Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Another hot night and the girls have a front porch social!

Whew. It is sticky here tonight. The temperature is 72 degrees and the humidity is....70%! Even in the house, with the air conditioning running, you can still feel the moisture in the air. And the weird thing is, it is so dry, its been weeks since we've had a decent rain, and the air feels thick.

I decided to step outside and I noticed that the girls were feeling the weather too. Like I said, even with air conditioning, its still muggy, and I can only imagine how hot it is in that hive throughout the day and into the night.

As you can see, the party got started with a few of the girls, but word spread quickly and the next thing you know, a lot of the girls came out to get some of the cooler night air.

Several sources say that one reason bees do this is because of ventilation and another says that its because they just like doing it. When I did my inspection this past Saturday, I put four popcicle sticks under the hive-top feeder to make a slight vent to allow some air to circulate inside the hive. That's a trick from a commercial beekeeper. But honestly, I don't think it has to do with air flow, I think its because they just like to come outside at night and sit on the stoop.

Enjoy the photos of my girls on the porch. More on my two-week inspection coming up!

Bee safe!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Chillin' on the front porch on a hot summer night!

I have to admit that it has been hot and dry here for the last few weeks. The days are especially humid and it only takes seconds to break a sweat once you leave the comfort of your air conditioned house or car.

Thing is, the nights are much better. They're a lot less humid and much cooler with the temperatures in the upper 60s, the kind of weather made for sitting on the front porch and reflecting on life.

I can easily see my bee hive from the kitchen window, and the amber colored mercury vapor security light I have in my yard really lights the entire area at night. So tonight, about 11 o'clock, I go to get a drink of water at the sink and noticed something while peering out of the window. I could see some sort of dark blob on the front of the hive, to the right side of the entrance, but couldn't make out what it was. We've had several bears spotted in the Triad area recently, but I knew it wasn't that unless it was mighty small. And I went outside a few nights ago and could smell a skunk that must have been hit by a car or startled in some way...it was really smelling up the entire area. Based on what I've read, I know skunks are fond of honey and brood, so I sprank into action with my flashlight to see what was going on.

I have to admit that I was pleasantly surprised. When I got there with the flashlight, I would see that there was absolutely nothing going on...well...except my girls were relaxing in the cool night air. I've read in several books and online that on some hot nights, you'll see the honeybees "beard" or cover the entrance to get cool air, and that's what was apparently happening in this case. They were not excited or moving...they were just motionless and obviously enjoying the late July evening air. I guess after a hard day of foraging and tending to the house and looking after those bee babies, these ladies needed a night off. And that's just what they were doing...taking the night off. Who could blame them?
I have a two-week inspection set up for this weekend so maybe they'll be as docile then as they were tonight. I can hope anyway.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

A quart of syrup a day!

Since I got such a late start in hiving my bees, over a month ago now, I am still feeding my girls so they can draw comb. Because it was the beginning of June when I got set up, they missed the nectar flow here, and at this point in the game, we're in a dearth. So I'm feeding them sugar syrup and giving them a pollen supplement as well, and hopefully this will help them draw out the one deep super and maybe a shallow. At this point I'm playing it by ear to see what happens. Maybe between now and the fall I'll be pleasantly surprised by their hard work.

I have played with this feeder and that feeder, using a hive front Boardman feeder at times, making my own and using it at others. But after the first month, I decided the girls would work harder if I didn't disturb them every week, especially to restock the two-quart homemade feeder that fit inside the hive. So I went back to using the hive front Boardman feeder with the quart jar and pray that it wouldn't encourage robbing.

So the other day, I put the Boardman feeder on front of the hive at around noon and forgot about it, figuring that it would be a day or two and I would replenish it. But the next morning, the feeder was completely dry, nadda...nothing. I figured that either I didn't screw the top on tight or maybe there was a crack in the jar, so I got a new jar and filled it with syrup and put it on the front of the hive.

No joke...within minutes, I noticed a slow "glub, glub, glub" inside the jar...tiny bubbles going to the top of the jar every minute or two. I sat there for twenty minutes watching it, the slow bubbles going to the top of the jar. And over an eight hour period of time, a third of the syrup had disappeared.

I decided I had to find out what was going on. Nothing was out of the ordinary. There were no cracks in the jar...there was no loose seal of the lid.. I discovered t was my girls using all that syrup. They were using it inside the hive! They were using it to build their nest.

But honestly, all that going up and down the hill to refill that jar was turning into a hassle. As much as I love my bees, I had other things going on, so I had to figure someting out.

So I decided to give my two gallon hive-top feeder another try. I bought it from Dadant when I bought my hive equipment, but when I tried it initially, I didn't like it.

But this time, I tried a different approach, I put it on top of the brood box, then I put an empty super on top of that...then the inner cover and the top cover which is weighted down with a landscaping paver to create a tight seal. It works much better this way and it doesn't take nearly as many trips to replenish the syrup. Plus I can do it without smoking the hive and disturbing the girls at work.

Today, they never even paid attention to me when I opened the top and put the syrup in. I think maybe one may have made her way to find out what I was doing, but after she found out it wasn't anything exciting, she buzzed away. They rest just kept on flying in and out of the front and going about their business.

With the exception of a few invading black ants I found inside the empty hive body that is covering the feeder, I think this will work much better. I can deal with a few ants and I know the girls will too if it gets to be much of a problem inside the brood box.

I was initially turned off by the plastic two gallon hive-top feeder. But I can see now that it will be much more beneficial for the hive since there will be fewer disturbances by me...plus I won't have to lug as much syrup down the hill every day.

Until next time, my friends, bee smart!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Telling the bees...

When I was growing up, I can remember my maternal grandmother telling me about a family in Reidsville, a family that kept bees, and a bizarre custom they observed called "telling the bees" when something happened. According to my grandmother, it usually involved a death in the family.

I used to laugh because I though she was making it up to entertain me. After all, who would spend their time going out to bee hives and talking to the bees about the news of the day? It just seemed a little odd and maybe some type of urban legend. And besides, what family in Reidsville would admit to doing such a thing?

But as I got older, I did some research and found out that my grandmother was indeed telling me the truth about people "telling the bees" of tragic news. Apparently it had been happening for a good long time.

Check around the Internet and you'll find that the custom of "telling the bees" that someone had passed on to the great beyond was practiced in both North America and Europe throughout the 1800s. Matter of fact, John Greenleaf Whittier (1807 - 1892), who was America's great Quaker poet of the nineteenth century, put the story in words in 1858.


Here is the place; right over the hill
Runs the path I took;
You can see the gap in the old wall still,
And the stepping-stones in the shallow brook.
There is the house, with the gate red-barred,
And the poplars tall;
And the barn's brown length, and the cattle-yard,
And the white horns tossing above the wall.
There are the beehives ranged in the sun;
And down by the brink
Of the brook are her poor flowers, weed-o'errun,
Pansy and daffodil, rose and pink.
A year has gone, as the tortoise goes,
Heavy and slow;
And the same rose blows, and the same sun glows,
And the same brook sings of a year ago.
There 's the same sweet clover-smell in the breeze;
And the June sun warm
Tangles his wings of fire in the trees,
Setting, as then, over Fernside farm.
I mind me how with a lover's care
From my Sunday coat I brushed off the burrs, and smoothed my hair,
And cooled at the brookside my brow and throat.
Since we parted, a month had passed,--
To love, a year;
Down through the beeches I looked at last
On the little red gate and the well-sweep near.
I can see it all now, the slantwise rain
Of light through the leaves,
The sundown's blaze on her window-pane,
The bloom of her roses under the eaves.
Just the same as a month before,--
The house and the trees,
The barn's brown gable, the vine by the door,--
Nothing changed but the hives of bees.
Before them, under the garden wall,
Forward and back,
Went drearily singing the chore-girl small,
Draping each hive with a shred of black.
Trembling, I listened: the summer sun had the chill of snow;
For I knew she was telling the bees of one
Gone on the journey we all must go!
Then I said to myself, "My Mary weeps
For the dead to-day:
Haply her blind old grandsire sleeps
The fret and the pain of his age away."
But her dog whined low; on the doorway sill,
With his cane to his chin,
The old man sat; and the chore-girl still
Sung to the bees stealing out and in.
And the song she was singing ever since
In my ear sounds on:--"Stay at home, pretty bees, fly not hence!
Mistress Mary is dead and gone!"