Archive for the ‘Natural Beekeeping’ Category

4999 Turnip cover crop blooming, 4-21-17 copy

April 21…The turnips are blooming.  Why is that important?  Because the bees are getting the pollen.  Pollen that is high in protein, with all the essential amino acids, and is highly digestible.  Last October, we planted the turnips as a cover crop and intended the blossoms to mature early in spring, but we didn’t realize that the pollen was so nourishing.  Apparently, the bees do well on it, so well it can lead to swarming.  I just hope I can capture the swarm.

5003 Bee pollinating turnip flowers, 4-21-17.JPG+++

Pollen sacs full. (A lucky shot with an iPhone)

5001 Turnip flower bee,.JPG++++

4966 Pat's Warre Hive, bees outside, 4-18-17.JPG

For several days (when it’s not raining) the bees have appeared on the front of the hive.  I think they’re waiting for a sunny day.  “Be patient, little critters, good weather is coming soon.”

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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).

7a-warre-hive-lots-of-honey-12-29-16-copy

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

4a-bees-with-pollen-2-23-17-copy

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!!!

4116-planted-more-turnips-yesterday-10-8-16

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

4132a-turnips-growing-well-rain-cloth-10-15-16-smlr

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.

mason-bee-housing

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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