Tag Archives: Bees

Signs of Life? Or Not.

We were blessed with a beautiful spring day here in Minnesota with temperatures reaching into the 50’s.  Finally!

It was a gorgeous day to get outside and start checking for signs of life around the farm.

Since the snow finally started melting, Jesse decided to make his way out to the beehives to check on them.  After 50 plus days this winter of high temperatures not even reaching zero degrees Fahrenheit, our expectations were very low about the likelihood that our bees survived.  When our bee supplier called in January, we decided to play it safe and order two more nucs of bees to install this spring to make sure we were not left without any bees.  As it turns out, we made the right decision!

1

We knew it was a bad sign this afternoon when Jesse pulled the covers off the hives and we saw the carnage of dead bees on the inside hive cover.  There was also an eerie silence that was a tell-tale sign that the bees had not survived.  It was the same scene when he opened the second hive.

No survivors. No signs of life.

We will start fresh with new bees this spring.  Again.

2

Our snow cover was melting quickly today with the warm temperatures.  The turned soil is starting to reveal itself in the plowed field next to our house.  The neighbor planted a bean crop last summer and plans to re-seed an alfalfa crop this spring.  This will delight our new bees.

3Wherever we wander on the farm, including out to the bees,we can always count on Sofie being somewhere close by.  She is a constant sign of life on the farm, even in the bleakest of times.  Dogs are such comforting companions.

4After visiting the bees, I trudged through the heaps of piled snow to get to the edge of my vegetable garden to take a picture.  With a solid foot of snow remaining within the perimeter, there is sadly no sign of life here.  It is hard to imagine that in a few short months this will be green and brimming with new growth and possibilities.
5

The warm temperatures today did manage to stir awake the juices of the maple trees.  We ventured in to the woods and discovered the first signs of the sap running.  Although it was not a very productive day (only about 1 gallon), it is a start.

6And after this long winter, I will celebrate any sign of life that reveals itself around here!
-Lynell

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Filed under Animals, Bees, Daily life, Maple Syrup

Starting Over Again – Bees 2013

As I mentioned in an earlier post this winter, we had a roller-coaster of a summer last year with our bees.

After being so thrilled that we had successfully wintered our bees for the first time since starting beekeeping, we were devastated to discover that they had swarmed in May because we waited too long to divide the hives and they became too crowded.  The early spring last year and the warm temperatures moved everything ahead and because of our inexperience, we missed the signs that they were preparing to swarm.

All was not lost however, because when bees swarm they leave behind a portion of the worker bees along with new queen cells, one of which eventually becomes the new queen.  We observed the hives over the next few months and it appeared that things were back on track, they had a new queen, and were rebuilding their population.  Of course, the hives were not nearly as strong as they would have been had they not swarmed, but we knew we would still get a honey harvest.

The honey started flowing and the bees had built up a good amount of supers of honey.  Once again, our optimism for our honey harvest was shattered in October when Jesse went out to the hives to check on them and discovered they had been robbed!  Yes, hives can be robbed by feral bees.  All the frames that the bees had worked so hard to fill all summer long were stripped completely clean, as if they had never had a bit of honey in them.  The other unfortunate effect from robbing, is that the honeybees usually die in the process of defending their hive against the invaders.

Needless to say, we lost both hives of bees and only ended up with a very small amount of honey to harvest…another year of learning about all the things that can go wrong beekeeping.  We have just put in our order for two nucs of bees this spring.  We are not giving up; we’re just starting over again.

So, spring finally arrived and so did our two nucs of bees.  The bees arrived to our supplier on a rainy and dreary Friday afternoon.  Jesse and our daughter went to work getting the hives ready to add the nucs, which are about 5-6 frames of bees with a queen and brood.
bee1

After adding a few frames to each hive of honey from last year’s bees, it was time to get suited up and put the frames in the hive.

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The bees were very riled up and it was a little scary, so I did not stay too long to photograph. I don’t think they enjoyed the ride across the plowed field in the back of the 4-wheeler, even if it was a slow one. 🙂bee3

Our daughter braved the angry bees for the installation of one nuc and only received one sting on her leg.  She decided to let her dad install the other hive.bee4

We have not examined the hive to look for brood, but after about 10 days it was clear that the bees were multiplying and Jesse decided to add another brood box. Hopefully the weather will cooperate and he can take a peek inside soon to see how things are going.

bees5In the meantime, I can tentatively say that things appear to be going well so far this season with the bees.  I know all too well however, that any number of bee disasters might be ahead yet this summer.  We are continuously learning and expanding our knowledge of beekeeping, so I am hopeful that it will be an uneventful beekeeping season.

For any beekeepers out there, how is your season starting out?

Lynell

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Back to Blogging?

Here I am again, with six months passing and no posts.  Time goes by so fast and life just seems to get in the way of sitting down at the computer to keep our blog updated.  It isn’t because nothing has gone on around here…our summer was just as busy as past ones.  So, since the holiday chaos has passed and the cold temperatures have me trapped indoors, I am feeling inspired to finish some posts about some of our projects around the farm last summer.

The funny thing about blogging is that it is easy to get hung up on putting together the perfect post with great pictures and clever writing.  I have to remind myself that the reason I started this blog was simply to share our experiences and to connect with others who have similar interests, and to create a history of our projects and improvements.  Keeping that in mind, I will just plow forward and try not to worry too much about the details, so bear with me.  🙂

We are well into winter here in Minnesota.  We have had several subzero days in the last week.  Even with the cold temperature and snow on the ground, there are some pretty sights  to behold on the farm.

Have I mentioned how much I love our barn???  No matter the time of year, it is one of the most charming parts of our landscape.

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But anyhow…back to last summer.  We enjoyed three separate home visits by our oldest, the West Point cadet.  He came home during his breaks from his summer military training and it was such a treat to have him around.  As you will see in upcoming posts, we put him to work and he helped us complete some fun projects.

We also had a roller-coaster of a summer with our bees.  After being so thrilled that we had successfully wintered our bees for the first time since starting beekeeping, we were devastated to discover that they had swarmed in May because we waited too long to divide the hives and they became too crowded.  The early spring and warm temperatures moved everything ahead and in our inexperience, we missed the signs that they were preparing to swarm.

All was not lost however, because when bees swarm they leave behind a portion of the worker bees along with new queen cells, one of which eventually becomes the new queen.  We observed the hives over the next few months and it appeared that things were back on track, they had a new queen, and were rebuilding their population.  Of course, the hives were not nearly as strong as they would have been had they not swarmed, but we knew we would still get a honey harvest.

The honey started flowing and the bees had built up a good amount of supers of honey.  Once again, our optimism for our honey harvest was shattered in October when Jesse went out to the hives to check on them and discovered they had been robbed!  Yes, hives can be robbed by feral bees.  All the frames that the bees had worked so hard to fill all summer long were stripped completely clean, as if they had never had a bit of honey in them.  The other unfortunate effect from robbing, is that the honeybees usually die in the process of defending their hive against the invaders.

Needless to say, we lost both hives of bees and only ended up with a very small amount of honey to harvest…another year of learning about all the things that can go wrong beekeeping.  We have just put in our order for two nucs of bees this spring.  We are not giving up; we’re just starting over again.

In the garden, we added two raised beds with blueberry plants, something we have wanted to do for some time.  More on that later…

My perennial garden, particularly my Echinacea (coneflower) plants were hit with yellow asters and I decided to pull every one of them out in trying to rid my garden of the disease.  I was a very sad gardener.

Our vegetable garden was very productive and we enjoyed fresh veggies for months on end.  We decided to forego any preserving this year and to just enjoy the bounty as it ripened.  Now that we are in the depths of winter, I am questioning that decision.  I think we will take the time to do at least a minimal amount this coming season.

Around the first of the year, the seed catalogs started arriving.  I have started pouring over them, marking pages, and making my wish list.  I plan to expand my winter sowing into some annuals and vegetables this spring and am anxious to get started.

DSC_0002Like every other gardening nut out there, I cannot wait to get back out into the gardens and start digging in the dirt.  In the meantime, I will share some of the projects we accomplished last summer.  To be continued…

Lynell

 

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Filed under Bees, Daily life, Miscellaneous

March Madness

The strange winter continues here in Minnesota…

On February 29th, only two and a half weeks ago, this is what it looked like outside our window.

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The snow started during the night and by morning, we had almost a foot of heavy, wet snow.  School was cancelled and we were officially all “snowed in.”  It was the first snow day of the school year and nobody was complaining around here about staying home.

March rolled in the next day and as quick as it had arrived, all that snow started to melt away.  The temperatures soared and before too long, there was no trace of snow left.

When the temperatures started hitting the upper 60’s and 70’s several days in a row, we started to notice some interesting things happening around the farm.

We checked the bee hives and were happy to see that they are definitely still alive.   This good news means that we have successfully wintered our bees for the first time!  (Most likely due to the warm winter temperatures we have had, rather than our beekeeping skills).

We also noticed the bees were out foraging.  They seemed to like the sap leaking out of the maple trees that we pruned in late February.

Since they are active so early this year and there is little food supply available yet, Jesse decided to start feeding them some sugar syrup to get them through the next month or so.  He also took off the black winter hive covers because of the warm temperatures – we don’t want them to cook in there!  The hives both seem really strong, so we are excited to see how this season turns out.

After a week of continuous March temperatures near or over 70F, we also noticed that my gardens are starting to wake up and spring to life.  These poppies were hiding under the leaf mulch.

My tulips have also decided it is time to make an early appearance.

With our warm weekend temperatures (more 70’s), we spent most of our time outdoors and in the gardens.  Although we realize it is very early in the season by Minnesota standards, we started the process of cleaning up the raspberry patch anyways.

After digging up all the rogue plants to reduce the rows back down to about 12″ wide, we cut our all the old canes and re-strung the wire that holds the plants upright.

We then trimmed all the remaining canes to about chest height, applied a 10-10-10 fertilizer, and lightly tilled along the sides of the rows.  When we get around to it (hopefully within a week or two), we will put down a chopped straw mulch to try controlling weeds.

Since the frost was already out and the soil was so dry (we have had very little snow this winter), Jesse went ahead and tilled the whole garden up.  We like to work it up several times in the spring if possible, before we do the bulk of our planting.

And finally, the last crazy thing we did on this 18th day of March here in Minnesota, was to plant some lettuce (mild mesculun mix) and spinach.  These crops can handle some colder temperatures, so even though I know better, I am taking a risk and giving it a try.

(Last spring, my first planting of lettuce was on May 7th, after a very cold and wet spring.)

So, the madness of this Minnesota winter continues into March.  I’m hoping we have seen the last of snow, but after living here my entire life, I know that just about anything can happen yet this spring.

But whatever happens, I’ll be ready.  I couldn’t be happier to be back out in the gardens.

Hope you are enjoying some March madness wherever you are too!

Lynell

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Filed under Bees, Flower, Gardens, Vegetable

Queen Bee Update

Our adventure as beginning beekeepers keeps providing us with new challenges and opportunities for learning.  After getting our two packages of bees in early April, we soon discovered that the queen in one of the hives had not survived.  I picked up a new queen from our supplier and re-queened that hive (read about it here).  Following his instructions, we did not open the hive to check on the how she was doing for a full two weeks.

Excited to see how things were coming along, it was finally time to open the hive.

Even with our limited experience as beekeepers (one season), we knew right away that things did not look right.  The brood pattern was uneven and had this popcorn look, which are actually drone cells.  Drones are the male bees, which are from an unfertilized egg.  The drone cells are similar to, but larger than worker bee cells.  The number of drones per colony should be only around 15 percent of the total population.  We saw very few worker bee cells. Continue reading

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Actions for Photoshop Elements from Pioneer Woman

I have never used any photo-editing software, other than doing some basic cropping or red-eye removal.  As part of my quest to improve my photography skills, and after being inspired by seeing the photos of other bloggers, I decided to take the leap into photo-editing.  I purchased Photoshop Elements (PSE) 8.0 for my new Mac laptop as a Christmas present for myself. 

It was immediately clear to me that one can get completely sucked into this photo-editing stuff and spend several hours playing with photos.  I happen to have a lot of time to experiment with photos as I wait for kids at lessons, rehearsals and practices.  I have experimented a lot with PSE and have found that while fun, it can also be completely overwhelming. 

Luckily, out on the web, there are many generous bloggers who have developed “actions” for PSE that they share with others at no cost.  Once downloaded (which can sometimes be a challenge in itself), these actions allow you to quickly apply the photo effects of the action by simply clicking on the icon in the Effects area of PSE. 

My two favorite sites for free actions that I have found so far are from Pioneer Woman and the Coffeeshop Blog

Last week, I took this straight-out-of-the-camera shot of a bee pollinating our crabapple tree. 

I loved the picture, but wanted to see the bee a little closer, so I first cropped it down.  I also boosted the color a little by using the “soft light” effect and then sharpened the image with the “unsharp mask.” 

Continue reading

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Filed under Bees, Photography

Our Buzzing Crabapple Tree

The Prairie Fire crabapple tree right outside my kitchen window is in full bloom .  It is quite a sight and smells delightful.

Apparently, we are not the only ones that are enjoying the tree.  After two days of rain, snow and freezing temperatures, we were outside Sunday enjoying the sunshine when we noticed a distinct humming sound coming from the tree.  A closer examination revealed that the tree was loaded with honeybees and a few random bumblebees. Continue reading

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Filed under Bees, Flower, Gardens, Photography