Saturday, March 26, 2011

not bees, but they eat bees

*NOTE* Kevin thinks that a post about chickens doesn't belong on a bee blog. But I'm not making a separate chicken blog, that's crazy.

In January we ordered our chicks from the internet. And then they came express mail a couple of weeks ago. Yes, in a box. Chicks-in-a-box. Not to be confused with this.

That morning I had a conference to work at and I had planned out my day just-so, when my cell phone rang. It was the postmaster, and the chicks had been in transit an extra day(!)

I drove over at 7am and they handed the peeping box to me.

Expecting certain chick death, I was surprised to see all 5 chicks were alive, see below.

Unfortunately, two chicks met their doom in the following days, despite our best efforts. RIP Lemon Chicken and Rosemary Chicken.
I took Lemon to the vet (like an idiot) thinking that they would say "just do this simple thing" or "sorry, she's a gonner." But they fully diagnosed stress-induced dehydration and kidney failure. Sheesh, it's just a 4 dollar chick, people. No need for all that, it's not a horse. They were disappointed that I didn't agree to an overnight fluid IV treatment for $200.00. (Sockswithsandalsland is filled with animal-kooks!)

The surviving three chicks are, in order of size: General [Tsao's] Chicken, Funky Chicken and Butter Chicken. Butter Chicken is the people's chick-of-choice.

Kid R with Funky Chicken.

I'm also somewhat surprised no chickens have been mortally injured by our kids (less we forget the Accidental Butterfly Massacre of 2010, woe!)

In this little 4H-suburban-edition experiment, I've noticed that the chicks are much like other babies: they eat, sleep, poop and cry. They get big fast and they make a mess.

Kevin fed them a worm yesterday and this morning and scrappy little Butter won the prize every time. Hooray for the underdog.

We have their little barn-coop waiting for them to get big enough to move uptown. Right now they have a studio [cardboard] apartment in our dining room, complete with heat lamps and roosting stick.

Here's the barn, mid-way through the build (I'm too lazy to get up and go out back in the rain and take a pic of the finished coop).

It now has an egg-door up top in the "hayloft" and a roof, etc.

When they move in, I'll have a roost-warming blog post and show it off...

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Weekly graphs: March 20, 2011

I'm going to post graphs weekly for now. We'll see how it goes

This week's theme: Bees don't like rain, or at least they don't gain weight when its rainy.

Note this graph is actually for 8 days.

I tagged thursday night with 'Maintenance': I was working on some outlets and the computer that is monitoring the scale lost power. When it was fixed, it read flat all night till i kicked it. All was restored come morning. Data seems to be inline with expectations, so i'm calling it the same.


Monday, March 14, 2011

A week in.

The scale has been under the hive for a week now, and i thought i'd post a couple of updates:

First, some graphs:
Last 24 hrs:

Last week:

The big spike on tue was due to some imbalance in the scale, possibly caused by settling or something. I think the data before it is usable, but if not the data after certainly is.

Also the scale has some temperature fluctuations and is probably accurate to +/- 1/2 lb. The resolution is much higher, but do to the temperature effects and compensation, between any two points could be up to a lb off.

The daily pattern seems to be:
* bees wake up and get flying around 9am
* hive gains most weight between 11am and 3pm
* weight peaks around 6:30pm
* weight tapers off during the next 6-8 hrs, presumably due to evaporation.


Thursday, March 10, 2011

Ups and downs.. evaporation?

There was much discussion about whether all the weight gained by the hive was nectar, and how much would subsequently be lost by evaporation.

Turns out to be quite a lot.

Nectar is reportedly 80%+ water, whereas honey is typically less than 20% water. So in theory you will lose 6/10ths of the volume before it's honey. I was curious to see how long it would take the bees to evaporate the nectar into honey, and sort of expected it to take place in warmer weather.

Nope. Apparently the night time is the right time for evaporation. At least that's my best guess as to what is happening.

All the bees are in there flapping their wings to keep the brood warm, and it seems they are evaporating at the same time. Hive weight seems to peak around 5:30pm right now, and steadily decreases throughout the night, leveling off around 5am.

[ update, did some math, and by weight the nectar to honey ratio is about 9:4, eg 9 lbs of nectar becomes 4 lbs of honey ]

I think i'll start using the weight at 5am as the reference point for how much was gained that day, since the hour-by-hour haul during the day varies so much, and the evaporation seems to continue through the night.

Oh, you want a graph? of course you do:

The purple line on top is today's readings, pink is yesterday, and the light blue is the day-over-day difference between the two. The day-over-day was offset by +100 to get it to all show up on the same graph.

So the net from yesterday (as tabulated at 5am, after most of the evaporation) was about 1.5lbs, and today remains to be seen, but it looks like it'll be around a pound. It's hard to tell what will happen; the weight peaked earlier today vs yesterday, so i'm hoping they got a head start on the evaporation.. We'll have to wait till 5am to find out.

I think I'll wait till 8am or so ;)

busy bees, either way.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Chubby bees

We have data!

So far, the hive seems to have gained around 2lbs today! Will see how it goes by evening, but it's following the general pattern i expected:

[update! looks like almost 3lbs]

* morning: hive weighs less as foraging bees leave
* 11am-3pm hive gets heavier during peak foraging hours

the little ups and downs are probably artifacts of the imperfect temperature compensation, and its affinity for even numbered values. There's probably a mathy way to fix some of that, but it'll have to be post-processed. Maybe i'll just have to get a real temperature sensor installed.

the way it gets lighter in the morning may just be a compensation artifact, and may indicate that the foraging bees really don't weigh that much.

updated graph:

Monday, March 7, 2011

We're watching what they eat

I love data. graphs. trends. love it.

So when we started keeping bees, harvesting honey, etc, i had a need to know more about what was going on.

I was initially going to try and make a bee-counter camera, but it turns out the little computer i have isn't powerful enough for that. Too bad.

Plan B: Weigh them. Lots of people weigh beehives - heavier in general is better, and there are lots of ways to find out how heavy a hive is: tip them, put bathroom scales under them periodically, etc.

But i need more. I want to know how much it weighs all the time. I want a graph of this data. Know anywhere that sells scales made for beehives? That let you make graphs and check every minute or so? Me either.

So i built one! I made a scale for my hive which reports data whenever it is asked, which is currently about every minute.

* a bathroom scale ($20 on ebay)
* a microcontroller (like an arduino, an attiny85) which i could talk to via USB.

I took the scale apart and used the strain gauges and analog bits from the scale, an opamp/instrumentation amp to amplify the tiny voltage that the scale provides, and hooked it into the ADC on the microcontroller. That all connects to a little 4 watt computer in the garage, which relays the readings to another computer which stores the data.

It's now sitting under the hive and making nice graphs. So far the hive hasn't changed much in weight in the day and a half it's been running.

A couple pictures:

The scale is the yellow thing at the very bottom. Under the white base.

a graph:

The thick purple line (at the bottom) is lbs, and the other lines are used to calculate that one. The uptick at the very beginning is charlie replacing the plastic cover and the brick that holds it down.

The readings from the scale/microcontroller vary proportional to temperature, so i added some stuff to compensate for those swings. It's mathy so i won't go into it here. It works pretty well though :)

So, that's my hack for this week.