Monday, May 23, 2016

Dragonflies and Honeybees

 Most people think dragonflies are beautiful, lovely creatures, and love that they help keep the mosquito population down.  Which is great. They also eat ants, termites, and other small insects.

Including bees.

Bees.  Yes, bees.  Honey Bees. MY Bees.

I wanted this to be an informative, teaching post moment, but the truth is I was so surprised to discover that dragonflies eat honey bees, that I'm not even sure where to start with the informative part because I just want to scream "They are eating my bees and we SAW them do it!"

I mean, sure, I whipped out my phone and started googling as fast as I could to see if dragonflies do indeed eat honeybees, but truthfully we had just witnessed the bee murdering carnivore feasting on it's prize with our own eyes, so google was truly unnecessary!

Dragonfly, lying in wait in the grass. Yes, I belly crawled to get this pic...but this blue bodied jerk  POSED and bobbed his head at me for SEVERAL shots! 
But, google I did because I needed to know just what was I up against. I found several informative sites, and while one said honeybees aren't the snack of choice for dragonflies, they will eat them. Almost NO insect can escape a dragonfly and their basket shaped legs, especially since dragonflies flap their wings LESS than most other insects do each minute. 

I read that when a colony of termites, ants, or even BEES are found by dragonflies, they will team up. TEAM UP!  and share the delicious carnivore's dream smorgasbord.
Yes, I'm referring to dragonflies as carnivores, because that's what they are!!  They can eat their weight in bugs in 30 minutes!  That is comparable to you or me trying to eat 100 lbs in thirty minutes.  Wait, what?!
Dragonflies also lay in wait for their prey.  Yep, that's right. See this pic  below? In the red circle is a green dragonfly that was lying in the grass, waiting for bees to fly into or from the hive, and then it took flight and tried to snatch a bee.  Thankfully it missed, but I don't think they missed often.

One website says since the dragonflies lifespan is so short, it isn't much threat to honeybees. I found another site that says dragonflies are considered a nuisance to apiaries, since hive populations can suffer severe damage before the problem is known.  What I've read on Beemaster, most beekeepers don't seem too concerned with the dragonflies, except when it comes to mating queens. I read some information there about queen bees not returning from their mating flight due to dragonflies, so if a person were breeding queens, this could be a problem.

We're on the water. We have a lot of dragonflies. I also have a lot of bees, and I'm concerned that my beautiful hive is just a never ending smorgasbord for these winged devils.

I found some good information on this site  about dragonflies themselves.

No real good information has been found (yet) on protecting my bees from these winged demons.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Risks with Incubating Shipped Eggs

Sixteen eggs that had to be removed from the incubator.

There are risks involved with incubating shipped eggs. Sometimes even the very best packing job by the seller doesn't mean your eggs will develop. How the shipment of eggs is handled during transit by the post office has a big effect on how your eggs are internally. All of these eggs arrived in perfect condition and were phenomenally packaged by the sellers. (The two eggs in the upper left were not shipped, they are from my own orps).

So we're just about 2 weeks in on the incubating of my own chocolate and black orps and the shipped eggs. Upon candling last night, all of the eggs I removed were either clear, had blood rings, or an obviously dead embryo (no veining, chick not moving).

So, I set 17 eggs from my own flock, had to remove 2. I have 15 chocolate/black bantam orp eggs going strong.

I set 12 Lavender Orpington eggs that were shipped, had to remove 8!! This is truly not the norm, and yes, I am mildly disappointed, but that comes with the risks we choose to take when having eggs shipped in. I have 4 lavender Orpington eggs left in the incubator, and one was questionable. Also, this seller sent exactly 12 eggs, no extras. Sometimes if sellers have cooperative hens they send extras with your purchase. This is dependent on how cooperative chickens are or not.

The seller of the Dominique eggs sent me 18!! So six extras with the dozen I had ordered! Three never made it into the incubator due to having been cracked in shipment. I set 15 and last night had to remove 6, leaving 9 going strong in the incubator. This is decent results, considering these eggs obviously had a rough trip! Upon candling the Dominique eggs, I can see several with damaged or broken air cells. This tells me there was rough handling involved during shipping.

The last shipment of eggs was six Mille Fleur Cochin's. This shipment has the best results by far, but the eggs were shipped within the same state as us and they arrived next day. They literally had the least amount of time in transit of all of the other eggs (the exception being my own eggs that never shipped). Out of 9 eggs, six developed. I had removed the 3 that candled clear one week into the incubation.

Do I blame the sellers for the non-developed/stopped developing eggs? No, not at all!  This is not a reflection on the seller, their packing skills, or the fertility of their flocks. 100% off all of the eggs I had received were packed phenomenally! No damage to any of the shipping boxes when they arrived,  and only in the box of Dominique eggs were there any cracked eggs during shipment (and they were hairline cracks, not all out broke apart).

I'm actually quite pleased with how this hatch is going, except with the Lavender Orps.  This is a color I definitely want, so my hope with those is that I have at least a pair hatch out to raise out and hatch more of my own from.

So the reason I chose to post about this today is because I know a lot of breeders do their best to package and handle eggs carefully when shipping to a customer.  I want people to understand there are risks that are out of the breeders control to hatching shipped eggs.  Once the eggs leave their possession, your shipment is solely at the mercy of the post office. Now, they do their best to handle with care, but accidents happen.  Boxes fall on top of other boxes, postal trucks get hot, roads can be rough and bumpy. Packages get lost, re-rerouted, and sometimes over looked, giving them more time in shipping than they should have. All of this should be considered when weighing the risks of ordering hatching eggs.

Ideally, you should try to seek out breeders that are close to you, and if they have the breed you're seeking, have them shipped from the shortest distance possible.  If you don't have the options of ordering close from home, just know that the risks to shipping from further away are greater. Weigh out if you're willing to take those risks.  I've had success in shipping eggs as far as Alaska from Ohio.  The recipient of those eggs was thrilled when they hatched, and so was I!  So you can most definitely have an amazing hatch rate from shipped eggs, no matter the distance shipped.

Don't blame sellers for issues beyond their control.  Be understanding and honest, MOST sellers are happy to replace or reship lost and/or damaged eggs because they really DO want you to have a phenomenal hatch. Be willing to pay for shipping on anything you need to have re-shipped.  This is just common courtesy. I am happy if I am able to get ONE hatchling from shipped eggs, because it honestly amazes me that they can survive the shipping and develop to hatch!

My lock down is next Friday, May 27.  I should have chicks hatching over Memorial Weekend. I cannot wait to see what I get!

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Building a City Biddy Coop

So, I'm not super good about keeping up with this blog. We've been super busy, and the blog is the one thing that is easy to neglect without guilt. 
But I wanted to share the City Biddy coop the Hubster and I built together over this past week. Yes, it took a week because we had to work on it around work and school schedules, and around the rain.
I knew I wanted a foundation of sorts that would prevent anything from chewing in from the bottom.  These four 16x16 inch cement tiles worked great for that.  These were also repurposed, as they were already here and partially buried in the front yard, so we just dug them out and moved them to the back yard.
Then we started our cuts for assembling the coop. This was the floor panel. I've had these plans for about 3 years or so, so I was super excited to finally build one!
Assembling the floor framing. 

All of the parts are measured and cut out prior to the build.
After attaching the floor panel to the frame, we set it on the cement tiles. I love that it fit right up against the sidewalk. This provides a nice walkway to the door side of the coop.
Framing up the back wall. This was the absolute easiest wall. LOL!
Once the back wall was completely assembled, and the pop door had been cut out and framed in (we made it slide from right to left), we attached it to the floor. Added front panels and the rafters. It went together fairly quickly after this. (Note the bee box in the back ground? Blog post coming soon!)
Attaching nest box support beams (with some young helpers!) Prior to this step, we had attached hardware cloth as window screening above where the nest boxes go.
The nest boxes gave us a little bit of trouble, and we both got a smidge frustrated. But once we realized what we had done wrong (I may have misread the instructions and we assembled them backwards...) we were able to fix the issue and voila! Nest boxes!
Inside view after we set the nest boxes in. We attached the interior nest box panel.
Exterior view of the nest boxes, and we attached the front panel around the nest boxes.
We had to stop shortly after attaching the nest boxes, because it was getting late. We were also expecting rain, so we set the roof and nest box lid in place until the next day.

Interior view of nest boxes..
Interior view of the coop and roost.
If you know me, then you know how much I am for repurposing, reducing, reusing, recycling building materials.  We moved the red tin with us from Ohio. Yes, I said we moved it.  We sold and gave away a lot of stuff, especially farm stuff, before we moved.  But this tin?  This I stubbornly held on to...and I'm glad I did! We used it to roof the coop.
 We attached drip edge all around the treated roof panel before attaching the metal roofing.  We still have a nice piece of the metal roofing left that I can use to cover their run when we have it built.
The back view of the coop after we finished the chicken door and track.  And you can see in this pic, I started painting.
Front view.  We hung the window panel, attached the side door, and attached the nest box panel.  We still need to add locks to the door, but we had sadly lost 2 of our hens yesterday morning to predation, so we quickly moved the remaining 3 to the coop and used a cement block as a redneck "lock" for the door.

As you can see, I managed to get one side painted. Temporary prop to hold the window open for good airflow, and cement block lock :D  Hoping to work on the run and finish painting after work tomorrow.

I absolutely love, love, love this little coop! I will also love when we have it done to completion.