Flannel Jammies Farm

...praising God on our 1/5 acre of suburbia

Monday, June 15, 2015

giving a swarm a new home...

Some days, the Great Bee smiles and whispers to swarming honey bees the path to a loving home.

This was the case recently, with sweet bees stopping to rest in the maple tree in our front yard.  We welcomed these visitors with joy and gently settled them into a new home.  Here's how...

On a bright Saturday morning, my husband pulled into our driveway and heard the unmistakeable sound of buzzing bees.  He peeked overhead, into the maple tree, and saw a traveling swarm had stopped to rest right in our beekeeping front yard! The swarm was not too small and not too big but just right.

The hubs worked quickly but calmly.  He pulled his pickup under the tree branch and placed a horizontal ladder atop the truck's toolbox.  He also brought out a waiting nuc box, or small hive for a nucleus colony of bees.  This box is a good starter size for a small colony, with only five frames to fill with wax and to protect. Any additional escape routes were covered over, leaving only one entrance open at the front of the box.  The bottom of this box is screened for ventilation.

Reaching up, he used loppers to gently cut the branch from the tree, far enough away from the clustered swarm to ensure they would not be disturbed or harmed.


The branch with the swarm still attached was lowered into the nuc box.  Bees, sensing the Queen's pheremone, should make their way to her.  If the hubs was successful, the Queen would be in the nuc box and the remaining bees would begin their journey into the box to join her.  We soon saw that this was the case and watched as bees made their way through the entrance and clustered on the screened bottom.

After about 20 minutes, the branch was slowly removed and the frames were added one by one, floating and then sinking slowly into the bees in the box.  The lid was added to the box.



My husband also invited the neighbors over to watch the process!  They loved seeing something they'd never witnessed before and were fascinated by how gentle the bees are.


These bees quickly filled out the frames in the nuc box with lovely beeswax, pollen and nectar stores, and sweet baby bee brood.  The five full frames were moved into an 8-frame hive, giving the bees more room to grow their colony's numbers and stores for the winter ahead.   They now reside in the barn red hive behind the bottle tree, nestled among honey bee neighbors.



Tuesday, June 9, 2015

the flying Spring (lots of photos)...

Has it really been 3 months since we've visited here?  It's hard to believe!  Spring here at Flannel Jammies Farm:  our daughter's wedding, bees everywhere, newly built raised beds, a pen pal, Easter's joy, helping a high school student with a bee awareness project, achieving full Virginia Beach Master Gardener status, hanging with friends, and so much more!  Rather than bore you with my fumbling words, here are some photos to catch you up to where we are now, in no particular order...

Chatting and stitching with Paulette Stewart
Once Upon a Tea with dearest Cathy
The dogwood Daddy gave me long ago
Our new Tom-built raised beds
Working with Alanna, sharing about bees
Snail Mail from my pen pal
Installing a Natural Playscape at church
Top-Bar Hive
On the road with Joan and Lanette
Spring stitching
Chihuly exhibit with the Zamorskis
New beadboard ceiling and amazing green paint
Working at the Children's Garden
Our daughter designed her wedding stationery
Trista's bridal beauty
Handsome groom
Me and my girl
Wonder what these siblings are chatting about?
The cake, complete with Star Wars quote
The groom's cake
One serious ring bearer
Wedding flowers and smiles
Father and daughter
Walking the courtyard aisle
Tom presenting the bride
Ceremony
The kiss and the cutest flower girl
Our family
Tom's boutonniere
I can have Leia buns, too!
Sweet cousins
A toast (thanks, Joan, for those stunning goblets!)
These ladies...  love my family!


Traveling the Blue Ridge
Dehydrating cherries
Hanging at Notforgotten Farm with Lori Brechlin
Trapping a swarm in a nuc box
WHAT WILL WE DO NEXT???

Sunday, March 8, 2015

first hive check of the season...


It's been a long and cold winter.  Really cold.  Record-breaking cold for our area of Virginia that lasted and lasted, punctuated with days and days of snow and ice.  Since we started keeping bees, winter has become a time to worry about the bees and to be lonely for them.   Is it too cold?  We do provide extra insulation on the most bitter nights, but is it enough?  Do they have enough ventilation to prevent condensation?  We use screened bottom boards and screened inner covers, but is it enough?  Are their honey stores holding out?  We slipped some of their honey to them on the warmer of the cold days, but is it enough?  How many hives will we lose to this cold, lonely season?



This year we did lose some bees, but thankfully we have strong hives emerging, too.  The last couple of days here have been so warm and sunny.  Bees have been flying and drinking water and gathering pollen.  (And getting stuck in my hair...)  Today's temperatures were warm enough for us to do our first hive check of the season.



We chose a Langstroth hive for today's check, put on our suits, and lifted the lid.  There, happily buzzing and sharing and working, were so many beautiful bees!  We went through each hive box, looking for warning signs of disease and pests and queen cells.  I am delighted to report that this hive seems quite strong and healthy!  We did not spot the Queen, but we saw eggs and larvae in all stages, along with capped brood, colorful pollen, and honey stores.  We no longer mark our Queens following an unfortunate marking job... I just can't seem to get the hang of it.  We noted bees fanning and building and transferring nectar one-to-another through their proboscises (their strawlike "tongue").  We watched with renewed wonder, blessed to be back in the bee yard.  We scraped excess and erratically placed honeycomb and propolis (the sticky, resinous mixture the bees use to seal the hive), placed the frames back in the boxes, stacked the boxes back together, and gently closed the lid. 



These amazing creatures bless us so much!  They pollinate our plants, they provide honey and wax for our homestead, and they are fascinating to observe!
The one on the right seems to be saying, "Oh, no... my little sister is following me..."

Please forgive all the photos... 
new grandmas' photos are NOTHING 
compared to what a Bee Mama can snap and store!