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Archive for May, 2009

I went out during lunch to install the queen excluders in the hives between the hive bodies and the hive top feeders.  The bees, over the past few days, have built out a lot of burr comb in the feeder’s middle space and attached it to the top of the frames in the hive body.  So, I cleaned up some of the burr comb and brought it in.  It had honey in it and offered us the chance to taste the first small fruits of the hive.  It was delicious as could be expected.  I took a couple of pictures of the burr comb as well.

Burr Comb from Bee Hives

Burr Comb from Bee Hives

Another shot of the burr comb with honey

Another shot of the burr comb with honey

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We’ve been raising the garden beds using the same material that we used to make the beds last year. I went to Community Forklift in Edmonston, MD (near Hyattsville) and bought all of the composite deck boards that they had left and I’ve been building the next level of the beds. The total height of the raised beds is now 1 ft above the ground. We’ve forked the soil in the beds (last year we double dug each of the beds but the soil has compacted significantly over the winter so that it’s pretty much clay once more) and we’ve now gotten two out of four beds planted. We still have two more to do before we start expanding the garden.

The bee hives appear to be doing well. The bees have plenty of food with the hive top feeders and they’ve been building out comb on the new frames. They’ve even been building burr comb in the crawl space in the hive top feeders. I’ll have to put in a queen excluder between the feeder and the top of the frames so that the queen won’t lay brood in the burr comb. The nectar flow seems to be going well as I only had to refill one of the feeders with syrup — the other one appears to still be about half full. I did manage to see the queen in one of the hives which was reassuring. I’ll be checking again in a couple of days as soon as the rains stop.  One thing I did definitely notice is that the hive on the right is definitely stronger than the one on the left…it worries me a little bit since I’m concerned that the one on the left may have to be merged with the one on the right before the winter in order to improve their survival chances.  Still, it’s early in the summer and there should be enough time for them to strengthen sufficiently to go into the winter strong enough to survive.

One thing we did do, however, is transplant the peppermint, spearmint, and lemon balm from one of the garden beds and plant them near the hives. Turns out bees go nuts for mint and lemon balm and I’m hoping that the smell will help control tracheal mites (should they appear).

Other projects include moving the butterfly bush and the bee balm plants, after they’ve finished blooming, from just behind the garden to another location in the front yard so we can expand the garden into that area.  And I still need to finish the two rain barrels.  It rained buckets a couple of days ago and the barrels are nowhere near ready to be installed so all that rain just washed away…bummer.

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Went and picked up the bees yesterday from Highland Honey and Apiaries in Gaithersburg, MD.  I bought two nucleus hives which were sealed tight (good thing since I drove there with my minivan and wasn’t sure how sealed the nucs were going to be).  It’s pretty amazing…25,000-30,000 bees in each nuc — when I was in the minivan and before I started the engine I could hear the buzzing in the nucs.

When we finally got home (I took a right turn off of Brink Rd. onto Goshen Rd. and it took me a while to get my bearings — which wasn’t helped by the fact that some roads near Shady Grove Metro were not marked as to their names) I put the nucs on the ground and then moved the hive stands and the hive bodies to the back of the property (I still need to clean that area up!).  Anyway, I then put the nucs next to each hive stand, got the smoker ready, put on the jacket and hood and opened up the hardware cloth to let the bees out for a little while (they had been cooped up in the nuc since 7:30 AM and it was about 1 PM when I was able to open the entrance of the nuc).

I let them be (no pun intended) for about an hour and then went outside to move the frames into the hive bodies.  I managed to get the frames moved into the hives pretty easily although I did get stung about 3 times in all (my family was watching near by and my two daughters each got stung once as well because the a bee was stuck in their hair).  I was stung in the right thumb, the left hand lower palm (towards the outside of the palm) and in the pinky of my left hand.  My right thumb is still swollen and hot (although the tenderness has gone away) but my left palm and pinky are just fine.  I managed to get the stinger out of each using the hive frame tools and smoked the sting site so that it wouldn’t attract other bees to sting.  All in all it was an interesting start.

After I got the frames into the hives I shook the nucs to dump out as many bees into the hive and then put on the hive top feeders.  I made about 4 gallons of syrup (1:1) and poured that into the feeders, covered up the hives and left the bees alone to calm down.  Some pictures of yesterday’s fun are below.

One thing that I definitely do need to get done soon is to level the hives (they’re on a bit of a slope and I want to make sure that they’re as level as possible).  I’ll cut some of the extra wood I have left over from when I made the hive stands and I’ll use that as shims.  Other than that I think I should just leave them alone for now.  I don’t want to disturb them too much other than to check that they’re eating syrup or just to make sure there are bees coming in and out of both hives.

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My nucleus hives will be available for pick-up on Sunday…woohoo!  I’ve got the hive bodies built, bottom boards, entrance reducers, the hive top feeders came in this week, the smoker and smoker fuel, the jacket and hood and 20 out of 40 frames built (I’m using duragilt this year).  I even built myself my own hive stands.  And today I received my Maryland Department of Agriculture Certificate for Bee Colony Registration for 2009.  Now I just need the bees!

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