Archive | July 2015

Bee Keeping – What have I done? Part 2

So having a little trouble with one of the hives, see part 1 for the details.

The new queen finally arrived almost two weeks later! I was amazed at how little packaging there was for my precious cargo. Just an envelope with a couple of air holes and a small wooden cage.

Out to the hives I went with tools and smoker in hand. I opened the hive and there were still a lot of bees in there. So I started looking around. Still nothing in the bottom box in terms of capped cells. Then I pulled a few frames from the top box. Due to the panic attack I had the last time, I didn’t pay close attention to which was the frame I pulled from the strong hive that was full of capped brood. Just know it was one of two older frames in the top box middle section. One of these frames was empty cells. The other had some capped brood and appeared to be eggs and larva. Ugh! Do I now have a queen?? Or is it a laying worker?? A laying worker will happen in the absence of a queen, but because of genetics she can only raise drones (male) and will not be able to produce a new queen.

I looked around for a new queen, but since she would have been newly hatched and she wasn’t marked and easy to spot like my original queen I wasn’t able to find her. Looking further I found a supersede queen cell. A supersede queen cell is typically built out in the middle of frame and is done when the hive decides to replace a bad or failing queen. A swarm cell is typically built on the bottom or edge of the frame and is intended to replace the queen when the original queen takes half the hive and swarms off to a new location. So again I PANICKED! I closed back up the hive and went to the internet.

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I couldn’t find anything specific to my situation, so I went the Facebook page of my local bee club and explained the situation. I either had a laying queen, laying worker, or would soon have a supersede queen. What was I supposed to do with the newly arrived queen? I didn’t have more equipment to start a new hive with her, although my lovely wife seeing my distress offered to buy some. After a day there was only one response and it was a vote to install the newly arrived queen and let the hive work out the details. Good enough for me!

To install a new queen you remove a frame and suspend the queen cage in the open space. The cage comes with a candy/sugar plug and a wooden cork. You are supposed to remove the cork and make a small hole in the candy. If introduced directly, the bees would kill the queen because they don’t know her and assume she was an invader there to steal the honey. After placing the cage, the bees will slowly eat the candy plug and in the mean time become familiar with the new queen. Then when she is finally released they don’t kill her, but accept her. The mail order queens typically come already mated, so once freed she gets right to work laying eggs.

So I prepped the queen cage by screwing a flat shim to it allowing me easily to hang it between the frames. Placed it in the bottom box and closed it up. The instructions say to leave the hive alone for a week. Then check that she is free, remove the empty cage, and replace the removed frame. If she is not free, I am to open the screened part and allow her to walk out onto a frame. It also said she should be able to survive in the cage for up to three weeks. So I am trying to be patient and wait a week, but all I can imagine is that the supersede cell hatched, there was already a laying queen, and my new queen is released from the cage. So right now there is a three way death match going on inside the hive and I am missing it. Ugh!

Chicken Coop Build

As promised, here is the post on our chicken coop build. To start with let me give credit where credit is due. I am NOT a carpenter and don’t play one of TV, so I found these barn shed plans and winged it from there. My lovely wife helped and when a problem arose we sketched it out and made a decision and went with it. We chose this design as our house has gambrel ends and we wanted the coop to match in style.

So first problem we encountered was the area we chose looked almost level, but wasn’t even kind of. So the downhill side was raised almost 30 inches on pressure treated posts. Along with that we live at Stone Hill Ridge, with an emphasis on the “stone”, so digging holes for concrete supports was out. We decided to use concrete deck blocks like this one.

Concrete Deck Block

Concrete Deck Block

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After that was settled, we build the floor deck and walls on our house deck which was flat and level. Really the whole build was done our deck and moved up the hill to the build site for assembly. Here are some picks of the deck and walls going up.
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Then the siding, roof, and sliding barn door went on. The trick we used to get the gambrel roof trusses to match was that after we cut the 2X4’s to the correct angles, we laid one on the deck and used scrap 2X4’s to create a jig. Then we built them by placing 2X4’s into the jig, gluing and screwing the gussets at each joint. The barn door was made from a 2X4 that I routed out the back of to make a lip dep enough to hold the siding. It has casters mounted top and bottom that slide in a 2X4 frame attached to the front wall.
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On the inside we added flooring, roost (made from fencing with some spindles removed), and a nest box. The flooring didnt go down well, it was cold and rainy, but we wanted to get it done. We used vinyl flooring which we will cover with wood shavings for easy cleanup. This worked well in our tiny city coop, so why not here. We built the feeder from scrap lumber. It sits in the corner and is gravity feed. It will easily hold 300 lbs of feed, which I have to watch or I will have a 300lb mouse to show for it. The nest boxes were ordered from eBay. The seller recommended a box for each 3-4 hens. I went with four because the size and shape fit well with the coop and I don’t plan to have more than 16 laying hens. The funny part was the hens started by laying eggs on top of the feeder, but the would roll off an break. I finally took a cardboard box with some straw and placed it on top of the feeder. They are slowly transitioning to “real” nest boxes, but I have one or two that still prefer the cardboard box.
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The final view of the outside. It is 8X10 foot and about 15 ft high at the roof peak. If I do the math right that is 80 sq ft and if you subscribe to having 4 sq ft per chicken I could have up to 20 birds. My birds free range some (see post on Chicken Lock Down) so could go more than 20. We currently have 11 layers, 1 rooster, and 2 guinea fowl. Short term as we raise meat birds we could add birds to the coop, but long term we cant even eat the eggs fast enough as it is with just 11 layers.
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Bee Keeping – What have I done?

It appears I am learning something about bee keeping, like it or not. After using all my will power and staying out of the hives for two weeks (before now I was in them at least once a week) I went into the hives this weekend only to determine I had lost the queen in one of the two hives. It appears it has been a while as I could not find ANY capped brood cells. I did find the start of a couple of queen cells and so I panicked and grabbed a frame of capped brood from the stronger hive thinking they would need something to put in those queen cells and closed it all back up.

After a little (actually very little) internet searching, I realized what I needed was eggs and not capped brood. 🙁 So instead of opening the hives again and causing more stress I went online and ordered a new queen. Hopefully it is not to late in the season to save this hive. Stay tuned for an update when the new queen arrives.

On a positive note, both hives started building nice straight comb on the foundationless frames I gave them two weeks ago. So I swapped out two more frames on the stronger hive. That might be all I do this year to give them time to make a strong run at the fall/winter.