My Bees Are In Their New Homes!

The New Hives

The New Hives

Well, for the most part. At least they’re around their new homes…

Even though my new bees arrived yesterday, I decided to wait until today to hive them because it got down to 28 degrees Farenheit last night.  The rest of this week (and with luck, the rest of this season!) is supposed to be above freezing.

I had plenty to do yesterday though, what with setting up the hives, gathering up all my equipment and putting the bees’ sugar syrup into quart glass jars with lids. That’s something new I came up with this year to make the syrup easier to handle.

One of the most important rules of beekeeping is to never leave sugar syrup out in the open around a hive, even for a minute. Sugar syrup attracts robbing insects of all kinds. I learned that the hard way. (Come to think of it, I’ve learned most everything about beekeeping the hard way…)

This year I loaded up a recyclable grocery bag with 4 quart jars of sugar syrup – easy to handle and hermetically sealed!

It was fun having the bees in my kitchen last night. They really do go to sleep. I made sure to turn off all the kitchen lights so they could have a good rest before Moving Day!

Today was perfect for installing a package. Temperature in the 50’s, no wind and partly cloudy. I’m more comfortable around my bees when I’m wearing a full bee suit, so the cooler the day, the better for me. Those bee suits are hot!

The bees still in the box will eventually make it into the hives by themselves.

The bees still in the box will eventually make it into the hives by themselves.

I would love to tell you that I was the picture of beekeeping professionalism. Not so much.

At least I didn’t hop around like I had St. Vitus’ Dance like I did the first time I installed a package. Oh, for a video of that performance!

But there are things I don’t remember until I start the installation process. Like how hard it is to get the frigging bee package open. And pry out the feeding can. And find the Queen cage. And jimmy out the cork at the end.

The frigging box should come with a handy hatchet to help open it!

The frigging box should come with a handy hatchet to help open it!

And get the frigging bees out of the box and into the hive. (I did what I usually do – just left the box there and let them move in by themselves. They’ll go anywhere the Queen is residing.)

And not squish too many. (Oh, the humanity!!)

It didn’t help that my back garden is slightly less steep than Mt. Everest and I put the new hives at the bottom.

The view down Mt. Everest...

The view down Mt. Everest…

The Mean Bees live at the top of the garden, and have clearly indicated that they don’t want any next door neighbors, even if they’re relatives.

The Mean Bees at the top of the garden

The Mean Bees at the top of the garden

But, all in all, a good day on Columbia Parkway!!

P.S. No, I didn’t get stung.  I usually don’t when hiving a package. My average is two stings per season, both while I am in the process of doing something stupid. 🙂

My New Bees Have Arrived!

My new Buckfast bees have arrived, all the way from Novasota, Texas!

Since about 9:30 this morning, I’ve had 20,000 bees in my kitchen, waiting for the weather to warm up a bit so they can move into their new homes.

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Don’t worry, my Mean Bees are doing well. If anything, the cold winter weather perked them up. I’ll post some pictures of them later.

No, I’ve decided to add two more hives at the bottom of the garden.

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After my unsuccessful foray with Italian bees last summer, I’m sticking with Buckfast bees. Some people don’t like them because they have a tendency to be a little, er, mean. (Hence the nickname for my big hive)

Not aggressive, mind you. Just feisty.

Which brings me to one of my many unscientific theories about beekeeping. Feisty bees do better.

This is based purely on my personal experience, which I’ll freely admit is limited. But it does seem to make sense, Darwinism-wise. Survival of the fittest and all.

Did you know Charles Darwin kept bees?  He did! I’ll bet he would agree with me.

Anyway, I’ll post more about the installation (later this afternoon. I have to buy the wine first…) and about Buckfast bees. Wish me luck. 🙂

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Pruning Roses And Flying Bees

Sunrise on Columbia Parkway

Sunrise on Columbia Parkway

It’s a gorgeous day on Columbia Parkway! The sun is shining and it’s almost 60 degrees F. It’s perfect for doing yard cleanup, putting down some compost and checking on my bees.

I noticed this morning that my rose bushes are starting to bud. Time to do some much needed late winter pruning!

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Winter pruning is important for the well-being of roses, as it stimulates the growth of new shoots which will provide flowers.

The best time to prune is just as spring growth starts. It’s not a good idea to wait until the new young shoots are a few inches long as this wastes the plant’s energy and will delay flowering.

The basics of pruning

The first step is easy. Cut out any shoots that are dead and diseased. Spores on these stems can easily reinfect the new shoots in spring so removing them will help with disease control. Also cut out any stems that are particularly weak or rubbing against each other

The next step is to prune the remaining stems.  Most roses benefit from moderate pruning, reducing the height by 1/4 to 3/4. I usually trim about 1/3 of the average height of the stems.

If you have the time you can make sure to prune just above the bud and at a slight angle away from the bud. The angle of the cut is more of an issue for Hybrid Teas and Floribundas as they can be more susceptible to die back than shrub roses. I do make sure that my secateurs are clean and sharp.

Once you have finished pruning your roses it’s important to clean up all the cut stems and fallen leaves as they can carry disease onto the next season.

Then apply a good layer of mulch such as garden compost or well rotted manure. No bark mulch please!! This will help to bury any spores left on the soil surface, keep the soil moist and cool, prevent weeds from germinating and feed the microorganisms in the soil.

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After I finished pruning, I checked in on my bees. They were flying like crazy!

I was delighted to see they were collecting pollen, not just out for a warm weather potty visit.

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I’m adding a third hive this year, so I’m moving the original hive to the bottom of the garden. Moving day is tomorrow! I’ll be sure and let you know how it goes…

New English Garden Bee Plant – Buddleia “Lo And Behold ©” Ice Chip

The White Flower Farm Catalog has arrived!!

I’ve settled myself down in front of the fire with The Noble Bayard at my feet for many happy hours of browsing. After all, I’ve promised to give you my opinion on what’s the Best of the Best for the Bees this year!

The WFF catalog has some lovely new offerings. I was especially excited about a new Buddleia, “Lo and Behold©” Ice Chip.

ice chip pw

It is different from the standard Buddleia in that it is low growing, a groundcover really.

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I know that a number of you have all-white gardens. This would be a charming addition!!

Buddleia is one of the bees’ favorite flowers, and white is one of their favorite colors (along with blue and yellow.) It has a heavenly scent that attracts all kinds of pollinators.

Buddleia is at its best in full sun and moist but well-drained soil. Plants flower on the current season’s growth, and bloom more profusely if stems are pruned back to 12-24 inches as new shoots emerge in spring. In cold-winter climates plants often die back almost to the ground; simply remove the deadwood in spring. Plants regrow vigorously and produce a spectacular show in summer, even from such a seemingly unpromising start.

Fertilize once a year, in early spring, with a good organic fertilizer. Plants are generally untroubled by pests or diseases.

Do Bees Get Grumpy?

Do bees have bad days? Do they get angry? Irritable? Even vindictive?

I don’t know any beekeeper who doubts that bees get grumpy. My bees don’t like wet weather or having their honey taken.

After my spring honey harvest, one extremely pissed off girl chased me for three days until she finally caught me and stung me under my eye. I looked like Popeye for a week.

According to the December 26, 2011 issue of Scientific American, some scientists now believe that bees actually do experience something resembling emotions.

Using simple behavioral tests, Melissa Bateson and her colleagues at Newcastle University in England showed that honeybees under stress tend to be pessimistic, a conclusion few beekeepers would dispute.

Another reason to let our bees be bees and do what they want to, not what we want them to do.

Busy Bee Cleaners, Inc.

No one likes cleaning up after a sticky honey extraction except the bees!

I make sure the equipment is far from both hives (to prevent robbing) and then let them have at it!!

Boadicea – The First Queen Of England

The first woman to hold the title of Queen in England was Boadicea, Queen of the Iceni tribe in the first century A.D.

Boadicea (also spelled Boudicca or Boudica) was born into a royal family around 26 A.D. She married Prasutagus, king of the Iceni, a tribe located in what is now Norfolk, England. Prasutagus ruled under the auspices of the occupying Romans, who had probably put him on the throne in return for his assistance when they invaded England in 43 A. D.

Upon Prasutagus’s death around the year 59, the kingdom passed into the hands of the Romans. The king had hoped the Romans would allow his two teenage daughters to keep half of his property, but instead the Romans took over completely. When Boadicea complained, she was publicly flogged and forced to watch as her daughters were raped.

Infuriated, Queen Boadicea — described by one Roman historian as a tall, terrifying-looking woman with fierce eyes, a harsh voice, and very long red hair — became the leader of a violent uprising against Roman rule.

Leading a swarming army of angry tribes folk she swept into London, torched its buildings, and slaughtered in the region of 70,000 Romano-Londoners.

To this day, about 18 feet below the current street level there is a level of red ash, known to archaeologists as the Boadicea layer.

The Romans brutally put down the rebellion with their superior numbers and weapons  in a ferocious battle (the exact site of which is uncertain). According to one account, Boadicea then killed herself with poison so she would not fall into Roman hands. Boadicea’s name means “victorious,” or Victoria, and in Victorian times she came to be viewed as a heroic symbol of Britain.

Boadicea’s rebellion was a crucial moment in early British history. Her confederacy of Briton tribes had taken the placid Roman occupiers by surprise; they had assumed that the Celtic “barbarians” were far too disorganized to mount any insurrection. As a result, the Roman officials lessened some of the onerous demands of their colonial rule, including a fairer system of taxation.

Long live Queen Boadicea!

Queen Boadicea Has Ascended The Throne!

I know I was supposed to wait a week before checking on whether Queen Boadicea had escaped from the Queen cage, but I just couldn’t. The bees in the new hive were looking particularly orderly, so I had to take a peek.

Empty Queen Cage!

The Queen cage was empty.  The good thing about checking sooner rather than later is that the bees haven’t had a chance to make a lot of messy brace comb in the space where the cage was placed.

But was She alive?  I checked one or two frames before I found her, playing with her sisters!  She has apparently been accepted by the older girls, and will soon be Large And In Charge!!

What a good day!!

Proud Of My Honey

Well, my honey extraction is completed!  Now it’s time for me to clean up the stickiness!!

One of my readers asked about my extracting set-up. A picture is worth a thousand words.

The big silver thing is the centrifugal extractor.  The honey then goes through two mesh strainers and comes out into the bottling tub.  From there, I pour it into bottles straight from the dish washer.

Some people extract their honey in a garage or a basement, but that seems too un-hygienic to me.

Even though honey comes from outside and all, I like to keep things squeaky clean after it comes indoors. Hey, I’m a Virgo!

Hygiene aside, what I’m most proud of about my honey is that I don’t treat my bees with anything. The honey is completely organic. I don’t think there are very many beekeepers around who can make that claim.

But enough bragging. Here are my bottles, glowing and finished!

The Noble Bayard Nods His Approval