Some mixed news to report on our bees. It has been a while since we last posted and a lot has happened. This Fall we suffered a dearth of nectar in our region and the bees were not able to build up much honey reserves. Even early in the Fall the hives were both suffering. The hive that was growing the most during the Summer months and having the most problems with crooked comb was also doing the worst of the two hives. They seemed to have spent too much time building comb and not enough time gathering nectar and building up their honey reserves. Subsequently their population must have grown too large and they ran out of all their honey before it even got really cold around here. Continue reading
Tag Archives: bees
After receiving this wick material
and these wick tabs
I was anxious to start making candles!
Here at Independence Homestead we try to reuse as many materials as possible, so I had the idea that we could make candles in containers using repurposed glass food jars. We have quite the collection of baby food jars, salsa jars, pasta sauce jars, and more.
When melting wax for the candles, I read that it was important not to overheat the wax, so a double boiler was recommended. I realized since low heat was best, we should use our solar oven!
Our candles will be so environmentally friendly! The only new items in them will be the wick and tab, plus solar energy will be used to make them. Plus the beeswax is harvested from our own backyard!
Since our bees made some crooked comb, we had cut off that crooked comb, harvested what honey we could from it, and we still had a lot of comb left over.
We needed to melt down the beeswax in the comb so that we could use the wax for candles and other potential crafts. George did some research, and found that it was common to use solar ovens to do this. We had been wanting a solar oven for other reasons so it was a good opportunity to go ahead and build a solar oven!
Once the solar oven was built, we setup the wax purification system. According to George’s research, the way to get the beeswax from the comb and leave behind any impurities was to put the comb on top of a paper towel, which was held over a bowl half filled with water.
As I embark on a candle making adventure, I picked up Candle Making in a Weekend by Sue Spear to pickup some pointers.
This book was a good overview of candlemaking. It had instructions for a wide range of projects. The instructions were simple and easy to understand, plus there were helpful pictures. I feel that if I wanted to make very intricate candles, I would be able to with this book’s instructions.
As we were beginning this homesteading adventure, I read Made from Scratch by Jenna Woginrich. This book was not worth reading. It was all I could do to finish it, and I would not recommend it.
The biggest issue I have with this book is how the author writes about mistakes that she made, but all of these mistakes were easily preventable by anyone who took the time to do any research before blundering in. All of her mistakes caused the deaths of animals. Wonginrich says in the book that she’s a Buddhist vegetarian, yet she obviously made no effort to learn about what she was doing and take simple steps to protect the animals under her care. In one situation, Woginrich gets beehives. She lives in bear country, and everyone knows that bears love beehives, well everyone except for Woginrich apparently. It is common among beekeepers to put electrified wire around hives if they live in bear country, but somehow the author missed the memo! Her beehives get ravaged by a bear. Woginrich makes similarly avoidable mistakes that cost the lives of chicks and rabbits. It’s disgusting. To me, she seems like an dolt, and why would you read a book written by someone stupider than you?
Another issue I had with this book is that the author does not write by relaying her experiences, but rather by telling the reader what to do. I don’t want to be told what to do by someone who’s not doing such a good job herself. Her writing style comes across in a way that is demeaning to the reader.
Do yourself a favor, and avoid this book. Right now homesteading is such a hot topic, there’s a lot available on the topic, and not all of it’s good. I’ll let you know when I read something that’s worth the time!
This past weekend we finally got a chance to do another inspection on our hives. We were surprised at how built up the comb had gotten in the 2 weeks since we had done a full inspection. It was so built up that it became a problem in some parts as the bees had developed comb that went off sideways and into comb from neighboring top bars! This is a pretty common problem with top bar hives but we thought we were ok since our last several inspections showed them staying in line on the top bars, but over the last two weeks or so they went crazy building comb and some got a bit out of alignment. The result was as we lifted up one top bar the crooked comb would break off from the next top bar.
We decided to go ahead and cut off all the comb that was developing at a bad angle. Most of it was honey comb so we saved it to eat later. The rest had a lot of brood and larva, as well as pockets of honey and lots of nectar and pollen. So we laid the rest out on top of the hives so the bees could salvage as much as they could. After a few days it had all been picked dry so we brought in the wax to melt down for use later. We did not really know what to do to address the crooked comb development so we gave our beekeeping friend/mentor a call to see what he had to say.
Our friend assured us this was a common problem with top bar hives and can be resolved by putting in some top bars that are slightly wider as the bees like to make the honey comb thicker than brood comb. He also suggested we take the bars with crooked comb and place them between bars that have straight established comb. To our surprise after helping us out with these ideas our friend also made us a set of wider top bars to use for the bees’ honey comb.
We prepared these new wider top bars by using string we coated in our bees’ wax as a guide stapled to the wood. We then placed about 4 of these wider top bars in each of our hives in between established comb so the bees would have straight guides. Hopefully between the wider top bars for honey comb and placing the crooked comb in between fully developed bars of comb our problems with crooked comb should be fixed! We’ll check back in a week or two and let you know how it worked!
Check out more photos from this inspection on our Facebook page!
Unfortunate circumstances have come about that have caused us to find new homes for our chickens. The cost to fight these issues is greater than we have the time and finances for at this time so we reached out to our friends to find new homes for our hens. This ended up being a mixed blessing for us in the end and worked out for the best.
Martha was able to reach out to a co-worker who she had heard kept chickens. We asked if they would be willing to take in our hens since we could no longer keep them. Thankfully they graciously accepted to take them and offered to give us fresh eggs from time-to-time as well. On top of all this it tuns out they are also homesteaders who strive to have an independent lifestyle, much like us! Continue reading
Our bees were spotted covering the front of the outside of their hive this weekend (called bearding) and we made a decision about our hens. So we wanted to share a quick video update on the bees and hens.
Last week we talked about how our Concord hive has been lagging behind the progress of the Lexington hive. It was at the point where we were concerned that we may have to put the feeder back in the hive to help them build up wax comb.
We are happy to report that Concord hive looks to be on its way to recovery! We had a really good week for bees with sunshine and heat everyday. Concord must have had a lot of new bees hatch as well. Take a look at these before and after photos. The first was last week when we were concerned, it was taken in the evening when most of the bees should have been back in the hive.
Compare that to the photo taken today in the middle of the day when its more likely for the bees to be out and about! They’re a lot more bees and the comb is built all the way across on several bars, and they even have a new bar they are starting wax on in the front!
It looks like Concord hive is back on track so we will be leaving it alone for another week or two before doing another full inspection. Since it looks so good we did not put in the feeder like we thought we might have to last week either.
That’s all, just wanted to let everyone know that there’s nothing to worry about with our Concord hive!
You can see more pictures from this latest inspection on our Facebook Page.
The weather has been great for the local wildflowers, we see them blossoming all over the place now. This also means our bees have been on overdrive gathering nectar and pollen. Meaning they might be filling up their comb faster than they can make it or have room to make it!
It had been a little over two weeks since our last full inspection of the hives. We didn’t feel we had to do a full inspection since there’s been lots of activity in both hives, but we did want to make sure they had ample space to expand comb if needed. Continue reading