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Swarm!!!

Swarm!!!

I no sooner get my bee journal updated and my husband comes in the house and tells me he thinks one of the hives is swarming. So I went out to the apiary and before I even got there I could see a swarm had begun clumping in a tree just above the new hives. I was pretty sure which hive was swarming and I was right. That hive seemed rowdier than the other one when we initially installed the two new nucs as well as during the first hive check. Plus they had built a huge line of comb under one of the frames but it didn’t look like any swarm cells were developing there. Besides, we’d only had them a couple of weeks when we did that hive check. Odd that they’d swarm like this but I suppose it happens.

The coolest part was scooping up a bunch of nurse bees from the ground with my hands. They can’t really fly well when they’re young, and I put a board up for them to climb up to the hive. They’re so sweet and adorable and it’s an honor to help them up to the hive.

We started with existing comb so they could begin right away increasing the colony and then had to add new empty frames within a couple of weeks, so it’s not surprising that the hive got a little crazy. But this is a sign of a really healthy hive, so the new one should be excellent. When we dumped them in the nuc, we had frames with existing comb along with a frame of honey from last year. We’ll keep them away from the apiary for a while and then transfer them to our original horizontal hive. But we may move that one farther away from where it is now, possibly into the backyard. We have a nice place right next to the pond and it would be perfect for them. I posted some video on my YouTube channel, but I’m posting them here as well.

We have swarm boxes up, in fact, the nuc box we put the swarm in is actually a swarm box and it’s cool when you get some free bees. That’s not what happened here technically because the swarm is from one of our own hives, but at least they didn’t go flying away to someone else’s property.

I posted some video on my YouTube channel, but I’m posting them here as well. Swarms are so cool!

 

 

 

 

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Adding A Warre’ Box To The Hive

Adding A Warre' Box To The Hive

 

When we went out to the Warré hive to fill the feeder with more syrup we noticed that they had begun building comb on the feeder. Lovely. Like many beekeepers in our area, we lost all of our hives during our unusually long, frigid winter. I had ordered bees for some new hives we were adding to the apiary so I knew we’d have some eventually, but losing them was just awful. The one advantage we had, though, was existing comb. I installed the bee package I ordered for another Warré in the original hive that we lost and they went right to work cleaning up the existing comb. Bees prefer to build natural comb instead of attaching it to a fake insert and there was a full box of comb for them to fill up with brood, pollen, and nectar. The best part? We don’t have to wait as long to add another box.

Warre’ with extra feeder box

My husband, Jerry, made an inner cover to set a feeder on and added a box above the original box to create an inside feeder set up. He did a really nice job on it and it’s worked well, but now it seems that they’re attaching comb to it so we’ll have to deal with that soon. Warré hives are different than the typical Langstroth hives that many beekeepers use. Jerry made two horizontal Langstroth-style hives by putting two deep boxes side by side and then attaching them together, cutting the center section out to create the larger hive space. We put follower boards in each to create a smaller space for the 5-frame nucs I purchased for them.

But the Warré is unique, not only in its interesting structure but also with how we add a new box. On a normal vertical Langstroth hive, new boxes are added on top, while new boxes are placed on the bottom in a Warré. The theory is that bees like to build downward. They’re already checking out the top bars as we see in the top picture. Warré boxes can be ordered with inspection windows and both boxes have one so that I can take pictures through the window without disturbing the hive itself. Pulling up frames to inspect when they’re only supported by a piece of wood at the top is tricky and comb can break off so easily, so last year I didn’t look much at them.

The Warre hive

The bottom two boxes are where the bees will build comb and create the colony. A package contains 10,000 bees and a queen, but once she’s back from her mating flight, she can lay a massive amount of eggs per day, new bees emerging around three weeks later. If you look closely, you’ll see that awesome inner cover that Jerry made for inside feeding. Sugar water attracts all sorts of interested parties and feeding inside the hive is a better option to control that problem. We added a third box on top to protect the feeder. The quilt box that helps absorb moisture goes on top of the third box followed by the roof.

 

Horizontal hives

Jerry showed me a video of a guy in Africa who makes his hives out of grasses, mud, and other natural components. It was amazing to watch as he created a new hive. Bees will live in practically anything. Some beekeepers are creating hives from logs and some put their Langstroth hives in trees. Less a beekeeper and more one who is kept by bees, I confess to liking the horizontal hives along with the Warré more than the vertical Langstroth hives we have and I can use Langstroth-style frames instead of top bars like in the Warré and horizontal top bar hives. Langstroth deep boxes are heavy to lift when separating them for inspection them so not having to do that with the new horizontal hives is a blessing.

Swarm box

We have swarm boxes placed around our property with one right outside my kitchen window, apple blossoms tempting the scouts that are looking for a new home. We might get lucky and capture some bees this year to replace the colonies we lost over the winter. That would be wonderful! One of our hives swarmed last year to the tree above the hive. We caught them and then they decided to go back to their original hive. It was odd but at least they didn’t leave the property. The sound is telling, you know it instantly even if you’ve never experienced it before. And no words adequately describe the feeling I had when standing in the middle of a swarm of bees as they vortex upward to surround their queen on the branch where she landed. It’s peaceful and loving and fully resonant.

And while I await the possibility of colonies finding their way to our apiary, I’ll sit by our hives in complete wonder at their unified presence. They compel me to align with their resonance and as I lean closer, our vibrations become one.

I am forever in love with these amazing beings!

Arriving home
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When Life Becomes A Preexisting Condition

Life As A Preexisting Condition

In the new guy’s version of life in this country, preexisting conditions should be allowed only for those who can pay for them. And one foolish congressman even went so far as to suggest that the sickest among us should be paying more than people who have remained healthy as if chronic illness or cancer, for example, are due to someone’s irresponsibility or negligence. He probably didn’t like it when the smart girl blew the curve in school either.

But here’s the thing. We live in a country where income inequality is the norm and that translates into not enough money to eat well. Most people don’t grow their own food anymore so they have no control over the pesticides used on the crops or whether or not the seeds used were genetically modified into something our bodies don’t recognize.

Instead, we’re put on the treadmill of chronic disease, beholden to the medical community, although well-meaning, who focus on symptom treatment in lieu of actually figuring out how we became sick in the first place. Other than doctors in functional medicine or herbalists and naturopaths, most don’t consider diet, mindset, emotional issues, or environmental factors that could be at the root of chronic illness preferring instead to prescribe this pill or that injection.

I suffered from rheumatoid arthritis for over thirteen years, but it was for that length of time that it was severe. Nothing the doctors did relieved any of the pain, inflammation, fatigue, swelling, or fluid retention that I experienced. Instead, I seemed to stay in one place, severe. When a commercial came on television selling a medication for RA they would always say it treated moderate to severe rheumatoid arthritis. I would look at my husband and remark that someday I hoped my RA would be moderate. It was one of those moments of dark humor that got us through those years.

And now that I’ve been in clinical remission for the last six years and off the last of the prescribed drugs since September 2015, my doctor did some blood work and lo and behold, the daily coffees my husband makes that would make a barista blush have affected my glucose level. I got a call from her nurse and she told me that my doctor wants to schedule an A1C test to screen for diabetes. No discussion, or even the glucose number, just go have a test.

Perhaps they didn’t notice in my chart that my primary care doctor when I was so ill had prescribed Metformin after doing a glucose tolerance test and endless A1C tests, diagnosing insulin resistance when my glucose numbers stayed elevated. After becoming a cannabis patient in June 2010 and making my own concentrated medicines at the end of that year, two and one-half months later I was in clinical remission. I began discontinuing several of the prescribed drugs on my own that I could safely do, but when discontinuing the Metformin the same primary care doctor who initially prescribed it helped with that. A change in diet has always been the way to get my glucose number to come down but instead of having that conversation first, it’s test time.

Now with the republicans in the process of destroying health care in this country, the last thing anyone needs is to have a diagnosis of something that’s situational in nature that can then become a preexisting condition. You’d think if Congress wants to go this route of endangering the citizenry so that the wealthiest among us become even more wealthy, they’d legalize cannabis. The tax revenue alone would be staggering. Prescription drug costs would be considerably lower, our collective health likely improving overall, but then the drug companies who line lawmakers’ election coffers might not be so generous at the next election. So the struggle for truth and dignity continues.

Apparently, rape is now a preexisting condition if this monstrosity is signed into law. Does this also apply to children who are raped by their fathers? Will they be punished with a preexisting condition if they report the abuse? The congresspeople who voted for it, my own congressman included, exhibit an astonishing level of moral bankruptcy and have clearly lost their fundamental compassion for humanity. One wonders how they sleep at night, but after today’s kegger at the white house in celebration of their victory, I’m sure they’ll sleep like babies.

If this passes the senate, then women like my daughter-in-law won’t have their pregnancies covered. Medicaid will be trashed and Medicare is next. They’ll leave everyone hanging and people will die as a result. There has never been a clearer example of us versus them ideology than what we’re seeing now. It’s destructive and unsustainable, but it’s full steam ahead anyway.

Even if this doesn’t pass the senate, as members are signaling that it will not, today’s vote gives us a window into the mindset of the people who believe the death of our citizens is an acceptable outcome. But when we finally have health insurance that we can depend on and republicans want to either take that away or make it completely unaffordable, something tells me that our response will be greater than the republicans can imagine let alone survive.

The republicans shouldn’t have targeted women and children in this bill. They shouldn’t have targeted veterans, seniors, or the chronically ill. Because when a mother finds that her child with asthma or cancer can no longer get the care she so desperately needs, trust me the ground will open up around them and shit will get real. Women, mothers or not, are sick of the government’s interference in our lives and as republicans continue their destructive behavior, we’ll pay close attention and then we’ll vote their sorry asses out of office.

I sat by the new hives out in the apiary today watching the new bees become acclimated to their new homes. They exist in unified presence with each other, each one valued and necessary. They work together to feed the brood and to protect their queen. Everything is about the survival of the colony, a notion of family that escapes republicans now in control. None of this surprises me, however, now that the fascist floodgates have been flung open. The cruelty present within the republican mindset is breathtaking. It’s nasty and to think they celebrated with a beer after it was done.

So now we await the Senate’s response. I won’t be holding my breath. Besides, in the process, I’d probably develop another preexisting condition, irresponsible person that I am.

Just ask Mo.

Update: got my blood test results and after Jerry’s insane coffees it was only 114. Now I see why she neglected to mention the number. I wouldn’t have mentioned it either lest I be laughed off the phone. Now ADA recommends <100 even though the test range is 74-106 for fasting 12 hours except that I probably only fasted for 7 or 8. Why does the number keep going down? My theory: it puts more money in the pocket of Big Pharma as more prescriptions are written. Still not drinking anymore of that coffee even though it’s yummilicious. 

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In Love With Bees

In Love With Bees

I installed a new package of bees in the Warré hive today. The queen was moving around in her small cage when I pried out the cork in the end replacing it with a small marshmallow, only then placing her in her new home. We shook the bees from the container into the hive and put a feeder along with a small pollen patty on the top of the frames to give them some food while they become accustomed to their surroundings.

We lost all four hives last winter. It happens more than beekeepers wish but sometimes there’s nothing we can do when the snow’s so deep we can’t reach them. The colonies just got too cold. They went into winter healthy and never came out again. I was devastated.

So today, when the bees were climbing all over us I was thrilled. I missed them so much and I finally got to experience their trust and unified resonance once more. Growing up, my mother taught me to be afraid of bees. I stepped on a bee in our chicken coop thirty some years ago and received my first bee sting. Six weeks later it happened again. Although my husband has always wanted bees, I couldn’t quite get there until a couple of years ago.

Now beginning our third season as beekeepers, with each year my comfort level grows. The first year I hung back primarily assisting Jerry but by the second year I had purchased the Warré and a horizontal hive and any fear I had was gone. And when I got the call yesterday that the package was in my tears flowed.

You can’t know what it’s like to pull weeds in the garden with bees only inches away, all of us doing our own thing, in synchronicity with the garden itself. The next best gardening companion is a chicken. I used to have one that would come running the minute I began weeding. She loved to help.

But as the fruit trees began blooming this Spring, only local pollinators were visiting, with only a few bumblebees around. The sound of honeybees simply wasn’t there and although I knew that the package and nucs we ordered would eventually be here, I had no idea if they would be here in time to place their essence on the trees. Because it’s a give and take between bees and the plant life that sustains them, there’s nothing like a colony of honeybees to make everything bloom!

The garden flourishes now, prolific and abundant, made so by the bees who visit. And I await the moment when I sit out in the gazebo where a curious honeybee hovers in greeting a couple of inches from my face. It first happened only a day or so after our first colony arrived. She hovered a few inches from my eyes, looking at me. I sat there while she and I sized each other up, and then she was gone. But in that moment, I fell in love and my devotion to the colony has grown exponentially.

Although I regularly perform Reiki on the colonies, today I took a 432hz tuning fork out to the colony after they had settled in for a bit to align with their resonance, essentially tuning the biofield of the hive. As I struck the fork on the puck and moved it around the hive their resonance changed a bit and they seemed to settle down even more. The bulk of the colony was inside the hive surrounding their queen. They may have already eaten through the marshmallow I placed in the opening to her small cage and when she’s released and ready, she’ll take her maiden flight to breed with drones. She takes this flight only once creating millions of bees over the remainder of her life.

An empath, I feel the resonance of the colony, their hum and their unified presence. Performing Reiki with or without the tuning forks is an experience like no other. So it’s as much for me as it is for them. There’s so much stress in the life of a colony with pesticides and parasites and other problems our world forces them to contend with. All they want is to sustain life. They’re an integral part of our lives and yet are at such risk so I do what I can.

But without them, there is no us. The sound of bees is the sound of love and joy. We have an emotional connection to this unified presence if we would only stop and listen to their message. They survive together, never working at cross purposes but only in the preservation of the colony. A beekeeper sits next to her hive, listening to, learning from, and loving these incredible creatures. Their reverence for one another as well as for their queen is astonishing to observe.

Saving them, in turn, saves us. So how about we do that.

 

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The Enduring Cycle of Bees

The Enduring Cycle of Bees

We finally pulled the last honey super off the original hive and gave them a pollen cake and a candy board to help them through the winter. We had already done this for the Warre’ and the long hives. Temperatures are still warm enough during the day so we’re feeding syrup as well to help them with honey stores for the winter. But the candy board is filled with sugar syrupa solid sugar solution, with small pollen cakes hidden inside for them to work their way to during the winter months. I also dotted the top of each candy board with chunks of pollen cake. They loved it last year.

candy board

Unfortunately, the new split didn’t survive. We believe they went back to their original hive since the split was sitting next to it. But we had received some bad information from a local beekeeper recommending that we pull our honey supers at the beginning of August. In reality, we shouldn’t have taken it until September. But we’re new, and we believed someone we shouldn’t have. We waited until almost the middle of the month before pulling it because we just didn’t think it was ready. The dearth she described wasn’t evident on our property as flowers were everywhere and the bees were constantly out bringing back both pollen and nectar to the hive. But we decided to listen to her and pulled the super off the split, putting the frames of honey in the freezer.

The hive was fine until just a few weeks ago when we opened it and found it was fairly empty. Since there were no dead bees and no evidence of a swarm (which probably wouldn’t happen this time of year anyway), we’re really not sure what happened. But we have a feeling that it was related to pulling that honey super. It was just too soon.

honey framesWe left the super on the original hive because there was also brood in there. We don’t use a queen excluder between the brood box and the super so there’s always a risk that she might want to lay up there. That particular queen did just that and we had to wait until today for the brood to hatch and the bees to cap the remaining honey. Not all of it was capped completely, but we wrapped it in plastic wrap anyway and stored it in the freezer with the other frames from the split.

Warre' combI have to say that I was devastated to find that we lost the split. It was my hive and to lose it that way was just awful. But the new Warre’ hive is doing well although they’re somewhat confused on where to build their comb. Or I am. Not that I care or anything because I brought that one into the apiary to simply see how they function in a hive like that.

foundationless frameThe horizontal long hive was probably the most successful new addition. It’s essentially two Langstroth hives put side by side. Sort of. But the idea is that you can have a top bar hive that accepts Langstroth frames. Other top bar hives don’t do this. And we ordered the new hive with foundationless frames so that we could watch the bees as they built their comb. Most hives use frames with foundation already in them, but bees prefer to design their own comb without the help of an existing frame. They know how to create a perfectly sized cell in which new bees will grow. They really don’t need us and we’re typically just in their way.

We plan to put up a windbreak this year in the apiary although they probably don’t need it. Some beekeepers wrap their hives, but so far we haven’t felt the need to do that. But we can do so if the weather dictates. The bees don’t come out much in the winter, but on the occasion of a warm day, some take flight. We look forward to such days because we miss them so much during the winter.

And then Spring arrives and out they come and we almost can’t contain our excitement! But for now, they’re snug in their hives, making their last preparations for winter. They’ve reduced their numbers and will huddle together in the middle of the hive, keeping a perfect temperature. And then sometime after the Winter Solstice, the queen begins laying brood for the coming year.

It’s this blessed cycle of the bees that has endured forever. Humans would do well to embrace their unity of purpose, each doing their part for the survival of the colony. They are in truth one organism.

As are we.

Blessed Be

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As Garden Season Ends…

 

The dome we put in was a complete success. The hugel beds which we also put in exceeded our expectations as everything we planted both inside and around the outside of the dome went crazy. I’ve frozen more beans than I did last year and even though it’s October and we’ve had some frost, they’re still growing. The gourds are finishing out and I’m letting them hang, curing a bit before I cut them down.mini bottle gourd

tomatoesThe year has been odd though for tomatoes. I have a section over by my cannabis plants that came up as volunteers, mostly of the Roma variety. They’re loaded with tomatoes but they’re taking their sweet time to ripen. The same with the Big Mama Roma plants in the dome. But we have some warm weather over the next week or so and if I need to, I’ll hang them inside to finish out. I have no blossom end rot this year. I added epsom salts to the planting holes before dropping in the transplants. It really does make all the difference. But I’ve been able to make a bunch of tomato soup so far and last night I canned 5 quarts of pasta sauce.pasta sauce

apiary greenhouseThe apiary greenhouse had a hard time getting started, but then it took off. My clematis died out, however, but it was fairly root-bound when I bought it, so I didn’t have much emotional investment in it. The two over at the dome made it though as did the honeysuckle I planted. It’s all about the bees you know. I listened to someone in our local bee community and pulled my honey too soon on my new split and I lost the whole thing. I’m sure they went back to the original hive, but I’m done listening to anyone other than Michael Bush and a few others who are more into the natural side of beekeeping. He’s amazing and his videos are full of great information and Jerry and I have learned so much from them as well as his books.

celeryThe Thai pepper and celery continue to grow in the dome while temperatures remain above freezing. This is the first year I’ve grown celery. I had no idea it would grow here on the High Desert and it was so adorable coming up. Each one came up with tiny celery leaves and while the stalks didn’t get as big as those in grocery stores, at least mine don’t have a bunch of pesticides on them, and they taste great!

The new herb garden was prolific even though my arnica, elecampane, and wood betony didn’t come up. They might come up next Spring though. So I’ll get more seeds, but wait to see what actually comes up before replanting. My white sage and skullcap came up at the end of the season, so you never know. I’m just thrilled it worked out because creating the space with eight foot game fence isn’t exactly easy. But everything I planted is perennial and I’ve already harvested all kinds of herbs to dry for tinctures, salves, and teas, and after one last weeding and mulching, the garden will ready itself for the coming year.

herb garden

We have spuds galore! I grew six different varieties in the dome and some of them are huge. A few had obvious water spots and we chucked those, but that was probably due to running irrigation water through the dome. We have another bed outside of the dome as well as two structures that typically yield tons of spuds, but as of yesterday, we’ve harvested over one hundred pounds. We’ll probably harvest the rest this weekend.

spuds

 

snakeI would be remiss if I didn’t include my helpers in the garden. A snake has been my constant companion in the dome and his watchful eye was always present, crawling all over the dome, hiding among the beans, melons, and gourds.

bee-on-borageOf course butterflies, bees, and lady bugs were ever present. It’s odd to harvest herbs next to a borage plant vibrating with hundreds of honeybees and bumblebees. But we all shared space and it wasn’t until I was watering over by some comfrey that I got stung. Multiple times. That never happens over at the hives. If I’m stung, it’s on the finger while moving frames or something.lady-bug-copy

 

butterfly 2Butterflies were all over the garden, seeming to follow me everywhere. But the best one was the praying mantis. I love those guys! They all stood ready to pollinate and protect. And our gardens simply cannot do without them.

praying-mantis

Fall is here with winter soon after. My garden gets better and better, with full credit going to the bees. Observe them and watch as they show us the way forward. They operate as one organism. It’s their reality, just as it is ours.

~Blessed Be

Oh..one last picture..of Agent Orange. Wonderful medicine!

agent orange

 

References:

  1. Michael Bush ~ The Practical Beekeeper.

 

 

 

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Hive Inspection: The Split is Queen Right!

apiary

 

Apparently after the winter we had a rockin’ bee colony. Both brood boxes from the original hive were full so to try to avoid swarming, a month ago we did what’s known as a walk-away split on the original hive. We took the top brood box splitoff of the second hive on the left, and moved it to the other side of the hive stand, placing it on top of an empty brood box. The idea was that the bees would hopefully build their brood nest downward. Most folks put the new boxes on top, but the Rose Hive and Warre methods favor inserting new boxes either below the others or in between and after researching, we like that idea.

We had a medium honey super on top of the original hive that had quite a bit of honey in it so we pulled two or three frames of honey and added them to a medium honey super box that we put on top of the new split. That way, they’d have enough food to get them through the month-long re-queening process. Once a queen is either dead or gone, the bees will make a new queen. It was clear from the beginning that the queen was still in the original hive because all activity basically ceased in the new split. The nurse bees were still inside tending to the brood and it took some time before we saw bees flying in and out to bring back pollen and nectar.

capped honey

 

Eventually, we began to see some activity and we calmed down a bit. Going in the hive today told the rest of the story. Although we didn’t see the queen, we did see eggs so clearly she’s there. The lower box had nothing really happening in it yet so we swapped the boxes, putting the box with the brood on the bottom. Because the medium honey super was nearly full of capped honey, we added another super below it, creating an empty area in between the lower brood box and the upper honey super. The bees should fill in both now. So not only are there two medium honey supers on the original hive, we have the same on the new hive. All in a month’s time. We couldn’t be happier.

 

eggsYou can see in the picture on the right little white spots in most of the cells which are the eggs in various stages of development. The bees will eventually cap the brood and it will look brownish. The capped honey just above is cream or white in color. The picture below illustrates this difference nicely.

 

queen right 5Typically the brood is somewhere in the center of the frame, with drone brood more toward the outside of the frame. That brood cell sticks up more than the others do and it’s easy to see. What you don’t want to see is a bunch of it because then you know that their queen isn’t functioning properly. There should always be more worker brood than drone brood. There will also be nectar, pollen, and honey on the frame as well. Some folks use a queen excluder between the brood boxes and the honey supers to keep the queen from going up in there and laying eggs. It’s a metal screen-like plate that’s big enough for the worker bees to pass through, but not the queen. We didn’t use one on either colony and it doesn’t look like she’s been up in there, so all honey!

 

queenAs I said, we didn’t see the queen in this hive, but we did see her in the new long hive we put in. This particular queen was crawling all over the place, very active. There was no way to miss her. And it’s the coolest thing ever to see the queen. We’ve never seen her in any of the hives other than the Warre’. And the only reason I saw her was because I purchased a package of bees for that new hive. In a package of bees, the queen comes in a cage and you have to release her into the hive and hope they accept her. Because they’ve had a few days with her already before they arrive at their final home, typically queen acceptance isn’t an issue. I pulled the plug out of the cage and inserted a mini marshmallow and then placed the cage in the bottom of the hive. The bees will eat the marshmallow and release their queen. She takes her maiden flight, flying up around 300 feet in the air where she’ll mate with a drone or a series of drones. Then she comes back to the hive and begins laying up to 2000 eggs per day. In her lifetime she may lay up to a million eggs.

warre combAnd my post wouldn’t be complete without a picture of a Warre’ foundation. We’ve been using foundationless frames in both the new long hive and the Warre. Typically, frames have plastic foundation with a hive cell pattern stamped in it. Foundationless comb can be tricky because it can break off and fall into the hive. The long hive has a different type of foundation than the Warre’ in that it’s a four-sided frame. The Warre’ foundations have only a top, no sides or a bottom. In the long hive, we’ve alternated foundation-type frames with foundationless. This reportedly keeps the comb straight on the foundationless frames which apparently matters when you harvest honey or need to pull frames for inspection.

So that’s what we did in the long hive. But in the Warre’, alternating frames wasn’t possible, so we won’t be pulling frames much. The boxes are much smaller than the Langstroth style long hive, so we can simply lift the boxes up to see what they’re doing from beneath. With a Warre’ hive, boxes are added underneath and the bees build downward. Eventually, the initial brood box will be converted by the bees into a honey super and we’ll harvest the comb from there. But not this year. And maybe not the next. The bees get all honey until there’s too much. Then and only then do we take any honey.

But I can tell you in all honesty that there’s nothing like bees. And becoming a beekeeper will be the best thing you will ever do with your life. Truly.

~Blessed are the Bees for they will save us all!

 

foraging

 

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New Life in the Apiary and the Unexpected Swarm

apiary package

 

Two new hives went into the apiary this year along with two new colonies of bees. We purchased a five-frame nuc for the long hive and a package for the Warre’. The long hive combines the rectangular shape of a top bar hive with the traditional Langstroth design allowing for a nuc to be easily installed.

long hive

The Warre’ is a little different, however. Smaller in size, it’s customary to buy a package and dump them inside the box. The queen is in a cage, rather than on one of the frames as with the nuc. The nuc is essentially an established colony, with brood, honey, pollen, and drawn comb on plastic frames. The package of bees must first accept the queen and then begin building their comb for the queen to lay her eggs. She’s already taken her maiden flight for mating purposes at this point and she needs a place to begin laying. For this hive, I chose foundationless frames so that I could see them do their own thing instead of attaching to plastic foundation. This particular Warre’ hive has an inspection window to check out how the comb building is doing. The picture above was at the end of their first day in their new home.

Warre hive and package

After dumping the bees into the Warre’ box, I located the queen cage and dug out the cork plug to insert a small marshmallow. I placed the queen back in on the bottom of the hive. You can release the queen directly, but this way, they have to work to get to her, increasing the chance that she’ll be accepted. Odds are, however, that process has already taken place while in the package.

queen cage

 

Next, we installed the five-frame nuc in the new long hive. We divided the hive in half and used only one end, putting the nuc frames in the middle of that section of the hive. It’s the same idea as having two Langstroth style hive boxes side by side, but with the ability to have the whole box function as one big hive. It’s like a horizontal top bar hive in that regard, but not V-shaped. The honey tends to be at each end with the brood in the middle in a horizontal hive and I also purchased foundationless frames for this hive as well. After a couple of days, I went back in and alternated a foundationless frame with a nuc frame so that they could begin to build their own comb. The comb in the nuc was a little darker than I would have liked to see, but it is what it is.

Longhive install

I began writing this post before I went outside to work in the garden. I took a break and while outside, I heard the most intense buzzing sound. At first, I thought the bees had found the hawthorn blossoms. But when I walked over by the apiary, I saw bees everywhere above the hives, in a slight funnel shape. I immediately found my husband and we donned our bee suits. One of the hives had swarmed into a tree above. Cool!

swarm

Well, not really cool as much as get the ladder. At least they only went up a few feet. It was our first swarm so we winged it. Jerry got the nuc boxes we have and I got all the pruners I could find. Sometimes you have to prune as you go and you might have to cut the branch they’re on. The bees swarm around the queen, and when they do that, they’re somewhat docile. And it really was cool watching them build their clump. Which they had to do a couple of times because we made several attempts before we got them in the box. Sometimes they drop right off of the branch and fall to the ground as a unit. At least they landed in the cattails. Jerry had to hold the limb there and let them swarm back up and reattach before climbing down with the swarm.

Jerry and the swarm

We discovered right away that if we didn’t put the plug back in the box, the bees would fly out and re-swarm in the same tree. At one point, they began bearding all over one of the hives. I brushed some of them back into the box and closed the lid. No ladder involved this time.

The rumor is, if they swarm once, they’ll do it again. So we drove up to the farm store that carries beekeeping supplies and bought two more boxes with frames. We’d used the last of the extra boxes when we expanded and split the original hive, but evidently the bees had other ideas and swarmed anyway. It’s swarm season after all and it seems like a bunch of folks are experiencing this, many for the first time. So as long as they stay close by, it’s easy to bring them back, but if they travel, then you’re following your bees around the neighborhood until they decide to stop in a tree somewhere.

Swarm in the nuc

Swarms happen even if you do everything right. And the thing is, a swarm isn’t dangerous. They’re swarming around their queen, protecting her, so they’re busy and unconcerned with people around them. So you don’t have to run screaming for the hills. Instead, call 911 and tell them you’ve found a swarm. They’ll contact the local beekeeping association and someone will come and get the bees. If they don’t know who owns the bees, then the swarm catcher will get some free bees if he or she wants them. Otherwise, there’s typically a list that beekeepers put their names on to receive swarm bees. And it certainly beats buying them.

I hope the bees we collected in the nuc box will go back to their hive on their own, but time will tell. I guess we’ll be on swarm watch for the next month or so. Fun times. Stay tuned.

 

apiary

 

 

 

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Thoth Tarot: New Thought, New Beginnings

Thoth Tarot

 

I love when The Magus shows up in a reading. I know when I see it that I need to allow for the possibility of. Doesn’t matter what it ends up being, I just need to allow whatever it is to manifest. The Magician in other decks, Crowley’s Magus is active creative energy in motion. He represents our willpower and the ability to achieve our goals and dreams. Focus in, visualize what you want, and then act.

Adjustment, or Justice in most decks, represents the power of the Goddess within. She is our alignment, our equilibrium, holding the sword of the Magus, balancing duality of self. She tells us to stand in our own power and make decisions from a dispassionate view and that we center, align, and then know.

The sword of The Magus appears for a third time in the Ace of Swords representing our will and intellect and Elemental Air. The Ace of Swords asks us to look beyond illusion and proceed in full clarity via a controlled intellectual presence while avoiding impulsive thought and action, taking time for reflection if necessary.

The redundancy of the Sword of the Magus is not to be ignored in this reading. Clearly, allowing for all possibilities, all potentials, is the preferred way forward. Judgment clouds our perception and the Ace of Swords cuts away all of that leaving only brilliance and clarity in its place. The dispassionate view suggested by Adjustment reinforces this notion as it supports decisions made from a balanced perspective. Crowley suggests a sexual component to the Sword, representing the phallus, referring to her as the woman satisfied. Please. The sword represents true balance. If she were truly reflecting satisfaction, I think other colors would have been used. The blues reflect the cold steel of the sword, balance, and alignment.

Numerologically, the cards add up to 10 which can be reduced to 1. Again, it brings us back to The Magus and his Sword. The number one is about oneness and beginnings and it sounds like new ideas are about to manifest. With the presence of The Magus, we know that all things are possible, so it would seem that we’re in for a creative period.

I’m pretty sure we call that Spring. But perhaps the cards are telling us that it’s time to embrace new thinking and to rid ourselves of thoughts that disturb our alignment. I know that’s true for me, so as the plants continue to grow with help from our ever-expanding bee colony, I’ll use this time to appreciate Spring as it unfolds and let troubling thoughts be taken by the wind.

~Blessed Be