Honey Harvest Time

Hard to believe that another beekeeping season is almost over.  This has been a rebuilding year for me.  After losing 3 out of 6 colonies, I was hoping to catch some swarms in addition to making splits with the goal of 10 colonies to manage.  I figure that’s the most I can handle while still working full time.  But it was a paltry swarm season – I didn’t catch any myself, but was lucky to get one from a friend.   The splits I did took longer than I wanted to build up, so they missed the main honey flow.  At the end of summer, I have 7 colonies of my own, plus the hive down at Eldorado Ashram.

Karvari and the Eldo bees

Of those 7, only 3 had enough extra honey for me  – two that survived the winter (BnB1 & Left Hand Hive) and the swarm that is in Laura’s hive.  I like to leave a lot of honey for the bees.  If they don’t eat it all, I can harvest some in the spring, or feed it to other hives that are low on stores.

I started off with BnB1  (I’ll make another post about the other two soon).   My plan was to harvest some combs that broke off when I inspected on 4th of July.  But like most of my best laid plans, they changed at the last moment.  There were 4 combs behind those that were all capped honey from earlier in the year (if not last year) on older comb.  Since combs tend to build up pesticides over time, I decided to take those older combs and leave the new, broken combs in place.  It would have been a sticky mess to remove the broken combs, so in the end, it was a win-win.

As I do every year, I invited some people over to watch the honey processing – including my little buddy Cal.  When his mom told him he was going to come to my house, he said, “YES! I get to make MORE honey!”   (As his mom said, “Ah, the me-centric universe of a 4-year-old…”.)  I also invited Laura and her daughter and grand kids, so we had quite the mix of kids and adults.  I talked a bit about the different types of beekeeping equipment which totally bored the kids.  A big thanks to Cal’s mom, Kelly, who took all the pictures/videos!

Explaining about equipment

I use the crush and strain method for processing – cut the honey off the comb into a bucket, crush it all up and then strain it into a bucket for bottling.  I had 4 bars of capped honey, each with about 4 pounds of liquid honey.

Plop, into the pan.

Any honey left on the bars gets put out for the bees to glean off.

This will go to the bees

After the bucket is full, it’s time to crush it all up.

Ready to crush

I use gloves in case there are any bees hidden in the comb.  Even a dead bee can still sting you!

Mashing the comb

After the comb is all crushed, it gets poured into a bucket for straining.  I use a paint strainer and a 2 bucket system.  Since it takes 1 bee her whole life to only make 1/12 of a teaspoon of honey, I try to make sure none gets wasted.

Pouring into the strainer

Gotta get it all!

Then we let it strain for a while.  I always give anyone who attends a jar of honey and this year I made up some honey bears for the kids. 

Bottling the goodness

Cal’s Honey – Made by the bees, just for you!

While we were waiting for the honey to strain a bit, I gave everyone a tour of the bee yard and gardens.

A rapt audience

Showing off BnB1 through the window

Bumblebee on sunflower

Everyone had a good time, learned some new facts about bees and beekeeping and got to taste some yummy sweetness.  Cal’s mom said he got home and talked about all the facts he learned.  His favorite fact – “I got the special bear jar but the grown-ups only got boring plain glass jars!” 

 

 

 

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A Gardening Sankalpa

In yoga philosophy, a sankalpa is a term that refers to a heartfelt desire, a solemn vow, an intention, or a resolve to do something.  It could be something like repeating a several malas of a mantra each day, performing a particular practice before or after meditation, or just resolving to meditate each day.  During my meditation teacher training, I did a few sankalpas which really helped me to grow in my practice.

One of my hobbies besides beekeeping is gardening, which I learned from my father and grandfather.  When we moved into our house, our yard was a blank slate as most of the yard was torn up with the removal of trees.  I spent the first 10 years here designing the landscape – installing irrigation, amending the soil and planning new gardens.  Since then I’ve always tried to add some new feature each year (like my iris garden in 2015), just to keep things interesting.

Irises in bloom

One of my least favorite tasks is weeding (probably true for most gardeners) and ever since I started beekeeping, my gardens have suffered because I’d rather tend bees than remove weeds.  As the gardens got more and more weed infested, my will to weed would recede more as the problem seemed too large to overcome.  Every now and then, I’d spend a weekend tearing into one garden, but it never seemed enough.

This year, I decided to take a new approach.  I decided to do a “gardening sankalpa” where I made a vow to spend at least a 1/2 hour each day in the garden weeding.  Diana also took on this challenge which has helped keep things in check.  During this time, we also work on our spiritual practice – repeating mantra, connecting to the earth, all creation, and our inner selves through our efforts.

South path in 2009

South path in 2009

One of the most troubling spots has been the path along the south side of our house which I added in 2009.  There are two major problem weeds in our yard – bindweed and quack grass.  Both of these took over the path from the start.  During the day, the path gets full sun, so in addition to just doing the work, the beating sun is draining and not conducive to working there.  This is where I started my sankalpa and after the first 1/2 hour I got 5 feet (out of 30) weed free.  Suddenly, I could see that this approach was going to work and it wouldn’t be overwhelming. I could get the whole path weeded in one week and then move on to other spots.  For the rest of the summer, I only need to spend 5 minutes every now and then to tackle newly emerging weeds in the path.

South pathway in 2018 – much better with weeding

A couple of years ago, I decided to convert a large chunk of my lawn to a garden.  I originally put in the large lawn as a soccer/baseball field for my boys.  But now that they are both out of the house, it’s become a money sink with watering and a time sink with mowing.  Plus, grass provides no forage for pollinators (except for the occasional dandelion that pops up). 

Layering north lawn with leaves.

I put down cardboard and covered it with mulch, but then I just left it alone with only a few plants.  That provided a great breeding ground for bindweed and soon it was just a big bindweed patch.   This year, though, through our efforts, we are keeping the bindweed under control (for the most part) and the area is turning into a pollinator heaven.  While I’m out there weeding, I have hummingbirds and bumble bees flitting from flower to flower and native/honey bees enjoying the giant pumpkin blossoms.  With all that going on (plus pulling up bindweed), weeding is a delight.

North garden in 2018

Another garden that has been troublesome is the one along our driveway.  It was being taken over by grass (it was originally a strip of lawn).  Diana started making lotions her own lotions this year, using rose petals from our yard for some of them, and wanted more roses.  So, I thought I’d rip up the existing garden of irises, butterfly bushes, milkweed and black-eyed susans and put in a rose garden for her.  But I wanted to wait until after the irises and milkweed bloomed for the pollinators, so we spent one morning weeding that garden, clearing out the grass.  After that, it looked so good, I decided I’m going to leave it as it is at least for now.  Diana will just have to do with the plethora of roses that we already have.

Driveway garden

For the first time in several years, I feel good about my gardens again.  In many ways, this is no different from my meditation practice.  Just spending 30 minutes twice a day with commitment on meditation has cleared the way for me to go deeper in my practice.  All it takes is a one-pointed resolve to focus both psychologically and philosophically on a specific goal.  It doesn’t mean that things are all rosy because just like weeds, our samskaras keep showing up.  But tackling them a little bit at a time leads to a beautiful place.

The bee yard in bloom – weeds and all

Corner garden

Bee balm in the north garden – humming birds love it.

Even the vegetable garden is better without weeds

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Posted in Forage, Gardening, Spirituality, Yoga | 2 Comments

A Season of Increase

It’s been a busy spring for me and finding the time to do a blog post just hasn’t happened,   but here’s an update on my beekeeping adventures this year.  A bit long winded, but I hope you enjoy it.

I went into the winter with 6 1/2 hives (1/2 was the small 5 frame observation hive) and came out with 3 still alive.  Even though I insulated all the hives with foam insulation, some perished during the excessive cold snaps we had this past winter.  The observation hive didn’t have enough bees to last through the winter (and I didn’t expect it to, but I was experimenting), Sarah’s hive died for unknown reasons (probably during one of the cold snaps), Laura’s hive froze from moisture buildup and BnB2 probably died from a mite infestation.  That left BnB1, Hello Kitty (Duncan’s hive) and the Left Hand (Langstroth) Hive.  I had hoped to come out of the winter with 4 or 5 hives and build up to 10 this year, but that wasn’t in the cards.

In the chapter of the same name as my new favorite beekeeping book, A Song of Increase, Jacqueline Freeman tells the story of how the bees gear up in the spring after the winter decrease.  The queen starts laying vigorously in the spring and as the population increases, the hive gets crowded and they think about swarming.  The queen is coaxed into laying eggs that the maidens (workers) will raise as new queens and when the time is right, the old queen will swarm with half the bees to find a new home.  The excitement of this process in the hive is palpable.  According to Freeman, the flight of the queen into the sunshine renews her fertility after living in the darkness of the hive all the time.  This is how bee colonies increase in nature, year after year after year.

In the beekeeper’s world, swarming can mean a loss of bees if you don’t catch your own swarms.  Most beekeepers go to great lengths to keep their bees from swarming for this reason.  One way is to split the hives into two or more hives – effectively trying to imitate the hive division that naturally occurs.  Even though I was starting off with fewer hives than I wanted, I figured between splits and catching swarms, I could build back up the number of hives that I cared for.  But the best laid plans of the beekeeper are subject to the whims of nature.

In the past, when I’ve split hives, I move the old queen and some of the bees to a new hive and let the old hive raise new queens.  This year, I decided to leave the old queens in their hives and let the bees in the new hive raise queens.  Ideally, you’d move some frames with queen cells to the new hive since those contain potential queens that the bees raised for that purpose.   But none of my hives had queen cells so I figured I’d see if they would raise emergency queens from the eggs and larva that I moved to the new hive.

BnB1/BnB2

By my reckoning, the queen in BnB1 is 4 years old which these days is old for a queen.  She originally came with a package I bought 4 years ago.  Since I don’t mark my queens, I can’t tell for sure that it’s the same queen, but I’ve never seen this colony try to raise a new queen.  One trait of this queen is that she is slow to start laying each year.  I keep thinking it’s a weak hive and worry that it won’t make it, but at least for the past 2 years, once she starts going, the colony builds up strongly.   Even though the colony wasn’t as robust as I would have liked in late April, I decided to split some eggs and brood over to a small nucleus hive.  I really wanted to propagate her genetics since her offspring are good honey producers.  The bees went about their business of raising a new queen, she hatched, got mated and started laying eggs.  I moved the nuc into BnB2 and I gave them some more capped brood from BnB1 so they would have new bees until this queen’s eggs would hatch, but apparently they didn’t like the queen they made and started making more queen cells from her eggs and the new frame I put in.  And I couldn’t find the queen anywhere.  Now I had to wait for a new queen to hatch, get mated and start laying.   But either she didn’t make it back from a mating flight, or something else happened, because there were no eggs/brood.  I finally had to buy a new queen last week and now I’m waiting to see if she will take.  If not, I’ll probably move these bees back to BnB1.

Hello Kitty/Sarah’s Hive/Nuc/Hive to be named later

Of all the hives coming out of winter, Duncan’s hive (Hello Kitty) was the strongest.  They had lots of bees and brood and were filling up the hive nicely. 

Duncan inspecting his hive

Lots of bees in Duncan’s hive!

I decided to make a split to Sarah’s hive since it’s the same shape as Duncan’s.  So, I moved some brood and eggs over to Sarah’s hive and waited a week to see if they made some queen cells.  Duncan and I checked and they did.

Queen cells in Sarah’s hive

Since they had so many queen cells and Duncan’s hive was overflowing with bees, I decided to take a frame with a couple of queen cells and merge it with some bees from Duncan’s hive and create another split.  I needed a split to give to someone who let me take over her bee yard.  Originally, I was going to give her the split from BnB1, but since it was having problems, I needed a backup plan.

Then I had to wait for the new queens to hatch, get mated and start laying.  Ideally, this is all done by the beginning of May, but now it was getting into late May.  I checked the nuc and that queen seemed to be okay.  But when I checked Sarah’s hive, the queen cells were open (meaning the queens hatched), but there was no sign of eggs.  Sometimes it takes a little while for a queen to start laying after mating, to I tried to be patient.  I went back a week later and still no eggs, so now I had some decisions to make.

I checked Duncan’s hive and found that there didn’t seem to be a queen there either and they had 10 queen cells!  I think either I accidentally killed the queen on a previous inspection, or that they swarmed and I didn’t see it.  In any case, I now had too many queen cells for that hive, so I decided to move some of the queen cells to Sarah’s hive, and take some queen cells from Duncan’s hive and some brood from BnB1 and start hive in the new bee yard (the hive to be named later).

As I was moving the queen cells into Sarah’s hive, I noticed that one was open on the end indicating that the queen had hatched.  It was curious that I didn’t notice that before.  I put the frame and the bees in the hive and when I looked in the nuc that I used for transport, there was a virgin queen running around – she had hatched in transit!  I quickly dumped her into Sarah’s hive and closed it up.  Again, it was time to wait for hatching and mating of these queens.  A couple of weeks later, both hives had eggs and a week later, Sarah’s had some capped brood.  Duncan’s hive was still questionable – it seemed like a queen was mated and laying, but then there were signs that she was gone.   Duncan and I checked this past weekend and my fears were allayed – there were capped brood and eggs.

Left Hand Hive

For the first time, the Left Hand hive survived the winter.  I’m not sure if the insulation helped, or the fact that this was a swarm from last year.  In any case, they were building up nicely, until the surrounding fields got planted with corn – most likely treated with pesticides.  I went into the hive one day to look at them and there were lots of dead bees on the bottom board and more painfully dying there.  This is the world of “modern” agriculture – coat each seed with enough poison to kill 80,000 bees to keep the “bad” insects off the plants.  The problem is that the coating doesn’t stay on the seed, but drifts into neighboring areas to kill the good insects.  Just when I thought this hive was going to rock and I could do a split, they got hit with poison.  At that point, I wasn’t sure they were going to make it, but they are still alive, the queen is laying well and the population is rebounding.  This is the hive that I use to fill the observation hive for the Eldo kids camp for now.  But they don’t seem to like me these days, so I’m probably going to have to figure out a way to set up the observation hive as a stand alone hive.  Less stress for all of us.

Eldo Hive

One of the new hives that I’m tending this year is down at the Eldorado Mountain Yoga Ashram, along with my fellow beekeeper, Karvari.  I decided not to rely on swarms and splits to populate this hive (good thing as you’ll see later), but bought a package of bees just to make sure.   Since Eldo is in bear habitat, we had to construct a bear fence around the hive, but that wasn’t ready when the package arrived.  So, we loaded the package into the hive in my backyard until we could move it to Eldo later on.

Package of bees for Eldo hive

Package of bees for Eldo hive

Karvari and the queen!

On Memorial Day weekend, I loaded the Eldo hive and the nuc into the car and took them to their new homes.

Eldo hive and nucs in the bee yard

Eldo hive and nucs in the bee yard

Eldo Hive and Nuc loaded in the car

Eldo Hive and one nuc loaded in the car

Swarms

Last year I caught 3 swarms which made me hopeful for increasing my colonies this year.  I loaded up the truck with swarm catching equipment – boxes, ladders, nucs, extension poles and protective gear.  I signed up for the BCBA swarm hotline and let my bees and trees friend know that I was ready to help out.   But for all that, I got nothing on my own.  Out of 3 potential swarms, 2 left before I got there and one wasn’t even a swarm.  The one call I got from the BCBA was 20 feet up in the air – too high for my ladder.  Finally, my friend called and said that one of her hives had swarmed and that they had collected it and it was mine if I wanted it.  I said, “Yes, definitely!” and grabbed that and put it in Laura’s hive.   It was a huge swarm and so far, they seem to be doing well.

The first day I was doing presentations on bees down at the Eldorado Yoga Kids Camp, my friend Lucia texted me that there was a swarm back at work.  I was bummed that I was going to miss it, but teaching kids about bees took precedent.  When I got to work the next day, Lucia and I went to see where the spot that they were at and they were still there!  So, I got my swarm catching gear from my truck, hopped the irrigation ditch and went to see if I could coax them into the box.  They were hanging on the side of a willow tree. 

Bees on the tree - not a swarm

Bees on the tree – not a swarm

After watching them for a while, I thought maybe it wasn’t a swarm but rather they were living in the tree.  But I couldn’t see the entrance hole, so I decided to blow on them to move them a bit.  I do that frequently when I’m looking for the queen on a crowded comb.  Well, that was a mistake, especially since I didn’t have my veil on.  The guard bees came after me – a sting to the lip, 2 to the top of my head and 2 to my back!   I had to walk/run around the irrigation ditch because jumping it was out of the question.  By the time I got into the building and to the bathroom to see the stinger in my lip, I was starting to have a bit of a reaction.  Luckily we have a nurse on site so I got some Benadryl from her which lessened the reaction.   So, it turned out not to be a swarm and they are living in that tree.  However, they are constantly bearding on the outside, so I think they must be crowded inside.

Note to self – don’t blow on the bees without a veil

So now I have 8 colonies to tend.  It wasn’t the smoothest season of increase, but I learned a few things.  Since some of them are getting a late start, I might not get much honey this year, but that’s fine.  I want them to make enough to make it through the winter, but  I’m sure there will be a few extra frames for me as well.  Next year, I’ll time my splits better and move the old queens to new hives, and hope that I have more luck with swarms.  And I won’t blow on bees without a veil.

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Posted in Bees, Queens, Splits, Swarms | 2 Comments

An afternoon with the bees

The Sanskrit word seva is usually translated as “selfless service” – work performed without any thought of reward or repayment. It’s an important part of my practice both at the ashram and in my everyday life.  Every summer, the youth group at my former church goes on a work camp trip to perform service for those in need.  My older son went on several of these – to Mississippi to help with Hurricane Katrina cleanup, to the inner city of East St. Louis to work with underprivileged youth, to a reservation in South Dakota to help rebuild houses.  Through selfless service to others, these kids connect with people they don’t normally meet in the “Boulder Bubble” and learn something about themselves in the process.

Setup for “An afternoon with the bees”

These trips cost money though, and over the years there have been several different types of fundraisers to help these kids defray the costs.  In the past, I’ve donated beehive products (honey, lipbalm) for a silent auction (you wouldn’t believe what some people will pay for honey for a good cause!) and Diana has been a participant in an Iron Chef competition.  For the past couple of years, they’ve held “Pick-A-Party” events where someone will host an event that people pay to attend, with the money going to the youth work trip.  Last year, Diana hosted a Syrian-themed dinner because the kids were going to Seattle to work with Syrian refugees.  This year the kids will be learning about global hunger and sustainable food resources while working at the Heifer Project International in Arkansas.   Since our food security depends on pollinators, I decided to host an “Afternoon with the bees” to talk about why pollinators are important, the stresses that we are placing on them, and what we can do to help them out.

Pollinator protection handouts and native bee house

We had a small group, but they were all very engaged with what I was saying about bees and pollinators in general.  I discussed the plight of the pollinators – too many pesticides and reduced diversity of forage are decimating their populations.  I talked about what they can do in their own yards and with their own wallets – eliminate pesticide use, plant a diverse set of plants for pollinators to forage on, buy organics.  I explained the work I am doing with the People and Pollinators Action Network (PPAN) – educating people and creating pollinator safe neighborhoods and cities.  Two of the three households attending took our pollinator safe promise and the other is considering it!

Observation hive with Buddha and The Bees (Thanks, Faith!)

I set up my observation hive with some bees from the Left Hand Hive.  When I went to pick them up, I was expecting the Left Hand Hive to be brimming with bees based on what it looked like a month ago.  However, when I opened the hive, there weren’t as many bees as I expected and there were a bunch of dead and dying bees on the bottom board.  I think they may have gotten into some poison because the corn fields nearby had just been tilled and planted – presumably with pesticide coated seeds.  I’ll have to check back on them in a week to see if they are still alive.  But I was able to pull out the queen and some brood combs for the observation hive.   In just a couple of days, they started building new combs in the observation hive which was fun to watch.

We had a lively discussion about the role of agribusiness in pollinator declines – both from the production side (e.g., mono-culture planting, pesticide use) and from the commercial beekeeping side (e.g., trucking bees across the country for pollination, use of miticides and antibiotics in their hives).  A good question that one person asked is why doesn’t agribusiness realize that if they keep going this way, that it will affect their ability to grow food?  I wish I knew, but I’m sure it has something to do with making money now and let the future be damned.

Honey and cheese tasting

We had a honey (and cheese) tasting with some of my honeys and a special African honey that I found in my cupboard one day.  It must have come from my son since it was from Gonzaga University.  Diana and one of the attendees thought it tasted like port wine.

Zambia honey from Gonzaga U

I gave them a tour of my backyard bee hive (BnB1) and the Hello Kitty hive next door.  The weather wasn’t that warm, but the bees were flying and we took a quick peek through the observation windows.  I showed them the different equipment that beekeepers use – Langstroth and top bar hives, bee suits, smokers and hive tools.  At this time of year, my back porch is loaded with equipment.

Crushing up the combs

I showed them how I harvest honey using the crush and strain method.  I had several combs from my deadouts and live hives that needed culling so used those for the demonstration.  Some of the honey had crystallized, so the resulting honey was a bit cloudy, but from that one pot, I got 10 pounds of deliciousness.

Each attendee got a jar of honey and some lip balm just for attending, but we also set out some more items for sale with the proceeds also going to to the youth work camp.  We sold honey, lip balm, candles and some lotions that Diana has been making.

Buddha And The Bees Honey

Buddha And The Bees Candles

Diana’s lotions

All in all, it was a successful afternoon.  We raised some money to help the kids go on their seva trip and I got a chance to proselytize about bees.  Most of all, we had fun connecting around pollinators.

I found another translation of seva (although I can’t confirm it, but I like the idea), which says that “seva translates directly as “thread”, implying that all things are connected in the thread of existence. To engage with one is to engage with the whole. Likewise, to serve one is to serve the whole.”  

Spend some time in selfless service to others in any way you can.  The act is it’s own reward.

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Posted in Bee Products, Bees, Education, Honey, Pesticides | 2 Comments

Never stop learning!

Whenever I open the Feedly app on my phone, it says, “Never stop learning!”  It keeps me up to date on the latest news from bee blogs that I follow, as well as the day’s political news and cute cat videos.

This past weekend I took that phrase to heart and attended another beekeeping class.  You’d think after 5 years, I’d know a thing or two (and I do), but it’s always good to get another perspective.  My first beekeeping class was through the Boulder County Beekeeper’s Association (I highly recommend it).  That class focuses mostly on Langstroth beekeeping although there is one class on top bar hives – that’s the one that sent me down the top bar path.  But finding one that focuses on top bar beekeeping and natural beekeeping is not all that common.

The class this past weekend was taught by Corwin Bell of Backyard Hive.  Corwin has developed his own set of custom top bar hives – the Backyard hive, the Golden Mean Hive and most recently the Cathedral Hive.  I found out this weekend that he started off building a Hardison hive – the kind that I started with – which explains the shape of his hives which have more vertical sides than most top bar hives.  I bought the plans for the Golden Mean hive when I first started keeping bees and used it to tweak the Hardison Hive plans – particularly for the observation window.

Cathedral hive - last bar is all honey

Cathedral hive – last bar is all honey – 10# frame!

Corwin has designed his class and methods around the idea of Bee Guardians – people who are committed to helping bees thrive in a more natural way than is typically done.  This includes methods that take a more bee centric rather than keeper centric view of the bees and providing a habitat that is safe for bees.  That fits nicely with my world view of beekeeping.  He has a 90 minute DVD “Alternative Beekeeping Using the Top Bar Hive and Bee Guardian Methods” available for purchase that explains his philosophy in more detail.

While the material for this class was geared towards more beginning beekeepers, I still learned a few things that were interesting:

  • Corwin does not smoke his hives, but uses water to “cool the down” if needed.  Most beekeepers use smoke to disrupt the bees communication by scent, so if one or two bees start getting agitated, they can’t communicate to rile up the other bees.  His method of inspecting hives is such that he is never 2 steps away from closing up the hive if it gets agitated.  He used a scale of 1-10, with 5 being the cutoff point in agitation.   If he’s going through and they reach a 5, he’ll close up the hive with a follower board for a few minutes until they calm down, then proceed if they stay calm.  Worse comes to worse, he’ll just close the hive back up and come back another day.  So this year, I’m going to try using water instead of smoke.
  • When a queen goes on her mating flight(s), she mates with not just one drone but several (up to 15) drones from different colonies.  This provides genetic diversity for the survival of the species.  Different colonies have different traits – some are good pollen collectors, some are good comb builders, some are good at using propolis to seal their hives, some are good honey producers.  Corwin contends (but I haven’t been able to confirm this) that when a queen is naturally mated like this, the sperm remains layered in the queen so she can choose which sperm to use to fertilize an egg as she lays it, based on the environmental conditions.  If true, that’s really cool!   Beekeepers generally mate queens by reducing the genetic diversity – breeding for specific traits like good honey production, mite resistance, etc.   For artificially inseminated queens, Corwin likened it to injecting the queen with sperm package that had been run through a blender – no stratification, just one big slushy.  Corwin’s idea is to let queens open mate and select the survivors each year to propagate those traits that are locally adapted to the environment.   He encourages the use of swarms for increases over packages, a practice that I’ve adopted.
  • One of his more recent projects is relating the colony winter die-offs to weather.  He has correlated the effects of large temperature swings with colony kills.  In Colorado, we can experience temperature swings from the 80’s to the 20’s in just a few hours during the fall and winter months.  He’s found a good connection between such temperature swings and the times that colonies have died out.  His latest idea is to design a heating system for a hive using a low watt light bulb that could be used to mitigate the effects of such temperature swings.  I disagree with this approach.  I feel it is just propping up weak bees who aren’t able to handle these kinds of temperature changes.  But, it will be interesting to see what he comes up with.

There were several other tidbits I picked up here and there over the two days.  It’s always good to get another perspective on keeping bees.

Another reason for taking this class is that we are going to try to keep bees at the Eldorado Mountain Yoga Ashram this year.  It turns out that Corwin lives at the base of the hill from the ashram and offered to help them get started with a hive setup there. My friend Karvari,  who lives at the ashram, rescued an unused Golden Mean hive from Shoshoni last year and we are planning to use that to get started.  Karvari and another sangha member attended the workshop this weekend with me.  They’ll need to have an electric fence for bears, but it should be an exciting new adventure for the ashram!

The class was held close to my Left Hand hive, so I invited my sangha friends to do a quick inspection with me after class on Saturday. While we were there, the owner came out and said she had something she wanted to show us.  She had been working in her yard, raking up leaves and sticks and noticed that her cat was acting kind of weird.  It turned out that there was a bobcat sitting in the tree just above her head! I didn’t get the greatest picture, but it was exciting to see!

Bobcat in tree near Left Hand hive

Bobcat in tree near Left Hand hive

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Posted in Bees, Education, Swarms, Uncategorized, Weather | 2 Comments

In the bleak midwinter….

… it’s time to get ready for a new beekeeping season!  For the first time in a while, we’re having a snowy, wintery day in Colorado.  This winter has been very dry and fluctuated from highs in the 60’s to highs in the teens.  On Thursday, it was close to 60° F and a local beekeeper reported that here bees were bringing in pollen.   Today it’s 14° F and snowing.  The bees are clustered in their hives waiting for the warm weather to come back.

14.2 degrees.  Brrrrrrr!

Bee yard draped in snow

The first meeting of the Boulder County Beekeeper’s Association for 2018 happened last Wednesday and beekeepers were busy ordering packages and nucs of bees.   There was talk about the upcoming season and how to make sure your bees have enough carbs and protein to survive until the flowers start blooming.   With the overall warmer weather this winter, the bees have been more active.  They have probably been eating more of their stored honey than usual, so it’s important to make sure they have enough food for the wild spring weather ride.

The snowpack for skiing has been pretty bleak this year and today would have been a good day to get out and enjoy some fresh snow.  But I’ve been skiing for almost 50 years now and I don’t enjoy skiing in cold weather so I decided to stay in and make some candles and lip balm. I’ll wait until the sun comes back out and it warms up a bit.

I’ve been rendering all the wax I’ve stored up over the years and have started making candles this winter.  We used to buy pure beeswax tealights for use when we meditate.  The best I’ve found are from Blue Corn (a local Colorado company), but at $8 for 6, it gets pretty expensive (we meditate a lot!).  So, I figured I’d try my hand at making my own (and not burn down my house in the process).

The hardest part has been trying to find the right sized wick.  I’ve tried a variety of sizes but never found one that burned well.  My friend Julie over at Happy Hour at the Top Bar sent me some candles recently and told me that she got her wicks from Brushy Mountain Bee Farm.  They work pretty well, but I’m not fond of the smoke they give off when you blow them out.  Most recently, I’ve tried ones from Betterbee (which are a little cheaper).  They are a bit thinner (1/0) but still give off more smoke than I’d like when you blow them out.  The Blue Corn ones don’t do that.  So, I’ll keep searching, but am using the Betterbee ones for now.

For candle making equipment, besides a couple of molds and a pouring pot that I bought commercially, I mostly picked up pots and pans from thrift stores. I put one pot inside another to make a double boiler to melt the wax.

Melting wax in the homemade double boiler.

A couple of safety notes.  Beeswax is extremely flammable.  You should never leave melting wax unattended. It can catch fire and ruin a perfectly fine kitchen.  Ideally, you would do all your melting outside on a hotplate, but given the weather (and the fact that I don’t yet own a hotplate), I use my kitchen stove.  Also, wax is very waxy and getting it off of surfaces you don’t want it on is difficult.  So, make sure you don’t get wax where you don’t want it and protect all surfaces.

Wax mostly  melted

For dirty wax (newly rendered, old candles, etc), you need to filter the wax.  I was using an old sweatshirt for that purpose, but I used that up and don’t want to use my Patriots sweatshirt just yet, so now I use paper towels (away from any flame).  The nice thing about paper towels is that since beeswax burns very well, you can use the leftover wax-infused paper towels for fire starters.  Now all I need is a fire pit.

Straining dirty wax

For dirty wax, I add a bit of water to it so that the honey, pollen and other impurities (bee parts) precipitate in the water and separate from the wax.  I use old milk containers for it to cool in.  Once the wax has been cleaned, I still filter it one more time into my pouring pot before pouring the candles.  Any impurities in the wax can cause uneven burning.

I use an old cookie rack (well now it’s old because I got wax all over it)  for holding the candle containers and put parchment paper under that.  Parchment paper protects the surface underneath (e.g. my kitchen table) from drips.  Any drips of wax pop right off of it when they cool so they can be melted down and used again.

Tealights and forms with parchment below

I generally let the wax cool a bit down to about 150-160° F before pouring so it doesn’t melt the wax on the wicks and also the candles set up faster.

My son got me a Rob Gronkowski football bluetooth speaker for Christmas this year.  So, to set the mood for candle making, I listen to Shiva’s Garden on the Gronk Ball while making my candles.  A little “Cowboy Hare Krishna” does the trick.

Making candles with Shiva’s Garden on the Gronk Ball

Once the candles are poured, for me, the hard part is waiting for them to cool.  The pillar candles take a while, but the tea lights are pretty cool in about an hour.   Then I like to squeeze the plastic to make them pop up – it’s almost as much fun as bubble wrap!  I found you can’t rush the pillar candles – last time I almost pulled the wick out of one removing ti from the mold because the candle hadn’t hardened in the middle yet.

Testing the wick size

Candles need to cure before using, so I generally let them sit for a couple of weeks.  Also, you need to make sure that the wick size you used fits the candle.  I find the online information to be a bit sketchy because most of the time they are rated for soy or non-pure beeswax candles.  The way to test the wick size is to burn the candle and see if it burns evenly or if you end up with a tunneling effect.  Tunneling means the wick size is too small.  You  don’t have to burn the whole candle if you see tunneling – just melt it down to use for the next candle with a larger wick!

So, today I was able to make 35 tea lights for about 5 bucks.  I think that’s a pretty good savings.  And, that should last us for a few weeks of meditation!  Now on to lip balm!

As I was writing this post, the snow was falling so beautifully.  So, I’ll leave you with a short clip of the snow and some sacred music (and a brief comment from Yoda the cat).

 

 

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Posted in Bee Products, Weather | 5 Comments

Thanksgiving Gratitude

Today, Facebook reminded me that I published a post on gratitude on this blog 2 years ago.  At that time, I was in the throes of my prostate cancer treatment and just starting to learn more about meditation.  It had been a pretty difficult time for me, but no matter what the circumstances, I had plenty to be grateful for.  In that post, I talked about going to a meditation intensive and giving a talk on gratitude.  A lot has changed in those two years.

Prostate Cancer:

At the time of that post, I had finished my radiation treatments and I was under the thumb of the Evil Lord Lupron – a drug that eliminates the testosterone that feeds the prostate cancer.  Hot flashes, weepy episodes, ED, loss of memory – it all just sucked.  (I have a much better appreciation for my wife going through menopause now).  While I still have some lingering side effects (I don’t do math in my head anymore), I’m happy to say that I’m cured.

I’m grateful for the openness that I felt during my flirtation with womanhood.  My heart was much more open then than it is now (something I’m working on though).  My kids knew I was back to my old self when I started cursing out drivers on the road again.  But even there, these days, I just let it go.  It takes too much energy to be angry.

Meditation:

Two years ago, I went to my first meditation intensive at the Eldorado Mountain Yoga Ashram.  That was the beginning of a new spiritual path that continues to this day.  Since that day, I’ve started a practice of meditating twice a day (morning and evening) and have also become a certified Shambhava Yoga Meditation Teacher.

Meditating with Ganesha

Yoda the shakti kitty who meditates with us every day

One of the things I remember clearly from that meditation intensive is a young man, Govinda, who talked about his sankalpa of doing a gratitude practice every day for a year.  I told Diana that we should try that. To this day (and probably for the rest of my life), we end every meditation with a gratitude practice.  As I tell my students – gratitude begets gratitude – the more you are grateful for what you have, the more you exude that gratitude and other people feel that energy.  Every day, just for a minute or two, stop and think about what you have to be grateful for.  It’s a powerful experience.

An image I found on Facebook that sums it all up

An image I found on Facebook that sums it all up

I’ve since left the church I was attending and am now a member of the Shambhava Yoga community.  I still cherish my time at the church and keep in contact with the many friends who met over the past 20 years.  I love the new friends I’ve made in the sangha and look forward to new journeys with them.

In that previous post, I talked about how sore I was from sitting all day.  Recently, I attended a 4 day meditation retreat up at Shoshoni Yoga Retreat.  Even though I am a more experienced meditator, I wanted to deepen my practice and connect with the people up there.   Let me tell you, 4 days of meditating really takes a toll on your knees.  I skipped one of the sitting sessions to do a walking meditation to the Buddha rocks on the property.

Buddha rocks

The weekend met all my expectations.  I met some wonderful people who were there for the retreat, connected with the staff up there and deepened my desire to grow.  If you are looking for a place to grow, I highly recommend spending some time at Shoshoni.

Bees:

At one time, the folks up at Shoshoni tried keeping bees.  They had a top bar hive and a couple of Langstroth hives.  However, being at 9000+ feet with cold winters and wicked winds, it was pretty hard to keep the bees alive.  Even feeding them and trying to make protection around the hives didn’t work. My friend Karvari, who had lived up there at one time, told me that they still had the equipment up there but weren’t using it.  I thought maybe I could help them out and see if we could make a go of it, but now just wasn’t the time for them to try again.  They offered me the equipment, so I brought home the remaining Langstroth hive (Karvari had already taken the top bar hive).  Our plan is to set up the top bar hive in a new bee yard that I’ve acquired and the Langstroth hive in the Left Hand Hive yard.  I plan to donate any honey from these hives to the ashrams. 

So, this year, I’m grateful for my cure, my meditation practice, the prospect of new bees and this wonderful world we have before us.  Even in these troubled political times, there is still plenty to be grateful for.  Every day, the sun comes up and a new day is presented to us.  Sit back, be present and look for the wonder that is there.

Sunrise from my back porch

Happy Thanksgiving.

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Posted in Bees, Gratitude, Meditation, Spirituality | 6 Comments

Sharing the joy of harvesting honey

For many (if not most) beekeepers, harvesting honey is one of the most enjoyable times of the year.  Your bees survived the winter or you got new bees in the spring, you tended them with care through the summer to make sure they were happy and healthy. If you are lucky, they made enough honey to get them through the next winter and maybe a little (or lot) extra for you to to enjoy as well.  If they did, then late summer is harvest time!

Before I started beekeeping, I didn’t think much about honey, nor did I eat much of it.  Even now, my primary purpose for beekeeping isn’t to get honey.  I’m more into it as a way to help pollinators and connect with nature. But I do know that some people, like my colleague Kelly’s son Cal, think it’s one of the best things in the world.  Here he is with some honey I gave him for his 3rd birthday.

Cal's Honey

“I want this. Now. I want to eat this now.” “Where are the bees? I want the bees here too.” (photo by K. Mahoney)

One mistake that some new beekeepers make is harvesting more honey than they should, especially the first year.  Bees need the honey for food during the winter months, and if you don’t leave them enough to make it through the cold weather, they’ll starve before spring.  In Colorado, we can have late spring snows when the flowers are just starting to appear and the bees rely on the surplus honey to make it through these cold snaps and possible loss of forage from the snow.  For example, this past spring, we had a late freeze which killed all the fruit tree buds, right around the time that the bees needed that food source.  I tend to leave more honey than I need to in my hives (at least 16 total bars in my top bar hives).  I figure that if they don’t eat it all, I can harvest what they don’t need in the spring or use it to feed splits and caught swarms.  I don’t feed my bees sugar – honey is a much better food for them.

While harvesting honey can be fun, processing it can be tedious.  In the crush and strain method I use, I have to cut the comb from the top bars, mash it all up and strain it.  Then I have to bottle and label it.  In the process, I end up with honey over most surfaces in my kitchen – counters, door handles, floors.  It’s quite a sticky mess.

This year, I decided I’d break up the tedium by inviting people over to watch the process and help out.  It’s a good excuse to get people together and give them treats – something my wife and I love to do.  I’ve had Duncan and his family over to help in past years, but this year I expanded it to others.  I knew my little buddy Cal would be into it.

In late July, Laura’s hive filled up all the bars in the hive so I needed to take out some honey or else the bees might swarm.  I invited some friends over (including Cal and his family) to help out processing the honey.  I set up the observation hive too, so the kids (and adults) could play find the queen.  To avoid unwanted stings, I pulled the frames out of the hive before most people got there with my helpers, Duncan and Karvari.

Karvari ready for action with her cool hive tool.

Lots of honey combs in the back of Laura’s hive

Duncan ready for harvest.

I always think I have a good plan for harvesting that will make it quick and easy.  My plan was to harvest 4-5 combs, brush all of the bees off, put them into a nucleus hive and then cart them back down the street to my house. The combs at the very back of the hive were full of unripe nectar, so I had to temporarily move these to the nucleus hive, which I hadn’t planned on.  Karvari had brought her cool hive tool and a bee herder device to move the bees off the combs. While the hive tool was great,  I decided it would be easier to just shake the bees off the combs instead of using the bee herder.  That made them mad and they got a bit defensive. One went straight for Karvari and stung her on the thigh through her jeans!  In addition, the bees had attached some of the ripe combs to the bottom of the hive and I made a mess trying to detach them with a homemade tool I had (note to self – have to get a better tool for this).  Honey was dripping into the hive, bees were drowning in it, angry bees were flying all around, so my best laid plans were thwarted.  We persevered, and eventually, we did get 5 combs out and into the nuc, and most of the bees stayed behind.

My honey house is just my garage (or basement, depending on the day).  I clean up the half where I do the processing first.  We had new wood floors installed in house this summer, so I had leftover cardboard boxes that I put down of the floor, in hopes of making this a less sticky process (or at least to make cleanup easier).  All the equipment gets washed and sterilized beforehand.  I was trying out a new harvesting bucket this time – one where the top bucket has holes drilled in the bottom.

The crowd arrived about noon and we set about our business.  First we cut the combs from the bars.

Explaining the process (photo by K. Mahoney)

Next, the combs were crushed up.  Duncan is an expert at this and this year came up with the excellent idea of putting rubber bands on the gloves so they wouldn’t drop down.

Duncan the expert masher

Then the mash gets poured into the strainer in the top bucket.

Pouring the mash into the strainer (photo by K. Mahoney)

Then we let it sit. 

While we were waiting, we had a honey tasting of various honeys I have and looked for the queen in the observation hive.  After about an hour, enough honey went through the strainer so that I could give everyone who came a little bit of yummy sweetness to take home with them.

Cal bottling his own honey, others tasting honey in the background. (photo by K. Mahoney)

Cal deciding whether he likes the bees or honey best (photo by K. Mahoney)

Karvari happy even with a sting! (photo by D. Shellenberger)

The end result:

Yummy goodness all bottled up

In August, BnB2 filled up with honey, so I took some combs from that and a few from BnB1 and harvested that myself.  Then, later in the month, we harvested some honey from Duncan’s hive and had another honey harvest party, this time with friends from work (and Duncan’s family).

Another day, another harvest (with Duncan’s sisters, Caitlin and Larry watching).

Slicing up the combs

Another fun day!

Laura’s hive continued making more honey combs, so on Labor Day weekend, I harvested four more combs from that.  Duncan’s hive had lots of cross-combs in the back, so I decided to harvest some of those also.  That turned out to be a mess because there were many bees in between the combs that I couldn’t get out and they ended up in the mash.  In retrospect, I should have just left the honey there until spring and then harvested when there were fewer bees.  This harvest was just between me and the bees and they obliged with some stings to the stomach and the cheek.

Out of 7 hives this year, 4 produced honey (Laura’s, BnB1&2, and Duncan’s) for a grand total of 84.6 pounds (about 4 1/2 gallons) (mostly from Laura’s – 35 lbs).  I’ve been able to sell some and give the hive hosts their shares,  but mostly I give it away to friends and family and my ashram.  I love to spread the sweetness around.  

And I still have more!  It’s never treated with chemicals and it’s pure flower nectar. I can’t ship it outside CO, but if you live here, let me know if you are interested in buying some!  I gotta pay for my jars somehow!

 

 

 

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Posted in Bee Products, Honey | 7 Comments

Meeting of the minds

When I started beekeeping 4 years ago, besides taking a class, I started looking around the internet for any information I could find.  You have to be picky – some information on the intertubes can be sketchy. Since I was using top bar hives, the pickings were kinda slim – most information is about Langstroth hive keeping.  One of the first sites I found was the Backyard Bee Hive blog, where I found information about Marty Hardison and his hive design – the first I used for my hives.  And, HB, the blog writer, lives in Colorado, so her information on plants and seasonal beekeeping tasks was relevant to me.

Another site I found was Happy Hour at the Top Bar.  I thought the name was pretty cool, and as I perused the site, I saw that it had a lot of good information about top bar beekeeping and beekeeping in general.  The blog creator, Julie, started beekeeping about the same time I did.  She is much more adventurous than I about trying new things like making splits, moving brood/eggs between hives to keep them vibrant and making single piece wedge top bars without losing fingers.  She posts great summaries of talks that she attends with information from prominent beekeepers.

Happy Hour at the Top Bar Apiary

Happy Hour at the Top Bar Apiary

I started leaving comments on her blog, and she started following my posts and we developed a virtual beekeeping relationship – sharing information, ideas and laughs.  I even won a raffle that she had!  HB also chimes in on Julie’s blog. 

I knew Julie lived in Connecticut, where I lived for a brief time.  When I was back there for my father’s funeral, we took a hike at one of the lakes near where my sister lives.  Soon after that, Julie posted a picture of a lake near her house and it looked pretty similar.  So, I contacted her offline, telling her that I wasn’t trying to be a stalker, but was wondering if the lake was the same as the one I had just been at.  It turned out it wasn’t the same lake, but was pretty close by.  

Over the years, our virtual friendship extended to Facebook and even my wife has become her FB buddy.  So, besides beekeeping, we keep up with each other’s lives through that venue.  Julie was very supportive of me during my cancer treatments and has nudged me along as a beekeeper – I’m not sure I would have done my first split without her support and instructions.  We share many of the same tastes in movies.  Julie’s hives are named after queens and princesses and my favorite is Princess Buttercup – from The Princess Bride.

Princess Buttercup

Last week, I went to a family reunion back east, and part of the time was spent in Connecticut.  As I was planning my trip, I thought it would cool if Julie and I could meet in person, so contacted her and set up a plan to visit.  Last Friday, Diana and I finally got to meet Julie (and her family) in person.   We had such a good time – eating a delicious lunch, talking about bees, meeting her new chickens, swapping ideas about comb storage and observation hives, and finding 4-leaf clovers.  And of course, there’s the honey exchange – sharing the fruits of our bees labors. 

It was a wonderful afternoon and the only downside was that the time went by too fast.  There are so many questions I forgot to ask – but those will keep until the next time we meet – maybe in Colorado!

Julie and me

For all the disdain of social media, this is an example of the positive power of the internet.  Here’s to many more years of friendship and swapping ideas!

 

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Posted in Bees, Friends, Travel | 2 Comments

Teach your children well….

The Eldorado Mountain Yoga Ashram holds a kid’s summer camp each year where kids learn about yoga arts and nature in a beautiful setting at the mouth of Eldorado Canyon.  This year, I offered to do some sessions to teach kids about bees and other pollinators and the problems they are encountering these days.  The camp agreed,  so every other Monday, I’m giving 4 half hour presentations to groups of kids ages 5-10.

Once the camp said yes, then I had to figure out what I was going to do with the kids.  Being a geeky engineer, I don’t always relate to young kids very well.  Fortunately, I work with some talented people through the Longmont Coalition for People and Pollinators (LCPP), who do presentations to kids all the time.  One of the members has an observation hive that she brings to many events.  She recently bought a new one and at our last event at a local farm, she had the kids paint the outside of the hive.

Painting the observation hive at Olin Farms

I’ve always wanted an observation hive of my own. The commercially available observation hives are all set up for Langstroth equipment, and since I have mostly top bar hives, I would have to build my own if I went that route.  There are plenty of plans on the internet, but I was worried about the stability of a top bar frame during transport.  I’ve broken off enough combs in my hive – I felt it would disastrous if that happened in an observation hive and I crushed the queen!  Since I do have one Langstroth hive, I decided to purchase the same hive as my LCPP friend from Mann Lake.   I like this particular hive because it has good secure latches so the bees are less likely to escape.

The first week I went to camp, I brought my friend’s observation hive with her bees, since it was the day after the farm event and her hive was already loaded up.  I also brought some frames in varying stages of development in one of my cardboard nucleus hives, so I could explain how bees make comb, raise new bees and make honey. 

Talking to kids about bees at Eldorado kids camp

It’s fun to see how much the kids know about bees already.  I always start out asking them what they know about bees.  One little girl knew the three body parts (head, thorax, abdomen), others had teachers or neighbors that were beekeepers so knew a bit already. Most of them think that bees are out to sting you, but I explain that bees only sting as a last resort since they’ll die when they do.  It’s the wasps that sting most people.

I explain to the kids why bees and other pollinators (butterflies, moths, birds, beetles, wasps and flies) are important. I also explain that they are having problems from people using too many pesticides which either kill the pollinators outright, weaken them so they are susceptible to disease, and kill off or poison the plants that the pollinators need for healthy forage.  I brought a bowl of fruits and vegetables that we wouldn’t have if there were no pollinators, each with a little sticker showing what pollinates them.

Fruits and veggies that need pollinators.

I had the younger kids make bees and butterflies out of pipe cleaners and when their attention waned, we did the bee breath pranayama to calm them down.  I also brought some of my honey and gave them each a taste. But the thing that kept their interest the most was the bees in the observation hive.  They all wanted to know where the queen was and unfortunately on this day, she was pretty elusive. 

After watching the kids paint the hive at the farm event, and since the kids camp is an arts camp where they do a lot of painting, I thought that maybe the kids at camp would want to paint my hive.  The camp director is an amazing artist and I was hoping maybe she’d be able to do some painting also.  So, I brought my newly acquired hive and asked if they’d paint it and she said yes.   This turned out to be more of a chore than either of us planned on.  The kids have their own projects that they can take home and painting this was something extra that there really wasn’t time for.  I felt bad that I dumped this on them, but in the end, it all worked out.  I’m sure it took a whole lot of “Om Namah Shivayas”.  Between the camp director, the kids and some of the talented staff, they got the sides painted!  One side has Ganesha, pollinators and flowers, the other side has Buddha and the bees.

Ganesha side of the observation hive

Buddha side of the hive

This week, I took my newly painted hive down to camp.  I filled it with bees from the Left Hand Hive this time.  The tricky thing was finding the queen.  Ideally, you’d like to have her in the observation window because everyone wants to see the queen.  I went through all ten combs the first time and then found her again looking at them all a second time.  She was on some new comb which had mostly eggs and new larva and a cap of honey across the top.  In the bottom, I put 5 frames of brood, honey and pollen. 

Getting the observation hive populated from Left Hand Hive

It’s tricky to take a picture of the bees in the hive due to the reflection of the glass, but I got a good shot with the reflection of my bee yard in the window.

Reflections of the bee yard in the observation hive

This week, I talked a bit more about the types of honey bees (queen, workers, drones) and what they all do.  I explained that the queen lays the eggs and talk about the different stages that they go through in their development (egg, larva, pupa, bee).  I tell them that most of the bees are girls (workers) and that they do all the work.  I tell them that the boys (drones) are typical males – lying around the house, eating all the honey – the girls all like that.  They only have one purpose in life – to mate with the queen.  I always struggle with explaining what “mate” means with the little ones, but one little girl came up with the idea that they “marry the queen”.  So, I’m going to use that from now on.

The queen was out and about laying eggs and the kids had fun finding the her.   When I put the frame in, there was only one capped cell, but the bees had capped some of the larva cells overnight, so we got to see all the stages of development.  All in all, I was happy with my first foray with the observation hive. 

Kids camp enjoying the newly painted observation hive

I’m looking forward to my two more events in July.  I feel it’s important to teach kids why pollinators are important,  the dangers pesticide pose to pollinators and that we need to make sure they have enough flowers and trees to provide them food so they’ll thrive.  Hopefully they will realize that a perfectly green lawn is a food desert for pollinators and that they will let the occasional weed, just bee.  My truck sums this up well.

My bumper stickers tell the story

I’m grateful to Faith, Aloki, Kalidasi and the campers for getting the hive painted, to Rajani for helping me set things up for each session, to all the camp leaders for spending time with the kids, and the kids for their inquisitiveness. 

 

 

 

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Posted in Bees, Education, Pesticides | 6 Comments