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Archive for the ‘queen’ Category

Howdy! It’s been busy as we continue to decrease our overall hive count (too many for Mark to care for solo). I wanted to share with you all Mark’s latest newsletter to his students and our customers. You can also find an updated Beekeeper Workshop list for the remainder of 2017 on our website. Hope you and your bees are all well!

Mark’s Update:

We visited our large bee yard in Medina County this morning, and while it is dry there (no rainfall from Harvey) we still saw a good pollen flow and even a small nectar flow. I am always amazed at how resourceful the bees are! Here in Guadalupe County (about 10 inches of rain from Harvey) we see a good honey flow in some locations and a heavy pollen flow everywhere. We often see a dearth of both of those this time of year, so this abundance of pollen and nectar pleases us as much as it does the bees. We are mostly seeing strong, healthy hives as a result of this boost in nourishment. When I do come across a weak or dead colony I attribute it to either a failing queen or a heavy mite load. We are working hard now to replace all of our queens and to make sure that every colony has an acceptably low mite count. For mite treatments we used Apivar in some locations, and in other locations we are trying multiple rounds of oxalic acid vaporization. We expect good results from both methods.

I am teaching our September Intro to Beekeeping class for paid registrants this Saturday, therefore we will not have our usual free beekeeping workshop. Nevertheless, please feel welcome to drop by if you need a queen or any supplies, or just want to visit. We always enjoy hanging out with beekeepers! Please visit our website if you’d like to see a full list of our upcoming workshops.

I wanted to share a photo of something that you may not have seen before: worker bees killing their queen. The bees form a tight ball around the doomed queen and proceed to sting and overheat her until she is dead. What a way to go! This was a young queen that perhaps entered the wrong hive after a mating flight, or perhaps had some defect that the colony found unacceptable. I noticed that many of the workers in the ball continuously exposed their stingers. When I picked up the ball with my bare hand I was immediately stung.

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October-November SA Drop dates

Hello folks. Just wanted to drop a quick line to say hi. We are heading into San Antonio this Thursday morning if you need us to bring in an order of anything. Holler at us on the company line (no texting) 830-305-7925. Also, check out what Mark and Stan bottled this year…it’s been a while for the larger sizes of local honey. This is nice to see.

2016 Guadalupe County Wildflower Honey

I love that we have jars from cute little 2-ounces to the 5-pounder. Cool and fun for us.

Here’s an excerpt from a recent email Mark sent out to his beekeeping group:

“We are in the midst of a Fall season that has been beneficial to our bees here in Guadalupe County. We see a moderate honey flow and a strong pollen flow continuing. I am spot feeding here and there, mainly the new splits to boost brood production. We are nearing the end of our re-queening project and we are very pleased with the Kona (Hawaii) and Wilbanks (Georgia) queens that we used. We are seeing strong brood rearing in all of the colonies with new queens. This will greatly help us in early spring when we start making divides and nucs. Two weeks ago we were inspected by the State Apiary Inspection Service. They tested for nosema spores and for mites. The resulting numbers looked good, although the mite numbers were slightly higher than I had predicted given that we had treated with Apivar over the previous six weeks. It underscored for me the need to perform a follow-up mite treatment this fall with Apiguard.”

Apiary inspections with the State went very well.

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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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* Watch one of the HD versions if you have a fast connection. The HD quality is much better even though in this case you’re really listening to the sounds rather than the picture.

Hello there! I have watched this video about 15 times now and really wanted to share it with you all. The other day Mark observed some queen behavior he had not witnessed before and he even managed to capture it on video. I am so happy! As I watched it over and over and listened to the sounds, Mark pulled out some books and read up on the sounds and behaviors.

Reading up on queen bees

The first sound you hear is the roaming queen “piping” a challenge to another queen. In this instance, the other queen is a young one still in the queen cup you see on the frame later in the video. In response, the young queen in the cup will make what is called a “quacking” call. See if you can differentiate the different calls. Hope you enjoy this as much as we did. The bees are constantly fascinating us and we love it!

This just in: It’s bonus day at the Bee Ranch! We just received an email from a Texas A&M student that Mark first met at the Pearl Farmers Market. Alison shot a video there of her interview with Mark and then she joined us at the Bee Ranch when we had the advance class (How to Build Up Your Hives for Spring) for folks who were picking up their nucs. It covered more than just transferring the nuc frames to their permanent homes and we are seriously thinking that if we continue to sell nucs in future, we may require this class – it hurts when nucs end up dying (for different reasons) on those folks who chose not to take a class (especially newbie beekeepers). Requiring the class may also cut down on the amount of emails and phones we get from worried parents wondering all sorts of things about their nucs. Anyway, that’s a different post really so here’s one of the videos Alison recorded when she visited us. This one is about the importance of the Queen Bee to the hive. I love that she came to do this on a day when I could not observe the class since we had nuc customers to tend to at the same time class was held. Thanks, Alison! We enjoyed your visit.

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Queen cups

Good morning and happy Monday. We survived one of our biggest weeks and weekends. Yay! Thanks to all our friends and family who helped us through it all, from working the bees with Mark to going to market so we could distribute nucs and conduct our advance class. Overall it was great and we appreciate people being so interested and eager. We did learn some things from a few interactions we had and we’ll be analyzing things moving forward from this year on.

I wanted to post and since I want to keep things positive for our week kick-off, I thought I’d just share some recent photos that make us happy, amazed and thankful we get to work with such amazing creatures. In the picture above, those are queen cups the girls have prepared in the event the need to make some queens of their own. I love seeing queen cups and queen cells. It’s so neat to think what’s happening in there – a little bee could be growing up to be the mother of her own hive. Think about how many babies she might have and how much work they’d accomplish in their life. Pretty amazing.

Next I wanted to show you a cool shot Mark got out at Coyote Creek a couple of weeks ago. This has never been one of our stronger yards so we are pretty excited to see how booming the hives are this year already! Maybe this will be the year these girls take off over there in Kingsbury (not too far from us). This particular hive was growing so fast that the girls made cells on the lid, using every bit of space available. The queen then laid eggs in those cells, which is what you are seeing now.

Booming hive out at Coyote Creek bee yard

Sometimes, when you break open the cells accidentally, it does allow you to see and learn even if it means those few bees won’t make it. Sometimes we purposely open cells to check the larvae to see if mites are on them so we can take action. In the picture below, however, I was thrilled when Mark showed me the teeny, tiny eggs in the cells! Loved it. It just totally mesmerized me to think about those tiny girls.

Eggs in broken cells on hive lid

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Panorama of Big Oaks bee yard

Yesterday after work, Mark drove up as I got home from work. Luckily for me, I caught him between bee yard visits and after he unloaded a hive out by the Honey House, we headed out to Big Oaks. What a treat for me!!! I hadn’t been out there again since we unloaded the nucs and at this time of year, I always want to go out and see what’s growing and blooming. I wasn’t disappointed. The bees were looking good and there was a good variety of wildflowers starting to bloom and trees (and wild grapes) starting to bud out. Yay spring!

Mark inspects some Nucs at Big Oaks

The nucs are mostly coming along fine. There are a few that don’t look great but those will just stay and keep getting built up more. We have our first round of pick up this coming Saturday and we are super excited about that. People are really interested in the bees and keeping some on their own which all serves to meet our mission of replenishing honeybees to our region. Hopefully they will enjoy it as much as we are. In the picture above, Mark is inspecting the nuc frames to make sure there is good brood and eggs being laid by the queen. I love watching him work – he really gets into it and focuses on what he’s doing and we hardly ever speak. He’s busy tending to his bees and I’m busy getting to do what I love – observing him, the bees, and nature around me and photographing whatever I want.

Speaking of queen, we got our 83 Big Island queens in last week. It’s always an anxious waiting game when you know they are coming but not exactly the time and so nothing (well, very little) gets done away from the Bee Ranch just in case the delivery man (UPS usually) arrives with them. Luckily for us, that day, he came while I was there for lunch so I was able to watch Mark anticipate him, meet him out in the drive and then wait by the truck as he fetched them from the back. Here’s the happy beekeeper.

Finally, Big Island queens are in hand

Here’s the worried me wondering why I don’t hear the melodic humming of queens and attendants as I have with past batches. We figured it was because they got a little chilled riding around in that open UPS truck. It was on the cool side that morning. Once they warmed up sitting on the kitchen counter while we lunched, they started humming a bit. Or buzzing is what most people might call it but really, the sound is much more like a constant hum. At any rate, it’s quite soothing.

You girls okay in there?

Here’s a look at the queens once Mark got them all placed into the queen bank, which is a temporary home for them while he goes about installing them into hives he’s identified as needed to be requeened at his various bee yards.

The GBR queen bank

It looks like we will have about 20 extra queens at this point so if you need a queen, let us know (830-305-7925) and we’ll see about setting you up with what you need. At this time, they run $30 a queen and we’ve used Big Island quite a bit and have been pleased with their queens.

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New beeswax ornaments - testing heat factor from Christmas lights
This is us testing the impact of Christmas light heat on the beeswax ornaments. So far, no impact. Good.

I never know where the days melt away to from Monday to Thursday night. Isn’t that interesting? Last thing I recalled, it was Sunday evening and I was relishing the relaxed hours after market and before the official work week kicked in the next morning. Anyway, here we are. Time to get tags together for Creamed Honey jars, prep supplies such as spoons and postcards, box up the bottled honey Stan got ready for us during the week…oh yea, and gear up to do a new DOUBLE TENT set up at Saturday’s Pearl Farmers Market. We are thrilled to give it a try and now we’ll have Sunday to rest a bit. We are on Quarry Market sabbatical until further notice. We have got to have a little rest now that the harvest is over and we just really want to be back with our church family for a while. We really miss them. So while we will enjoy sleeping until at least 7am one day out of the week, maybe even 7:30am (!!) and seeing our church family, we will surely miss our Quarry market family for a while. We’ve met some wonderful, wonderful people and feel so blessed.

On the beekeeping front, Mark is doing really well with his requeening project. Down to one yard left to be completely done. Yay! He’s been pushing it and is pretty much tired out by evening time each day but I’m so proud of him. Besides the bee work and candle work and beeswax testing, Honey House construction and some administrative work, Mark found a little time to check out some merchandise at our favorite home goods and gift shop here in town – Gift & Gourmet. They had a big warehouse sale today and boy did we strike it rich! Mark actually was taking some stuff to store there at the warehouse Mary graciously is letting us use and he couldn’t get in. Tough luck. lol BUT in the process, we scored a couple of awesome display shelves – one with lights even! That will show off the products very nicely we think. We also purchased several very lovely display racks and ornament trees. What a gift – we didn’t like what we’d seen last night during our research of ornament display trees and this serendipitous shopping excursion pretty much has us set for a while in terms of product display furniture. Nice. Oh yes, in the picture below, I did a collage of the three cabinets Mark sent pictures of for my input. We didn’t buy all of these but I still couldn’t get over the fact that they were so affordable and better yet, that we’d have many pieces of our favorite shop in our own shop. That’s so special to us. We love Mary and her staff and all the wonderful things they do for us as well as for the community. They are just awesome folks. The bottom left picture is the ONE shot I thought to snap of a display rack and the mini-crockpot is actually for wax melting. Smells lovely and will be going with us to market since our double tent will now have electricity! woohoo – we are moving on up, eh? I was so excited about personal shopping that I totally forgot to shoot anything of all the other super cool pieces we bought for the bee biz. haha, I am bad! By the time I got there and saw the outrageously low prices, I went into Christmas gift shopping mode for family and girlfriends. It was awesome. And fun. Things and people were everywhere. To get out from “behind the scenes” where Mary treated us to some special treasures, we actually climbed through the bottom shelf of a display cabinet. Talk about fun. And even Mark did it. He said it is a good thing he’s dropped 40 pounds recently. hehe Wish you could have seen us.

Shopping for GBR

Late afternoon brought a few customers to the Bee Ranch. This is a fairly new beekeeper who’s enjoyed his two hives so much, he is on the list for several more nucs come next spring. Love to hear that. Today he was picking up two queens so he and Mark discussed the direct introduction method for his new queen installation. Hopefully he will have as much success as we have had with that way of doing the queen intros.

Queen introduction discussion

Later I will share with your our other visitor – a florist from north of Austin. We have partnered with them and are honored and thrilled they want to share our honey and beeswax products with their customers. Can’t wait to post about that when the time is right. 🙂 For now, I bid you a goodnight. Sleep well.

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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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Street artist

Hope today’s going well so far for everyone. It’s a somber day in our history but it’s also an chance for me to stop and think about so many blessings we have, so many freedoms and choices and opportunities here in our great country.

We’ve made many trips to the New York area to see Mark’s family when they lived up there. We always enjoyed going into the City to sightsee and for Mark to do some research on his ballplayer, Smokey Joe Williams. It’s a really special place up there and our hearts are with all who have been personally impacted by what happened twelve years ago. But when you think about it, who can say they honestly haven’t felt impacted in some way by that great loss? I am trying to focus some positive energy into thinking about how our country came together during that time and I hope and pray that I see that again, without a tragedy to bring it about. Wouldn’t that be amazing? These are just a couple of my favorite images from a past trip to NY City.

Per my beekeeper: "Bees are NOT freelancers."

Not that this is as important when you put it in perspective, but we must carry on with work and life, right? So here’s some news from the beeworld – we are still waiting on UPS Freight to get us our special order jars for the creamed honey. But at least the USPS came through today and got us the Olivarez queens we order the other day.

Awfully quiet in there

Mark’s already got them checked in at the Queen Bank Hotel. That man is a busy bee for sure!

Olivarez queens in the bank

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New divides check

Now that the summer harvest is over and equipment’s been cleaned (thanks to the awesome work of our Belinda!), it’s time to tend to the bees to make sure they are ready for fall and winter. We tell people who go through our classes or who buy our bees – treat for mites, feed when they’re hungry, check on the bees. Do it now.

In the above picture, which I snapped right before dinner this evening, Mark is checking on the new divides we have out back to make sure things are going well. He’s looking to make sure queens are accepted; he’s feeding hives that look like they might need a little boost (nothing much for them to feed on lately); he’s making sure he doesn’t see some problem that needs to be handled immediately. Happy news is that they are looking good so far; strong and doing well with their new queens that were recently installed. This makes us feel more confident that they will head into winter months able to sustain themselves into next spring. It’s what every beekeeper wants, right? To know that their bees will be okay over winter. So far, so good but some rain would sure help the girls make some honey for their winter store. We’re always hoping. At least there are more clouds in the sky lately. That helps keep us below the 100 degree mark which makes a big difference believe it or not. The mornings seem more pleasant and actually a bit on the cool side (don’t want to say that too loudly for fear it will change on us suddenly). Today only got up to about 94 I believe. Cool front! lol

In mite news, Mark’s been treating with Apivar right now and he’s completed Cibolo Creek, Elm Creek and Big Oaks bee yards. Each hive had to be opened and each box of the hive receives two strips per brood box. It’s much easier to handle than Hopguard and has proven to be very effective for our bees. He’ll continue with treatments with each yard; he’s got quite a few more to go.

In addition to the treatments, he also had Stan help him move emptied honey supers and other equipment out of the The Farm location and into a new storage facility – a temporary solution until we get that honey house built. Here’s our new storage at the warehouse our friend Mary is letting us use – we’re only taking up a small portion of the space but it’s a huge help to us!

G&G Warehouse

Another view:

G&G Warehouse

It’s going to be so nice to have our own space one day soon! I love it when things are neatly piled in their places. Of course, you can necessarily tell that by looking at our house right now but I do. lol Okay, here’s a look at the before shot of the former storage space at the Farm (this is just one side of the space we used so there’s some equipment to the right of the picture you cannot see here):

Moving out of The Farm storage space

And here is how Mark and Stan left it – nice and very clear, ready for whatever new adventures await the spooky-ish greenhouse:

Moving out of The Farm storage space

In Honey House news, it’s moving along! Engineers and drawings completed, septic system designed, building purchased and plans in review…things are getting lined up. At this rate, we are hopeful that the HH will be ready (enough) to host our annual Holiday Open House, which is usually in November. Keep your fingers crossed!

In market news, we had to drop Southtown market for several reasons but we are rooting for the other vendors that the market will be successful. We’re just pretty worn out, to be honest with you. The 7-day work week in the heat is wearing on us and let’s face it, while we’re not in our golden years, we’re not spring chickens anymore either. 🙂 We need some kind of rest that’s more than the Sunday afternoons after markets are done. Anyway, we’re still at two markets and we hope you’ll continue to support all your local farmers, ranchers and producers no matter which market you support. We have an entire new level of appreciation for the growers of our foods and we feel blessed to have had the chance to meet all these fine, hard-working people who we now consider friends. Please support them as best you can. Thanks!

Random market story: We met a young group of friends last Sunday at market and one of them was Vietnamese and she asked me if I’d heard of or sampled a new trendy delicacy – bee larvae in puddings or porridges. No. I can’t say I’ve had it but I have heard of it and not too long ago, actually! A beekeeper in Hawaii that I follow on Instagram posted about the protein provided by bee larvae and how people harvest some of those for that purpose…that’s about as close as I’ll probably get to consuming them. I don’t see myself trying that since I look at bee larvae and I see a honeybee to be. Oh well, still interesting to learn new things.

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