Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Hive Inspection Late August

Well I put the inspection off, the weekend we had Irene and I built brood boxes and special frames for recovering a hive on Sunday. I knew the bees likely had too much sugar syrup, I'm still learning these things. The top feeder must be used in moderation I believe. I expected the hive to be out of space and I was right.

This frame is one of 4 frames entirely full of honey, no brood just honey nearly 10 pounds of honey. This brood box was installed around July 01 with brand new frames, so the bees had to draw out the wax and make the honey, not bad for two months. The bad news is this honey is mostly made from sugar syrup and not very good honey, the bees will need in over the winter.
Same frame as above full of honey. Those bees are intent on full the entire frame!
These raised capped brood are drone brood, not seen many drone brood in my hive since the hive was installed in May 2001.
Finally I have a photo of an bee emerging, I saw 3-4 today during my inspection.

Another first for the hive, that round cell is a supersedure cell, the cell queens are raised in. I found two of these and both appeared to have been exited, not a good thing at all. It means either my queen failed/perished and the bees raised a new queen and she would be a virgin queen making it a long time until I get new brood. This late in the season not having brood continually building the hive is not a good thing. The other reason for a supersedure cell is the bees are/were planning to swarm and leave to hive, due to lack of space or other problems.
That little black beetle is a Small Hive Beetle, saw more than I cared for today, managed to kill a few of them. Fast little guys too. I believe  I pulled out 2 of their larva, all white and slimy.
My late post showed a video of bees bringing in pollen, well there it is bright yellow/orange.
This is the top of the bottom brood box. I removed a lot of built up cells like the ones you see on top of the frames. Some of the wax built up on the side walls of the hive had Small Hive Beetles in it.
This shows eggs in the last frame I checked (number 20), I was pretty worried I was not going to find eggs after not finding any in 19 frames. They are hard to see, those tiny white elongated specks are eggs, correct me if I'm wrong.
This is the extra was I scrapped off the tops and sides of the frames and brood boxes today. A tiny bit of honey to taste too. Now I need to figure out what to do with the wax?
I set the top brood box on these concrete blocks, these bees kind of covered one block pretty good. That brood box was 85-90% honey and 70 pounds at least it was heavy! They were still filling cells with honey and all the wax was drawn out. So I added a honey super. For those of you wondering what is a honey super, it is a shallower box like the brood box you put on the top for the bees to fill with honey.

Today was the first time I took off the upper brood box since it was installed in early July, not my best move. It should have been inspected the last time I inspected but there were so many bees and they got angry I did not do it. I learned today these boxes are heavy and replacing them back in the stack full of bees kills a lot of bees, I need to learn the best way to take them off and replace them so not to kill so many of them that crawl onto the top of the boxes.
Received my second bee sting today since I got the hive, not too bad on my leg. They could have stung my arms as I was short sleeved. Here in the hive now, two deep brood boxes, one honey super and top feeder (green). Nope the bottle wall behind the hive had not have any progress yet, anyone got a weed eater?

I mentioned in the last post I got some 1 x 12 spruce for $10. Made 4 brood boxes out of it, they sell for $16 each it took me an hour to make them with my table saw..

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Irene passed/ now nectar flowing!

Yesterday we were just miles from the outer edges of Hurricane Irene. We ended up with maybe 1/4 inch of rain, nice high temps of 78 degrees. The winds we on for over 24 hours, the highest gusts were maybe 30 mph. Green leaf litter is the only damage we had and some dead wood branches that fell.

I went to the local bee supplier and bought the workings for anther hive. as I hope to collect a hive from a porch in Durham in the next week or so. On my way back I stopped at a BP station in Hillsborough and after paying for my gas a plastic BP sign exploded next to my car! The highway sign at the BP was made of 8 x 8 steel I beams the sign was twisting about 6-8 inches in the hurricane winds.

On to this post, I tried the top hive feeder and used up 15 pounds of sugar in 3 days, I'm told a strong hive can go throught a lot of sugar in short order. I'll be inspecting the hive to see if they can handle this much sugar, until I figure that out I'm back to the boardman feeder. Clare I did not find any losses in the top feeder.

I was delighted to see a lot of bees bringing in pollen this morning, excited in fact. I know from nearly 15 years of butterfly watching rain brings out pollen. I suspect this is golden rod pollen which makes terrible tasting honey, yet great food for the bees.

While stopping at the local lumber yard Friday I inquired about getting some 1 x 12 spruce to build hive boxes with, they said they did not stock it. I went back and looked at the lumber and found 24 foot of spruce 1 x 12 and was told since they did not have it as a stock item they would sell it to me as scrap wood so I got it for $10 maybe enough to built 4  deep brood boxes!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Beehive Extraction

This morning I helped Chris with a cut out extraction. We also had help from Catherine another local new beekeeper. The beehive was reported to be at least 15 years old and was in an old chapel that is going to be restored. If I got the facts right this chapel was built around 1825-1826 by slaves. It is just down the trading path to Stagville  Plantation  The bees were in the floor of the slave balcony, the photo below shows the ceiling under balcony. I found a blog post about the Fairntosh Farm it states the chapel was called  Salem Chapel.

Here is our first look at the hive with one piece of ceiling board removed. Note the smoker in use.
Here is the complete hive, my estimation on size is 42 inches x 20 inches and 10 inches deep. A pretty big hive. You can see where the hive used to be in the other rafter space by the outside wall.
Here Chris is just getting started removing comb.
This is a typical comb section, much bigger than the frame so we cut them to fit in the frame.
As you can see one of the custom frames Chris made, it is split and hinged with bicycle inner tube rubber. Once the comb is set in the frame you close up the 2 piece frame and fasten it with rubber bands made from inner tube.  So what you have here is mostly honey on the lower comb piece and that orange you see on the other comb is pollen.
This is Catherine, she was very helpful cutting and fitting the frames. I held the light while Chris cut out the comb and later Catherine and I switched jobs.
We filled 2 1/2 deep brood boxes with comb, 8 frames in each box.
Getting close to finishing and we are looking very closely for the queen. Not found her yet. Chris says he usually finds the queen half of the time.
Oh my the queen was on this comb! Chris found it and it took a bit more looking to find it again. Chris got the queen on his gloves and moved he so she climbed onto the brood box we just filled. She disappeared into the frames and we hoped she stayed while Chris sealed up the newly boxed hive.

OK, I know some of you are going to ask did we get stung. Chris got a couple of stings I think, Catherine got one sting and I got half a sting. My glove was stung as was Catherine's and my finger just touched the stinger and I manged to barely feel it. One lady in the small   crowd watching got stung on the arm as well. Not sure if any more stings happened after I left or not. Chris and Catherine stayed to do the rest of the clean up and I had to attend to my customer scheduled for the day.

Got to go tend to the small comb section of honey I brought home with me. Dark and very tasty honey!!!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

New Top Feeder and garden frame

Finally I picked up a top feeder for the bee hive, it holds 2.5 gallons of syrup.As you can see I stained it the same green as our house.
Here are the first bees to discover it, took only a few minutes.
I went to the food co op in Hillsborough and came back to find we had rain while I was gone maybe a 1/4 inch. Doppler showed a tiny band pasting right over us just before I got home. No rain seen elsewhere so for once we got lucky. 30% chance today for rain.

Two hours later the bees found the feeder. I took the top off the hive without smoking them or wearing protective gear either. I felt somewhat comfortable without the gear a few bees did harass me, but no stings. See our pond it looks pretty empty, maybe 25 foot in diameter right now.

Here is the 'new' garden frame made out of recycled 2 x 6s I took from a 10 year old deck this spring. I also cut 8- 2 x 3s x 18 inches to screw onto the sides later and mount 4 - 1/2 inch PVC pipes to to make a taller hoop frame later. If the acorns start to drop it'll go on sooner.

 We'll be planting carrots, kale, lettuce and maybe radishes in there soon. I ordered some Rainbow Blend carrot seeds, Lacinato Kale seeds and Gourmet Mix Lettuce Seeds last night while looking for Armenian Yard-Long Cucumber Seeds which I ordered as well. I tasted the Armenian Yard-long cucumber yesterday(about 14 inches long and 3 inches wide) at the farmers market and just had to grow my own.

The tomato plant at top right above the frame is a Rainbow Tomato, only picked 2 big tomatoes from it so far, it was our worst performer in the tomato realm.
Here you can see Jubilee in the front left, nearly dying, it still has a few small orange tomatoes, did pretty well. The A frame in the center of the garden has a 12 foot tall Cherokee Purple, it is still flowering, did great this year. The cucumber trellis on the right has given us maybe 50 - 8 inch cucumbers this year, the best year we have had with cucumbers.

Tomatoes are about done, we picked maybe 40 pounds of them. I made spaghetti sauce in 3 huge batches and froze what we could not eat right away.
 Almost forgot we finally have Patty Pan Squash, these seeds are at least 2 years old. Just two squash as you can see above and below. Can't buy these tasty squash is the super market. Thank you bees for the pollinating job and giving us squash!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Robberflies Everywhere this year!

I have at least 4 Robberflies Promachus bastardii hanging out near the bee hive. I'm betting a single robberfly captures and eats 5-6 honey bees each a day. When I did the Durham Butterfly Count last week I saw over 100 of these robberflies in the fields and gardens.

Thinking if one honey bees makes a teaspoon of honey in its life time then these robberflies are taking away honey from the bees with every kill they make, it has to be pounds of honey.

Giant Robberfly, Promachus bastardii
mating in the garden.
Eating one of my worker bees!

Several of you asked in comments on my last post which lens do I use. All the photos taken in the last post were taken with my Canon G11 point and shoot camera as in the photo below of a robberfly eating an honey bee.
These bees with tongues sticking out were taken with my 180mm macro lens on my Canon 20D. All the other robberfly photos here were taken with the 180mm macro lens with fill flash.
Been wanting to share this photo.

Trying to get inspired to work in the garden. We lost 2 more big camellias and my first 3 camellia babies were not watered and died too. I still have 5 babies that did get watered and are ok. Rain perhaps a little tonight, Sunday and Monday are more hopeful.

The plan in the garden is to make a 6 ft x 8 ft wood frame to turn later into a cold frame. I want to plant carrots, kale and salad greens. 6 x 8 because of the open space I have available, I have left over lumber scraps to make it with.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

12th Annual Durham Butterfly Count!

This was my 10th year doing the Durham Butterfly Count, I have missed one year since 1999, another year a hurricane canceled the count. Given the recent drought we thought the count would not fair too well. The 6 parties of counters were 1-2 counters in a party. I was by myself for the first time in many years.

When I got up the morning of the count the Doppler weather map showed a huge system of storms in Winston Salem and it was heading our way. By the time the system traveled 80 miles towards us in just dissipated into nothing. Still the morning was heavily overcast and gray, not the best for butterflying.

Silvery Checkerspot, Chlosyne nycteis

Wingstem, Verbesina alternifolia 
 The host plant for the Silvery Checkerspot butterfly. At times this plant which can reach 10 ft tall can be covered in butterflies.
Gray Hairstreak on Wingstem, Verbesina alternifolia
Can you see the wings twisting around the stem?

- Ailanthus Webworm Moth, Atteva punctella 
On wingstem.
You know the state parks budget has been slashed to the bones. I found this sign down next to the Eno River in the park. I have been through this part of the state park every since I have had a cell phone, I get great coverage with the cell most of the time. In the park I get no signal at all never have, great use of funding don't you think??

This mountain mint was everywhere in the Cole Mill Access of the Eno River State Park along the power line. It kept me extremely busy counting butterflies, must have been nearly an acre of this excellent butterfly attracting plant. I don't usually cover this area on the count, see the photo below.
One of my former favorite butterflying areas. The power line folks cut this back to the nubs, right down to the dirt during the 100 degree days we've had. Ok it is the power company's right of way. But it used to be 3 - 8 foot tall in Common Milkweed, Swamp Milkweed, Butterfly Weed, Joe-Pye Weed, New York Ironweed, golden rods and Virgins' Bower. I could on a good day find 20-25 species of butterflies right here in the 1/4 mile stretch of gravel road. I did find 4 species during my count this time by the creek not shown in this photo. Hope these plants will grow back otherwise it is habitat loss again.

I also had another area of yellow composites along both sides of a paved road for 1/3 mile that last year I had over 500 butterflies on. I t was mowed down just like this, didn't bother to look it made me sick to see it.
Here I sort of got in trouble with Tom another party leader, I did not know he was counting this spot. Miss Huff lantana, you can see here 2/3 of the patch. I counted over 400 butterflies here mostly skippers.

 Red-spotted Purple
My first one of the day it was along the Eno River.
 Here is a Delaware Skipper it is uncommon here, I did see 2 of these. The bright orange is telling here seeing inside the wings help to clinch the ID. Not having an inside photo I could be wrong on this and it could be a Sachem. I did see 2 Delawares both gave me open wings to confirm them.

The most common butterfly seen on the count, I had 601 of them, the count total was 2118 Sachems. The male Sachem is the light orange skipper and the longer brown one with the chevon marking is the female Sachem.
Here is another female Sachem on Brazilian Verbena a common weed that attrcts butterflies when it is well watered.

Little River regional Park has a butterfly garden, it had 3 butterflies total. Usually the butterfly garden had lots of butterflies. I took this Sleepy Orange on Butterfly Weed photo in the garden there.
Wild Indigo Duskywing This was the only one of this uncommon butterfly I saw. It is one a Queen Anne's Lace seed head.

Brian added a new species to the count list a Harvester!
Here is a short video I took of some Wooly Aphids the Harvester larval food I found along the Eno River. Harvester is the only butterfly in the US with carnivorous larva which feed on Wooly Aphids and not plant material.

So the total tally for the day was 57 species of adult butterflies (+ Black Swallowtail caterpillars making 58 species, the adults were a no show) and 4540 butterflies were count in all. We were above average on species numbers and individual butterflies. Not what I expected when the day started out. Jeff's full report can be found at this link.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Bee swarm rescue 60 ft up in pine tree!

Yesterday I went to help Chris and Lucy attempt to rescue a bee swarm 60 ft up in a Lobolly pine tree at a summer camp nearby. This late in the year when bees swarm the chances of them surviving the winter is pretty slim. Bee hives need to store at least 40 pounds of honey to make it though the winter and need to be a large enough colony to make a cluster at least as big as a soccer ball, bigger would be much better. The more bees in a cluster the more effective they are at warming the brood and themselves for the next generation. Collecting the swarm would give them a better chance of survival as the beekeeper can feed them all winter long and give them better odds at making it through the winter.

 This is the bee swarm that was 60 foot (18-19 meters) up in the pine tree. I took this photo with my 400 mm lens, not the best photo the lighting was very difficult.
 The observation beehive at  Camp Chestnut Ridge, this hive was given to them by the Museum of Life and Sciences when theirs was replaced with a new one. We observed the hive closely and saw several supersedure cells  where the worker bees were attempting to replace the queen. The bees were removing dead or infected larva constantly, not a good sign. We also saw several dead Yellow Jackets being removed from the hive. The screened port in the lower center smelled pretty bad, I don't know the odors to look for it, seemed grim to me.
 Here is Chris making his way up the tree using slings to climb the tree.
 At the top you can see the swarm, my estimate perhaps 12,000 bees in the swarm. Chris is setting up rigging to tie off the limb so it does not drop to the ground when he cuts it.
 This was very hard work, he is smiling just the same.
 Above the tree limb with the bees is rigged and almost ready to cut. Afraid of heights? He is 60 foot up and the tree sways often.
The limb is cut, it drops faster than expected. Chris told us maybe a 1000 bees stayed on the limb. The other 11,000 or so took flight and made an impressive sight seeing them swirl all around the limb. Then it happened, they just vanished! We looked nearby and could not relocate them.

Before heading out yesterday I placed a sticky board at the bottom of our hive to check for mites, this morning the results came in 3-4 mites, 15 would be bad, so we passed inspection for now. Also saw our first Small Hive Beetle and the board had a dead beetle larva on it.

Rain, yes this morning perhaps an half inch of rain fell. The lower rain tote overflow drain worked for the first time, it watered the camellia bush very good. The upper rain tote of the shed still is no way near full. So we have perhaps 350 gallons of rain water in storage, more than we have ever had. Currently with the two totes we could store around 550 gallons.

Tomorrow is the Durham Butterfly Count I'll be leading a group or going by myself (Meg and Sharna are here but they are spending time with Meg's son who is leaving to go overseas with the army very soon.) The normal butterfly areas I have covered in the past look pretty dismal from lack of rain and mowing by the highway department. So I'll be covering the Eno River State Park which I know very well. The state parks manage their mowing much better than the highway department so I should do fairly well there.

We had a Common Wood-Nymph in the tomato patch today, normally we see one every other year or so here.