Beehive honey harvest in May

A quick post about our honey harvest yesterday. We noticed that the Flow hives were getting full, so harvested over three gallons of honey from them:

Flow honey harvest

The bees on the cedar hive were bearding quite impressively; I guess it was too hot in there (GIF):

Bees GIF

I also took the opportunity to move some of the spare beekeeping equipment into the recently-completed bee shed:

Beekeeping equipment in the bee shed

Jenn double-filtered the harvested honey, and transferred it into 24 pints and 5 smaller jars:

Honey

Not that we needed more honey; we’re still working our way through last year’s harvest. Everyone who visits our homestead has to take home a jar of honey and a carton of eggs!

Beehive inspection and mite treatments

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:

Honey extractor

On to the inspection. Here’s the Yellow hive, with some drone cells:

Yellow hive: drone cells

A brood frame:

Yellow hive: brood frame

A honey frame:

Yellow hive: honey frame

We removed the top feeder, and added a Flow honey super, since they were getting a little full:

Yellow hive: added honey super

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:

Turquoise hive: bees but no brood

The Cedar hive was doing well… a little too well, building brood between the boxes, resulting in broken brood cells when separating them:

Cedar hive: broken brood cells

They also built some honey cells above the top box, into the gap below the top feeder:

Cedar hive: honey cells above the box

A brood and honey frame:

Cedar hive: brood frame

Another brood frame:

Cedar hive: brood frame

We added mite treatment strips to the Yellow and Cedar hives:

Cedar hive: mite treatments

A look at the current state of our three beehives; Flow supers on the Cedar and Yellow:

Beehives

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):

Cedar hive

The Turquoise hive, that probably won’t be long for this world:

Turquoise hive

The Yellow hive, also with a Flow super:

Yellow hive

About an hour later, while I was mowing the lawns, I noticed a bunch of bearding on the Cedar and Turquoise hives:

Bearding bees

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:

Bearding bees

First beehive inspection of 2021

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:

Yellow hive

A frame with some honey:

Yellow hive: honey

A brood frame:

Yellow hive: brood

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:

Yellow hive: empty deep frame

Next was the Turquoise hive:

Turquoise hive: bees on top

A bunch of bees on top:

Turquoise hive: bees on top

A frame with new honey glistening in the cells:

Turquoise hive: honey frame

The Purple hive didn’t look so good:

Purple hive: dead

As we suspected based on activity, the bees were all dead:

Purple hive: dead

Same story on the Orange hive, which we had also suspected was dead… very dead. They may have starved over the winter:

Orange hive: dead

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):

Hot pink hive: honey but no bees

But no bees; it looks like they had absconded, for some reason; weird, since they had plenty of supplies:

Hot pink hive: honey but no bees

Finally the Cedar hive; it was doing the best of all of them:

Cedar hive

A frame with old honey (blackened from being walked on for a long time) and a few drone cells:

Cedar hive: old honey frame

A brood frame; if you look closely, you might spot some new bees emerging from cells:

Cedar hive: brood, with some emerging

Another brood frame:

Cedar hive: 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:

Beehives

Beehives

Cedar hive:

Cedar hive

Turquoise hive:

Turquoise hive

Yellow hive:

Yellow hive

Finally, a picture of Jenn in her bee suit:

Jenn in bee suit

Ice storm: generator, chickens, ducks, bees

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:

Generator

Since we’re on a well, when the power is off, we don’t have any water, so we are using water jugs:

Water jug

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 tree by chicken run

Ice on the chicken run roof netting; it’s survived much better than the old netting I had previously:

Ice on chicken run roof netting

Chicken coop icicles:

Chicken coop icicles

The chickens are quite happy to stay inside, thank you very much:

Chickens

Chickens

I took a look at the beehives this morning:

Beehives

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:

Beehives

Levitating ice:

Beehives

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:

Bees

More on the ground:

Bees

The chickens reluctantly came out for their treats:

Chickens

I refilled the food for the ducks, and tossed some over to them to enjoy:

Ducks

The pond isn’t frozen; after starting to get slushy yesterday morning, it hasn’t been quite cold enough to maintain that:

Ducks

Ducks

Ducks

Bee shed: design

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:

Building materials

And more lumber (only about half of these will be used for this project; the rest are spare):

Building materials

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):

Beekeeping equipment

Beekeeping equipment

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:

Shelter

Shelter

It is conveniently near the beehives:

Shelter

Shelter

Shelter

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:

Bee shed 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):

Shelter

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!

January snow and aerial photos

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:

Drone

An overview of much of the snowy homestead:

Snowy homestead

Angling up a bit to capture the lightly dusted trees and mist:

Trees

Closer to the trees:

Trees

Our pond from above the back lawn:

Pond

Another angle of the pond, and a better look at the ducks:

Pond and ducks

Looking straight down:

Pond and ducks

From further back, you can see the pond, back lawn, and flowerbeds:

Pond, back lawn, flowerbeds

Back a bit more, adding the shop, hoop house, veggie garden, and chicken runs:

Pond, back lawn, etc

Looking down on the white gazebo and dormant flowerbeds; the cat house is also visible in the top-left corner:

Flowerbeds

The back lawn, brown gazebo, grove, and veggie garden:

Back lawn, grove, veggie garden

Down on the ground, here’s the greenhouse, with a sheet of snow sliding off the roof:

Greenhouse

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:

Beehives

By the pond:

By the pond

The duck house and pond — the water maintains its temperature well; it needs to be cold much longer to freeze:

Duck house and pond

The white gazebo and flowerbeds, with a glimpse of ducks on the back lawn in the background:

Flowerbeds

Finally, looking across the fountain garden towards the cat house:

Cat house and fountain garden