Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Butterfly House back in operation 7.22.14

I don’t have a lot of milkweed plants but haven't seen too many Monarchs or Queens around here for awhile.

I checked my plant and found a few caterpillars…

I brought in the few plants that I had and they ate them right up so had to buy a few more.


The plants above are tropical milkweed. They had eaten most of my Giant Milkweed and I put it back outside to regrow.

Here are the 3 in the top circle.


They only take about 8- 9 days to get to this size and boy can they devour a leaf.

Here is a caterpillar in the “J” formation. It usually is like this for around 12 hrs. . You can see its feelers are still pretty firm.


I’ve watched so many that I know the signs when one is going to pupate. This is the same caterpillar that’s in the picture above. Notice how limp the feelers are now. Once it gets like this I start watching for  a lot of motion. I think it is pushing down into the bend …that is where the skin splits.


Same caterpillar….skin has split and it is working it to the top.


Here are two chrysalis and one that has just pupated. It is rotating around trying to throw off the skin at the top. It will  just keep shrugging till it’s up there.


I have seen them gyrate so much they come loose and fall but most are very securely attached to the screen.


You can use the “search” box at the top of the page to find videos of pupating caterpillars and some of emerging butterflies.

This is a Queen caterpillar. You can see an extra set of feelers on the Queen.


This is a Monarch.


I’ve since bought more plants…and found  more caterpillars.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Installing Green Bee Hives Small Hive Beetle Trap 6.19.14

A few months ago I ordered 2 Small Hive Beetle Traps from Greenbeehives.com.

When they arrived we were already for a 6 wk trip to NY, VT and points in between. I didn’t want to put them on and leave without having time to check them.

We got back last week and I noticed one hive had a lot of beetles ….so we installed one of the traps. The other hive is doing well and didn’t want to break it down right now. We’ll get that one next week.

The landing board box the tray fits in didn’t have it closed off very well so Jim did some modifying.


He added a wider board to the end of the tray so there would be overlapping wood to prevent insects from getting in to an area the bees couldn’t control.


He also cut the “porch” at a slant so rain drops would splash away from the hive instead of inside it.

The screen will let the beetles and larva pass through but not the bees.


The tray is filled with mineral oil. Some use vegetable oil to attract the beetles but I am afraid it will get rancid here in the hot southern weather.

Here is a video of the installation….

In the video you can see me removing 2 inner covers. One is a standard inner cover the other is a frame with window screen. I have screen on the inner cover but had to cut a hole in it to allow the bees to pass through this winter when I was feeding them.

We  killed at least 50 beetles on the inner cover when we first opened the hive to install the trap.  The bees had the beetles trapped between the inner cover and the screen….made killing them fairly easy.

We didn’t finish until late afternoon. Got rained out the first try. Here is what we found the next morning at 9am.


Fri 6.20.14        

We left them until the this morning then strained the oil through a paint filter and this is what we got. Unfortunately there were 3 small Honey Bees in it also. Don’t know why…maybe they were dead before they went in.

012cs   6.20.14

Sat   6.21.14

Opened the tray today and only 2 or 3 beetles.

We’ll strain the oil again tomorrow…then we’ll leave it for a week.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Swarms 6.14.14

On May 3 we caught a swarm and put it in the Top Bar Hive. It is still there.


My neighbor has been checking on them for me, so I wasn’t surprised to see they were still here.

This is a peek in the window in the rear. I think there are 8 or 9 drawn comb.


I need to go in and move the divider board to give them more room and remove the empty honey jar I left in there.

We mowed and knocked down the grass around the hives with the weed eater today…then it rained. Tomorrow might be a good day to do it.


I was surprised to see the ones in the squirrel box…


They’ve been there for awhile because there is comb in there. Look close near the bottom of the picture. Also see 2 bees with pollen  coming in.


It will be interesting to see how they manage. I don’t have anymore equipment and don’t need another hive so we’ll let them do their thing in the home they chose.

Looks like the comb goes below the entrance.


It is about 15 ft. off the ground. Guess the squirrels will have to find another spot.003

Friday, May 2, 2014

Honey Bee Swarm 5.1.14

This morning I was surprised to see a lot of bees around the swarm catcher and the Top Bar Hive.

We figured they were trying to decide where to take the swarm.


We didn’t think we would be catching two swarms on the same day at the same time.


I watched them for several hours then decided to do some work . A while later Jim knocked on the window…

Here’s what he saw. The air was full of Honey Bees but we could not tell where they came from.


There is a hole in the front…


The swarm catcher is on top of a 14’ step ladder…..tied down with a ratchet strap. Jim placed a smaller step ladder behind the hives…then we closed up the big ladder…placed the base against a big tub full of dirt and slowly lowered it down so it rested on the shorter ladder. Once Jim was able to get ahold of the hive I loosened the ratchet strap.

I had the Top Bar Hive ready….shook most of them inside…


I put the bars in the swarm catcher in the Top Bar…they were already festooning in preparation of making comb. They have a small started strip to get them building straight. No frames.


We started hearing thunder in the distance so I did some more shaking and got most of the bees in the hive or on the top. Several of the bees had their butts stuck in the air fanning…good sign the Queen is inside and they are fanning her pheromones for the other bees to follow.

Jim got me a spray bottle of water and I gave them a light misting….they all headed inside…I put the rest of the bars in place…got the top on…just in time. It really poured.

I left the box sitting on the ground under the hive because there were still a few bees in it.

Two of the 3 entrances are stuffed with dry grass. They will remove it when they need the room.

I have a jar with some honey in it and a jar of sugar water to get them started.

This wasn’t their first choice so we are hoping they will decide to stay since there is a food supply in it.

This video is a bit of the swarm catcher, the Top Bar and then the swarm.

If they stay we will have 3 hives.

It was thrilling to see them swarmed on that catcher and even more fun putting them in their new home.


They are still here. I checked through the window in the back of the hive and they had finished most of the honey (only 1/4 jar) and 2/3 of the sugar water. I removed the honey and added another jar of sugar water because it was starting to sprinkle and knew they would be out if it rained all day and couldn’t get out for nectar.

I stuffed two entrance holes with grass but the bottom one is open.


Since we weren’t sure where the swarm came from and possibly from one of the hives next to the Top Bar Hive, I put a couple of ferns near the entrance. This way when the bees come out they will have to orient themselves with the new entrance.


There are a few finding their way around the ferns. I will remove them tomorrow after all the foragers have had a chance to exit and reenter.

Looks like it’s going to rain all day…so maybe they’ll make themselves comfortable and decide it’s not such a bad place.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Turkey Hen, Peacock 5.1.14

One of the nicest things about living here is the critters that stroll into our yard.

Sure….there are lots of bugs..mainly because I don’t use pesticides here. So there is stuff for birds etc to eat.

I was thrilled to see this little hen turkey in the back yard. She has evidently been here before since she knew right where the feeder was and where the seed falls on the ground.


She headed right for it.


But imagine my surprise when I looked out and saw this beautiful peacock.


It went into the back yard…under the feeder…


Is he beautiful?

He has been in here 3 days in a row.


Without a hen we didn’t get a nice display of those beautiful feathers.


This afternoon he spent time lying under my Bottle Brush Bush…hope he makes this area his home. My neighbor has a nice big yard and both of us are surrounded by woods.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Adding supers to the Honey Bee Hives 4.27.14

My “blue” hive already had 2 supers and several frames were drawn with nice white wax and some honey.

My “pink” hive only had one super and had several frames of drawn comb in it.

Since I don’t use any foundation, the bees have to make all the wax comb themselves…same as they would if they were in a hollow tree in the woods.

There are no bees in the Top Bar Hive so I used it for a bench to work on the supers.

I don’t know if one of the hives will swarm and have this set up just incase they need a home.


I wanted at least 2 drawn frames in each super so I stole a couple from the blue hive to put in one of the supers for the pink hive.

Because they were going into a different hive I made sure all the bees were brushed off.


I have windows in the back of each box so I can check on them without opening up the hive.

I had to cut part of the frame away for a better view so I put black dots on the end that goes to the rear. This also insures I put the frame back into the hive in the same direction it came out. I think it is called “housel positioning”. The twist knobs on the back let me remove the window cover for viewing.


Jim was suited up and taking pictures. He wasn’t sure the camera was working so he tried a “selfie”.


This frame is a little over half drawn and it looks like they’ve started putting honey in it..but it is not capped. The have to remove moisture before capping.


This frame is going in the 3rd super on the blue hive so I didn’t have to worry about removing the bees. Small amount of capped honey on it.


A full frame of capped honey.  You’d be surprised how heavy this is. Notice I’m using 2 hands.


This one isn’t fully capped but was quite heavy.

You can see the screened inner cover on the pink super. I put that there so the bees couldn’t get back on the frames I removed from the blue hive.


All of these frames are from the blue hive. Here I had to scrape a bit of burr comb off the bottom of the frame.


Each frame removed was replaced with an empty frame.


It was a stretch but I got it up there. With only a few combs it wasn’t too heavy.


This frame is just starting to show some capped honey.


As does this one.


The 3rd super had 4 frames with some honey in them and was quite heavy so Jim put that one up for me

The little box on the top of the ladder is my swarm catcher. They have a choice….Top Bar Hive or swarm catcher. Hope they choose one of them….or both. If they do…Jim will have to build another Top Bar Hive.


Getting it in place without squishing a lot of bees is the hard part. Looks like Jim got it.


I had to stand on a step to get the 2 inner covers and the outer cover on. We’ve decided we’ll make a walk way behind the hives. They have to be this high off the ground because this area can flood during a hurricane.


Once the blue hive was closed up I finished up the pink….and I managed to keep all the blue on the blue and pink on the pink.


I use 2 inner covers…the regular one with an oval hole in the middle and a frame with window screen on it to keep ants and wax moths out.


Almost done ..just need to put things away. Only used a little smoke…mainly on my hands. No stings…no angry bees.


Here are a few photos thru the windows. Even though it’s only been a few hours since I moved the frames around. It looks like they are already festooning..preparing to make more comb.

107cs 108cs

Look at that beautiful white comb.

111cs 115cs

The comb in the photo on the R shows new comb..very white and comb that is yellowing a bit because of traffic over it and I believe the top few inches has capped honey.

121cs  124cs

I cant tell you which super these pictures were taken in…but I do keep a list that shows where each frame was last check and where I moved them.

I had to put the extra supers on because last year late May the Cabbage Palms and the Chinese Tallow trees bloomed. I want them to have plenty of room to build and store.

I made sure each super had at least 2 drawn frames because last year I didn’t…and they filled the first super and never moved up to the empty ones above it. After they back filled the brood nest with honey and the Queen had no place to lay…she packed up and left with a lot of the bees. It is a natural thing for them to do. When the hive is over crowded…they make Queen cells ..then the old Queen leaves with half the bees to start a new hive. New Queen emerges …in a bit she goes on a mating flight…unfortunately..last year we had 2 swarms from the same hive and ended up Queen less. Perhaps the Virgin Queen was killed on the mating flight. We decided to buy a package of bees to add to it and another package for the second hive.

I hope that with a few drawn frames in each super they will be used to working in all 3 and continue to do so.

Our view from the back porch (screen room)…Jim thinks they look like the Twin Towers…now we have to worry about terrorists…(bears…bull ants) etc.


I have tie-downs over the hives and blocks on top to help prevent wind from blowing them over. Bear proof they are not. Hope none visit while we are away.

I used a thick layer of mechanics grease on the legs to stop the bull ants. So far it has worked.