A recent @YellowCottageHomestead TikTok video of watching activity on the Turquoise beehive:
A recent @YellowCottageHomestead TikTok video of watching one of our beehives:
Yesterday we did a beehive inspection and mite treatment.
But before that, I assembled a honey extractor that we’ve had for several months, since we still have some honey from last year that we haven’t gotten around to extracting yet. Unfortunately the handle was broken. It’s still possible to use it, though we might see if we can get a replacement:
On to the inspection. Here’s the Yellow hive, with some drone cells:
A brood frame:
A honey frame:
We removed the top feeder, and added a Flow honey super, since they were getting a little full:
For the Turquoise hive, there were plenty of bees, but didn’t see any brood. So it’s possible those bees are just robbing. This hive probably won’t make it:
The Cedar hive was doing well… a little too well, building brood between the boxes, resulting in broken brood cells when separating them:
They also built some honey cells above the top box, into the gap below the top feeder:
A brood and honey frame:
Another brood frame:
We added mite treatment strips to the Yellow and Cedar hives:
A look at the current state of our three beehives; Flow supers on the Cedar and Yellow:
The Cedar hive (you can also see lots of cell building on the bottom of the top feeder, left out there for them to evacuate and salvage any honey):
The Turquoise hive, that probably won’t be long for this world:
The Yellow hive, also with a Flow super:
About an hour later, while I was mowing the lawns, I noticed a bunch of bearding on the Cedar and Turquoise hives:
On the Cedar makes sense, as the treatment strips are pretty nasty smelling, so they might want to air out the place. Not sure why on the Turquoise, as it didn’t have treatments:
A recent @YellowCottageHomestead TikTok video of trying to record the sound of hundreds of bees in a flowering tree, but the chickens were being too noisy:
Yesterday we did our first inspection of our beehives of the year, now that it’s warming up enough to open the hives.
We started with the Yellow hive:
A frame with some honey:
A brood frame:
The deep frames in the bottom box were all empty; sometimes the bees move up to an upper box, but they don’t usually build downwards, so we swapped the boxes so they could expand into the empty one:
Next was the Turquoise hive:
A bunch of bees on top:
A frame with new honey glistening in the cells:
The Purple hive didn’t look so good:
As we suspected based on activity, the bees were all dead:
Same story on the Orange hive, which we had also suspected was dead… very dead. They may have starved over the winter:
The Hot Pink hive was a bit different — there were several full frames of honey (and signs of robbing, so would have been more over winter):
But no bees; it looks like they had absconded, for some reason; weird, since they had plenty of supplies:
Finally the Cedar hive; it was doing the best of all of them:
A frame with old honey (blackened from being walked on for a long time) and a few drone cells:
A brood frame; if you look closely, you might spot some new bees emerging from cells:
Another brood frame:
We also wiped out and refilled the top feeders with 1:1 sugar water syrup, to help supplement what flowers they can find at this time of year.
We didn’t spot the queens of any hives, but we didn’t look closely; we just wanted to see which ones had survived, and looking for signs of brood and recent laying. We’ll take another look in a few weeks time, weather depending.
So we ended last year with six beehives, but started this year with only three surviving. Not ideal, but we had a feeling that would be the case. We had some concerns about some of the hives, that were a bit weak heading into fall, and we could tell based on activity that it looked like some hadn’t made it. We couldn’t be sure until we opened them up, though.
Here are the remaining hives: Cedar, Turquoise, and Yellow:
Finally, a picture of Jenn in her bee suit:
My most popular @YellowCottageHomestead TikTok video so far was this simple pan over our beehives; I guess people enjoy the bright colors (we do too):
Our electricity is still off due to the ice storm a couple of nights ago. Fortunately we have a portable generator, and fortunately I recently got it serviced so it actually works. I had it running most of the day yesterday, and expect to keep it going all day today (I turned it off overnight). It is providing power to our kitchen fridge/freezer, and currently slowly recharging the UPS for our internet router and Wi-Fi, and can be used to recharge other devices as needed:
Since we’re on a well, when the power is off, we don’t have any water, so we are using water jugs:
Though weirdly when we flush a toilet it does refill; I know there’s some water in the pipes and pressure tank, but I would have expected that to be exhausted quickly, but hasn’t been yet. Upstairs, what’s more. Could water be coming up from the well without the pump?! We don’t want to push our luck, but are glad we don’t have to refill the cisterns the hard way yet.
Ice on a tree by the chicken runs:
Ice on the chicken run roof netting; it’s survived much better than the old netting I had previously:
Chicken coop icicles:
The chickens are quite happy to stay inside, thank you very much:
I took a look at the beehives this morning:
They each have a sheet of ice on their roof, which could be concerning, as the heat of the hive should have melted it, though the feeders on top of each hive may have insulated the roof from them:
There are a bunch of dead bees on some of the hive entrances, which is actually a good sign — it proves there are some bees active to clean out the dead ones. There are thousands of bees in each hive, so a few dead ones is normal and not concerning. I did see a live one walking around, too, probably on the cleanup crew:
More on the ground:
The chickens reluctantly came out for their treats:
I refilled the food for the ducks, and tossed some over to them to enjoy:
The pond isn’t frozen; after starting to get slushy yesterday morning, it hasn’t been quite cold enough to maintain that:
Having recently finished the duck island project, I will of course take a break from building… nah! I’m already designing my next homestead project: a shed to store beekeeping equipment.
I’ve actually had a plan for this for over a year, and received delivery of building materials for it and other projects back in April last year. But this project has finally bubbled to near the top of my queue.
Here is a stack of building materials waiting in the hoop house:
And more lumber (only about half of these will be used for this project; the rest are spare):
Beekeeping involves a fair amount of equipment, which we currently store in the back of our workshop (along with other stuff, e.g. a cider press):
There’s plenty of room back there, but it’s a bit of a trek from the shop to the hives, so it’d be more convenient to have the equipment closer at hand if we need to add a hive box or something.
And hey, we have this old potting shelter that we inherited with the property:
It is conveniently near the beehives:
So I plan to enclose it with more 2×6 boards and corrugated galvanized steel panels, with clear corrugated panels for windows, and double doors. Inside, it’ll have U-shaped wooden shelving in the back half, weed mat and rubber flooring on the ground, and even a mirror and coathooks for our bee suits.
Yesterday, I took that photo above as a background and sketched the boards and panels onto it using Linea Sketch on my iPad Pro with Pencil. The perspective isn’t quite right, but close enough to indicate the design:
Imagine clear corrugated panels in the gaps of the walls, and U-shaped plywood shelves on top of those supports.
Here is a time-lapse GIF of the drawing process (warning, there are quick flashes of blue as I hid the background layer while drawing, if you’re sensitive to that sort of thing):
Since this is an outside construction project, it is weather dependent — with the big snowstorm we’re expecting over the next few days, I likely won’t start for a week or two. But I’m looking forward to it. Stay tuned for updates!
Last night it snowed a little for the first time this season. Less than an inch; just enough to give a winter wonderland feeling around the homestead.
So this morning I flew my drone to capture the snowy landscape from the sky, plus some ground-level pictures on my morning rounds.
Here’s my DJI Mavic Mini drone hovering in front of me on our deck:
An overview of much of the snowy homestead:
Angling up a bit to capture the lightly dusted trees and mist:
Closer to the trees:
Our pond from above the back lawn:
Another angle of the pond, and a better look at the ducks:
Looking straight down:
From further back, you can see the pond, back lawn, and flowerbeds:
Back a bit more, adding the shop, hoop house, veggie garden, and chicken runs:
Looking down on the white gazebo and dormant flowerbeds; the cat house is also visible in the top-left corner:
The back lawn, brown gazebo, grove, and veggie garden:
Down on the ground, here’s the greenhouse, with a sheet of snow sliding off the roof:
Our beehives; they’re all huddled inside, keeping themselves warm. We’ll see in a few months whether or not they all survive the winter:
By the pond:
The duck house and pond — the water maintains its temperature well; it needs to be cold much longer to freeze:
The white gazebo and flowerbeds, with a glimpse of ducks on the back lawn in the background:
Finally, looking across the fountain garden towards the cat house:
We did a quick half-hour visit to our beehives today, to swap out the mite treatment strips and add “bee juice”, a syrup of sugar water to help the bees build up their winter stores, since there aren’t many flowers blooming at this time of year.
We were a little concerned that the bees may have evacuated from all the wildfire smoke, but they’re all still there. They may have eaten a bunch of their honey stores, though — fun fact, that’s why beekeeping smokers work; the smoke makes the bees go down into the hive and eat honey, in preparation for flying away from approaching wildfires. I guess they decided the wildfire smoke wasn’t intense enough to justify leaving, for which we are glad. Or maybe their scouts told them it was just as bad everywhere.
Here are a couple of pots with 1:1 sugar water and health additive (we should switch to 2:1 next time; that’s a lot of sugar):
The old treatment strip, about to be removed:
The new treatment strip (it’s pretty smelly stuff):
The top feeder, with the fresh bee juice (and some floaters; sorry about that):
That’s it for this time; we just swapped out the strips and added juice for all six of the hives.
We shouldn’t need to open up the hives again till next spring, other than adding more sugar syrup as needed.