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Homestead Texas Apiary (Bee Yard)

There's an area out back of the cabin that was overgrown with graboid vines and brush, but looked like a nice place to site the bee hives.
There was proper orientation for East-facing (morning sun) yet they will have shade from trees to the South.
One of our instructors in the Homesteading course was also Kit's instructor in a Bee Keeping class, and is a Master Beekeeper (means he knows all about it).
He told his class that Yes, all of the books say put your bee hives in full sun - but here in Texas you want to give them some shade.

So I took General Lee with shredder back there, winding our way in through the trees, and shredded all those graboids.
Then we hitched up the cultivator and ran it around the area, breaking up dirt to sow with a "pollinator mix " of flower seeds.

Finishing that we used what fence remained from the truck patch, along with 11 "extra" tee posts and clips, and we fenced in an enclosure to protect the hives from varmints, small and large.




Remaining work is to get water down there, install a water feature (kid's wading pool) or somesuch, install the hives, cover the ground inside the enclosure with some kind of indoor-outdoor carpet for plant growth prevention, and then Christina brings the bees home towards the end of April!

After that we just sit around, let the bees pollinate the truck patch and collect honey!

Here's a short bee yard video:


After sowing our flower seeds we ran the chain harrower around the area, smoothing the ground and covering the seeds

We also "planted" a pool for the bees.


Then we watered in the seeds.

The path to the bee yard was narrow and prone to having graboid vines catching at clothing or stumps tripping you on the way to and from. Since that path will now be well traveled, Kit took the loppers and opened it up considerably.

The bee hives (some of them, anyway) going home to Homestead Texas.
The bee hives are sited and leveled. East-facing but afternoon shade will prevent cooking our bees in the Texas summer heat.
Kit sent this pic and said:
I have found these all over the property including the bee yard.
We will have to be careful when we clear the brambles to not take out too many of the berry vines as well.

04/23/2016 and 04/24/2016
And now, back to bees.
On the 23rd Christina and Kit drove to Navasota, TX, to the apiary from which we bought our bees.
The bees came in 6 containers, 4 of which are called "packages" and 2 "nucs".
You can do your own research on this but the short of it is a package contains several thousand bees and a queen, but the hive has not yet been together long enough to form the actual "hive".
They're all put together in a box and over a few days they become a family.
The nucs (short for nucleus) are small bee colonies that are already formed as a hive, and delivered in a sealed hive box, usually of the Langstroth type.
I don't recall why Kit hasn't suited up yet - could be because they haven't actually opened up the bees.
One of Christina's 2 Langstroth bee hives, bees inside ready to go.
NOW it's time to suit up for emptying the "packages" into their hives.
The process (and thus the weekend) was split into two processes.
Saturday pretty much all we did was introduce the bees to their new home, close them up and left them alone.
The "package" is set into the hive and opened, and the bees are free to explore.
Kit also poked a small home in the candy plug that isolates the queen from the rest of the hive, until they accept her as matriarch. The bees eat through the remainder of the plug to release their queen.
(see video at
Sunday we finish the job by ensuring all (or mostly all) bees are out of the package, and replace the top bars in the hive.
In a couple of days the queen will be free and then once her workers have created comb, he'll start laying eggs.
Christina hams it up before the work begins, all of which is captured in this 20 minute long video
Rain and other obligations kept us from the farm Saturday, but Sunday was The Big Day anyway - we opened up the hives for the first time!
I have no stills of the event, but we do have a 35 minute long Youtube video of the whole thing.

The short of it is, everything is progressing nicely!
Back out to the bee yard to remove cans of syrup supposedly shipped inside the hives for food.
This weekend Christina came down to address a little overcrowding issue in her hives.
You may recall when she installed her hives, they were already established (called "Nucs") in their box, ready to go.
And so it turns out - VERY ready to go!
There were so many bees that it was quickly time to expand their living quarters, and she did that by adding a second "story" to the original hive, called a "Super".
And why is it called a "super", you ask?
A prefix from Latin, with the basic meaning “above, beyond.” Words formed with super- have the following general senses: “to place or be placed above or over” (superimpose, supersede), “a thing placed over or added to another” (superscript; superstructure; supertax), “situated over” (superficial; superlunary) and, more figuratively, “an individual, thing, or property that exceeds customary norms or levels” (superalloy; superconductivity; superman; superstar).
Christina and Kit inspect a frame from Bravo hive. Note how you can hardly see the frame for the bees!
Inspection complete, the frames are carefully reinserted into the first super (AKA "deep", because they can be used as shallow, medium and deep configurations).
Christina installs the second super on Bravo hive. Note Alpha hive (left) already has their additional space in place.
We started hive inspection of the Top Bars.
Delta Hive and Charlie Hive were first.
Video here:
Echo hive inspection with Wyatt
Lang inspection
Delta Hive farewell
Top Bar Hive inspection
Lang Hive inspection
Top Bar inspections
Lang Hive inspections
Top Bar inspections
The bees got their seasonal shade this weekend.
We're starting to hit triple digits pretty regularly, so the bees need some shade.
Tow popups and a length of shade cloth to fill the gaps, and they're good to go.
"What shade?", you're thinking... This shot was taken early morning (look at the length of the shadows) - the shade is set for mid-day on.
Today we did a little work in the apiary.
It has been a challenge to keep the graboids and other weeds down around the hives, and when the weeds grow against the hive legs they form a bridge for ants and other crawling critters to enter (bypassing the little tubs of oil in which the legs sit).
Plus we've seen no evidence either physical or from the few times we've had the game cam up, of any wild animals taking an interest in the hives, which leads us to believe the fence is an unnecessary restriction to movement and maintenance of the hives.
Therefore, the fence came down (front part).
After Kit disconnected all the attachments of fence to tee posts, the tee posts had to come out - which is easier said than done.
After some thought, we employed a trick we learned to remove tree stumps, which you see above.
The chain is wrapped around the base of the tee post and up around the tire, to the ATV.
The chain over the tire provides an upward force, pulling the tee post vertical and out of the ground as the ATV moves forward.
It was much like painting - 90% of the time was spent connecting everything and the other 10% was the actual extraction.
We moved the Top Bar hives back and laid down a layer of cardboard, then a special UV-resistant tarp, then we moved the hives back to as close to their original position as we could determine (having covered it up).
The Langstroth hives present a problem, and we left them just as you see them here because we can't figure a good way to execute the same maneuver.
We're dealing with very heavy boxes here, and we just can't move them.
Commercial bee keepers use forklifts through the holes in the cinder blocks to move them around.
Anything we use with the lift mechanism on the tractor will also tilt the hives forward as it lifts... so we're scratching our heads.
Best thing I can come up with is 2x4s through the cinder blocks and four people, one on each end of each 2x4, to distribute the weight and lift the hives.
Still thinking of a way to use machines and not our backs.
Back To Homestead Texas Home
Ground Breaking
Clearing For The Cabin
Labor Day
Labor Day II
The Tractor
The Tractor Barn
The Cabin
The Truck Patch
The Hay Field
The Project Trailer (mobile shop)
The Pasture
The Barndo

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