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Photo update on Bee life!

So far our hives seem to be doing wonderfully.  They quickly lost interest in the 1:1 sugar syrup we were offering them, barely finishing the 1/2 gallons we gave them right after install.  I put new brood supers on both hives about 10 days again and then did a quick check to make sure they had found their way up to the new foundation.  They seem to be happy, healthy, and pest free (KNOCK ON WOOD.)  I did have to scrape of some burr comb (comb they built in the wrong place) that was full of nearly capped honey.  Obviously I cheated on my Whole30 challenge a little bit to taste it – I’m probably a little biased but it was basically the best honey ever.

Anyways, here’s a timeline of photos from my big kid camera now that I’m bored enough to actually do something with them.  Hank isn’t quite as good of company as Luis is 😉

 

Here’s my cute parents right before we picked up the bees!

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With our baby nuts in their boxes.  We had to select our nuts from those that our supplier deemed “ready.”  It was really intimidating because I had NO idea what I was really supposed to looking for besides good brood patterns and no pests.

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You can kind of see the bag sugar syrup.  This is probably my hive – I definitely spilled it as I propped it open.  I also have read that some berks lay it totally flat under the inner cover, but that seemed to take a certain amount of finesse that I definitely lack.  I just set them on top of the inner cover with an empty super around it for protection and added ventilation.  This what they did in my first bee class and it seemed to work really well.

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To install the nuts we just set up our hive bodies and transferred over the frames, one by one, in the same order.  Then we simply shook as many bees as possibly into the hives before shutting them up.  We left the nut boxes on the ground, tilted towards the hives to help encourage any confused bees to head into their new house.  I think I’ve mentioned this before, but my nuc had a bunch of wonky comb so I tied it into a frame.  They totally ate all the way through the twine and reestablished all that comb on the frame.  The only problem is that it’s not totally straight and they’ve built two over lapping pieces now.  I think I’m going to have to break it down into two frames and rubber band it in place.

 

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That’s a pretty good brood pattern there.  The photo below shows capped brood aka bee larva that is growing and will hatch soon.

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Just another look inside the hive.  I think that these photos were taken after the first week.

 

 

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The white capped comb is honey!  Did you know that capped honey can NEVER go bad?  Archaeologists ate the honey found in the tombs of ancient Egyptians and it was still good.

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If you follow me on Instagram (@gator_rach) you may have already seen this photo, but it’s a nice shot of the queen in the Florida hive.  (I named her Gainesville.)  You can identify her by the faint green dot on her back and her big butt.  She’s much easier to spot in the insta after this photo.

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Her majesty.   My sister and I spotted her while adding the second brood supers.

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And that’s all folks!  We shouldn’t go back into the hives for at least a week or two.  It is very difficult to find a balance between getting to know your bees and their habits as a new beekeeper and not bothering the bees so that they can do their work.  We check to make sure that they’re active and I love watching the foragers come back with full pollen packets.

 

 

 

Andddddd before I forget this is what that delicious, honey filled buy comb looked like.

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Nuc pick up!

WE’RE OFFICIALLY BEEKEEPERS!   I’ve been dying to pick up our nucs so that I could officially say this.  We’ve got our ladies safely at home and in their new hives.  (I have more photos of the pick up and install on my big kid camera, so here’s a quick iPhone dump.)

After dealing with some really crappy weather, we got the go ahead from Jerry from Rock Hill Honey Bee Farms to come and pick up our nucs Sunday evening.  My dad and brother were brave enough to come with us (though I don’t think that my brother really thought through the fact that there would be bees with him in the car. )

All the nuc’s at Jerry’s farm were buzzing and growing and beautiful!  We went through a few so we could pick out our favorites, mark the queen (our preference), and strap them closed for transfer.  He also stapled mesh over the openings before helping us load them into our car.  I ended up with the nuc we checked out during our class in April which I took to be a good omen.

We had an uneventful ride home.  Thankfully.  I’m sure there are horror stories about improperly secured nucs creating chaos in the car.  We left our suits and veils on, just in case.  The boys had to risk it 😉

We got the ladies into the backyard, got the smoker up and running, and moved the fresh frames into their new homes!

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The front hive is my mom’s “Connecticut” and her queen is Wethersfield.  Mine is in the back of the photo above, called “Florida” with a “Gainesville” queen.  We’ve been pretty transient my whole life so this is a fun way to pay homage to our favorite homes!

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Clearly we were REALLY excited.  I don’t think either of us stopped beaming the entire time.  It was such a proud moment and so cool to share it with my mom.  This has been a goal of ours for a long time – surprising totally unrelated and independently established.

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The scariest part was when we realized the my bees had built a pretty good chunk of wonky comb in a the small extra space in their nuc box.  I just cut it out and rubber banded it into a frame without foundation.  It didn’t stay nice and pretty, but I trust my girls to clean it up and get it up and running again.  It was FULL of honey already!

We put 1:1 sugar water in the top supers using the plastic bag method – just a little slit in the bags to give the bees easy access without drowning.  They’ve been eating it up, but we’ve also seen so many bees come and go with full pollen packets that we’re not too worried about it at this point.

Once I download photos from my camera, I’ll be sure to get them up here right away with an update after we check the hive this weekend, hopefully with some great close ups of our girls.

 

DIY Beekeeper’s Toolbox

For Mother’s Day I built my mom a pretty cool gift (if I do say so myself!)  I took the basic plans for a nuc box (which can be found with a simple google search but also HERE) and this toolbox from Williams-Sonoma (no longer available or on their website unfortunately.)

Williams Sonoma Toolbox

no longer available 😦 but it was insanely overpriced anyways

I could have purchased one but the cost + shipping was pretty prohibitive, plus mom’s like homemade stuff right?  Even when their kid is 26?

The benefit of the nuc-turn-toolbox is that it can safely hold all your tools, AND be used to transport frames, a swarm, or a sandwich.  So multipurpose.  It’s a little heavier than a regular tackle box style container, but the added benefits are worth the few extra pounds.

I headed to home depot and purchased a nice, straight pine board that was 1″x10″x10′, a set of hinges, a hook closure, a cheap ratchet tie down, liquid nails, and some 1″ wood screws, and a can of spray paint (primer/paint all in one, exterior.)   The nice gentlemen at Home Depot cut down my wood for me so that saved me the majority of the heavy duty work!  Then I headed over to Michael’s for a few bottles of craft paint and a 2′ balsa wood stick thing.  (It’s like a rectangular dowel.)   This only cost about $35 FOR THE ENTIRE PROJECT.  MUCH better than the cheapest versions I found which cost about $75 with shipping.

I followed the directions to build the nuc, gluing the body together first before drilling pilot holes and then carefully screwing it all together.

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Then I added in the bottom board in the same way and painted the whole thing (not the inside of the box, but I did do the entire lid.)

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I put hinges on the top and attached it to the body of the nuc and then had to notch out the opposite ledge a bit to accommodate the latch I purchased.  I don’t have any fancy tools so I just drilling a few holes to remove the small section of wood, sanding down the edges to create a finished look.  Then I realized I’d put the latch on backwards, effectively locking the box shut permanently, and had to switch everything around.

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Finally, I cut the tie-down strap down and made handles and a strap across the front for the smoker.  (The smoker’s bellow goes under the strap and it sits on what would be the landing area if this was a real nuc box.  I used washers and screws to attach the strap and handles and then secured the handles with a bit of liquid nails and tacks.  I also cut and added the balsa wood with the liquid nails as a place for the edges of frames to rest, effectively creating two small ledges that would prevent the frames from just sitting in the box.  I’ve read a few posts where beeks have complained about queen cells at the bottom of frames being crushed in transport, but the ledges, plus the fact that this comes out to be a little taller than all standard nucs/frames, will prevent that from being an issue.

Nuc box straps

I personalized it with a fun little design, just quickly sketched lightly with a pencil.  I used a magic eraser to wipe away the pencil bit by bit after I was satisfied with how everything looked.

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BOOM. You’re done!  I MIGHT end up finishing the box with a clear coat of acrylic? laquer? something? to help protect it from the elements, but I’d rather leave it plain as I’m not sure what might negatively affect the bees.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mommy & Me Beekeeping Class

Yesterday we took a full day beekeeping course!  It was amazingly informative – not as textbook/formal as my last class (but that was SIX WEEKS LONG) – more in terms of great anecdotes and very area specific (NoVa) information.

 

Here are a few basics:

Honeybees are either female (queen or worker) or male (drone.)  They all have extremely specific functions and look totally different.  As you can see below honeybees are NOT bumblebees.  (They are also not wasps, hornets, carpenter bees, etc.)

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Honeybees need attention.  Some beekeepers choose not to feed their hives.  We will.  Because we don’t want to risk them dying.  They need to be medicated for the plethora of diseases they can get.  Some can be fixed or treated (small hive beetles, nosema) other mean certain death (American foulbrood – you have to burn the entire hive.)\

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In a few weeks my mom and I will pick up our nucs at the same location (also called a nucleus) which will be just like mini hives.  Instead on 10 frames per super (the boxes) there will only be five.  A nuc has a laying queen, tons of workers, drones, and eggs (called brood.)  Basically it’s like a really awesome starter kit.  We will transfer them into the new hives boxes we purchased from Mann Lake.

 

Anyways, the best part of the class was getting to play with the bees!  Identifying queens (big butted fatties), checking for eggs, praying you don’t get stung.  Here’s some photos!

 

 

Note my lack of bee suit. Oops! No stings though!

four frames of a nuc – these will be used for queen rearing

 

Queen hunting

Look at them building out the comb!

Mommy and Me!

Bee Chalkboard

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Admittedly, this chalkboard design is not my favorite – I usually prefer a lot of text, but wanted to try something new.  I was going to do something for my birthday, but that just seems weird so I chose to celebrate getting our hives in April!  I pinned some inspiration here and got to work.  The flowers are supposed to be tulip poplar flowers – likely the trees our bees will visit the most.

I probably will erase this one in the next few days unless I add to it or it realllyyyy grows on me.  It just isn’t my best work.  BUT I am showing it to you because I made a fun time lapse video of taking down the hot air balloon and putting up the bee.  Check it out below!

 

Bee Chalkboard from Rachel on Vimeo.