Sunday, May 19, 2013

Checking Out the Bees and Naming Our Queens

Last Friday was our first real examination of the colonies since they arrived and it was thrilling!

When we opened the first hive which is made up of two medium boxes (supers) there were bees all over the top box so they've begun building comb in the upper box. In the bottom the queen had laid plenty of brood and some was capped and some was uncapped but filled with little curled up larva. Go, queen! We saw her walking around with her court.

We've decided to name our two queens after Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton since she was a mom of four and a spiritual mom of hundreds of girls over the years. Seems appropriate since the bees are mostly girls. She also opened the first Catholic orphanage in the United States. So our two queens are Elizabeth and Ann.

The second box, Queen Ann's domain, saw little activity in the upper super because the bottom is a deep. So they still have plenty of room for everything they're doing. We'll be checking up again within the next few days accompanied by our mentor, Gordon, who is the bee expert!

And I'm happy to say that I was all wet about seeing mites. I was looking at the circular markings on the bees and once I got a closer look, I could see that's all they were. So the bees are busy, collecting nectar (It's locust tree time and they love it!), and pollen (I could see the pollen sacks very clearly on one of the bees.), cleaning out the cells where brood has hatched, feeding the baby bees, etc. It's pretty clear where the saying "busy as bees" comes from!

examining a frame with brood and lots of bees

Notice the little girl in the lower right center with the white pollen.
She has two full pockets. Good work, girl!

Larry with one of our tools, a smoker, used to calm the bees.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Good Day for Flying: Feast of St. Isidore

It was up in the 80s today with a light breeze, perfect for the bees. Larry uncovered the pool and rescued a few bees who decided it was a good place to drink. We are hoping the pool will NOT be the favorite water source. There is a pond next door and hopefully they will like that a lot better. We placed our hives where the pond is more of a straight shot than the pool. We haven't put any chemicals in the pool yet and hopefully chlorine is a real turnoff for them.

I saw a few bumble bees flying around today and landing on my flowers, but I still haven't see a honey bee in the garden -- maybe when the lavender blooms.

Today is also the feast of St. Isidore the Farmer. Maybe he was also a beekeeper. We're asking his intercession with our bees. St. Isisdore, pray for us.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Second Bee Feeding: Getting the hang of it already!

I made up a gallon of bee syrup this morning: ten cups sugar, ten cups water, and two tablespoons Honey B Healthy which is a feeding stimulant added to the sugar water. I think I may put some of that solution in a spray bottle. The label says it can be used in place of smoke to calm the bees. When we opened the hives and started stripping out the old ziploc bags, mostly empty, the bees got pretty testy and started buzzing like crazy around us. A little soothing sugar water sounds like a good plan for the next feeding. I imagine if we weren't suited up we would have been stung multiple times.

ingredients for bee syrup

spent feeding bag on grass -- The hive is expanding so rapidly we're
already adding a second box, the "honey super"

Bees cleaned out the bag and are ready for more.

The hive lid makes a good working space. Note the red hive tool. It's used to pop the lid,
separate the boxes, and lift out the frames inside. It can be a challenge
 when the bees glue everything together with propolis.

Camp Kreitzer Critters

There is never a dull moment at the Camp Kreitzer nature center. Yesterday, Larry found a little turtle on the pool cover. He rescued the little fellow and, since we were going to our daughter's house for Mother's Day dinner, we took him along. He was the hit of the night with our two little granddaughters. There was nothing about him all that was slow. Every time we took him out of the bowl he took off in escape mode.

We had a little debate about his family background. Larry insisted he was a baby snapping turtle. I said he didn't look anything like a snapping turtle and insisted he was a baby painted turtle. After looking up the two species on the internet the vote went for painted turtle. He had the yellow striped markings on his neck, an orange undershell, and yellow spots on his face. The photo is a little too dark to see his colorful markings, but he definitely did NOT look like a baby snapping turtle.

Now, THIS is a baby snapping: longer tail, bumpier shell - definitely a little more sinister looking. We do have snapping turtles at Camp Kreitzer. One huge one (probably ten pounds at least) migrated from the pond next door into our yard and hissed at us when Larry tried to pick him up with a shovel and return him over the fence. We decided to let him find his own way back.

Snappers can grow up to about 35 pounds and even larger if overfed. At Huntley Meadows in Alexandria, the snappers were eating the baby ducklings. They are definitely carnivores.

So much for our reptiles, my favorite Camp Kreitzer critters (well, tied with the bees) are the bluebirds. We have a pair who have decided to nest in a little birdhouse outside my office window. It's not an official sized bluebird box, but they don't seem to mind. They are building a nest and are back and forth all day with materials. I look forward to seeing the little birds arrive and fledge.

Occasionally, the daddy perches on my feeder stand to pose for a picture. Considering that the photo is taken through a screened window, I think it's pretty clear. I am always happy to pause in my work to admire him. This morning he paused there for breakfast as he ate a little worm of some kind. Yum!

Today is bee feeding day at Camp Kreitzer although it's chilly and breezy so we'll wait awhile until the temp hits the high (an unseasonally cool 60 degrees) before we lift the lid. Poor bees, the spring has definitely not been ideal for them.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

The Bees Arrive!

After waiting for what seems forever, our bees finally arrived yesterday. The cold weather and rain had delayed things, but now we are ready to learn all about being bee keepers by hands on experience. Frank, our bee provider, came over with his son and two hives of bees, a deep and a medium. We'll keep these  boxes until next year when hopefully our hives will be well established and we can return Frank's equipment.

Frank's son (also Frank) helped me connect my bee hat and veil to the jacket and we all went out to the field  area we've selected as our "bee yard." Larry set up two stands with cinder blocks slightly angled so rainwater will drain off the front. Frank showed us the queen in each hive. The bees were busy and we saw cells with eggs already laid and some capped brood. There were also cells filled with nectar and "bee bread" which is pollen. Nectar is the bees carbohydrate and pollen is protein. Even bees need a balanced diet.

Friday, May 10, 2013

A Visit to the Vineyards and Wineries along Lake Erie

Last weekend we enjoyed the company of our daughter and her husband in a birthday tour of vineyards and wineries along Lake Erie. The wine and cheese weekend offered a choice of 23 establishments with food and wine pairings. In two days we managed to visit seventeen (and stay sober). We took a little vote at the end on the best food, the best wine, and best atmosphere. It was a delightful weekend with two of our favorite people. And here are a few photos.

Best Food! Tomato, bacon, smoked cheddar soup...yum.

Flowers everywhere...a second Spring for Larry and me

Bed and Breakfast on the lake...friendly hosts and lovely surroundings!

Our companions on the adventure

We didn't dream up that pink elephant!

Just one of the lovely tasting rooms

Time out from wining for a walk in the park

Is that the road more traveled? Vineyards everywhere.

Beautiful stonework at this vineyard and a friendly winebartender

Lemon cheesecake...just one of the yummy dishes served with wine.