Thursday, April 23, 2009

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Sweet stuff

Who would have thought it would only take 2 days for 3 pounds of bees to go through a two-gallon bucket of sugar syrup.

The bees are busy filling their frames with comb and I suppose it must take a lot of energy to work so hard but it will all seem more natural to me when they get their calories from flowers rather than the baking aisle at Walmart.

To feed them, I boil a gallon of water and then take it off the heat and add a ten pound bag of sugar stirring to help it dissolve. When the syrup cools, I pour it into a two gallon plastic bucket and then struggle to fit the top on to the bucket.

The top of the bucket has two holes and then a screen over the holes. The bucket sits upside down in the top of the hive with the water held in because of a vacuum. The water drips out of the holes and into the screen area and the bees climb up and sip the water from the screen.

When I found the first bucket empty after only two days, I thought that perhaps the vacuum didn't work and it had all poured into the hive, but there was no evidence of a spill--the only explanation is that 10,000 bees can drink a lot of sugar water.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Bald Mountain, Oquossoc

Well, with the bees happily building their comb and the queen freed from her box, we decided to drive over the mountain to Rangely, Maine.

We drove up over the Height of Land where the Appalachian Trail crosses Route 17. Lake Mooselookmeguntic was as startlingly beautiful as ever. The ice was starting to go out from the edges, but it will be awhile before the last of it is gone.

One of at least three Bald Mountains in the state of Maine is located near Rangely in the town of Oquossoc. The Maine Mountain Guide listed the trail as 1 mile to the 2443 foot summit. We were surprised to find the trailhead parking lot still full of snow but decided to park on the road and try the trail anyway. The snow was firm and the air was warm, so we headed up the mountain.

There were parts where the trail was kind of icy and, unprepared as we were for the conditions, I was forced to use my Poland Springs water bottle for an ice axe. Not a recommended use.

At the top of the mountain, there was a fire tower. A little known fact is that I am scared of heights that God didn't make but I'm glad that Charlie encouraged me up the tower--the view was amazing.

It felt so good to be up a mountain and to exert some energy in the fresh air. It was so quiet at the top--at other times of the year the noise of snowmobiles or jetskis would disturb the peace but yesterday in between those seasons, we were the only ones in the world.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Eagle Webcam

There are a lot of other things that I COULD be doing.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

The Beeginning

Well, the bees survived their trip north and I survived our first date.

The hives are going to be at my parents' place in Sumner. They have lots of room, extensive flower and vegetable gardens, a fish pond and hundreds of acres of woods. So, after the bees were delivered to my house in Dixfield, I put their box into the back seat of my car and drove the 15 minutes to their new home.

Charlie and Archie were still at school and my mom was taking a nap, so my Dad and I were on our own for this adventure.

First we set up a "super" which is a box that contains the frames and base for the bees to build their combs on. We had put it all together in his basement over the last few weeks, but the snow just melted enough today to get things set up.

After we got the supers situated and got all of the equipment ready, I brought the bees down. Please note the duct tape stuck onto my shirt. I wanted to be totally prepared and you never know when a piece of duct tape is going to be necessary--so I wanted it handy--it is kind of a fashion statement in Maine to wear duct tape, but that's not why I did it.

Once I got my veil on, I opened up the first box and removed the small box that contained the queen. There was a queen bee and two attendants in the small box and it was plugged with a piece of soft candy. I poked two or three holes in the candy with a nail and then with a rubber band attached the queen box to one of the frames in my super. The worker bees should get the queen out within two or three days.

Once the queen was secured into the super, I removed a couple of frames and shook the rest of the bees in. Most of them just fell right into the super and then I carefully replaced the frames without squishing anybody and placed the box next to the entrance of the super. The bees who remained in the box immediately started marching in attracted by the strong pheramones from their queen.

It went much better than I expected it to. The hard part will be leaving them alone for the next day or two. On Sunday, I plan to check and make sure that the queen is out of her box, if not I will assist and get her out.

There were so many interesting observations in this first experience. There were probably a dozen bees from each box that were on the outside of the box but they didn't fly around, they stayed as close as they could to their own cluster. They were also surprisingly gentle and soft. I think that we are going to have a happy relationship my bees and I.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Bee Prepared

So, the bees are on their way.

Over the weekend, I painted their hives and am desperately hoping that the rain is melting the snow in the spot where I want to place them so that I can set them up before the packages of bees arrive.

White is the traditional bee hive color because it helps keep the hives cool in the summer sun, but up here in the cold north woods, we can use darker colors to assist the bees in keeping their hives warm. I used a dark red called Fireweed and want to paint whimsical designs of flowers and trailing honeybees and a logo--I'm thinking Beth's Bees.

The hive temperature needs to stay at around 93 degrees and we have very few days where the outside temperature tops that, so in Maine we are more concerned with keeping the bees warm than with keeping them cool. I am especially concerned about them when they arrive on Thursday to temperatures in the 40's and nights in the 30's.

Now for the the scary part. The bees are coming in 3 pound packages--there are about 3500 bees to a pound so that makes about 10,000 bees and I'm starting two hives---so that is 20,000 bees. There will be no gentle introduction to my new hobby as I dump them from their traveling box into the hives. I read the section on Installing Your Colony in my Bee Book and then re-read it and then re-read it again. I really don't think there is any margin of error when working with 20,000 bees for the first time. Then, just when I thought I had the book chapter memorized, I decided to check You-Tube. Well, wouldn't you know there are plenty of videos of people installing their bee packages--some good, some not so good--some cautionary tales, some instructive. I watched them all, some of them several times and now every time that my mind has time for any discretionary wandering--it replays the process of installing the bees over and over and over.

If I surivive the installation and if I can find anyone brave enough to photograph it, I will post pictures on Thursday of my hives.