An unpleasant evening

I have written before about beekeeping. As a hobby it brings me much joy (and honey!).

I went into last winter with 7 hives. I tried a different mite treatment regimen before the real winter arrived. I normally expect to lose about 30% of my hives over the winter. Came out with 6 hives, a 15% loss. I’ll buy that for a dollar!

This time of year it is a lot of work. The bees are undergoing the spring population explosion. If one does not really pay attention, the bees will swarm, meaning half of the bees leave to find a new home because the population outgrew the old homestead.

The 6 hives had turned into 11. I made a “split”, making 12 hives. One of the hives was a little aggressive last fall. I wrote it off as old worker bees dying off and generally were unhappy with that whole deal. I took the “daughter” of this hive to a nearby farm, by request of the owners. This hive had a population explosion and had her own “daughter”

This makes 3 hives from last fall’s aggressive colony. One is as docile as could be. The other two somehow inherited the bad attitude. Bad enough that simply mowing 20 feet away from the apiary here was rewarded with 2 stings. The apiary at the farm followed me 1/4 mile down the road before the last guard bee gave up the chase. I had inspected the hives there which makes bees “testy”.

Yesterday morning I sat on the porch and watch several people cross the street as they walked past. One young lady definitely had a close encounter of the bee kind. That just won’t do. In town beekeeping is tolerated as long as the ladies do not cause trouble.

The farm is a gathering place and sometimes campground so there are generally lots of people working and playing there. Many stings would definitely be a bad thing for the farm.

None of the typical external reasons a colony will get mean were present. The only “internal”reason I can think of is genetics. Re-queening will sometimes work, but results will not happen until almost a month passes. That leaves the only option euthanasia. I do not want people to get stung, and I definitely do not want this aggressive gene spreading into the wild.

So tonight I had the most unpleasant task of killing 2 colonies. Somewhere over 160,000 bees. Rubbing alcohol and dry ice. The rubbing alcohol kills most of the bees, and carbon dioxide sublimating from the dry ice will asphyxiate any survivors of the alcohol. As the dry ice evaporates away it carries cold down through the hive, chilling the brood in the pupal, larval, and egg stages. The brood need to stay about 90 degrees to survive.

The magnitude of what I have done does not escape me. All those bees had every right to exist. But the little old ladies shouldn’t have to cross the street as they pass on their morning walk. Of course, the visitors are assumed to not have doing anything “unwise” around the hives. The visitors at the farm should leave with good memories of the farm, which even had BEEHIVES!

Thank you for reading this. I feel a bit better having gotten this off my fingertips.

Oh yeah the little old ladies are going to be surprised with a jar of honey 😉

Bridging the past

Most all of the folks who know me have never seen these 4 bridges. I grew up crossing all 4. They offer unique views of the riverbed, riverbanks, and the surrounding buildings.

As a youngster, I did not know or care about any historical significance. What I did take the time to look at was the ways they were put together.

The details of their construction intrigued me. Rivets, stone arches, concrete pilings, arches, cables, trusses. It’s all there. I am likely not the only person to make time to learn about why things are put together the way they are after looking and thinking about these 4 varied examples.

The embellishments are subtle and pleasing.

To this day I have a scar on my left arm from the Upper bridge. I was heading to my job of picking strawberries one early June day. There was dew on the steel bridge deck.

From the Essex county side there’s a fairly steep hill between the old Phone Company building and the bridge. You can get your 10 speed moving mighty fast down that hill.

The approach to the bridge is a right hand curve. I was still leaned over into the curve when my tires transitioned from asphalt to the open grate steel deck. I kept the bicycle on its wheels and slid my left arm just below the shoulder along the rusty steel pipe that serves as a guardrail.

Jume 8 2021 Inspection

Did the inspection in ascending hive # order.

Hive 1 was recently re-queened (thanks Fred!). The ladies were happy, mellow, Her Majesty is laying well and no issues were found.

Hive 2 yielded another honey super ready to go. Earlier in the week I had pulled another one off this hive and replaced it with an experimental super. The theory is the bees draw and fill the comb in the jars. So far so good.

Hives 3,4, and 5 are empty, but we will revisit 5.

6 is now a VERY aggressive hive. They have a laying queen, she has room to lay, all the things I know they need are there. Stole a couple frames of honey from them but that has nothing to do with the aggression. I will watch and see but think I may well order a replacement queen if my queen castle experiment doesn’t work out.

7 is a mystery to me. Last time I was in it, there were eggs and larvae above the queen excluder. Below the queen excluder there was also a laying queen. I moved the queen excluder up, but it happened again. I took the super from above the queen excluder and put it in 5, hoping to create a new colony there.

8 was a NUC that made it through the winter. I moved them into a 10 frame hive with a second brood box and a couple honey supers over that. They still haven’t drawn any comb in the 2 supers and are still working in the second brood box so I left the supers off when I put the top back on.

9 is doing fine, busy and good population, no issues there, stole a couple frames because.

10 will be done another day. It got moved out of the rotation because the last inspection got rained on at the end so I will check it next week.

All hives with pronounced drone comb got the drone mite inspection (scrape an uncapping fork over the drone comb and look for mites. Only saw a couple mites in 8. Next inspect I will do the alcohol wash to see if I need to treat for mites.

I really like my vented suit. It keeps me cooler than my un-vented, and lets some breeze through. I kind of like the fencing veil hood except it can get pressed against the face when looking down. I got stung twice in the chin and now resemble Robert Z’Dar (RIP).

Road trip

Maggie decided that she is getting old and we needed to find her replacement service dog. Maggie has been with me 9 years and has earned a semi retirement. My most wonderful wife found an Australian Shepherd puppy in Roanoke Indiana.

I took Sunday off and we were on the road before 430 AM. Maggie insisted on coming with me and Merlin wouldn’t be left behind. Thing about driving north is it feels like going uphill. Could be because the route takes us through West Virginia, the only state considered all mountainous terrain.

Once in Ohio we followed the river valley to Dayton then basically north north west into Indiana and up to Roanoke. There we met this cutie:

We discovered that Tonks really likes air conditioning. When we turned it on she settled down and went to sleep on my lap The trip back took longer because even though it felt like going downhill, we had a little one who needs to stop and pee fairly often. We got home 978 miles and 18+ hours later.

Sitting at the oil change place, the Subaru earned it after a road trip like that.

Busy bee morning

After a couple weeks of not great weather, I anticipated today and tomorrow would bee busy beekeeping days. I was wrong.

Today was a frenetic beekeeping day. I walked outside to retrieve a wayward bucket up by the apiary and noticed a swarm in the making by one of the hives.

Small swarm
This small swarm caught my attention when I was passing by the apiary.

I “just happened” to have a few hives set up in anticipation of such an event, and moved these ladies in short order. A bit later, I spotted another similar sized swarm and put them in yet another pre-prepared hive.

I then sadly watched a swarm up in the pine tree decide they were going “that-a-way” and off that way they went.

All was not lost though. As I went to the garage to get more hive bits and pieces, I saw this:

Swarm in a tree
What a swarm in a tree or shrub looks like

Needless to say, I shook them into the hive I just pulled out of the garage for use as a “bait hive” in case more swarms decided to go house hunting.

As long as I was all geared up and at the apiary, I figured it was time for an inspection on everyone.

Hive 1 is strong, queenright, and needs to lose a super of honey.

Hive2 is also strong, queenright, needs to lose a super full of honey, and Her Majesty popped out and said hello.

Hives 3,4, and 5 got established as caught swarms. 4 needs a better fitting inner cover, and is the beginning of the all medium frame hive experiment. Feed.

Hive 6 swarmed, found several nice queen cells. Split it, making hive 10, It had shown signs of varroa mites, this brood break should mitigate the mites. Will check on it in 2 weeks as well.

Hive 7 is in good shape, her Majesty said hello, and needs a queen excluder and a 10 frame honey super.

Hive 8 is a NUC established a few weeks ago, has a nice queen cell and I will have to check again in a couple weeks for eggs/larvae.

Hive 9 is one that swarmed, left it alone because I have bad luck not damaging queen cells, and I expect there’s a big juicy one in there. I may go in with the endoscope for a look once things calm down.

Hive 10, just established with nice queen cell from 6. Leave it alone for a coupe weeks. Feed.

I need to make a couple queen castles to accommodate all the queen cells I’ve been finding – time to start raising queens on a small scale.

Ramblin’ on

Nothing really exciting going on, and I honestly prefer it that way. Years ago, I thought I wanted some excitement in my life. When all kinds of perturbations came along, I wanted them to all go away.

Some did for a while, some took a lot of work to get through, and the rest finally got over themselves and slunk off to some obscure corner to be happily forgotten. Not quite forgotten, the lessons remain. I’m not joking when I say I’ve been through hell and succeeded in coming out the other side. I’m the better for having gone through it all.

I can say that life is good. I’m not rich or famous like I wanted to be when I had many fewer years on the chassis. I have come to realize that if I was rich, all kinds of people I’d happier not having in my life would be coming around wanting to get into my pockets. If I was famous, other people I also would prefer not be around would all be digging into my business. Screw that noise. I’m poor, unknown, and happy.

I’ve got the best wife in the world. Seriously. We compliment each other on so many levels, including “my you look beautiful today”. We’re both adventurous, like camping, kayaking, and just being with each other. I can get lost in conversation with her for days.

When we met I was on the verge of giving up on everything. I hurt inside and out. Can’t have lived through as much “excitement” as I have and not suffered quite a bit of physical damage along the way. Fortunately, the lady I fell in love with also happens to be a very accomplished Chiropractor. It took several years to undo decades of damage, but at my advanced age and frail condition I outperform kids 1/3 my age at work. Granted kids these days don’t seem to have much “gumption” but give an old man the chance to boast a little 🙂

Got 2 great dogs whose company I prefer to most people I know. Maggie’s been with me 9 years and she’s the best grrl anyone could hope for. Merlin is way too smart, excitable, and a metric butt ton of fun. Within 36 hours of him meeting me he’d traveled over 3600 miles from El Paso, Tx to Pucallpa, Peru.

Got a couple cool hobbies that tie many of my interests together. Medieval armored combat means I have to make armor, be able to move well in it, stay fit enough to be a credible threat, and remain teachable. That’s me on the left.

The other hobby is beekeeping. It ties my interests in fairly precise woodworking, livestock management, and lying awake at night second guessing things I did days ago. Seriously, beekeeping is a way cool hobby that is guaranteed to keep you humble, and if you’re reasonably successful the rewards are sweet indeed.

So there’s a slice of where I’m at right now. Life is good.

Why do I keep bees?

Long ago in New York state (far away from where I live now), I saw hives in the apple orchards every spring. After a while they would vanish, and I wondered what that was all about. I asked one of the owners of an orchard along my route to work at the ruck stop and he extolled the virtues of renting honeybee colonies to pollinate his orchard.

Several years later I worked on a farm in Massachusetts as a side job, cutting roads through the woods, mowing, and maintaining vintage tractors. There was a cabinet maker with a shop on the farm, and he kept several hives there. He would be all dressed out in his beekeeping outfit and I would be standing next to him and a pair of shorts and boots watching him working. I was totally fascinated.

A decade or more after that, I was living on a farm in North Carolina, working for a company building swords and armor. One day as I sat in my pickup looking through the mail, a swarm flew in the window of the truck, right in front of me, and out the drivers window. I followed them into the woods hoping to find where they ended up. No luck.

A few years after that, my lovely wife bought me a starter beekeeping kit, and classes on how to be a beekeeper. I dutifully followed the directions (mostly) and despite my ineptitude, including robbing them of as much honey as I could, my first colony made it through the winter.

I added several more colonies and built a top bar hive to experiment with. I was hooked.

I moved out of the country for several years and gave away my beekeeping stuff, since importing agricultural stuff into South America and Ireland would have been much more trouble than it was worth. While in Peru, there was a guy on the corner that squeezed sugar cane stalks for the juice. He always had bees hanging around. I wasn’t there long enough to get an apiary going though I had a good idea where the colony lived.

Once we returned to the states, I decided that I wanted to resume the hobby. It’s been a joy, frustrating, and rewarding beyond my wildest dreams. It’s not for everyone, but those of us that do, understand the fascination.

MUD

Ups n Downs

Today was a mostly great day.  Got to sleep in a bit.  It was overcast but warm.  Perfect day to paint the chairs for Kim’s clinic.  We had cleaned them yesterday so they would be ready for paint today. 

Did a minor Walmarting for last minute tarp and banana for the bunny.  Dragged out the paint sprayer, laid out the tarp, and went to town.  It’s been a while since I’ve sprayed anything.  I was a technical service representative for a chemical manufacturer that made polyurethane spray foam for roofing, insulation, and many other things.  Got to be a pretty good sprayer.

Sprayed a few chairs, showing Kim how then we took turns spraying.  My lovely wife picked up spraying quickly.  Was an eye opener for her.  Kim likes to paint but had never sprayed before.

I received something I had ordered  back in September.  I of items was right.  Pretty much right on as far as the message I want uninvited visitors to get.

After all the good things about today how could anything bum me out?  Try a wastewater fountain in the basement.  There was a clog in the pipeline.  The sump pump kept cycling, and the vent pipe was where the fluid was escaping to splash on the floor to run back to the sump pump, repeat often.   Many dollars later the plumber left.

Kim made a very tasty curry so in all today was a win.

False economy

I went grocery shopping today. I look around at various cuts of meat and try to decide what I could do with them and then I will plan other meals around them. As I was looking at the various items I decided that I was going to buy a prime rib.

At first you would think that’s a lot of money. But I submit the following. I will get seven meals out of a five pound prime rib. Since the prime rib was less than $50 , seven meals for $50 is much cheaper than McDonald’s, 7 Big Mac meals large with extras.

Consider the health benefits of cooking at home.  I use coconut oil when I fry.  Veggies instead of fries. 

  I don’t drink much soda, and when I do it’s made with cane sugar not high fructose corn syrup.

I can show you studies showing the correlation between the stabilization of HFCS and the beginning of the obesity of America.

So a week’s worth of lunch or supper, more since I will space the rib out amongst other things, for less than $50 really isn’t a bad deal.

Happy Thanksgiving

So here I am at work on Thanksgiving.  Many people would be unhappy about working today.

My take on this is I get to work on things I know need work but are not important in the eyes of the powers that be.  Until they don’t work any more.  We don’t have spares of them, and it takes at least a week or so to get one.

There’s nothing complicated, it’s just straightening and gusseting parts that aren’t made to be pushed on.  Checking common wear points and ensuring the pieces that are supposed to move do, and the ones that aren’t, don’t.

I also have to make sure that all of the forklifts get put on the chargers so they will be ready to go when the plant starts back up in a couple days.

And I have to walk around the buildings and make sure that they’re not burning down. The nice thing about being a certified forklift operator is I don’t have to walk much because I can drive the forklifts instead.

Plus it being a holiday I’m getting paid holiday pay plus my regular pay so that’s an added good thing. I will trade a day that I was supposed to work anyways for extra money the ability to work on something I like to work on and be able to do it unmolested. I believe that to be a win for me all the way around.

So Happy Thanksgiving to all of you and while you’re digging into that turkey and stuffing and taters think of your friendly Mad Uncle Dave and give me a smile