Mantodea nymph

Found this little guy hopping across our back patio.

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Pre-Swarm Activity?

So, it’s still kinda swarm season. Especially if we get more rain, the girls will be raring to go. Yesterday we spied one of our hives exhibiting some interesting pre-swarm behavior. The weird thing is, they’re currently queenless.

This colony is a swarm that Ryan caught late last summer. It was only about the size of your fist, but when he looked in the box there was the queen — with her right wing askew, so he called her “Brokeback.” Well, a couple of days ago Ryan was out in the bee-yard and he came across Brokeback crawling on the ground. He picked her up and tossed her back into her colony, but when he checked a few days later, she was gone.

So we’re keeping an eye on these gals to see what they do over the next several days. But here’s some interesting video to show you how a pre-swarm colony might behave. Notice how the bees come pouring out of the front of the hive. They will cluster in a cloud directly outside the entrance. What you can’t see in this video (because of the angle at which it was shot) is the bees forming a “beard” just below the bottom board near the hive stand.

Swarm, Catch, Scratch

Wednesday was an interesting day for beekeeping.

At about 2:15, Ryan emails me to let me know that his queen-rearing experiment has succeeded. He opened the box and found that he had mis-timed the extraction of the queen cells by a day. Some had hatched, which meant there were multiple queens in the box. In all he counted about 16 broken cells, which means that about 50 percent of what he grafted were reared successfully. Now, where the queens went, we have no idea. They may have slowly battled it out until the mightiest took reign. It’s a bit sad to think that we missed out on so many healthy queens, but at least we know that we don’t have to go out and buy our queens elsewhere.

He did find one queen crawling around the box and deposited her into one of our queenless colonies. She immediately began fluttering her wings to spread her pheromone throughout the new hive. Amazing.

Then at 3:15 Ryan emailed again and said that we’d had our first swarm from a split that he had created a couple of weeks ago. He said he and Charlotte watched as the cloud swirled and buzzed and landed on our neighbor’s basketball post. When I got home they were still there (see photos below), thankfully, and I helped Ryan get a box and balance it above the swarm. True to form, they were so docile he worked them in shorts and a t-shirt with no problems. Then he smoked them from the bottom, and up, up, up they went into the box. Shazam! A new colony.

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THEN…

Ryan decides to check the hive that swarmed to see what’s up. Again, he’s out there in his shorts and T-shirt looking in the box and then he hears this scratching noise on the frame he’s looking at. He brings the frame over and asks me if I hear it. Sure enough, we look closely and there’s the new queen emerging from her supersedure cell. I guess the old queen knew it was time to go, so she swarmed with half the colony.

The beauty of it all is that we got this video of the queen emerging from her cell. (Sorry for the slightly fuzzy zoom moment.) Enjoy!

Daring Jumping Spider, indeed

Ryan comes inside with a hive frame (full of honey, but cleared of bees). He says to Charlotte, “Look at this spider, Cheech. It’s got a bee in its fangs.” I immediately grab the camera to catch a shot of this hunter. Hilarity ensues.

SHOT 1: Spider notices me.

This is a Daring Jumper Spider. Note the dead bee in her fangs.

SHOT 2: Spider notices that she does not appreciate my presence.

At this point, she is making quick movements in my direction.

In between SHOT 2 and SHOT 3, I hear Ryan say, “Babe, she’s rearing. She’s rearing!” Note in the picture above that she has attached a web from her abdomen to the honey frame in preparation for her launch.

SHOT 3: Spider launches directly at my face.

Of course, I screamed like a little girl.

Grafting Queens

As I mentioned in a previous post, we found three of our hives queenless this year. Challenging as it may be, it was a perfect opportunity for Ryan to hone his queen-grafting skills.

Grafting queens entails taking various levels of brood (eggs and larva) and using a “grafting tool” to transfer them into plastic queen cups and then placing them vertically on special frames. The idea is that the bees will recognize the vertical nature of the cup with the egg/larva inside and will begin feeding royal jelly to the brood inside and building a queen cell around it as it develops.

The photos below were taken last weekend as Ryan built special queen frames, equipped them with said queen cups, and grafted larva into them. The photo of the hive brimming with bees was taken today, as Ryan crammed several hives together into one queenless colony to stimulate them to start rearing their own queen.

We will update as things progress.

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The Beekeeper’s Spring

As you can guess, springtime poses the greatest challenges for beekeepers. It’s a make-or-break time when you could easily lose a colony to cold snaps or starvation or swarming. This spring has been a particular challenge as Ryan has discovered that three of our colonies have become queenless in the past couple of weeks. Normally, the colony will notice if their queen is on her way out by her sparse laying pattern (or no laying at all). Their instinct is to rear a new queen so that she can begin laying eggs and building colony strength and numbers in preparation for the nectar flow. You don’t want your colonies to go queenless for too long, as it weakens the hive over a very short period of time. We’re not too certain what happened to these queens, but Ryan has instituted a queen-rearing project and hopes to have at least five new queens within the next couple of weeks. It will be interesting as this is the first time he will be doing this. As usual, he’s the consummate beekeeper — always equal to the task and ready to help his girls in any way he can.

On a lighter note, this spring has been a presentation spring for us. We were called upon to do a beekeeping presentation for Marissa Hamilton’s second-grade class at Hawthorne Elementary School here in Albuquerque. Ryan has been planning to make an observation hive for some time, and this was the perfect motivation for him to get the project completed. It was so great to see the looks on the childrens’ faces when we brought in our “glass” hive with the bees hard at work inside. Of course, I forgot the camera. {Post sad face emoticon here.}

We do have photos of another presentation we did for the Albuquerque Urban Beekeepers Association (ABQBeeks). Chantal Forster and Jessie Brown, co-coordinators of the group, invited us to the Spring Maintenance Meeting, where Ryan and I talked about maintenance of our Langstroth Hives. My presentation was pretty straightforward, but Ryan did a great talk on how he over-wintered a very weak colony by placing it on top of a stronger colony with a screened bottom board to allow for the warmth to sustain the weak hive during the coldest months. He also introduced his two-sided nuc hives, which were a great hit.

We hope to do more of these types of educational programs in the future, as we are both working toward our Master Beekeeper certification through the Washington State Beekeepers Association (New Mexico does not have such a program).

The greatest hit of all was the Observation Hive. Below are photos.

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Kiersten’s Go-Anywhere Bag

Many of you know I made a Go Anywhere Bag for myself a few weeks ago. Anna Graham’s (Noodlehead) patterns are so versatile and fun and easy to make that I decided to make one for my sister, Kiersten. She found this great purple interior canvas at Jo-Ann (I had been eye-ing it before) so I used it to make this lovely piece you see here.

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A couple of new creations

Several weeks ago I got this crazy idea to start making art for t-shirts and tote bags. I priced my own silk-screening machine (too expensive) and also having them printed from an online service (too expensive). So while that idea went out the door, I just couldn’t pass this one up. I had to have one for myself.

This one is for those who are of the cult of Glengarry Glen Ross, with a little twist of course. When I wear it out, people just stare with furrowed brow. I guess Mamet is an inside joke.

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And this is my first full garment. A t-shirt dress from Make It Perfect. I went to Jo-Ann and bought a great jersey stretch fabric from their Project Runway collection of fabrics. It was a bit more than I would normally pay for fabric (even with their coupons), but I love the dress. I’m still not quite happy with the pleats and darts I put in, so I might take it apart really quickly and do them over. But I will definitely make this dress again when I find the right fabric. It’s so comfortable and chic and easy to make.

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