Beehive split before they split

As mentioned in my previous post, we weren’t planning on inspecting the beehives again for a couple of weeks, but were concerned that the yellow hive were thinking about swarming. We hoped that adding the Flow super would give them enough room so they wouldn’t.

Well, on Monday they showed definite signs of preparing to do just that, with a massive cloud of bees flying around outside:

Cloud of bees

A little hard to see in that photo. Look closely; all of those little dots are bees. Here’s a GIF edition, that makes them more visible:

GIF of bees

As you might imagine, that was rather dismaying to see. If the bees swarm, that means we lose half the hive, setting it back quite a bit. Bees swarm when they feel population pressure. The queen takes half of the bees and goes find somewhere else to live, leaving behind unhatched queen(s) to take over.

About 15 minutes later, the bees started landing on the outside of the hive:

Bees on outside of hive

A GIF of the bees on the outside of hive, with lots still flying around:

GIF of bees on outside of hive

That could mean that they had selected a place to swarm to, and were gathering around the queen, preparing to depart. More bees on the outside:

Bees on outside of hive

Yet more, with fewer flying:

Bees on outside of hive

A side view:

Bees on outside of hive

But then we noticed the number diminishing, without taking off, so they seemed to be going back inside, rather than swarming:

Bees on outside of hive

Bees on outside of hive

Bees on outside of hive

Phew! As I joked, maybe someone made a really smelly fart, and they all had to get outside for a bit.

Bees evacuating the hive and accumulating outside is called “bearding”, and is common in hot weather, to cool it down, but in spring is usually a sign of impending swarming, hence our concern.

A brief intermission: remember the three frames of drone brood we removed from the purple hive, and gave to the chickens? Here’s what they looked like a few hours later:

Drone frames

The yellow hive has a scale on it to measure the weight of the hive. When we checked it the following day, it hadn’t gone down, which indicated that the bees had not swarmed. But we were concerned that they still might, so yesterday decided to do a “walk-away split” of the hive, where we basically divide the hive in two, moving half of the frames to a new hive. It’s called a “walk-away split” as there’s no need to even find the queen, we just ensure there are queen cells in each hive, and they make their own queen. Doing this split relieves the population pressure, without losing half of the bees. It does set them back, but they’ll recover in time, and we get another hive in the deal.

As mentioned last time, we didn’t find the queen… and we saw signs that maybe they don’t have a queen, or at least one they’re happy with.

To do the split, we brought out deep and medium boxes, and the other hive components, each box with eight frames.  We then removed the central four frames from each box, and moved four frames from each box of the yellow hive into the new boxes:

Moving frames to a new box

So the two boxes of each of the two hives each have four active frames, plus four new frames. (Not actually new; many of the frames have existing comb and even honey, previously stored in the freezer).

Here are the two medium boxes; one for the yellow hive, one for the new hive:

Moving frames to a new box

As you may have noticed above, I moved the mobile camera from the pond to watch the bees; here’s a shot of us working on the hives from that camera (with the old camera name overlay still):

Moving frames to a new box

We noticed several swarm cells on the frames, supporting the signs that they were planning to swarm. We also saw this capped supersedure cell, a sign that the hive either doesn’t have a queen, or the bees want to replace an unproductive queen:

Queen cell

Another cam shot, of me adding the second box to the hive:

Adding the box

The new hive is the cedar (aka Flow) hive on the left. To give them more room, we added Flow honey supers to both hives, though they probably won’t use them for a while, since they need to rebuild from the split. But having plenty of room will further reduce the chances of swarming:



So now we have the cedar and yellow hives from that split, each with Flow supers, plus the purple hive that’ll probably be ready for a honey super soon, a weak orange hive, and defunct hot pink hive:


We’ll be getting a couple of nucs in just over a week to replace the hot pink hive, and have ordered new hive components for a sixth hive, which will go between the purple and yellow ones.

Later in the day, the yellow hive has normal activity, about the same level as the purple hive:


The cedar hive was relatively quiet, which is expected, since they need to get used to their new home; hopefully they’ll settle in and resume normal activities soon:


Finally, a cam shot of sunrise behind the hives this morning:

Sunrise behind hives

All going well, we’ll inspect again in about 10 days, probably as part of adding the two new nucs.

Third beehive inspection of 2020

Another inspection of the beehives, following up to last week.

Firstly, a peek at the bottom of the feeder removed last week, now with fewer bees on it:


A closer look; you can see a queen cup, and some bees further down, which have since departed:

Feeder closer

We’ll scrape that comb off before using the feeder again. (If we do; we weren’t entirely satisfied with them, as the sugar syrup tended to get moldy, and bees would find their way around the screen and drown.)

On to the inspection. Here’s the yellow hive, with the new Flow super:

Yellow hive

The inspection cloth on top to keep the bees calmer, and the rack ready to receive a removed frame. The grid on the right is the queen excluder, which prevents the queen from laying in the Flow honey super:

Yellow hive

A nice frame of honey and worker brood; a typical pattern for frames near the edge:

Honey and brood frame

A frame with a bunch of honey:

Honey frame

A brood frame covered in bees:

Brood frame

Another honey and brood frame:

Honey and brood frame

Honey frame:

Honey frame

We didn’t see the queen in the yellow hive, though saw proof that she had been laying, which was good enough.

Moving on to the purple hive, here’s a frame of drone brood that we noticed last week:

Purple hive drones

We spotted the queen (the large non-stripy bee near the edge on the left, which is the bottom of the frame):

Purple hive queen

We removed the three drone frames:

Three drone frames

And brushed the bees off them:

Brushing bees

We set those drone frames aside, to let the remaining bees evacuate:

Drone frames

We replaced those frames with ones we had stored in our shop freezer over winter (and had since defrosted), that included some honey.

Some bees hanging out on Jenn’s suit:

Bees on suit

This morning, I gave those drone frames to our chickens to enjoy; they’ll eat the unhatched drones and clean off the comb. We need to destroy the drone cells before using these frames again, otherwise they’d encourage laying more drones:

Chickens with drone frames

We also did mite treatments on the purple and orange hives. The orange hive is still looking weak, but surviving so far, so we didn’t disturb it too much.

We’ve completed the mite treatments now, so probably don’t need to inspect again for a couple of weeks, though need to keep an eye on the hives to give the purple hive more space if they need it, to prevent swarming. The yellow hive looks like they’re considering swarming, but they have plenty of space with the Flow super, so hopefully they won’t.

Finishing installing greenhouse irrigation

Yesterday I finished installing the greenhouse irrigation tubing and mister emitters (continuing from the previous post).

I started with the right-hand shelves. Here’s some assembled tubing for the middle one; a tap connector, elbows, and tubing:

Assembled tubing

The four-way splitter (the bottom one is spare) and connected irrigation tubing, enabling the irrigation for each shelf to be controlled separately:

Splitter and tubing

The mister emitters on the lower shelves; the emitters can be positioned as needed, but are just all over the place for now:

Mister emitters



Another shot of the completed irrigation of the right-hand shelves:

Right shelves

On to the shelves at the back. The assembled tubing:

Assembled tubing

Timer, splitter, tubing:

Timer, splitter, tubing



We have four soil moisture sensors, that connect to our weather station (which supports up to eight):

Moisture sensor

The completed irrigation, like a bunch of tentacles:

Irrigation done

A wide-angle view of inside the greenhouse:

Wide angle

A view of the outside, showing the shelving:

Outside back view

The front view:

Outside front view

This concludes the greenhouse plumbing and irrigation project! 

Cat update for week ending April 25

This Caturday: cats at their cabins, cats at their house, cats in the breezeway; only one alien visitor. And a fun GIF of inside the cat house.

Spud by the cabins:

Cat by cabins

The twins:

Cats at cabins

Yawn and stretch:


Three cats inside their house:

Three cats inside

Porcini by the water dish, another eating:


Pommie in front of the house, Paladout approaching behind:


The twins in the breezeway:


A couple of cats turned up several hours too early for breakfast:

Too early for breakfast

Poppy and Porcini:

Poppy and Porcini

Poppy asleep inside:


An alien cat visited the breezeway; not sure if it’s one we’ve seen before; looks smaller than Pumpkin and such (haven’t seen him in weeks). Just looked then left without incident:

Alien cat

Pansy enjoying her heating pad in the back of the shop:


An animated GIF of several hours inside the cat house, at 15 minute intervals; it’s fun seeing how they turn around while sleeping:

GIF of inside cat house

Three cats inside, with a yawn:

Three cats

Porcini on the awning, another peeking out the door:

Cat on the awning

Finally, two cats enjoying a heating pad inside:

Two cats inside

Flock Friday for April 24

For this week’s flock update: funny ducks, broody chickens, mucking out the coop, chasing the heron.

Gert peeking at me from under the pond deck:


The ducks greeting me on the back lawn:


A view from the pond deck of the ducks and fish; I’m now feeding them from there on evening rounds, since it’s easier to see the fish from there. By the duck house is closer to the water, but the more acute viewing angle plus the angle of the sun reflecting off the water makes it harder to see into the pond:

Ducks and fish

I put a second camera into the old coop, to watch the broody chickens:


Here’s the view from that camera, showing a broody chicken emerging from the nesting box:

Broody chicken emerging

All three of the broody chickens out to eat:

Broody chickens out

And going back into the box:

Broody chickens back in

Three broody chickens:

Three broody chickens

Me mucking out the coop, scooping the dirty bedding to dump in the compost:

Mucking out coop

Adding fresh pine shavings bedding:

Adding fresh bedding

An animated GIF of a full day in the old coop, at half hour intervals:

GIF of a day in the old coop

Me hand-weeding by the pond. I spray weeds around the property, but don’t want to spray where the ducks frequent, so every day on my morning rounds I pull a few weeds, to keep it somewhat under control:


Paladout by the pond:

Cat by pond

Broody chickens again:

Broody chickens

10 eggs in a nesting box; we’re currently averaging about a dozen a day, usually split between one box in each coop. Chickens like to lay in the same box as other chickens lay, so whichever box the first chicken lays in, the others also use. Usually the same one every day, but sometimes they change:


The chickens in their run, watching me and the ducks outside:


The ducks next to the pond:


Greeting me on the lawn again:


Following me from the chicken coops to the pond:


You may have seen this GIF of the ducks running after me on my personal blog:

GIF of ducks

Once we reached the duck house, I gave them their treats:


The heron landing:

Heron landing

I went out there to chase it off, before it could eat more of our fish; here’s a GIF of the heron taking off:

GIF of heron taking off

Just now, we saw the ducks on the driveway next to the veggie garden; the furthest we’ve seen them from the pond:


Starting installing greenhouse irrigation

On Saturday I started adding the irrigation emitters to the greenhouse. I only did one shelf, but subsequent ones should be a bit faster. I’ll wait for a cool and/or rainy day before doing more, since it’s unpleasant to spend much time in the greenhouse when it’s sunny.

Here are a couple of boxes of irrigation parts on the potting bench, and end pieces on the sink:

Irrigation parts

An assembled irrigation pipe, with a tap connector, a couple of right-angle elbows, pipe, and flexible misters:

Irrigation pipe with misters

The mister tubes can be twisted and angled as needed, holding their position, and the mister heads can be adjusted to change the width of the spray.

Here’s the pipe installed. The irrigation tap, water timer, and 4-way splitter that you’ve seen before, with the above irrigation pipe and misters attached to the underside of the top shelf:

Tap, timer, splitter, Irrigation pipe, misters

Here’s the other end of the irrigation pipe:

Irrigation pipe with misters

The whole shelf; the plan is that the top shelf won’t have irrigation, but the lower three shelves on the back and side will:

Whole shelf

The misters in action as a test run (the positions and spray width needs to be tweaked):

Irrigation misters

As mentioned, I’ll add irrigation for more shelves later.

Second beehive inspection of 2020

One week after the first beehive inspection of the year, we inspected again, to make some tweaks, and continue the mite treatments.

Yesterday I modified our new Flow box and cover; the access door on the Flow box was sticking, and the roof was hitting the handles of the top panel, so I used my router to trim them to work better (not particularly tidy, but works):

Modified Flow box and cover

Today we removed the feeder from the yellow hive; we had left that in place in case the queen was in there. There were still lots of bees on the bottom of the feeder, but we shook most of them into the hive; the remainder will fly back this afternoon, then I’ll be able to take the feeder away tomorrow:

Yellow hive: bees on bottom of feeder

A broken queen cup stuck to the top of a frame (it would have been built hanging off the frame above):

Broken queen cup

A decent frame of brood:

Brood frame

We didn’t see the queen, so hopefully she’s in there somewhere. We’ll look again next week.

We also put the new Flow super on, with a queen excluder, to give them more room for honey:

Flow super

On to the purple hive, we transferred the frames to a new box, since the blue box had a bit of a gap:

Transferring frames to a new box

Looking at the upper box, there’s some good brood frames:

Brood frame

But also a lot of drone frames, which we’ll remove next week:

Drone frame

We also took a peek in the orange hive. It’s still alive, so we just did the treatment without disturbing it too much:

Orange hive

So here are the current state of our hives — two gone, one weak, one with too many drones, and one looking good, though no queen sighting:

The hives

We’ll inspect again next week, weather permitting.

Cat update for week ending April 18

This Caturday, various cute cats, various wildlife.

Three cats at breakfast time:

Three cats

Two cats inside their house:

Two cats inside

A GIF of Poppy drinking water and being startled by a cat climbing halfway up the pole behind the cat house then jumping down:

GIF of cat climbing pole

(Fun fact: the way Poppy raises one paw isn’t because it’s sore or something, it’s to be ready to lash out to defend herself if needed. Standard feral cat behavior for threats.)

A still of the cat pausing halfway up the pole:

Cat on pole

And jumping down:

Cat on pole

Porcini quickly exits a cabin as a coyote approaches:

Cat by cabins

It’s concerning that I’ve seen coyotes approaching the cat places recently:

Coyote by cabins

Three cats inside their house:

Three cats inside

An amusing side eye:

Side eye

Watching a bird overhead:

Cat watching bird

Since it’s no longer freezing overnight, I removed the heated water dish, and moved the water dispenser so I can see the level in the camera. It looks green mostly due to moss on the ground behind it; that is fresh water.

Dirty cat:

Dirty cat

Two cats:

Two cats

Not a cat: a possum:


Also not a cat: a raccoon a few minutes later:




Alien cat in the breezeway, with Pommie in the cabin; they exchanged words, but he left without incident:

Alien cat in breezeway

Alien cat in breezeway

Alien cat in breezeway

The sun is currently at a perfect angle to shine down the breezeway in the morning, as a cat walks past:

Cat and sun in breezeway

A nice picture of Porcini:


Poppy downstairs in their house, Bella feeling playful upstairs:

Two cats inside

Flock Friday for April 17

For this week’s Flock Friday, ducks being cute, chickens being broody, and a heron eating a couple of our fish (grrr).

The ducks greeting me by the chicken coop again:


Ducks and chickens

Chickens enjoying rice treats:

Chickens with rice

You may have seen this picture on my personal blog: the ducks on the temporary bridge over the pond waterfall stream:

Ducks on bridge

A GIF of the ducks leading me down the path:

Paladout walking in front of the camera by the pond:

Cat by pond

Five eggs in a nesting box in the new coop:

Five eggs in nesting box

And another five in a nesting box in the old coop; they’ve been averaging about a dozen a day recently:

Five eggs in nesting box

Martha is still being broody (and rather fluffy here):

Broody chicken

Buffy on the bin edge when I opened it to give them mealworms:

Chicken on bin edge

A GIF of a heron landing in the pond:

GIF of heron landing

A still image of the heron; such elegant birds (not!):

Heron landing

Another angle:

Heron landing

While the heron is interesting, it isn’t welcome, as it feeds on frogs and fish. This week, the heron caught two of our smallish fish.

Here’s a GIF of the heron catching a koi, I’d guess at least a couple of years old:

GIF of heron with fish

A still of that:

Heron with fish

And a second smaller koi:

Heron with fish

The ducks are always curious, but the heron chased them when they got too close (another GIF):

GIF of heron chasing ducks

When I saw the heron, I went out there to chase it off, but all of that was in less than five minutes.

Finally, there are now three broody chickens, all trying to fit in the same box:

Three broody chickens

Fountain garden stream

Now that the overnight temperatures are (mostly) above freezing, I’ve turned on the garden water, which means I could also turn on the pump in the small pond for the stream next to the fountain garden. It needs the water to be on to top it up via an automatic filler valve.

Here is the small pond; you can see the pump underwater, and filler valve on the edge (I might be modifying that soon):

Small pond

Going upstream a bit, the lower stone bridge:

Lower part of stream

Looking downstream, with the upper stone bridge in the foreground, the lower bridge barely visible through the tree, and the cat house in the background:

Stream and cat house

A couple more shots of the upper bridge:



Just beyond the bridge:


A GIF of the upper stream cascade (captured from a video):

GIF of stream cascade

And a closer GIF of the cascade (captured from a Live Photo):

GIF of stream cascade

A GIF of the upper falls pond, where the pump pipe ends with bubbling water:

GIF of upper falls pond

A static photo of the upper falls pond:

Upper falls pond

I hope you enjoyed this look at the stream. I’ll do the big pond waterfall in the future.