Up & Coming Experiments

     Recently my mum, Alexis, and I visited Texas. During our stay we ate at the Salt Lick BBQ Smokehouse. Of course having an interest in cooking I left inspired and, curious to see if I could recreate my own version of the tangy but sweet barbecued flavoured meats that we tried.  I decided I would try to craft a similar kind of barbecue using our own honey which would contribute to some unique flavours.

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At the Ranch everyone still has a nice selection of August flowers to craft some interesting flavours!

     Anyway, I guess I should introduce myself to provide some context. Hi, my name is Skylar and I am the daughter of a beekeeper. I am currently a fourth year university student studying a Bachelor of Science degree in Human Ecology. This particular degree places great emphasis on a holistic, sustainable and experimentative lifestyle, hence I am naturally drawn to create my recipes. However, fashion is my main interest as my Human Ecology major is Clothing, Textiles, and, Material Culture with a minor in Fashion Merchandising. Although I like to cook, my real love in life is designing and sewing clothing.

     In my upcoming blog posts, I will be providing some interesting information about storing honey and look forward to exploring various aspects of beekeeping clothing.  Specifically, I will be making some modifications to Mum’s bee suit to prevent the bees from stinging her ankles (since she refuses to wear rubber boots).  The bees also keep stinging Craig through his wet gloves, so I intend to determine what the problem is and find a solution to prevent the ongoing attacks.  Finally, I will be sharing some of my own tried and tested recipes.  I am formulating a barbecue one now and will be using some of our soon to be harvested honey in my creation!

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Wildlife Haven

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The Wee One is Hungry!

 

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Still hanging around…

 

Worth and I went out to the Ranch on August 5th.  Our drone layer hive lay silent with  ants meandering across the undulating wax landscape scavenging the sweet bounty that was left behind.  Our AWOL hive was now bursting at the seams with its newest members.  We added another super on top and hope to see more capped honey on our return.

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Brood with Capped Honey

 

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Little Buddies Hard at Work

 

Our trail cam captured images of another furry friend with a very keen sense of smell.      Fortunately it is only a late night visit around the perimeter of the electric fence rather than a late night snack!

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This bear looks bigger than the last one.

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Moving on – phew!

 

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Bumble Bee

 

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Not so keen on these…

 

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Another Muncher!

Fledgling Beekeepers

I have not written a lot lately…   mostly because I am really unhappy that we now have a drone layer hive. Yup, the boys and a few girls appear to be on their own doing the best that they can in what was once a vibrant and ordered industrial zone.  Prior to the queen’s demise, we had a great amount of difficulty with ants attacking the hive. We noticed many a brave bee, lying lifeless at the entrance most likely from a futile attempt to protect the hive from the onslaught of honey hungry ants.  The ant traps that we confidently placed in and around the hive seem to have been nothing more than a ladder for quicker passage to the honey.  We also made the mistake of leaving an empty super overtop the once dynamic and nicely expanding bottom super.  Our beginner’s lapse of thoughtfulness would have aided to the downfall of the queen.  Oh, how I am kicking myself for inadvertently lowering the temperature inside the hive and making conditions less than optimum for the once thriving queen and brood.

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Frame from the Drone Layer Hive

 

A few days later at bee mentoring class, I ashamedly pulled out my phone to show the damning photos to the Bee Whisperer.  As per normal, Craig saw an opportunity rather than a crisis for his fledgling students.  Later that evening, he proceeded to show us how to create our own queen by adding a frame of brood, including egg of the day, to the drone hive.  This last weekend at The Ranch, Worth and I pinched a frame from our AWOL hive and transplanted it to the drone layer hive.  We took the empty super off to increase the temperature for our new babies and fingers crossed, soon to be, new queen.

We learned in bee class that a queen will emerge on day 16 and a worker on day 21 from the same type of fertilized egg.  The distinction between worker and queen arises from the type and quantity of food that is fed to them by the nurse bees.  During the first three to four days of life, both types of larvae receive a protein-rich substance secreted by the nurse bees.  Later, the worker’s food gets diluted with regurgitated honey and pollen while the impending queen continues to receive the distilled secretion that is known as “royal jelly.”  The queen continues to receive a super abundance of food while the worker is fed regularly and in smaller portions.  A drone takes 24 days to emerge.

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Wild Flowers at The Ranch

 

 

 

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Wild Strawberries for Us!

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A Friend Blending In

Black Bear Checking out the Hives

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This is the reason for the electric fence and why we take bear spray and a shotgun to check the hives. There is an abundance of these magnificent creatures on the property and so far we have managed to live amicably side by side.  I think… we will be talking even louder the next time we go in!

Wild Roses in Bloom

It is June 17th and the bush is covered with pink wild roses. We take a walk into the thick undergrowth only to retreat quickly from the onslaught of blood thirsty mozzies.

 

The bee yard is full of grass and we are concerned that the electric fence will short out.  A quick whip around with the weed wacker does the trick and the bees don’t seem to notice.

 

We discover ants are attacking the hive.  Usually a strong hive will take care of the ants, but our hive is not strong so we are concerned.  Since our hives are new, the bees have not had a chance to create much of a propolis seal around the newly created combs. And at this stage, I am not sure how vigilant the guard bees at the entrance will be.  At a mentoring session, we learned that ant traps can be quite effective. Unfortunately there are no ant traps in Vilna, so it is off to St. Paul, a thirty minute drive to protect our hives.

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Ants… honey thieves!

 

 

Mentoring Session

On June 12th, Worth and I along with two other novice beekeepers attended a mentoring session at the Craig’s. We added supers to hives, scraped beeswax off frames, loaded pallets and relocated hives.

Worth was the first to get stung. Suffering from a bout of hay fever he walked out into the field away from the bees and unzipped his veil to tend to his nose. As soon as the veil went down, the bee went in and stung him perfectly in the middle of his forehead. By this time, Lucy’s husband, Martin was also several meters away from the hives and off in the field. However, he had a real battle, and from a distance we saw arms flailing and a great deal of swatting going on. He was only wearing a half bee suit, and parts of it now appeared to be coming off.  This was not a good sign.  It was probably 15 minutes later when I was stung on my ankle. We were moving hives on to a flat-deck trailer when the angry little creeper got me. The pain was sharp, and then dull and throbbing.

We relocated hives to two different areas and it was somewhere in between when Lucy got stung. I am not quite sure how two bees ended up in her hair, but Worth and I looked on in amazement as the Bee Whisperer worked to free the bees without getting stung. By this time, Martin had gone into hibernation with at least 10-12 stings, a great number of which were on his face. We were down a man, so that meant double duty for the rest of us. Off came the pallets, down the ditch and the up the other side to the edge of the field. We off-loaded more supers and nucs. It was hot and muggy and the inside of my bee suit was like a sauna. By the end of the evening, I looked like a drowned rat. Worth was getting more and more congested and felt as if he had corn-cobs shoved up his nose. Mary was puffed out and Martin was, well… not getting out of the car. All in all, it was an action packed evening and something of a black comedy. Any illusion that beekeeping is glamorous was completely dispelled. It was however a memorable evening; we had accomplished a lot of work and learned a great deal more.

The Queen Lives

We headed back to the Ranch on June 4th and now it was time to inspect the AWOL hive.  Having attended the mentoring session at Craig’s, Worth and I had a much better idea of what we were actually looking for.  In addition, we were not quite as reluctant to handle and move the frames around.  It was a sight for sore eyes when we saw one of the frames in the AWOL hive had yielded a fantastic combination of brood at various stages of development.  The presence of the “egg of the day” meant that the queen was present and actively laying. I would sleep better that night knowing that the split that Craig talked me through had actually worked… my colleagues (Raj and Sandra) at work now refer to Craig as the “Bee Whisperer.”

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Pollen, Capped Brood, Larva and “Egg of the Day”

 

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The “weak” AWOL hive with a huge desire to thrive.

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A Friend at the Hives

On our way back to the farm we encountered a rather interesting sight.  At first glance it looked like a ball of fur on top of a fence post.  When Worth backed up the truck so that we could get a second look, we found it most certainly was a ball of fur and that it was also alive!

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A real cutie – woodchuck – I think!?