Archive for the ‘Hives’ Category

2838 Bee Beard's new hat, 4-22-16

April 23…Bee Beard’s new look, complete with peacock feathers. My wife says he looks like he’s yodeling. I say the hat is ‘functional.’ and I’ll get used to it, but no one can call us “mainstream.”

I know this isn’t a lovely hackle like Johnathon Powell’s log hive ‘thatch roof’ covering. but the hive had to be fixed before attracting a swarm and this is swarm season.  My wife suggested this stylish lid probably because she knew it would take me a long time to figure out a wooden solution.  A ‘long time’ means Pat’s not contributing to the gardening effort.:)

The top of the hive has to vent the air through the quilt box without letting in any rainwater.  How did the rainwater get in?  See below.

2814 Is this how rainwater got in, 4-20-16

See this crack in the headpiece? I think that’s what did in the hive. When I opened it up, the quilt box was soggy and the sow bugs plentiful.

2817 Split in 'hat' lets rainwater enter, 4-20-16

This is the underneath. That crack can leak all the way through, letting the El Niño rainwater into the top of the hive.

2809 Torched every sq. inch, 4-19-16

I took the hive apart, cleaned out all the comb, and torched every square inch (and centimeter).

2823 Quilt over scorched top bars, 4-20-16

I melted some old comb and stuck it back on the very torched top bars. A muslin cloth will cover the bars, then the quilt box goes on top.

2824 Quilt box fitted in top, above top bars, 4-20-16

A new quilt box goes in. It fits perfectly…after the third time I reconfigured it. Hey, I’m not a that good of a wood worker, but I try, try again.

2825 Screened holes to let air vent, keep yj out, 4-20-16

This is the key to the whole thing. Let the hive breathe, but don’t let the yellow jackets in. I drilled some holes in the top and screened them over.

2827 Clean observation window, 4-20-16

The observation window is cleaned up and fitted back in. It’ll be covered with a wooden plug. I like to see the bees comb building progress.

2831 Bee Beard, hat, 4-21-16

Then the hat goes on. Believe it or not, we had to get just the right one. This one lets the air come through under the hat, but keeps the rain out. My wife says, “Something is still missing.” We find a store that sells peacock feathers.

2838 Bee Beard's new hat, 4-22-16

Perfect!!!  Ready for immediate occupancy…

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2489 Hal looking at bees in #3, 3-4-16

#3 Log Hive is still occupied after 4 years.

 Number 4 Tall Hive in it’s glory days last year.

893B Hal stands next to #4, 5-21-15.jpg+++ copy

After not finding any decent logs, Hal bought some rough-cut red cedar and built this ‘log’ hive last year. This picture was taken after a swarm of bees decided on their own to move into it in May 2015.

20A Hal points out the bottom of natural comb, July 2015 copy

This was in July last year.  The bees built natural comb about 3.5 feet long.  The entrance to Hal’s observation hive is seen on the left.

21A The view from the back of back of the hive, July 2015. copy

Looking through the observation window, you can see beautiful natural comb.

23 Hal's Observation hive, 7-14-15

Hal’s observation hive was full of natural comb and bees at that time too.

So you can imagine the heartbreak of realizing the #4 hive was a goner in late September.  Hal took it down and opened it up…

6 Long comb, 10-1-15

We took the lid off #4 after we suspected it had died out. We were impressed at the length of the comb…but unimpressed at the lack of honey. It’s possible it was cleaned out by yellow jackets last summer because we could see a pile of cappings on the hive floor.

Not to be discouraged, Hal cleaned out #4 hive and tacked on some screens.

4A Ventilation holes covered with screens copy

Feb. 9, 2016…screened off the ventilation holes to keep the yellow-jackets out…

2A Added more honeycomb, foundation for this year copy

…added some honey comb and new foundation, and re-homed it.

1609 #4 Hive on location, back, 2-28-16-1

Late February 2016…Number 4 hive on location, braced against a tree for support, baited for more bees and in plenty of time for a nice swarm of bees to repopulate it.

1637 Observation window&Cover, 2-28-16

Feb. 9, 2016…Log hive #5, showing the observation window and cover. This hive is approximately 2″ thick (5 cm) and 8′ (2.4m) tall. A sheet of plexi-glass is mounted inner-most of the window which starts at just about the end of the foundation. I always admire Hal’s craftsmanship.

8 Hal's #5 Bottom screen+mite board 2-9-16

Another look at #5 log hive, awaiting its move to the new location. This photo shows the square access ‘window’ to a screen towards the bottom of the hive. Above the square is a slide-out mite board. Also pictured is the cover to the access hole.  Hal explains how it works in the video.

4553 Brodie Parrish, 3-16

Grandson Brodie Parrish helps Hal take off delivery straps.

4584A Hal setting up #5, 3-7-16 copy

Hive #5 just about ready for an April swarm. Hal is sharing his bee expertise with the younger generation.

884 Patti, pond, ducks, fountain, 5-21-15.JPG+++iPhone

Patti, a young 80 year-old, built this fountain and pond completely by herself.

Patti’s Poem

“Hal is Hooked on Bees” 

Oregon’s spring will be here before long
Birds will twitter their unending song
Trees, shrubs, flowers will come alive
Orchards and gardens soon will thrive

But, without the honey bees we are lost
Salubrious summer sun is tossed
On our gardens where we toil and till
Hoping bees come with a working will

Years ago we had plenty of Bees so true
But when the old century turned into new
Along came CCD, bee colonies collapsed
Trumpets began playing dead Bee Taps

Bee deaths plagued my husband dear
A calm bee keeper for many a year
Now we tell how he learned to care
To save Bees so all the world can share

In 1995 our friend thought of us to show
How Honey Bees helped our garden grow
A lush home garden must have bees near
Pollination! Don’t even consider sting fear

Two bee hives placed near our front door
Our friend kept stacking up supers galore
With the boxed frames beeswax filled
A new swarm brought in the honey swill

Every week supers were piled on high
Hives grew seven feet nearer the blue sky
We saw pollen carried into the new hive
On every bee’s legs & the colony thrived

Our friend baited Hal, he just had to say
Bees dance! To show where to work today
Scouts fly to find tree homes that are okay
Then they dance to show swarms the way

Well, Hal was hooked, he had to try
Do the bees really dance, as well as fly?
Yes, said our friend as he harvested honey
And that liquid gold lasts longer ‘n money

Honey! The only food that never spoils
Made by the Honey Bees unending toils
On Crest Acres the World Record was set
Two hives gave more than anyone bet

Honey, six hundred and thirty pounds
Hard to believe, when it was so near town
That honey was soon taken with care
It was like St. Nicholas had visited there

Our friend put honey in a clear pint jar
Sent to the County Fair, to the Judge’s bar
Clear as glass, our honey took first prize
Friend gives pint to Hal, enticement-wise

Seven supers of honey were taken away
But the winter-ready hive has honey today
The Queen rests, as her ladies slip along
Used-up drones no longer sing their song

Wind rakes and the rains soak forest trees
The Queen is surrounded by her lady bees
They work the winter cleaning wax cells
Waiting ‘til warmth rings the Queen’s bell

Lady bees search out dry days in winter
Like to leave their warm, comfy center
They’re full, eating plenty of pollen soup
On good days, they fly out to take a poop

Early spring pulls the Queen’s trigger
She lays 2500 rice-sized eggs – not bigger
Every day at each cell she carefully stops
Each of the six-sided cells gets one drop

Right at ninety degrees the brood is kept
While the warm neat hive is cleanly swept
As the nurse bees crawl quietly about
In 21 days little bees chew their way out

Coquille Valley’s growth is super awesome
Good and plenty spring/summer blossoms
The Queen works, but may get moody too
Gather her team and swarm into the blue!

Patti Strain, January 2012
Updated: March 15, 2016

Patti also wrote The Story of Hal’s Bee Trees

887 Hal and Patti, log flower bed, 5-21-15.JPG+++

Hal and Patti Strain

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2016 has not been a good year for my bees.  My ‘end-of-year’ hive status saw four bee hives that had activity.  Now I have only one.

After being in denial for a few weeks, I figured I’d face up to the fact this Warré was a goner.

2239 Warre plastic film protected, 12-25-15 copy

Dec. 25, 2015…I had pulled off the empty top box and pinned some protection from rainwater getting in. It was too late.

2378 Warre 2 dismantled+detailed, 2-7-16 copy

Feb. 7, 2016…This is the top box. There was plenty of honey on the four outboard bars, but very little in the middle.

Biting the bullet I figured I’d better find out ALL the bad news…and opened up Bee Beard log hive.  Somehow rainfall had gotten inside here too, even with the hat and headband.  Because of El Niño, we’ve had copious amounts of rainfall.  Yes, it’s good for the forests, but not so good for the bee hives.

2430 Bee Beard, hat off, 2-20-16

2-20-16 I pull off Bee Beard’s hat.

Footnote to above…I’d like to make a waterproof ‘hat’ for this hive.  If anyone has a suggestion, please pass it on to me.

So why have these hives died back?  Could it be the El Niño effect?  Record rainfall in December?  Ron lost his hives around December.  This year I didn’t cover my hives very well.   I should have been more careful.

Another thing that’s been bothering me for awhile is the questionable source of swarms I get from time to time.  Where are they coming from?  I’m beginning to realize they might be coming from the commercial hives in the cranberry bogs.  The commercial hives, I just learned from a cranberry grower, come straight up from the almond orchards in California.

These ‘almond orchard bees’ could be infecting my bees and I DON’T GET any payment.

181 Several hundred hives, 3-24-15

March 25, 2015…..Less than 3 miles (4.8 km) distance away from my bee hives is the staging area for the commercial cranberry hives. These hives are most likely coming from the almond orchards south of us in California. They were being held here prior to being placed in the cranberry bogs.  Arrrrgh!  Bog bees…”diseased and loaded with mites.”

My wife suggests I ask Bill W. if he sells any Warré nucs.  Bill lives inland about 150 miles (241 km).  I tell him of my suspicions of commercial hives.  His reply…

“Hello Pat,
I don’t have Warré nucs for sale.  I get a lot of “bad” swarms also. These are mostly from poorly kept urban high density colonies having bees from poor commercial sources.  I pick up a lot of swarms with poor genetics and failing queens.  It has caused me to put out more hives and rely upon higher colony failure.
In the Willamette Valley, many commercial beekeepers will keep their colonies here when not busy with almonds or cranberries or something else.
Good luck. -Bill”

2223A Anchored GKLH today, 12-19-15 copy

The Grand Kids Log Hive is most likely inhabited by “bog bees.” Maybe I should say “was inhabited,” because it’s been silent for almost two months. I thought it successfully superceded, but I’ve not seen any activity since early January.

After assuming my troubles have come from the cranberry “bog bees,” I asked Steve about his bees.  We had gotten a swarm of bees, (most likely they were from cranberry hives) last year, May 30th.

105751 Steve's hive, 2-17-16

Feb. 17….. Steve sent this photo and said…”My bees are fine, but I fed them 50 lbs of sugar in the fall.”  Should I rethink feeding sugar to them?

Then there’s Pete’s beehives.  I asked him recently about his bees.  He is near cranberry bogs too.  “They’re doing great.  Out flying every non-rainy day, getting into madrone blossoms and other things, possibly even gorse, bringing back all kinds of pollen.”

Bob (of home-built bee vac fame) said his hives were doing fine too.  Bob is located near the bogs too.  Hmmm, maybe I can’t blame my bee problems on the bogs.

2454 The only active hive left, 2-23-16

February 23…the Green hive in the tree is the only active one left. The bees are flying in small numbers on sunny days…even bringing in pollen, but again in small numbers. When our willow tree blossomed, I expected to see bees all over it. I was disappointed. Few bees were seen. Maybe it was the almost constant rain.

Since my tree hive seems to have lasted through everything, I decide to try another one. I’ve got to do some trimming around it, but this will be the location for the next one.   It’ll hold Warré sized bars, but it’s too heavy to lug around for a bait hive, so I’ll be trying to attract a swarm.

2506 Next tree hive location, 3-10-16

I’ve got to cut back the laurel hedge limb and holly tree. Then I’ll custom fit the hive box between the trunk and the angled limb. I’ve tried it. I think it’ll work.

Bottom line…I think it was the El Niño rainfall.  I chose NOT to cover my Warré bee hives this winter.  Why not?  I didn’t see other beekeepers cover their hives up.  I think the difference this year is my observation window covers are slightly warped (outward)  Some rain possibly entered there.  With so much more rainfall this year than in other years, it was just too much.  Somehow the rain got into Bee Beard Log Hive too.  I’ll have to work up some kind of ‘head gear’ to shed water.   As for the Grand Kids Log hive?  I still have to figure that one out.  Maybe it WAS a weak, diseased strain of bees from the commercial hives.

Fixing Bee Beard Log Hive…

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2223 GKLH, 12-19-15

December 19, 2015…The Grand Kids Log Hive is going strong, I’m happy to say. I know the anchors are probably not necessary, but I can hear the heavy gusts of wind hitting at night and I got tired of imagining the tall hive tipping over. Now I can sleep better.:)

2284 GKLH Temp at 46F, 12-30-15

December 30, 2015…The temperature inside the hive is a chilly 46˙F (7˙C), and yet the bees were flying this cold day.

2279 GKLH, bees flying in, close, 12-30-15.JPG++

12-30-15…The bees broke ranks for a short time in the afternoon. I was relieved to see them after viewing the cold temp on the probe thermometer in back. When they’re in a cluster, you can’t see them in the viewing window.

12 Bee Beard, 12-18-15

December 18, 2015…Bee Beard Log Hive might be feeling his age, but the bees still like it as can be seen in the video.

2239 Warre plastic film protected, 12-25-15 copy

12-19-15…my only Warré, having lost the other two during the summer. After seeing too much moisture on the bottom board, I removed it and tacked some black plastic film on three sides. We’ve been having record rainfall in December and it’s possible rain was entering on the observation window sides. I hope this helps.

2138 Birdhouse bees, frost, 11-26-15

November 26…All is quiet. The birdhouse bees didn’t make it. I was hopeful this year because they came through the three month winter shadow last winter, but I must have lost them between October and late November.

10 Birdhouse bees, no bees, 12-18-15

December 18…I shot another photo when the weather warmed back up. Doesn’t look like anything is moving in there.

8 Birdhouse bees, empty comb, no bees, 12-18-15

Empty comb at the front. I guess I can hope they are clustered somewhere back in there, but that’s just a sliver of hope.

2228 Green tree hive, insulation, 12-19-15

The green tree hive is entering it’s third winter. If numbers mean anything, this hive is a survivor. With the sun so low these days the light can reach through the branches to get the bees flying relatively early. Often its the only hive flying. I’m always happy to see the bees flying especially after a ‘rocking’ big storm. This hive is totally intervention free. No mite strips, pollen paddies, or sugar water, it just keeps on going. It’s slightly above my height when I’m looking at it, so occasionally an incoming bee will alight on my ear. “Ooops, sorry I’m in your flight pattern.”

2 Pussy willow tree, 1-1-16

January 1, 2016…The pussy willow tree is getting ready to bloom.

5 Pussy willow buds swelling, 1-1-16

1-1-16…Willow buds are swelling

1 Buds swelling on willow, 1-1-16

More willow buds. “Hang on, little critters, It won’t be long before pollen is available.”

So I’m back to four hives.  I’m a little worried about the Warré hive, because of all the moisture inside.  I’m hoping the sheet of black plastic I tacked on three sides will cut the wind and moisture back.  In the video you can see bees tossing out dead bees.  I always think of that Doors song with Jim Morrison chanting, “Bring out your dead,” over and over again.

I’m a treatment-free beekeeper for better or worse.  I can’t bring myself to believe that killing the varroa mites will solve any problems.  I’m of the opinion that we will NEVER rid the bees of varroa mites.  The bees MUST adapt, because eventually the mites will develop a resistance to the poison and then what do you do?  I say let the bees adapt.  Let the weak hives go.

I’m not feeding the bees anything either.  I saw bees bringing in pollen into my Warré hive in December.  It could be ivy or even gorse.  If they can hang on just a bit longer, they will get pollen from the pussy willow blossoms.    Jonathan Powell of the Natural Beekeeping Trust, also explains the risks of sugar very well at about 3 minutes into this you-tube video.  “Studies have shown that sugar destroys the bees internal intestines and also it destroys a very particular enzyme call the P450 enzyme which the bees use to counteract some of the pesticides and toxins they find in the environment.  So by feeding sugar, we may be averting a starvation if you’ve taken too much honey, but we are also damaging the bees.”  And here’s another article about  feeding anything can be detrimental to the hive. (including honey)

The video.. 

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Grand Kids Log Hive

October 8.....Grand Kids Log hive might be showing signs of a comeback.

October 8…..Grand Kids Log hive might be showing signs of a comeback.

About a month ago, I was in despair about this hive.  The temperature had dropped, I saw drones flying out of the hive, and the number of bees around the entrance had declined.

Sept. 3...The temperature has dropped to 87˙F. I've seen this happen before. The temperature drops indicating there is no brood up here. It could just be that the eggs are being laid in a different section or that no eggs are being laid at all.

Sept. 3…The temperature has dropped to 87˙F. I’ve seen this happen before. The temperature drops indicating there is no brood up here. It could either be that the eggs are being laid in a different section or that no eggs are being laid at all.

Sept. 3.....I've been seeing more comb now. I'm not happy about it because it means there are fewer bees. What is happening?

Sept. 3…..I’ve been seeing more comb now. I’m not happy about it because it means there are fewer bees. What is happening?

Sept. 17...Then I saw a drone exiting. I took it to mean I had a laying worker. Not good. This hive is 'going down.'

Sept. 17…Then I saw a drone exiting. I took it to mean I had a laying worker. Not good. This hive is ‘going down.’

Sept. 21...The bee population is dwindling. What more evidence do I need that this hive is history.

Sept. 21…The bee population is dwindling. What more evidence do I need that this hive is history?

Oct. 4...Temp has risen 2˙F. What is happening?

Oct. 4…Temp has risen 2˙F.   That’s interesting.

Oct. 6...Are there more bees here?

Oct. 6…Are there more bees up there?

Oct. 17.....I had just visited a big hive that had gotten robbed out. I was worried these might be robber bees because when I looked inside the hive, the bees were running around on the inside of the hive.

Oct. 17…..It looks like there’s a lot more traffic here.  I hope they aren’t robber bees.

Oct. 23.....WOW! Look at all these bees inside!!! The hive must have superceded, but why had I seen a few drones last month?

Oct. 23…..WOW! Look at all these bees inside!!! The hive must have superceded, but why had I seen drones last month?

Note:  I asked this question on beesource web site.  Harley Craig answered  “…those drones could have been from anywhere in my limited experience when you see a lot of drone interest in a particular hive they typically have a queen getting ready to mate or just had one return.”  Maybe drones were already sniffing out a new prospect. 🙂

November 4...New comb has been built.  This new queen is ambitious, but is November a good month to be building new comb?

November 4…New comb has been built. This new queen is ambitious, but is November a good month to be building new comb?

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Standing tall, Bee Beard Log hive is doing well since it was revived in August 2014. It swarmed at least once on May 11, but that swarmed moved on without us capturing it.

Standing tall, Bee Beard Log hive is doing well since it was revived in August 2014. It swarmed at least once on May 11 of this year, but that swarm moved on without us getting it.

Sept. 23...Lots of good orange pollen being carried into this hive. This hive will go into winter without me intervening in any way.

Sept. 23…Lots of good orange pollen being carried into this hive. This hive will go into winter without me intervening in any way.

Sept. 17...These birdhouse bees are doing so well, I'm starting to think that small bee hives are the way to go. This hive has no other openings other than the entrance. I don't understand how they can survive without much ventilation, but they are doing well, which is a good way to head into the winter shadow.

Sept. 17…These birdhouse bees are doing so well, I’m starting to think that small bee hives are the way to go. This hive has no other openings other than the entrance. I don’t understand how they can survive without much ventilation, but they are doing well, which is a good way to head into their second winter shadow.

Here's a closer look at the entrance showing how crowded they are.

Here’s a closer look at the entrance showing how crowded they are.

The video shows the amount of pollen flying in. This is at 125x (digital zoom) and not as sharp.

The video shows the amount of pollen flying in.

May 14...The day after the big swarm moved into the Grandkids Log hive, Bee-atrice went into swarm mode.

May 14…The day after the big swarm moved into the Grandkids Log hive, Bee-atrice log hive went into swarm mode.

May 14...Ron got this one. He lives just up the road. I'm happy to report that Ron says they are doing well. They are active and bringing lots of pollen. They can be seen flying well here... https://drive.google.com/file/d/0Byp0gCTqCQ6rZjBJVmZOa0FJZzQ/view?usp=sharing

May 14…Ron got this one. He lives just up the road. I’m happy to report that Ron says they are doing well. They are active and bringing in lots of pollen.
They can be seen flying well here…

Sept. 23...I'm down to only one Warre hive now. It's doing well with lots of pollen coming in. You can see Bee-atrice Log hive 'shuttered' in the background. When the wasps were running rampant inside, I had to wrap it up. I'll clean it out (scorch it) come spring and try to attract another swarm.

Sept. 23…I’m down to only one Warre hive now. It’s doing well with lots of pollen coming in. You can see Bee-atrice Log hive ‘shuttered’ in the background. When the wasps were running rampant inside, I had to wrap it up. I’ll clean it out (scorch it) come spring and try to attract another swarm.

Bees head into the Warre loads of pollen. This hive is heavy. I haven't taken any honey from it. I think they will make it through the winter without me feeding.

Bees head into the Warre loaded with pollen. This hive is heavy. I haven’t taken any honey from it. I think they will make it through the winter without me feeding.

Sept. 23, 2015...Sad to say, this hive is not going to make it. The temperature started falling in mid July, and now I see wasps nosing around and drones flying out.

Sept. 23, 2015…Sad to say, the Grand Kids Log hive is not going to make it. The temperature started falling in mid July, and now I see wasps nosing around and drones flying out.  The Grand Kids are back.

Sept. 3...Temperature is down to 87F (30C)

Sept. 3…Temperature is down to 87F (30C)

Sept. 21...Looking up into the empty combs, this hive is clearly NOT going to make it. When the wasps start attacking, I'll plug up the entrances and wait until spring. Maybe I'll get lucky with another swarm...

Sept. 21…Looking up into the empty combs, I see a lack of bees.  Clearly the queen isn’t laying and I’ve seen a few drones exiting.   Footnote:  This hive must have superceded a queen, because there are not only new bees, but also new comb.  This is the only hive I can see from the house…from where I eat actually, and I gotta say, I’m so happy to see the bees flying to and from this hive when I sit down to eat!!!

Steve says his swarm 'is hanging in there,' but he's starting to feed again because they haven't built up enough comb to get them through the winter.

Steve says his swarm ‘is hanging in there,’ but he’s starting to feed again because they haven’t built up enough comb to get them through the winter.

We are headed into autumn with four hives, which is all I ever really wanted, but I had really hoped that Grand Kids Log hive would be among the survivors.  It begs the question…are smaller hives better?  I’m beginning to think so.  I’ve thought about partitioning off the big log hive, but then there might be air flow issues.  The birdhouse bees seem to deal with lack of air flow, so maybe it won’t be an issue.  Right now I’ll let nature take it’s course and hope I can attract another swarm in spring.

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May 31...The Bee Garden is shaping up after Sue added her brick work.  We like it so much we're going to add more on the other side.   The photo shows just some of the bee-loving plants we're growing...some from seed, some from our favorite nursery.

May 31…The Bee Garden is shaping up after Sue added her brick work. We like it so much we’re going to add more on the other side.
The photo shows just some of the bee-loving plants we’re growing…some from seed, some from our favorite nursery.

I just noticed these ferns practically overgrowing the little Birdhouse Bee hive.

I just noticed these ferns practically overgrowing the little Birdhouse Bee hive.

I successfully trimmed the ferns without getting stung.  The bees probably don't care one way or the other, but it gives me a clear shot with the camera.

I successfully trimmed the ferns without getting stung. The bees probably don’t care one way or the other, but it gives me a clear shot with the camera.

Are these drones?  It almost looks like it.  Drones sometimes mean swarms (before or after)...I'm hoping this is before so I can encourage them into an empty Warre hive with their name on it. :)

Are these drones? It almost looks like it. Drones sometimes mean swarms (before or after)…I’m hoping this is before so I can encourage them into an empty Warre hive with their name on it. 🙂

May 31...The hugelkulture bed needs a little more work for sure.  This is a 'before' picture.

May 31…The hugelkulture bed needs a little more work for sure. This is a ‘before’ picture.  I’d like to make a little path going past the hive and circling back past the sunflowers I just planted (if the slugs don’t eat them first.

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