Saturday, September 19, 2015

Pepper Bush and Skunk Vine are blooming 9.19.15

Jim and I rode our bikes down the road and the Pepper bush was just humming with bees. It looks nice and fluffy..but wait till you see how small the flowers are.


Several of the girls were gathering pollen.


Many of these bees are natural size…I don’t use foundation so they build their cells the size they want. I’ve read that small bees do better with keeping mites off because the body is smaller.


Look how small the flowers are compared to the bees…they are hard to photograph because they are continually on the move from one to another.



I wonder how many flowers they have to visit to fill their pollen sacs.



This is Skunk Vine… the vine will travel to the tops of the trees and take them over. Once they are done blooming Jim will cut the vine and it will die…but comes back the next year.


It has beautiful little flowers…



I think the Pepper Bush is our last big bloom until Dec when the Red Maples start.

My Bottle Brush will put out several blooms and the Spanish Needle  keeps blooming until we get a frost.



This is another weed….it travels by putting out little “stick tights” when it’s done blooming…looks like she is getting nectar…


Just about everything that blooms here is a weed or invasive species…but I’m always glad to see it bloom for the bees and the butterflies. The Zebra Longwings and the  Queens seem to really like the Spanish Needle.


I put another super on the hives…they now have 3…after the Pepper Bush I will pull a little honey and leave them plenty for the winter.

I looked in the windows today and the blue hive is already festooning and building new comb…I didn’t see that in the pink hive but they have always been a little behind the blue. Don’t know why…

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Pink Hive…honey removed, crushed and strained 9-9-15

The girls were really quiet today…

I took 6 frames from the top super then Jim lifted it off and set it on the stand. I am getting ready to take a couple from this one.008c

We only pulled 8 frames…this hive still had frames that were partially drawn out and empty comb.


Today we just put the frames in the rack then moved to the shade and brushed the bees off and covered it.

I don’t have a “honey house” so I do it in my kitchen.

I cut the comb from the frames into this big stainless bowl then mash it up …..


then spoon it into a jar.


I put cloth strainers on the top with a rubber band and sit them in the funnels I made from milk jugs.

This corner of the screen porch gets afternoon sun…it helps the honey run better. Once the sun hits them the heat in the top of the jar overcomes the vacuum that is created when the honey flows into the bottom jar.I still have to pick them up and hold them sideways to break that vacuum then it starts running good again.

Once it is all strained I’ll combine the jars so they are full.


I spray the floor with Avian Insect Liquidator to stop the ants that might be interested.

The jar in the foreground is almost done but I’ll let it sit until the sun has a chance at it….then the wax from all these jars will be put in the stainless bowl for the bees to clean up….then I’ll melt the wax down and use it for candles.


The candles are for our own use…lots of power outages here. My Mother had 4 of these hurricane candles so I took the wax out ..will use it to make fire starters for the wood stove…then filled it with bees wax. I read that bees wax burns cleaner than paraffin wax.


One more to fill.

The Pepper Bushes will start blooming shortly and then I’ll check the hives and pull a few more frames…I will leave them at least 1 1/2 supers of honey…I had to feed back some of their honey last year.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Caterpillar and Honey Bee food

This is an earlier post that I forgot to post…you can see the difference in growth.

We had some skirting that was damaged during the hurricane in ‘04. After Jim trimmed all the plants along it  we decided to hide it with a trellis and Passion Flower Vine. We can walk behind it to weed. I have a soaker hose the length of it.


The center plant is the same as the one in the backyard. We purchased 2 more at Lowes.

The flowers are a little different. This is the original plant…curly lavender flowers and yellow stamens.


This is one of the new plants. The flower is a little smaller has straight feathery things and pinkish leaves with pale green stamens.


Even the leaves are different… plants


Old plant…


There are caterpillar eggs on both plants, and the caterpillars seem to like either one.

The white ones are Zebra Longwings and the red one is a Gulf Fritillary.



Jim and I ride our bikes each day. A neighbor a few streets over has 2 sheep and they’ve about cleaned out their area so we cut weeds and load the bikes for them.

This morning as I was cutting I found this chrysalis.

It is a Gulf Fritillary. It was on the opposite side of the road the wild Passion Flower is on…since I’d already cut the plant I brought it home and tied it up. They look like dried leaves…I’ll be watching tomorrow for more.


This is the Zebra Longwing chrysalis …one of 3 on the middle plant. That plant has been in the tub for several months.


This little guy is only about 1/2 inch long….it is on the lattice to shed its skin. I checked later and there was just the old skin and he’d found a leaf to eat.


Since the Honey Bees also work the flowers I was glad to put up more caterpillar food and bee food.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Honey Bees gathering pollen on Passion Flowers 9-3-15

I originally planted these because they are the larval plant for the Gulf Fritillary and the Zebra Longwing butterflies.


Now that the Cabbage Palms are done blooming there is a shortage of food and they are working the Passion Flowers.

We added 3 other plants….it’s amazing how fast this vine grows.


This Passion Flower is a bit different. It has straight spikes and greenish stamens. This little lady has her pollen baskets almost full.

009cThis is the original plant….curly instead of straight…it’s really much prettier…but the bees don’t seem to care.




I think the big black one might be a Mason Bee…not sure but there are several that work the flowers…looks like 2 on this one…plus the 2 Honey Bees heading in.


Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Honey from the Blue Hive 8-26-15

The Blue hive stores honey faster then the Pink hive so we decided to pull 7 frames.
I had checked through the windows in the back and all frames were full.  Pink have still had some room.
We took 4 from to top super then Jim lifted that one off and I took 3 more from the second one. This way they have access to the top super. I read that sometimes they wont go past a “honey ceiling”.
Last year we put 3 supers on before we went north and when we got back they had filled the first one but the others were empty…then they started backfilling the brood nest and swarmed.  Lesson learned.
My frames do not have foundation in them so it is all wax the bees made. Because of this I crush and strain the honey…then use the wax for candles.
This big stainless bowl is where I crush the comb…then put it in jars with a cloth strainer over it….I then sit that jar on an empty one. I cut funnels from gallon milk jugs…they work great…no more drizzling down the sides of the jars.
Once done all the tools and empty jars go outside for the bees to clean up.
This is just one jar…had 7 plus the empty frames. They work hard to make honey and I don’t want to waste a drop if I can help it.
This bowl was full of chunks…when they got done it was flakes.
When we do this the air is full of bees…flying all over the yard. Walking through you might get bumped once or twice. After  it is clean they disappear.
I had this near the back door and believe it or not…I was able to pick it up and move it closer to the bird bath and not a single bee bothered me.
Hurricane Erika was on her way so we only did the Blue hive….we got some rain but no big storm….now we need to do the Pink hive.