Friday, April 29, 2016

Catching Bee Swarms

This spring has been a busy time of catching swarms and working with our hives.  My parents have a wild hive in their front yard and every year just like clock work it swarms.  This year that wild hive did something we were not prepared for, it swarmed four times.  It's possible that it does this every year but we just don't always notice it each time.

The first swarm from the wild hive was pretty large and hung in two clumps, which a first we thought it was possibly two separate swarms but once we caught them and seen how they reacted we made the assumption it was one swarm.

 The swarm had landed rather high in the tree which makes it harder to reach as you can see.

We got them into the box which isn't difficult, just a couple of good knocks and they shake right into the box.  The question I get asked most often is, how do you know you have the queen.  You need to watch how the bees act once you get them into the box.  They won't stay in the box if the queen isn't in there.

Another way to tell if you caught the queen, watch the bees, if she is in the box, several of the bees will sit on the edge of the box and fan their wings sending out the scent to the other bees telling them hey the queen is in here.  Leave the box sit until every bee has went into the box. Then you can tape up the box and load it into the back end of your truck (I don't think I would transport them inside your vehicle) and take them home to their new hive.
Since this wild hive swarmed four times it was getting  expensive to set a new hive each time we caught another swarm.  It's about $140 - $200 every time you set up a new hive, if you don't already have the hive boxes to move them into.  So we started doing it a little different.
The second time this hive swarmed we tried something new that we had not tried before, we combined the swarms.

To do that we stapled news paper to the bottom of the brood box.

 Sit that box on top of the hive you are wanting to combine the new swarm with.  Once it is stacked, shake the new swarm into the brood box, add your frames and a hanging feeder to that box and put on the inner cover.

Watch the bees for a little bit once you put on the inner cover.  If the queen is in the box the bees will stand around the inner cover hole and fan like crazy telling everyone she's in the box.
Once all the bees go into the hive put on the outer cover.

Within just a couple of days the bees have removed the newspaper and now they have become one hive.  I think at some point one of the queens will be killed by the other queen.  Not completely sure about this since I am still very new to bees.  So far so good with this procedure.  A couple of days later we also took some brood frames and honey frames from one of our other hives and put them into this hive just to give them a boost and a good start.

Did you know that 42% of the bee colonies in the US collapsed in 2015?  70 out of the top 100 human food crops are pollinated by bees.  Have you noticed that the honey bee is no longer on the Honey Nut Cheerios box?  Does this concern you?  Did you know that once the honey bee is gone, within four years the human race will be gone?  What are we going to do about this?

Friday, April 22, 2016

Our Trip To Greenfire Farms

Last week the Chicken Scratch Poultry farmers took a road trip to Florida to visit the Greenfire farm and pick up some new breeds to work with on our farm.  It was a beautiful drive down and their road that lead to the farm was so pretty draped with in moss.

When you pull up to the farm you will need to wait at the gate for someone to let you in.  We need a gate at our farm.  You wouldn't believe how many people pull right up to our barns and just begin their own farm tour without ever even knocking on our door to see if we are around.
It was so interesting to see how another poultry farm works and operates.  I found that we are very similar in the hatching, vaccinating and shipping of chicks.  The one difference that I seen is that they don't raise up started pullets like we do.
What I was most curious to see was if they kept their flocks as small as they claimed and yes they do.  So if you wonder why it takes so long to get your chicks from us or them that is why.  We are working with small flocks also and when you get your chicks you will see the difference that it makes.  I often hear from our customers about how big and healthy our chicks are compared to large hatchery chicks.

With their warm climate in Florida they are able to keep their breeders outside all year long with no need for a 

This is one of the new breeds that we picked up while we were there.  They are Malines.  If you notice they are the only birds here on the farm with their faces smashed up against the fence wanting attention.  Super friendly birds and suppose to be really good egg producers.  I think we're going to love this breed. Can't wait to share it with you!
We also picked up a couple others breeds but I'll share those in another blog.

This is their incubator room.  Lots of eggs in there getting ready to make some customers very happy.  

This is the room where they raise up new breeds. They mostly import  hatching eggs from other countries and not full grown birds.  It was very interesting to hear how they do it all.   

Hope you enjoy this peek into the Greenfire farm.  Please  keep in mind no matter where you order your chicks from, it's a stressful and busy time of year for farmers.  It doesn't make them able to go any faster if you call them weekly to check on your order and we can't make chickens lay eggs or grow any faster than what they already do :)  Please be patient with whatever farm you order from, It takes time to raise up beautiful birds and fill numerous orders.
Have a blessed spring!