Archive for the ‘Natural Beekeeping’ Category

It might not be pretty…

1-warre-hive-protection-2016-2017-2-23-17-copy

…but it’s pretty effective. This is my Warré hive winter protection from high winds driving copious amounts of rain against my hive. Since October, we have gotten 66.5 inches of rainfall (1689 mm).

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A look through the observation window in December shows lots of natural honey comb.

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I think this bright yellow pollen is from the Hooker Willow which thrives in soggy wet soil along The Oregon Coast.

I’ve been somewhat afraid to write about my bees.  They seem to be doing fine with my efforts to protect them, but I didn’t want to jinx them.  This is the end of February.  The Hooker Willow has started flowering and bees are returning with bright yellow pollen, so I think they will make it.  Also the gorse (Ulex europeaus) is blooming as it always does in February.  The video shows bees on both.

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…and the bees love it too.

4106-mostly-turnips-as-cover-crop-10-6-16

Want to grow spinach? We have been wildly unsuccessful in growing it, but guess what…steamed turnip greens taste just like spinach. It turns out they are very easy to grow and are good for you too. This was supposed to be a mixture of several cover crop seeds, Fava beans, Winter Rye, and Hairy Vetch included. It looks like the turnips took over. Uh, I might have broadcast them a little thick. My “solar-roller water pump panel” is positioned for the afternoon sun. Gotta keep the flow going. 🙂

honeybee-on-turnip-blossom-jan-16-2014

Turnip flowers in January provide nourishment for bees in the critical winter months.

4108-turnips-planted-a-month-ago-10-6-16

October 8…This bed was planted August 1. Turnips grow fast. Plant them thick, then you can harvest the thinnings by steaming the greens.  Leave a few to go to flowers in winter.

4110-short-bed-of-turnips-10-6-16

We’ve been getting three crops a year in our raised beds. This was lettuce last winter, then kale, now turnips. In between we bury crab shell when we can get it. This being October, that resource will soon be gone.

4120-one-of-5-turnips-used-for-turnip-soup-10-10-16

Oct. 10…My sweetheart made a delicious turnip soup for dinner this evening. These turnips were planted in early August. They grow fast!!!

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Oct. 8…just in case we haven’t planted enough turnips, here is another bed started…complete with drip water grid.

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Oct. 15…Turnips are up already. The shade cloth is to protect the little darlings from the hurricane force winds and 12-18 inches (300-450mm) of rain that was forecast…didn’t happen, at least, not yet.

Turnip soup recipe

Chop an onion, saute in olive oil, add 4 to 5 cups of peeled chopped turnips, two garlic cloves (peeled and cut in half), add two teaspoons of smoked paprika, and teaspoon of thyme  leaves.  Cook until lightly brown, add three cups of vegetable or chicken broth, salt to taste.  Bring to boil and simmer until veggies are cooked.  Blend in blender, return to pan, add a cup of milk, or milk alternative.

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2830B Mason bee on Meadowfoam, 4-20-16 copy

Late April, for the first time ever, I start seeing Mason bees in the Meadowfoam.

3260 Mason bees + Guidance Mandala, 5-29-16

My sister is a watercolor artist. She gave me her Guidance Mandala because she knows I like bees. I realize Mason bees don’t fly too far from home, but bees need all the help they can get, so I hung it here near the Mason bee nesting blocks.

3257 Guidance Mandala, 5-29-16

A closer look at the Guidance Mandala. When Vikki paints a mandala she never knows where it will take her. During one of our weekly phone conversations she was inspired to add a circle of bees.

2503 Mason bees set up, 3-6-16, detailed

I set up the nesting blocks on March 6. Then I waited a good three weeks to see any activity. The cocoons had been in the refrigerator since October. You don’t want them emerging too soon because there won’t be enough to eat (or so I have read), but I always hold my breath hoping after five months of ‘chilling,’ they will emerge.

2587 Mason bee, long antenna-male 3-29-16 copy

Finally on March 28, I see a bee. This must be a male. Males have long antenna. They usually emerge first because they are laid last in the tubes (being expendable.) Predators will be able to reach them easily. 😦

2582 Mason bees emerging, 3-28-16 copy

I see them slowly ‘waking up.’ This could be a female. The antennae look shorter.

26 Mason bee tubes filled so far copy

May 19…I start to fill pretty smug. 26 tubes filled already…until I come across this post of Rusty Burlew (of Honeybeesuite) in Washington state.

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Rusty says one of these cans will fill up in about three days. I count the number of straws to realize there are close to 100 straws in each can. Either there are more Mason bees in her area or they like the straws in cans better. I’m gonna try this method next year. Photo reprinted with permission from Rusty Burlew.

3147A German wasp on nesting block copy

When I first saw this wasp go into a Mason bee nesting tube I was afraid it would start digging into the tubes. I asked Steve, of “In a beekeeper’s Garden” about this. His reply, “Your wasp is or has all the markings of a vespula germanica (german wasp) which lives in all the northern hemisphere, they are a social wasp so live in nests. they are great pest controllers eating caterpillars , insects and the odd bee (usually weak ones ) they won’t break into your bee tubes :)” In the video, I watch the German Wasp patrolling my garden. I watch until the wasp decides I haven’t gotten video permission from her and chases me away. 🙂

3274A Mason wasp? copy

I think this is a resting Potter Wasp. I’m not sure what it’s up to. While I was grabbing my camera it poked into the tube and then emerged for it’s camera debut.

3290 Plum tree loaded, 6-4-16JPG

Want some plums? It looks like the Mason bees have been busy. My Methley trees are loaded with plums. Here are some recipes from Glory Garden.

3260A Mason bees, late May

It’s late May…I haven’t seen any activity for awhile which probably means the Mason bees are finished pollinating for this year. The cocoons are in a very delicate stage right now. I’ll be storing them in a cool inside room to protect them from yellow jackets. In September or October, I’ll remove the tubes from the blocks to store in the frig until next March. (Maybe I’ll have some new housing by then.)

More about Mason bees

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I love the May garden. Everything is so lush and and green.

3002 Garden looking SW, 5-8-16JPG

May 8…Looking over the garden to the southwest, Sue’s foxgloves (grown from seeds) provide the foreground colors, the volunteer Tower of Jewels (or echium Pininana) to the left, yellow turnip and kale flowers all attract the bees.

3007 Potatoes, peas, cultivator, 5-8-16

The potatoes are up.  I just tilled between the rows with the little cultivator below.

3009 Cultivator, 5-8-16

For several years, we tried to garden without using fossil fuel. We prided ourselves on the ability to spade the garden and then hoe out the weeds. But now we’re several years older. Last month when we were faced with the task of planting potatoes, my wife says, “Let’s get the old Troy-Bilt tiller out.” Yes, it started on the second pull, but it also is waaaay too big for the raised beds. Reverse doesn’t work on it anymore and plus…it uses fossil fuel!!! Enter the battery-powered Greenworks cultivator. It’s easy to use, works well in the raised beds, and USES NO FOSSIL FUELS!

2988 Peas growing outside, first time 20 yrs, 5-6-16

Peas planted outside…first time in about 25 years (because of the deer fence.)  I added a couple of rows of carrots in the middle after I tilled it one more time.

3005 Buckwheat, tomatoes, peas+carrots, potatoes, 5-8-16

Buckwheat is growing well, tomatoes need cages, peas and carrots, potatoes in far back.

2931 Sue plants corn, 5-2-16

May 2…..Sue plants some corn.

2941 Sue plants lettuce, 5-3-16

…and a second batch of lettuce.

2998 Tall lobelia transp. 5-8-16

Just for the fun of it, we bought some giant lobelia (Lobelia fistulosa) for the hummingbirds and bees. A daisy to the left and the Knockout dahlia in the center back. The dahlia has flowers that attract leaf cutter bees (at 1:18)  It’s fun to watch the leaf cutters in action.

3036 Creative drip watering, 5-10-16

II had to get creative with the drip water grid for the squash. I’ve been accused of planting the squash too close together in years past. This time, there are only 5 hills here, where I’ve planted 10 or more hills before. The idea is we will get more if we don’t crowd them. I left the turnip flowers for the bees (and for next year’s seeds)

3034 Drip watering Hubbard, 5-10-16JPG

Drip watering gets the water to the customer without wasting any.

3032 Drip watering squash, 5-10-16

Another look at it…I think these are Sugar Pie Pumpkins.

2944 Hubbard near, pumpkins far, 5-3-16

There’s never enough room for squash. We are trying some ‘container squash’ this year. It’ll trail down over the stump grinding experiment.

3023 Squash barrels, 5-10-16

These squash are up against the fence for a reason. They get the morning and afternoon sun. We might try using the fence to trellis them. The upside…more squash. The downside, I’ve got to water by hand unless I figure out a drip water solution.

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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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2779 Andrea's swarm, view, 4-16-16 copy

April 16…Andrea called to let us know she had a newly formed swarm, hanging about chest high off the yellow plum tree…did we want it? “ABSOLUTELY!”

2780A Shaking swarm into bucket, 4-16-16 copy

It was pretty easy to ‘pop’ the bees into the bucket…

2802A Brown Warré, 4-19-16 copy

…and into a Warré hive. Back to having bees again. Thank you, Andrea Gatov!

2756 Echium against blue sky, 4-15-16

I’ve been protecting this echium plant for two years. It has finally paid off with these bluish-red blossoms. Just in time for the bees. I think this is Wild Prettii echium.

2804A Bee near Echium, 4-19-16 copy

The day after we hived Andrea’s swarm, the bees were all over this shapely echium plant.

2804B Bee on Wild Prettii, 4-19-16 copy

One of our new guests partakes of the nectar.

2757A Bumblebees like it too copy

Yellow-faced bumblebees like it too.

2833 Turnip flowers, 4-21-16

Turnip flowers collect bees.  Is that a ‘hat’ on Bee Beard Log Hive???

22A Turnip flowers, 4-21,16 copy

April 21…Close-up on turnip flowers.

 

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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.

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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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