Sunday Project: DUCK HOUSE

After a tragedy in the bee yard (blog impending) we moved on to the NEXT crisis: duck housing. I had made a frame on Thursday/Friday out of scrap lumber but got stuck on the plywood bit. See, no truck makes it hard to get lumber of any size.

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Me, every day.

ANYWAY, today it was do or die. Spoilers: we didn’t die, but IT WAS CLOSE. If you’re using scrap lumber make sure you don’t accidentally hit nails or screws with a circular saw. Just…saying.

We got some plywood, sawed it in half to fit it into the car, and then played a lot of lumber tetris, but we managed to get something slapped together enough to work. I like making things that look like you know, someone tried. But for this, I DID NOT CARE. So it could, and it DOES, look like a patchwork quilt. Wait, no, patchwork quilts look nice. Like if a quilter tried to patchwork wood into an architectural monstrosity.

ANYWAY, it’s done, the ducks are happy, and actually I’m surprisingly pleased with the design? The top has a LOT of ventilation (which is probably too much but also ducks are the pigs of the poultry world sooo), which also means one can look in without disturbing anyone WHICH IS FUN.

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THAT’S THE CUTEST DUCK I EVER SEEN

I also learned from Devin’s A-frame “rabbit tractor” (or…quail tractor as it is now) that doors are very important. Mostly, if you ever want to be able to grab little wiggly animals, you have to make smart door decisions. So, while it disrupts the roofing something awful, I made the door NICE AND BIG and it just swings up and rests to be open and swings down to close. We’ll see if it holds up but DANG I like it. Easy access for food and water too. I guess if you didn’t want the things ever getting out this would be a bad solution, but these little goofs will be getting let out this week to free range so I think it’ll be nice.

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THE DUCKGATES SHALL BE OPENED

We definitely…weren’t great at measuring stuff, and less great at having lumber that fit said measurements…but…it all worked out. Also I had little “handles” that can be used to lift the thing. Once again, despite my best intentions, it is INSANELY HEAVY. We just…build heavy things. HEAVY BUILT PEOPLE WE ARE. It’s moveable though, so once they tromp down one area it can be moved a smidge over to clean ground. That’s really the only way to do it in my opinion. The chicken coop we bought (pictured below, behind Devin) does NOT move (easily) and that thing IS A PAIN. The run is entirely useless because the main building can’t be moved so the run gets destroyed in a few days and nothing can be done about it (except to just remove it and let them run freeeeee).

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It’s not pretty but it’s MUCH prettier than the cage they’ve outgrown and soil IMMEDIATELY after cleaning.

Anyway, there’s not any meat to this blog post but yeah. WE DID A THING.

And no, “Project Sundays” will not be a regular thing. I wish it was but also I’m a realist. ^_^

What Not to Wear: Bee Edition

I’m the actual worst at fashion. Also I’m barely not the worst at bees. But hey, I’ve learned a few things so WHY NOT.

Welcome to…

WHAT NOT TO WEAR: BEE EDITION

#1: Sunglasses

One might think, HEY, protect my eyes, wear sunglasses! I mean, you’re half right. Bees defensive mechanism is to go for the eyes. It’s the only thing that’ll get a predator, like a big fuzzy bear, out of their hive. But, here’s the thing. How do they decide where the eyes are? LOOK FOR DARKNESS. So, if you’re wearing LARGE, DARK sunglasses you’re basically saying, “DUDE I HAVE THE WORLD’S BIGGEST, MOST VULNERABLE EYES, PLEASE COME GET ME.”

So yeah. Veil. Not sunglasses.

#2: Dark Colors

I mean, this is basically the above. Dark colors = MAYBE EYES?? See, I always thought beekeepers wore white because it’s supposed to promote cleanliness or something. Nope, it’s so you can be like “HEY NO EYES HERE.” Also, KEEP IN MIND, that bees see colors differently from us. They have no photo-receptors for red, for example, so if you wear red, it looks like black. (Which is dark, obvs.) Interesting article: How Bees See and Why it Matters.

#3: Animal Fibers

One would probably think, “HMM what are the thickets socks I have? AH, WOOL, PERFECT!” I did it. Well, here’s the thing. When you’re doing bee things, you want to NOT smell like a mammal. Turns out, mammals are the number one offender when it comes to “let’s take all the honey.” So, if you’re wearing animal fiber, that area of your body is more likely to be targeted by angry bees. This is a great time to note that if you are a smelly, smelly human, like I am, best to shower sometime before popping the lid on that hive.

#4: Perfume, Cologne

I mean, again, smells. Try not to smell bad but also try not to smell too good. Like, just try not to smell at all. SMELL NEUTRAL. It’s hard, I know.

#5: Skinny Jeans & Super Sexy Tanktops

I mean, you can. But the less room between your clothing and your skin, the more likely if an angry bee wants to stab ya, you’re gonna get stabbed.

#6: Holey Clothes

I know, it’s hard. You don’t want tight clothes, but you don’t want lose clothes so bees can you know, get trapped between your clothes and your skin. It’s so complicated.

#7 Panic

Panic isn’t a great look on anyone. If a bee bumps your veil, back away and give them some space. If a bee flies into your hair (this basically happens on any sunny day with me now), TRY NOT TO FLIP THE CRAP OUT. I know. It’s the most natural response ever. I have curly hair so walking through the yard if a bee hits me I often get this lovely “IMMA STUCK BUZZ BUZZ HALP” sound RIGHT BY MY EAR. It’s fine. Just stop (and don’t drop and roll). The faster you move, the more a bee is gonna flip the crap out. Slow movements, like you live and breathe tai chi. Bees have like crazy seeing superpowers so swatting them when they’re flying is REAL HARD, and also, will make them angry. So just no. If you have dark hair and/or crazy hair like me, tie it back and use a light colored bandana over it. Remember, a honey bee* DOES NOT want to sting you. It kills them. If you do get stung, scrape the stinger out of your skin and LEAVE. When a honeybee stings it releases pheromones so you’ve basically been tagged as a big, mean target. Tai chi your way out of there.

* Yellow jackets and hornets are another story. KILL ON SIGHT. I mean, what. Bumble bees also keep their stinger, but I love them so just like, don’t troll them.

Notes

If you’re going to help someone with their bee hive (or if you’re letting someone help YOU with your hive), here’s something to keep in mind. Guests should ALWAYS be wearing more protection than the person opening up the hive. Why? Because while the person opening up the hive may be the “primary aggressor,” the beekeeper needs to look out for their guests first. If the beekeeper is fully protected and has bear mode engaged they may not be aware of how riled up the hive is getting, but the guests sure will! If someone enters the area when a beekeeper is doing a hive inspection and is not wearing protective gear, they need to be stopped and removed from the area or equipped properly. People, I realize more and more, are terrified of bees. It’s a beekeeper’s job not only to take care of their hives but also be a good educator and bee advocate to the public.

 

The more you know! And knowing is half the battle. 😉

Around the Farm (April/May)

I don’t have a farm. But that’s okay. I’m going to pretend. Hopefully you enjoy these pictures and explanations of my farm that’s not a farm. ;P


I was running some errands and happened to drive past where I went to preschool – low and behold there was someone sitting there with FREE PLANTS. SO MANY. It was the most exciting thing.

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FREE PLANTS

The chickens started roosting. IT IS STUPID CUTE. I don’t even like chickens, ya’ll, why am I getting attached to their dumb little jerky personalities??

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What a bunch of dummies.

 

Finn turned 5 and we celebrated with yogurt. Spoilers: I actually cleaned out the fridge and there was expired yogurt. I didn’t buy it for him. Don’t tell though.

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I cannot even with how cute the ducks are. Just, always. THEY ARE GETTING SO BIG YOU HAVE NO IDEA.

 

Speaking of cuties…Brego and I had to get some selfies in.

Can you tell I REALLY enjoy taking pictures of bees?

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I decided to steal some of my parents’ Camas from their pasture to try and cultivate in my lawn. In case you don’t know about Camas plants: they are in the asparagus family, and were used by the natives for food. After the plants die back their bulbs would be dug and roasted in a fire to create something sweeter than a sweet potato or they would be dried and ground to use as flower. I once lived in a city named after the flower, supposedly because when the pioneers came over the mountains they thought the valley was a huge lake because all the blooming Camas flowers were so thick and expansive. They are beautiful and bees love them. I have yet to try eating them but some day I want to. NOTE: there is another called a “death camas” which is white and yes, will kill you. So…be careful, as always.

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State of the Bees: 2017/05/11

This post is SOOO LATE but we’re just gonna ignore that.

FOUR SCORE AND SEVEN YEARS AGO, my good friend Kevin came from California. Apparently not willing to be outdone by Galadriel, he game bearing gifts. SO MANY GIFTS.

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Fortunately he did not ask me to look into any creepy mirrors. (Art by Matt Stewart. Do yourself a favor and go look at his gorgeous pieces, seriously, your eyes will thank you.)

ANYWAY, after bestowing upon me homemade donuts, homebrewed pear cider, wildflower seed, and the (probably complete) works of Asimov, I decided I GUESS I’ll let you help me with a hive inspection. But of course it was raining. TO BE CONTINUED.

At some point that week (04/26?) I was out doing a little gardening and suddenly bees kept hitting me as I walked by the hives. This is usually a very rare occasion but I had three or four do it in the span of a few minutes. I looked at the hive entrances and it was like Los Angeles traffic at rush hour. They were landing three deep on top of each other, knocking huge bunches of other bees off onto the ground. MAYHEM. So I opened up another entrance. I didn’t want to till the brood started hatching (21 days after the queen was released, so still a week+ away), but IT WAS CRAY ALL UP IN THERE. I threw on a veil, opened up the next one over, and not more than a minute or two after it starts POURING. Going from sun to rain in Oregon is not unusual but this was pretty dang impressive, even for us. I was soaked by the time I got back into the house. The bees, by the time the rain started, had already gotten back in THEIR house. So I’m not actually sure they NEEDED the other entrance open so much as they had used their Bee Powers (™, probably) to sense the coming rain and all wanted to get in before they would be stranded who knows where. It was fascinating. I love watching and learning from them about weather.

DO OVER DAY (4/29)

The sun is shining, and we’re suited up and ready to go! Seriously though, I’M FEELING GOOD about this hive inspection. The bees are all out flying in force, it’s nice and warm, I’ve got someone to help me LIFT THE ROOOOOOF (apparently the coffee is working well this morning), and uhhh I guess that’s it. BUT IT SEEMS GOOD.

Inspection goals:

  • EVERYONE STAY CALM
  • Pull out feeders OR refill and replace
  • Go through frames, counting the number of bars with drawn comb
  • Put empty bars in-between straight-drawn comb
  • Smoker practice
  • TAKE PICTURES??

The smoker, as always, was an interesting challenge. Here’s the thing. I’m sure I’ve said this before BUT I’m great at fires. The best. I make the best fires. No one is better at making fires. I make BIG FIRES. HOT AND FAST. But with a smoker you have to basically make a really bad fire. A tiny, bad, very sad fire. I’m really bad at that. ANYWAY, Kevin got to watch me struggle to make a fire that is tiny, mostly dying ie. VERY SMOKY, but somehow alive enough to last for like thirty minutes while we dork around with the bees. IT’S HARD, K?

So, we popped the roof off on both of them, let things settle a bit, then checked out the feeders. They were mostly full, which I had assumed. I’m not sure if it’s because I am the #1 World’s Worst Sugar Syrup Maker or what, but nothing likes my sugar syrup. Even when I supposedly make it right. WHATEVER, IT’S FINE. But, unfortunately, even though it clearly hadn’t leaked, one of the hives definitely had MOLD???? NOT GOOD.

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WHAT THE WHAT

Fortunately it was just on the access follower and since they clearly had enough natural food sources I just pulled it and the feeder out. UGH, though. UGH UGH. So…I have to figure that out.

Then it was HIVE TIME!

I had my camera so here’s a shot of the “house hive.” SO CUTE. Devin (my husband) watched safely from the bedroom window. I was really glad he participated. FRIENDS DOING BEE THINGS WITH ME. MAKES ME FEEL SO LOVED.

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The inside of the hive! There were little white flakes at the bottom of this one that I’m a little paranoid about even though google searches seem to indicate it’s fine. I still need to ask the bee forum, oops.

PHOTO OP TIME!

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So much drawn comb! IT MAKES ME SO GLEEFUL. And also Kevin seems to enjoy it as well.

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Kevin holding the BUSY BEES

I still haven’t seen the queen. Well, that’s a lie. I THINK I see the queen ALL THE TIME but I don’t think I’ve ever ACTUALLY seen the queen. She’s a wily Russian lady. I’m still REALLY BAD at recognizing, well, everything. But I couldn’t figure out if this was capped brood (in the middle) or capped honey. A friend told me it was capped brood. I realized I could’ve popped one open to check but I was too busy working about goal #1 EVERYONE STAY CALM. In all, there were 8 bars with at least half or full comb drawn on them. That seems WAY FASTER than I was expecting? Especially since it had only been two weeks, at least one of which was basically solid rain? I don’t know, apparently these ladies are hardcore.

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Along the way I realized my smoke might’ve been a bit too hot. See, how do you even make cold smoke, this is so hard. It wasn’t SCALDING, but on the second hive when I puffed the guards they were all “YOU WANNA GO?” I convinced them, I would be going shortly, no need for a fight. It was the second hive (the “tree hive”) that had the mold pictured previously that I pulled. This hive didn’t have the white powder (which is probably wax flakes) at the bottom of the hive. It also had about 8 drawn bars, and with both hives I added two empty ones, and moved the last empty so that all three new bars were in-between straight drawn bars. Which, it appeared, was all of them! So either my bar guides are good or these ladies know how to keep a tidy house.

We ended up wrapping up our inspection and I think we accomplished all our goals! I don’t think we had any bees who got mad enough to try and sting us, though I did accidentally squish a few. All in all I think we were pretty calm!

MISSION SUCCESS

Adding More Bars (05/03)

On Wednesday the third of May we had an 80 degree (F) day because WHY NOT. It’s cool to go from 30 degree nights to 80 degree days. After doing some pondering I was really worried that after going through 8 bars in 2 weeks of rain they would’ve gone through 3 bars easy in the span of a couple good foraging days. Plus, the brood would be hatching VERY SOON. So, after Devin got home from work, I enlisted his help in putting more bars in. Apparently full of confidence (and being lazy), I just wore my veil. NO GLOVES. They say you shouldn’t wear gloves but honestly that’s the one thing I have a huge problem with. I don’t want to get stung on the hands more than other places. It doesn’t make sense, I know. Anyway, Devin was brave, we pulled the roof off (the house hive roof is sticking again, CRYYYYYY), and I popped ten empty bars in the back of each hive. I didn’t want to intersperse them because I realized I’m also concerned about breaking up their brood too much since the nights are still not warm, and I feel pretty confident about their neatness so far.

I need to go in and do another hive inspection to see if I should add MORE bars now that brood has hatched, but now we’re supposed to have more rain forever.

Yesterday was our last day of “nice” weather for a bit, and I noticed a lot of activity around one of the hives (the tree hive). I’m a bit concerned because it almost looked like they were being robbed by bees from another hive, but I couldn’t tell for sure, and it seems like a really weird season for that? But there were some bees moving quicker than I usually note, and trying to get into gaps in the hive that are not the entrances. I’m not really sure what to do about that…I thought about closing up one of the entrances but weirdly there aren’t many bees USING the second entrance anyway? More questions for the forum I need to post.

ANYWAY, that’s the State of the Hive Address for now. I will keep you better updated hopefully. OH WAIT MORE PICTURES.

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Look at ALL THE POLLEN this lady was bringing in! SO PROUD.

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I used the wet grass method to smother the fire in my smoker – they say it’s best if you plug the hole so it cuts off oxygen so you can save the fuel for next time. Also pictured: trash because my yard is a mess BUT ALSO a wee bit of comb I accidentally broke off in my last inspection that they didn’t reclaim.

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Finn showing off the blooming crimson clover on 05/11.

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Honeybee demonstrating the proper flight approach to said crimson clover.

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Honeybee demonstrating the proper om nom procedure on said crimson clover.

Provoked Thoughts #1

I recently gave up a lot of social media. Which is great! But also weird for keeping track of and sharing thought-provoking articles, books, videos, and ideas. So, I’m going to try out having a weekly blog post of “things I thought were interesting this week.” 


Women Are Dying Because Doctors Treat Us Like Men

This is pretty on-brand for me but WOW. Just WOW. This article blew my mind and unfortunately also made me trust healthcare even LESS. I thought it was just going to be about how they ignore women’s pain, and while it is, apparently there are TONS of other fun things they do to undermine women’s health. COOL COOL.


How Late-Night Comedy Fueled the Rise of Trump

This was a brutal check of both the right and left of our political establishment. And I feel somehow worse about what we’ve become as a country.


Nearly 40% Never Give Positive Reinforcement

This short post resonated with me a lot this week both because I am TERRIBLE at giving positive reinforcement and because I’ve felt very criticized recently. Not a ton of meat here but a good reminder to myself to be encouraging others, not beating them down.


It’s not elites vs. populists. It’s cities vs. the countryside.

Another interesting exploration of the political divide. (Can you tell I’m tired of writing descriptions for these already?)


Why Germans need far less supervision at work than Americans

“…there is little cooperation between employer and employee in the US, that US employees are not protected properly against redundancy, and that investment is made primarily in academic education.”


Mary Edwards Walker – The Only Woman Ever To Receive The Medal Of Honor

WHAT A BABE

“However in 1917 Congress revised the criteria for the Medal of Honor to include only those involved in active combat. This decision resulted in 910 recipients including Mary being asked to hand back their medals. Mary refused and continued to wear it until her death two years later at the age of 86.”

America: taking medals back from dead women since 1919. Then realizing they made a terrible mistake and re-awarding it later. Oh my head.


Why math is strangling videogame morality

A look at morality systems in past games. It’s interesting because while I agree that it shouldn’t be summed up by a number, it’s DANG HARD to develop a system like that. Also TAMW I really don’t want to play the Witcher 3 but gosh darn it every article I read talks about some other cool system they managed to pull off in that game.


 

First Hive Inspection & Lessons Learned

In case any other beginner beekeepers (from now on I will be calling these “beeks”) happen across my blog, I will be doing hive inspection “post-mortems” or “lessons learned.” This post will include opening up the hive after installation in order to wire the queen cages to the top bars, as well as removing the queen cages. I will be making these rather detailed for my own learning.


Timeline:

  • Friday @ 10:15 AM – picked up bees
  • Friday @ 11:30 AM – installed bees
  • Friday @ 4:00 PM – went into hives to wire queens to a top bar
  • Monday @ 9:30 AM – hive inspection to remove queen cages, check feeders, and see if any comb had been drawn

Friday

If you’ve been reading my blog, you realized that upon installation I put the queen cages on the bottom board of my top bar hives not realizing that advice dictates this should only be done if the weather is consistently above 60 degrees (including night temperatures).

After realizing this the following things happened:

  • Stress level over 9,000
  • Took the roof off one of the hives to see if I could manage this
  • Got intimidated
  • Backed off and decided I guess we’ll just have to see if the queens survive
  • Continued to stress
  • Posted on the Beesource forums asking for IMMEDIATE ADVICE (this was at 3 PM)
  • Got responses saying “yes you need to go wire her up if you possibly can”
  • Steeled myself and went into the hives
  • Everything was mayhem, I couldn’t figure out a good way to wire them up, the bees were mad, I was freaked out, it was just awful
  • Smoking them seemed to do nothing
  • They were SO ANGRY
  • I felt SHOOK and also like crap after

In an effort to NEVER EXPERIENCE THAT AGAIN, I spent a lot more time on the forums. With the clarity of a few days and watching this video (which I actually need to finish), I realized a few things.

Friday’s Lessons Learned

  • I need to be WAY MORE CAREFUL about not shaking up the hive. In the video he mentions not clanking your smoker down on top of hives because it immediately gets their threat level jacked up. This makes total sense but in the heat of the “I need way more hands than I have” moment I definitely was not as gently as I should’ve been.
  • When the bees start “bumping” you, back off and give them a moment. This is really hard because they say you shouldn’t be in there very long which implies I need to go fast but then they also say, GO SLOW. I’m still trying to reconcile these in my brain but I definitely ignored any signs of stress, probably because I was so consumed by my OWN stress.
  • If one hive is riled up, ALL the hives are going to be riled up. This makes TOTAL SENSE but I just didn’t put two and two together. The stress pheromones are going to travel, and EVERYONE is going to be on high alert.
  • Smoking the bees is not a miracle drug. I don’t know why I thought this. But I was DEFINITELY confused when it seemed to do NOTHING (or possibly make them worse). But I *think* the way smoking helps is twofold: one, they think a fire is coming and they might have to move so they load up with honey which makes them more docile; and two, it confuses the smell of the pheromones in the air. Problem is, I didn’t use it till the second hive this day so I’m sure that the air was just SATURATED with panic pheromones and two, they didn’t have any honey TO load up on since the hive was empty.
  • Dark colors are targets. I don’t know why I didn’t know this. I always assumed beekeepers wore white because it’s supposed to promote sanitary looks or something. APPARENTLY, and again, duh, but bees go for dark areas because dark areas usually indicate EYES which is the only way they can get a big creature to GET OUT. Since I don’t have beekeeping gloves I’ve been using my work gloves which are white and, you guessed it, black. The bees that were buzzing me by grabbing on and just beating me with their wings were doing so in the BLACK areas of my gloves. I’ve never wanted to have light colored hair before. BE THANKFUL, BLONDE PEEPS.
  • The later in the day, the more aggressive the bees. Who knew? I SURE DIDN’T.

Monday

Always go into a hive with a goal.
Today’s goals were, in order:

  1. Check to see if the queen had been released.
  2. Pull out the queen cage if empty.
  3. Check the feeders.
  4. See if any comb had been drawn.
  5. Try to sand the edges of the house hive roof so that it was easier to put on/take off.
  6. Take pictures if possible.

Timing

Ideally I would pick a time when foragers were out gathering pollen and nectar so the hive was emptier. This means a nice, warm day. But Oregon, of course, has other plans. I needed to complete the primary goal either today or tomorrow, which doesn’t leave me a ton of wiggle room. The weather forecast was rain from now till WHO KNOWS WHEN starting at 11 AM. Since we know from our previous lesson that earlier in the day is better, I decided to get a jump on it at about 9 AM. Not ideal, but the best I could do.

Lighting the Smoker

I had not anticipated so much trouble with the smoker. I’m great at making fires, I’m not great at making….smoke, I guess. After my struggle with this on Friday I decided to do some research. A lot of people use pine needles, some people say this is hard on the bees’ lungs. I don’t have pine needles anyway. Some people use straw or hay, I don’t have much of that either. Other people use pine shavings to get it started, pine pellets to keep it going, and alfalfa pellets (ie rabbit food). These I do have. I used a paper towel to get it going then ended up using the shavings and rabbit food. It worked…alright. Clearly I will need to practice because by the end of the second hive it was already mostly out.

Removing the Roofs

One thing I had realized from Friday was that removing the roofs immediately heightened the bees’ threat level because, with the house hive, I have to rattle it around to get it to come off. BAD. VERY BAD. This, as we learned from our post-mortem on Friday’s performance, means the bees know someone is BUSTIN’ IN. There’s nothing really I could do about this, so I decided I would pop the roofs off then let them settle for a while before going in. This would’ve been GREAT if, in my attempt to lift the WORLD’S HEAVIEST AND MOST AWKWARD ROOF off, I hadn’t bumped a bar out of place. Also if it hadn’t started sprinkling. Seriously, just, nothing in life wants to cooperate lately. I wiggled the bar back into place but already I was getting bumps. I backed off, removed the roof of the other hive, and then with the rain I just got shook AGAIN.

Removing the Queen Cages

“Oh just check to see if the queen is out of the cage,” they say casually, FULL WELL KNOWING that queen cage is going to be surrounded by hundreds of bees. I pulled the bar, which of COURSE is in the middle of the cluster because of COURSE it’s a cold day to try and see into the cage. At this point everyone is mad at me. I’m trying to go slow, be calm, smoke any bees looking at me, watch out for guard bees, but also I’m a N00B and there’s a lot going on. I see the queen cage and it appears the sugar has been eaten out of the entrance (freeing her) but there looks to be bee(s) inside?! I set the bar down. I’m going to unwire it, pull it out, and double check she’s not inside. I do so, manage to pull it out, and decide it’s just workers going in and out to screw with me. In the process (this is hive #1) the comb had OF COURSE been built around the cage so when I remove it the comb breaks. I feel like crap. I haven’t made a saver bar (basically wire attached to a top bar that you can stick comb onto) so I don’t know what to do. I set the comb near the feeder. In hindsight, I should’ve been prepared with rubber bands or thumb tacks or SOMETHING. Sigh.

Since I’m doing this weirdly piecemeal I’ll move onto removing the queen cage from hive #2. Obviously I didn’t jump back and forth between hives. So, in hive #2 same issues, I can’t see ANYTHING. They’ve built a lot more comb and it appears they’ve started filling with with syrup. YAY. SO EXCITING. But I can’t tell if the queen cage is…a part of that? I unwire it and pull the wire gently…no queen cage. FUDGE. It apparently got knocked down to the floor, who knows when. Move the bars and slowly put my hand down to the hive. Sorry, I’m just NOT COMFORTABLE YET reaching my hands into the midst of hundreds of bees. They aren’t a fan either. I pull it out and again, dumb workers hanging out but it appears the queen is free. I pull the cage.

Check the Feeders

Both feeders appear to be mostly full. This seems…concerning. I don’t see many bees around them at all, and in fact, hive #1 has a cluster near the top of my access board. No idea why. This seems concerning to me but I don’t know what to do about it. I sprinkle more sugar water in the bottom of the hive and near the access board’s hole in the hopes that if they’re confused about how to get back into the main body of the hive, they can figure it out. I do this is both hives though the second hive just doesn’t have ANY bees in that area.

Sand the Hive Roof

One of the times when the bees were bumping me and getting upset, I backed off and used the dremel to sand the edges off the tight roof. The battery died pretty quickly, but when I put it back on it was MUCH easier. I think it’s good now, especially when things dry up and the wood shrinks a bit.

Take Pictures

Due to the rain and stress, this goal was canceled for this inspection.

Summary

Having completed or canceled all my goals, I put the roofs back on. Unfortunately, this continues to be impossible for me to do alone. It’s jarring, I always bump a bar out of place, and then it’s just a terrible time for both of us. The only solution I can think of is to only go into hives when I have someone to help pull the roof off. Since this was the most time-sensitive hive inspection and the weather was turning, I didn’t feel like I had the luxury to wait. I also don’t currently have the money to buy protective gear for a helper, which is something I’d like to have on hand instead of borrowed.

When I was pulling my suit off I noticed a bee hanging out. Upon further inspection, I could see that it had stung my suit and was dying. This sucks. I had hoped that although it wasn’t a perfect inspection, I hadn’t incited any of them to want to sting me. It feels like crap. I know there’s a learning curve with everything, animal husbandry not excepting, but it’s usually a rare day that one of my animals dies because of my inability to care for them. I know it’s “only a bee” but it’s hard not to get discouraged when you try your hardest to do things best and end up screwing it up. It’s an overwhelming feeling that I’m getting sick of in all areas of life. I guess I just need to be like the bees and continue to rebuild, even when my hard work gets knocked down and cast aside. Sorry ladies.

Next Steps

  • I need to find a bee support group of people willing to help me out. Both experienced and inexperienced. I’m going to the local beekeeping meeting tomorrow night so that’s a good first step.
  • I need to get extra gear for helpers. I’m going to get an extra veil since that’s the key bit. Hopefully soon I will feel comfortable working the bees with just the veil.
  • I need to continue learning as much as I can. First step is finishing that video and watching the second episode of Hive Alive on Netflix.

Before Social Media, There Were Forums

 

Since the unintended fiasco with the Queen, I spent a lot of time on the BeeSource forums. I’ve learned a lot, but mostly I’ve been reminded of how fabulous forums are for learning new things.

I have a long and storied history with forums. If you knew me in high school you may be thinking, “Oh yeah, good times forum role-playing.” There was that. But to discover my deep love for forums you have to go back FARTHER.

Once upon a time there was a middle school girl living in a rural town. She was home schooled, and she loved it, but life had changed a bit. At this time both her parents were working various hours, her mom as a tobacco intervention researcher, and her dad as a real estate agent. (You can tell the latter is true because she didn’t say “realtor,” knowing that the term is a registered trademark with the National Association of Realtors and not wanting to look up the ® symbol for it.)

This was all fine except it got a bit lonely. Since no one was home but herself and therefore wouldn’t be needing to use the phone, she’d take this opportunity to use all the dial-up internet she could. For you younger millennials, there was a time when cell phones were rare and internet could only be used via the telephone line.

It sounded like this:

Anyway, I don’t remember how, but I discovered FORUMS. Specifically, dog forums. That and kennel management text games but THAT’S A WHOLE DIFFERENT THING. I honestly don’t even remember the name of the main dog forum I visited, but I became part of that community. When I saw community, I really do mean community. We of course talked dogs (and boy did we ever): health, emergency treatment, breeding, training, behavior, sports, YOU NAME IT. But we also talked life. People’s upcoming surgeries. Managing their ranch in Texas. Births, deaths, sicknesses. Religion (even though we weren’t supposed to). There was DRAMA. We fought. We mourned. We rejoiced. We gave advice. We got advice. It was fascinating, and I learned SO MUCH.

See, kiddos, this was a time before SOCIAL MEDIA. Heck, this was before GOOGLE was a household name, and Yahoo! was king of the internet, having bought up the big search engines like Altavista and HotBot. I suddenly feel very old. ANYWAY, I was going somewhere with this.

Oh yes, before SOCIAL MEDIA. I would say I’m not here to crap on social media like everyone else (it’s the hottest fad), but I kinda am. I’ll try to refrain though. Social media is based on adding everyone you know or meet in real life to your friends list, and maybe friends of friends (or total strangers if that’s how you swing). The thing I’ve realized about social media that’s weird is that it’s sort-of like a free for all? You post whatever you want (theoretically within the terms of service), everyone is on equal standing, there are no terms of engagement with arguments…it’s kind-of mayhem. Honestly, I don’t even know how to analyze social media. I always get the sense that life is stuck in the past when I visit social media. Facebook serves up past memories of “better times,” people are having the same old fights in slightly altered flavors, and I don’t really see people getting better. I see people getting MORE, but social media isn’t really the place for making mistakes. It’s for showing off your beautiful, polished, flawless life. Or, alternatively, “here are all the ways my life sucks way more than yours.” Man I hate social media.

But forums are…different. They have their problems and some are definitely toxic, but they kind-of go at things in the opposite way. Instead of finding people you already know but probably don’t have a lot in common with anymore, you pick some common thing (in my case, beekeeping) and join a bunch of strangers who are also learning about that thing. There are RULES of engagement. There are moderators with big sticks to hit people if they get off topic or are inflammatory. And while there are totally those jerks who treat everyone like idiots or think they know IT ALL, there’s a general understanding that everyone is there to learn and are at different stages. This is amazing,  ya’ll. It is my belief that the best learning comes from spending time with a cross section of people in that field at different stages of learning. The absolute beginners can be taught by the people a few steps ahead of them, who are cementing their own knowledge by teaching. The “experts” can fact check the knowledge being doled out, be challenged by the crazy problems that others run into, and learn new ways of doing things. It’s a safe place for everyone to be wrong, to fail, to learn, and to teach. IT’S SO BEAUTIFUL I WANT TO CRY.

It’s also SO ACCESSIBLE. I have been lamenting recently that I wish I had more people to help me become the person I want to be. That’s DANG HARD when you don’t have people in your life who are interested in the same things. While I don’t think forums replace those people, they sure can help be a stop-gap or help in finding those people nearby (obvs be smart about that nonsense).

This post started out as a summary of my hive inspection today but somehow morphed into “WHY FORUMS ARE GREAT.” But in all seriousness, if you want to get better at something, you need that community. As much as I ABSOLUTELY HATE leaving my house and talking to people, the only way I can get better at something is by talking with, asking questions of, and teaching others. Forums are a nice first step that I can do from the comfort of my home while formulating my words before sharing them. If you have similar problems and want to learn I definitely recommend finding a good forum.

Good luck, and always keep learning!