Sunday, February 28, 2010

Mini Hurricane

Last night for over 12 hours we experienced what can only be described as a mini hurricane. The Spanish neighbors said they had never seen the like! Trees broken and torn out by the roots. Concrete roof tiles flying threatening anyone stupid enough to venture outside. I was lucky in that I only lost a few roof tiles, but I just knew that my hives would be decimated. First light when it had settled down. I ventured down to the apiary to find my hives all scattered. After having had a few blow overs last year, I had repositioned some hives close to trees for shelter and leaned planks against the hives but this was just too much! The winds were about 85 miles per hour, it said on the news. The bees were in foul mood at being not only knocked apart but also buffeted by these winds for 12 or so hours. I put back together what I could, even though they resented me for it. I am sure I will loose a few but hope that at least some will pull through. At least the temps were warm and there was no rain.
A sad day for bees but I heard that 15 people had died in France from the same storm. That sobering thought puts it into perspective.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

More Bait Hives

The time has arrived for me to start deploying my bait hives ready for the imminent swarming season. Tomorrow I will be setting out 4 x double warre within Layens boxes and 2 single warre + ekes, as mentioned in my previous posts. These will go nearby my home apiary. I have a couple of other locations in which I will put just a single bait hive, hoping to catch a feral swarm. One will be a small Kenyan (about half size)

And another my papercrete box. Both will take standard Kenyan top bars.

This photo shows the papercrete box upside down having repairs done to the entrance hole. Whilst in storage, some rodent had enlarged the hole, gained access and munched on the combs. You can see the remains in this photo. I have already repaired the hole with sawdust mixed with wood glue.

A couple of years ago, I made these two queen mating boxes. I never got a chance to use them, so I stored them away. I found a cast had entered one of them. They drew one comb in which you can see the remains of some brood. They obviously decided to find somewhere else more spacious. I consider this my donation to the feral population. Anyway, it shows that even with a tiny bait box, it is possible to catch bees!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Bees on Rosemary

A beautiful sunny and warm today and I planted my first batch of Inula seed bombs on my morning walk. I noticed first thing that the bees were all over the Rosemary and the Almonds. Yesterday, I sat and watched bees on some planted Lavender Stoechas, taking both pollen and nectar at the same time. They were doing the same this morning as I stood amidst the almond trees watching bees taking both pollen and nectar simultaneously. All my hives are now flying strongly. I also watched the bees on the Rosemary, the stamens of the flowers, being arched, painted mauve coloured stripes on the backs of bees taking the nectar. I tried to photograph this later with a macro lens. Unfortunately I didn't get the shots I wanted but here are two of the best shots. Dont forget to click on the photos to enlarge them.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Guerrilla Norm

Reading and watching You Tube videos about Guerrilla Gardening got me to thinking how this could benefit my bees. My dearth period is broken by a plant called Inula Viscosa which flowers in September. This is the most important plant for my bees. It grows in odd places around and I have been collecting the seed from last year. It makes good sense to spread these seeds within flying distance from my hives. I was struggling trying to make some tiny newspaper envelopes for them when my wife says she has a stamp for cutting out tiny enevelopes that she has for greeting card making. Worth a try I thought.

It didn't cut cleanly through the thin newspaper as it is meant to cut card but it did OK. It also scores a square of fold lines that is hard to see but makes the folding easier.

I folded three sides with a dab of paper glue.

I did a dozen or so, waited a few minutes to let the glue dry then put a little compost in the envelope.

Using tweezers I put a few seeds in the packet and stirred them into the compost.

Folded over the remaining flap and with a dab of glue I had my first mini seed parcels.

It took no time at all to make this dozen parcels and I will be making and distributing many more on my morning dog walk. A quick hoof of my heel, drop in the parcel and sidefoot the soil back over the parcel.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Photo of Warre + Quilt Bait Hive

Here is the photo to go with the previous post.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Eke for single warre box bait hive.

On further reflection, a single warre box is only 18 litres volume. My successes in the past have been mainly in a little larger volume. I have now decided to use the warre quilt with the mesh removed as an eke to go under the single warre box increasing the total volume to 27 litres. If it succeeds in baiting a swarm, I can quickly transpose a new box under the top one and remove the quilt before they build down too much.

Friday, February 12, 2010

More on Bait Hives

I know I said that 2 warre boxes are the ideal volume for a swarm and that is true but I have had some success in the past using smaller boxes. As well as the two box warre in the Layens boxes mentioned before, I will also try a couple of single warre boxes. I prepared one today re-using old materials.

I started by adapting a standard warre floor. I think the standard warre floor footprint is too small when the hive gets taller so I am adapting all of mine by adding boards as feet. I used two pieces from the pallet beams from my recent post. I used 8 long screws previously recovered from my blue kenyan hive to screw the beams to the old floor.

Sat an old warre box on top, still with 8 top bars and starter strip foundation. Then stapled a square of mosquito netting over the top of the box.

I am not putting standard warre quilts on these bait hives but cut squares of wool carpet.

The roof is finally put on and now just waiting until I am ready to set them out. There is no old comb in this one, just the starter strips, so I will insert a couple of pieces of propolis in the entrance well to give it a welcoming smell to any scout bee that comes near.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Ugly Warre Boxes

Now that I have run out of the wood that I had brought back from Sweden, I took apart two old pallets. These are pallets used for delivering building materials and have been stood outside in the elements for 3 or 4 years now. Anything nasty that may have contaminated them has long since gone. Here is the amount of wood I got from two pallets.

I cut each piece into 35cm lengths.

Then I ripped each piece 3 times to true them and size them down to 7cm wide. Selecting the best for the long sides, cut them all to length. I glued and dowelled 3 pieces together to get 21cm panels. Cut the rebates in the short sides and made up 6 warre boxes. The dowels I used were made from the rebate cutouts. The end result is not pretty but these boxes are going to sit inside Layens outer boxes.

I made a mistake cutting the top bars! I cut the lengths too short. I had a senior moment and cut them 28cm instead of 32cm! Trouble was I didn't realize until I had cut and grooved about 60 of them! Luckily I used the pallet beams to make a batch the correct length.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Tractor Warre Lift

I used my tractor warre lift for the first time today. The hive that has a layens transfer box with 8 Layens frames in it was sat on a floor which I wanted to change for one with a larger footprint. To achieve this I had to move the hive about half a metre to the left and set it on some concrete blocks that I had previously levelled. It worked really well! I connected the strop to the front bucket of the tractor, lifted slightly and reversed slowly in crawl gear whilst my wife steadied it by hand. Then forward to position over the new floor and box and then gently lowered onto it whilst my wife guided it to sit correctly.

click to enlarge

I put the roof back on and will now wait until April when I will harvest the top Layens box. This transfer box is about equal to two warre boxes so it will be interesting to find out if there are still any brood in it. The bees hardly noticed they had been moved and didn't bother us at all.

I set down the original floor by the entrance so that the bees on it could walk back home.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Lifting a Warre

Time is getting on and the point where I will have to lift my warre hives to add bottom boxes will soon be here. I have two options, I could remove each box in turn and then set down on top of the new box and restack them. One of the main management points about warre hives is that you do not disturb the nest atmosphere, so that method is out! I am left with lifting the whole stack in one go and I am not physically capable of doing this by hand. I have seen some of those hive lifters that other warreors have built and was thinking along these lines at first. Then I thought about my simple lifting system in Sweden. How could I utilize a similar system here? Answer, my tractor lift bucket will be the power source. Position tractor bucket over hive. Screw down a clamp onto front of the bucket. Hang a lifting strop from the clamp and attach strop to hive. I screwed 4 eye bolts to corners of warre boxes. I bought 4 quick release shackles from the hardware store and a washing line. Washing line cord is surprisingly strong. Cut 4 lengths and attached them to the shackles with the knot shown in the photo below. I then used some of the cord to make a circle to tie the other ends of the shackle cords to. I used tape to tuck away all the loose ends. The rope circle will hang from the clamp screwed to the tractor bucket. I can then lift the whole stack slowly with just one finger.