Sunny Days and Bees Are Here Again!

Sunny days are here again, except for well, today.  It has literally rained for the last 24 hours straight and it is STILL raining.  Boy it’s a great day for ducks! So, I got some ducks.  Five ducklings to be exact.  They are about a week and a half old and so darn cute!  Was I planning to get ducks?  Nope.  At least not for another six weeks.  But, someone needed to re-home them, so White Collar Homestead became their new home!  Today.  So, please welcome our new ducklings: Duck 1, Duck 2, Duck 3, Duck 4 and Duck 5 to our flock.  They are in the box we use for chicks along with the heat lamp to keep them warm.  Once they are about 4-5 weeks old, we will move them into the chicken tractor until they are old enough to go down to the pond!   Aren’t they adorable??  This is our first time for ducks, so we will be learning quickly!  Oh! And they love to swim! I can’t stand the cuteness! Check out my Facebook page for an adorable video! https://www.facebook.com/whitecollarhomestead/

Ducks in the boxOne of the cute yellow ducklingsDucklings in the pool

Bees!

Existing Hives

Along with the ducks, we now have 5 hives.  One survived winter, we bought two nucs and we split the one that survived winter, twice.  I split our surviving hive the first time last month, with the hopes that one half would keep the queen and the other half would have young enough brood to make a new queen.  First, why did you split the hive to begin with, Melissa?  That is a great question.  I split this hive because we weren’t even in a honey flow and this hive was massive (as in two deeps and a super)!  They were running out of room quickly and I didn’t want them to swarm on their own.  Therefore, I essentially did a controlled swarm where I took the queen and half the bees and left.  This way, I know where they went!  The part of the hive that I took to the orchard had the queen and has done very well.  I have been able to add a honey super on it and will be adding our Flow Hive on it.  The other half that remained at the pond, and well, I won’t mince words:  epic failure.  They didn’t make a queen.  What happens when workers that normally take care of brood have no brood (or a queen) to take care of?  They hoard.  They hoard a lot food. In fact, they filled two deeps and a super full of sugar syrup.  This means I had two deeps and a super full of food and bees.

Original hive pre split

What to do?  You split!  Since all of the frames were full of sugar syrup and there was no brood, we know there is no queen. Instead of leaving it up to them, we would make the decision for them and give them a queen.  Obviously they failed the first time, so not going to let that happen again!  The Hubs picked up the queens on Friday, came home and split the hive and put the queen boxes in each hive as I was working and Friday was the only day to do it based upon the weather.  Those bees were not happy!!! And he was a champ for doing all of it alone.

Since our horizontal hive ended up not surviving our last cold snap, we used it for the other half of the split.  Each hive now has 10 frames of food (thanks to the hoarding) and 10 empty frames for the queen to do her thing.  Plenty of room to expand.  We left the super on the regular hive just for extra food and added the Flow Hive since we are in a full-fledged honey flow. This year is our year for the Flow Hive!

new split hive in the orchardnew split hive with flow hive

NUCs

We purchased two nucs this year to replace the hives we lost. Yay for us, we got the a full two weeks ahead of schedule!   As before, nucs are just 5 frames of brood and honey along with a mated queen.  They come in a small plastic box and we just remove the frames and put them in a box with 5 more frames.  I of course painted the boxes this year… Carolina blue!  Only the best for the bees!   A nucOne nuc in my Carolina Blue hiveAll the hives at the pond

QUEENS

Did you think I forgot to tell you about the queens?  I get it, it’s ok.  No offense taken….really.  Anyhoo, let’s get to the queens!  It takes 16 days from the day an egg is laid for a queen to emerge.  The larvae has to be young enough if you don’t leave eggs for the worker bees to make a queen.  What this means is after so many days, the workers start to feed the brood a pollen/honey(or sugar syrup) mix called bee bread and will continue to feed this until the cell is capped at 9 days.  If they are making a queen, they only feed royal jelly.  All eggs start with royal jelly and then get the bee bread.  The queen doesn’t get the bee bread.  So, if the larvae is too old and has already started being fed bee bread, she won’t become a queen.  I believe the larvae was too old in the hive when I split, so they didn’t make a queen.

Now, if they do make a queen, she still has to go out a few times and find a few dudes (aka drones) to hook up with once she emerges, which takes a few more days (she’s only a little picky).  At this point, you are looking at around 21 days before she starts laying.  Then you have to wait ANOTHER 21 days for new bees to emerge.  At this point, ain’t nobody got time for that!   Not to mention we would have to steal two frames of eggs from the other hive, which we didn’t want to do.   Introducing a new mated queen cuts out the wait time and gets things rolling immediately (once she is released from her box).  Even better, these new queens are marked which makes it so much easier to see her amongst thousands of worker bees.

So, the boxes.  These are plastic queen boxes that have a fondant/candy cork.  The queen is alreadyQueen boxes mated and marked and has usually 5 or so workers with her to feed her the candy they are eating from the entrance.  The picture shows the whole piece of candy in the hole, but the Hubs cut out all but 1/4″ of it before he put it in the hive.  Once placed in the hive, the bees calm down and focus on the new queen  and getting her out of the box.  She should emerge within 3 days.  The boxes are small enough to place right on top of the frames in the box.  I will check the horizontal hive the next non rainy day to see if she has emerged.  The horizontal hive is way easier to open and check since I don’t have to remove 3 boxes first.  Just open the lid and open the inner cover and look!

Orchard and Garden

Just a quick note on the orchard and garden.  Fruit!!!! We have fruit! Seems the bees have done a marvelous job at pollinating the orchard.  We have the beginnings of pears, peaches, plums and apples along with grapes!  So exciting! I expect cherries as well as we had lots of blossoms, but I believe it’s too early to see anything.

apple starts baby peach baby plum  baby pearsbaby grapes

The garden is mostly in full swing, although I did have to replant carrot seeds as the original ones planted never sprouted.  We will wait and see on those.  The lettuce, chard, cucumbers, tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini, spinach, broccoli, radish, lima beans are all doing well.  We will be adding some corn, sweet potatoes and maybe spaghetti squash too.  The new garden has amazing soil, the railroad ties are doing their job and it all moving right along!

April showers bring May flowers, right?  Or maybe the Ark.  The sun will be back, so until then, I shall go cuddle with the canines and wait for the rain to pass. I hope your days are filled with sunshine and the buzzing of honey bees! Oh and some cute ducklings, too. Stay dry, y’all!

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