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Archive for June, 2013

Guess what was in our horse pasture this morning…

Well. Yah…  I mean besides the horses.

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I counted 23 Bighorn Sheep – all rams. 

We could see them from the house as I was getting ready for work.  Hubby and I grabbed the camera, jumped into the pickup and ‘went on safari’.  There were all sizes of rams several old ones with full curls and even a couple of yearlings.

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We have been seeing Bighorn sheep around here lately but never a group this large.  It was fun to watch how they moved – traveling in a tight pack with an occasional yearling tagging along behind – jumping and kicking up his heels like he was just happy to be out with the big boys. 

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Hubby thought perhaps they stuck so close together because the flies were bothering them.  They weren’t bothered by the pickup as they slowly worked their way along the fence till they got to the spot where they crossed the fence.  With a quick jump they bounced up to the top of the rock and easily stepped over the fence.  It appears the fence is a little low there but then our cows normally don’t climb on rocks!

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What a great way to start the day!

 

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It’s official.  These bees are going to drive me to drink. 

Don’t get me wrong – I LOVE MY BEES!!!   But I have always been a worrier and it appears I have adopted something new to worry about. 

It’s not because they’re aggressive – far from it.  In fact, I’ve been working with the hives lately without my crazy ranch wife bee suit and we’ve been getting along just fine.  I know one of these days I will probably end up with a nice big swollen bee sting right on the end of my nose but for now they are tolerating me pretty well.

The problem is that I have only had bees for a little over a month and it seems like we have pretty much had a crash course in beekeeping.  Just when I think things are going well they throw something new at me…

One week after installing the girls into their new homes it was time to open the hives and make sure the queens (Beatrix and Matilda – of course I’ve named them) had made it out of their cages.  I suited up and headed out with my shiny new smoker and an assortment of tools any seasoned beekeeper would be proud of.   Hubby was all set to take pictures but the camera battery was dead so instead he drove the pickup as close to the hive as possible and watched from the safety of the front seat.  Yes – he had all the windows rolled up tight. 

Something tells me he’s still not sure about this whole ‘bee thing’. 

It was a beautiful day.  The bees were happy, the smoker worked like a charm and best of all the queens were out of the cages.  I was super surprised to see that each of the hives already held nearly half a box of wonderful honeycomb.  It was impressive – after only one week the bees were doing great.  Carefully, I lifted one bar of comb out of the box for Hubby to see.  It was beautiful, light yellow and covered with bees.  I looked at Hubby with a huge grin on my face when the whole comb fell off the bar and crashed onto the ground!   Nooooooooo!!!!  I felt horrible.  What was I supposed to do now?

I picked up the chunk of comb and carefully laid it back into the hive but a pile of bees lay at my feet and all I could think of was “Where’s the queen?”

I knelt there for a while and watched the churning pile of bees but couldn’t see the queen.

What a mess!  I didn’t know what to do so I closed the hive and walked away, hoping the bees could sort it out.  And in about 5 minutes the whole cluster of bees was back inside where they belonged.  I’m sure my little bee girlfriends were cussing under their bee breath about the inept beekeeper they got stuck with but at least all seemed well in the hive world once again.

At least until the next evening.

After work I went out to do some gardening and check on the bees when I noticed lots (and I do mean LOTS) of activity at the front of Beatrix’s hive.  I watched for a while thinking they must have really started gathering goodies when I realized there wasn’t hardly any flowers blooming yet.  I took a closer look.  Bees were coming and going in a frenzy.  It looked like an international airport with the departing bees climbing up the front of the boxes to take off as the incoming bees flew straight to the entrance and ran inside.  There were also clusters of bees struggling on the landing pad and dead bees had started to litter the ground.  I checked the second hive and found lots of bees coming and going but nobody wrestling on the landing pad.

What the heck???

I remember something about this in my favorite book Beekeeping for Dummies.  I looked up ‘Robbing in Hives’ and from the book’s description it was pretty obvious that’s what was going on.  Matilda’s hive was attacking Beatrix’s hive and they were stealing whatever they could.  The book stated that this behavior occasionally happens after a hive has been opened and the scent of honey has been released into the air. 

Bingo! 

I’m sure that when I dropped the piece of comb on the ground I had made matters even worse.  And to top it off, the book also stated that the type of feeder I am using is bad for causing this behavior as it places a food source (sugar-water) right at the entrance of the hive.  How did I miss that when I read the book?

OK, I had made lots of mistakes and I guess its time to build some new feeders.  But that would have to wait till I could get the robbing stopped.

I checked several websites and tried to figure out what to do.  It was getting dark so I blocked off part of the entrance with some wood chips to narrow down the opening – hopefully to make the hive easier to defend.  One of the websites I found had also shown a simple wooden frame covered with window screen to seal off the entrance so I ran to the shed and found the materials I needed and quickly whipped up one.  With staple gun in hand I waited till the temperature dropped and the robbing stopped for the night.  It was nearly 10:00pm when the bees settled down for the night and I stapled the screened frame into place.

The next morning, with the regular hive entrance completely sealed off and only a very small opening (just big enough for one bee at a time) at the very top of the frame I waited to see what would happen.  It worked like a dream.  The attacking bees remained focused at the entrance while the bees who lived in Beatrix’s hive were able to exit the hive and move around under the screened area untill they found the opening at the top.  They were soon coming and going without any problems.  After 4 or 5 days of this it appeared the attacking hive had given up and were soon side-tracked by the opening blossoms of the gooseberry bushes in our tree strip.

I heaved a sigh of relief.

I began to wonder how long we were supposed to leave the screen on then one evening (after the first warm day of the season) I noticed this:

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 OK, what the heck is this?

I ran back to my copy of Beekeeping for Dummies.  Thankfully, it appears they were simply ‘bearding’ – kind of like a beehives’ version of everybody going out to sit on the porch and enjoy the cool evening air.   That’s a relief. 

According to the book this is sometimes caused by not enough ventilation. 

OK girls – I get the hint – it’s time to remove the screen (you can see the side of it on the left side of the photo). 

Once again life is good in the beehive world….  At least I think it is.

What do you think Steve?

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 I agree – we need a drink!

Good dog!

 

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