Thursday, July 26, 2007

Smoker fuel - any favourites?

An interesting question -- what do you use in your smoker? When I bought mine I got a stick of fuel which I've rarely used as it's pretty hard to actually get lit. Most folks around here use pine straw and dry leaves which are OK but the problem there is that I have a lot of trouble keeping it lit. So, having read someone say they used baling twine/burlap as a fuel I cut off a strip from some burlap we had in the garage for the garden. I have found that a mix of the burlap (a square about 4"x6") and the pine straw seems to be pretty good and will keep lit for me for a good while.

So anyone out there with favourite fuels, hints, tips?

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Update on the bees and the pool

Well, the dog waterer may not work for everyone but it has sure worked for us. We moved the watered (standing on a concrete block) away from the pool over about two weeks and it now stands about 2 feet outside the fence and we rarely see any bees by the pool or trying to drink from it even though they are flying in right by it. We did consider moving it further but it's nice to sit and watch them sometimes and as they are no longer a nuisance everyone is happy.

Again, one large concrete block (about $4 from Lowes), one large pet waterer ($21.99 from Petsmart), water and a dash of honey-b-healthy.

Not so successful adventure

Well, a few weeks back now I went out one evening with some local beekeepers to remove a colony from an old house nearby. This was a real adventure, I am used to relatively docile bees not the anger of a big colony being ripped out of their nest with circular saws and wrecking bars! Luckily I made it through the evening with only a few relatively minor stings but the prize came when we managed to lift up the floor in the room upstairs and between the joists were row upon row of comb thick with honey and brood.

After the cleaning out of the colony we shared out honey comb between the four of us and also made up some frames to hold the brood comb in the hopes of starting a new hive. I had taken a nuc with me and with some help managed to prepare a number of combs and bring back. The result is shown below.

The trick now was to get them installed in the spare hive and get building the colony. So first thing the next morning I had put together the hive about 20-25 feet from the first and added the frame and bees from the nuc above. This went reasonably well though the bees were still far from happy and a veil and long sleeves were definitely required. Anyway, I added a feeder (aluminium foil tray, sugar water and pine straw) in an empty box above the brood and left them to it.

In all of this it was interesting to note that the bees themselves looked quite different to the first hive in the yard; they were considerably darker with more pronounced bands on them; unfortunately I haven't a really good picture of this, but you get some idea from this one.

The next thing I noticed was a lot of activity from the original hive, and before long the new one was covered (well maybe not covered, but there were a lot) with bees from the first hive. I did see some of the new bees protecting the entrance to their hive (I had the entrance reduced in with the smallest opening) but I think they were quickly overwhelmed. I picked up a queen the next day but when I opened the hive even in such a short time there were a lot fewer of the dark bees than I know I put in. I topped up the feed and left them for a few days with the queen.

3 days later and when I open the hive, nothing, the queen is still in her cage and I counted a total of 4 dark bees walking over the four brood frames (2 blank frames either side to fill the box) and already a few opportunistic ants. It was clear this adventure didn't end well and despondent I closed the hive and decided to come back in a day or so and clean up. Well with work and some other distractions a day or so became over a week and finally last weekend I went down to collect up all the boxes clean them and store them away.

To my dismay the body was full of nesting ants, beetles and worst of all wax moths; so all of the frames I had to toss and had to spend a long time cleaning out the ants and scrubbing the boxes clean before I could put them away. Lesson learned there.

A shame things didn't work out, and also couldn't make this months Chatham beekeppers meeting so don't know how the others did getting their bees home and started - well I guess I'll find out next month.