Saturday, January 29, 2011

New Butterfly House

I decided to have Jim build me a new butterfly house. It has a much smaller foot print, so takes up less room in the Florida room. It also restricts less of the view.


I raised 60 caterpillars on this Giant Milkweed and decided to make the house to fit that plant. Once they have gone to the top to pupate, I can remove this plant,  and replace it with another just like it.

60 caterpillars had most of the leaves stripped right down to nothing. Look how it has recovered in a short time. So…I am hoping that 20 –30 caterpillars can grow up on it…still have some leaves left and this one can recover while another 20 –30 are munching away on the second one. I’ll just keep rotating them. At least that is the game plan..but you know how those things go. These plants cost around $20 at the nursery. It will be a lot cheaper to feed with them. I’ll still have as many Tropical Milkweed plants in the ground as I can. I’ll collect caterpillars from them ………and …..the one outside for regrowth will most likely have a few eggs on it.

The plant will sit in a tray (to catch any water) that has a piece of window screen covering the tray and under the plant. That will prevent any caterpillars that might fall onto it from drowning. The pot will have a screen skirt around it so they can crawl back up to the plant. Jim built a sliding tray for easy cleanout. That is why the plant sits on slats. That way I wont have to remove it each time I want to clean…..and believe me….it will need cleaning most every day as they get larger.

I have 2 Milkweed plants and 2 Salvia plants in pots that are flowering.  I bring them in at night if the temps are below 40* and put them out each day for the butterflies. There is one Monarch that shows up every day the temperature is above 60* and the sun is shinning…..sometimes a second one joins it. A yellow Sulphur, a Red Admiral and a couple skippers drop in too.

Can’t wait for caterpillar season.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Getting the hives ready

My sister, JoAnne, gave me 2 hive boxes with 20 frames. 

Jim built a base with slide-out flashing (for cleaning), a top and a screenboard.001cs

The bees will enter on top of the screen. The holes are too small for the bees but small hive beetles will fall through. I will put a bit of crisco and borax on the flashing to trap and kill the beetles. I can slide it out from the back of the hive to scrape it off. I am going to try organic or natural beekeeping.

Here is the base with the flashing and screen board.


10 frames will rest on the ledge in the front and rear of the hive body.


Part of the frames had foundation. It is designed to get bees to build bigger cells..thus growing bigger bees for more honey production. I am going to try natural beekeeping….no medicines or pesticides etc. and I want to let them build their cells the size that they want to…007cs

so I removed the foundation, sanded off any debris and hopefully removed any chemicals that may have been used in the past. I then glued thin strips of wood in the top to act as a starter bar so they will build along the center of the frame.


I don’t think the hive or frames have been used in many years, other than when I had the small swarm a few months ago.

Everything has been painted white. I would love to have different colors but the hot sun here in Florida might make them too hot. Maybe the next hive will have just a tiny hint of color to it though.

Once the frames are in place an inner cover is put on top of them to provide some air space between them and the cover.


Here it is assembled.


If I am real lucky….catch a swarm, and they survive, and raise lots of bees and need more room for honey…then I add a super with 10 more frames…and so on….014cs

Do I sound like I know what I’m doing? I wish….I have been reading everything I can find on “organic” or “natural” beekeeping, but I need some hands on experience.

Now that Jim has the woodstove all installed and working….037

I am going to see if we can build a Top Bar Hive.

Jim says I am stuck on “B’s”    Birds, Boats, Butterflies and Bees.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Inside Looking Out

My Hummingbird feeder is on the front porch. Jim opened the sliding door to look at something….got distracted and forgot to close it.  When he came back inside a bit later, he heard a noise over the kitchen sink by the window.003cs1

It could see the Citrus tree it normally sits in…but couldn’t figure out how to get to it.


He emptied a small wicker trash basket….gently placed it over the Hummingbird and slide a flat cover between it and the window….carried it to the door and released it.

It’s still hanging around. I guess it’s little “mis”adventure didn’t scare it a bit.

I have 2 that have been here most of the year. At least, I think it’s the same ones.