• Swarm Season part two

    Well, I got into the beehives this morning. Some of them at least.

    I think I found the hive that sent a swarm out yesterday. The hive in question had six queen cells in it, three that were capped, the other three were “charged”. Meaning the egg was in the queen cup and the nurse bees had been feeding it royal jelly.

    The time from an egg being laid to new queen bee emergence is an average of 16 days. On average, the new queen spends 3 days as an egg, the larva is capped around day 8, and the adult queen emerges on day 16.

    A swarming hive will leave with the old queen with thousands of bees once the queen cup is capped. So I expect for any capped cells to emerge in one week—next Saturday/Sunday.

    Finding queen cells takes planning before action.

    The hive was still chock full of bees. If, after the swarm, I thought I would have a weak hive — I would have done things differently..but as I said the hive was chock full of bees, there were larvae, but no eggs. There was no queen as she left yesterday. There was lots of capped brood, in this three boxes deep hive and seven frames of almost capped honey.

    So I made splits. I took a frame with 3 queen cells – 1 queen cell that was capped and made a medium 5 frame nuc (a small hive).

    I made a totally new hive with another frame with queen cells. I gave it frames of capped brood, nurse bees and I didn’t shake off the worker bees, hopefully they will reorient and come home to the right hive. I filled the new hive box with frames that I had removed last year when I reduced the hives for winter or frames from the freezer that I had harvest honey from. I also gave it a super (extra box) full of bees from the main hive, that also had larvae and capped worker cells.

    That was hive 7 of 9. The seven previous hives also got remodeled. Extra boxes on a few, checkerboarded frames in others. I have some good laying queens.

    I will get to the other two hives tomorrow. As three hours in the bee yard almost killed me.

  • Swarm season

    Tomorrow was supposed to be hive inspection day.

    For one of the hives it is a day too late.

    As I was grabbing a drink of water in the kitchen—I saw thousands of bees in the air. Damn—a swarm. The swarm lifted over the house. As fast as I could I put a hive box together and wobbled with it out front. And in that time, the swarm was gone. If it would have landed in low tree or a bush I would have scooped them into the new box. To no avail.

    I left the box out front on the pool steps and put a swarm commander lure in it. Cursing myself, for not getting in them this morning.

    I had gotten into 7 of the 9 hives two weeks ago, but lots can happen in two weeks. Tomorrow I will see which hive they came from. And hopefully prevent it from casting a second swarm.

    Cursing myself.

  • Bee antics

    Every year I try and outsmart the bees. I think the chances of that are 70-30 with me being the 30, and I am giving myself a lot of leeway.

    This time it is trying to make a hive think that they have swarmed…

    I have taken off all the winter garb, the 2 inch insulation, the black plastic to absorb solar heat off all the hives. That was two weeks ago. And I went through six of my eight hives. They looked good. I added a super box on two hives and two more got a queen excluder and a box.

    Today while I was out trying to go gardening…I noticed that the three east facing hives were doing a lot more than orientation flights. Perhaps preswarm flights…. So I donned a bee suit.

    The first hive was one that although I had taken off the outside wintering gear—but it still had a super full of insulation above the hive and a shim board for feed. They had of course taken advantage of the extra space of the shim board and made wonky wax and the queen had laid some drones.

    So I got rid of the shim, sacrificing the drones cells and wax. And added a queen excluder and a medium hive box full off last years empty frames—a couple that had been been extracted and frozen—those were full of left over honey dregs.

    The second hive that looked swarm-y took two hours to go through. Thankfully it was only 75 degrees out as being in a bee suit for two hours in 90 degrees is torture. The hive was comprised of three box hive boxes a deep, a medium and a short. After going through the top two hive boxes, and finding a good amount of capped cells a ton of drones; I finally found a capped queen cell in the bottom deep hive box on the bottom of a frame.

    So I am hoping that I tricked them into thinking that the hive swarmed. I made another hive area facing north. I divided the frames up between the two hives. I went through every frame searching diligently for the old queen—and I could not find her. I knocked off most of the bees on the frames into the new hive (hopefully with the old queen) so that hive would be “home”. The new hive and the new queen also got enough stores to last through the next two weeks. They will also have the benefit of all the foragers coming back to that hive space.

    We will see what happens…

  • Fall honey harvest in the spring!

    I had placed a couple of frames of honey in the freezer in the fall—just in case one of the hives needed a frame for emergency feeding, I would have it available. The hives did not need them, so I thawed them out and harvested them. Yay! Honey!

    Honey flowing from the spinner
  • Normalizing

    If the last two days are any indication of me getting “back to normal”, I don’t think I want to be normal.

    Let’s see…Monday I fought on the phone with Dominion Power. I had solar installed in December, in January, Dominion came out and changed up my meter and I have waited patiently for the bills to be decreased. They haven’t. So I called Dominion. They say they had no idea that I was solar and that they were changing out meters in the entire community. That is why my meter was changed out. Seems like Dominion never got the electrician inspection check sheet after the work was done in January. So for two and a half months I have been feeding them solar electricity and paying for electricity too. The solar company emailed them a copy today. Fer fux sake. I’ll update you when all that is resolved.

    Also on Monday I went to my orthopedic surgeon. He is pleased with the results. I personally was thinking I should be leaping over buildings in a single bound. I think it is about the same as before surgery. He says my knee replacement will continue to improve over the next year. Ughhhh. I want building leaping sooner.

    I dropped off some of my handcrafted soaps at work and thank you to all of my coworkers that have bought them…you are helping pay my mortgage this month!

    Bonanza made it 4.5 hours without an accident in his kennel during yesterday while I was out galavanting with the surgeon. He is so smart!

    Today, I attempted to replace the deck engagement cable on my riding lawn mower that broke on Sunday. I ordered a replacement part, but after dismantling the existing cable I find that it doesn’t fit. Another cable has been ordered. Getting up and down is a chore…but paying for labor fees is more of a chore…

    This afternoon I had an appointment with my rheumatologist. I inserted my debit card where I thought it was supposed to go. Ummmm. No. My debit card was lost behind the machine for an hour and a half. The IT guys had to come and retrieve it. I did NOT tell them I worked for VCU—trust would have been lost.

    I am going to trial another drug for my RA. I stopped taking methotrexate at the height of the pandemic, because although my team was doing everything possible to protect me, I really didn’t like the risk. And I am not sure I was getting enough benefit to outweigh the risks. So I stopped taking it. I start on the new drug tonight. Please let it help me leap over buildings in a single bound.

    But because COVID isn’t over… I also got my fourth shot today (second booster). There are some of my friends that will glaze over when I say this but the fat lady has not even started to sing….

    Thank gawd for the people in my life that care about me. And I thank gawd for Bonanza the Borador. He gives my life a new pleasure.

    I am tired though. A That was more outings and talking than I have had in three months.

    I kind of liked the quiet.

  • Is it Easter? Because the egg hunt has started…

    It is the season for dirt and mulch to be bought and scattered throughout the farmstead. Which means I need to hitch up the trailer and go to Lowes in the near future. I barely use my 2003 trailblazer, cuz it eats gas like a kid eats candy. So I disconnect its battery when I am done using it for a bit. The last time it was used was November…. But I digress….

    I open the hood and go to hook up the charger to the battery, when I spy a chicken under the vehicle.

    Wynken or Blynken (I can’t tell them apart) appears to be nesting—or maybe she is just adding to what appears to be a good assortment of eggs.

    It is always an Easter egg hunt this time of year.

  • Avian Flu and Backyard Flocks

    This is proving to be a horrible year for avian influenza. This infection is mostly associated with migratory birds. The droppings from the migratory birds can cause infection—affecting poultry owners/farmers/hatcheries.

    McMurray is the hatchery that I have bought most of my chicks in the past. I have read numerous other blogs in the past several days depicting infections within their flocks. Virginia has had a series of infections in January and February listing both migratory ducks and a backyard flock. The Animal and Plant Inspection Service (APHIS) website cites 593 episodes throughout the US as of this morning

    This HPAI (high-pathogenic-avian-influenza) carries an 80-100% mortality rate but USDA will also likely come in an euthanize the remaining flock as it is so highly contagious. Many small farms are loosing their entire flocks. The trickle down of these infections and flock deaths will cause an increased cost of chicken and eggs for the coming year. McMurray hatchery won’t be selling chicks or eggs from any of their rare breeds as they will need them for breeding stock as rare/old genetic lines have been affected.

    Suggestions from the USDA to reduce contamination to backyard flocks include the following bio security measures:
    • keep your distance (restrict access to your property and your birds);
    • keep it clean (clean and disinfect your clothes, shoes, equipment, and hands);
    • don’t haul disease home (if you have been near other birds or bird owners, clean and disinfect poultry cages and equipment before going home);
    • don’t risk disease from your neighbor (do not borrow lawn and garden equipment, tools, or poultry supplies from other bird owners);
    • know the warning signs (sudden increase in bird deaths, sneezing, coughing, nasal discharge, watery or green diarrhea, lack of energy, poor appetite, drop in egg production, swelling around the eyes, neck, and head, and purple discoloration of wattles, combs, and legs); and
    • report sick birds (call your local or State veterinarian, or USDA toll-free at 1-866-536-7593

  • Bonanza the Borador!

    Bonanza was enrolled in a cage fighting class today.

    It was billed as a puppy training course.

    Myself and the other puppy owner were trained on how to approach training with our respective pups. While we were listening, Bonanza and the four month old German Shepard puppy rolled around the floor nipping and chasing and tackling each other. The German Shepard has a good 10-12 pounds on Bonanza. It was fun to watch and the trainer said the dogs had good communication with each other. IE no one got hurt. And Bonanza has had a good long nap this evening! He put himself up into his kennel to nap.

    Yesterday, I asked for Bonanza’s shot records from Richmond Animal Care and Control (RACC) so he could go to school.

    And two things happened when I called: The lady on the phone remembered my name and said “wait don’t tell me your dog’s name…I remember…it is Bonanza!” This is amazing to me—because they have hundreds of animals go through their shelter every week. She remembered Bonanza and me — and in her mind we are paired. That is amazing care from RACC right there.

    And his papers say border collie mix! But they told me his mom was a black Labrador. And a lab mixed with a border collie is called a “Borador”. I have a Borador!

    This crossbreed combines the friendliness of the Labrador Retriever and the intelligence of the Border Collie, so all in all, he is a good all-round dog!

    Bonanza the Borador!

    Border Collies are extremely intelligent and intense dogs. A survey of some vets voted the Border Collie as the most intelligent breed of all time. Have you ever heard of the saying ‘you can’t teach an old dog new tricks’? Well, this is definitely not true when it comes to Collies.

    Combine that with a Labrador retriever whose line is best known for being friendly, and gentle, and intelligent also. Labs crave affection from their family and the aim of their game is to seek love, attention, and praise.

    The Border Collie Lab mix needs a high level hour of exercise daily as an outlay for all that energy and intelligence, and if they don’t get this, the pup can become bored, restless, and destructive. Their intelligence and need for love from their humans make exercise very rewarding, and also acts as a great bonding tool for both you and your canine friend.

    The trainer recommended these Doggie door bell for potty training. I had never heard of them before, but basically every time you take the puppy out to pee/poop, you have them ring the bells with their paws. With repetition they will come to associate going outside with ringing the bells and will start to do that independently when he needs to go out. So I ordered them. I will update you!

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  • Turkey Walkabout

    The other tom turkey—also named Julia—who wasn’t involved in the scuffle between the hen (Julia) and the other tom (also Julia) over the past several days, wants to go on walk about. Twice now I have had to herd him home.

    Since I am home due to knee surgery, the chickens and the turkeys pretty much free range every day for 8 hours. I do very little wrangling to get them back into their enclosure. All it takes is shaking a cup of food and they high tail into the fenced area to get some free food.

    But not Julia the third. He is out behind the trees that were downed to make the garden bigger two years ago. There is a large “U” shaped tree barrier that encircles the back yard. I think that the tree barrier has helped keep predators away from the coop and back yard as I haven’t had a chupacabra kill since the land was cleared.

    So Julia the third is back behind the trees seeking solace in the serenity of tall pine trees. I can see him. And he ignores me. And I shake the cup of food and he pretends to ignore me. My knee is not recovered from replacement, but the Julia I know will not be coming back by himself, he needs lured back to his flock. So I waddle, much like the broad breasted turkeys, around the tree “U”, tree bashing, slowly.

    My new puppy Bonanza, accompanied me. The dog pound where I adopted him from said Bonanza was part lab and perhaps part Australian Shepherd. I do believe that I might have a turkey shepherd. Bonanza was actually helpful (in a nine week old puppy way) in getting Julia the third back around the trees.

    Julia the third got treats once he made it inside the enclosure. Bonanza got treats too.

    Puppy nyla bones

    Puppy squeaker toys

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  • Turkey brawling

    I have turkeys. I wanted some heritage turkeys but the poultry site that I usually order from requires 25 turkeys to be ordered. I didn’t want 25 turkeys. Tractor Supply had turkeys. White broad breasted turkeys. And a minimum of four. So I bought them. That was two years ago. They were raised in the guest bathtub, then graduated to a cage in the living room. They were all named. But I couldn’t tell them apart when they were young so they all were renamed Julia; as calling for Sam, Nicki, Alice and Julia was just a mouthful. When the Julias had feathered in and it was warm enough, they graduated to the outside. They were and remain so friendly and inquisitive.

    One of the turkeys has since been dispensed with, as he broke his leg somehow and also had a very bad case of saggy crop.

    There have been turkey fights along the way. Mostly when they were young, and it was fierce. I did not know if it was toms fighting or what they were fighting over as they all looked the same.

    Fighting stance

    I read up on fighting and all the resources said to let them fight it out. There were bloody snoods and missing feathers. And then it calmed down and all was well in the land of turkey hierarchy. The two toms now have beards and I have one hen. Usually they are a happy trio.

    The fighting started again two days ago. But it looks like my hen is the aggressor…she started laying eggs again last week so I am not sure if that has anything to do with the aggression. I separated them for almost two days. They fought through the fence. More bloody snoods. Today I let them out and the fight was brisk. The tom was put in his place for whatever infraction he performed.

    It is said that turkeys usually fight to exert dominance and establish a pecking order. But there can be other reasons.

    They can fight out of boredom.

    They can fight over resources like food.

    They can fight over stressful situations, like severe changes in temperature, or not enough space. Turkeys need at least 25 feet of space per bird. Mine normally free range so that isn’t an issue.

    For today, the fighting is done. The snood will heal.

    Discovery of the bee hives!

    If you want to learn more click here for reading material: Raising turkeys book

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