Monday, August 12, 2013

Birds + Bees

We finally got into the hives this weekend, and just in time! One of the nice things about beekeeping is that bees are mostly self-sufficient. As long as they have space, a healthy queen, and not too many pests, they do okay. Which is lucky for us, since we've only managed to inspect our hive three or four times this whole summer. Ideally, we should be getting in there every two weeks, and lifting out every single frame, but between weird weather and conflicting schedules, it just hasn't happened. Despite our shortcomings, the bees appear to be thriving. 

Right now we have two hive bodies stacked on top of one another, and a super (a shorter box) on the very top. Our goal this weekend was to add a second super, if needed, and install the queen excluder. The excluder is a metal frame with space big enough to let the bees through, but not the queen, which means the uppermost box will be full of honey, but no eggs or brood. If all goes well, we'll be able to steal that honey at the end of the summer, while leaving the rest for the bees. Fingers crossed! 

Lifting frames from the box. 

So many bees! Sorry for the fuzzy photo. I was nervous.

Queen excluder in place. Success!

While we haven't done as many inspections as I wanted this summer, we haven't been stung once, and we're slowly but surely building confidence each time we work the bees. Confidence is the hardest part, at least for me. The moment when we lift the lid and I catch my first glimpse of thousands of bees while a low buzz fills the air, still fills me with terror and awe. I hope it always will.

In less terrifying, but equally successful news, we finally integrated the new chickens with the big girls, and it went better than expected!

Until recently, our three older hens lived in the big coop, while the five babies lived in the small coop, less than a foot away from the big one, so all the chickens had been able to see each other for the last three months. Once the little girls were big enough (a little over three months old) we decided it was time to integrate. A little early, but since the new chickens outnumber the older ones, I figured they would be safe. I was mostly right. For the first few weeks, the older girls had a great time chasing the babies around and pecking them if they got too close. (Except for Alice, our Buff Orpington - she is the sweetest chicken and never bullies anyone. She's also the one I let people hold when they come over, because she's calm and good natured.) Once the chickens worked out their new pecking order, things calmed down. 

The older chickens are still in charge, but they've grown quite tolerant of their new flock-mates. I even saw Georgia and Polly (older hens) sharing a bowl of blueberries with Hattie and Ruby (two babies). Progress! Now I just need to wait another month for the little ones to start laying. We've got three Ameraucanas in the mix, and their eggshells are usually light green or blue, which is will be pretty thrilling. I know you're all just as excited as I am, and I promise to take a thousand photos. 

Eggs and honey - we're living the dream! And speaking of living the dream, thanks to everyone for the sweet birthday messages, comments, and tweets. So far 31 is just as lovely as I expected. <3