Grapes, Raccoons, and One Sexy Lady!
What I Did on My Day Off
Country life in Louisiana!
What can I say?
Summers are hot, winters are mild but sometimes cold, and there is always something to do. I'm not talking about entertainment either. It's a constant struggle to beat back Mother Nature. She always tries to replace the hard-earned homestead with jungle!
So, I found myself with a day off, and the Hunny-Do list was caught up.
I checked with the Missus, just in case, and she didn't have anything to add to my chores, so I got busy.
The first thing I did was take a walk to the vineyard with my wiener dog, Molly.
We usually check our traps for grape thieves every morning. Sometimes we find opossums and raccoons, and occasionally we have a skunk!
Skunks are rare, but they present a particular problem in the release process. I keep several large pieces of cardboard to shield myself from their spray. Most of the time if you move slow and don't alarm them they will calmly walk out of the trap without too much fuss once the door opens.
Below are a few short videos on what we found this particular morning.
Raccoons and opossums can wipe out a row of ripe grapes overnight! It is discouraging to a vintner to walk out to his vines only to find his hard work gone to feed the birds and wildlife in the area. If your crop is gone it's gone until next year; all your hard work went to fatten a thief!
A man's first reaction is to reap vengeance on these varmints but as the Missus pointed out once when I was about to dispatch the rascals, all of Mother Nature's critters have to eat and if I insisted on providing a smorgasbord then don't blame them for showing up for supper.
So now, Molly and I load them in the truck and drive about ten miles down the road into the thick swamp and release them. She likes to ride and sticks her head out the window and lets her ears flap in the breeze. The raccoons get a pardon, and everyone is happy.
When we got back home, Molly crawled into her daybed at the living room window where she could watch while I mowed the grass. I trimmed close to the apiary and noticed it needed some maintenance too. So after I finished mowing I let the wiener dog back outside so she could follow me around while I worked on that.
I used a sharp hoe to cut weeds away from the apiary stand and then raked all the leaves and debris from under and around the area.
It was hot, and I could hear the bees fanning inside the hives. I had started feeding them sugar water to supplement their stores during the midsummer dearth and had reduced the entrances to mitigate the feral bees from robbing my girls.
Unfortunately, this also restricted the openings for air circulation.
After a bit of thought, I decided to make a device that would restrict the hive openings so that the bees could defend it and provide for ventilation too.
I used blocks of wood large enough to cover the openings and cut notches in these that I covered with 1/8th-inch hardware cloth. I used small metal eye screws as handles. Here is a picture of the finished device.
The screens seemed to work well until I observed several bees trying to pull trash out of the hives and piling it up in the void space inside the block. I eventually solved this by putting the handles on the other side and making the screen flush against the hive opening.
You can see a couple of bees in this next video fanning at the reduced entrance. It's hard to see, but they are also inside the screen fanning.
In the video below you can see where I have cleaned up the area. I hung wax moth traps at both ends of the stand, and I'm using test samples of concrete that I get for free for hive top weights. These keep the covers from warping away from the hive and also prevents the raccoons from helping themselves to a meal of honey and bee larvae. The inverted jars are feeders.
I sprinkled diatomaceous earth under and around the hives to kill the Small Hive Beetle larvae that mature in the ground, and it also prevents ants from bothering the hives. That's the white snowy stuff you can see under the colonies in some of these videos.
This stuff is fine silica particles from the shells of ancient diatoms (microscopic sea creatures). The powder will cut an insect or larvae to pieces if it gets into the cracks of their exoskeletons. The bees don't crawl around on the ground, so they are usually safe.
After all that work, I sat down and watched the girls come and go for awhile. Imagine my surprise when I looked up to find my new Italian Queen outside the hive walking around on the landing board!
I spent $20.00 on that bug, and she decided to strut around in the sun and shake her big butt at me too! I was scared something was going to hurt her while she was outside.
She is one sexy lady! Isn't she?
I was much relieved when she finally wandered back inside.
The sounds of the cicadas in the trees and the gentle buzzing soon had me nodding off in my lawn chair. When I awoke it was time to move on to another task, but not before I watched a digger wasp build a burrow in front of the apiary.
It was a fine day indeed! I accomplished much and enjoyed myself.
Yes, it's hard to beat a lazy summer day in Cenla!