Gardening

Arbor Day aids my procratination

Trees and shrubs – protected from the dog with milk crates!

As it was already 97 degrees in the greenhouse by 9:00 a.m. this morning, I decided to move our trees that are awaiting planting to their outside spot under the sprinklers.  All too often, I forget to open the greenhouse windows in the morning, so the poor plants end up baking — now that we’re back to dark mornings, that’s been more of a problem this past week.

So, I managed to put off grading for an hour or so while I played with plants, potted the blue-berry bush I bought yesterday, and started some trays of tomatoes and peppers.  I honestly planned to get comfortable and grade after that, but when I took the trash out I found a box of trees from Arbor Day on the front step.    We didn’t receive our entire order, but there was enough planting to do for me to postpone grading another hour.   Then I ate lunch.  Now I’m blogging!

Yes, it’s that time of the year when it’s hard to stay indoors.   It’s neither too hot nor too cold outside.  It seems that every day another variety of daffodil blooms in my garden.   The bees are buzzing contentedly and the grumpy ones are 270 miles away at the farm!   I do love teaching, but it’s also the time of year when I am just tired of reading essays!   Spring break is late this year, and most of our spring days-off became inclement weather make-up days for the third year in a row.  Students are ready for spring break.  Teachers are ready for spring break.  We are knee-deep in state mandated standardized testing, and I just want to take the dog for a long walk.

But enough complaining.   The trees and shrubs we received so far this year from Arbor Day have really good root systems, unlike some of what was shipped last year.    The Catalpa and Red Maple trees are a good height and I actually had enough potting soil at home to plant them all.   The arrival of this box is a reminder to grab another bag of potting soil next time we’re at Lowe’s, and my Lemon Grass and Mandevilla  both survived winter in the greenhouse.  The Mandevilla is even blooming already.  The two varieties of Chocolate Vine on the arbor are filling the yard with a jasmine-like scent, and spring break is only three weeks away.  As always, life is good.

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Bees · Queen Bee

Spring is back – maybe?

Farm hive, March 2017

We were so happy to see that our farm hives are winning the battle against small hive beetles when we were down there last weekend.  The Beetle Blaster traps are working well, although I still struggle to remove them without spilling at least a few drops of oil in the hive.   Our bees are propolizing like crazy right now, so the traps end up firmly glued in.  If I don’t loosen them up enough, they get stuck and then spill.  If I slide my hive tool along the sides too deeply, I tear a hole in the side.  Maybe I just need more practice.

All of the hives at the farm have gained strength now that the bees are not spending all their time chasing beetles and there is a plethora of nectar available to them.  We took one of our older hives from the city down there to see if the bees are any happier there.  The hive has served us well and the old queen laid many eggs when food was available to the hive.  The problem is, they have become increasingly mean.  Inspecting them was no fun at all and once in a while one would “get a bee in its bonnet” (bad use of an idiom, I know) and chase us into the house.  I don’t know if they feel threatened by my long hair, but angry bees often became tangled up in it, which made both them and me more angry!  We decided they could no longer live in the city.   The hive replaced the queen a couple of weeks ago, so bees from the new queen could well be more friendly.  If not, we’ll replace her with a queen from one of our gentle hives.   If hubby had had his way, the old queen would have been replaced in January, if not last fall.  I am becoming more practical and believe I will eventually be able to see an aging queen as disposable, but I’m wasn’t there in January.  After being chased across the yard a few times over the last few weeks, I may be there now!

Our city hives came through the most recent cold snap well.  Only a few were using the feeder buckets last weekend, but the buckets were crowded yesterday.  Once it warms up, I’ll put hive top feeders back on our new NUCs so that they can rebuild their stores.  The first swarm capture was a little low on bees last weekend, and we had queenless and broodless bees in one of the queen castle sections.   We combined them by stacking a second NUC body on top of the first and adding the lonely bees so that they could keep the beautiful new brood warm and have a queen to worship (or boss around.)  The NUC with the bees from the second swarm capture had 3 full frames of bees last weekend and the queen was busy searching cells.  There wasn’t any capped brood last weekend, and I have a hard time seeing eggs with my bi-focals and the veil, but she’s healthy and active so we expect to see something when we do our next check.

We also have three batches of bees in the queen castle that had hatched queen cells last weekend, but we didn’t see the queens.  It was a beautiful day, so they may have been out mating.  I so much want to go look, but it’s not warm enough yet.

Hubby will check the farm hives tomorrow, weather permitting.  He’s helping his brother with some projects today while I’m stuck here with a crate full of essays to grade!   So much of what I planted in fall is coming up right now that I really want to go to the farm every weekend, but sometimes we just have to stay home and get chores done!

Bees · Hive equipment

A Sweet Reward

Swarm

Today was one of those awful days that ended a rather stressful work week followed by a text from hubby to remind me to get the oil changed in my car on the way home.   Geeeesh … didn’t he know I wasn’t in the mood to do that.  Or maybe he knew I was even less in the mood to have to ask him to take the car in for me.  Either way, surprise number one was that I do indeed have a cabin air filter in my car.  We’ve been told multiple times that I don’t, and the dust keeps piling up on the dash and the air conditioner blows warm air at the rate of a soft summer breeze.   Now the air from the vents almost blows my hair back out of my face!

Surprise number two was even better.  I made my usual evening walk around the yard and said hello to all my bee-buddies.  On the way back to the house, I noticed that the Major Wheeler Honeysuckle had new blooms on it.  That thing hasn’t stopped flowering all winter, but it is now adding buds like crazy — or was before we chopped a whole lot of it off about an hour ago.  While I was walking toward the fence to admire the flowers, I noticed something odd.  That something odd turned out to be a swarm of bees.

Swarm in the lattice

Swarms can be really good because they add genetic lines to the exiting apiary.   They are also good simply because they make me happy!  There were as many, if not more, bees behind the lattice as in front of it and almost all are now tucked away safe and warm in their new home.   We have not yet found the queen, but the bees did start to pageant into the NUC after a while, which is normally a good sign.  Temperatures are supposed to drop to the low 30s tonight, so we’re glad we caught them when we did.

We bent the lattice back and cut many of the vines to get the bees out of there.  Some that started flying around settled in another clump in the middle of the next sheet of lattice while others hid behind the fence post.   We got what we could with a bee brush and smoke and then tried a bee-vac on the remaining couple of handfuls.   We’re still not sure about the bee-vac — some bees got tangled up in the felt that they are supposed to bounce against and some appeared stunned, cold, or dead.  While we hate to lose any bees, trying to get a handful out of a tight corner was a better experiment than trying to suck up a full swarm.   We’ll have to find some non-living things to test levels of air-flow with.
 
Still, a day full of annoyances turned out to be an incredibly wonderful day after all.  This is the second swarm we have caught in two weeks — one just moved into the queen castle while we weren’t looking and started setting up house.   Our bees at the farm were bouncing back after their fight with the hive beetles last weekend, and we’ll soon have some more hives to take down there.