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Posts Tagged ‘Wyoming Bee College’

I never thought I’d be able to say such a thing but I have been to Bee College – Wyoming Bee College no less!

I would guess there were around 300 people attending and they had classes on commercial beekeeping, making salves and products from your honey and beeswax, selling strategies,  baking and cooking with honey and one very nice lady told us all about the bumble bee.  I spent last weekend meeting all kinds of nice people who love bees and I learned all kinds of wonderful things about them like:

1.  You should harvest your honey on Mothers Day – winter should be over by then and the nectar run should have started.  That means any honey in the hives should be extra.

2.  One skunk can destroy a hive in less than a week.  They scratch on the side of the hive and eat the bees when they come out to protect their hive.  Bad Skunk!

3. You can dehydrate honey to make powdered sugar.  Sweet!

4.  Beeswax lip balm is easy to make and works really well.

5.  Bumble bee queens can grow up to 3″ in length.

6.  A raindrop falling can kill a bee.

And the most frightening thing I learned:

7.  Snakes will sometimes move into a hive for the warmth and possibly to eat a mouse who has moved in.  Yikes!  Good thing I learned that because if I had lifted a hive and had a snake pop out I would have dropped the hive and wet my pants!  At least now it won’t be a total surprise.  Perhaps I need to add a hoe or a long handled shovel to my beekeeping kit.  I thought about a pistol but I would probably just shoot lots of holes into my hive and totally miss the snake!

I had tried to get a couple of friends to go with me to college but no one could make it so at 3:30 am I hit the road.  Actually, I think that early morning departure time might have had something to do with no one going with me.  Ha!

A storm had moved in Friday night and by the time I left a couple of inches of light, fluffy snow had piled up and it was still coming down but I took off anyway.  The roads weren’t bad and I was only slowed down because of the snowplows that were out.  Those guys take their jobs seriously.  The snow was so light that it was easy to push but following behind the plow there was no way to get close enough to pass because they stirred up such a cloud of snow you couldn’t see a thing.  So since I prefer to arrive at an event alive I just backed off and took my time.  You have to love Spring!  It snowed all day Saturday and then melted and totally disappeared on Sunday and the roads were great coming home.

It has definitely been a ‘bee week’ around here.  Monday night I gave a talk about beekeeping to our garden club in Custer.  This is what my pickup looked like.

Does anyone else ever think about what would happen to you if you rolled your vehicle when it’s loaded like this?  It wouldn’t be pretty.

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I’m not sure if my talk convinced anyone to become a beekeeper but we did have some laughs especially when it came to my crazy ranch wife ‘ bee suit’ which has gotten a couple of new accessories – and I didn’t even have to fight the dog for them.

Happy Spring!!!

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I bet you thought I had fallen off the face of the planet – didn’t you?

Well, I didn’t – but my computer nearly did.  After a long time and a small pile of cash things are finally getting back to normal.

It has been a cold, dark and dreary winter and we are all ready for spring to roll in like a run-away Mac truck without brakes but winter has been pretty stubborn around here.  Even so, I have been watching for any sign of spring and am happy to announce that even though it is only March the first spring flowers are blooming here at the ranch!  Of course they are dandelions and they are growing inside the greenhouse.  I really should take the hoe to them but after last winter I am content to watch them bloom – for now.

The best news though is that it appears both of the beehives have survived the winter.  As cold as it was I was getting a little worried about them and had even sent off an order for 2 more packages of bees to arrive the end of April.  But then it happened – we had a few nice days above 50 degrees and we saw the first activity at the entrances.

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They’re moving slow and they don’t get very far from home but they are moving.  I was sad when I realized they were moving dead bees out of the hive and piling up the little carcasses on the ground out front.

It was a really tough winter.

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I am amazed that they can survive temperatures of -30 (or colder) with just a loose wrapping of tar paper to help block the wind.  We did leave them with plenty of honey – 4 boxes instead of the 2 that all the books suggest so I didn’t really worry about them starving to death but I did worry about the wind.  With those extra boxes the hives were a little bit top-heavy but the straps and cement blocks held them steady enough – at least until last Tuesday morning.

I heard the wind before I even climbed out of bed.  It was howling pretty steady then around 6:00 am the house was hit with a gust that sounded like it was trying to tear the roof off.  One huge blast then 15 minutes later the wind died down and had nearly quit.  It was a bit eerie, but we still had a roof so I figured everything was OK until I stepped out to feed the chickens and found Beatrix’s hive tilted to the side at about a 45 degree angle!   Steve (our Corgi) nearly jumped out of his skin when I screamed and ran across the yard.  He hasn’t seen me run very often and frankly – he doesn’t like it.  He believes I was built for comfort not speed and I tend to agree.

It didn’t take long to realized it wasn’t as bad as it looked.  Thankfully, the blue strap, with the snazzy chain adapter, was cinched down tight enough that the hive had tilted as one solid piece and didn’t break apart in the middle.  The green strap had also caught the top and kept the whole hive from tumbling off of the cement blocks too so it was just hanging there like the leaning tower of Pisa.  It didn’t take much to stand it back up, re-adjust the straps and move a few more cement blocks in beside it.  The roof is still a little tilted like it got crammed down really hard but hopefully our girls are OK inside.  It was too cold to open the hive right then so I will wait for the next nice day before I check.

I have been reading and thinking a lot about bees this winter.  There are some great books out there with lots of good information.  I have also been building 2 new hives (for the bees that are coming), and there’s also plans for a ‘Honey Hoist’ (so I can lift the hives by myself) and a couple of swarm traps to see if I can catch a wild swarm – free bees is a wonderful thing.  From everything I’ve read it’s kind of like fishing.  You set out bait – a swarm trap made out of a hive box that has been used and smells like honey and beeswax and then you sit and wait for someone to fly by and take a whiff.  Since it’s more of a dumb luck kinda thing I should be really good at this.

I have even given a couple of talks to different organizations (and basically anyone who would sit still and listen).  Since I am becoming something of a local ‘Honey bee expert’ (that’s code for ‘crazy bee lady’) I have decided to purchase a few props for my next talk which will be for the Custer Mile High Garden Club next Monday night.

My lovely assistant Steve has offered to model them for you.

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It’s like doggy camouflage for when we’re working bees.  The bees will never suspect that he is a dog and not a actual winged member of the colony.  At least that’s what I’ve told him and so far he believes it.  The wings and antenna really do look better on Steve than they do on me – but even he admits he doesn’t have the legs for the tights – yellow and black strips – way cool!  Now if I could just find a yellow tutu…

Yes, it should be a fun-filled discussion at the old garden club but before I impress the gardeners I will spend this weekend in Cheyenne, WY at the first (but hopefully not last) Wyoming Bee College.  2 days of beekeeping classes, banquets and lots of people who will teach me everything I ever wanted to know about bees but was afraid to ask.  The conference is  presented by the Laramie County Extension Office and is a really good deal at $50 for both days.  It sounds like they have some great speakers lined up and even a few vendors who will sell me wonderful things I simply can’t live without.

So I will leave Steve in charge while I am gone.

And I’m sure things will be fine…

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“Look deep into my eyes.  You are getting very sleepy.”

“Now repeat after me,  I must feed the dog…  I must give him bacon…”

Steve, you crack me up!

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