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Birds, Bees and garden update…

Ah, Monday evening… nice to make it through the day in one piece, eh? There’s been a lot of activity around here over the past few days, so I thought I’d bring you up to speed on what’s what.

As you may recall (or re-read, if you like at, ten days ago I brought home two 4lb packages of bees and installed them in the late / warm afternoon. Normally, you’d check the hive out @ day 4 to make sure the Queen had been freed from her transport cage (I’ll get a pic of that and post it up here, soon) and was working around the hive. But with last week’s cold, rainy and windy weather, I opted to wait until it warmed up and settled down before taking a peek. The perfect day came yesterday.

I suited up in my bee-wrangler’s outfit, fired up the smoker and grabbed my frame tool (to lift the frame out of the hive) and headed out to hive #1 (the one on the left). I gave them a few good whiff’s of smoke through the entrance, then cracked the top and gave ’em a few puffs down the chute (as it were). Ah, that got them buzzing – an intruder with fire and smoke, what next?

Looking inside I could see a very large amount of freshly drawn comb – very, very pretty milky white comb laid out in a wonderful pattern… like honeycomb 😉 Next, using the frame tool, I separated the two (center) frames where I’d embedded the Queen’s cage and withdrew the cage for inspection. Great – sugar plug had been eaten through, the Queen was free and (having just taken Mr. C’s class) I could see the fresh laid larvae filling some of the chambers… there were also a number of cells with freshly-delivered pollen, too. Ok, nothing more to see here – move along… so I placed the frames as they should be and I closed the hive. Groovy, I’m back in beesnuss. Next to hive #2.

Same routine – stand back, it’s gonna get smokey here.

This time, though, when I checked the Queen’s cage she was still inside. They’d eaten almost all of the plug but not quite enough to free her. Damn – what to do? Hive open. Fire and Smoke in my hands. Queen trapped. Bees cranky and flying around me like, well… like an ex-wife.

Help Mr. Wizard – what now?!

I removed the Queen’s cage, closed the hive and took the cage to the patio table to see if I could free her and then place her back in her hive. I cracked open the cage and guess what happened next?

Yup. She flew away. WTF was I thinking?

Luckily for me, she only flew about 6″ and placed herself on the umbrella… where (using the Mr. C technique I learned) I scooped her in my hands, covered her (buzzing all the while, I think) and made my way back to the hive. I managed to open the hive and drop her back down in the center of the hive, closing it up as I made my retreat.

Alrighty-then, Whodaman? Yeah, I’m the man… and I was feeling pretty good about it, too, until I was almost back to the patio when I thought, “Well, shoot – I wonder what a real beekeeper would do???”

So I called Tom @ (he’s the guy on the right in in the pic) and darned if he didn’t answer the phone… on Easter Sunday. I relayed what had happened, he told me what he would have done but assured me that my approach was do-able, too… just check on the Queen in 4 days to make sure she’s laying and I’m good-to-go. (If she’s not laying by then, I’m roadkill. Just kidding, I’ll order a replacement Queen and give it another shot.)

Now here’s an interesting point (if you care about these kinds of things): since their Queen wasn’t yet freed and laying, many of hive #2’s worker’s headed over to hive #1 to take care of a real Queen who was laying – the only thing they live for. So hive #2 is somewhat under-populated at the moment. Tom suggested that once hive #2’s Queen is laying / productive, to switch the hives during mid-day and when the returning hive #1 bees return, they’ll actually return to the hive formerly known as #2 and vice versa… so they should build their population’s up in a short time. I like Tom’s thinking and hope things work out just as he says (it’s all in the execution though, isn’t it?).

So that’s the latest on the bees.

As for the birds, well the Junior Bob’s are living in the citrus grove and adapting to my traipsing through a couple of times a day to move the garbage cans out for pickup tomorrow. Good looking birds, though noticeably smaller than mature doves… they seem to acclimate to my voice pretty well, as they did to Joanne while she was working around them yesterday.

The garden’s first crops are ready as we speak: we’ve got lettuce coming out of our kazoo’s! The tomatoes seem to be doing well in their earthboxes and the potatoes look to be doing nicely, too. Our latest trees, peach and pomegranate are having mixed success – the peach is doing great, the pom appears to be DOA… time to return to summerwinds.

And finally, Joanne processed and cooked several batches of tangerine marmalade yesterday… it’s “steeping” in the fridge, likely to be cooked / jarred tomorrow night; orange marmalade on deck after that, as is another gallon or two of limoncelli.

As always, thx for stopping by, be well and don’t forget to write when you get work.