Thursday, July 31, 2008

July compressed

I had planned to update before now, truly I did. But a couple very disappointing things happened after my last post and it took me a while to feel positive about my efforts this year.

After my last post I discovered that I had lost the entire hive. I know what happened now and we'll just call it a series of beginner mistakes and lack of complete information from those that were helping me. It probably would not have happened if I'd gone with nucs instead of packaged bees. Apparently the packaged bees are a bit more maintenance in the beginning and I didn't really know what to watch for.

The same week I lost the one hive, I also discovered a water retention issue....certain parts of the garden weren't retaining it well at all. I think the large black locust nearby wasn't helping either. So I had a lot of very small potatoes and it probably explains some of my struggle with other plants.

I was pretty down that week. There is inherent risk with anything living and never any guarantees. But I felt like too many things were failing right at that point. I'm feeling better now...

The Tithonia Torch is drawing mad amounts of butterflies and other nectar seeking insects. It was literally alive with activity the other day;

This bumble bee was quite happy. He's not from my hive, honey bees don't look like this. But he was sure going to town on my flowers.

I went into the strong hive for some maintenance and to make sure they were ok. They looked great! My co-workers bought me the bee suit for my birthday and I am loving it. Thank you ladies!!

I'm also very happy with the design of the hive stand we built together. It holds a lot of items and hive parts while I'm working. Very convenient and sturdy.

The tomatoes kept getting larger and larger...

..and more ripe by the day. To date, we've eaten 4 or 5 of the large Brandywines and too many cherry tomatoes to count! The flavor on both is incredible. I've had home grown tomatoes many times but I don't think I've ever tasted anything quite like the Brandywines. They are made of YUM.

This watermelon plant is a volunteer and slowly taking over the herb garden. Heck, I can move herbs if needed. It's happy there.

We've managed to keep harvesting lettuce. There is a very slight bitterness to some of it that you don't even notice when it's in a salad. I'm pretty happy about the lettuces and salad materials this year. That's one thing I can always enjoy.

The harvest from one day last week. The cuke was too bitter, mostly to my irregular watering practices lately. We had several good cucumbers before that. The lettuce basket has a bunch of basil in there too. I can eat basil on everything!

One of the meals from our garden. A salad with lettuces, herbs, tomatoes and feta cheese and a baked sandwich with basil, tomato and cheese.

We dug up several varieties of potatoes, the All Blue (which are actually purple) included. They aren't my favorite for flavor or texture but the gorgeous color makes them totally worth the effort.

This was a night of beans, cabbage, zucchini and crook-neck squash all went into that pot of soup. We also had steamed beet, which I happily ate for myself since nobody else likes it.

The zucchini, beet and crook-necks were all from another local garden. I won them in the silent auction at the annual Washington County Beekeeper's Association picnic. Got to see a long hive out at the Exchange Place. That was truly interesting.

The hive is laid out length wise instead of being built upwards. It's useful for someone who might have back problems or other health concerns but wants to keep bees. I would think in our winters a long hive might have trouble keeping warm. Apparently that one is fine though.

it's been a month of disappointments and rewards. Chalk it up to living and learning. We're talking about expanding the garden bed in a dramatic way next year and adding a couple more hives. Bring it on!

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

The buzz

I mentioned that one of my hives had me worried and was very weak. After talking to the folks at K&K again, I went with their advice to place a new queen in the colony and take a frame of brood from the healthy hive to give them a boost. So here I am getting into the weak hive.

This frame should be covered with bees and wax and you can see there's not much of anything. The brood that was present looked dried up and there were NO eggs or young larvae present at all.

I have a theory as to what may have happened, but it's all a guess at this point. I think the original queen may have been weak to begin with and didn't lay enough brood. Something happened to her, or they swarmed (which makes no sense, but is still a possibility) and the hive decided to make a new queen. I found two empty queen cells, so my thought is that two queens hatched and rather than one of them dominating, they killed each other and the hive didn't have enough brood to make a new one at that point.

Their numbers were declining rapidly, but there is no sign of disease.

Placing the new queen in the hive.

I checked on her yesterday and they almost had her out of the queen cage. I'll wait a few more days before checking again. I'm worried about this hive, but there isn't much I can do at this point but wait....
and wait.

Lotsa things in life are like that aren't they? :) The bees are helping me be more Zen. Ah, that would make a good post..."Zen and the art of beekeeping".