Monday, January 11, 2021

All A'Buzz- Pt. 2, More Equipment

There are some pieces of equipment that are in the 'nice to have' category and other items that are in the 'you really ought to have this' category. The item in the first photo is a nice to have item. A bee brush, a long soft bristled brush. We use it to sweep the bees away gently as we go about whatever it is that we need to do. You don't want to swat at the bees and get them excited (or angry). Gently sweeping them off the frame is a good way to get to business. Do you need a brush?  I put this one in the 'nice to have' group. Can you go about working the hives without one? Yes. 

This next photo shows both a queen excluder that was mentioned in the previous post and a smoker. Some people don't use an excluder, but we want to make sure that brood isn't laid in the honey supers. Can you do without? Yes, but it might be messy when it is time to extract honey. 

A smoker is used to calm the bees when you open the hive. I have not heard of anyone who does not use a smoker. It is in the 'you really ought to have' category. The smoke interrupts the alarm signal the bees send out that there is an intruder. You don't need a lot of smoke, but you also don't want the smoker to go out while you are doing something and need another puff. We use pine straw in the smoker, it produces a cool smoke, is readily available, and stays lit for a good while. We pump the bellows a few times at the front opening and also puff some smoke at the top as each box is opened.

Seen below is the inner lid. It is part of the hive box structure. It is placed on top of the hive box then the outer lid that has some sort of weather protection on the inner lid. On top of the outer lid you should place a large rock or brick to keep the lids in place. 

Not easily seen in the photo below but used each and every time we go into the hives- a hive tool. It is a flat metal tool that has a hook on one end and a chiseled edge on the other end. It falls into the 'you really ought to have' category. The chiseled end helps pry the boxes apart. Bees produce something called propolis. It is a resin type substance that the bees use to seal their frames and boxes together. There are some health benefits and propolis is something that some people save and use. I know no more about that but I can tell you it seals those hives tight. If you don't have a hive tool, it will be very hard to get the boxes apart and the frames out. The hooked end is good for assisting in lifting the frames out. 

In all the these photos you see Charlie's hands in leather gloves. I put gloves in the 'you really ought to have' category though there are people who work their hives with no protective gear on at all. More power to them. We don our protective gear spring, summer, and fall. Depending on what we are doing in the winter, we may or may not wear our gear. Winter time the bees are generally more docile and slow moving. 

I am including this photo below as a strong suggestion that one should wear good fitting gear. I had a veil that fitted over a garden hat. I thought it was a good enough fit. HAH!! Those little ladies got inside the veil. 

Shortly after that I bought my jacket with an attached hood. To me this is a 'you really ought to have' category. You see my gloves, they go up to above the elbow.  I also wear rubber boots that I tuck my pants into. Charlie does not, he has some straps that Velcro around his ankles to close the pant leg. You sure don't want to have a bee fly up your pantleg. I had some white cotton scrubs that I wear when I am gardening. Wearing white helps see ticks, I am a tick magnet! These white scrubs are big enough that I can pull them on over my shorts or jeans. A couple layers of pants keeps the bee's stinger away from your leg. 

Is this warm in the summer in South Carolina? Of course it is. We aren't out at the hives for long, but wearing this protective gear keeps us from getting stung. 
Stay tuned for more bee posts. 

©Copyright 2021 Janet. All rights reserved. Content created by Janet for The Queen of Seaford. words and photos by Janet,The Queen of Seaford.

Friday, January 8, 2021

All A'Buzz -Pt. 1, A New Hobby

Some of you know that we, my husband Charlie and I, are now keeping beehives. Charlie started this venture in 2019 by taking the class on beekeeping in our area. I thought it would be just his hobby but I have been enjoying learning about the bees and helping take care of them. 

Toward the end of his class hives were ordered.

The common wisdom was to have at least two hives, as you can compare and evaluate each alone and against the other. If one is doing poorly but the other is fine, it is hive specific. So we got two. Placement was another decision to be made. We didn't want them near the front door or driveway because of foot traffic. Areas in the yard where our irrigation hits are also not a good idea. Rainfall is okay but sideways watering isn't the best. Our property includes a septic drainage field of a half acre, across the street from our one acre property. No one walks on the septic field and we only cut it once or twice a year, so the bees would be unbothered by mowing.

Hives should be elevated off the ground and level. Each hive is decorated a little differently so the bees know which is their home. In the photo above you see a level, cinderblocks and the hives. You can also see our house in the distance. The opening for the hives should face south. Good air circulation and sunshine are important for a healthy hive. There's a lot more to beekeeping than just getting honey!

The new bees have arrived - picked them up beginning of April. Timing for setting up a new hive is important- you need to know when the nectar flows start in your area and what is in bloom. Much of my gardening choices are for pollinators and hummingbirds. Well, bees need to have blooms that aren't long and tubular. Their flower shape is shallower or disc shaped. Gosh, I guess that means I need to get more plants!! I do want to do my part in helping our bees. The queen, brood and nurse bees were purchased from one of the bee club folks. They arrive in a special box called a Nuc box, short for nucleus, used to hive a small colony of bees.  In the photo below you see the Nuc boxes on top of the hives that will soon be home.

You can also see the foliage of some of the daffodils I planted a few years ago. There is plenty in the drain field to bloom throughout the season. There are some Rudbeckia planted by the birds, lots and lots of Asters of various species and plenty of Goldenrod to bloom through the fall. We are surrounded on three sides by forest and back up to the lake for fresh water drinking. The bees should be very happy. 

After allowing for the bees to settle in, we checked on them every so often. More eggs were laid, new bees were born.

You see an active frame, full of bees above. Photo below is capped brood and the white open cells are bee larva stage before getting capped- it goes from egg to larva to pupa to bee. A healthy growing hive. 

Some frames will have honey and brood but most of the honey stores are in another box. You can see the difference between the brood cells above honey cells below. Do you see the difference in color? 

When it comes to harvesting honey you don't want to take a frame of honey unless it is at least 80% capped. That which is not capped is not the correct water percentage to honey. Bees process the nectar from high water percentage down to under 18.6% water, then it is capped. 

One piece of the equipment that we use is called a queen excluder. The queen is larger than the worker bees and therefore cannot move through the excluder. The workers store the honey in honey supers- a box above the brood chamber. The queen is busy in the brood chamber laying eggs while the workers store most the nectar in the honey supers.

So here the hives sit, in our open drain field. Note the heavy brick on the top of each hive. We have raccoons, Opossum and other wildlife that we want to keep from opening our hives. If we were in an area with bear activity we would have more safe guards in place. 

Stay tuned for more updates about our venture into beekeeping. I will direct all questions to the resident beekeeping class graduate, I am but an assistant with a camera.

©Copyright 2021 Janet. All rights reserved. Content created by Janet for The Queen of Seaford. words and photos by Janet,The Queen of Seaford.

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Planting Trees, Root Wash and Grandkids

Cercis canadensis 'Carolina Sweetheart'
What do all three of these things have in common? Bear with me- there is a connection. We who plant trees know that it is best to untangle roots and spread them out in the direction of their growth. Many trees are sold bare-rooted and it is pretty easy to spread out the roots. What do you do if the trees are sold in a container? Root Wash!!

While many of us have had a time with the year 2020, I have had an additional dimension that has brightened the year. We started off the year with no grandchildren and by the end of the year we will have two! To celebrate the babies, I wanted to plant a tree in each one's honor. 

This idea was one borrowed from my friend Julie Adolf who has a beautiful tree for her daughter. Each birthday a photo of her daughter is taken with (or in) the tree. Since this daughter is now in college it has been fun to watch the growth of both daughter and her tree over the years via these photos. I wanted to do something similar for my grandchildren. Both daughters live hours away in different states, so I am not sure that birthday photos will be made, but hopefully, yearly photos can be taken. 

First grandbaby to be
First the tree choices had to be made. For the first baby, I chose a Redbud, Cercis canadensis 'Carolina Sweetheart'. Winter is the best time to plant in our area, so it was planted before Christmas last year. The Carolina Sweetheart was found locally and planted. As this tree has bloomed and leafed out this spring I am not certain it is the variety I wanted, multiple horticulturists have said it is not. It might be a 'Merlot' or 'Forest Pansy', both dark leaf Redbuds. Time will tell. Mistaken labeling is a topic for another post, in the meanwhile-on with the tree plantings! Our lovely model standing next to the tree planted for her baby. 

Second baby's tree is also a Redbud, Cercis canadensis 'Rising Sun'. While it was also planted in the winter, it was planted later than the 'Carolina Sweetheart'. Both trees had a root wash done when planted. I only photographed the second one. 

Beautiful spring foliage after blooming

Second tree was in a seven gallon container, as we have clay soil and lots of rocks, I wasn't interested in a larger container. Well, that's not completely true, larger containers means more roots, a good thing, it also means a large hole to dig. I try to limit my digging to a manageable amount. 

Rising Sun awaiting placement
See the rocks?

Did  I mention some of the rocks in the yard? I found two good sized ones that now adorn the base of the tree. As I dug and dug I was worried that I needed to move the placement of the hole- not sure how big the rock was that I was hitting. Luckily I finally unearthed the rocks and continued with the hole. 

Hole dug, time for the hose, the wheelbarrow, and patience. Taking the tree out of the container, handling it carefully, moving it by holding the stake in the pot or the root mass I began my task. 

Slowly rinsing and turning, turning and rinsing, I worked the roots out of the potting material. I dumped the full wheelbarrow into the hole and continued rinsing and turning the root ball. 

The yard was getting soggy as I continued.

Finally progress could be seen. When trees, and shrubs for that matter, are grown for long periods in containers their roots will have nowhere to grow but in a circular fashion. If allowed to continue in that manner the roots will girdle the trunk of the tree and like a boa constrictor, strangle the tree. Washing the roots from the soil in the container, you could straighten the roots from their limited growth pattern. Sometimes root pruning might be called for, though not in this case. Root pruning is eliminating a severe tangle of roots or a hard curve that can't be straightened out. I hate to cut any root material, it can stunt the tree. 
After the roots are free they are spread out in the hole, radiating from the trunk. Keeping the tree level and straight, soil was replaced, making sure not to plant too deeply. The tree was finally planted. Having a couple bowling ball sized rocks from the hole, I was able to anchor the root ball and kept it straight while the roots made their way, settling in their new home. 
Planted and mulched with pine straw

Pardon the amateurish arrows drawn on the photo below, but you can see where each of the grandbaby trees is planted. I can see each from the front door. 

Spring growth, first are the blooms then the leaves appear. Two beautiful trees in my landscape. One for each of my grandchildren.

Rising Sun with its golden foliage
Carolina Sweetheart or Merlot?


I love the epicormic buds on Redbuds 

The Cercis canadensis 'Rising Sun' new foliage is sunny yellow with a hint of reds and oranges. So far the foliage is still yellow. I can't wait for the fall color to see how much more of a show this beauty puts on. 

Those heart shaped leaves just glow in the morning light, the rising sun.

Both trees are doing well, still in their first season of growth. We have been lucky to have a good amount of rainfall, always helpful for newly planted trees. Both babies have been born. We are the proud grandparents to a boy and a girl. Both moms are doing great and the babies are perfect in every way. One day life will be such that we can visit and hug our family members who live in another place. Stay healthy and be safe my friends. 
What do you do to celebrate the birth of a child in your life? 
How do you plant your trees?


©Copyright 2020 Janet. All rights reserved. Content created by Janet for The Queen of Seaford. words and photos by Janet,The Queen of Seaford.