promises and ignore me. I work hard for my money and expect something in return when I pay. But in this case, all I ended up with is a package of dead bees and endless disappointments with the situation.

If you're looking to buy honey bees, all I'm going to say is, be careful of who you buy from, do some checking into their business practices before you buy, and make sure you have decent resources to fall back on. I thought I had that with C&H Apiaries of Ocilla, Georgia, but I was oh so wrong, and in the case of my bees, dead wrong.


ADDENDUM: While tooling around on Youtube, I found this video from one of his other customers. I have no clue who made this video, all I know is TFW9001, but his bees were EXACTLY like mine when they arrived. Pictures and videos speak loud and clear.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Not necessarily junk, but not what I thought...

I wont say that it is junk, but let's just say that I'm not all that excited about the hive-top feeder I bought from Dadant.

Everyone I talk to tells me that I really need to ditch my Boardman hive-front feeder. I know that the front feeders encourage robbing, and that's the last thing I want with my young colony. But since they're so new, I have to keep feeding them, especially with the almost monsoon-like weather we've had here in North Carolina, and the fact that I got started later than usual.

I went to the local Dadant office and purchased the hive-top feeder pictured right) that I saw in their catalog. Actually I bought two, one for my active hive and one for the second one I have in storage for next spring. When I got them home, I put them together (the white inner sections snap in place to keep your bees from drowning) and waited for several days to install it.

So I work my hive, checking for eggs and work going on...and when I finished my inner hive examination, I decided to put the feeder on, fill it with syrup, and leave. Everything was fine -- or so I though -- until I noticed some of my bees coming out of the back of the hive. Thinking that I must have done something wrong, I started checking and found a 1/2 inch gap on the back of the hive...from where the feeder doesn't sit flush on top of the brood box. It was so wide, I could see the frames in the brood box. Front side? Same thing! Needless to say, I was irritated by the whole thing.

After saying a few select words which I won't repeat here, I carefully pulled the feeder off, making sure not to spill any syrup, and put the Boardman hive-front feeder back on again.

I plan to keep them. I know, I know..I should return them. After all, I am about 45 minutes from the Virginia warehouse of Dadant & Sons. But I like the overall design and maybe I can weight them down and use a heat source to bend or mold the plastic flat so I can use it on my hives, especially for use this winter.

Most everything I own in beekeeping equipment came from Dadant. They've been really nice to me and helpful. But this is one piece of equipment I would never buy again or at least bring home without checking it out first.

Until next time, bee-have yourselves!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The layout of my hive and back yard...

Well it is a gloomy day here with lots of drizzle and slightly humid, so I thought I would update my new blog. I have so many things I want to talk about, and one was the location of my hive.

Before I purchased my beekeeping equipment, I put a lot of thought into just where I should locate my hive. Although I have a spacious yard, there were several considerations. Most important in the process was considering my neighbor's feelings about my new venture, and then the best location for the hive itself.

My property butts against a creek, which is perfect as a constant source of fresh water for my girls. So I wanted to make sure it was near that. But the dirt near the creek is too soft, plus there is this hateful bamboo that the previous owner allowed to get out of hand, and I knew that eventually, my hive would be swallowed up by the Asian weed. So that was out. So I decided my best option was the corner of my yard, at least six feet from my neighbor's fence, and off the city's right-of-way (the creek bank is part of their R-O-W). That was it, the corner of my yard was the perfect location, and so I started planning.

My yard gently slopes, so I had to make sure that my hive would be level from side-to-side, but a slight lean to the front so water would run out the front of the hive. So I went to Lowe's Home Improvement and bought two large concrete landscaping pavers, then I got three cinderblocks from my dad. After I banked and tamped the dirt so it would be firm, I put the first paver down, leveled it, the put three cinderblocks on top. Then I topped the cinderblocks with another concrete pad, basically making a concrete pedestal. Total money spent: $16 and some change. It looks good, plus there's no wood to rot.

Oh, and to keep the bottom board from sitting in water on top of the concrete pad, I put some screws on the bottom, that way, it sits about a quarter inch off the concrete, air can circulate underneath, and it will dry out quickly after it rains. I thought that one up myself!

The hive front faces the southeast to take advantage of the sun, plus it will keep the north winds out this winter. On both sides of the hive, I planted Blue Ice Blue Star plants, which get about 12"-15" and bloom in spring. Then along the entire length of my back yard, I planted crepe myrtles, alternating the red and whites. Then directly against the fence, to make a nice hedge, I planted Euonymus shrubs, alternating the whites and golds. And while you can't tell it in the picture above, I sowed new grass all around the hive and my lower back yard. With more days like today (and last week where we got 2.5 inches in one day), the grass should be coming in any day now.

I'll have more on my yard layout a little later. Off to catch up on some work.

Until next time, my friends, bee-have yourselves!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Beekeeping? What was I thinking?

I have to admit that there are days that I wonder why I became a back yard beekeeper. But then, after I go out and take my time and work my hive behind the house, I'm glad that I stick with it.

It wasn't so rosy at the beginning. I got a rocky start in my venture as a beekeeper, once the bees arrived anyway.

The month or more before that was as smooth as silk. I bought by hive, built the pedestal to put my hive on, had some stumps ground down and planted new trees, and even had a few dry runs of putting my equipment together. I have to admit that things were great and I was excited, even though some of my friends, family members and neighbors looked at me as if I had lost my mind. After all, bees sting, and some people tend to lump all bees together, to them the honey bee is no different than a hornet, a wasp, or a yellow-jacket. All they know is that bees have wings, they're small, and they sting.

Then my bees finally arrived..and it was a total disaster. It wasn't the apiary's fault, it was the shipper, and it was a total mess. But more on that later in a different post. It is quite the story indeed.

But not all was lost and I'm finally having some fun with my small colony of girls. I have fun watching them come out of the hive in the morning, fly over the creek nearby, check me out when I'm working in the yard, and fly out around the hive after being cooped up after rain storms. It is amazing.

So stay tuned. I plan to post on my trials and tribulations as a new beekeeper, and what works for me and what didn't. Even though I have books and access to unlimited information on the Internet (and don't forget YouTube), I've found out that some things just don't work, least not for me.

I hope you enjoy my blog and if you have questions or suggestions, please hit me up with an email.