Bee inspection & treatment; queen sighted

On Sunday we did an inspection and treatment of the beehives.

Here Jenn is pulling out a frame from the yellow beehive; notice the white rack that holds a frame, to make space to pull others out more easily:

Jenn inspecting beehive

We checked for mites via a sugar shake test, where powdered sugar is added to a jar of bees, shaken, water added, then mites counted:

Powdered suger on jar of bees

The bees are unharmed by this; they are returned to the hive, where others will clean them off (tasty sugar!):

Sugary bees

Adding an oxalic acid sugar water mix, that should kill mites without harming the bees:

Bee treatment

A frame with some honey on the left, and capped brood (baby bees) on the right:

Bee frame

Lots of honey (or sugar water from the feeder):

Bee frame

A couple of hive boxes; the bees had very little activity in the bottom box, so we swapped them; they tend to want to move upwards, so would continue to ignore the bottom box if left there:

Hive boxes

Some closeups of bees:

Closeup of bees

Closeup of bees

Closeup of bees

We spotted the queen in the Flow hive; I’ve circled her here:

Queen sighted

A classic beehive frame, with capped brood in the center:

Bee frame

A bunch of bees hanging out at the entrance:

Bees

The Flow beehive:

Beehive

The yellow beehive:

Beehive

Pond pump tweak

A quick pond update.

The pond pump fell (or was pushed) over again, so again I waded into the pond to right it. This time, I moved it from the lightweight plastic pot it was in into a heavier ceramic one, with some rocks for extra weight:

Pond pump

Here it is in position:

Pond pump

I waded deeper in the pond to clear out some floating debris. It’s hard to tell from the camera, but I’m only about halfway back; it gets much deeper in the back half:

David in pond

We saw the smaller fish this week; great to see lots of little ones. Only a few visible in this picture, but there are many more. They’re about two years old:

Fish

The heron visited again early this morning, and wandered around for about two hours, but didn’t seem to catch anything this time (the streaks in this picture are motion-blurred raindrops):

Heron

Cat update for week ending March 23

There have been regular visits by raccoons and possums, but nothing too dramatic, so I’m not including any pictures of them this time.

Four cats inside the shelter:

Four cats inside shelter

A queue waiting for more breakfast to be dispensed:

Waiting for breakfast

A brave/stupid jay in the cat feeder:

Bird in cat feeder

Three cats:

Three cats

The front shop cat, Pepper, sitting by the duck house:

Shop cat

Two cats in the shelter:

Two cats

Very relaxed cats:

Two cats

Another joins them:

Three cats

A very Poppy face at the water dish, with Porcini relaxing on the ground:

Three cats

Poppy is the mother of the kittens, but she can still be kitten-like at times:

Psycho cat

Too close!

Up close

Cat snuggles:

Cat snuggles

Two cats climbing the tree next to the cat house.  I removed the heated water dish, now that it’s getting warmer; we probably won’t be below freezing again:

Climbing tree

A sequence of three images of jumping down from the roof:

Jumping down

Jumping down

Jumping down

Poppy greets her kids:

Three cats

I saw a new alien cat when reviewing the footage this morning; I don’t think I’ve seen this one before:

New alien cat

Finally, Spud came and stared at me in the office, from the front steps:

Cat on steps

Heron, raccoon, and me in the pond

Some pictures from the big pond.

I recently added a camera that has a view of the pond, in anticipation of having ducks there. It has been interesting to see some of the wildlife that visits the pond.

Apparently raccoons can swim:

Swimming raccoon

We were pretty sure that herons visited the pond, but hadn’t seen one till a couple of days ago, when it was captured via the camera. Here’s a heron landing:

Heron landing

And strolling around in the shallow part of the pond:

Heron in pond

The heron visited again that night; I didn’t realize they were nocturnal hunters too. Here it has a frog, which it ate (sorry about the spiderweb in front of the camera):

Heron with frog

Yesterday I waded into the pond and righted the fountain pump, which had fallen (or was pushed) over, and switched it on:

David in pond

The fountain helps aerate the water. We also have a waterfall and stream, but that tends to make the pond level drop, so we usually don’t have it active.

Here’s the fountain pump:

Pond pump

I noticed one of the water lily baskets on its side, so righted that too, and found several sacs of salamander eggs on it. Interesting how the stalks were trying to compensate for being on its side, too:

Salamander eggs

Here’s a salamander:

Salamander

The pond level was low, so I also turned on the water to the pond taps, and turned on the tap to top up the pond:

Filling pond

Beehive temperature sensors

Yesterday we did our first inspection of the year of our two beehives. We weren’t sure about one of the hives, but both survived the winter. Now that the weather is getting warmer, and flowers are starting to bloom, the bees are active again, replenishing their stores, and the queens are busy laying brood to ramp up the populations.

While we were at it, we took the opportunity to install a couple of BroodMinder temperature sensors in each hive. These record the internal temperature, which can indicate the health and state of the hive. The sensors sync via Bluetooth to an app on Jenn’s iPhone.

Installing BroodMinder temperature sensor

Here’s the yellow hive with two sensor tags sticking out:

Beehive

Jenn doing a quick inspection of the Flow hive:

Jenn inspecting hive

A beehive frame, showing some stored honey on the right, some capped brood in the middle, and good activity:

Beehive frame

Some bees around the entrance, including some with full pollen baskets:

Bees

Duck house: building doors

Some more progress on the duck house project.

I bought a special water dispenser for the ducks (when they’re grown). Ducks have slightly different needs than chickens, in that they need to dip their large bills in water to drink and eat. This waterer has three removable cups for drinking (though one will be unreachable in the corner), a reservoir, and a built-in thermostatically-controlled heater, so the water doesn’t freeze in winter:

Duck waterer & camera

Since the waterer was a bit bigger than expected, I also raised the camera up a bit. Here’s the view from the camera:

View from camera

I tried a bag of feed in the cupboard, to see how well it’d fit. Seems to work laying down or standing up, about as well as I expected. Storing a bag or two of food there will make it easier to refill the food jug:

Trying food in cupboard

On to the door trim:

Door trim

Here’s one of the cupboard doors, with 1×2 trim around the edges. The plywood sticks out a bit on the right edge (in the foreground in this orientation), so it covers the gap between the two doors. Which of course means the other (right-hand) door has to be opened first, which is by some strange coincidence the one I expect to open most:

Door trim

Both cupboard doors:

Cupboard doors

I paused for a picnic lunch in the back of the shop (yes, it was still very cold):

David

Adding trim to the maintenance doors:

Cupboard doors

I changed my mind about the design of the maintenance doors. Originally I was going to have a single large outer door, with a vertically split inner door. I decided that a single outer door would be too large, so considered doing double doors like the cupboard, but then realized I could combine the inner and outer doors into one set. So I made four-part doors, again with plywood covering the gaps between the doors:

Maintenance doors

The way it is configured, I can undo one bolt (to be added after painting) to open just the top-left door for a quick peek, or two bolts to open just the top-left and top-right doors to access the ducks without them able to escape (which I expect will be especially useful when they are ducklings), or one bolt to open just the left two doors together (they’ll be connected with a bolt), or the left two and the right two for full access. I think this will be very versatile.

Here’s just the top-left door open:

Maintenance doors

In addition to the bolts, the doors will be held closed with roller catches. The bottom doors will have theirs mounted under the floor, to be out of the way:

Roller catch

And the top doors will have their roller catches mounted above the doors:

Roller catch

Here’s me using an air finish nailer to attach the board for the top roller catches, captured from the duck camera:

Nailing

Next up was adding thin strips of wood to make the doors and walls appear like board-&-batten styling, like I did with the cat house. So the first step was to rip (cut lengthwise) some 1×2 boards into 1×0.5 batten strips:

Ripping boards

I started adding the battens on the cupboard doors:

Board & batten on doors

Then the maintenance doors:

Board & batten on doors

I also added an extra bit of plywood to the corner that will cover up the two small holes between the four doors:

Hole cover detail

Finally (for now), battens on the vent cover:

Board & batten on doors

Next up, I will add the batten strips on the walls, do some extra bracing for attaching electrical stuff, and more caulking. Then I’ll be ready to start painting!

Cat update for week ending March 16

Daylight savings has started (unfortunately… maybe one day we’ll abolish it). But the cats don’t care, other than my tweaking the feeding time slightly.

We had lots of unwelcome visitors this past week, starting with a possum, that visited pretty much every day, and even hung out inside the shelter for about an hour one night:

Possum

The alien orange cat also invaded the shelter:

Orange cat

The orange cat:

Orange cat

But there was plenty of cuteness, as always. Here’s a sideways cat:

Sideways cat

Five cats at breakfast time:

Five cats

A relaxed cat inside:

Cat inside

Cat silhouettes:

Cat silhouettes

Back to the invaders. A raccoon turned up, and a cat left the shelter:

Cat & raccoon

The raccoon came back about an hour later, and was met with disapproval:

Cats and raccoon

Not to be left out, the alien gray cat also turned up:

Gray cat

And the possum again (or another one; who can tell):

Possum

Oh look, another raccoon, this time at breakfast:

Cat and raccoon

Poppy registered a complaint:

Cat and raccoon

Then retreated to the shelter:

Cat and raccoon

I’m getting tired of possums and raccoons turning up, even when there isn’t food there. My main regret about building this shelter is that I didn’t make the entrances in such a way to prevent unwanted guests.  Possums and raccoons can climb very well, but they can’t jump quite as far as cats, so making a higher entrance with metal sides to prevent climbing would enable cats to enter, but not possums and raccoons.

I am contemplating modifying the cat house to give such an entrance.  One idea was to raise the whole thing up, but that’d have some issues.  I’m currently leaning towards enclosing the deck, and making a high entrance in front of the feeder.  But of course I won’t have time for such projects until I finish the duck house.

On happier things, two cats outside, one inside:

Cats

Four cats:

Four cats

Cat snuggles:

Cat snuggles

More snuggles:

Cat snuggles

A cat trying to push in at breakfast time, and told to wait their turn:

Wait your turn!

Comfy cats:

Comfy cats

Cat update for week ending March 9

Happy Caturday!

Poppy on the cat house deck, with one of the twins in front:

Poppy & a twin

Three cats:

3 cats

Porcini licking her lips:

Licking

Cat snuggles:

Cat snuggles

Pansy the shop cat:

Shop cat

All five cats snuggled in the shelter:

Cat snuggles

I’m refilling the cat food, and didn’t realize that Poppy was still inside the shelter; you can see her peeking out of the door (I usually try to wait for when nobody is home):

David refilling cat food

Pepper, the other shop cat:

Shop cat

Two cats at night:

Two cats

An alien orange cat encounter:

Orange cat encounter

Orange cat:

Orange cat

More on the orange cat encounter:

Orange cat encounter

I opened up the cat shelter to clean up a thrown up mouse, and straighten the mats:

Inside cat shelter

Still more snow, and a snowy cat:

Snowy cat

Four cats waiting for breakfast:

Four cats

A good stretch:

Cats

Three cats playing around the (mostly empty) fountain:

Cats in fountain

A snowy possum:

Possum

And a snowy raccoon:

Raccoon

A view from another camera of a couple of cats on the snow-covered deck of the our house:

Cats on deck

All five cats inside:

All 5 cats

Poppy on the cat house deck:

Cat on deck

A photo of the snowy cat house:

Snowy cat house