Archive for the ‘Elm Creek’ Category

Hives at Elm Creek

I don’t know if you noticed it Sunday but not only was it rumbling thunder and flashing lightning all across the lovely Texas sky, but we also had morning temperatures in the upper 60s. Yes. You read right – upper 60s. As a matter of fact, when we set up shop at the Quarry market, we both noted it was a bit on the chilly side. I actually had a light rain jacket on and Mark was on the chilled side with the constant wind and being in short sleeves. This has got to be the strangest Texas spring/summer I’ve seen in the 16 years I’ve lived here. Up and down and back up again in temperatures – it’s no wonder the flowers don’t know what’s going on, which impacts how the bees make honey. As I have mentioned before, if there isn’t a consistent bloom season, then the bees don’t have enough flowers to get a great honey flow going. So far, we are seeing a little improvement in honey production but it’s still spotty to be honest and the total production numbers should be interesting to compare to the past couple of years. 2010 and 2011 were drought years so we didn’t get much honey production while 2012 was a bumper crop year. Let’s see what 2013 will yield.

Today Mark went to Elm Creek, which is pictured above. That is white bee brush you see next to the hives and the bees love that and so do we. It has the loveliest, sweetest scent and when Mark showed it to me in full bloom one year, I was so in love with it. It was like a summer snow dusting on the ground at Elm Creek. I still remember stepping out of the truck and just soaking in the fragrant air. Loved it. The bee brush typically blooms several days after a rain and when it blooms abundantly, then that is a real boost to the bees’ honey production. Wednesday we’ll go out to Comanche Creek to see how the brush did out there and whether it gave the bees a bit of a boost at all. We’ll report back afterwards.

After Elm Creek and some work at The Farm yards, Mark headed out to Gonzales. While they still aren’t doing much at the Gonzales yard, the Pizza yard bees were looking a little better and making a bit of honey. This is a shot of one of the fields Mark drove through on his way to the Pizza bees – good sign for the girls – that’s a lot of horsemint to munch on and that’s a great sight to see! Like bee brush, horsemint has a light, sweet fragrance and is a great bee food so we are pleased to see it growing like this. It’s also nice to not have to worry about someone mowing it all down like we have seen in some areas. Always breaks my heart a bit when I see beautiful fields of wildflowers mowed down. Well, we shall remain hopeful that these blooms will continue for a while so that the girls can get a steady honey flow going.

Pizza Bee Yard

In other news, we have joined another farmers market – Southtown Farmers & Ranchers Market, which will be located at the cool Blue Star Arts Complex! This Saturday morning market formally kicks off on June 15 although we won’t be able to join them until June 22 since we will be out of town for our daughter’s wedding. If you are looking for the same Sunday morning atmosphere of the Quarry market, then you’ll want to come visit us and the other vendors at the Blue Star. This market is coordinated by the same dynamic duo who run the Quarry market – Heather and David. As a webpage is developed, I will be sure to share it with you. Meanwhile, you can find the market on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SouthtownFarmersMarket.

Southtown Farmers & Ranchers Market


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Honey making bees

The weather continues to be all crazy here in South Texas. This week we are nice and cool again but I’m not complaining! I just know those three digit days are coming any time now. πŸ™‚ Just can’t believe it’s May and we are in the upper 70s…NICE. So nice. Okay, here’s a frame shot of some hardworking bees making some good-looking honey. It’s hard for them to keep the momentum going in honey production when the weather dips down into the 30s and 40s and then you add some rain to the mix. On the one hand, we do need the rain. On the other hand, when it rains, they can’t forage. Also, when it’s windy and chilly, they can’t forage. All of this slows them down so they can be in the midst of a honey flow and then bam, a cool front comes along and shuts down honey production for a bit. We’re not sure how much they will end up making this year but we’ll have a little bit of something and that something tastes pretty good already. I don’t see another abundant year in the making at this point. Let’s keep our fingers crossed.

In other news, Mark was invited to check out some of the loveliest country around these parts – a property where two creeks converge. Is that cool or what and why do I have to miss that opportunity??? Boo! πŸ™‚ Let me show you the creeks – here’s Cibolo Creek:

Cibolo Creek

And here’s Martinez Creek:

Martinez Creek

At one point, both creeks come together and then it’s known as Cibolo Creek. So cool and lovely! I so want to explore that area. Mark said it was just ablaze with cacti and wildflowers – Indian Blanket, Horsemint, and others. A real feast. That, along with the great water sources will make for a great bee yard location. I believe he said it was over 200 acres the bees would have access to if we establish a yard there. The problem will be identifying available bees to move. Good problem to have I suppose. We’ll let you know if we move forward with this location. I hope we do so I can see it. πŸ™‚

Edited Honey bee on Queen Anne's Lace

Meanwhile, back at the Bee Ranch…today we walked out back with the Smokester during lunch in order to enjoy the wildflowers we have in bloom. Nice to see the bees working things a bit. That’s a bee on the Queen Anne’s Lace. They seem to like that as much as the Indian Blanket. Saw a bit of Horsemint starting to bud out here and that’s nice; they love the Horsemint and it makes a great honey flavor. Really enjoyed being out there together. Even with crazy cat, who stuck close to the beekeeper (probably in case the Rattler was near).

My kitty & my honey bee

We swung to the left field and I just was floored by the buffet of flowers the bees had – look at that field! It was so pretty! If it wasn’t for all the critters and possible Rattler, I’d love to run through there and soak it all in. But instead, I will just shoot pictures. πŸ™‚ That’s where the Honey House is suppose to sit. It’s sort of nice that the delay in obtaining the land actually meant that we get to see this field like it is this year. Gorgeous. Simply gorgeous.

Future Honey House Field

Finally, I want to say that it was a little like Christmas here today during lunch hour. A box came. A new gadget was inside. Any guesses?

A beekeeper and his gadgets - figuring out the pollen cleaner

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Showing Contractor Ed the property soon to be ours

Took a little stroll out to the back part of the property this evening with Contractor Ed. We really like him and the ideas he had. Let’s hope things progress a little bit now. The update on the new Honey House is there’s no update on the HH. Amazingly, we are still waiting on paperwork from the seller. No one seems in a hurry whatsoever on this so I guess it’s a GREAT thing we have some options in terms of extraction locations come harvest time. We would, however, really like to have a HH in time for our annual fall open house – it would be really great to be able to give people a real tour of our little central honey hub! Keep your fingers crossed on that for us.

Besides that stuff, Mark’s been out in the bee yards even when he’s not feeling 100%, unlike me feeling 100% under the weather and crashing for a whole day and a half! Crazy. Anyway, luckily we are both feeling better this evening and the bees seem to be feeling just fine right now. Lately Mark’s been checking on the bees at Big Oaks, Elm Creek and Deadman Creek. They are all doing well and there is even a bit of a honey flow going on at Elm Creek. Here’s a picture of one of our very first bee yards we established here in Guadalupe County. Still one of my favorites.

Honey flow at Elm Creek Spring 2013

Here’s a not-so-welcoming site Mark received out at Deadman Creek bee yard today. Great, another potentially dangerous critter to add to this year’s growing list. We’ve not had problems with them in the past and this is actually the first we’ve seen on or near our hives so now we know to be watching our for them as well. Let’s see, that’s rattlesnakes, black widows, brown recluses, and scorpions. Let’s see what else we encounter as we continue working the bees. By the way, bees are looking good at Deadman Creek. The recent rain helps but we are hoping for more this Thursday when the forecast is predicting about a 60% chance of rain. Keep your fingers crossed.

Found him on a bee box. Took care of him with the hive tool.

Tonight I decided I had all the right ingredients to try a scrub recipe I’ve been wanting to make for quite some time. I love the lemony smell so I went with that one; plus it has honey in it so you can’t go wrong, right? It was very easy to make and took no time whatsoever. 1 cup of sugar, 1/2 cup of olive oil, 1 lemon and 1 tablespoon of honey. That’s it. I’ll let you know how I like it after I try it.

Honey & Lemon scrub making

I really love the yellow, spring look to it. If nothing else, it will certainly add color and a fresh scent to the bathroom. πŸ™‚

Ready to use homemade Honey & Lemon Scrub

Tomorrow’s agenda: Visit the Marriott Bee Yard and see how they’re doing. The four sponsored hives are there as well and so we’ll update our sponsors about their progress.

*Verdict on the scrub: I like it but next time I will reduce the amount of olive oil to 1/4 cup rather than 1/2. Love the texture, however.

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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! πŸ™‚ 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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Cleaning honey house 2

What a blessing to have so many buckets of honey in the Honey House! But it’s a constant battle to shift around and make room for changing inventory of honey, wax, new bottles, new bags, stock for market, general beekeeping equipment…and bodies! Sometimes we have to turn sideways to get through stacks of things. That’s a shot of the shipping table after we moved things around a bit. Now we don’t have to turn sideways and suck in our tummies to scoot through. At least that’s what I had to do. It’s more funny than frustrating to me now but I’m shorter and smaller than most of the other people working in there so they may NOT find it as funny right now. So, Mark and I spent all Sunday morning shifting and reorganizing in order to accommodate more honey supers as well as preparing for a visit from a writer from the San Antonio Express News. Edward will be here this coming Saturday and we wanted the honey house to look presentable and we are happy we put the time into it. Plus it was nice to work together again – things have been so crazy busy that I miss that part of life and business very much with Mark working full time somewhere else. I’m glad he’ll be coming back soon. It also doesn’t help when I’m out of commission for a few days. I want to thank our friends Cathy and David for standing in for me at the Pearl Farmers Market with Mark. Mark sent me the picture below as I was stuck at home trying to sleep off my ailment and I could tell that it was a busy day! And I’m so glad the three of them had each other. With my sister off to see my dad, we Hoang girls were no good to Mark last week!

David and Cathy helping us out

And here’s what the inventory looked like after market – can you believe it? They did an amazing amount of sales last Saturday and when I told Lan, she said she couldn’t believe she missed out on making the big sales goal. We just love it when family and friends find it as fun as we do because it is hot, tiring work. But with the right people, you can sure have a lot of fun!

Post Pearl Market August 25th

After the cleanup on Sunday, I crashed again while the hardworking beekeeping librarian returned the observation hive bees to Big Oaks bee yard and then headed over to Elm Creek to pull some honey supers. There are still two yards left to pull and he’s getting to them when he can and also when our friend Stan is able to help us extract. Thank goodness for Stan and Zach – they have extracted quite a few supers this summer and we are fortunate to have hardworking friends like them to help us out or else we’d be missing out on a lot of honey. Here’s a shot of the Elm Creek load Mark brought back Sunday. Tomorrow Stan hits the extractor.

10 supers from Elm Creek

Well, I guess that’s about it and I should probably wrap it up and get to sleep. Got lots of errands to run between work and working on the houses for moving. We’ve got a snazzy little label Mark created for the JW Marriott’s special order and we can’t wait to show it to y’all. In the new Honey House, I’ve asked for a Honey Bar and now I think I’m going to also ask for a place to showcase all our different honeys and labels. I think that’d be pretty cool to see a progression of those two things.

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Bee boxes down!

Hive down! Hive down! I think I said something to that effect Thursday evening when I accompanied Mark to see the Elm Creek hives. I had not been out there in ages so I was eager to see how things looked now. It’s overgrown quite a bit thanks to the rain this season (not complaining) so Mark said he’ll need to bring the weed trimmer out here and clear things back, if only to discourage snakes and if they are there then we need to have a better view of the ground. By the way, I first typed snacks instead of snakes. Must be my subconscious again. Anyway, I am usually quite the eager photographer so I quickly got over to the hives and was the first to see the downed hives and it looked a mess. Poor Mark thought he was only going to check on things and put supers on before we returned home for dinner. Nope! Had to spend a little time righting things but as I told him then, at least it was just two hives. It could always be worse. He agreed and started picking up the hive boxes.

Putting the boxes back together 1

Below is a shot of things after Mark set the boxes back on their stands and THEN went about checking on the honey production. It appears the ground gave way under the hive farthest from us in the picture and when it fell forward, it hit the front hive like a domino and it toppled over as well. Fortunately, things were okay and very little honey had been robbed out of those fallen hives; Mark thought he would see more empty frames but was thankful that didn’t happen. The girls are still making honey so he put on another super on out there. It’s a good little bee yard though you can see it is a much tighter space than most of our other yards.

Tall hives of honey

Here’s a bonus shot for you. Mark showed me this box when he was putting them back together. Do you see anything unusual about the frames? Warning: Don’t scroll past the picture if you don’t want to know the answer yet.

Overturned bee box 1

Answer to the question:
We somehow put three shallow frames in this box – the three on the right – and the bees started filling that space with honeycomb and honey. Oops!

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Medicine for the bees

This is HopGuard, a strip of cardboard soaked with a gooey concoction made from hops. According to the manufacturer, it is a natural product that will kill the mites in my hives, but will not kill my bees. One drawback is that it is messy, and latex gloves are a must. Just an FYI – bees can sting through latex gloves.

The cardboard strip straddles across a frame with the ends hanging down into the brood nest. I placed two of these strips in each brood box.

Here are the two installed strips. The good news is that the bees do not seem bothered in the least by the product. Unfortunately, it will only kill the mites that are on the bees, not the ones attached to developing brood inside the cells, so several applications may be needed. I placed a white board under the hives to catch the mites that drop from the hive. After about 30 minutes, I counted zero mites dropped from one hive and one mite dropped from another. Maybe my fall mite treatments with Apiguard were very effective. Or maybe I need to give HopGuard more time to work. I’ll check the white boards again in 24 hours.

Meanwhile, in the Elm Creek area…

Agarita, one of our best, early honey plants is officially in bloom. It’s interesting that the buds are red and the flowers, after they open are bright yellow. Agarita honey has a fantastic flavor and someday I hope to have some hives strong enough early enough to produce some that I can harvest. But not this year. The bees are doing well, but are still in drought recovery mode. They need all the nutrients they can get right now.

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1 hive, 2 queens

How many queens are in a hive? is a frequent question in beekeeping class. Β The easy and usual answer is “only one.” But nature is never easy or usual. I’ve seen many hives with double queens, usually a mother, daughter combination where the mother is still laying eggs and the daughter has not yet mated. This is a short-term situation and the hive will either kill the less desirable queen, or part of the hive will swarm with one of the queens, restoring the hive to its proper one-queen condition.

I was feeding hives at Elm Creek and noticed this unusual site – two queens that were both laying eggs, and very near one another on the same frame. The queen with the white dot is a queen that I introduced into the hive over the summer. The other queen (see her to the left of the white-dotted queen?) was created by the hive, probably during a queen-less period before the new queen was introduced. I’ve never witnessed two queens working, almost in tandem, to lay eggs and produce new brood. Some cells even had two eggs, perhaps one from each queen. I’ve always wondered why the hive should be limited to only one queen when two would seem better to ensure its survivability. Not sure what to make of it – I’ll have to check with some old-time beekeepers who seem to have good and ready answers for every mystery.

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Deadman Creek Bee Yard

Today was another hot day but a gentle (though hot) breeze did help a bit as we went out to check on the bees at Elm Creek and Deadman Creek yards. First stop was Deadman Creek, which now serves as a nursery yard for us. Despite the extreme heat and drought this summer and the fact that there is ZILCH out there for the poor bees to feed on, we have managed to divide and increase by about eighteen hives from our existing hives. We had hoped to have about fifty more this year and while we didn’t reach that goal, we are thankful that we have fared as well as we have. There are twenty-four hives at our nursery at this time. The picture above is a shot I snapped of the entire collection of hives while Mark dusted for mites and feed the bees pollen patties and some sugar syrup to help sustain them until we (hopefully) get some much needed rain.

Below is a short video of how Mark dusts the hives with powdered sugar in order to treat for mites. He’s tried several different things but has not been completely satisfied with them though this is the best option for now. Dusting the bees knocks the mites off and the mites fall to through the screen bottoms. If he wants to do a count of the mites, he sometimes will also place a grid board under the boxes so that he can catch the mites on there and do a count. Once the count reaches a certain level, he knows to kick in some sort of treatment. I always enjoy watching this method of powdered sugar for several reasons. First, the bees become “ghost bees” for a while and they are easy to spot as they fly around or wandered into another hive. Second, it’s powdered sugar. What’s not to like? Third, I find it fascinating that this simple treatment will help knock those little mites off our poor bees. No matter that the bees freak out for a few minutes because they suddenly have a powder substance on them and they may experience impaired vision and disorientation (see previous post about a ghost bee mistakenly going to a different hive). Finally, I also liked that Mark’s never been stung by a powdered bee and they appear to be welcomed in other hives should they accidentally enter a wrong one. A bee’s life seems so adventurous to me.

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Beautiful frame of honey at Elm Creek

Looks like I missed another exciting day out at the bee yards with Mark and the bees. Despite the lack of rain, our wildflowers and trees are in bloom so the girls are busy – especially with the Mesquite blooms, which are abundant at this time. Mark snapped this shot at the Elm Creek yard when he checked on them today. Apparently it tasted even better than it looked. Let’s hope the girls make us a lot of that delicious Mesquite honey this season! We have a long waiting list!

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