Thursday, April 28, 2011

Indigo Buntings

I took these last week and haven't seen them since. I guess they have migrated North for the summer.002cs

The green birds are either juvenile Painted Buntings or females. I have seen one several times a day …but only one.


The Indigos usually come a few weeks after the Painted Buntings get here in November.

They are in their beautiful breeding color just before they leave. This one is gorgeous.

Enjoy them at the feeders.

When you get a number of Indigo and Painted Buntings at the feeder it is a beautiful sight, then toss in a couple of bright Red Cardinals and what more could you ask.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

New Beehive Stand

The only area I have for the hives is in a very low wet area. Wet during the summer rains.

We built it high enough so flooding wouldn’t get into the “oil cups”. Some time within the next year we will get a  load of dirt, and fill in the area around the posts……..  giving me enough room to work the hives and be high and dry.

The height of the TBH is ok for working right now…but the “Church” hive will have at least 3-4 supers on it at some time in the future…not this year…so we have time to work on it.


We may frame it with landscaping timbers and then fill in the area. During Tropical Storm Fey we had almost a foot of water standing here. So…we need to build an island.  You can see my wetlands plants growing quite well and we’ve had very little rain lately. We sank the posts about 2’ and hit water on the way down.

The white cups and covers were put there to be filled with oil but you can see that even after being caulked it didn’t hold and leaked a small amount down the legs and onto the concrete. Cat litter cleaned it up. The day after I put the oil in I read a post on the Organic Beekeepers site where someone had good luck with petroleum jelly…so I used a small flat stick to put some inside of them.  I had a lot of big red ants get into the TBH (long one) and kill a number of bees.  I hope this solves that problem. It’s not strictly “organic”…and if I had strong hives I probably wouldn’t need it….but mine are just starting out and not strong enough to keep invaders like that at bay.  Maybe someday I’ll be able to forget putting vaseline in them but for now I am tweaking “organic” a bit.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

“Church” hive bees bringing in pollen after getting new Queen

I spent several days sitting and watching for the bees to bring in pollen, but never saw any. I got concerned about my Queen. Did she leave? Did she quit laying? Did she get injured when we moved the hive from the church tree to our place? It was a 12 mile ride and we do have rough and dirt roads. Or…did I injure her when I was checking the hive?

My neighbors were going to an Apiary to pick up a couple of hives full of bees and a couple of Queens. I did a check on my hive and couldn’t find her or any amount of capped brood….so took a chance and had them pick me up a Queen also.

I went to George’s and watched him put the Queens in his hives and then he and Craig came to my place and helped me put mine in.

The Queen comes in a small cage with a candy plug. You suspend the little cage between the frames and the worker bees will eat the candy and let her out. It might take a day or two but by then they are used to her scent and she is their Queen.

While installing her, George looked over my frames. He did see larva, but not a lot of brood nor did he find a Queen.

A day or two after putting her in, I sat in my chair watching. Bees were coming in with pollen!


I took these photos out of the video. They come in too fast for me to capture. You can see this one is still in flight aimed right for the entrance.


They aren’t hard to spot with those big yellow sacks on their legs.


Each bee has it’s own job.  Some stay in the hives and take care of the brood. They are the nurse bees. Some clean house, some get nectar, some get water and some get pollen. And they do their job.

I had some bees on the boat one time. I thought they were looking for a place to live but they were after some water that had collected behind the teak. I tried to distract them with a plate of honey and they ignored it. I finally set out  one of the water jars ( like in the video)  and they started drinking and flying to their hive. That was when I first realized how focused they were on their own job.  This was before I had bees. It really got me interested in them. I kept moving the water a few feet at a time until I got them to the bird bath.

So bees clean the front of the hive and bring in pollen. The others coming in probably have nectar.

You have to realize that I am a “newbee” at this. I will make a lot of mistakes but I keep track of what is being discussed on the Organic Beekeepers forum on Yahoo and these websites:     just to mention a few. I am getting a “package” of small cell bees from    for my Top Bar Hive.  They should be here in a couple of weeks.

If any of you are interested in bees and beekeeping…be sure to read all you can on small cell bees and natural beekeeping before you get started.  It might be the way you want to do it.

And check out the Top Bar Hives.  I have no experience with them other than the small swarm that occupied it for a while, before I combined it with the “Church” hive,  but it was so much fun to open the observation window and watch their progress building comb.  There are many designs and people can be very creative.  It could be a great addition to a flower or vegetable garden.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Five Lined Skinks and Broad Headed Skink

The American 5 Lined Skink lives in one of my trees.  I had thought it would be nice if a swarm of bees moved into the hollow…but today I spotted 3 skinks. The arrows show where each one was. You can see my hives in the back ground and my “blue bee” chair.

I love this tree…it has such an unusual extra “leg” and the root system is beautiful.

I see Carolina Wrens go inside looking for bugs. At first I thought they wanted to nest there.


I think this is a Broad Headed Skink. It was the largest of the 3. I would guess about 7-8 inches.


It was chasing one of the others down the tree.


I looked a bit lower on the tree and here was the one it was after. This  one is starting to get the red head and was a bit smaller. It’s  tail has already started to fade.  I am not sure if the 5 lined Skink and the Broad headed skink are related. It looks as if I have both.


This juvenile was on another part of the tree. Look at the beautiful colors. I see a lot of these running around the deck. The larger ones stay closer to the tree.


I’m glad I was checking out the tree before I posted this…..I spotted this pair on the tree. They did their best to try and evade me but I was persistent and got some video of them. Now I know where the expression “being right on someone’s tail” came from. The male followed wherever she went. I don’t think the female is in any of the pictures above…but the male could be.


Saturday, April 16, 2011

Miniature Honeybee?

I have a few sunflowers growing under the bird feeder.

I saw a couple of very small bees gathering pollen. It was amazing how much they were carrying.067cs

I read there were Miniature Honeybees…upon close inspection they looked just like little honeybees but with bigger heads.


I was surprised these tiny little bees were collecting pollen from the sunflower and my honeybees weren’t.

Later this butterfly came along.


It will be fun to see who gets the sunflower seeds….the birds or the squirrels.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Eyed Click Beetle

I have never seen one of these before…but I would have loved having one as a kid.


Jim asked me to check for fuel leaks when he started his ‘28 Buick. When I walked around the front of the car I spotted this little guy.  It’s a couple of inches long…has a hard shell and spots like big eyes…but that is not it’s head.

eyed click beetlecs

I took a leaf and gently nudged it along trying to get it to move outside so it wouldn’t get run over or stepped on. It immediately rolled over on it’s back.


So I tried to roll it back over. Normally a beetle is in trouble when on it’s back….not this one….with a click it popped several  inches in the air and landed a foot or so away. What a surprise.

So if you see this little cutie


Give it a gentle nudge to roll him on his back and see what happens.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Combining two hive into one.

On Wednesday I combined our two hives.

The bees in the Top Bar Hive didn’t have enough bees to survive on their own. Now that the second hive is home we’ll combine them into one.

With George’s instructions and a few videos on YouTube….I felt good about trying it. The main problem was going to be fitting the top bars into the Langstroth (Langs for short) hive. We decided to add extensions to the top bars so they would fit. Jim had them all predrilled for me. All I had to do was set them on the bars..measure for size, drill holes in the bars and then screw them down.

I set my camera on my blue “bee” chair and went to work.

Saturday  I tore the excess paper from around the outside but will not disturb them again by opening the hive  for awhile. ( unless sitting in the chair ..staring at them disturbs them). They can get rid of the paper themselves.

All I have is the photos. It took me over half and hour to complete the move…I edited a lot of it out so it’s under 8 min.

I sat and watched the hive for awhile this morning. I saw several bees come back to it  and look around the top for an entrance, most just flew directly into the hive.  I think they remember getting in up there…but they finally flew down to the deck and entered the hive….none of the bees bothered them. Guess they’ve been accepted.

I will only be a “hobbyist”, with 2 or 3 hives, but my husband, Jim, is going to help me build a raised area for them. This is the only spot I have …  and during the hurricanes and tropical storms it can flood this area for a few days. So…we are going to build a large box, big enough for 3 hives and working area…fill it…and put a layer of concrete wash on the top (hive beetle larva like sandy soil..we don’t want them to be happy).  One and a half feet should get it level with the driveway and that should be enough. If it floods higher than that it will have to cover hundreds of acres…and then we’ll all be living in the boat….

Most people have “raised beds” for their gardening…..I want one for my bees. I really enjoy working, watching,  and learning about them.


Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Checking the hives for Queens

Both hives had to be checked today to see if each had a Queen.

This is the first time doing this on my own. I am pretty sure the Top Bar Hive does not have a Queen. Everything in the comb looked like honey waiting to be capped. I didn’t see anything  that even resembled brood. The comb is so small I decided not to pull the bars apart to check in the middle. But I have pictures of both sides. This is the picture I took today.


I cropped this out of it. There are a couple cells that I am not sure of…but they could be pollen, or they could be empty.


This is of the other side…taken 2 days agosnapshot_012cs

I know I should probably try to combine them with the other hive…but I really would like to see how they do with a Queen.

These are from the Lang’s hive. The bees were trapped from a bee tree.


They have comb on 5 of the frames. No foundation in 4 of them. The only frame with foundation was given to me by my neighbor, George, from his hive to get the “trap out” started.

I removed the 5 empty frames to give me room to work. Then gently pried each frame loose and slowly slid it to the empty side. Frame  #5 has just been started. There are 2 small combs and the bees were “festooning” between them. (hanging together with their feet to measure).

Frame #4 is very well filled out.


Frame #3   At first I thought all the white was capped brood…but a more experienced keeper looked at the photo and told me it was capped honey.047cs 

Here is a close up of it. On one of the combs in another frame I saw cells with a raised cap like they build for Drones. I should have looked more closely…that was probably the brood.


When I slid frames #2 & #3 apart a piece of “cross comb” broke apart and uncovered at least 2 larva. I hated to see that happen. I was being very careful. Worked very slow all the time. larva is a good sign I have a Queen.  The frame of brood was put in there on 2.24.11.   That was 40 days ago. Any brood from that frame would have emerged by now so there must be a Queen laying in there. I did not find her. I was afraid I would mess up more comb and I might not have been able to find her anyways.  She can move from comb to comb much faster than I was willing to work.

The larva is just above the red lettering. There is a second on that is visible in the video. I think a bee is covering it right now.


I worked slow…did not have to use any smoke.  They never got angry..not even when that piece of comb split.

The video isn’t very good but it does show both hives.

So….if any of you “Beeks” out there see something that I didn’t …please let me know.  Any suggestions or words of wisdom are appreciated.

When I first started this post, I was going to get a Queen for the TBH.  I decided not to…..….I’ll try to combine the hives Wed. Bad storm coming thru this area tomorrow.

When I first caught this swarm, it was suggested on the Organic Beekeeping site that I combine it with another hive. At the time I did not have the second hive.

I felt pretty good about their chances until the ants killed a number of the bees….and now it looks as if they may have gotten the Queen. Or we may not have gotten her when we caught the swarm.

I wasn’t able to have George check the hives with me today. My husband was working on the dirt road coming into our place and it wasn’t passable, so I emailed him the photos. After looking at them he felt it was too small to survive even if I did get them a Queen, and said he would combine the two if they were his. I think I knew in my heart that was the right way to do it….just hated to give up. But it isn’t fair to the bees for me to take a chance on all of them dying, just so I can sit in my little blue chair and peek in the observation window to watch them. George’s experience and opinion mean a lot to me….it was that little nudge I needed to go in the right direction.

So….my next learning experience will be combining two different kinds of hives. I don’t mean kinds of bees (I wouldn’t know one kind from another)….but the hives themselves. After looking at the equipment….I think we can do it.


Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Butterfly House is open for business

This is the new Butterfly House that my husband, Jim, built me.  It has a much smaller footprint and holds the Giant Milkweed. I had 60 caterpillars on this plant last fall. They ate it down to the last leaf. It came back better than ever.

butterfly house 4.4.11 004cs

I find it much cheaper to grow them on this plant. The Tropical Milkweed disappears in days.

I picked up a couple of Milkweed plants to collect caterpillars from. I have several in the ground but the  eggs disappear from them. One or two caterpillars survive but most of the eggs become food for something else. They don’t seem to bother the eggs on the plants in the pots as much.

I have one chrysalis in the top. It pupated on 3.29.11. A Monarch should emerge in a few days.

 butterfly house 4.4.11 006cs 

There are 9 tiny caterpillars on the Giant Milkweed.  I bring them in when ever I find one on the outside plants. Can’t believe the last 2 survived the hard rain we had a couple of days ago.

This one is just over a 1/4 inch long. You can see how much leaf it has eaten. These leaves are thick and fleshy and support a larger number of caterpillars.

butterfly house 4.4.11 007cs

I haven’t seen a Monarch in here since the female came in and laid it’s eggs. I was thrilled there were so many.  When I went back a few days later they were almost all gone. That is why I bring the caterpillars inside. 7 of the 9 that are on the plant now are eggs that I brought in…let hatch and then placed them on the plant.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Top Bar Hive … update

The small swarm that we caught went into the Top Bar Hive.

A few days ago, I noticed a lot of big red ants running around inside and out.  I opened up the hive and with a wet paper towel, squished all the ants. I was suited up but the bees didn’t seem to mind my help. 

It was such a small swarm to start with…I felt bad when I noticed how many dead bees were by the entrance. The guard bees must have been trying to keep them out. their numbers are even smaller.

I spent the day working on a feeder for the Top Bar. I didn’t want it at the entrance where it might encourage “robbing” by the other hive.

While I had the “follower board” out ..I took a quick video. Here are a couple of pictures taken from it.snapshot_010cs

After looking at the pictures…..I was surprised to see they had started a second comb.

You can see it in the foreground…it’s the small white cluster of cells. There is another small..quarter sized piece of comb on one of the other bars, but I wasn’t able to get it in the photo.


It is so small I don’t have a lot of hope for it…but I’ll feed honey until they can get a few more bees. I don’t think they have many foragers.

I need to check both hives on Monday to see if each has  a Queen. The ants may have gotten to the Queen with this swarm and the other hive was started with a Queen cell. If that one didn’t make it then  I will buy a Queen for them. The gentleman who introduced me to bees is going to pick up a few for himself and will get me a couple if I need them.

I have a pretty blue chair by the hive so I can sit and watch them. It is interesting to see how many are bringing in pollen and how many are on guard duty. I open the observation window once in awhile to see what is going on inside.

Do you see the “tree'” to the L of the hives?  That is a hollow tree that had fallen during the storms a few years ago. Jim made me a “tree bee hive”. We’ll just let it sit there and hope a swarm decides to move into it. No honey from that one…Just a bee home.


This is the video of the inside of the Top Bar Hive.  They only have use of about a fifth of the hive. That way it is easier for them to control the temperature with their small numbers.  As they continue to grow I can open up more room for them

I ordered “supers” and frames for the other hive. They should be here in a few days. They will come unassembled…I get to put them together…cheaper that way. Can’t wait!!!!

Jim is even going to have his own hat and veil so he can help without getting bees in his face.

We are going to build a better stand for the hives. Hopefully it will end the ant problem and make it easier to mow in that area. They will be moved a bit forward so most of the mowing will be behind the hives and I can use the weed eater in front of them.