Beehive inspection, harvest, treatment, requeening

Over the weekend we had an epic three-hour beehive session, plus a quick half-hour one the following day. A lot went on: we inspected all five of the hives, harvested 9 quarts of honey from the Flow hive, removed one box full of honey frames, put a bee escape on another hive to take a box from them (15 medium frames total), did mite counts and treatments, added a new feeder box, found and removed queens from two hives, and replaced the queens (the next day). Read on for details.

Firstly, we started the Flow harvest:

Flow harvest

While that was underway, we checked the new “hot pink” hive; it seems to be doing well, though we have concerns on whether or not it has enough honey stored to survive the winter; we might provide extra frames of honey to help them along:

Hot pink hive

We did the sugar shake mite test on each of the hives. Here’s a jar of sugary bees:

Jar of sugary bees

Jenn doing the mite test:

Sugar shake mite test

A frame of honey from the yellow hive; this is from a box that we will harvest, cutting the foundationless frames into comb honey, and extracting from the foundation ones:

Nice frame of honey

We wanted to replace the aging queens on the yellow and Flow hives, so the trick was to find them. Here’s the queen on the yellow hive — look for the one with minimal stripes towards the bottom, right of center:

Queen bee

We put that frame and one other in a nuc box, along with some empty frames, as a backup in case the new queens don’t “take”:

Nuc box

A close-up of bees on top of frames:

Close-up of bees

We also added a bee escape board between the brood boxes (the bottom two) and the honey supers (the top two). This is a special board that includes a triangular route that bees can go out but apparently can’t find their way back in (see a picture of it later). This is an easy way to get the bees out of the honey boxes, so we can remove them:

Escape added

An essential tool, the smoker:


Checking in on the Flow harvest:

Flow harvest

We covered the jars to prevent lazy bees from trying to collect the honey, and ending up drowning in the jars:

Jars covered

A very nice full frame of honey from the purple hive, from another box that we’ll harvest:

Full frame of honey

Jenn brushed off the bees, since there weren’t all that many (and we don’t have a second bee escape), so we could take the box away immediately:

Brushing off bees

The orange hive is rather engineering challenged; they have a lot of cross-combing, which gets torn apart when removing the frames:

Orange hive is engineering challenged

They were rather cranky at our critique of their engineering talents; we had to take long walks to get them to stop trying to kill us:

Cranky hive

We also found and removed the old queen from the Flow hive; here’s her nuc box, again with two frames from the hive, plus empty ones:

Nuc for Flow hive's queen

After finishing harvesting, we removed the Flow box, and left it on the ground for them to clear out of it:

Removed Flow box

We received the two new queens, enclosed in queen cages along with some attendants, and a block of candy for the bees in the hive to slowly eat through, while getting used to their new queen:

New queens

The next day, preparing a queen cage for installation in the hive:

Preparing queen cage

I didn’t get any pictures of the queen cage in place, since I had to help position it; it’s basically jammed between two frames.

A Mite Away Quick Strips treatment on a couple of hives that needed it, without new queens:

Mite Away Quick Strips treatment

We went back at night to collect the Flow box, but there was an unusual amount of activity, and bees still active inside the Flow box:

Night activity

So I added the escape board to the Flow box, so they can clear out. You can also see the five hives reduced to their winter configurations of just brood boxes. All the honey the bees collect for the rest of the year is for them to store to eat during winter. Oh, and the white box on the hot pink hive is a feeder tray, with big troughs for sugar syrup, that the bees can access from inside the hive. A higher capacity than the old feeder jars, and less prone to robbing by bees from other hives:

Escape on Flow box

Here’s a closer look at the bee escape board, with some bees heading out:

Bee escape board

Finally, bearding bees on a hive with the mite treatment; an expected behavior:

Bearding bees

Cat update for week ending August 17

Saturday means Caturday, checking in with the feral cats we care for.

Two cats sleeping inside the cat house shelter:

Two cats inside

Reaching for a bug on the wall below the feeder camera:

Reaching for a bug

Up close:

Up close

The alien gray cat and Poppy; she just wandered off, and let the gray cat finish eating:

Gray cat and feral

Three cats looking at something (probably Rory on the deck):

Three cats

Sleepy cats:

Sleepy cats

Chasing a moth:

Chasing a moth

Three cats inside the shelter, when the gray cat visits after midnight:

Four cats

Three snuggly cats:

Three cats

Still three upstairs, when one more arrives:

Four cats

Spud staring at a bug:

Staring at a bug

Four cats inside; I also saw Spud in the feeder again at this time. It’s rare to see all five cats, but I’m glad when I do; it’s nice to confirm that they’re all still alive:

Four cats

Those aren’t cats: two raccoons inside:

Two raccoons

The alien gray cat arrives, followed by the alien orange cat:

Orange and gray cats

Both are probably pet cats of neighbors. We’ve named the orange cat Pumpkin, but haven’t named the gray cat (which has a collar, so is definitely a pet). Since he looks like an outdoor edition of our cat Paladin, maybe we should call him Paladout? 😉

Orange and gray cats:

Orange and gray cats

Two cats, doing the feral startled stare:

Two cats

The gray cat arrives when one of our ferals is sitting next to the deck; they seem to be somewhat getting used to each other:

Gray and feral cats

Two cats sniffing noses in greeting:

Two cats

Poppy has been spending several hours each night sleeping in the shelter, which makes me happy; she was a very good mother to her kittens, and deserves a comfortable retirement:

Sleepy poppy

Flock Friday for August 16

Welcome to another Flock Friday, my weekly update on our ducks and chickens.

Let’s start with the ducks. Here they are on our pond, with Bert, the male Buff, flapping his wings:

Duck flapping wings

You can see the green sheen on Gill’s black feathers:


A little closer:


By the duck house ramp:

Ducks by ramp

On the ramp (with the duck house sign visible):

Ducks on ramp

Inside the duck house, eating:

Ducks eating

A rapid egress due to a random freak out:

Rapid egress

Ducks resting on the pond bank:

Ducks on bank


Ducks on bank

Ducks and fish in the pond, shortly before sunset; those ripples aren’t rain, but fish going for food:

Ducks and fish in pond

Ducks at dusk:

Ducks in pond

On to the chicks; they are getting so big, but still not fully grown, and still peeping instead of clucking:





And the older chickens, enjoying treats:




Finally, some fluffy butts:


Cat update for week ending August 10

Firstly, while the Caturday posts are typically about our feral cats, I wanted to start by wishing a happy 12th birthday to one of our pet cats, Pippin:


Not-a-cat: a dog checks out the cat house during our summer party:


Three cats waiting for breakfast:

Three cats waiting for breakfast

Four cats at breakfast:

Four cats at breakfast

Pansy reaching for food:

Pansy reaching for food

Scratching a tree:

Stretching on tree

A GIF variation:

GIF of scratching tree

Three cats:

Three cats

Four cats:

Four cats

Contentedly waiting:

Three cats

Sleepy cat:

Sleepy cat

Four cats:

Four cats

A couple of cats playing by the tree, while a couple more wait for food:

Four cats

Flock Friday for August 9

It’s Friday… you know what that means!

The ducks in one of their favorite spots, next to the duck house:

Ducks next to duck house

Eating inside the duck house:

Ducks eating

Treats for ducks and fish:

Treats for ducks and fish

Treats for ducks and fish

They don’t go on the south bank very often; a bit harder to get up there:

Ducks on the pond bank

Wing stretch:

Wing stretch

Treats on the pond bank:

Treats on the pond bank

On the pond edge next to the duck house:

On the pond edge

One of the feral cats checked out the ducks. Hard to see, but she’s on top of the big rock behind the ducks:

Cat on the rock by the ducks

I went out there when I saw that. I don’t know whether or not a cat would attack a duck, but I figured I’d be sad if she did and I didn’t go out. She left when I approached. I suspect that a cat wouldn’t go after a duck unless desperate, especially when they’re together and alert, but better safe than sorry.

Swimming underwater:

Swimming underwater

Did you see the YouTube video of ducks swimming underwater?  Quite impressive!

I moved the mobile cam to the rock by the duck house, for a better vantage point. In due course I’ll add a permanent cam, once I figure out the ideal location. Peeking at the camera:


Flappiing wings:

Flappiing wings

Just one picture of the older chickens this time, inside their coop. Here Merida is eating from the top of the second feeder:

Chicken eating from top of feeder

Chicks eating in their coop:

Chicks eating

Chicks eating

Finally, a couple more pictures of most of the chicks; they’re getting so big!



Building a pool deck extension

We have an above-ground swimming pool, that we set up around July and take down around September. We only swim in it a few times during summer, typically when the air temperature is 90° F (32° C) or more. It is a big hit during our summer party, too. But getting into the pool involved walking down a flight of steps from the deck, around the deck, and climbing a rickety ladder up and down, despite the pool being positioned a few feet from the deck. The pool can’t be set up any closer, due to a retaining wall and the support legs of the pool.

So a project in the last week or two was to improve that by building a small extension to the deck, enabling direct access to the pool.

Here’s the “before” picture; the deck railing and pool beyond:

Railing and pool

I removed that portion of the railing, blocking the gap with a temporary barrier. I also brought over a bunch of tools:

Removed railing

I built a pair of gates, using some reclaimed material from the old railing:


I also purchased some nice plastic pool steps, which Jenn assembled:

Pool steps

I rested the steps in the pool, to confirm their height; they’re floating, as they need to be weighted down with sand:

Steps in pool

Building the deck extension joists, using treated lumber:

Deck joists

Adding cedar deck boards, to match the main deck:

Deck boards

Adding trim around the edges:

Adding trim



Looking from the ground next to the pool, where you can see the aforementioned retaining wall and pool legs, plus the attachment point and a post in a concrete footing:

Attachment point and posts

I considered several concepts for the deck, including having it removable, or hinge up like a drawbridge. Since I need to take down and set up the pool each year, I thought that having it be able to get out of the way would help with that. But ultimately I decided to make it a fixed deck, since that would be more sturdy, and it is very heavy. I determined that I should be able to assemble and disassemble the pool even with the deck fixed in place, since the pool leg under the deck will fit between the deck legs.

So I trimmed the trim of the main deck, to avoid unevenness there:

Trimmed trim

The underside of the deck, ready to be installed:

Underside of deck

The deck resting on boards, during installation; since it is rather large and heavy, it was a bit awkward to maneuver by myself, but I managed (Jenn was at work):

Resting on boards

The deck mounted, with missing boards for reasons:


Me under the deck, attaching bracing to the legs:

Me under the deck

Adding a railing post:

Railing post

Using the router to have nice rolled edges on the top of the railings, to match the main deck:

Routing railings

The extra deck boards and gates installed:


Initially I mounted the gates to open onto the main deck, as above, based on my original idea of having the extension fold upwards. But Jenn pointed out that it’d make more sense for them to swing the other way, now that it’s fixed in place. So I re-hung them to open that way, which is indeed much tidier:

Gates opening onto deck

Here are the gates closed, with a cane bolt to hold the right one closed, and a key-lockable latch for the left one:


When the pool isn’t there, we’ll probably lock the gates, for safety.

Next, I finished the railings, again to match the main deck:


The railing from the other side:


And I stained the railings:

Stained railings

The completed deck extension:

Finished deck

Finally, Jenn and I mounted the steps into the pool. Easier said than done, since she endured the chill water to position a mat under the steps, and hang buckets of sand below the steps to weigh them down:

Mounted steps

The steps are designed to fill the legs with sand, but we decided to hang buckets instead, to make it easier to move the steps when taking down the pool. It’ll be easier to set up the steps next year when assembling the pool, since I’ll be able to do it before filling with water.

The finished deck extension, complete with lights on the railing:


(The temporary rope barrier was to stop kids from diving during our annual party; that is normally a nice spot to sit and dangle feet in the pool, or rest beverages or pool floats.)

The deck and pool got a lot of use during our party on Saturday, and was admired by all. We had our first official swim on Sunday, and found the deck extension and steps so much nicer. To paraphrase someone at our party, this is how the deck should have always been.

Deck gazebo

Last month I assembled on our deck an aluminum gazebo, purchased from Costco.

It was delivered on a double pallet of heavy cartons:

Double pallet of heavy boxes

I lugged them over to the deck:


Lots of small parts:

Small parts

Assembling the frame:

Assembling frame

Frame assembled:

Assembling the frame

Assembling the roof beams:

Assembling the roof beams

Roof beams done:

Roof beams done

Installing roofing panels:

Installing roofing panels

Roofing panels done:

Roofing panels done

It includes sliding insect screens. Here I’m assembling one of them:

Assembling screens

Screens somewhat done:


However, our deck isn’t completely flat (like everything else in this house), so I used a router to cut a notch in the deck for the screen track:

Using router to level screen

Finished installation:

Finished installation

We purchased a rug for under the table, and new seat cushions (only two chairs out here):


While the screens provide some sun filtering, it can still be very bright as the sun heads towards the horizon, so I added a retractable shade:

Retractable shade

I also installed a covered power cord up a leg for lights etc:

Installing power, lights, etc

Here’s the top, with power for a string of lights, an Amazon Echo, and a pair of speakers:

Power for lights, Echo, speakers

Echo, light, speaker:

Echo, lights, speakers

The Echo streams music and other functions through the speakers. The color-changing lights run around the edge of the roof.

I also added a power strip zip-tied under the table, providing convenient outlets and USB power:

Under-table power

All pleasant additions to our deck, to make working and eating outside more comfortable and enjoyable:

Tomorrow, another addition!

Cat update for week ending August 3

Welcome to Caturday!

Three cats, with the one coming out of the shelter having a good stretch:

Three cats

Peeking around the corner, while waiting for breakfast:

Three cats



A raccoon walking down a tree; they are really good at climbing:

Raccoon walking down a tree

Four cats:

Four cats

Dinner queue:

Three cats

More snuggles; they haven’t been using the shelter very much of late, so I enjoy seeing when they do:


Three cats:

Three cats

A fourth arrives:

Four cats

Porcini looking at a bug on the wall below the camera:

Three cats

Four cats:

Four cats





Pumpkin, the alien orange cat:

Orange cat

Daytime raccoon:

Daytime raccoon

Pepper in the shop:

Pepper in the shop

Two cats, with chairs in the field for our party today:

Two cats

I expect the cats will avoid visiting tonight, with more humans and dogs roaming around. Hopefully they’ll fill up before that.

Flock Friday for August 2

Welcome to another Flock Friday!

Let’s start with the ducks. Here they are resting on the pond bank:

Ducks resting on the pond bank

I mucked out the duck house, removing the paint tray wading pool, now that the ducks can go outside. Since they now spend almost all of their time outside (including overnight), just coming in to eat, I shouldn’t need to muck it out anywhere near as often, which will be nice:

Ducks in the house

I love having ducks on the pond. It’s a joy to see them through the trees as I approach the pond:

Ducks through the trees

Just swimming around:

Ducks in the pond

Going for mealworm treats:

Ducks going for treats

Duck on the ramp:

Duck on the ramp

One thing I didn’t consider was that giving ducks their treats and feeding the koi at the same time can be problematic; the fish swim around the ducks, disturbing them, and the ducks eat the koi food once they’ve polished off their mealworms:

Ducks & fish

I’ve taken to feeding each a bit further apart, which helps somewhat.

A duck on the bank; this pond edge near the house is one of their favorite places to hang out:

Duck on the bank

The three ducks heading out of the house down the ramp:

Ducks on the ramp

Into the water:

Into the water

Ducks in the pond:

Ducks in the pond

In the house for a meal; interestingly you can see straight through the nostrils of the foreground duck:

Ducks in the house

Reaching for treats:

Ducks reaching for treats

On to the chicks, with an assortment of pictures. I should see if I can get them to play the xylophone:

Chick by xylophone






Finally, the older chickens, enjoying a corn cob and other treats:

Chickens enjoying corn cob