Whoa ... hold the horses ... varroa mites?

Submitted by jimwcoleman

During my hive inspection yesterday, I pulled out the plywood beneath the screened bottom board on Hive A and saw ... a whole bunch of varrao mites! Some alive, most dead. How could this be? I hived the package only three weeks ago. Prior to that, the hive only had one season on it. Last year, the hive perished unexpectedly (there may be a clue here), and I packed the fully drawn frames and hive away for winter. They were double-wrapped in plastic trash bags and then sealed in a box. How can I have varroa mites so early in the season? Can they over-winter on wrapped, empty frames?

Can you spot the queen bee?

Submitted by jimwcoleman
Photo of queen bee from Hive A
Photo of queen bee from Hive B

Here are two photos of queen bees. One photo is from Hive A (that will mean something to those of you who have been following the 2017 beekeeping season on www.friendswithgardens.com). The other photo is the queen from Hive B. Once you see them, you can't unsee them.

And that is the best way to learn to spot queen bees in your own hive. Look at photos so you know what to look for: the short wings, the extended abdomen, the large dark spot on their thorax ... and so forth.

It's tulip season!

Submitted by jimwcoleman
Photo of orange tulip with honeybee
Photo of red tulips
Photo of yellow tulips

For the most part, I do almost everything related to fruit and vegetable plants here at the greenhouse, while my wife does all things having to do with flowers and flowering shrubs. As you can see from these photos, she knocked it out of the ball park this season with her bulbs! And these are just some quick sample photos - there are hundreds more flowers on the property and I'm sure she'll post some photos in the next month or so as waves of color wash over the property.

Hiving bees in the Pacific Northwest

Submitted by jimwcoleman
Photo of author hiving bees

Saturday, April 22, 2017, I hived two packages of Italian bees from Stedman's Bee Supplies in Silverdale, Washington. This will be my second season as a beekeeper.

As I will be tracking my progress on FriendswithGardens.com throughout the season, I wanted to record information about each hive - information that I can look back on when evaluating hive performance or analyzing anything that might go wrong.

Birdhouse webcam

Submitted by jimwcoleman
Photo of bird approaching birdhouse

We've all seen birdhouse or bird nest webcams, where you can see inside the birdhouse or observe eagles, hummingbirds and the like in their nests.

I came up with an interesting variation of that. Instead of putting the cam inside, I mounted it directly beside a birdhouse that is mounted high on an outbuilding. That way, I get interesting motion-activated shots of the birds coming and going and can also analyze their behaviors.

Growing early, growing often ... growing older ...

Submitted by jimwcoleman
Photo of raised beds

I've always been the kind of gardener who, at the crack of dawn, has already been up working for hours, preparing the equipment and staging the implements and materials to be ready by sunrise. No project has ever been too big, no soil too rocky, no acre too large. With each successive year, I took on bigger challenges, pushing the limits of my own endurance and that of the soil beneath my feet.

Cold weather plants are doing just fine

Submitted by jimwcoleman
Photo of Kale plants

It's been an unusually cold and wet winter in the Pacific Northwest. That has made gardening a bit more challenging than usual but even with that, my cold-weather plants are doing just fine. Since the snow stopped six or seven weeks ago, there have been only a handful of mornings where the temperature dipped to freezing, so even with below-average daytime temperatures and enough rain to keep the likes of Noah on edge, my Kale, lettuce, brussels sprouts and cabbage plants have fared well.