Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Our Cats 3.25.14

I know there are many people out there who hate outdoor cats, but we are not among them.

It would be nice to have them as pets….it’s not meant to be.

This little grey kitty showed up on our deck one day.


I wasn’t going to feed her and entice her to stay but noticed she was either going to have kittens or already had them. So we started feeding to give them a good start.

She had 3 kittens…one got  badly injured and had to be put down. The other 2 and Mother were caught up and taken to the vets to be “fixed” so there’d be no more kittens.

Raccoons, Armadillos, Squirrels and Opossums still come in the yard, as well as, Blue Indigos, Painted Buntings, Doves,Woodpeckers, Cardinals, Titmice, Parrula Warblers and another little bird I don’t know the name of. My feeders are busy all the time.

I didn’t want the cats counting on my birds etc for food so Jim built a “feral” cat feeder. It is on a post with about 2  1/2 ft of aluminum flashing around the base to prevent Raccoons from climbing up.  I can leave a large amount of food for them and when gone my neighbor keeps it filled.

The cats can jump up into it and the Raccoons cant.

I figure if they are well fed they won’t be such avid hunters and they are not. They watch the birds and squirrels but get bored and leave them alone.

There are two other cats that also dine here. I let them for the same reason.

I had my Butterfly House outside and the grey Momma kitty used it to jump to the roof on the screen room. She loves going up there so Jim built them a “climber”.

The cat on the ground is Bolt…and that is what he does when we get near. The one on top is Lightning. I can pet him first thing in the morning when I put out food…but cannot touch him at any other time.

Smokey Momma will rub against my legs when I’m hanging clothes on the line but that is it.


I got up this morning and looked out….had to sneak around the back to get this picture…one on each step…you can see that Bolt is ready to do just that…bolt.


Never a dull moment around here. Love the critters. The cats can be sitting on the washer or dryer on the rear deck and an Opossum can come up …clean up a dish or bowl and the cats just sit there and watch…another part of the family. Same with the Armadillo or Raccoon. They’ve all adjusted to the company of each other.

Looks like they have their favorite steps. Jim noticed they were all on steps….same order as this morning. So I snuck out for another picture….you can see Bolt (second step) is in exit motion. Didn’t stick around for a second picture. As soon as I left he went back up. It will be interesting to see if they sleep there all night.


That is my frog pond at the bottom of the photo. Cats share the water with the Honey Bees. Better pictures in a previous post.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Honey Bees and their “Pink” and “Blue” flowered hives 3.22.14

Young Honey Bees in my “pink” hive are doing their “orientation”. This is how they learn where the hive is. They will come out everyday for a few minutes to learn the area …going farther each time. When there are enough nurse bees and they are no longer needed for hive duty they become foragers.


The hives don’t usually have orientation at the same time but one day after it had rained a few afternoons they both came out at the same time….talk about a large number of Honey Bees! It was amazing!.

I have windows in the back of the hives. The bottom deep brood box on the blue does not have one but all the others do. I do not use foundation. All the comb in the hive is comb they built. I love watching their progress.


This is the back of the “Pink” hive. (for the color of the flowers I painted on the front).

It’s hard to take pictures of the inside because I have to have the camera right against the glass or I end up with reflections.

This is the “super” on the top of the two brood boxes.

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This is the same frame as above…


The frames have no foundation…just a small strip in the center of the top of the frame to get them started in a straight line. What is interesting is the series of 4 pieces of comb that will be blended into one big comb. You can see they already started another on the frame in the front of the hive. (we’re looking in the back).

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This is the top super on the “Blue” hive. I added a second super yesterday because they had almost built out the first one. You can see the nectar they have put in the comb.

If you look that the ends of the frames in the front you can see there is very little room between them. I used the table saw to cut away most of the end by the windows so I could see through.

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I took two frames from the first super and put them in the second one. (second being the top one). This is looking between those two frames.

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When I pulled the two frames out I replaced them with empty ones. They have already started to build comb on one of them. That big clump of bees hanging down is called “festooning”. They are measuring and building new comb.041cs P1

Last year we crushed and strained the honey that we took after the bees swarmed.

We just ordered a hand cranked extractor so we can save the comb. We’ll have to uncap it….spin it slowly and then put the frames back in the hive for them to finish cleaning out. It is not a very practical way to do it but we are not commercial bee keepers and only have a few hives. It will make it much easier on the bees.

Next we’ll need a freezer to store all the extra comb for the winter. We cant leave the empty combs in the supers on the hive because the Honey Bees will cluster together when it’s cold to stay warm. It would leave all that comb exposed to Small Hive Beetles or Wax Moths. One super will be left full for them to use when no plants are blooming and nectar is not available.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Tangelo Tree in Bloom 3.22.14

The Orange Grove 2 streets over has been blooming for a week or more but we are completely surrounded by very tall trees and my Tangelo does not receive as much sun as those in a grove. This is just the top of it and you can see how small it is compared to the trees around it.

My Mom lived here for over 20 years and she found it was always 10 degrees cooler here than in town, so we are a week or two behind those out in the open.


The Honey Bees are working it but not as heavily as I would have expected. Guess they’ve already found the grove and go there everyday. It’s about a mile and a half in a bee line.


There are several working it …but could be feral Honey Bees. Kind of hope so….maybe they will swarm nearby and I can capture them for my Top Bar Hive.


If all these buds become Tangelos…..we’ll be propping up the limbs again this year.


I have noticed they work it better when it’s in the sunshine. Guess that is when the blooms produce the most nectar. Here’s a bloom that has already lost it’s petals. Wonder if that is a tiny Tangelo forming.


Full? or on to the next one. It’s amazing how many flowers they visit during the day.


This is the end of just one branch…look at the number of buds still to open.


In this photo you can see a Honey Bee in the upper R corner that is collecting pollen. It’s a bit blurry but I was happy to see her and took note of the pollen color. I see white, yellow and orange coming in. The Elderberry bushes are blooming and I think that is where the white pollen is coming from. Wasn’t sure what color the Citrus pollen was…it looks very light on the stems but might change color when packed in her pollen basket. Of course, she may have just come from other flowers.


I find everything they do fascinating. Sometimes they worry me…I don’t know enough about them yet….but learning.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Luna Moth, Opossum, Plants and Honey Bees 3.16.14

Jim spotted this Luna Moth on our mosquito zapper. It was alive so I moved it to the wood pile.


The 3 cats we feed are spoiled. Sometimes they leave milk. When they do there is a male Siamese cat that usually finishes it up…but today an Opossum took care of the leftovers.


Such odd feet….and the head almost looks too big for the body…but kinda cute.


Once it cleaned up the milk it went to the “scrap pit” where I recycle all my biodegradables.

I’ve watched a Raccoon dig around looking for worms.


A few Tangelo buds are starting to open.


But for now…most of the Honey Bees are on the Bottle Brush Bushes. These are the two in my front yard. 3 more in the back yard. 2 are very small but putting out blooms and one is almost this size.


Each bloom is made up of many “flowers”. When you stand under them they just humm.


View from the front porch. My sister gave me the solar lamp and Hog’s Head.


This African Blue Basil is becoming my stand by plant. My swarm catcher is on the top of the ladder.


The big one in the rear is last years…just planted the other two. Now have a total of 8 plants.

They bloom almost all year round. Big stem of buds with several flowers all the time.

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Even with the Orange blossom blooming, there are still several Honey Bees on these.


I am trying to plant bee food. When I see something that the Honey Bees are working……I dig it up and plant it in my yard. The Basil and Bottle Brush came from a nursery.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Bottle Brush, Frog Pond, Honey Bees and Butterfly 3.6.14

The Honey Bees are not the only ones who enjoy the Bottle Brush Bushes in my yard.

This Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly has been in and out a few times already this year.

With a 5” wingspan and slow fluttering wings it is one of the easiest to photograph.


Here it is sharing space with a Honey Bee. The Orange Blossoms are starting to bloom now so the Bottle Brush is not as busy as it can be at times.

When foraging is hard there can be as many as 4 or 5 bees on each bloom.


I have a bird bath about 10’ from my hives but the Honey Bees prefer the “frog pond”.


It sits on my rear deck…catches water from a rain gutter and normally has water in it all the time. Early morning condensation drips into it also.

You can see there are plenty of bees taking advantage of it.


It sits just below my clothes line and they take water from the fresh hung clothes.

If you hang your clothes out……and they buzz when you fold them…..please let the Honey Bee outside. I’ve had to do that a few times….now I shake them good before bringing them  in.