July 16, 2013

top bar hive inspection - day 10

2013.07_bee inspection day 10_1
The bees had started building comb on four top bars after 10 days. We haven't been able to glimpse the queen yet, and we couldn't spot any eggs or larvae, so we'll have to keep an eye on it in case the queen is dead.

I had to trim a little off one of the combs that was a little crooked. The honey that stuck to the knife is some of the best tasting I've ever had!

We finally removed the old comb that was sitting on the bottom mesh screen. We had originally put it there to attract the bees to prevent absconding. We decided to tie it up to a bar let them build off it. Probably not necessary, but it looked in maybe, just maybe there was some larvae in it. Ribbon works well since it is broad and won't cut through the comb like thread might.
2013.07_bees inspection day 10_adding comb1

With all the hot weather we've been having (highs in the 90s), the bees have been bearding so I added some roof insulation. I used a 1" thick piece of salvaged polyisocyanurate (yellow, foil-faced). The facing had come off one side, so I wrapped it in sheets of aluminum foil in order to keep foam particles from falling off into the hive. The foil also helps since it acts as a radiant barrier. We drilled some gable vents to ventilate the space above the insulation and below the metal roof, to try to reduce the solar gain. We can plug the vents during the winter.
2013.07_bees inspection day 10_roof insulation

July 7, 2013

we got bees!

2013.07_we got bees
After giving up all hope of getting honeybees this season, we were able to get a colony from Five Fridges Farm. This colony had been removed from a (human) structure by a humane bee removal company. Because they had already been established and were forcibly removed, as opposed to a captured swarm, they are stressed and it is less likely that they will survive or stick around in our hive. We tried to make our hive as appealing as possible by sewing some old comb to one of the top bars and putting some lemongrass essential oil (mimics the queen pheromone) on the inside.

Doing the swarm pour:

Inspecting the hive the next morning:

For the first few days, there was a lot of activity outside the hive, with maybe 1/3 to 1/2 of the colony clustering on the outside of the hive:
bees bearding on outside of hive

I was worried that this was a sign they were getting ready to swarm–possibly leaving with a second queen. After four days, the cluster on the outside was gone, and I was able to see some fresh comb through the observation window–a good sign that the bees have decided to stay!
new comb

July 2, 2013

first tea harvest

2013.06 tea harvest
I just drank the first cup of tea from our indoor/outdoor tea plant. I wasn't expecting it to be that good since I harvested old leaves instead of young leaves as is recommended. Also, I'm not sure I did the oxidization process correctly.
After picking the leaves, I crumpled them with my hands and left the to oxidize. After a day, it didn't seem like they were oxidizing–they just started drying out. I steamed them a bit and then crumpled some more. After leaving them a few more days, they turned a little brown and smelled like rotting leaves in fall.

I thought the tea made from these autumnal leaves would be gross, but it was actually okay. I suppose this came out like an oolong, semi-oxidized. Next time I hope to pick young leaves.