Sunday, March 31, 2013
Sunday Reading - Happy Easter and Back Up to Four
Did some wood cutting this morning and then got the little ford 9n out for some blade work. The fence line clear is pretty much finished now and I am blading it down as smooth as possible and hoping to pick up some RR-Ties to lay down a low wall before I haul in some gravel for one side of the wall and begin tilling the other side for more fruit trees.
I had this remarkable idea to build a raised bed planter wall out of this section but the Mrs. says we can't afford it. Of course she always says that while she is browsing $5,000.00 light fixtures and $8,000.00 toilets online for the new house. Women!!!
Four days of relatively warm temps, although yesterday wasn't all that warm, has sure done a lot towards moving us into Spring finally. I noticed all the fields around the Small-Hold were now purple and I walked out and saw a number of bees working the henbit and deadnettle that is finally blooming. After I got back from cutting down a small Boxelder tree for a friend who's neighbors complained about it until he promised to cut it down, they say it is dead but it wasn't BoxElder trees are notorious for looking half dead. I went out to check the remaining three hives and fill up the feeders. The hive I have been worried about seemed to be a bit more active today. The other two hives were booming with a much smaller number of bees hitting the feeders compared to what I saw going in and out so they are starting to work something now for sure. All kinds of pale yellow and some fiery red pollen was going in as well. If my last dead out hive had just lasted two more weeks it would have made it.
So I am feeding my last hive over at the West apiary and my mother drives up saying she has a bee hive for me.
Ok well that isn't something that happens everyday. The story I got was she was down at the neighbors who had kept bees over a decade ago and then gave up on them. Apparently one of the hives was still alive and they moved it so they could build a new house and just set it off out of the way on an old concrete pad. As my mother explained it the hive was still full of bees and they wanted me to come get it. Well I sure ain't gonna turn down any bees especially right now.
We drove down to take a look and let me tell you how those poor bees survived this Winter is beyond me. The only thing I can figure is they had been thriving there left alone for so long that they had built up a huge surplus. They had four medium sized supers setting directly on concrete. The bottom board had collapsed and rotted away completely. The cover had also rotted away and was just a cracked board across the top of the uppermost super which had been pushed off center a bit so that about an inch wide gap was opened along one side allowing rain and snow to get in. This gap was also the only entrance for the bees to get in and out of.
This mess of a hive was sitting on a concrete pad as I explained, in the middle of about a 200 acre totally open field. Not a tree within half a mile at the least and totally exposed to the West and North wind in Winter and in full Sun for Summer. This hive was violating every recommended method of keeping bees I have ever read or heard about except that the entrance side was roughly facing SouthEast. How many gallons of rain water has run into that hive or snow this Winter is just unimaginable. Yet there they were bringing in pollen and nectar from somewhere as busy as my best hives that survived this Winter so far.
Now I had to come up with a plan of action to get this mess ready for transport. I came home and quickly made a stretcher set up with a new bottom board. I cut hand holds into a couple of 2"x4"s and ran a couple of connecting boards across with the bottom board on it. I then brought along a new super with an entrance hole drilled in it and went to work. Now is not the best time to go pulling a hive apart but I don't have much of a choice. I began pulling the supers apart and removing some burr comb and placing them on the new bottom board/stretcher arrangement giving the girls a bottom entrance. I then moved the last three chambers over without taking them apart which will kinda break up the brood a bit but I hope not too much. Finally I added the new super with the entrance and inner cover with top to the entire thing.
Most of the returning foragers barely noticed the change especially with the new upper entrance hole only a few inches higher than what they are used to. The old supers are so rotted and coming apart that they wouldn't fit together snugly so I will need to wrap duct tape around the seams before I move the hive.
Tomorrow and Tuesday are suppose to be cool again, upper 40's during the day and into the 20's at night, so I will leave the girls alone tomorrow and hope to move them Tuesday night after they get used to both entrances a bit. I just hope I didn't inadvertently crush the queen or break the brood chamber up so bad that they can't keep any eggs warm. It should have been more than warm enough today to break the hive open with no ill effects but the last three supers were very light when I picked them up.
I have high hopes though because one thing is for certain those bees are some serious survivors. I am not sure how I am going to clean them up it's going to take a lot of burr comb busting and manipulating to get the old frames moved around and cleaned up. Just moving the first super and cleaning off the second one so I could move it over resulted in a ball of burr comb about the size of a big grapefruit.
At least if all went well and I didn't do them irreparable harm I am on my way to replacing some of the Winter losses already.
Keep Prepping Everyone!!!