Cherry Varieties for Western Washington

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Two years ago I planted two dwarf cherry trees. They are both varieties that are recommended for Western Washington. The are both doing very well. Glacier Cherries - Cherry Varieties for Western Washington

The ‘Glacier’ tree is loaded. The ‘Kristen’ tree is also producing well for a 2nd year tree.

3 years ago I planted a ‘Lapins’ cherry which is producing lightly this year. It is a full size tree, which scares me a bit. They get very large. But the ‘Lapins’ seems to be working for this area too. None of the varieties have been bothered by birds, only a few cherries have splits, and they are all delicious! If I had to pick a favorite at this point it would be ‘Glacier’ since it is producing the best and the cherries are large and the tree is lush.

Kristin Cherries - Cherry Varieties for Western Washington

Another Dead Hive: Broken Comb on Foundationless Frames

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We noticed the new hive had many dead bees at the entrance. When I opened it up I found that 3 of the biggest combs in the brood nest had broken and all but a dozen bees were dead. We are so disappointed.

Factors contributing to this failure:

1. We did not wire the frames. They are deeps, so wiring probably is necessary and would have prevented the breaks. The broken frames made up most of the brood nest and probably caused them to get chilled.

2. The weather has been typical Pacific Northwest spring which means wet and cold.

3. The hive had consumed all the sugar syrup in their feeder.

I measured the cells on the comb and sure enough, 5.2mm, the same as the remaining strip of plastic foundation I left in as a guide. I’ll have to figure out a new solution for a top guide, and good way to wire the frames. Maybe something like this would work with the plastic frames. I could drill holes and insert heavy wires. I would probably want to put in at least 2 since they are deep frames.

Good progress in the new hive

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We removed the newspaper remnants from the combined Oceanic815 hive. They look like they are doing very well. We added a honey super. I think I’ve waited too long to do this in previous years, so it may be too early but I’m giving it a try. I the other 2 overwintered hives looked strong as well. I added a honey super to The Black Rock.

The swarm hive is doing great on the cutout frames. They are building up some beautiful, straight combs and have brood, pollen and some honey too. Fed 3 quarts more 1:1 syrup.

If you look at closeups of some of these photos you can see that it looks like they are starting out using the cell size on the remnant strip of plastic foundation. This is not good. I may need to do something different for a starter strip.

Feral Hive Progress

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The new hive is very busy. They have consumed about half the syrup. We’re enjoying watching them and curious about how they are building up but don’t want to disturb them too soon.

A Feral Swarm on Foundationless Frames

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Philip called me mid day yesterday, he had captured a swarm by the Snohomish River.

It was Mother’s Day, Sunday, we were already headed home so it could not have happened at a better time.

We combined the two weak hives by removing the nearly empty second brood box from each. At the same time we swapped some of the moldiest frames so we could get a good cleanup done at the same time. What we are left with is a very healthy hive with a sufficient population. And 2 queens to boot. Wish I could watch the drama. We put a sheet of newspaper between the 2 brood chambers. They will chew through the paper in a few days. The queen from the top chamber will usually win out, I’ve heard. Hive4 was placed on top of ‘Oceanic815′.

The next step was to cut out the centers of the plastic frames. We removed the old brood nest comb, and used a few different methods to cut the centers out of the frames, leaving about 1/4 inch of the foundation at the top as a starter. We wondered if they would use the cell size remnant to base their foundationless cell size on. We only broke one frame out of the 20 cutouts we did.

It was dark when Philip arrived with the swarm. He had placed them in a cardboard box with a piece of burlap taped to the top. I did not want to mess with them in the dark. Although swarming bees are very unlikely to become aggressive, I have heard  stories of bees extremely disgruntled at being disturbed at night and didn’t want to experience it myself. So we just lowered the cardboard box into the empty hive box on top of the waiting hive, opened the top of the cardboard box, put the hive cover on, and left them for the night.

This morning, Gavin and I got out early before work and dumped them into the lower box with the waiting cut-out plastic frames.

We brushed the bees from the blackberry branches they were clinging to, and removed the beautiful little 3″ piece of comb they had built in the cardboard box overnight.

Then we installed the hive feeder with 1:1 sugar water. The bees look healthy and it is a good sized swarm.

Combining Weak Hives

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I am considering combining the two weak hives and cutting out the centers of the brood frames in the new empty hive to try foundationless natural cell. The cells in my one-piece plastic Pierco frames are 5.2mm. I would like to try a method recommended by Michael Bush. I read his book this winter and so many of his methods make sense.



Spring Hive Inspection

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Here are my 4 hives as of May 12th 2012:

1.The Black Rock: Started from a 2011 split of my original The Others hive. They initially killed 2 introduced commercial queens, then, after being queenless for months, accepted a queen from the secondary swarm from last years new package hive ‘Oceanic815′. Or, the queen came off of the frame of brood with a queen cell on it that I transferred after the first swarm, weeks before I placed the secondary swarm in the hive. The bees are more active earlier in the day than the other hives, and they are a darker color.

2. The Others: This is the original surviving colony from 2010. My other 2010 colony, FlashMob, did not make it through the first winter. They do not have their original queen, as this hive has swarmed a few times.

3. Oceanic815: Stared in 2011 as a 4# package. Built up very quickly last year and had a few swarms last year. One started a new hive, and the other supplemented The Black Rock and provided a queen.

4. 4th hive does not have a name. Stared from a swarm from the new package hive last year – 2011.

Status of hives as of May 11:

1. The Black Rock is the busiest hive. Early risers. Queen spotted. Lots of eggs, lots of capped brood, a little honey. I removed a frame of capped brood to build up one of the weak hives.

2. The Others Busy hive. Queen spotted. Eggs, lots of capped brood, a little honey.

3. Oceanic815  Queen spotted. Sparse population. A few eggs. A little brood. Lots of honey. Lower brood box is empty with some mold. We reversed the brood boxes.

4. 4th hive No queen spotted. A few eggs. Very little brood. Sparse population. Lots of honey.

So all 4 survived the winter. This is a victory. And all have new eggs. This is good.

This is a drone from The Black Rock. They look a little different than the drones from the other hives. Look at the cute grey fuzz on his ‘butt’.

Click on the picture to view a larger photo so you can get a better look. He’s really quite enchanting.

Stained Glass Stepping Stones

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Stained glass stepping stone trillium

I created the designs in Adobe Illustrator and printed out the patterns to use as templates for cutting the glass and laying out the pieces. Then the glass pieces are placed at the bottom of the mold, upside down, and concrete is poured over the top of the glass pieces.

Stained glass stepping stone rooster

I don’t actually “step” on these.

I’ve created some with smaller glass pieces that I’ve put in traffic areas that get stepped on. The glass pieces in these are larger and I’m afraid they will crack if they get a lot of traffic.

Stained glass stepping stone blue pansy

February Sunshine

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Life in all 4 hives in februaryLow 50s again today. Activity in all the hives! #1 The Black Rock hive is by far the busiest, (the one with the dark, small bees, originally split from The Others and killed 2 commercial queens. Their natural bred queen came from Oceanic815 in June 2011 – an after-swarm queen cell I moved over, or from the secondary swarm I combined with ‘The Black Rock’ a few weeks later) and seems to have had the fewest dead bees on the bottom board screen and landing board. #2 ‘The Others’ is the quietest, and judging by the evidence on the bottom board, the colony is very small. #3 Oceanic815 (New 4lb package hive from 2011)  and #4 (815’s June 2011 swarm) have had the highest number of dead bees at the entrance and on the bottom board screen.

Heather with insect gathering pollen or nectar

I saw a few bees bringing in pollen today. I wonder what they are finding. My heather is starting to bloom, but that’s not a honey bee on it.

Don’t know what that is, I’ll have to look it up.

Lots of activity in the hives on a warm February day