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Tree Top Bees

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I am in the middle of trying to coerce some bees to leave a tree so the tree crew can remove it. The homeowner is pretty sure they are the same bees that have live in the soffit by the front door for more than 4 years. She claims that they left two months ago, formed up on the dead tree in her backyard and found a squirrel hole to their liking.

My job starting today, Wednesday May 8th, is to force them out, known as a forced abscond in the Bee World. I have until the end of day on the 12th to get them out…..otherwise the bees will be dispatched and the tree removed. So here is my set up up, I hung a box on the tree above their entrance. If bees are forced out they typically move up. I use smoke with a little Tea Tree oil added to irritate them enough to move. I was unsuccessful today in trying to add another hole in the tree to help get smoke up into the brood chamber. I have a bit buried in the trunk and need to get it out. Ugh!!!

This is a 16 foot ladder so you can get some perspective. I hung a baited swarm trap box 18-24 inches above the exit the bees are using.

The arrow indicates the exit. I have attempted to drill a hole to the left side of the hole. That is where the bit is stuck and I’ll need to extract it or try a little different spot.

We, John and I spent the better part of two hours pumping smoke into the hole. On a positive note, the bees do not appear to have a back door. The bees finally found the box and inspecting it much like scout bees do before selecting a home for a swarm. We shut down after about three hours on location and prior to leaving, we sprayed a little bee quick, an almond scented spray that bees detest, around the opening. It appears it may be deterring bees from returning but bees are sporadically exiting. That’s a good thing!

Pumping smoke spiked with Tea Tree Oil as an irritant for the bees. The bees are behaving nicely but up in that position I decided to play it safe and gear up.

We sought out a beer and sandwich before the storms were expected. There seems to be a lot of activity in the box hanging in tree…..a real good thing. I plan on making use of the window of time between the storms Thursday morning to attack again, get the bit retrieved, smoke again and hopefully they move. Wish us luck.

TTFN

Bishop

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I’ll Bee Quick

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The swarm I caught in my “Goo” friend John’s yard needed to be moved before his mother’s visit from Rhode Island. Bees make her very nervous and the visit will be more comfortable without a hive in the backyard. I had recently lost a hive at a nearby apiary so I had a perfect place to move them.

A small problem though, the move was less than two miles and sometimes a short move like that allows the bees to return to the old location. The rule of thumb is move them 6 feet or 6 miles. Six feet allows them to find the box in a short period of time and a 6 mile move creates disorientation relative to the sun. At 6 miles they will orient themselves to the new home relative to the sun. Two miles could be a problem…..

I locked the bees in the swarm box by closing the entrance with a wad of burlap. I left them locked up the best part of two days. I also covered the entrance with some leafy branches before releasing them forcing the bees to reorient themselves due to the confusion of the branches…it worked well. Now I wanted to move them into a full size box.

My usual assistant John, was out of town for a wedding. Luckily my daughter Ashleigh was visiting from Denver and had expressed interest in the bees. She was a good help and she decided to try a time lapse video of the installation process. It went very smooth, the bees were placid and I barely broke a sweat. The video worked well.

After finishing up here we stopped by a single hive I have in a friends backyard. This is a strong and busy hive. Ashleigh didn’t know it but she posed for a Bishop’s Bees And Honey promotional photo op. I caught her shooting a slomo of the bees coming and going.

I brought her back to the house, got her bags packed, put her on the plane and sent her back to Denver. It was a busy day. We had a great visit, just wish she could visit more often. Just gotta make the most of every visit!

TTFN

Bishop

Busy as a Bee

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I feel fortunate, as a beekeeper I am able to witness bee behavior not seen by very many people. Bees love a tidy home and go to great lengths to ensure that it is so. I have been lucky enough to have caught 4 swarms this year. I have a few more baited up and I have my fingers crossed for more.

So, what do you bait them with you might ask? Here is what I do;

Make a box that holds 5 or 6 deep frames – with at least 19L of volume. Yes, I do use the metric system sometimes. – 1160 cubic inches…like two big block engines.

Use a deep frame with brood comb or secure some brood comb with rubber bands. I have 4 to five frames with wax foundation of partially drawn comb

Add a smidgeon of lemon grass oil, a squirt of Swarm Commander and sometimes a envelope of queen scent.

Secure to a tree or elevate the box on a ladder.

Hope the scout bees love your box and go back and recruit more scouts – hopefully they all agree and move in!

This is what moving in day looks like. It really doesn’t take a day once they have all agreed and the queen steps inside.

About an hour later most of the bees had moved in. It was just amazing to watch them climbing up and over the lip and into the box.

Move in day is almost complete.

Now I mentioned earlier that they like a tidy house. In this box was a big chunk of brood comb secured with rubber bands. A couple of days ago I stopped by to see how they were doing……they had apparently secured the brood comb and cut the rubber band loose. Look closely at the opening.

The next day. Look closely inside the entrance for the other pieces of rubber band being extracted. They are amazing!

This isn’t the first time I have witnessed this type of behavior. A couple of years ago my “Goo” friend John helped me cut a colony out of a downed tree. We rescued 6 or 7 frames of comb by securing them with rubber bands. The video below shows a pile of rubber band below the hive and an interesting look at an undertaker bee hauling out a dead bee. It is so cool to see the free fall of the two bees, one dead and one very much alive.

 

Isn’t that just too cool? The division of labor in a hive is also amazing but I won’t bore you with the details but if interested just ask Google, Siri or Alexa.

I moved the captured swarm out of John’s yard and over to my nearby apiary. Left them locked in for two days because the move was just a two miles. I also shrouded the front of the hive with a bunch of branches to force them into orientation flights. Sure enough, once unlocked they did their figure 8 dance facing the hive.

I baited another box and hoisted it up into the tree where I caught a strong one last year. When it comes to swarms, lightning does strike twice, actually many times. I know beekeepers that catch multiple swarms every year in the same stop!

TTFN

Bishop

A post from My Beer Blog

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Sharing a post from my Beer Blog that is at least 50% about “gardening”. Elements of Beekeeping and Beers!

Hive loss but found a soothing ale….Please check it out.

 

Easing the Pain of Loss

 

How to get the Kitchen Floor Mopped?

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It is a given that my wife married a man that is just a little sloppy with his activities, and yes, his(my) activities include use of the kitchen for;

Honey bottling

Jam and jelly making

Making beeswax lip balms

Beer making & bottling

And obviously cut up, shredding and prepping meats for the grill and smoker.

And I am sure there are some unnamed transgressions.

Today was a little busier than usual! I finished cutting up and bagging around 15 pounds of strawberries…….. note – yesterday I ran off to Wood Duck Farms in the morning and picked 6 buckets of strawberries, returned home, cleaned and packaged half the haul and made it into the shower for an on time departure to see George Strait at the Houston Rodeo.( English majors and other grammar police….I kinda like run on sentences)

As I said – finished the berries but then decided to make strawberry jam! It is a pretty simple process. I have determined that a gallon freezer bag stuffed full is perfect for a batch. I follow the SureJell package instructions very closely. Critical are the boiling sequence and times. Add pectin and a 1/4 cup of sugar, on high heat, mash and stir at the same time. Once at a full rolling boil, add the remaining 3 – 3/4 cups of sugar and return to a full rolling boil….count slowly to 72 while it boils and remove from the heat. Oh yeah, toss in a tbsp of butter to reduce foaming…….I am not sure it helps but the directions suggest it.

Skim the foam, yes there will be foam. Waste not, want not. My wife loves the foam on top of here egg white and oatmeal frittata. Three tablespoons of quick oats in a small non stick pan, add enough egg white to cover and cook to done. Smear a little strawberry foam on it and enjoy. Remove a jar from the hot water bath and fill to 1/4 inch of the top. Snug up sanitized lids. The process took a little longer as I made 19, 55ml jars, cute little things, and 5 – 7 ounce hex jars. Process 10 minutes in a boiling water bath and then set aside.

This is not a full rolling boil. There is foam and a few boiling bubbles but not what you are looking for.

Getting close! If it is still bubbling and spattering, even while stirring, you are there.

Processing for 10 minutes.

The finished product ready for labeling. To the right is the yummy foam my wife uses for her frittata.

Next up was prepping two chickens to be cooked “Beer Butt” style on the grill. It takes 75 minutes or so while trying to keep the closed grill temperature at about 350 F.

The final result. In the beer cans was a nice oatmeal stout and a few crushed garlic cloves. I used A rub and garlic salt seasoning.

A quick dinner with a nice quinoa cold salad before heading off to the gym. When I returned I still had the beer to rack over with the reminders of the spots on the kitchen floor still fresh in my ears. Got the beer, a nice Wit beer, racked and the floor mopped – Hun!

It says priming tank but has been put into service as a fermenter due to leaks in my original fermenting bucket.

I think it is bed time now.

TTFN

Bishop

An Early Spring – Maybe

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February 6th was yesterday, bees were hauling in pollen and maybe even nectar. We had a bit of discussion at the Liberty County Beekeeper’s meeting two nights ago concerning pollen and nectar. The discussion; Can you tell if a Bee is hauling in nectar just by how the bee looks? It is very easy to tell if they are bringing pollen but nectar…..that is a different story. Most comments mentioned nectar hauling bees will be coming in “heavy” and rather clumsy and maybe a bit chubbier. That aligns with my observations! Watch the video below and look for chubby clumsy vs. those hauling pollen. This video is from one of my hives shot a few days ago.

I have left a feeder jar on this hive but haven’t used it. This hive had good stores and was heavy so I have just been monitoring. I suspect that there is a nectar source nearby. I hope that the bees don’t build up thinking it is spring and then get hammered by a freeze. Did you see any chubbiness or clumsiness in the slo-mo portion?

A front blew in today so it went from 82 yesterday, to mid forties this afternoon. Certainly puts a pause on Bee activities! So, I prepped a couple of swarm traps today and tackled a task that I had procrastinated on for too long! I have been out of my lip balm for more than a month……..today was the day!

Tube tray loaded and ready to fill. This is my Burt’s Bees clone recipe

First of two batches. 46 tubes filled and then another 38 with 3 tins.

A bowl full of creamy smooth lip balm. If you are Santa’s nice list you may score some!

I managed to squeeze in some beer brewing activity to help fill in the day. Ten days ago I brewed a SMaSH IPA. (Single malt – Marris Otter malt and single hop – Mosaic). The beer should roll in at 5.8% ABV. I racked it over into the secondary fermenter and will dry hop it with a couple ounces of Mosaic. It will be delicious. I may get frisky this weekend and bottle the 4+ gallons of wild Mustang grape wine that is now finished.

Beets, turnips, carrots and strawberries are looking good. I will plant sugar snap peas in a day or two along with some radishes and more carrots. I will pick-up a few buckets of rabbit manure this weekend and scrape out some chicken manure, will let it cool before using it on my lemon tree. That’s how my garden grows.

TTFN

Bishop

Washington on the Brazos

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I started this post over a week ago and then I became distracted. I had a batch of beer to brew, bees needed some attention, a little garden work and some physical therapy exercise got in the way. Let me finish this up as I have several more posts formulating in my scattered brain. FYI, today is January 31, 2019 as a point of reference.

A week ago, January 15th, was a dreary and cloudy day. I woke up early and was in kind of a blue funk. I decided I needed a mental health drive through the countryside. Those mental health drives have me looking for the perfect little piece of ground that would fit my bees, a chicken tractor or three and rows upon rows of raised beds! I had two big cups of coffee in the cup holders, a couple of apples and no planned destination.

The truck seemed to have a destination in mind so I let the small turbo diesel in my Ram 1500 have a loose set of reigns and off we went. As the miles started adding up I saw a sign for the town of Navasota. I love the rolling hills in the area and the area includes some top notch bee suppliers – Bee Weaver and across the invisible fence – R Weaver. I was tempted to swing by the honey tasting room at Bee Weaver but drove past the turn with the truck seemingly to wanting to roll on.

As I took the business route off the main highway toward Navasota I decided the drive was taking me toward, Washington on the Brazos, the birthplace of the Texas Republic. It was midweek, wintertime and a dreary day lent itself to some uncrowded exploration. I was the only guest at the State Park visitor center when I arrived. It turned into a personalized experience. After a 45 minute Texas history lesson in the reproduction Independence Hall I decided to visit the attached homestead farm of the last President of Texas, Anson Jones Barrington Farm. I paid the $5.00 fee and strolled into the farm grounds.

https://tpwd.texas.gov/state-parks/washington-on-the-brazos

Even though it was a midweek visit, the site was staffed by a young man and woman dressed in period costumes. Both were knowledgeable and great hosts. I should have had them pose for photos……..shame on me!

This is the view from the trail leading away from the parking lot. The farmhouse yard includes the cookhouse, smoke house and the chicken yard. The fields are lined with split rail fences just as would have been used in the 1840’s.

After walking past a tree lined pasture I approached the barn, animal pens and some storage sheds. All the structures are faithful reproductions from the period.

Cotton, corn and cattle were the staples of the time. The Brazos River Valley was an active cotton growing region during this time in Texas history.

https://tpwd.texas.gov/state-parks/washington-on-the-brazos/barrington-living-history-farm

No Butterball turkeys here. Heritage breed turkeys, chickens, hogs and cattle are found on the farm. Also found on the farm are oxen used to plough/plow the fields in the spring.

Not much growing in the winter garden. Housing for the slaves that lived in the property are on site. I missed the the hog butchering that occurred a couple of weeks earlier. The hog’s hair had been scraped off the carcass and was strewn about the yard and under the work table. Check the website for the farm activities offered throughout the year.

Not a typical southern plantation but more of a family farm. Even though slaves lived onsite, the farm work included every family member. Bunks were used in the upstairs portion of the house. The breezeway style is/was very common in the south to help stifle the heat a bit.

The downstairs interior included two bedrooms, dining area and a sitting room. I was impressed with the attention to period detail. Very well done.

The chicken/duck yard and sturdy coop were well built. There was a pasture located behind the yard with beef cattle, oxen and the requisite longhorn. Longhorns where not really common during the early years of the Texas Republic but thrived after the Civil War with the development of rail and big beef slaughter houses. It is estimated that there were as many 6,000,000 wild longhorns running free in Texas in 1860.

An effort to supply the hide and tallow markets began in Texas shortly after the end of the Civil War. During the war, many longhorns from Texas had been driven into the Southeast (swimming the Mississippi River enroute) where they supplied the field kitchens of the confederate forces.12 Those first drives had taught the Texans that Longhorns could be driven long distances successfully and without much, if any, loss of weight. Having learned that lesson well, enterprising southerners began driving their longhorns north to the railheads at Abilene and Dodge City, where they were loaded onto trains and taken to Chicago and points east to supply leather and tallow (and to a far lesser extent, beef) markets of the wealthier northern states. That was the beginning of the glory years of cowboys and long distance cattle drives. By 1895 it has been estimated that over 10,000,000 head had been driven the length of the Chisholm, Goodnight and other trails from Texas and other southern states to the northern markets. These drives, which lasted in total less than thirty years and were often led by very young cwboys and “vaqueros”, became a part of the romantic western lore as the “legendary cattle drives of the old west.” Many of the more docile animals were also used, before being slaughtered, to pull wagon trains westward.13 

During the memorable cattle drives, those millions of Longhorn bulls, cows, steers, and calves walked north along well worn trails and actually gained weight as they walked, all the while protecting themselves and their calves from predators, swimming rivers, and surviving desert heat and winter snows. The fact that they could not only survive but actually thrive under those conditions is a remarkable testament to the evolutionary advantages these animals had gained.

Excerpt from – http://www.gandgtexaslonghorns.com/history

My next visit will include a big chunk of time in the Texas Star museum located onsite. So much to see here causedme to squander too much time on the farm……….but I am not complaining!

TTFN

Bishop

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