How I Got Started

I started Butterfly gardening many years ago. My yard has been a progression over the years, and has made many transformations. Twenty years ago I experienced Hurricane Andrew. My yard and house were destroyed. We decided not to replace the pool screening and open up the backyard and put in some landscaping. That was the official beginning of my love for gardening in South Florida. I added a beautiful water garden years ago, and have been adding host and larvae plants for pollinators, mostly for the butterfly, for as many years as I can remember. I had my yard certified as a Natural Habitat, through the National Wildlife Foundation. To have a natural habitat you need to provide and meet certain requirements: 1. Provide a food source, 2. Provide a water source, 3. Cover, 4. A place to raise young. I try not to use any pesticides in my yard. I vermicompost and recycle as many of my food scraps as possible. If I had more land I would have a huge compost bin to recycle all my yard cuttings. Basically, I try to lessen my carbon footprint on this earth. In my own little world or backyard I try to provide an ecosystem in my water garden, provide birdbaths, birdfeeders, hummingbird nectar sources, feeders, puddling areas, host plants and nectar plants for butterflies and other pollinators. I am hoping to raise everyone’s awareness of the importance of saving our Butterflies, Blooms & Bees. Without them our world and food source will be in trouble. I hope you all enjoy my journey. I am not a Master Gardener, or Master Beekeeper, an Entomologist, or Journalists. I am simply a Backyard Gardener who is trying to lessen her Carbon Footprint of this Earth.

I hope you enjoy my blogs.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Let’s Celebrate National Pollinator’s Week

June 18-24, 2012 has been designated National Pollinator Week by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. I have been looking forward to this week for several months. I wish that I could have gotten directly involved in promoting this week, but I am only one person. I know I am doing my individual part by my sustainable gardening that is attracting many pollinators to my garden. Maybe next year I can figure out how to actually organize an event during Pollinator’s Week.

I found out about National Pollinator’s Week by following the group, Pollinator’s Partnership. http://pollinator.org/index.html The Pollinator Partnership is the world’s largest organization dedicated exclusively to pollinator issues, supporting bees, butterflies, bats, birds, and more; and is working to reverse and prevent declines. Visit www.pollinator.org/media.htm for more information about 2012 National Pollinator Week and how to celebrate. There are some events in the state of Florida but none in the Miami area. Maybe if we are able to organize a Miami Dade Beekeeping Association we might be able to increase community awareness in the future.

There are many ways to attract pollinators to your garden. Invite pollinators to your neighborhood by planting a pollinator friendly habitat in your garden, farm, school, park or just about anywhere! Become aware of your native plants for your area. Plant them in your garden. Decrease your use of pesticides and herbicides. They will kill the very pollinators that you are trying to attract to your garden. You can find out what plants to grow in your garden by going to the pollinator’s website. By inputting your zip code they inform you what plants are native to your ecoregion. Become involved in your Native Plant Society. Here is information for the Florida Native Plant Society; http://www.fnps.org/.

There are many good books on the subject. Some of my recommendations are: “Attracting Native Pollinators: The Xerces Society Guide to Conserving North American Bees and Butterflies.” Xerces Society. “The Bee Garden: How to create or adapt a garden to attract and nurture bees.” Little, Maureen. “Bringing Nature Home: How you can sustain Wildlife with Native Plants” Tallamy, Douglas W. “Your Florida Guide to Butterfly Gardening” Daniels, Jaret C.

I have been attracting pollinators to my garden for many years. I started by adding plants to my garden that would attract butterflies, and hummingbirds. I expanded my pollinator garden by adding a bat house, native bee houses, and recently added honey bees. Like I say in the introduction to my blog, I am just a backyard gardener hoping to raise some awareness about the importance of saving our pollinators, of which many are endangered.

Get involved!!! Plant a pollinator garden. You might really enjoy watching all the different pollinators that visit.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Four New Hives

Several months ago my neighbor built me two new hives. I needed the hives so I could split my original two hives as they were very large and I was concerned about swarming. If you recall, I had a temporary moment of stupidity and built the hives to the specifications of Les Crowder’s TBH plans. They were beautifully built. The plans were excellent and my husband and neighbor did a terrific job. I was so excited until I started to move the first comb over. I realized at that moment that the hives were different sizes. It made the process difficult, but not impossible and one that I would never want to repeat again. It was one of those moments that you question your intelligence! I am sure we have all had one of those moments. Right??

I convinced my husband and neighbor to rebuild them. It was not easy as they really only wanted to build two, but I convinced them that I really needed 4 new hives. My neighbor even built me a small nuc sized hive to hold top bars when I am working in the hives. So many times I need to remove a bar and I had no place to put it. So I balance it on another hive. This is going to make working in the hives so much easier.



Earlier in the week I decided that I needed to paint the outside of the hives. The weather here in Miami can be very difficult with all the rain and humidity. I noticed that in the few months since the hives were built that they were starting to discolor. I think that over time they would warp and not weather well. So, I decided to paint the new hives. I went with a very bright color called Mango Festival. It looks very good with the covers that I painted, since there is a lot of orange in the flowers that I painted on the lids.



The good news is that all four hives are Queen Right for sure!! Hopefully during the transfer all the queens were not disturbed. I was worried that if my hives were not queenright, I would have to look for queens elsewhere. Fortunately my hives look good finally. I heard this week that it has been very difficult to get queens in Florida this year because the weather has been so hot and also very rainy. I am sure that is why it was such a difficult process for the splits to make a new queen. My queens are laying pretty well. Hive number one is still recovering but looking much better. The other hives look great!



My biggest concern in the transfer was lifting the heavy hives onto the cinder blocks. I tried to get a friend to help me but she was not able to. I only had one little difficult moment, they were in fact as heavy as I expected. I think it is a little more difficult moving a 48 inch top bar hive then a 10 frame square langstroth. At least I only have to move and lift the top bar hive one time. With a langstroth lifting heavy supers is something that has to be done all the time. With a TBH you only have to lift one bar at a time, definitely an advantage. While I was moving hive#2 over it tilted and almost fell. I was able to catch it, no broken combs, but the bees really didn’t like it at all. I know you really don’t know my bees, but they can be a little grumpy and temperamental. After the hive fell they definitely became agitated and stung me several times through my gloves. One of the stings was right at the tip of my middle finger. It is pretty swollen and sore tonight. Typing is not that easy, and it is on my left hand which is my dominant hand. My only question in the process is that there are still a few bees lingering in the old boxes. Tomorrow morning I am going to go out and move the old hives before my bees wake and start foraging.



I am going to try to use the old hives in my neighbor’s yard. I really don’t have any more room to expand in my yard, so my neighbor has offered to let me use his yard. We are going to try to adjust the bottom board so they are the same size as the others, and I should be able to expand to several more hives. My neighbor Ilia loves honey, and is willing to let me work the hives and give him a percentage of the honey. I may be able to split my hives one more time during the summer if they continue to do as well as they are doing now. He has a nice little fenced in area that he used to use for his dogs. It gets early morning light, so it is a good location and isolated from the main part of his yard.



Well one more hurdle accomplished. As a new beekeeper anything I have to complete for the first time without a mentor is a little intimidating. Having all my equipment the same size is going to make working my hives so much easier. A big thank you to my neighbor and my husband!!
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