Bees and Ducklings are Here!!!

Friday was an eventful day.  Not only did we pick up our three sexed Fawn and White Indian Runner ducklings, but we got the call that our package of honeybees was also ready!

First there was some bad news though – one of the first things I always do in the morning is check email and facebook.  One of the very first things to pop up on facebook was a story about a horrible accident on the nearby freeway involving a semi tipping over while delivering Belleville Bees.  I ordered my bees through Belleville, and I was so sure that this accident was involving the delivery of the package bees!  Would I be getting bees at all this year?  It was a moment of great disappointment, as I’d been looking forward to having bees again for nearly a year.

It was quickly obvious, though, that these were hives being delivered to pollinate a field.  What a horrible, horrible accident.  I heard there were 3.7 million honeybees on that semi, and while beekeepers were able to rescue some, many more were either crushed in the accident, or killed on purpose by the firefighters spraying foam.

Our package was fine, though, and was SO MUCH MORE HEALTHY than the package we bought last year, which arrived with a dead queen and more than an inch of dead bees on the bottom of the box.  This one had only a few dead bees.

Last time, we got Italians.  This time, we were swayed into getting New World Carniolans by a local beekeeper, who thinks they are the best for my area.

Hiving a new package of bees is an exhilarating experience!  Even though you are literally touching bees, having them crawl on you, and buzzing all around you, it never feels frightening.  It’s just one of the most awesome, incredible feelings!  Neither one of us were stung, and even though we were just wearing jackets with veils and rubber dish-washing gloves rather than a full suit, we never felt like we were in danger of being stung.  It’s just so, so cool.

Our hive is a Warre hive, and one of the nice things about this particular one (made by Sweet Valley Hives) is the queen release ring system they have.  Instead of hanging the queen cage down inside the hive, you just slot it into the side of the hive. In this picture, you can see the bees crawling around this slot, checking things out.  The white tab you see is part of the queen cage – it’s the hanging strip.

When it’s time to see if the worker bees have accepted her and freed her from the cage, it’s as simple as pulling the cage out of the side and looking!  Today, I did just this – not wearing any protection at all, not even gloves – and the queen has been freed!

The bees have already also made a large section of comb, and today I saw about five bees coming into the hive with pollen.  Unlike last year, I think this lot of bees are off to a great start.

I made a quick little video right after we hived the package of bees.  The audio isn’t very good, but you can see all the bees flying around us.

After we picked up the bees, we went to Valley Farm Center for the ducklings.  They are one of the few places that offer special orders of breeds, and also sexed ducklings.

Sadly, the ducklings must have been exposed to something nasty, because just a couple hours after we brought them home, one of them started having trouble walking and was staggering around.  Within another hour, she died in my hand as I was holding her.  Mom did some googling, and found out that the symptoms and rapid onset and death matched exactly Duck Viral Hepatitis, which is highly contageous among waterfowl, and has a 90% mortality rate.  I called Valley Farm Center, and learned some of the other ducklings that came in with ours were sick/dying.  Terrifed we were going to lose all three, I sterilized the brooder box, and everything in it.  I don’t know if that did the trick, but it’s now past the 48 hour incubation time for DVH, and the other two ducklings are in perfect health.  I think they are going to be ok.  Whew.

We named them Millie and Maisie.  Maisie (surprise, surprise!) turned out to be a crested Indian Runner.  I’m happy about that, because I love crested ducks!  You can just see her little topknot in this pic:

They are both so cute.  I really think there is nothing on earth more adorable than a duckling!

Look! Here is Millie asleep in my hand!

In garden news, we finally demolished the falling-down, rotting shed in the chicken yard.  I should have gotten pictures of its decrepid state, but I forgot.  Here’s a picture of the new space I have to work with.  I’m still planning what to do, but I think it will involve another grape trellis.

There beyond the make-shift fence, is the bee yard.

I planted some pasture mix beyond the hive, which is starting to green out now.  When it’s more mature, I’ll let the chickens in for a  short time every few days to get some green forage in them.  The trash cans are my container potatoes, the bed at the bottom is seeded with millet for the quail, and there’s comfry, kale, and blackberries as well.

All of the fruiting trees and vines are doing REALLY well.  The hardy kiwis are covered in buds, which is so exciting.

The fuzzy kiwi is growing well, but because we only planted it last year, I don’t think we’re going to get fruit.  The fuzzy green-and-red leaves are beautiful, though.  It still kind of blows my mind that growing kiwi is even possible here in the Pacific NW.  It just seems like such a tropical fruit.

Also fun is the “Tiny Tim” tomatoes I have growing in the kitchen window.  This is a mini variety that does well in lower light, and only gets about a foot high.  We have little green tomatoes already!

Oh, and do you remember when I said we weren’t getting a greenhouse this year?  Yeah, I need to stop saying things like that.  A while back, I said I’d built my last quail coop…since then, I’ve built another.  A little one just for the extra girls.  I need to get pictures up for you.

And now, after I said no greenhouse…we’re building one.  From a kit, though, not from scratch.  Mom found this company called Solexx, and their product sounds perfect for us.  The kit is arriving tomorrow, so this weekend, we’ll be putting it together.  I have all kinds of little melons and tomatoes started just to put in it!

4 responses to “Bees and Ducklings are Here!!!

  1. Most enjoyable post ever! I love everything you’ve got going on over there. The baby Indian Runners are insanely adorable. Especially the sleeping one in your hand. Sorry you lost one though.

    The bees looked great. I’m admittedly afraid of getting bees. I’m on a 7k Sq ft lot and I’m not sure if it’s big enough to put somewhere where the bees won’t get bothered. I have a dog too as well as my neighbors. Any advice? A friend just texted me today that her friend rescues hives and is looking for a place to set up. Now I have the gumption and zero know how, but it sounds like an endeavor that I’d thrive in. But my dogs and chickens, will they get stung? I’ve tried to train sasha to never attack pollinators of any variety, but if she slips will the colony flip out and then rampage the entire neighborhood as people run screaming “Why? Why has James done this to us? Oh my go… arrgh. BOOM!

    Or are they chill?

    Also, Indian runners, to me, might be the coolest ducks I’ve seen on the duck ordering websites and the rest of the interwebs. I hear-tell that they’re good at maneuvering through the garden with little flora damage while foraging. On account of their excellent posture. They also seem more respectable than other ducks. What are your thoughts of them as a breed? Does one require a pool or pond to husband one? Will one be lonely if he’s surrounded by chickens? Who are also total bitches to those that show weakness or fear.

    Too many questions perhaps… Still, a wonderful post!

    • Thanks, James! Your comment was most enjoyable as well. 🙂 Regarding the bees, I am a complete newbie at keeping a hive, so I can’t really say how it’s all going to work out. I do know that the experts I’ve spoken to say they LOVE placing their hives in city backyards, because bees thrive inside of city limits. Lots of flower choices, and no mass fly-over pesticide spraying. My lot is only about 8k, and the bees don’t bother anyone. The important thing is to aim the hive entrance away from high-traffic areas – or your neighbors’ yards. Bees fly out of the hive in a straight line, and you don’t want to always be running into each other! Some people put a tall plant or fence in line with the hive a foot or more from the entrance to make the bees fly up and over it, rather than zooming along at the running-into-people height. Bees forage up to five miles from their hive, so they are going to be pretty spread out once they’re in the air – not all converging on your garden or your neighbors’. About the chickens/bees situation, I was unsure about that myself…until I read this article. It’s awesomely helpful.
      I have noticed the chickens avoid contact with bees and hornets. I observed my mother hen teach her babies to avoid yellowjackets by grabbing a dead one that the babies were reaching for and THROWING it far, far away (that hen should have been on a softball team!) all the while scolding and screaming at her babies. Your dog should be good as well – as long as she’s trained not to go after bees. Bees pretty much only get aggressive if they are being attacked. Just keep Sasha from jumping up on the hive. Even if she slips up, worst case is, she’ll get stung. Bad for her, but it won’t bring down a neighborhood-wide apocalypse.

      Indian Runners are the BEST duck for gardens. Besides being awesomely ornamental, they are, as you said, super good at devouring slugs while not crushing plants. Unlike a fat Pekin, which will squash whatever plants you are most attached to, without fail. (I do speak from experience of fat Pekins!) Ducks vary in their need for water, but Runners are ok without a pond. They absolutely need a bucket deep enough to dip their heads in, or else they can choke on their food, and I also give them one of those plastic kiddie pools to play in. They are fun to watch swimming, and bonus! this year I am putting a drain in mine so I can attach a hose and direct the dirty water out into the garden where it can fertilize the garden. One duck really isn’t enough; they are social animals and you should have at least two. If you let them be in company with the chickens, I’d avoid male ducks. Duck/chicken anatomy is not really compatible, and your chickens could be injured if the male tries to mate with them. (And he would; male ducks are sex-crazed maniacs, really.)

      • Most enlightening! Makes a lot of sense regarding the line of bee movement. Is that where “make a bee line” comes from I wonder? I think there may be some spots I can safely put the hive. I just love the idea of supporting such a noble community of pollinators!

        I’m also sold on the Indian Runners! I don’t know why I wrote he instead of she. I would want to increase my all girls farm. No boys allowed! I have enough testosterone to go around.

        Cheers, and again, great post!!


  2. Pingback: Bees and Ducklings are Here!!! | Out of Eden | WORLD ORGANIC NEWS

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