It’s mid june, and the blackberries are in full bloom weeks ahead of schedule- as might be expected with the way this strange, early year is turning out. I had 7 or 8 swarm calls before May even started (!) and the major honeyflow of the year is already on. Normally, this would be nothing but good news. However, this year many of my colonies are new, and are not yet up to full strength- meaning that when the blooms have past and we’re in the dry part of the summer, THEN there will be of extra bees sitting around, doing not much except eating up what honey their elders were able to pack away the weeks before. Sigh.
However, not all is lost, and some of my new hives did build so rapidly that they are matching the established ones from last year. Here we see the pretty awesome sight of a strong hive in full force, working hard to bring it all home. Hit play and watch them work.
They bees aren’t the only ones working. I’ve been busy rearranging my apiraries to make managing the bees easier, and organize the hives for the Cozy Bee Project. One the left, you can see what the Foley Creek apiary looked like before. Cute and romantic, but a HUGE PAIN to maintain… things to trip over, hives at odd heights, weeds to trim. The weeds are actually the worst part, because trimming them back really annoys the bees, and I got stung a lot more often last year doing yard maintenance than actually working in hives.
By comparison, the setup on the right is my new standardized apiary. The hives stands are at an anthropomorphic height (beekeeping requires lifting 40+ pound hive boxes), with weedblock and mulch beneath to keep the weeds at bay. Did you know that when bees die of old age, it’s from their wings finally getting too frayed? If there are weeds around the entrance to their hive, it actually reduces their lifespan from wear and tear. The compact arrangement means that it’s easier to fence against cows and bears. The ground is level so I don’t trip, which I must tell you, is an awful experience when carrying a hive body filled with 30,000 bees. And the hives are oriented at different angles and spaced so that they are easy for the bees to identify, to make sure they come back to the right home.
That done, the next task was setting up my electronic hive monitoring equipment. This involves getting my “mad scientist” on. Here we see my work station, while soldering new connections on a cellphone power supply I pulled apart to bridge between the solar controller (12V) and the Raspberry Pi computer (4.5V). The controller is also wired to a sealed battery from a scooter, with enough amp-hours that I should be able to run the hive telemetry for over a week in total darkness.
The solar controller also connects to the 60W solar panel. 60W is overkill; it should recharge the battery in one afternoon of good sun with no problem. I actually ordered 40W panels from my friends at wholsesalesolar.com, the same folks who supplied the gear for our off-grid house, but they had a distribution problem with the 40w panels so they upgraded me for free. Nice. Here we see the final installation of one of the BeeCertain hive data monitors, complete with off grid solar power. I now need to finish the second one, and get the sensors in the hives. Then we can start tracking data!
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