Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Hive Split Attempt, Part I

My last bee post recapped the sad ending to my sweet bee hive.  Fortunately, my co-keeper Venessa's hive had an amazingly healthy winter, and by early April, was showing signs of an impending swarming (the natural reproductive means for honey bee colonies).  Rather than attempting to catch a swarm (which can be done, if you happen to be around when the hive swarms), we wanted to split this healthy colony into two smaller ones.  The ideal situation would be to time this split right when the hive is starting their normal swarm activity.

When bees are about to swarm, the hive builds 2-4 queen cells, and feeds the larve in these cells plentiful amounts of Royal Jelly, a highly nutritious substance that transforms normal worker bee larvae into Queen larvae.  While the new queens are incubating, the existing queen gathers a portion of the workers to leave the hive and seek out new space, splitting the colony into two. The remaining workers stay behind to support the colony and tend to the emerging queens, who, immediately upon hatching, have a battle to the death to determine the new ruling queen.  That queen bee which kills her competitors while evading their stingers is the victor.  (Very Hunger Games-esque, but with only females- Queen Katniss will have no Peeta to help defend her in the Hive Hunger Games. Honey Games? I digress).

Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Strawberry Wall

A few weeks ago, I saw an email on the Seattle farm co-op listserv about buying strawberry starts in bulk from Rain Tree Nursery, for great prices.  Before I stopped to think about space requirements, I had purchased 125 strawberry plants for $30.  A great deal, right?  But where to put all of these babies?  I love, love, love strawberries, and I can't think of many better uses of garden space than a gigantic strawberry patch.  However, 125 strawberry plans require a space of roughly 20' x 20', which is more space than want to devote just to strawberries.  Plus, the dogs have completely decimated last year's strawberry patch in their quest to rid our yard of moles and voles, and the idea of getting the plants off the ground was enticing to me.  I did a bit of research and found some cool vertical ideas for strawberries. 

First,  these amazing Plants on Walls containers, made out of some kind of beautiful magical fabric called "florafelt." While beautiful, these are quite expensive at $50/ panel (and I would need many of them).