Friday, September 21, 2018

Summer of the Wasps

The bees that had come to visit had a short stay. This summer had the largest wasp population we’ve seen since moving here. It can be difficult to locate the nests of the bald faced wasps and others that dwell in the brush.

Strangely enough, we had a new swarm move in today. September 21! That’s very late in the season to try to get established. Looks like I’ll be brewing up some 2:1 sugar water and feeding them a warm cuppa each morning. We’ll see if they can make it to spring.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Where Have All the Flowers Gone?

At the end of a long hard winter which has killed off all your bees, what do you do? See what honey you can still salvage. What about the questionable stuff? Stack the boxes on edge for the swarms to find! I left a half dozen boxes on edge like this, some with broken comb, most of it cleared of stuff. When I returned last week, I found that bees had taken over two nuc boxes that were together. I stacked them up today with a couple more boxes and now I have a honey bee colony again!

Monday, January 8, 2018

New Year, New Kids

I had thought she was due around Christmas. A couple weeks before, she had minor signs of labor (some distress, followed by mucus discharge), then nothing. Her belly went from wide to round, so I assumed the kid(s) had turned. Christmas came and went. No signs of labor. Just the last few mornings, the possibly pregnant doe and her mother stayed in the barn when I brought feed out.

Sunday morning, I was groggily getting ready for milking when I heard loud calls. Distress? Wild animal? I peered out the window with the flashlight and saw all six pairs of eyes in or near the barn, in turn reflecting back, the light caught their coats and I could see each was there. Hunger? Extreme hunger..? I tucked in to the bedroom and grabbed the handgun, in case heroics were needed after all, and stepped out front. “MMAAAAA!!! MMAAAA!! mew! MMAAAA!” One of those sounds was not like the others. I headed back in to grab what was needed, when Ben appeared. He was already in his coveralls, great big weapon in hand (probably having flashbacks of a previous feral animal encounter). Great! He’d go straight out and see and I could get my milking equipment together, so the milking does wouldn’t be off schedule. I reassured him that I didn’t see any extra animal, and the calls sounded like hunger cries. Off he hurried to be sure all was well. Supplies in hand, I headed out. My routine is to get the alfalfa first and take it to the barn, which is what was needed!

I arrived to find Ben nervously watching over our panicking smallest doe and her two new kids. The first had been in the doorway of the barn and the second near the back. He had pulled off his shirt and wrapped the first, got it into the birthing stall, found the second and moved it, took the little mama and tucked her in with the kids. “She’s really hungry!”

With the pressure of the full uterus relieved, hunger had set in full force. She focused on filling her rumen. I sent the man for towels and hot water. With the towels, we dried off as much of the babies as we could, leaving their faces with just a bit of labor goo for the new mother to smell and clean off, then set them near her front end. I tucked into the milking stall and took care of the milkers while he watched over the little family. The milk pail was stuck into a snow bank near the gate to cool so I could watch the kids and mama. Once satiated, she seemed to realize that she was separate from the other goats, alone with the kids, and calm down.

The new mama focused entirely on the black and white kid. I checked her udder, and it had bagged slightly. I milked out one squirt from each side to clear any obstruction, then waited impatiently. Ben was concerned that putting his shirt on the kid may have given it too much of his smell and the little mama was rejecting her baby. Once she seemed satisfied at the first kid’s level of cleanness, she gave the second kid a curt lick or two and went back to kid one. Good sign: no head butting. Patience paid off, and they settled down. The kids started looking for her udder and had their first colostrum just fine.

Kids in January! The temperature was barely above freezing. I still had one sweatshirt sleeve “sweater” from last spring, but couldn’t locate the other. I spent a couple hours making crochet sweaters (the first pattern was huge!). Once in the barn, I took the sweaters and rubbed them on mama, then dressed the little goats in them. One of the kids had seemed weaker than the other (it may have been stepped on by the doorway), so I tucked it under mama to encourage nursing. A full belly cures many ails. In a short time, they both were nursing happily, and we left the little family to figure things out.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Blew the Top Off!

As we drove around the back, I commented that the snow looked heavy enough to knock the hive over. Then, I saw that it may have! Not the first hive with the cubic yard of snow teetering on its lid, but rather the fourth hive had lost its lid. With the mission to check and save the bees in mind, I gathered some supplies and finished “winterizing” them... Which I should have done back in November...

I trekked over to the hive and checked the area for prints; nada. The bees were buzzing mad, but it’s too cold to fly far. Thankfully, it was just the feeder tray and lid that had come off. I set a piece of newspaper over the hole and a fresh medium box on the inner cover. I poured a good pound or more of sugar into the new attic space. The sugar should absorb the excess moisture and become extra feed for the bees, if they’re short on honey. The feeder tray had been very wet, and with this week above freezing, I don’t want to risk extra moisture dripping on the bees. A wet or cold bee is very quickly a dead bee.

Once the lid was in place, I checked the other hives and installed attics from empty boxes. In the neighboring buzzing colony, the bees were right against the inner cover! The last hive in the line was a dead out; it had been a mid summer experiment and just didn’t have time to build up once the dry season killed off the nectar. The dead bees looked normal, just too few to survive winter. If there had been signs of disease, it wouldn’t be safe for the bees to share the honey with the hungry colony. The two boxes of honey went onto the hive in need. I hope it helps them build up quickly and healthy in the spring!

The larger hives didn’t make themselves heard. I’m not worried at this point, as last year I was convinced I’d lost my quiet overwintered hive, but it made it through. It seems the Carniolan breed of bee is usually quieter in winter. My noisy ones today may have only been complaining about the cold. I hope they make it through winter and have a strong start in spring!