Sunday, July 20, 2014

Swarming Bees and Our New Hive + Racing with Tony Stewart

Like we really needed another project but when swarming bees show up what can you do?

I won't lie, R and I have talked several times about setting up bee hives so that we could have honey.  R loves his honey and can go through a large bottle of honey in one month.  But we have so much on our plate right now that setting up a bee hive was the last thing on our mind.  That was until Saturday afternoon.

We've been busy weeding and clearing out the bed in front of the house so that I can start painting. Several times we have tried to plant this bed with absolutely no positive results.  The entire front of the house was completely hidden by large junipers when we purchased the house.  It was quite the job to dig and then pull out the huge stumps.  This left large holes that we filled with new top soil.  We then planted three expensive bird's nest spruce and 2 twisted junipers.  They all completely died within 3 years despite watering and fertilizing.

We then replanted with Knockout roses, coneflowers, and irises.  The Knockout roses died within a year and the irises are so so, but the coneflowers are doing great.  No more planting.  Obviously the soil is bad or it is too hot.  Who knows, but we have enough flowers on our property, so it's rocks and boulders for the front.

While we were weeding and removing poorly performing plants, we noticed the lack of any honey bees even though there were plenty of flowers around.  We continued weeding when R noticed a swarm of bugs near the far corner of the house.  The insects were flying willy nilly all over the place. It really didn't look like swarms of bees that I have seen before.  Those swarms all flew in unison back and forth, these were just everywhere in a jumble.

I went in the house and looked out the window to try and get a closer look.  It was then that I saw the honey bees.  We watched the swarm land on the seam in the shingles under the bay window in the family room. These are the windows that we are replacing because they are not original nor appropriate and were poorly installed.  The swarm, once it landed was about 12 inches X 14 inches and about 4 inches thick. Slowly the bee mass got smaller as they went inside under the bay window and soon only the guard bees could be seen flying around outside the small opening.

This seemed like the perfect time to get a hive so I checked CraigsList to see what could be found in the immediate area.  We actually found a seller who makes hives and who lives in my township and is located about 7 miles from us.  I called him and arranged to buy a new hive on Sunday evening.

Realizing that we knew NOTHING about bees except that they make honey meant that I needed a book fast.  Did I go to a book store....no.  I went to Tractor Supply Company in Fenton.  I needed to go there anyways because our tree cutter showed R this little gadget to sharpen your chainsaw blade that they sell there.  That's an entire post on it's own but they were out of the sharpener until Monday so I walked around looking at all the cool stuff.

I noticed an area of books on homesteading, canning, and raising chickens so I was hoping that I could find something on bees.  There were bee magazines but I needed beekeeping 101 for the newbie.  I rounded the corner and there it was....the last one.  The Backyard Beekeeper by Kim Flottum.
I quickly ran through the book and wow....is there a pre beginner's book?  Luckily we were able to pick the brain of the guy we purchased the hive from and that really helped.  I'll go through the steps that we are going through to set up this hive and retrieve the swarm but first I have to paint the exterior of the hive to protect the raw wood.  This has to be done before the bees are brought to the hive.  From what I read and from what I was told today the best method is to use a latex primer and paint and let it dry overnight.  It is also best to paint the hive to blend in with the surrounding so as to help it go unnoticed. The hive and hopefully hives in the future will be located behind the barn protected from the west and storms that generally come from the west and also protected from the cold wind coming from the north. Behind the barn will give the hive morning and early afternoon sun but protect it from the middle and late afternoon sun which is the hottest.

More later on bee hive set up later.

In the meantime, while dealing with the swarm, I get a text message from my daughter in law with a photo attached saying "guess who's here, it's your fav driver.  You still have time to get here."  The text message had a photo attached of a race hauler.  I didn't recognize the hauler but I guessed that it was Tony Stewart's.  My son races a winged sprint car with the traveling sprint car series called Sprints on Dirt or SOD. Tony has raced with SOD before when he has an opening in his NASCAR schedule.

We couldn't make the race but my son, G, had quite the night.  He started the feature in the 6th position outside of Tony Stewart in 5th position.  G actually passed Tony at one point but a lap later was passed back.  Tony went on to win and G finished 7th.

It was quite a night for my son.  There were articles on all the sports sites, including ESPN, because this is the first time Tony has returned to racing a sprint car after his bad accident last year that resulted in a broken leg and multiple surgeries to correct the damage.

G is in the #187 and Tony Stewart is in the #14
So now I'm off to paint the bee hive.