Thursday, April 17, 2014

More Buntings 4.17.14

Downloaded pictures to my computer and found more Buntings. That’s one of my beehives in the background.


This Indigo Bunting is just molting. He’ll be a brilliant blue before long.


He is joined by a Male Painted Bunting and a “greenie”…greens are either a female or juvenile male that hasn’t yet molted.



Can you spot the “greenie”? The bottlebrush is the perfect cover for these little birds.


This one is either a female Indigo Bunting or a juvenile male.


I hate to see these little guys leave. They are so colorful.


If you look close….you can see 2 male Painted Buntings in the Bottlebrush.


Beautiful…aren’t they?


Had enough birds? Maybe the next post will have some Honeybees….or maybe a critter or two.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

A Morning at the feeder 4.10.14

This is how I enjoy my morning coffee.

Just before daylight the birds start calling each other and once the sun is up they start coming to the feeders. We have four feeding stations in the back yard…but this is the busiest during the winter and spring when the Painted Buntings…

snapshot_001 Painted Bunting

and Indigo Buntings are here…..snapshot_001 Indigo Buntings

The Titmice also show up…..they usually just grab a sunflower seed and leave.

snapshot_001 Titmice

The Cardinals are here year around.

snapshot_001 Cardinal

Here’s a video of the activity. The Buntings will be leaving before long.

The Painted Buntings are usually the first to get here. Usually see one late November. Then the Indigo Buntings show up. By May they have headed north.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Swarm Catcher…Solar Wax Melter 4.4.14

Jim and I moved the swarm catcher a little closer to the line of flight from the “blue” hive. They have really increased in numbers and if they do cast off a swarm I’d like to catch it for the Top Bar Hive. The hives are just behind the Bottle Brush bush.

See the squirrel on the table top? I put my Lovebird’s seed out there each day when I change her food.


The swarm catcher is on the top of the ladder. I have 5 “top bars” in it. If a swarm does move in and start building comb…I can remove them from the catcher and put them in the Top Bar Hive. The frames from the Langs hives will not fit the TBH.


To the L of the swarm catcher is an Owl box or Squirrel box that my sister gave me. If they don’t choose the TBH or the swarm catcher…maybe they’ll settle for the Squirrel/Owl box.


This is my solar wax melter. I have an old cast iron pot sitting on wood with window screen and a piece of fine mesh for straining the debris out of the wax as it melts and drips into a bowl with about an inch of water in it.

It gets so hot in there I have to use a pot holder to lift the pot out. That is why it sits on wood. Might melt through the rubber tub.


This is the first batch of wax. The wax  in the tray is flat because there was a smaller amount. Once the water cooled it floated and hardened on top.


Right now I am trying to melt some old brood comb (black stuff in pot in picture above). May not get much wax from it but wanted to try.

Once done I will remelt and make a candle.

Because we crushed and strained our honey last time we had wax left over. This year we are going to try a honey extractor and see if we can save most of the comb. It will make it much easier for the bees.  Once the honey is spun out we can put the comb back in the super and on the hive for them to clean out and refill.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Orientation 4.1.14

Most everyday the Honey Bees do an orientation. It gives all the young bees a chance to come out and find where their hive is. They circle around and each day venture farther. Eventually they become foragers.


It lasts 15 minutes to half an hour….then they all head back inside and go back to work.


They climb up the face of the hive and take off….and through all of this the foragers are still coming home loaded down.


The video only catches a small portion of the bees that are orientating. The air overhead has a lot of them circling around.

My “blue”  hive is now the the largest and this is their orientation. My “pink” hive may have cast off a swarm while we were gone, but hoping they now have a new Queen and will start building. I think I saw a few capped brood cells through the window in the back of the hive…but the bees were covering it pretty heavily and could only get a glimpse when they moved out of the way. They are bringing in a lot of pollen and that is a good sign. They need it to make “bee bread” which is fed to the larva and newly hatched bees.

The windows are great…but sure wish I had an observation hive.

I’ve ordered 2  IPK Small Hive Beetle traps from  to put under the hives. When they arrive I’ll do a better inspection since I will have to take the boxes apart to move them onto it. The trap will have a tray with mineral oil in it. Once the SHB fall into it they are done. Same with any larva that might hatch and look for a way out of the hive to pupate in the ground and become more beetles.

Hope I will be doing a post on them before long.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Spiderwort 3.26.14

These are just a few of the Spiderwort plants around the place. There are several out front and along the front of the screen room.


I can have my morning coffee  in the screen room and watch the Honey Bees gather pollen. You can see a bit on this one.


There are several flowers in this group and one or two will open each day. By afternoon they are closed or gone.


This girl has been working hard packing her pollen baskets.


The plants grow in big clumps like this and spread.


They grow wild along the roadside. We have one area that is mowed each year so I try to get a few plants before then.

If it grows wild….the Honey Bees work it….I dig some up and plant it. I think most of the stuff in my yard is considered weeds by most people.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Our Cats 3.25.14

I know there are many people out there who hate outdoor cats, but we are not among them.

It would be nice to have them as pets….it’s not meant to be.

This little grey kitty showed up on our deck one day.


I wasn’t going to feed her and entice her to stay but noticed she was either going to have kittens or already had them. So we started feeding to give them a good start.

She had 3 kittens…one got  badly injured and had to be put down. The other 2 and Mother were caught up and taken to the vets to be “fixed” so there’d be no more kittens.

Raccoons, Armadillos, Squirrels and Opossums still come in the yard, as well as, Blue Indigos, Painted Buntings, Doves,Woodpeckers, Cardinals, Titmice, Parrula Warblers and another little bird I don’t know the name of. My feeders are busy all the time.

I didn’t want the cats counting on my birds etc for food so Jim built a “feral” cat feeder. It is on a post with about 2  1/2 ft of aluminum flashing around the base to prevent Raccoons from climbing up.  I can leave a large amount of food for them and when gone my neighbor keeps it filled.

The cats can jump up into it and the Raccoons cant.

I figure if they are well fed they won’t be such avid hunters and they are not. They watch the birds and squirrels but get bored and leave them alone.

There are two other cats that also dine here. I let them for the same reason.

I had my Butterfly House outside and the grey Momma kitty used it to jump to the roof on the screen room. She loves going up there so Jim built them a “climber”.

The cat on the ground is Bolt…and that is what he does when we get near. The one on top is Lightning. I can pet him first thing in the morning when I put out food…but cannot touch him at any other time.

Smokey Momma will rub against my legs when I’m hanging clothes on the line but that is it.


I got up this morning and looked out….had to sneak around the back to get this picture…one on each step…you can see that Bolt is ready to do just that…bolt.


Never a dull moment around here. Love the critters. The cats can be sitting on the washer or dryer on the rear deck and an Opossum can come up …clean up a dish or bowl and the cats just sit there and watch…another part of the family. Same with the Armadillo or Raccoon. They’ve all adjusted to the company of each other.

Looks like they have their favorite steps. Jim noticed they were all on steps….same order as this morning. So I snuck out for another picture….you can see Bolt (second step) is in exit motion. Didn’t stick around for a second picture. As soon as I left he went back up. It will be interesting to see if they sleep there all night.


That is my frog pond at the bottom of the photo. Cats share the water with the Honey Bees. Better pictures in a previous post.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Honey Bees and their “Pink” and “Blue” flowered hives 3.22.14

Young Honey Bees in my “pink” hive are doing their “orientation”. This is how they learn where the hive is. They will come out everyday for a few minutes to learn the area …going farther each time. When there are enough nurse bees and they are no longer needed for hive duty they become foragers.


The hives don’t usually have orientation at the same time but one day after it had rained a few afternoons they both came out at the same time….talk about a large number of Honey Bees! It was amazing!.

I have windows in the back of the hives. The bottom deep brood box on the blue does not have one but all the others do. I do not use foundation. All the comb in the hive is comb they built. I love watching their progress.


This is the back of the “Pink” hive. (for the color of the flowers I painted on the front).

It’s hard to take pictures of the inside because I have to have the camera right against the glass or I end up with reflections.

This is the “super” on the top of the two brood boxes.

030cs B

This is the same frame as above…


The frames have no foundation…just a small strip in the center of the top of the frame to get them started in a straight line. What is interesting is the series of 4 pieces of comb that will be blended into one big comb. You can see they already started another on the frame in the front of the hive. (we’re looking in the back).

035cs B

This is the top super on the “Blue” hive. I added a second super yesterday because they had almost built out the first one. You can see the nectar they have put in the comb.

If you look that the ends of the frames in the front you can see there is very little room between them. I used the table saw to cut away most of the end by the windows so I could see through.

039cs P2

I took two frames from the first super and put them in the second one. (second being the top one). This is looking between those two frames.

040cs P@

When I pulled the two frames out I replaced them with empty ones. They have already started to build comb on one of them. That big clump of bees hanging down is called “festooning”. They are measuring and building new comb.041cs P1

Last year we crushed and strained the honey that we took after the bees swarmed.

We just ordered a hand cranked extractor so we can save the comb. We’ll have to uncap it….spin it slowly and then put the frames back in the hive for them to finish cleaning out. It is not a very practical way to do it but we are not commercial bee keepers and only have a few hives. It will make it much easier on the bees.

Next we’ll need a freezer to store all the extra comb for the winter. We cant leave the empty combs in the supers on the hive because the Honey Bees will cluster together when it’s cold to stay warm. It would leave all that comb exposed to Small Hive Beetles or Wax Moths. One super will be left full for them to use when no plants are blooming and nectar is not available.