We Test Out the BeeScanning App on Hive Inspection Day

We opened up three hives and took a total of 62 photos to test in the BeeScanning app as a tool to measure a varroa mite infestation.

Four or five days ago, I noticed the bees were zooming about like there was a big nectar flow going on. You can tell because they don’t waste any time lollygagging about on the entrance platform. The bees rush out of the hive entrance and immediately launch themselves, taking off in what I can only assume must be a “beeline.” There is a constant flow of bee activity as they come and go. This behavior is continuing, but they do not seem to be carrying pollen when they return, so I can only assume they are getting just nectar.

I am not sure what is the source of the nectar. Yes, there are wild flowers in our meadow (you might think of them as weeds) and in our early stage pollinator garden, but while I see bumble bees in there, I don’t see honey bees. I have guides to what is blooming when, but they do not take into account our altitude. My best guess is that it is the American Basswood tree (Tilia americana), also known as the Linden. I’m know they are in the woods all around us, but there are none in sight that I can look at and confirm they are blooming. There is also a possibility that it is clover. Or both.

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Warm Weather and Nectar Flow Sends our Bees into Overdrive

Only four weeks after we added bees to our hives, they have doubled in size, the bees are drawing comb, and the queen is laying lots of eggs.

Our beehives have kicked it into high gear. Look at the photo above, is that a box full of bees, or what? Not bad for a hive that started out as a nuc four weeks ago.

All three of our hives have multiple frames of brood in nice patterns with good amounts of honey and beebread. Two of the hives are filling out their second hive body and in each case, the queen is laying in both boxes.

While I was not planning to get any honey this year, this hive looked so strong that I decided to add a super to it and see I have any luck. They will have to draw out the comb, but if we get a good flow, they should be able to do that. If I don’t end up with any honey, hopefully I can get some drawn comb out of them so they can get a head start next year.

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The Chicken Coop is Complete, but the Chicks aren’t Quite Ready for Outdoor Life

We got off to a slow start back in mid-March and the weather wasn’t the most cooperative, but we’ve finally finished building the chicken coop.

The chicken coop is complete! All the doors are in place; I trimmed and screened all the windows with hardware cloth; the locks are installed; the door has tested just fine; and I built the roosts.

Now all we have to do is wait for our chickens to get at least another 10 days older.

Homemade garden gate
This garden gate is five feet wide, which gives plenty of room for a wheelbarrow or a garden tractor to get through.

I am continuing to improve the fencing as well. I have used 6-inch landscaping staples to anchor the welded wire fencing to the ground. Then I started to install the half-inch hardware cloth on the fence that goes around the coop. This is four feet high and I am installing 18 to 24-inches on the ground to keep predators from digging in and the balance above to keep small rodents out. We also installed the garden gate.

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Feeding the Bees and Cleaning the Chickens

We may have small stock, but its keeping us busy! From feeding the bees to cleaning chicks with pasty butt, it’s all part of a day in the life of a homseteader.

Five or six days after transferring my bees from their nucs into a full-size hive, I inspected the three beehives. All of them were doing well. Plenty of yellow and orange pollen is being brought in by the foragers and I could see the bees storing it away.

Hive 1

I switched hive bodies in the first hive, which came on medium frames, putting a medium box on the bottom and adding a new deep hive on top of it. The bees had built comb below one of the medium frames, so I moved it to the larger box, along with a full-size frame on which they had drawn comb. I hope the queen will gradually move to top box and lay her eggs there. I prefer to use my large hive bodies for brood and the mediums for honey, but sometimes things don’t always go as planned. I’ll remain flexible and will wait and see what the bees do.

There were three or four frames with brood which had pollen and wet, uncapped nectar around it with some capped honey at the top. There was also a frame full of bee bread and honey. These bees were in the midst of drawing out a couple frames and are in good shape. I expect the hive to keep growing.

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Prepper Diary: A Chilly and Somber Memorial Day

Why do we say “Happy Memorial Day?” Shouldn’t it be a more somber holiday? This year the weather was cold enough that no one on the East Coast felt like celebrating the start of summer.

Depending on which digital thermometer you believe, it is either 68 degrees or 65.7 in my basement.

So much for the accuracy of digital thermometers.

The old-fashioned analog thermometer agrees with the lower temperature, and my toes are inclined to believe it. As temperatures have plummeted this weekend, with highs in the low 50s and night time temps back into the 30s, I have had to decide it I want to start a fire in the wood stove or just put on another fleece.

I am opting for the latter, but only because sun and warmer temperatures are supposed to lie in our immediate future. We also added another blanket to the bed, and our Memorial Day picnic at the neighbor’s has moved indoors.

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Ending our Weekly COVID-19 Report with a Victory

When Charlie Sheen famously said “Winning!” it came back to bite him, but we’re still declaring victory over COVID-19. For now, at least.

Fourteen months after the start of the COVID-19 outbreak swept through the U.S., I am putting what I hope will be a definite hold on our Monday report that has ran every Monday for months. We’ll be back if COVID-19 is back, but we hope that won’t be necessary. Coverage of fallout from the virus will continue.

This blog started as a way to kill time and report on my self-imposed quarantine, but has evolved into much more. Thanks to the many people who have checked in from time to time and especially to our regular readers.

India is still adding 1.5 million cases per week and may eventually overtake the U.S. to become the worst-hit country in the world.

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Prepper Diary May 8: Chicken Coops, Bee Hives, and Cold Weather

The weather interferes with our plans, but work progresses on the homestead as we continue to ready for our chicks and bees to be delivered.

After a couple days of rain, yesterday dawned dreary and cold, but I had hopes I would get to work outside. The “late afternoon showers” arrived early, cutting my plans short. I hand to stop measuring the chicken coop to cut and fit exterior panels. I had time to install the three chicken nesting boxes pictured in the main image, above, but not to cut any wall panels.

These nesting boxes came from Tractor Supply and cost about $20 each. They are plastic, so they should be easy to clean and won’t mold or rot. The slanted roofs prevent birds from roosting (and pooping) on them. 

The boxes were easy to install and should be easy to remove or move to another location. I don’t expect to do that as I am cutting a slot in the siding and installing a flip-open panel to allow easy access to get the eggs from the nest. If I move the nesting boxes, then I’ll have a hinged access for no reason.

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Building and Tracking Bee Equipment

With cold weather bringing a halt to work on the chicken coop, I worked in the shop assembling bee hives until it was finally warm enough to paint them.

Over the weekend, I assembled four deep hive boxes and 30 frames. I also built a spacer with a hive entrance, a bottom board, and a custom lid for a swarm trap. I worked inside as the cold weather dominated our area. Things are warming up and I will revert to working on the chicken coop again. My goal is to have the roof on by the end of the week.

I am having fun building the bee equipment, which surprised me. Of course, when I’m on my one thousandth frame some years from now, I might not feel that way, but I am enjoying it now. There’s something satisfying about working in the shop building something with power tools. I can see why so many retired men become woodworkers, and I think it is at least in part because they finally have time to do the job right.

Can you believe each frame required eight staples and two tiny nails? I was happy to have my pneumatic brad nailer and stapler, which I reviewed just a couple days ago. I even bought a second air hose so I could run both at the same time.

Assembling frames for beehives.
without a jig for use when assembling beehive frames, I use a hive body and a couple of 2x4s for spacers. It works well enough when you are just making a few dozen

To paint the components, I strung a rope between two fence posts and suspended the hive bodies over the rope. (See main photo.) I primed these yesterday and they are ready for their final coat. Once I paint two sides, I rotate them on the rope and paint the other side. I set the bottom boards and other items on the grass to paint them. My bee yard now has white rectangular outlines on it.

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Over Hill and Dale: The Quest for Beekeeping Equipment

We put some miles on the truck and some wind in our hair as we cruised the back roads in search of beekeeping equipment.

Since it was too cold to work outside, my wife and I made the long trip to the bee supply store yesterday. There are only a few in the state, so we had to drive two hours.  On the way home, we picked up supplies for our chick brooder and more bags of soil at Tractor Supply. We made it all the way there without using a single mile of Interstate highway.

The drive took us up and over mountains, all around twisty-turny backcountry roads, and through some pretty valleys where colorful wildflowers and trees were in bloom. We passed cows and horses, goats and sheep, and fields that looked like they were recently plowed. Our ears popped multiple times. It was a pleasant drive.

We even stopped for lunch at an old-fashioned diner. Unfortunately, the food was not as good as I would have hoped. They had “help wanted” signs up, and I’m guessing their best cook is still home collecting unemployment checks.

When we got home, we loaded up the stove and started the fire. The house had dropped to 63 degrees after we didn’t stoke the fire this morning because of our expected absence.

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A New Beekeeper’s Guide to Setting Up Your First Beehive

Beehives in the field
Beehives in the field

If you’ve purchased a basic beekeeper kit or a beginning hive, congratulations!  This article will help you understand how to use and assemble the wooden Langstroth hives, which are the most common hive type in the U.S.

The components of a Langstroth hive should go together in a particular order, but since they are modular, a new beekeeper could conceivably get them out of order.  This guide will help you assembled your hive components in the correct order so that your hive is ready to receive and house bees.

This article is intended for someone who is just starting their beekeeping journey. It is a simple step-by-step guide to setting up your first beehive.

Click #2 below to continue.