Friday, January 8, 2010

The Birds and The Bees

Awww .... aren't they cute? One of each of my three breeds of hens: Barred Rock, New Hampshire Red, Rhode Island Red. It's snowy around here, and my hens weren't venturing out of their hen house much, so I threw some straw out around their house and they love it. Since then, they get out most of the day and tromp around. Here, my three hens are sunning themselves in the 30 degree weather under the hen house.
In spite of the cold weather and shorter days, my girls are young and laying up a storm. The day before we didn't have any eggs, then yesterday we had seven! So, to catch up, I made a double batch of zucchini bread and quiche for dinner.
Here is a picture of the hen house with the small bit of snow that is still hanging on. (Here, being relatively close to the ocean and the gulf stream, our snow doesn't tend to stick around very long, sadly. For me, if it's going to be cold, I'd just assume have snow for sledding and ice for skating!)
My honey bees are all wrapped up for the winter. In November I finally got to putting up the mouse guard (narrow fencing stapled to the entryway). The thought of stapling a bee hive just didn't sit well with me. Even though it was below freezing (an old timer told me they can't fly below freezing, but I don't know if that's true?) on the day I stapled the fencing to the entrances, I still put on my veil. I couldn't help myself.

The mouse guard, well, prevents mice. Apparently it's very common for mice to find their way into the hive to keep warm. Ugh. Mainly they make a big mess, and sometimes the bees win out and propolis (bee glue) the poor mouse from head to toe, so it looks sort-of mummified.

Finally in December before the big cold snap, I wrapped my hives in roof felting to help them to keep warm. It's not necessary to do this, but a lot of people feel it helps them through the cold winter months. Perhaps then they use up less energy trying to stay warm, which by the way they do in a similar way to the Emperor Penguin where the Queen Bee is in the middle, then they cluster around her in a big ball. The bees take turns being on the warm inside, versus the chilly outside of the cluster. Cool eh?
Some bees do slowly die through the winter. So when they do, as is customary, worker bees push the dead bees out of the hive on a warm (relatively speaking) day. So far I've seen two batches of 10 from each hive over two months. The idea is that before winter you want to have a large strong hive that has plenty of honey stores to make it through to warmer months. I hope mine make it. It will be sad if they don't after all my work, but I have certainly learned a lot and will start over and purchase more bees if they don't.


YD, sometimes with Samantha and June said...

Hi there, came over from Throwback at Trapper Creek.
You have a very nice blog. I too love to cook and bake and I enjoy gardening(veggie). I am going to do some reading on beekeeping and perhaps give it a try next year.


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