Sunday, April 12, 2009

Cows have calves, horses have foals, beehives have swarms

Got a call yesterday from a friend at whose house I maintain the last of my top bar beehives. I'm not a fan of that style of beehive any longer, although I totally see the appeal. The hive had swarmed -- it's a normal reaction to spring. This is how honeybees make new bees, not just by laying eggs and rearing brood. So far, I've not been able to manage hives without them swarming, even if I'm doing my level best. Still more to learn, obviously.

Yesterday I popped that swarm in a box, and picked them up early this morning, when they were all inside. When I got home, I suited up and dumped them right into the hive that the other swarm had vacated. It was while I was putting in the final foundation frames that I noticed little legs on my ankle; someone had crawled up my pant leg. Since I'd just rolled out of bed into my jeans, I hadn't even bothered putting on socks. I was only in loafers. Carefully, I lifted the pant leg to shake her out, but boom! I got stung right above the ankle. Drat, drat, drat, I thought. Instead of finishing, I put the lid on and got out of there.

Then I put a package of frozen peas on my leg. It helped -- I'm nowhere near as swollen as last time. Yay.

Bees leave the hive full of honey, and they have to make wax -- the pressure just pushes wax right out of them. Over night, this is the wax left in the box from that swarm. Amazing. They are just ready to go.

Today, my sister and her family came over for a meal, in which we feasted on salad from her garden Afterwards, I wandered around the yard with her and her boyfriend. We talked tomatoes, and discussed ideas about caging and amending and planting corn with squashes. . . and then one of them said, "What about this big bunch of bees in your tree?"


Another swarm, probably from my more active hive. Oh dear. I was all out of boxes in which to put bees, and my middle daughter had just said today, "You need to stop collecting bees." It's true. Three hives is my limit for my yard. So I put out a call to the association, and someone who really wanted them came right over to pick them up.

If you've never hived a swarm or seen someone do it, there are many good videos on Youtube. In this case, they were in a nice, tight cluster because it was getting cool. After spreading a sheet below them on the ground, and readying his cardboard box, John sprayed them with sugar water. This both calms them (oooh, sugar), and sticks their wings together so they can't fly until they get licked clean.

One good shake of the limb, and the majority of the clump falls right into the box. Whoomp. He set the box down on the sheet, propped the lid over it, and we waited. The queen was in there because they were fanning nicely. After about a half an hour, they were calm enough to scrape the stragglers we could find off of the limb,

brush the box top clean, cap and wrap the cardboard box, and they were off! I'm so glad they're going to a nice new home.

So the bees were sorted, and while I'd been outside talking to the new keepers, I planted out about eight peppers: Anaheim, Jalapeno, Ancho, red ruffled pimiento, Firecracker piquin, and something -- a frying variety? and an Ichiban egglant, and pulled some cauliflower and kale that had gone to seed. The chickens got those, although I don't count that as part of the harvest! The pole beans and bush beans are beginning to sprout, and nine zinnias are ready to transplant along with six Japanese indigo plants. As the straw mulch marches across the garden -- I'm putting it in as I transplant or plant summer crops -- I think I still have room for everything that's under lights downstairs. Soon I'll settle into my favorite garden rhythm -- the growing before harvesting season.

Still, my to-do list keeps growing right along with the garden, and it's important to keep in mind that while the broccoli still has a few weeks to go, I'm going to want to follow it with something, so it's smart to be thinking of a replacement crop for that section, even if it's a cover crop. Always a new thought, a new task. Gardening has enough interest for a few lifetimes.

1 comment:

Kristin said...

You seem to work your arse off all the time. You need a hammock to rest in darlin'. What an array of edible delights you're describing. Where are the words of that other Sicilian Sister?