update – 1st blossoms, bees and goats

We had (until a few days ago) a very mild winter and blossoms on the pear and peach trees appeared early.  My Kieffer pear was the first to produce and the picture above was taken on March 1.

We have kudzu in Georgia but in the suburbs English ivy is a bigger problem and not every one wants to use glyphosate.  So in the Atlanta suburb where we also have a house, we were intrigued when we saw a temporary electric fence installed.  Our neighbors feel much the same way we do about many things and I asked them if they were renting goats.  They will be here tomorrow, come over they said and the next day we visited.  There were about 30 goats hard at work including a couple very pregnant goats.  My neighbors were hoping a goat would birth during their 2 day sojourn because then they would have naming rights.  Did not happen.  But all the ivy disappeared.  

goats at work with Great Pyrenees guard dog

The Great Pyrenees guard dog was impressive.  Big, relaxed, vigilant but suddenly he accelerated toward one end, he had spotted a threat.  False alarm or the threat decided otherwise, and he returned to his charges. 

And now to the bees.  We harvested honey last year and then my bees swarmed and I had nothing.  So this was the first winter without bees in at least 5 years.  I ordered 2 bee packages and they were available for pickup last Saturday (March 11).  Cost $86 each.  A package has 3 components – worker bees, a gently dripping can of syrup and a cage containing a queen bee.  You only order packages if you have drawn comb for the bees to immediately work on, otherwise you get a nuke which includes frames of drawn comb.  

At the pickup location we chatted with an older guy (probably early 80’s) and he said he used to keep 56 hives among his fruit trees and berries.  And they were gone.  Why were they gone?  Mites he said.  He and his wife believe that when they no longer have bees their time will be up, so he was buying 4 packages to keep them (he and his wife) going for the next year.

A risk with packages is the bees may not accept the queen.  The bees were part of a large colony and now they are confined in a package with a new different queen and if the queen is released too early and they don’t accept her, they will kill her.  So you need to keep them as separated neighbors for a few days for the bees to accept her.  I installed the packages which means I poured the bees into a hive and attached the queen cage in their midst and provided liquid food and closed them up for a few days.  A few days became 5 days because winter returned with a vengeance and we had a number of freezing days.  One hive is protected from the wind on the north and west sides by a window and boarding I installed.  The second hive has no protection.  And since the temps were headed to the low 20’s and no rain in the forecast I draped a thick furniture moving blanket over 3 sides (left the opening south side clear)  and strapped it down to secure from the wind.

temporary protection from the cold and wind

Yesterday, Thursday, I opened the hives, examined the queen cages and yes the queens looked fine, and removed the corks blocking the exits of the queen cages and the queens were released to the waiting bees.  And hopefully all will go well, though these days with bees it seems more goes wrong than just a few years ago.



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