Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Moopers and Layers

Just a quick update on the girls. They weathered the hail storm but have been very quiet ever since. I am going to attribute this to the chilly damp weather.

Red's hive is mooping along. They are finally starting to feel like they are growing in number and are using seven of their ten frames. Alas, I am not hopeful that they will produce a drop of honey for me this year. Nonetheless, I am grateful to have them. Her bees are lovely and sweet tempered.

Trey, our newest queen, has a hive I just cannot figure out. They had queen cups on three frames. These cups are not for tea but for a new queen in preparation for swarming. Hello! They have used barely half the hive so why swarm??? They were atleast three weeks away from swarming so I scrapped them off and moved some frames around so they can work to build out the foundation they still have on two frames. Perhaps they are just not busy enough.

Hope. Thank goodness I have Hope. That's her with the green dot. She's started to lay many babies in the upper chamber (see the white larvae by her butt) and they look great (and lots of capped larvae - the yellow in the pic). I put on that wonderous bit of beekeeping equipment... a honey super! That means that the bees are now working for me! Ok, I am not getting overly excited as I had two supers on by this time last year, but I will take what I can get.
My smoker stayed lit and it was a beautiful bee day.

Monday, May 25, 2009


Yesterday we had a micro burst hail storm. First the sky darkened. My daughter and I were out in the garden finishing up some planting and we noticed the bees were -all- going into their hives. This is generally a sign of rain, so we heeded their warning and put our car away before venturing inside to clean ourselves up. We showered and started dinner on the grill.

It started to sprinkle at this point, but we weren't worried. Then the thunder started. We tried counting just how far the lightning was from us, but didn't even get the word "one" out before the lightning struck. The storm was upon us.

Moments later the hail started. I was excited at first. I showed it to my daughter knowing this is a fairly uncommon event in New England. I am an air force brat and lived in the midwest for a while. I've seen many hail storms.

We closed windows and watched anxiously for "our boys" and my girl calls her dad and big brother. They were on their way home but the sky was awfully black.

The hail stones were getting larger. Some stones were the size of golf balls and were sounding like rocks on the windows and the glass doors.

In the end, after 20 minutes of a freight train trailing through our living room, the storm ended. And we were left with trees without leaves because they were plastered to our house, about three inches of hail stones in our yard, and a garden that was shredded.

We had planted our modest gardens fairly tightly with squash, eggplant, tomatoes, kale, spinach, lettuce and more. Just yesterday we had our first spinach salad and were planning on more today.

Today we spend all day, not paddling on quiet rivers as planned, but raking, hauling, and just looking sadly at the fury of a 20 minute storm. Less than a third of our garden survived.
Earlier in the afternoon I'd worked with the bees. I was able to put people honey super on a hive. This is Hope's hive and once again, she was the bright spot in my day. And the end of the day, I had three inches of ice everywhere, no screen, chipped siding, a shredded garden, and Hope.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

New Tools

I checked on all the hives on Friday using two new tools. I spoiled myself with a frame gripper. This is a fancy set of tongs that grip a frame so you can pick it up one handed. I should have gotten one last year! The best $14 I've spent in a long while!

The other new tool in my beekeeping life is a hair pin! I went to my wondrous hairdresser, Kristin M., owner of Edge here in town. I was planning a very very short do since I am frustrated and out of sorts over my hair constantly being in my face under my veil. Once you are zipped in, tucking your hair behind your ears is just not an option. Hair bands don't stay in with my veil moving about either.

Wise woman that she is, Kristin showed me a couple of ways to twist my hair that are secured with two hair pins on each side, and viola! hair that stayed out of my face for two hours while I looked at each and every frame. It even looked good!

As I expected, Red's hive is still mooping along. They are still sweet and gentle. I am ever hopeful that they will decide to swarm. Not because I want to get rid of her. I think she's a great queen. I'd love some of her daughters and would requeen my other hives in favor of her daughters in a heartbeat. ... But that is just not going to happen any time soon. They are raising more babies and had one more frame with brood than last week.

Trey's lucky hive is doing great. They are still frisky but I am expecting her babies to become the dominate bees in the hive soon. I saw capped larvae and this up coming check hope to see her babies emerging.

And then there is Hope. She still is not laying eggs in the upper chamber. Her girls are gorgeous and numerous but not quite... enough yet. I took the people-honey box out with me - that is how much I was hoping that it was time. Alas, they had not yet built out the blank frames I gave them a few weeks ago. So I gave them some super sweet sugar water to help them along.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Garden Guest

I raked up some weeds and leaves this weekend and thought that there was a red beetle in the litter. To my shock and delight, it was this little guy! This is a baby snapping turtle.

His mom has visited our yard. We had a snapping turtle come right up to the house about two years ago. She checked out the yard and headed back to the pond.

She was huge, over two feet across. I've seen her in the pond while kayaking and she gives me pause. Usually I see just her head popping over the water's surface.

Hopefully this little one will grow up to be as big and strong as his mama!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Bee Whisperer

The bee inspector just left and all is nearly right in the world again. I am not longer concerned with revolution in the blue hives.

Hope's hive, who had built out supercedure cells (normally associated with a coup), have taken them down. Her girls are mighty busy - I gave them some unbuilt out frames to work on. They are too busy for revolution right now.

Trey's hive, our newest addition is looking great! I saw her eggs. The eggs are about this big: - . Not the easiest to see on a cloudy day, but see them we did.

Red, who over wintered her girls is still mooping along. Her laying pattern is great, but small. She is unable to produce more bees because there just aren't enough other bees to take care of them. Let's hope that one of the other hives ramps up quickly and we can move some babies and nurse bees to Red's hive. Call it emigration.

It was a three queen day.

Monday, May 4, 2009

A Queenless Day

Yesterday was the first day so far this spring that I did not see any of the three queens. Sigh. I did see very very tiny larvae in both Red and Hope's hives - so they are doing their job and were on those frames within the last three to five days. Trey's bees were bringing in pollen like crazy and the only reason for pollen in a hive is to feed babies!

On a shocking note, I found supercedure cells in Hope's hive. This means the bees are planning to replace her. I put a second box on for them last week and they have started packing it full of honey and pollen. Before anyone gets excited, that would be for bee-use only. I was hoping to put a people honey box, or super, on Hope's hive. Once I saw the supercedure cells, I thought better of it.

Supercedure cells are placed on the wax comb facing downward. The queen either lays in the cell or an egg is moved there by worker bees. The cell is larger than regular baby bee cells and the queen eggs are feed royal jelly their entire larval-hood.

Why would they want to replace her? She might be injured. They may not like her rather artistic laying patters (oval with honey in the middle rather than the traditional half moon with honey in the corners), or she might not produce enough royal pheromone to permeate two supers. Only the bees actually know for sure. And they aren't telling.

Trey's bees are ... frisky. They are not following me and I've yet to be stung by any of them. I don't want to be a fearful beekeeper again nonetheless, her hive puts me there instantaneously with their dark color and the frequency of their buzz. I am determined to shake that feeling and be braver than I think I am.

I did try a new idea I'd heard about at the beekeeper's meeting on Saturday. After smoking Trey's bees and hearing them buzz in way that made me nervous, I tried spraying them with some sugar water. WOW. This worked to instantly calm them. It was great! I shall try that first next time with that hive.

The bee inspector is planning on visiting, for the second time this season. He's going to help evaluate Red's hive. I am considering firing her and getting a new queen or adding some bees and larvae from one of the other hives to boost her numbers. Her bees are so laid back they may not supercede her even if means the death of the colony.

I am in for another exciting and tumultuous year beekeeping. But on a bright note, my smoker stayed lit.

Friday, May 1, 2009

The birds and the bees

Yeah...I mean the birds and bees, not honeybees. I was talking with a handful of moms who all have kids about my kids ages. One was relating a story about a teacher who was showing her class squirrels in the school yard. She felt compelled to pull the shade down when ...well love was in the air and they squirrels started mating. One student asked what the squirrels were doing and another answered her correctly tho maybe a bit too graphically.

What shocked these moms was that it was a third grade classroom. Huh? Don't third graders know what mating is? I don't expect them to understand the nuances of human mating rituals, but not know what mating is? Yikes is my thought.

Me, being a tree-hugging dirt-worshiper that I am, have pointed out when birds or dragonflied mate to my two nature-loving kids. It isn't the focus of our explorations in nature, but it is there, expecially this time of year.

I was surprised to find that none of my friends knew what it looked like when birds mated.

After some rather funny starts, I explained how birds mate and dragonflies too. It was the first time I've come across something called Nature Deficit Disorder in adults. Environmentalists and traditional educators have identified an innate craving people have to be in nature - to explore - to experience the outdoors. Some experts suggest that it is this disconnect from nature that so many youth are experiencing that is the root cause of many behavior problems.

I am not sure I'd buy in to ADHD being cured by a walk in the woods, but I do believe we all have a primal need to spend time with the sun on our faces, open spaces around us, and nothing particular to do but be.

And watch the birds mate.