Bees, General Pasture

Turning an unfortunate situation around

We planted a wildlife plot in the back of the pasture last week. It involved disking the existing weeds under. All went well until the hydraulic hose shot out the rear of the tractor preventing us from raising the disk out of the ground.

So we had no choice but to lightly disk the main road through the pasture to return the equipment to the barn.

However the mechanical issues created an opportunity to spread some clover seed in the minorly disturbed ground. The soil gains nitrogen and the wild (eventually domesticated too) browsers gain protein and bees will gain nourishment. I’ll take any chance I get to make the farm more pollinator friendly!

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Bees

First bee betrayal

I got arrogant. Four months of beekeeping had not yielded a single sting with no attempt even being made at trying to penetrate my protective clothing. Why would I need smoke or veil or jacket or gloves just to snug the frames together quickly?

With the lid removed and one hand set to remove the inner cover, my days without incident reset from infinity to zero.

Turns out that three consecutive days approaching 100 degrees fahrenheit not only makes people grumpy, but honeybees as well.

Remember:

I get stung frequently unrelated to beekeeping mostly owing to my immense joy in going barefoot when not actively engaged in some activity that requires shod feet. Most of those activities involve walking on turf containing white clover. Stings themselves are completely devoid of pain. The initial sting still sends the subconscious alarm signal that screams “THIS SENSATION IS NOT NORMAL” and sets off the surge of adrenaline that initiates the flight response. When the stinger is removed promptly, the venom only causes 30-90 seconds of mild soreness.

One of my ladies got me square in the elbow. Partly due to the aforementioned arrogance and partly due to recognizing a valuable learning opportunity, I left the stinger in to show my friend how to properly remove it once we had retreated to a safe distance. Scraping sideways with a fingernail is the proper method avoid injecting the remaining venom in the eviscerated venom sac that is ripped from the bee’s organs resulting it is Kamikaze like death.

The result: 2 days feeling like I chipped my elbow bone. Instead of sunlight being my morning alarm, it was the pain from rolling over onto my elbow due to the habit of side-sleeping that multiple shoulder surgeries instilled.

Lesson learned: Use smoke and wear protection! I was lucky to escape with stings only on my arms and torso while my unveiled face eluded the wrath of my hive.

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Bees

Honeybee Update: Comb issue fixed and honey super added to one hive

My problems with bad comb formation were do to my inattention at properly spacing the frames. The issue was fixed on my end and my bees have fulfilled their end of the bargain.

My strong hive had drawn out and begun to fill with nectar 7.5 of the frames in the second deep super I added in May. So 10 days ago I spritzed some brand new medium frames with my bee-drench and added a medium super. 6 days later, they hadn’t added a lick of wax, but August isn’t exactly the time of prime nectar flow.

The other hive is still lagging. I added a second deep super in June. A month and a half later, I went out with a medium super ready to be added. My actions proved to be wishful thinking as they have only filled out 4 of the frames in the second deep super.

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Bees

Accidental but still beneficial cover crop mistake

My brain works in mysterious ways. I even wrote about this exact subject on my post regarding native pollinators. I stated that New Zealand was faced with the choice of importing Red Clover seed every year, or importing a bumblebee from the United Kingdom to pollinate the flowers to produce their own crop of seed.

Yet somehow I failed to make the connection that my choice in Red Clover cover cropping in the garden would not provide much nourishment my own honeybees. Even so, I am happy to feed the native bees all the same!

The flowers of red clover are too small for the short mouthparts of honeybees to access freely so it is not a reliable nectar source. Or so the old sources say!

Now if you search any beekeeping forum for recommendations on the best clover, the answers are varied. It really seems like all the varieties work to some degree while the one I picked for my food plots is falling out of favor (yellow sweet clover). Regardless, they all fix nitrogen and contain good protein for grazing and nourish either my bees or the native pollinators.

Oh well, I am just going to use the shotgun approach and try to observe my bees. There is lots of Dutch white clover that I’ve seen my bees working in early spring that is growing in the small areas of the barnyard that I mow. In fact mowing white clover will cause it to continuously bloom extending the nectar flow indefinitely until frost. I plan to overseed the turf with more white clover this fall.

I recently planted a wildlife plot in the back of the pasture where my goals are to nourish my four legged wild cohabitants as well as my bees. The plot was disked then broadcast very sparsely with buckwheat as a nurse and more densely with rapeseed and forage turnips. After disking again I broadcast some sweet, crimson and red clover on top before mulching lightly with straw.

Now growing in tandem with buckwheat as a garden cover crop, one bed contains sweet clover while the rest contain red clover. To make my life easier by removing one extra decision, I hope a pattern emerges regarding which clover grows best in the general pasture, and which variety my bees prefer. A post will be made if such a revelation is made!

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Bees, Garden

All the pollinators I’ve been able to capture in the buckwheat so far

The butterflies are tough thus not represented in the right proportion. They seem to be skittish and I have a hard time getting close enough to snap a picture with any detail.

My etymological identification skills beyond bees are poor. If you know what any of these are, please let me know!

Wasps:

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Butterflies

 

 

While I was watering

 

Bees:

Carpenter Bee Butt

My honeybee

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Bonus Mantis!

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Bees, Garden

Finally!

I caught a few of my ladies in my blooming buckwheat!

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Look at the pollen pants!

I thought my bees disliked the buckwheat or were maybe more attracted to the neighbors soybeans. Up until this point, I’ve seen carpenter bees 5 different species of wasps and 21 different butterflies (assuming males and females look alike in each species) but no honeybees!

I’ve been taking pictures of many of the native pollinators I find in the buckwheat and will consolidate them into a single post.

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Bees

The poor comb formation of my bees

This only happens on 1-2 frames per 10.

I am being lazy when returning the frames to the hive after inspection. As a result, I am leaving an ever so slightly gap between the top of the frames where they should be pushed together snug.

With the extra space, my honeybees are confused. Instead of nice uniform flat comb like in this image from late spring,

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My bees are making comb like this:

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To remedy this, I simply scrape off the offending comb, then return the frame to the hive with special care given to proper spacing. Many beekeepers recommend centering the frames, but it is not as important as making sure the frames are pushed together tightly.

You can leave the removed comb a few hundred yards from the hive allowing your bees to rob back their own honey. If left near the hive, it will attract robber bees as well as pests, both in bug and mamallian forms.

More simply, you can also just harvest (or eat on the spot) the honey and wax!

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