Tag Archive | bee

5 homestead projects in our near future

Got a couple of things rolling around in my head that we want to do on the Ridge in the next 6-12 months. I thought I would share them here and see if there is any feedback, good or bad, that people have had doing these projects themselves.

1) Deer stand
While we have already built a ground blind on a hill side over looking the river bottom, that location is right next to the neighbor’s property and I have actually waved to him in his stand while hunting. Not a good location. My son and I have scouted a place near the middle of the property that seems to be a natural corridor for all types of wildlife. The trail cam I placed there has shots of several deer of all ages. Raccoons, possums, armadillos, and a fox who is a great hunter. The fox is never on camera without a mouth full of something fresh he (she?) has just hunted. We decided his (her?) den must be close to the location. Anyway, back to the deer stand. In the past we have had great luck with a high tree stand (platform) that gets us above the deer line of sight and probably smell. So we have a group of three trees and a 10 foot 4X6 post that will be used to build the platform on. That is happening in August to get it done ahead of bow season which starts Sept 15th here in Missouri.

2) Greenhouse
We secured a free 10X12 greenhouse from some friends who acquired it with a new home purchase, but didn’t want it. They said if we removed it we could have it. So the pile of clear plastic panels has been sitting in the woods all summer. The next step is to have the son-in-law bring over his bobcat and clear/level the location we want to install it. We are questioning a few things with this item. First I think we should have a dirt floor that we can either plant directly into or maybe start a covered worm bin into later. It would save the cost of installing a full concrete foundation, but we still need to secure it to the ground somehow. We are thinking we might be able to anchor it to 6X6 or 8X8 timbers. Then there is the direction to set it up. Our plan is the face the door west with the long (12 foot) sides running east/west and facing south/north.

3) Perone Bee Hive
I discovered this hive design over the past winter and it has really intrigued me. Mostly because it boast of having little to no management needed. While we have 22 acres and currently 3 hives on the Ridge, we also have access to 100 acres about 40 miles away. I would like to setup hives on this other property, but dont expect to be driving 80 miles round trip very often to check on the hives, so low maintenance is required. While this hive was created in a much warmer southern climate, there have been mixed reviews on its success in the states. Honestly, most of the failures I have read about were due to too much beekeeper interaction in my opinion. The plan is to build one this winter and install it early next spring with some swarm lure. The hive’s designer says it does best with an early season primary swarm, so that is what we are going to try and capture straight into the new hive.

4) Farm building
The only building on the property was the house with a two car garage and now the chicken coop we built last winter. We need a proper building for storage and work space. This will be next Spring at the earliest and looking at something like a 30X50. It needs to have a place to work on cars/trucks – hopefully with a lift. Since we are looking at getting goats in the future, we would also like it to have some over hang area to store hay. It will have electricity and I would like to add a water well and plumbing since it wont be close to the house. Any one else setup a new building and have thoughts on other things we need to consider?

5) Pool
Ok, while this might not be the most homesteady of projects, we really want one. We had a 21 foot above ground pool at our last house and there is nothing like jumping in to cool off after a day of splitting wood or working on the car in the heat, etc. The long term plan would be to get a very nice in-ground pool installed, but due to our rocky, hilly location that is a current budget buster. Short-term while the son-in-law is clearing a spot for the greenhouse, we hope he will be willing to clear/level another area for an above ground pool. That is for late spring/early summer next year.

How about you? What big build projects do you have planned in the next 12 months?

Bees are back in town!

Last season we started with two new bee hives and lost both in the late fall early winter. Details here. After a long quiet bee-less winter, we now have bees again!

The plan for this year was to buy a single package of bees, since we had hives, comb, and even honey we chose a package over a nuc. For the other hive I spent the money, less actually, on a pre-built swarm trap in hopes we could catch a “free” swarm. More on that later. We purposely bought a package from a local apiary with a late season delivery in mid-may. The hope was with the delivery during full bloom and the left over honey we would need to feed the new package less.

Trailer Full of Bees

Trailer Full of Bees




So delivery day came and I was off to meet a guy with a trailer full of bees in a random parking lot. Felt a little like we were doing a secret deal, but it is all on the up and up – I swear. The interesting part was even though we had this late date, it was cold and rainy. Like 45 degrees cold. Being new I asked the guy about installing the package in the bad weather and he says “well they install them in the snow up north” and went back to his delivery of bees. Good enough for me, I guess.

A quick check of the weather showed it would stop raining late afternoon and might make it into the mid 50’s. I took the bees home and sprayed them with a 1:1 sugar solution to make sure they were feed and waited for the rain to stop.

Box 'O Bees

Box ‘O Bees


One winter project was to build a true hive stand and to relocate the bees to a sunnier location. Both of these were a plan to reduce the hive beetle infestation. The new hive stand was copied from many found on the internet and consisted of two 2X6’s screwed to spacers about 11 inches apart. Last year the hives sat on these same boards laying flat, which didn’t allow for proper airflow under the hive and through the screened bottom board. So better ventilation and early morning sunshine – check! Since everything here is on a hill, a couple of cinder blocks were called into service to level the stand, plus get it off the wet ground.
Hive Stand

Hive Stand


I laid out the items I needed for the install on the hive stand before getting on my bee suit. Something about “shaking” a couple thousand bees around called for a little protection. In this picture you can see my hive tool, a spray bottle of sugar water, the hive components, and the package of bees. The two wooden shims are used to level an internal feeder.
Package Install Tools

Package Install Tools


Here is where I wish I had more pictures, but due to the bee suit and crappy weather I moved quickly to finish the job. First I sprayed the bees with sugar water to calm them and make them busy cleaning themselves. Next while holding the queen cage tab, I removed the can of sugar syrup shipped with the bees and then removed the queen cage. Checked the queen was alive and well before placing her cage between two frames with the screen facing so the other bees could still see and feed her. Then the fun part, I turned the package upside down and “gently” shook the bees out and into the hive between a couple of frames. I know there are a lot of folks online now saying this is too rough on the bees or not the way to do it. In this case due to cold weather and impending rain I wanted as many as the bees as possible inside the hive and closed up so I went old school rough! After closing up the hive, I placed the package out front in hopes the last few would find there way inside.
Bee Package Install Complete

Bee Package Install Complete




Swarm trap update:
While the trap has been out since the first of April there had been little activity until around the first of May. While on most sunny days we see a handful of bees coming and going, these are most likely scouts attracted by the smell of the frames and the swarm trap lure. I keeping looking for A LOT of bees or at least a few bringing pollen into the trap. The weather really hasnt been great, so we are hoping the next week of warmer weather being promised will cause a swarm to find it’s way to our trap. 🙂
Bee Swarm Trap

This bee swarm trap is installed on the edge of the glade.

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!

Bee Keeping – a matter of opinion – Part 2

So now we have a hive (Part 1), what we need next is bees.  There are two main ways to get bees for your new hive: package bees and nucs.

But first lets talk about a little about hive placement. Your bees need a couple of things, water, sun, and protection. They will travel up to 3 miles to collect nectar, but these other items are closer to home. They need a water source and will find their own if not provided, think neighbor’s swimming pool. I have found that something like a small concrete bird bath placed in proximity to the hive works pretty well. Regrading the sun, bees work sun up to sun down, so placing the hive in full sun will maximize there work day. For this same reason it is recommended to face the hives south so they get the most of the sunshine. Finally protection, by this I mean a couple of things. A good wind break will help protect the hive from being blown over and from winter storms. Also, they need to be located to protect people and animals from interfering with their work.

Package Bees

A package of bees is typically 3lbs of worker bees and a single queen. They come with the queen in a special box that has a candy plug to keep her separate during shipping. Once they arrive they queen box is placed in between a couple of frames and the worker bees are coated with sugar water to calm them before dumping them into the hive. After a couple of days you will need to check that the queen was released and has gotten to work. The advantage of this is they are typically cheaper than a nucs and can be used with any of the hive types from the previous post (Part 1).  The downside is the bees are starting from scratch and will need to be feed and watched over more carefully.

Nucs

A nuc is basically an established 5 frame hive.  You will receive 5 mostly full frames of brood, nectar, and drawn comb.  It will include a queen and an already working army of bees.  When you pick it up or it arrives make sure you find the queen and she gets into the new hive.  Another tip I found was to insist on picking them up in the early evening when most of the bees have returned.  Some less than good bee keepers will deliver them during the day and re-queen the nuc with returning workers. Or so I am told.  The advantage here is your hive has a head start over a package and should have brood cells and nectar all ready to go.  One point of “opinion” I found about this was whether or not the new nuc needed to be feed when I got it home.  We decided since they had 5 empty frames to build out that we would feed to help them get established.  The disadvantages to nucs is they are more expensive because you are getting bees and frames, plus you are stuck with the hive type of where you get the bees, i.e. you cant put top-bar frames in your Langstroth hive.

Our story

We decided to go with a nuc since the bees would be established and hopefully know what to do even if we didn’t. The other reason we did this was to get “local” bees that were already adjusted to our climate. You can order packages from a lot of places, but mostly from warmer southern climates because they can raise bees over the winter months and build up the bee supply. We wanted our bees to have over wintered successfully in the expectation that they would do better in future years. What I learned when we picked them up was that while the workers were local, the queen was from California. The bee keeper told me he could split hives to get the workers, but to get queens this early they had to come from out of state. I guess that will have to do since we already brought them home.  Also, a quick link out to a great site “Keeping Backyard Bees”.  I wasnt sure how I was going to get the bees home inside my SUV, but since I am on their mailing list at just the right time we got an email about “Transporting Bees Without Nuc Boxes”.  Check it out and sign up for their free email list.

In the bee yard

Picking up the new nucs

Bringing home the nucs

Unloading one of two nucs

Bee yard

Our bee yard with the first two hives

Bee Keeping – a matter of opinion – Part 1

This is a series of post about our endeavor to raise bees at Stone Hill Ridge.  But lets deal with the title first.  One thing I have for sure learned in a few short months of starting to work with bees, every beekeeper has an opinion and some are better than others!  I have been told the exact opposite things but different bee keepers as we are starting out.  So half seriously we have decided to just make it up as we go along.  At the very least it should be entertaining for you the blog reader.

So this is part 1 and for us that starts with the hives.  There are a couple of different main types: Langstroth hives, Top-Bar hives, and Warré hives.

Langstroth hives

Langstroth hives are the ones you are used to seeing and are used in most commercial operations.  They are square and usually painted white, although I am told that is not necessary and any color will do the bees don’t care.  It is just needed to protect the wood against rot.  As the bees fill a box a new one is added to the top.  One of the things I have found that each bee keeper has an opinion on is how many frames to put into a box.  A frame is a a square wooden frame that holds the honeycombs the bees build, it typically contains a sheet of plastic or wax to get the bees started.  There are both 10 frame and 8 frame hives, but some say put 9 frames in a 10 frame hive or another told me to put 11 in to force the bees to build smaller more natural cells.  This is the type of hive we started with, but more on that later.

Top-bar hives

Top-bar hives look more like a tree laid on its side with legs to lift it off the ground to a workable level.  In this style of hive instead of stacking new boxes, frames are added to the back as the bees fill the ones they have.   This type of hive will be used with empty frames or basically just the top-bar with some bees wax on it so the bees know where to build, thus the name.  It is said to be better fro the bees because it allows them to build a more natural style honeycomb.

Warré hives

Warré hive look similar to a Langstroth in style, but are different.  They have a more complex roof system that contains material to absorb moisture and help the bees regulate hive temperatures.  For this reason they are used most often in colder climates.  They also use an empty frame like the top-bar to allow the bees to do what they do best.  It is hard to inspect the hive because the frames can not be removed without damaging the honeycomb.

Our setup

As I stated we went with the Langstroth design mostly because it was more available and most bee keepers used them and could be a resource if we needed help.  We bought a setup from Ebay that had 2 supers (deep boxes) and 3 mediums (medium depth boxes).  The goal is the bees use the two supers for their own food and raising other bees, while eventually the fill the mediums with honey for us.  Although I am told not to expect any in the first year, but that is a bee keepers opinion and up for discussion.  The hives came mostly unassembled , so here are some pictures of the construction.
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