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Archive for the ‘Coyote Yard’ Category

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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Mite counting

Yes, these are dead mites, killed by our application of a natural miticide called HopGuard. The mites are the oval shapes, about the size of a pin-head. (The fuzzy stuff is the cardboard used with the HopGuard product. The bees chew it literally to bits and remove it from the hive.) Twenty-four hours after the HopGuard application I checked these white boards, which catch the dead mites as they fall to the bottom of the hive. I was surprised to find between 100 and 200 dead mites fallen from the hives at Elm Creek. The hives at the Farm only had about 20 dead mites on their white boards. The Elm Creek hives either had a serious infestation of mites, or the HopGuard is very effective at killing them. I’ll do mite counts again soon to see how they are doing.

Applying HopGuard

I treated the hives at the Pizza Yard with HopGuard on Friday. The weather was cool and windy with some sprinkles. The bees did not appreciate being disturbed in those conditions, and for this hive the HopGuard application was the final straw. At least they appear to be big and strong!

Showing our guests the bees

Today we had a knock on the door from a Turkish beekeeper and his family! The parents are visiting from Turkey and found us through a beekeeping association and our website. It was so great to meet them and to share our backyard bees and honey house with them. If only there had been time to take them to a bee yard. Maybe next year when they visit again. The father has about one hundred hives in northern Turkey, near Russia, and we have a standing invitation to visit them. This made our day for sure. Meeting wonderful people like this family is one of our favorite things about keeping bees and running GBR. You just never know who’s going to knock on the door or walk through the gate. And it is awesome.

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Agarita at Coyote Yard Jan2012

Mark showed me his pictures from a visit to the Coyote bee yard this past week and I knew we should share a picture of the Agarita out there. I have yet to see them in bloom in person so he’s going to take me out there when these buds open fully. Can’t wait to see it and photograph it. Once the Agarita blooms near the beginning of March, the bees will mainly use the nectar in order to build up their hives and prepare themselves for spring and the wildflowers that will be in bloom. With the rain we have gotten lately, the wildflower season should be a great one and we are very excited to see how the flowers and bees do this year. It’s got to be better than anything we saw last year.

When I got home from work today, I saw Mark in the Honey House so I headed back there. Friday evenings we clean up the Honey House and get materials and suits ready if we have class the next morning. We are anxious to see what develops as the forecasters are calling for storms, two inches of rain and flash flooding. Hmm…could prove tricky for us to have twenty-three students and a flooded back yard. Not a horrible problem to have and we aren’t complaining but we’re going to have to get creative! As I told Mark, we’ll roll with it and see if the rain actually comes. And then we’ll see if the students venture out. If they’re here, class is on. 🙂 Unless it’s such bad conditions that Mark actually cancels class. But we haven’t had to cancel any classes to date so we’ll just have to see what’s what in the daylight tomorrow. Meanwhile, I leave you with a shot of what I saw as I walked from the Honey House to the back door to go make dinner – isn’t that a lovely sky?

Sunset over the new ranch

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Healthy frame of brood

After class and lunch, Mark went out to the Coyote yard and released the queen he had installed in a slightly aggressive hive. I believe that was a hive that he had caught as a swarm and he had doubts as to whether or not they’d stick around at all. They have but then they started behaving in a manner he didn’t like so he decided it was time to put a marked Olivarez queen in there to calm them down. I had intended to go with him to two yards today but we thought it best for me to not go to Coyote and take any chances so I stayed home and worked on pictures and so on.

I did get to go to Deadman Creek and these are some of the pictures I took with Mark’s iPhone, which I think takes pretty nice shots for a mobile device, smart or not. Can you believe I lugged my Nikon out there only to realize I had forgotten to reinsert my memory card?? It sat nice and safe in my laptop. At home. Oh well. Sometimes I think as I wander the yards, what pictures should I take that are different from other pictures I’ve already taken of this bee yard and of bees in general. So I got creative today after I snapped a few to show you how well the bees are doing. It’s amazing how some rain really boosts the bees. They were carrying pollen in like crazy! And it was a lovely bright yellow, which is what you see in some of the cells on the frame in the top shot. Below is a shot of one of the queen cages Mark checked on today. He said they have pretty much almost finished eating through the cork to get the queen out. Great sign and he was satisfied. Today he put in the candy cork, which they will take about a week to eat through. He likes to call this the Very Slow Method of Queen Introduction. Seriously!

Queen cage with bees

Finally, here’s a fun shot we both really enjoyed. I set the iPhone on top of the hive box because I was found watching the bees from the angle so interesting. I thought I’d try out the angle as a shot and I ended up liking it so much, I shot two short videos in addition to this photo. I will try and get the videos off Mark’s phone and onto YouTube before the work week starts up for me. Between updating the phone, Time Warner’s sporadic performance and our schedule…we’ll see how it goes. But I’ll work on it! 🙂

Vertical view of hive entrance

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Bee yards 22April2011 10

Look at that beautiful frame out at the Coyote yard. The bees are doing well considering the lack of rain and the short blooming season (it seems). So dry we may be harvesting in a couple of weeks versus the late May, early June harvest time. There’s a good amount of honey on the hives and we are looking forward to this year’s harvest so we can check out the flow of the honey house with all the new equipment in there. We have a lot less space than we did last year BUT we do hope that we will be able to work more efficiently with some new equipment in place as well as designated workspace for specific activities. We’re very excited!

Below is one of my favorite captures from this visit to Coyote yard – the gigantic drone!!! Only good for mating with the queen. That’s it. Doesn’t do much else except eat up the honey. But they are so cute with their enormous bodies – look how different they are from the industrious, work-till-you-drop worker bee. So amazing how every bee has a purpose. I just wanted to share this picture also because as we meet people at events, they mistakenly think a drone is a queen due to the size of it. We educate customers and bee fans so they know who’s a queen, who’s a drone and who’s a female working bee. And it’s interesting that if you let people talk to you first about what they know about bees, you regularly hear them refer to the worker bees as male bees. That’s when you know it’s time to get to work teaching them about the bees. I’d like to thank Mark for teaching me so much so that I can help other folks now!

Bee yards 22April2011 11

Check out this activity at the entrance to the hive. Great to see. I love to stand back a bit from the hives and just look to the air. When I first started going to the yards with Mark, he taught me to stand back and look to the sky so that I could see the bees and follow where they are going and where they might be coming from at the end of the day. It wasn’t easy for me to do at first. Why? Well, you have to be still. And patient. For several seconds! LOL, the only time I can do that is if I’m asleep or if I have a camera pointing at something. But I finally learned to watch. It is so intriguing and it always makes me wonder – how do they fly so fast? How do they not collide? How do they know where to go? How do they communicate food locations to each other? How do queens and drones mate in air (!?!)? Lots of questions…

Bee yards 22April2011 5

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Bees on Cactus at Big Oaks - 6

Today we checked on three yards to see how the bees are doing during this year’s honey flow. Mark planned to put supers on any hives that might be ready for more space on which to add their honey. Considering how dry it has been for us here in South Central Texas, we have been blessed with an abundance of food sources for the bees. The Prickly Pear Cactus is currently in bloom as you can see in the picture above and in every yard we visited, they were buzzing around among the cactus blooms, harvesting nectar and some pollen. They acted a little drunk if you ask me. I shot a video of a bloom with two bees working it and I will try and get it onto YouTube as soon as possible but I have had trouble loading our videos lately. Last week I tried to get one of the swarm videos up for you guys but the farthest I got was 53% completion and then nothing. Frustrating. I’ll try again and then I’ll link it here or on Facebook to let you know it is ready for viewing.

Big Oaks 16April11 - 2

After working out in the honey house for a bit on comb honey frames, organization and bottling, we headed to our first stop – Big Oaks. This is one of our favorite and prettiest yards in my opinion. That is, however, a little unfair to say because each of our nine yards has special character and appeal to us and is pretty in its own way. Gosh, sounds like I’m talking about our children, doesn’t it. Well, we are just so proud of our yards and bees. They are really making the best of it in this dry spring so we love them for it. Anyway, Mark had taken a fresh frame of honey to our product shoot with Pauline Stevens last week so he wanted to put it back so the bees can cap it over. While we were there, he checked to see how they are doing and we are happy to report they are making honey and we continue to add more supers as they need them. I love it when I get to see the hives getting taller and taller. Remember last year’s hives? Some of them were taller than Mark stood. That was really awesome.

Capote Yard 16April11 - 3

Our second stop today was at the Capote Yard. As you may recall, this is where we had “the Cow Incident” where they knocked one of the hives completely upside down but fortunately did not kill our queen or scare the bees away. As a result, Mark straps these babies securely to keep the main bull from knocking any of them over and apart. They may tip over but at least the strap will keep the box intact. Luckily, nothing was disturbed when we go there and no signs of the cows. I was on the lookout. The bees were all so gentle and happy today that I didn’t even need to suit up at any of the yards. I made sure I stayed out of everyone’s way today and I was able to enjoy the gentle breeze and perfect 80-something degree, sunny day. Low humidity. It was heavenly. So the bees are doing great at Capote and Mark was satisfied with their progress. They are also making honey so that’s good news for those of you how loved the Mesquite honey. Looks like we’ll be getting quite of bit of that mixed in with some of the wildflowers sprinkled here and there.

Coyote Yard 16April11 - 2

Our last stop was the Coyote Yard – a favorite because of the people there as well as the wildlife. How can you not love the excitement of coyotes howling within earshot of the yard. And there are turkeys, at least one mountain lion (I haven’t decided if we are lucky or not for not seeing that one yet), tons of buzzards and other birds and another ton of Prickly Pear Cactus blooms everywhere. This is really a wonderful yard and we both think it’ll end up being one of our best yards in terms of productivity and bee happiness. We noticed lots of different things blooming on the property as well as within the three mile area that bees will fly in order to forage. There’s plenty of water and blooming vegetation around there so they are set.

[This is just an aside since I’m sitting in the study all by myself writing this – why is Mark’s Mac making a few funky, clunky sounds. That was weird and a little startling. Which reminds me of the little critter that must be under our house because it’s been making some noise here and there that I don’t appreciate it making. No, I’m not scared of noises. Why would you think that? Anyway, back to blogging.]

You’ll notice there is a bit of newspaper hanging over the edge of that hive Mark’s standing next to in the picture – well, that’s one of the swarms he caught last weekend. He put the newspaper there in order to separate the original hive from the swarm bees. Over the span of several days, the bees will all get used to each other’s scents and primarily the new bees will adjust to their new queen’s scent. Eventually, they will all eat away at the newspaper and if he was to pick up that box, you’d see that all that would be left are those edges that are hanging outside the hive. It’s pretty neat. Before Mark taught me how that was done, I had no clue that’s how you’d integrate an unknown swarm into your own hive. Cool stuff. I love learning.

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Shawn & Mark check hives

It’s official – I’m tired. Being an IT Trainer at the mill and then being the photographer for GBR wore me out today but it was a great deal of fun so I’m not complaining really. Just when I think I’m done and tired at the end of the work day, I get a text message from my beekeeping honey that he’s heading out to the Coyote yard and he wants to know if I want to go with him. Well, all of a sudden, that made my energy level jump up a notch or two. Got home; grabbed my camera and a cup of ice water; got my pink boots on; and waited for honey bee to pick me up. FUN! We had a great time out there and even got to visit with Shawn a bit. He and his family own the land on which the Coyote yard sits and he took us around to look at some flowering plants after he and Mark checked out a couple of hives.

It was a really tough pick tonight on which pictures to share. I had one of my favorite photo trips this afternoon, not only due to the subjects but also because the lighting was just the way I like it. The heat was not and I was burning up already in my veil and non-breathing gloves but I wasn’t going to take them off. I really want to make it through the season with no stings which equals not having to use the Epipen, taking steroids and possibly making a trip to ER. I think we’ve both had enough with hospital visits this year with our two friends spending time there. So, back to Coyote Yard. We really wanted to share this shot –

Spider's dinner

Isn’t it amazing? We both just love what we get to see when we go out to visit the bees. You just never know what sort of gift you’ll get if you stop long enough to pay attention to all things, big and small. I was really checking out the bloom on the Prickly Pear Cactus when I noticed something move. Then I thought, “Wow, that’s a big spider.” THEN I thought, “Whoa, that’s a poor little bee it’s got!” Wow, it just had that bee and it was so fascinating. I mean look at those eyes! And those funky fangs or whatever they are. I’m so happy I got to see that sight though I did feel sorry for the bee. I wondered about the odd coloring of the bee. At first I thought there was pollen all over it but then I thought perhaps that’s the color the bee got after the spider sucked all the life out of it. Not sure. If you’re a spider expert, you can demystify whatever happened here for all of us. Meanwhile, I will say these things about it – Mark remarked it was like the spider had a Happy Meal. And I thought he did look a bit like the Hamburgler. Remember him?

You can see the full set of Coyote Bee Yard pictures over at Flickr if you want to see what else we enjoyed out there today and every time we visit there.

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