Monday, May 31, 2010

It poured with rain this morning.  The sky lowered and the clouds opened up and down it came!  The wind rose and the power went out for a short time.

About two hours later the clouds disappeared, the sun shone, the temperature was about 62 degrees Fahrenheit and the breeze, while very strong, was actually warm!

The digitalis is blooming.  I've always liked foxgloves and all the ones growing in our garden are volunteers.  Most years I save seeds and scatter them about where I'd like new plants to grow.  That doesn't always work out, as every gardener knows.  Plants will grow best where they want to, not necessarily where you want them to!

It was too windy for the bees to discover this group of foxgloves.  They really relish them, burrowing way down inside the flower.

Inside the flower the stamens are coated heavily with pollen and the bee, in search of the nectar, brushes up against the pollen and carries it to the next foxglove flower.

Some of the pollen from the first flower sticks to the pistils of the second flower and presto!

The bee gets nectar and pollen to feed the young bees to carry on the colony.  The flower is pollinated, sets seed, and makes new flowers in a year or so (digitalis is a biennial).  We have the beautiful flowers and the wonderful honey.  Thank you, little sweet bee and pretty flower.

This cutaway view shows the inside of the flower.  You can easily see the pollen treasure.  Do you think the purple spots are there to lead the bees inside?

Digitalis purpurea grows very well in temperate marine climates.  It is poisonous and before flowering it may be mistaken for other, edible,  plants.

Several years ago a group of garden club members made a tea of what they believed was comfrey.  In actuality is was digitalis and, alas, some members of the club sickened and died from the effects of digitalis's cardiac stimulating properties.
Thank you, Mother Nature!  It's stopped raining!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Hi there - how 'ya doin'?

Well, OK.  I'd feel a lot better if it would stop raining.

Yeah, I know.  Getting hit by one of those rain drops is a real downer.  Have you found any good nectar lately? 

Oh boy, did I!  The hawthorns are in bloom and so is the Scotch broom (a bit bitter, that one is) and the new raspberries in the front garden are starting to open.

I'm waiting for the Styrax japonica to flower.  I hear it's absolutely terrific.  The whole garden smells like tea!

What's next, do you suppose?

Well, I've heard that the tomatoes are coming along and pretty soon the petunias in the planter box will flower, the marjoram that was planted today will flower any second now...
Hey there, Mother Nature!  Will you please stop raining?

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Artemis may have a new queen!

I opened the hives today and gave each of them a sugar shower.  I put regular cane sugar in a blender and pulverized it so it was a fine power.  Then I opened the hives and sprinkled the sugar onto the bees.  The theory here is that the bees will groom themselves vigorously and dislodge some varroa mites.  I'll check my pull-out bottom boards tomorrow to see if any mites have been dislodged.

I'm a bit concerned about Artemis's queen.  You'll remember that David and I saw her being carried up the outside of the Boardman feeder last weekend.

A hive with no queen is in a bit of a pickle.  It can disrupt the whole organization!  So, when I was showering Artemis I was looking closely to see if the queen was still there.  I looked through all 20 frames once.  I didn't see any queen.  I looked through the bottom box again and at about mid-hive I saw what I hope is a new queen!   She is mid-photo, headed down.  It's hard to tell from the photo but her abdomen is very smooth and she is about 1 1/2 times the size of the surrounding bees.  Let's hope I'm right!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Dissection photographs.

I cut some comb out of both hives on the same day that David and I saw Artemis's queen being carried up the side of the Boardman-type feeder by one of the worker bees.

A large larva.

More larvae.

All of these specimens came from a piece of comb that was about the size of large walnut in the shell.

I now have a dish with bees in various stages of metamorphosis on the dining room table.

This piece of comb is from Demeter's top brood box.  Two of the frames of foundation were a bit too far apart and the bees had filled in the gap.  I have to lift out both frames together and then cut them apart.

These larvae look rather scary.  Why are they black?  Not actually black, more of a very dark brown.  Do you know why they are this color?  Let me know, would you please?

05/29/10 - I showed this piece of comb to my bee teacher Gary while he was working his stand at the Proctor Farmers Market.  He said that the larvae had died - due to cold - and that they are dark because they are decomposing.  I'm sorry about that but am happy that that's the reason and not some dreaded bee disease.

This nice clean piece of comb is also from Demeter's top brood box.

I opened the capped cell on the lower right edge and this is what I found...

... a perfect little bee.

On the day Artemis's queen went walkabout I cut out some interesting pieces comb for dissection later.

This chunk has three larger cells which may be queen cells.

This is the same piece of comb cut open.

These are three of the larvae I found inside.

The one on the right has two varroa mites on it.  The upper mite was actually still alive.

I believe the difference in the colors of the larvae are due to a difference in age.

This is a close up of the mites, the upper one being the one that was alive.

They remind me a bit of red spider mites that occur on some plants.  Those mites, however, are bright red and run about frantically in circles.

These mites are just plain horrible.

I want to avoid using hard chemicals and will try the sugar method first.  It's rather like giving the bees a shower with finely pulverized cane sugar.  The sugar is supposed to remove some of the mites and the bees will start grooming to the remove the sugar and will remove some mites as well.  I'll take some photos when I do the treatment.
"...the rain, rain, rain came down, down, down, and Piglet started bailing..."

We had a terrific rainstorm yesterday - gutters full and running like rivers, the downspout outside my window at work running over and making a huge puddle in front of the main entry (and students standing under it after school let out!).

Then the sun came out at about 5:00!

One good thing about all the rain is even our "lawn" is turning green and I don't have to water the new plantings under the cedar (an habitually dry area in our garden).

The bees aren't very happy about it, however.  When I came home the foragers were hanging out in Artemis's entryway, milling about and (anthropomorphizing here) looking ready to charge out of the starting gate like a bunch of race horses.  "Let us at that pollen!". 

Memorial Day weekend is coming and I have four days off in a row.  I really want to open up Artemis and see if the queen that went walkabout is back.  Maybe the weather will turn warm and sunny, 75 degrees with a slight breeze, birds chirping, dog sleeping in the sun, bees buzzing, a glass of wine and a good book...

Monday, May 24, 2010

A really odd thing happened yesterday and I hope that my beekeeping friends will send comments.

It happened about 5.30pm.  David and I were watching the bees busy at their hives.  I noticed a very large insect climbing up the side of the Boardman type feeders I've been using (they are made in Greece, Manolis!).  It was a worker bee using it's two hindmost legs to pull the queen bee up the feeder!  I know for sure that it was Artemis's queen because she had a bright blue dot on her thorax.  Geez, is this bad news or what?

I fired up the smoker and put on my bee gear as quickly as I could.  I opened the hive.  The top brood box was very lightly populated with bees - hardly any cells drawn out from the wax foundation.

I lifted the top box off.  The bottom box was packed full!  Bees on almost every surface!

Not really knowing exactly what to do I took the second, third, eighth, and ninth frames out of the top brood box.  Then I removed the second, third, eighth and ninth frames out of the crowded bottom box and switched them around.  My thought was that if there are some frames with honey (beautiful capped honey!) in the less crowded top box the bees would become more active up there, relieve the crowding in the bottom box and thus make the bottom box a bit roomier for the queen to return.

I checked Demeter next.  The bees have been far busier in the top box.  There was some nice drawn comb with honey in it.  There had been a minor violation of "bee space" - two frames stuck together.  I pulled them apart and scraped the comb off with my hive tool, saving the comb for dissection later.  I found the queen in the bottom box, apparently happy and healthy.

One worker bee tried to sting me through my glove.  I could see her struggling.  Then she pulled away, flying off and leaving the stinger behind.  Poor little bee.  Emma the Airedale was watching as all this was going on, lying on the grass about six feet away from Demeter.  The bees were flying about her head and she started snapping at them.  She was stung a couple of times and retreated down the pathway along the side of the house to safety.

David was making a video of all this and had to dodge a few bees himself.  Luckily no stings for him!  What a sport!

I'll check Artemis in a few days after things settle down a bit.  I hope the queen is still there.  I guess this is another good reason to not squish found queen cells.  If Artemis's queen is gone another queen could take her place.  I think there were some queen cells - tiny ones - don't know for sure.

I'd appreciate any comments from my more experienced beekeeping friends.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

This is our dog, Emma.  She is a Humane Society dog.  We found her at the shelter about 10 years ago. 

When she was younger she used to hunt flies, bees and yellowjackets.  Once, years ago, she put her nose into a yellowjacket's nest and was stung many times.  I had to comb the yellowjackets out of her hair!

She was stung again today - poor thing.  I was opening the hives and Emma was observing, minding her own business.  Some bees were flying about her head and she started snapping at them, as she has been known to do.

Sure enough!  Stung on both side of her muzzle!  I'm glad that she doesn't react as much as I did when I was stung on the forehead by the bee in Wenatchee.

Emma is a very sweet Airedale.  She is getting old and rather creaky but can still be very puppy like.  She likes to get the kitties and enjoys a visit to the hardware store now and again.
David was in Toledo (WA) this weekend looking for signs of black bears with our friend Travis and his son Levi and I spent some time out in the garden.

There was a  bit of rain off and on.  Mostly off and not  very much even then!

I did some serious weeding, bought (and planted!) some shade plants for underneath the cedar tree and fed the bees.  Geez!  They really wanted that feed!  Heads down in the feeding tray before I could get the tray all the way inside the entrance!

I rented a Chow Yun Fat movie called The Children of Huang Shi about an English journalist who meets up with a school of Chinese orphans during the second Sino-Japanese war.  The end was a bit predictable but the ending credits were really, really sweet.

I went outside about 10.00 and took some photographs of the moon.  I took this one with the flash on and cropped and enlarged it.  You can see craters from 238,855 miles away and I took it with my little Nikon Coolpix camera!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Sometimes my photos turn out just like I want!

As you can tell, this photo shows the inside of a tulip flower.  You'll notice the pollen on the anthers and on the petals.  I like the shape of the stigma and it appears to be damp with nectar. 

This yellow markings inside this tulip are a "bee target" helping to direct the workers to the source of their food.  Bees see in a different color range so to them the markings may appear to be an entirely different color.

I also thrilled to have a follower of this blog!  Thank you Lore for being first!  What a very nice surprise - I hope we will become blogger friends.  I have taken a quick look at your site (I'm supposed to be getting ready for work) and I see that you have a very artistic side.  Good for you!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

This little worker is taking a drink out of the bird bath in the garden.  The bath is three-quarters full, allowing a "shoreline" for the bees to stand on.  Bees don't appreciated getting too wet!

If you look closely you'll see that the bee has her tongue out.  Is a bee's tongue like a straw and they sip up the water?  I don't know but will find out!

We had placed some thin pieces of wood in the bath - like little rafts - so the bees could land on them as well.

The wood quickly became waterlogged and sank.

I found some large clumps of moss when I was out pulling weeds today and put that in the bird bath the theory being that the bees can walk on the moss and get their drinks safely.  It looks pretty as well.  I'll take a photo tomorrow or the next day.

If the weather is ok when I get home from work tomorrow I'm going to take a peek inside the hives.  I'm curious to see if they are drawing out the comb in the second brood boxes.

I'm still wondering if I need to keep feeding them.  The new feeders I got (the ones that required the new screened bottom boards so the feeders would fit into the entrances) work really well and I don't have to open the hives to replace the baggies of sugar water (the baggie feeders are a good idea but awfully messy).  I've e-mailed Gary but he's working his hives in Oregon so I haven't heard back from him.

It's 8.56pm and still quite light out.  The bees are tucking themselves in for the night.  I will, too.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Cycling around a corner with the inside pedal down.  Running downhill at mile 7 of the half marathon.  Trying to lift two brood boxes and a lid off a hive by myself.  Ha!

My plan had been to disturb the bees as little as possible by removing the screened bottom boards early in the morning. We had cut them down to reduce the entrance but now the feeders I bought won't fit.  David and I are going to build new ones and I wanted to have the old ones to use as a guide.

Those poor, poor bees.  Demeter ended up on the ground with the second brood box practically on it's side, bee spilling out all over and getting very upset and flying about, buzzing very angrily.

I got Demeter put back together
and propped the screened board against the front of her stand so the bees could walk up into the hive (see the photo above).

The photo on the left is Artemis.  No huge disaster here.  I took off the lid and the top box off first and set them on a bench.  Then I took off the bottom box (which was rather heavy, hopefully being full of brood and honey) and sat that on top of the other parts.  It was easy to pull off the mangled bottom board.  You can see how I propped it up in front of the hive.

The photo on the right shows some of the carnage I inflicted on my sweet bees.
I have learned another lesson.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Morning, Saturday, May 8th

The carillon at the University is ringing 8 o'clock

The temperature is 52 degrees Fahrenheit

I hear crows courting up in the tree

The bees are just starting to wake up,
and this is a Western Washington blue sky!

"It's a beautiful day!"

Thursday, May 6, 2010

This is a queen cell I removed from the hive on Wednesday.

This is a cut away view of what's inside a queen cell.  The quality of the photo isn't very good but you can see the immature queen extending downward from what is probably a glob of royal jelly.

These are some immature bees that are not queens.  The left hand specimen is better than the other one.  You can actually see the eyes.
I fed the bees again yesterday.

Demeter was very quiet in the morning so I gave her another ziplock bag of sugar water with "Honey B Healthy" in it.  Demeter had graduated to a second brood box on the weekend of the hive warming party so when I took her cover off today the bees were way down inside.  No trouble at all.

Artemis got a bit excited when I took her cover off so I decided to open her up after I got home from work.

About 5 pm I fired up the smoker, put on all my bee gear (I'm tired of being stung) and opened the hive.  The bees on top of the bars seemed to be smaller than usual so I'm thinking they may be younger bees.  I smoked them down into the hive and removed the closest frame of foundation.  Then carefully, frame by frame, I closely examined the bees.  As you will see from the first photo the bees are capping some honey (the white area upper left, with a blob of pollen on it) and there are brood cells present as well, nicely capped with a tan colored material.  If you look closely you'll see a couple of bees with their heads down inside the cells.  They could be storing food or feeding brood - don't know for sure.  There is a bee about mid-frame, right hand side that is kind of blurry - I wonder if she's doing the wiggle dance!

This photo shows a worker bee with her front end in a cell.  What is she doing?  In the upper left corner is a capped cell - maybe a drone cell as it sticks up higher than the top edge of the empty cells around it.  The dark vertical line is actually a piece of wire used to hold the foundation in place.  If you look closely into the empty cells you will see that the hexagonal shape on this side is offset from the hexagonal shape on the other side.  I would suppose that this arrangement would make the cells stronger.  Kind of like staggering a pile of bricks rather than stacking them one on top of the other.

I found several queen cells and given what Gary told me last week I removed them. I squished some and also cut some free of the foundation so I could dissect them later.  When I do that I'll take some photos and post them if they turn out ok.

I added another deep super (brood box) to Artemis so she matches Demeter once again.  I also gave her bees some food and some of my homemade verroa mite patties.  The verroa mite used to be called Verroa jacobsoni but has had it's name changed to Verroa destructor!  That certainly tells us something about it's serious nature.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Twenty-four hours post bee sting.

It's interesting as to how the inflammation moves about.  When I got up this morning my right eyelid was very swollen.  By the time lunchtime came around both eyes were puffy but my forehead was feeling better.  Now everything is itchy!  I'm going to the doc tomorrow to talk about cholesterol and will ask her about antihistamines.  When I get stung should I drink a bottle of Benedryl?

Don't stand in front of the hive!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

My sister Jane and I went to Wenatchee to visit my daughter Katie and to view the Apple Blossom Festival Parade.  There was a lot of rain on the west side of the mountains and as soon as we started on the downward slope on the east side the sky cleared up and it was actually warm!

We had lots of fun - my old high school marching band was in the parade (go Roughriders!), we went to a used book sale in the library basement and ate dinner at McGlinn's pub.  It was really, really nice to get to spend even this short time with Katie.  She graduated from Western Washington University a year ago and is volunteering through Americorps at an elementary school in East Wenatchee.  Her time is up at the end of the summer and she's hoping to start graduate school this fall.  Great kid!

On the drive back Jane and I took a short detour onto "Roller Coaster Road", which is on the way to Blewett Pass.  It is rather roller coastery!  We stopped to take some photos of apple blossoms and  some bees hives.  The hives were really small hives use for pollinating apple trees - four of them on a pallet.  The photo at the top shows some of the workers doing what bees do - zooming in and out and being busy.  Very nice!  Then I broke one of the beekeepers primary rules - don't stand in front of the hive!  The second photo was taken just as a bee flew out of her hive, smashed into my forehead, delivered her sting and got caught in my hair.  Poor thing.  I now have a very tender red lump on my forehead and raising my eyebrows is quite unpleasant.  So, remember friends, do not stand in front of the hive!  Where's the ice pack???

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Sweet Bee Apiary is now registered with the Washington State Department of Agriculture!

It's illegal in Washington State and the rest of the nation to keep bees in any type of hive that doesn't have removable frames.  The reasoning behind this is that a fixed comb hive, like the old style of bee skep, makes it too difficult to examine the colony for diseases, etc.

I looking into building a top bar hive this summer and this kind of hive will qualify.