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Archive for the ‘brood’ Category

February 2016 Agarita blooming

Well it appears spring is pretty much here to stay. That’s Agarita in bloom in the above picture. It’s a great early spring plant for the bees and they are all over it. Very awesome to see this. I was hoping for a little colder weather still as I do miss it even though I’ve been here 20 years and I know what to expect but I still hope for some crazy cold, long lasting winter. HEHE I know that’s not what the beekeeper might want and likely the bees wouldn’t either. Speaking of beekeeper, Mark continues to make his rounds to his bee yards, checking their statuses and feeding whenever necessary. Some hives are doing really well while others need a little help until the flowers really bust out. He’s also continuing his mite treatments as he continues to see mites in the hives. A follower on Instagram asked us if we do that preemptively or if we actually have mites and know it. I told her we have mites; we know it; most beekeepers, if not all, have them; and she’d be wise to start reading up on all the research out there on multiple treatments available. No one yet knows the best answer but it’s a raging topic and a debate at times among beekeepers and sometimes even with bee supporters who don’t know much about bees or this mite issue. I can’t tell you how often people judge beekeepers who opt to use ANYTHING UNNATURAL on the bees. We’ve now gotten to the point where we just tell folks that if we were really sick and had a palm-sized tick sucking the life juice out of us, please give us medicine and help us. We don’t want to die that way nor would we want to let our bees die that way. It’s a terrible issue and we will do what we can to help our girls. Okay, on to more positive news from the Bee Ranch and Seguin.

Overall and especially in Guadalupe County bee yards (this is the county where we reside so most of our bees are here), Mark’s been really pleased with how almost all the hives are looking at this point. Strong hives with lots of bees, brood patterns starting to thicken, more and more pollen coming in and good looking queens. This may be the strongest he’s seen the majority of his hives at the end of winter and rolling into spring. We are very excited about this!

That's a lovely queen we got there

Here are a couple of projects and developments that have us super excited.

Beeswax lotion bars. I’ve been working on this formula for some time now and I think I may have it the way we like it. I’m so excited to get a label for this soon and start offering it! I am so in love with learning how to make these new products with Mark and making it for us, our family, friends, and soon our customers.

Beeswax Lotion Bars at the Bee Ranch

Hive Kits for sale at the Bee Ranch

Our Bee Gear and Equipment retail area continues to grow and Mark is happy he can supply local folks with things they need to get started to get going. These fully equipment hive kits (three levels) have become quite popular now that spring is upon us and busy people just want to pick up the complete hive and not sorry about piecing it together, which they can do if they choose to here. It’s been a good learning experience but also a lot of work for Mark but if you know him, you know it also makes him happy to help people starting out in beekeeping. He’s a great teacher and mentor.

Okay, I am off to do some more body care product development. We both wish we had more hours in a day to do all the fun things we want to try! 🙂

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Bee board holding pecans

Hello everyone. Just wanted to take some time to catch you up on our happenings. First off, yard treasures. This past year we had an amazing pecan crop when many others didn’t. Between bee work, candle making, construction and living life, Mark and Tang picked up pecans. We had a little help from family visits and a LOT of help from our dear friends, Mr. & Mrs. Savior. Boy, that man can climb trees still and he is up there in years. I was very little help really as the cedar has been trying to hurt me as it does every year about this time. After harvesting the pecans, we took them in batches to Brookes Pecan of San Antonio. They did a great job for us and while we wait for the final total, it looks like we are either first or second in terms of hauling in the most pecans, measuring by pounds brought in and shelled. Whoa! That’s pretty cool. At this point, I can safely say it was over 1,000 pounds. Exact number coming soon.

Here’s a second yard treasure for you (pecans being the first) – Colombian coin in the yard! It’s so pretty. I love the beautiful flower tree on one side of the coin. It’s the tree of life, which is what one of our ornaments is named! Meant to be, I tell you. So neat to find little treasures, both edible and not.

Colombian coin found in our yard

In construction news, we are happy, worried, anxious, eager, and all the other emotions that people must feel when they are spending a ton of money to build a dream. There’s always something unexpected though not always bad, so that’s nice. It’s good we’re near the end of building because we’re also dwindling away funds and while we did set aside funds for this, it’s still a little scary, right? 🙂 Keep us in your thoughts and prayers, please. We can’t wait to get in the building so we can see how far our journey will continue to take us. We have power; we have concrete landings; we have some landscaping dirt and gravel; and we have a builder ready to finish out the inside. Ahhhh!!! There’s still more landscaping work to be done but it looked so wonderful tonight when I walked out back to see the progress made today with fill dirt and gravel. It’s going to be so wonderful when it’s time to move into it! What a joy it will be to work in all that space and to have the things you need better organized.

Today's look at our Honey House

One more shot regarding building and construction and things you have to do to make the City happy. Such as build a sidewalk in front of your place of business. This one deserves a post at a later date so for now, I will leave it at this…the men were out front researching and figuring how to meet requirements and also not have to take out the lovely trees at our entrance. We’ll keep you posted.

Researching placement of the required sidewalk

Finally, I will share a one of the pictures I got from Tang and Mark as they check and feed bees. This is the first batch of drone brood for the season and it’s exciting because it means the hive is starting to grow and that’s always a great thing. It’s a sign of good health. Yay bees!

First drone brood of the season

Quiz time: What else do you see in the above picture that is noteworthy?

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Table of productivity
These are ready for markets this weekend although the ornaments are wrapped and stored for our big holiday rollout after we finalize packaging and labeling. Yay!

Besides hand-pouring all these lovely beeswax candles, bars, blocks and ornaments, Mark’s been on a tight schedule to clean up from harvest season, treat and requeen all hives and make progress on the Honey House project. Finally got some engineers who speak the same language so we are super please about that. Thanks to our good friend Thomas for his help in reviewing all the plans and proposals and catching some things that helped us out a lot!

Check it out – more queens! Mark is really trucking along on Project Requeen Every Hive before mid-October. Good job, love. Unlike the last back of Olivarez queens (they came around 7:00pm), this box was waiting for me when I got home for lunch, which is really nice to be able to do almost every day. My day job is about 7 minutes from home. Pretty awesome. Anyway, so far so good on the requeening. Things are going very smoothly this year and the direct introduction method is working very well with our hives. So glad Mark read about it on our friend Emily’s bee blog and then followed up with the researchers. It has saved Mark a lot of time and energy.

Queen bees in the mail

The box under the queens contains more samples of containers we are considering for packaging the new holiday ornaments we have developed and plan to roll out in time for holiday shoppers! So excited. We are making progress with Maeve as well and hopefully we’ll have our new tags and labels soon for the creamed honey as well as the beeswax products. Did I mention we are excited? 🙂

Beautiful frame of bee brood

Speaking of excited – the report for the JW Marriott bee yard is fantastic. Mark went there this morning and was thrilled to see all the hives were doing very well. That’s a frame full of beautiful brood from one of the hives. You may recall that we lost four out of five hives out there at the Marriott last year so we are really happy they are thriving this year. You never know from year to year which yards will do well. Historical performances don’t always act as the best indications of how well a bee yard will do the current year. It all has to rain and what’s been blooming for the bees. No rain, no blooms, no protein = two bee yards moved out to new locations this year. You have to watch the hives and if they are not doing well, you have to help them and in our case, Mark moved them to areas that seem to be getting more rain this year. In both instances, the colonies made progress within a week or two of being in their new yards. That’s always a good feeling to know that you’ve helped them in some way. They do so much for us.

Moving the rest of the divides

One last thing, I miss seeing all our new divides out behind the house. We still kept a few teaching hives as well as the queen bank out back but this week, Mark and Stan completed their move of the new divides to their permanent home. They have been developing quite well and we hope they will make it through winter just fine. You don’t really know what 2014 will be like for them until spring, when we can see how they managed. But these bees have been building up their honey stores and carrying pollen like crazy so those are great signs. It’s raining on and off here this afternoon and that’s also a great sign. A wet fall and winter would do wonders for next season’s crop. Let’s keep our fingers crossed, shall we?

Here’s how it looked when we had a full house not too long ago.

Backyard divides 2013

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Bee yards 22April2011 11

Our friend Beth asked what a drone looks like so I thought I’d show y’all a picture. This big boy was at the Coyote bee yard and he is conveniently close to the female workers so that you can see the size difference. He’s seriously big. 🙂 It is warming up nicely these days here in Seguin. Today was in the mid-70s and tomorrow will be in the high-70s and Mark said they are starting to build up drone cells in the hives now. That’s par for the course for the spring so we shall see if we have any more cold weather left.

Today Mark and Pete fed and treated bees in the Deadman Creek bee yard. Some hives look great while a few looked subpar. There’s just not much in bloom out at that bee yard at this time for the girls so we’ll have to hope they make it. Mark will likely combine some of them to strengthen them a bit. Tomorrow, Mark and Lan head out to Comanche Creek to check on and tend to the girls. Wish I could go with them!

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Bees bringing in pollen

What a lovely sight to see. As a matter of fact, I have several lovely pictures to share with you this week. The above shot is from Mark’s visit to the JW Marriott this morning – good job bees! Nothing looks nicer this time of year than to see bees coming back in with both pollen baskets full of beautiful pollen. It’s amazing what a boost that will be for them as they have already started building themselves up in preparation for the honey-making months to come.

We actually got a bit of rain last night and this morning – a quarter of an inch according to the rain gauge. We will take it. Every little bit helps. The bulk of the storm cell just missed us but as long as some of the areas around the yards got rain, then we’re happy.

Below is a picture of bee brush Mark snapped at the Elm Creek bee yard the other day. Gorgeous blue sky on a sunny, cool day. Can’t beat that in Texas this time of year. The bee brush is a lovely scent and blooming pretty much everywhere right now and the bees love it. Again, we are thankful to see the great food source in bloom for our the bees. Every little bit of protein they get means stronger, healthier, more robust hives.

Lovely blooming bee brush

Speaking of robust, look at this Big Oaks frame of brood! Incredible.

That's a lot of brood about to come out.

I couldn’t believe how packed it was and I was so happy to see it as it means the queen is gearing her colony up for spring and honey-making. While we are thrilled to see all of this, it’s a constant worry that the bees continually have enough protein out there to keep them going. We have also seen the Huisache in bloom as well as the wonderful wild mustard that got us through the 2011 drought, when nothing else was out there for them to eat.

In other news, we received a letter from the City saying we were officially annexed February 1. We continue to figure things out to try and move forward with building the Honey House. Mark continues to pour candles between doing everything else that needs to get done. By the way, we got new molds in for some colonial tapers – six inches of lovely wax. We decided to try it after talking with our brother-in-law about his Revolutionary War lantern replica. He uses the six inch taper and next thing you know, Mark ordered the molds and here we are. We are test burning four different wicks and so far so good. We love a dripless candle and soon, our testing will be done and the candles will be available for purchase.

That’s about it for now. Heading to bed and then we do what we do tomorrow. Hope you are all having a great week so far. It’s on the down slope now! 🙂 Wait, as soon as I wrote that I realized that Friday is no longer what it used to be for me since Saturday and Sunday are our wake-up early, work-work-work days. lol I have to find a new Friday! Okay. Goodnight.

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Spring frames are looking great

Is that a lovely frame to see in January? Why, yes it is! This was one of the hives at the Big Oaks bee yard and Mark sent the picture to me from the yard when he checked on them a couple of days ago. I thought this was one of the most perfect frames I’d ever seen – so lovely. Note the cells of honey on the edges – ready for feeding new bee babies. And the center of the frame is being readied to receive a good laying queen. Now all she has to do is give us some good little bees.

Today Mark went down to Runge to check the bees there. A lid was off one of the hives – who knows how that happened but the bees were fine inside so he got them straightened out and back on track. A few of the hives needed some feed but overall they are looking good also. This makes my beekeeper very happy and hopeful for another great year ahead. This good rain we got will also go a long way in helping the bees build up for the spring which will then take them into the honey production months nice and strong.

Well, we are off to finish up the Spurs game and then to bed we go. Pearl market is early and then Quarry on Sunday. We hope to see some of you at the markets. We’ll have plenty of honey and candles restocked and ready for you. Sleep well.

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Wild City Hive 3

I think you know what I’d say when my beekeeper asks, “Want to go with me and get some bees in a cherry picker?” That’s what we did early this morning on Seguin’s square downtown, just behind the courthouse. There was a wild hive that had formed on a pecan branch high enough not to bother anyone but not so high that officials didn’t worry they MIGHT bother someone. So…off we went on another beeventure. Don’t forget, Mark used to work for the City of Seguin so he wanted to help his friends out and besides, getting to ride the cherry picker must be fun! Sadly I did not get to go. Maybe one day. I’ve never been in one! I’ll put it on my bucket list.

Mark in the cherry picker 3

Up he went, high into the pecan limbs…

Mark up high at hive 4

He’s so awesome. I asked him to snap a couple of shots of the honeycomb up close for me IF he could manage it. I mean, I know he’s up there working and all…but I knew it’d make a great shot! lol Here he is, probably trying to snap a shot, balance the box, stay stable and not make the bees upset. And I want a shot. 🙂

Mark up high at hive 5

After cutting about four sheets of comb off the tree and setting them into the box, Mark brushed the remaining bees off the limb and came back down to Earth. He and Val worked great together and I thank Val for getting my beekeeper safely up and down.

Mark and Val unload the bees

The bees were then taken to our Deadman Creek bee yard and we’ll see how they do in their new home. They were quite gentle and Mark said he hated cutting them down but the first good rain would have likely killed them anyway since their home was totally unprotected from the elements. How odd of them to build out in the open like that.

If you would like to see the full set of photos of our beeventure, go to Flickr and see some of the shots I snapped. We loved our little beeventure before we both got busy with our other work.

I shall leave you with this – left to their own engineering, the bees made this perfect honeycomb with the perfect brood cluster in the center and then the cells of pollen and honey and edged with store, capped honey for later. They are so amazing!

Hive on the ground 3

We’re off to bed now (I know, it’s so early for us!) so that we can get up before dawn to get me down to the Pearl Farmers Market to set up shop. We’re expecting a crazy busy day (hoping, hoping, hoping) and luckily I have Lan and Cathy with me. Mark has a rather full bee class here in Seguin so we’re split up again. boooo…but there’s always the evening to regroup! Goodnight, y’all. xo

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Fall honey and pollen

Today was a gorgeous day out there – nice day to work the bees, not too hot. While I was in an office listening to the breeze whip bush limbs against my window, Mark and Stan were busy, busy. Stan’s got a whole lot of our honey bottled and ready for markets, class and other events coming up. What a great help and a great space saver for us. I actually was able to move freely around the Honey House after work as I met a customer and then did some work there (although my flowing skirt kept catching on the bottling tank valves, hehe).

Anyway, that gorgeous frame at the top of the post is from the Pizza yard and I think it’s absolutely gorgeous. It’s a shot like that – of the perfect frame – that makes me wish I was there with him with my big camera. The colors are gorgeous. That’s brood in the center followed by a ring of pollen and then honey. The bees are doing very well at the Pizza yard and they made some fantastic honey that I got to taste this evening. Thanks, girls!

Now, below is a shot of two of the five mites Mark spotted on the poor little larva. 😦 This is why he’s treating with Mite Away. To put this in perspective for people during our bee classes, Mark tells students to imagine a tick the size of a FOOTBALL on your back – just sucking the life out of you. YUCK. Now imagine five of them. 😦 I am so sad just thinking about the poor bees. Let’s hope the Mite Away does its job well and helps them out a bit. So far, so good with the treatments.

Mites on bee larva

Let’s end on a good note, shall we? Mark also visited the Marriott again and was pleased with his check of the treatment he applied earlier. Then he sent me this shot and again I marveled at the beauty of the bees’ work. Gorgeous frame of pollen and bees. It takes so many little pouches of pollen to fill each one of those cells…can you imagine how many foraging trips it took the bees to fill one cell? And then all the cells on one frame? And then the other frames in one bee box? And then the other boxes stacked on the colony? That’s a lot of work.

Bees & Pollen

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Greetings from lovely Florida where we are with my entire family – a huge reunion to send my mother off on her next journey. Thank you for the support and kind words that you have sent us. While we are sad that mom is no longer here with us, we are happy that she had a peaceful home-going and that she no longer has to worry about aches and pains. In her honor, I want to write about two things – a recent interest (bees) and a lifelong love (flowers).

Mom loved hearing how we and the bees were doing each time I talked with her or when we visited. She would ask how what Mark was doing with them and if they were making honey. Last year, we talked about how hard it was for them to survive during the drought and how hard it was for the flowers to survive as well. This year, we visited her a couple of times and we were able to tell her that things looked better with the rains we received over the winter months and then also into spring. I wish I could have shown her our wildflowers because she would have loved the colors out here. My mom could make any plant robust, even if I had taken it to the point of death. 🙂 She was AMAZING! She would have loved the Horsemint from this season, which was abundant and fragrant, too.

Horsemint at Big Oaks with butterfly

Here’s a shot to remind you what the Horsemint from 2011 looked like with so little rain. See how brown it was? See how brown the background was as well?

Poor Horse Mint

In the picture at the beginning of this post, did you notice the bees with yellow pollen on their backs? They get that from the horsemint because of the way the flower is shaped. As you watch them work the Horsemint, you can see how their backs rub up against the flower in a way that gets pollen all over them. Here’s a closeup of some of them –

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And here is a shot of one of the girls working the Horsemint –

Bee in Horsemint

Amazing what a year makes. Here’s to you mom. You’re gone in body but you’ll always, always, always be in our hearts. We love you and we know you’re now going to be able to visit all our bee yards with us. 🙂

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Full shot of the newer hives at the Farm

After about a week of dreary weather, the sun shined brightly today and it turned out to be an absolutely gorgeous day in the neighborhood so you know what that means – bee work! The picture above is the second of two locations of hives we have at My Father’s Farm on Highway 123. We usually just call it The Farm bee yard now for short. Mark and David picked this location for the fifty or so hives they brought back from East Texas last year. Then they move hives to other yards as they are ready. Hard to believe how different everything is this year compared to last year. They actually made up twenty new hives last week out of this yard. Very nice. We’re going to need more bees to make honey with all the beautiful flowers we have popping up everywhere!

I saw some really wonderful things today and I can post all the shots I would like to so I’m going to point you to the Flickr set for The Farm bee yard. You can see what I saw today. 🙂 Meanwhile, let me hit the highlights for you here. The Bluebonnets are here! The Bluebonnets are here! Now, they are only just starting to come out, but it’s lovely to see them sprinkled here and here. I especially love that the bees are getting after the pollen on the blooms. I think that pollen is the red we see them carrying in. Speaking of which, they are carrying in a great amount of pollen – it’s so nice to see our bees gearing up for spring! Things are really just about to burst around here. Last year, Mark reminded me it was already about 90 degrees this time of the year. I’m so glad this year has brought us abundant rain to catch up from the drought and the temperatures have been very pleasant. No complaints here!

Bee on Bluebonnet 3

For a while, I watched Mark introduce his Big Island queens from Hawaii – he had about eighteen to do I believe. The caged queens have been in there two days now and so Mark took out the cork and put in a candy stopper for each queen. Now she and her assistants will eat their way out just as the hive bees will also eat their way in to release her. It’s so neat to learn the whole queen introduction process Mark goes through each time with each queen. You really have to be patient so that you don’t rush the introduction and in that way, the bees will have time to adjust to and accept their new queen. There was one incident of taking eyes away from the cage for a second or two to switch out the stoppers and then poof – she disappeared on Mark! Poor thing. We couldn’t find her but fortunately he had an extra queen.

Taking out the cork on the queen cage 4

Have you ever seen a bee come out of it’s cell for the first time? It’s really neat to watch and you have to be super patient (gee, beekeeping = patience I guess) because it just takes time to watch the frame of bees. I saw this for the first time at one of our past events where we had the observation hive. It was so fun to watch it happen with the folks who stopped by to visit our booth. I was amazed to learn that they know, as soon as they “hatch out” of their cells, that they are to turn right around and clean it out to prepare it for use again. My goodness – couldn’t ask for a better tenant and worker, right? Anyway, I got a real treat today! I got to see not one, not two…but THREE bees coming out of their cells at the same time. And drones at that – those big boys made me laugh and I felt like a proud parent cheering them on. Sort of reminded me of that scene from Jurassic Park (first one) where the park creator watched baby dinosaurs hatching out of their eggs. 🙂 Anyway, here are the triplet drones. They are in the center of the picture and their heads are sticking up – versus most other bees you see working a frame, their heads are often sticking down into the cell as they clean, store pollen, etc.

Drones emerging from cells

We had a wonderful weekend even though the rains meant we actually canceled our bee class for the first time ever. But the rain did not keep everyone away – we still had several visitors to the honey house and we really enjoyed meeting our new friends and future students (yes, they’re all coming back!). We also had some time to prepare some materials for our hive sponsors. We have to get things ready for sharing with the two schools sponsoring hives. We’re excited to take this journey with all the staff and students! Okay I should probably stop here or else this post could just go on too long. You all have a great week and we’ll keep you posted on all the things we are doing to gear up for what could be a great season!

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