Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Bee Business is Booming

It appears that all is going well in Bee-ville. Yesterday when I got home the sun was shining, and the bees were foraging up a storm, so it seemed a good time to take a peek.  Sure enough previous capped brood was empty, meaning baby bees were out.
Remember I told you that cells for the male drones are quite a bit larger than for the girl workers.  You can see it in this picture. Look down to the middle of the bottom half of the picture.  See those cells that look like they have a cap on top.  That is a boy bee cell.  I believe if you want to see the pictures larger, you can click on them.  Are you laughing because this is way more information already then you ever felt the need to know?

Now here, if you look about half way across you can see a row of bees with their heads in cells.  They could be packing pollen, storing honey, or cleaning a cell that emerged.  Look down further and to the right. No, it isn't corn on the cob, but capped brood cells of girly bees.  Bees have about ten different jobs they do in their brief lives and they are hard at it.

Here you see that eight top bars have comb. They are bigger every day when I get home and this hive has way more done than the Langstroth hive.

 As they age, dragging that load of pollen becomes more of challenge.  Foraging is the last job Missy Bee does and she does it till she dies.  I'm watching her in the grass just below the hive encouraging her to make it.  She did.

 Look at this little Missy. What a load.

I guess you can't tell I'm completely smitten with this whole process.

Today, as I was leaving a opossum had the audacity to crawl up out of the creek and die right smack in the middle of the drive way. I've come along way in managing animals.  I will bury  my chickie girls when they pass on, but I really had no relationship with this dead critter and the chickens were already out and I was feeling mildly hysterical that it was some fearsome rabid beast that one my girls would peck and get some awful disease.
Drummer Boys who come and rid the drive of  fearsome rabid beasts, so the only drama I'm faced with is online state testing that DOES NOT WORK and in fact is completely shut down before day's end. 
Have mercy.  Tomorrow, regardless of what the state does, I'm getting in the creek and having some real education with my kidlets- so there!

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Ninety Three Happy Birthdays

A very, very full weekend.
Yesterday I attended a nutritional health conference with Rae and learned some interesting things  and enjoyed her company for the day.  That ended around 5:30ish and it was off to the store.
 Aunt Lois requested Stephen to grill steaks, and for me to fix asparagus, corn on the cob, baked little red potatoes, rolls and her favorite, German Chocolate Cake for her 93rd birthday celebration today. She told me she would eat five potatoes her ownest self.  Aunt SuZQ is moving around and looking good, but still very much recovering.
I am not much of a cake maker. Well, not the kind you want to show anyone anyway. They taste good, they just look scary. Consequently, I usually only make the kind that go into a 9 x 13 pan.  I decided maybe I would do cupcakes instead.  Then I recalled that, in my humble opinion, the only redeemable quality of a German Chocolate cake is the icing.  I was not going to cut apart cupcakes to get more layers of icing, so I went back to the notion of baking three layers.  So I did that last night.  As usual, it looks like the Leaning Tower of Cake.  Well, it's the thought that counts right?
Dinner was most delicious and Aunt Lois seemed to relish every bite. Though she told me she must have been hungry when she asked for five potatoes, and one would do nicely.
We also had a photography session in honor of the day.

 While I like the posed pictures in front of the fire place and in the garden,
 By far my favorite was her singing "Happy Birthday" along with us in anticipation of  the, umm, ugly cake.


While it was certainly my joy to spend another birthday with her and that she was able to enjoy it, I also got a call from Drummer Boy.  The chicklets wanted to come visit. I told him I was on my way to feed and water the new flock at school and he was welcome to bring the kiddos there.
My little Missy Buttons was quite smitten with the chickie babies.

Buttercup wanted to know about all the things in my classroom. I still had watercolor materials out from a recent project and she said, "I want to do what ever your school kids do with that stuff."  So we did. 
 Of course Ol' Blue Eyes needed to as well.

After chicklets and chickie babies and birthdays, it was back to work.  That brooder is small for a dozen babies. They can't be in there much longer.  I had a chicken kick the bucket two weeks ago here at home.  She was a last spring chicken and that is a bit unusual for us.  The puppy brought a barnyard disease, cocciodosis, so of course, I'm a bit concerned about bringing those tiny things home.  I always do a major cleaning in spring anyway, but love to do it when I have all day and it's sunny. I didn't have all day and it wasn't sunny, but my ace in the hole is called The Handy Man.  We got her done.  All bedding moved out. All surfaces scraped and sprayed with Apple Cider Vinegar, every surface, nook and cranny covered with diatomaceous earth, black walnuts ground in the feed. Feeders and waterers bleached and dried. Ughhh, time for a hot soak. Tomorrow- a bee visit.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Sniff Sniff

A bit of good advice I read was to have in mind what you want to do before you open the hive. Yesterday I put a piece of Pam sprayed paper in the bottom of the hives( to check for tintiest,foul, blood sucking, hive diminishing mites the bees groom off). That's what I wanted to do, but when I lifted off the top of the Langstroth hive, it didn't smell right to me.  Now, I'm not exactly sure what it is supposed to smell like, it just seemed off. Anywhoo, I put in the paper and looked around, nothing amiss that I could see. Closed it up.  I don't like to bother the girls more than once a week, but after checking the weather, I knew I needed to get back in there and get the paper out before the weather turned cool and nasty.  That, I'm told, results in very grouchy bee girls.  Since I've made it  almost three weeks now without a sting, I'm hoping to keep it going. I also wondered if perhaps the sugar water had fermented.  Since it's going to get cold again, keeping the girls from foraging, I figured it best to change out that water.

Good call Miss Newbie Bee Keeper. When I opened the hive today, the feeder sugar water was moldy, ewwwwww, and I also discovered where ants were coming in. So, hopefully, all is set to rights.

What you are seeing here is mostly capped cells, hopefully full of about to be brand new girls.  See the eggs in the bottom left cells?  Fascinating.


Climbing up behind the falls at Hemlock Cliffs with my boyfriend.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Seeing What I Wanted to See

A few different things clue you in that all is well in the hive.  If the queen is laying, those babies have to be fed continuously, which means a continual flow of pollen into the hive.  I've never been able to see anything in those very wee back legs.  So today, I put on my glasses, a long sleeved white shirt and just sat with the camera and stared.  Those girlies did not disappoint.
 Who knew pollen came in so many colors and flavors.

 As soon as the sun warms their little corner of the world there is a continuous flow of bees going in and bees coming out.
 Also, lots of worker brood and little drone brood should be apparent.  Well, as of yet, I did not know the difference in worker brood and drone brood, but as soon as I peered in my viewing window, I saw a significantly larger cells being built on the bottom of this comb, just where the books says it should be be.

 Oh My JOY
It's seems with all of our current technology, personal pieces of snail mail are few and far between, and certainly seldom do I receive ones handmade with such care.  I love it.
And the quote from a Mary Elizabeth Sangster on the back
"Never yet was a springtime when the buds forgot to bloom"

I stayed home all weekend and about worked myself to exhaustion, but the car is cleaned out, many shrubs trimmed, bunny cage clean, hives checked, seeds planted, chicky poo spread around,  laundry done and on and on.  I'm so grateful for the time, beautiful weather and a Handy Man to share it with.  What did you do this weekend?

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Spring is Busting Out All Over

So happy to head for the front door this morning and see the red light on. Since the Handy Man painted our front door barn red (my favorite color) and the sun is up and perky, the keyhole looks like a little red light.

Mr. Sun did not disappoint.

The morning sun hits this front corner of the Top Bar hive.  By nine the bees in this hive were busy.
I scatter scratch for the chickens in the mornings in hopes of deterring honey beetles.  There is nothing they love better than larvae.

I'm blessed to have a small creek and woods where I work.  I frequently haul the children down there to be silent observers of whatever is happening.
 Thanks to Gardner E., who's contributed wildflowers and expertise to this little wooded glen, there is a lot to see at the moment.
 There are bluebells, star chickweed, and different anemones blooming their wee heads off and the children look and sketch.
 Here Gardner E. brought some Lily of Valley to add to the wild garden.
After planting, we checked on our bluebird box. It was exciting to see a completed nest.

It was disappointing to see that something else had been there, and a broken egg was on the ground.
I have had bluebirds here at the house for about five years. This year, all I'm doing is cleaning out 
"O bad pehwoe's(sparrows)" nests. 
Hope you enjoy some loveliness on this beautiful spring day.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013


SuZQ has had a tough ol' time of it.  The actual surgery has apparently all been good, but the anesthesia, pain meds and other meds have really caused her some trouble.  Hoping tomorrow she'll get to come home.
Seven top bars with straight comb after the big accident last week.

All covered with very busy bees

One of my most favorite art projects in the classroom.  Some made snow monkeys, other tamarinds, lions, gorrilla, and orangutans.

Date night with the Handy Man for wings and trip to Tractor Supply for a new bee book- love.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Bees, Babies, Birthdays and Firsts

Well, the bees are enjoying these warm days with lots going on in and out of the hives.
 Yesterday was a special one for special friends as Ms. Glitzy's Siddy made her First Communion.

And Mr. Giddy-up witnessed an egg "patching" out.
Here is pointing to the egg and saying, "Come out Itsy"

 And out Itsy came.  Don't you know that will be this little guy/gal's name.

These had already hatched.  This is the biggest hatch I've had in the classroom.
So gentle, so soft.
 And our Little Miss Button celebrated her First Birthday.

Aunt SuZQ had yet another run in of a different sort with a medication. Bless her heart.  If all is well through the night, she might get to come home tomorrow.

Friday, April 12, 2013


All the aunties are managing.  SuZQ had a difficult run in with a med this morning, but is recovering. Auntie GLou's med, on the other hand is bringing healing and I've kept Aunt Lois well fed and entertained.

Oh My JOY!
Pippi Longstocking and a Playful Puppy

Wednesday, April 10, 2013


It's been a busy and somewhat stressful few weeks.  I was thinking about life.  In my logical mind I know that people get sick, they get cancer, they have accidents, they have mental illness, they forget you once shared an important relationship,  and there is not a single thing I can do about.  Still, when it happens unexpectedly or one thing on top of another, I have some real trouble finding my joy.
That isn't exactly true. I've always been a "stop and smell the roses" kinda girl.  I truly find joy everywhere, but it's like cotton candy and disappears just as quickly.
Tomorrow Aunt SuZQ has surgery to remove a lobe of her right lung.  Auntie G-Lou, who cares for my Mom has a terrible, painful infection.  Aunt Lois has been in the hospital twice this year already.  Though still as bright and sassy as ever, some vital parts have given an impending resignation.  She and doc agree that she's through with being pinched and poked.  I don't blame her one bit- still....
I can't give myself fully to my students, so for my peace of mind I need to be where Lois is and where I can get to Sue.  Mostly, I've managed to shove my Rocky Horror Picture Show Kaye and Raechel memories in a far back corner, where I threaten them to stay put.  That's easier when someone else I love isn't in the hospital.  Then of course, I have the worst time ever leaving my students.

Anyway, when I was thinking of all this a memory popped in my mind. Bean was at my school then and it was the Christmas program.  All the wee threes lined up singing the Christmas carol "There Was a Little Baby."  On the front row was a chunky little red head in a too big dress shirt and tie.  The song goes-
There was a little baby
Oh my Lord
Way down in Bethlehem
He didn't sing anything at all except the line, off key and very, very loud, "OH MY WARD!"
Oh my is right. It was the cutest thing ever and I laughed until I cried.
So, I've decided on a personal campaign to engage in that I will call, "Oh My JOY!"
Then when life comes, as it will, and I can't find my joy anywhere, I can find some here.
I'd love to know what brings you joy as well.
Mr. New to Two loving his "Hiretruck" from his Gramerly. "Woo, Woo."
 That Handy Man of mine doing something fun just for the fun of it.
 Spring busting out all over with something those bees of mine will love.
 Daffodillies in all their fancy fluff and fine fragrance.
 Garlic peeking at me- yeah now, that's what I'm talking about.

Your thoughts and prayers that I so appreciate.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Ouch! Trouble Continues in the Bee Yard

No, I didn't get a bee sting.  What I did get was some seriously hurt feelings.
Remember, my caged queen was likely murdered, so I was advised to look in the hive again and see if I could see eggs in any cells.  I was told that if I saw one egg in the center of each cell, then I did indeed have a queen, all was well.
So I dash home from school, hoping to find a moment when the wind died down enough to open the hive and before the rain started.
Out of school clothes, into white shirt, grey pants, gloves and hat.
Pack the smoker, light it.  Get on Handy Man's stronger glasses and the magnifying glass.
Smoke the bees, lift off the top, remove a bar covered in "festooning" bees and there is  a comb  a bit bigger than my hand.
Ever so carefully, I turn, as instructed, with the sun at my bag and stare into those wee cells. Sure enough, there are those tiniest eggs, one per cell. Yes, yes, yes!  See, if there were multiple eggs in the cell it would indicate no queen and worker bees trying to do the queens job, only they don't really know how.  Worker bees aren't mated and you would only get drones, as in boys, who do nothing but mate with queens, hence no more workers and in a few weeks, no more hive.
Okay, deep breath.
Turn back to the hive ever so carefully to lower the comb into the hive and.....................
it falls, oh yes it does. That beautiful comb full of eggs and pollen, making worker bee babies falls.
Okay, stay calm, think, think, think.
The book, my favorite one,  said if the combs are on the wrong way to cut them off and smoosh them back on the bar the right way.  So, first I try to get the bees, who as you might guess are mightily agitated now, and all over me, back in the hive.  Then I smoosh, pick it up, it falls off.  So, I summon all my courage and take off my gloves, thinking perhaps warm hands might work more effectively. No cigar.  Then Handy Man heats up the bar, I press it on, lift it up, and it falls off again.  Grrrrrrr, why do they tell you that will work when it absolutely does not work! Now I no longer have a favorite bee book. Liars all.
 So I leave it on the hive, run in and flip through several how-tos and videos and find one where they put hair clips on the top and wire them in. Really?  Okay, I'm out of ideas so I scrounge up two hair clips. Sorry bees they don't match. Suit up- again.  Try one more time.
The wax was just too soft and pulled right out.
I was afraid if I put it on the floor of the hive it would just make a big mess it would really goof up the "proper" comb placement.  So with my big hurt feelings, I reluctantly moved it 15 or so feet from the hive, where the bees will clean it out and reuse what they can. 
Back into my school clothes. 
I went to the bee meeting with a bad attitude that just got worse.  There is only one person with any experience with a Top Bar hive and he was no help at all.  He seemed a little incredulous that I had a comb that big in only three days.  Ha, no really I've been home all weekend crafting it myself-perhaps that why it wouldn't stick.   Then he was kind enough to tell me that misled worker bees can indeed lay only one egg in a cell, and I may not have queen after all.  So, I saved the very bad cuss words I was thinking until I got in the car.
I don't care what that former favorite book says, I'm not lifting another one of those top bars. If there's a queen, yee haw and if there isn't, this has been a very interesting learning experience.  Since I don't drink, smoke or go to the boat, I'll chalk it up as an entertainment expense.  
I'm not entertained by dropping such a fine piece of workmanship and won't be trying that again.
Actually, it may be okay and the other hive appears to be fine, but what do I know, as I can't seem to find any common understandings anywhere. 
Whenever I got over my severe mad/frustrated/hurt feelings, I can say I did learn some things at the meeting, so all was not lost.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Trouble in Bee Paradise?

So, the big moment I've been waiting for. Looking in the hives to see if the queen is out of her cage, comb is being built and no cross combing in the top bar hive.  I decided to look in the Langstroth hive first.  There's a reason more people do that type of hive.  Handy Man spotted the queen almost as soon as I pulled up the second frame I checked. Since the bees are using a flat base, they are spread across it sort of evenly.  Looked fine to me.
Next- Blow a little smoke, lift out the bar with the queen
and there she is- still in the cage and dead.

At this point, I was not sure that was a queen, since a bit of the candy plug was gone and another bee could have climbed in and died, but after researching a bit, I believe it is the queen and the Bee Guy seconded that opinion.
So, at this point, not knowing what was going on, I continued to examine the bars.  There is no comb on the bar I'm holding here.  It's the weirdest thing, like bunches of slinky bees all moving, yet attached to each other and seemingly attached to some stretchy elastic, only there isn't anything but bees.

 The next bar in the hive did have comb, but I could see no queen.  Actually, I could see no comb until I brushed off the two inch thick bee mass.

Well, that was certainly interesting, or something.  So, I put the word out to the specialist and learn that there could have been a second queen already in the bee mix.  Since only one queen allowed, the workers would have stung that caged queen to death.  In addition, there might be a queen, but she might not have yet mated, which means it is her job to check out for a couple of days and finds some drones and some action before returning to lay eggs.
Sooooooooooo, tomorrow evening my job is to again open the hive, brush off the bee piles from the comb, turn with my back to the sun, look into the bottom of each little hexagon to see if there is a teeny tiny white egg. 
 I'll let you know.