Special Delivery

Are you loving the pollen right now?  Probably not, especially if you park outside for IMG_0065long.  But the honeybees are carting it in.  About 72,000 of them arrived at the farm on Sunday – 6 packages worth.  While the weather wasn’t ideal, the show must go on.  The heat generated by the bees warmed my car like a kiln, and smelled of a Lemon Pledge-style bee pheromone.  Toasty & fragrant.

Package of honeybees arrive in these cool screen & wood boxes.  (Spaghetti was brave enough to carry a package and pose for a photo but bowed out for the fun part.)  In the cool weather, the bees were clustered together for warmth, making for an interesting inverted pyramid of bees.  The bees are fed by a suspended can of sugar syrup until they reach their destination.   Notice the can I’m removing at the top of the photo below.

 

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I felt gleeful opening the packages, like Curious George opening the pigpen & watching the pigs all rush out.  Bee release is a bit of melee.  Once you open the box, there’s no going back!  Everyone is in a hurry but not exactly sure where they are going.  Glorious fun to watch!

While there are a ton of passengers, the packages contain worker bees only.  These proletariat powerhouses are the ones who make it happen.  (“It” being honey and pretty much everything else, except babies.)  Enter the queens.

IMG_5545Each colony’s queen arrives in her own little cage with several attendants in tow.  This one is a bit hard to see here but is marked on her thorax with a white dot.  She is bound to her cage by a candy plug (the white chunk on the right) until the 1000s of hive workers chew through to release her.  Then she’s free to spread more eggs than a runaway Easter Bunny.  Queens are both the leader and slave of the colony.  Without her, the colony cannot perpetuate, but the workers are able to replace her at will.  Already having taken a mating flight, she will likely not leave the hive again in her life.  She can live for several years but is usually replaced by the bees (or the beekeeper) within a season or two as her egg laying declines.  An interesting balance of nature and a crazy job description.

After opening the packages, I set them into their new hive homes.  Then started the IMG_0056rain –  a shower of bee poop.  72,000 bees who have been cooped up  and unwilling to dirty their temporary home.  Forget “you should have thought of that before we left” criticism.  They’ve each had their 6 legs crossed for a few days in transit.  So while I shifted around some frames to make room, they christened me and the sparkling white hives with a rain of mustard colored bee poop.  Nice.

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Some people just can’t wait for dessert

To make them feel welcome and entice them to stay, I upgraded their tiny towers with some existing comb and frames of housewarming honey frames.  Some of them refused to wait to have the goodies installed in their homes.  They seemed quite pleased, as was I.IMG_0062

Our bee yard was a bit “hot” for the next day or so as everyone settled in and explored their new home.  Paul was chased off by guard bees more than a few times for venturing too close.  Nosey, ain’t ya?

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New hives on blueberry hill

We are excited to finally have our namesake bees at the farm!  These are the first of several more colonies who will be relocating there this spring.  We hope they will benefit from the new berry bushes and flowers we will plant soon.  Cheers to a plentiful honey season!

I checked these new hives yesterday and was pleased to see that all 6 queens had been released successfully.  Now the workers turn to the significant tasks of building comb, finding nectar, and hauling in the pollen.   Maybe they could start with my car.

Quack & Blue Babies

Spring brings babies of all types.  And boy are they exhausting.  This past week the farmIMG_5491 added several.  We’ve got the first 2 new calves of the year, a whole mess of chicks, and our farm’s first ducklings.  The ducks are Sauce’s project to manage.  (mark your calendars for super rich duck eggs come August.)  He chose Khaki Campbell ducks because they are prolific layers.  But I underestimated the cuteness factor.  Grown men and even teenage boys are reduced to head-tilting “Awww!” at the sight of the little webbed feet splashing in a pie pan pond.  The chicks have been somewhat eclipsed by the influx of competitive cuteness.  These IMG_5489little fluff balls will move from the brooder to the coop once fully feathered (about 6 weeks).

The bigger batch of babies came in plant form, 150 of them.  We have converted the abandoned layer barn fields to berry production.  Blueberries, blackberries, and raspberry plants now dot the fields.  It’s so satisfying to look at (now) but it was grueling work.  Spaghetti and Sauce were smart enough to go camping one of the weekends to successfully avoid some of the manual labor.  Paul and I tilled in loads of organic material and hand-hilled 500 linear feet of raised beds.  Then there was the actual planting, mulching, and hand watering.  Forget Crossfit.  This is farm fit.  You img_0044know those white oval stickers on people’s cars to proclaim their being distance races? Forget 140.6 miles.  We are doing 86.5 acres.  The good news is that with some care, this physical investment should bear fruit!  Next year!  We look forward to offering fresh fruit and possibly u-pick opportunities next season.

The biggest batch of babies arrives this weekend.  About 60,000 of them.  Info and photos of the honeybees and apiary expansion next week.  We are excited to welcome the new girls and encourage them to make it a banner honey season!  With Spring’s lengthening days and warming img_0047temperatures, we look ahead to garden planting.  And healing up from farm fit black & blue.

Honey Money!

Score one for the bees!  We are very grateful and humbled to have been recently awarded a rafi logogrant from RAFI USA (Rural Agricultural Foundation International) in support of Buck Naked Farm’s apiary growth plans.  RAFI’s Agricultural Reinvestment grants are funded by the NC Tobacco Trust Fund to help preserve small farms and encourage innovative agricultural ideas.  This is private money from the ’90s tobacco settlement that is used to shift farming from tobacco to alternative crops.  While we were not tobacco farmers, we are small farm (and bee) preservers.

Thank a bee every time you eat!  That’s our theme.  Every 3rd bit of food we eat was either directly or indirectly affected by pollinators.  We are excited to be an ambassador of their urgent message.  Our grant project involves expanding our honey bee apiary, adding mutually beneficial crops (for people & bees), and offering honey bee education opportunities.  We can’t wait to get started.

While not native to North America, honey bees are one of our best crop pollinators.  More

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Blueberry beds await plants

than half of the nation’s honey bee colonies are needed to pollinate the valuable California almond crop each spring.  Without the pollinators, no nuts.  Part of our project is planting mutually beneficial crops.  First up is our blueberry field.  The bees get to enjoy the pollen and nectar and we will enjoy the future fruit and jam.  Over the summer, we will be adding sunflowers and other planted areas for bee forage.

 

Another part of our funded project is creating a honey bee education area – for both the public and prospective beekeepers.  We will have a roadshow presentation for schools, groups & community events plus we will offer open farm days to visit the apiary, see our demonstration garden, and learn how honey is harvested.  be arriving by the end of the month and soon the season’s nectar (honey!) flow will be on.

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Hive boxes in need of paint

There is a lot to do but we are already hard at work.  Newly assembled hive boxes are piling up, soil amendments are being heaped, and the queen bees are laying in earnest.  We have several new honey bee colonies arriving later this month.  We will continue to post on our project developments and events open to  the public.  This summer will be a wild and exciting ride.  We hope you will join us!