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!

Elizabethtown & Grief

Devin wanted me to write a mini post on Elizabethtown. I don’t know why. But I’m obeying my husband. ;P


Elizabethtown is a weird movie. I wouldn’t even say it is a good movie. But I find myself strangely drawn to it whenever I feel like crap. That, too, is strange. It’s not particularly a happy movie. It starts out with a failure fiasco, then a suicide attempt, then the death of a loved one, and basically anything that can go wrong does go wrong.

So why, on Earth, do I want to watch this movie when I’m depressed? Because it captures a feeling that I identify with. A feeling that is hard to convey, if not impossible. The feeling that “I can’t do anything right” and “anything I do fails.” That feeling that you have to put on a brave face, to say “I’m fine.” That even when people look at you, there’s a sense they don’t want to catch whatever grief you’ve got. That whatever can go wrong will go wrong. Heck, even when the main character is about to commit suicide, he gets interrupted not only to receive bad news, but also that he “has to handle this.”

But that’s not all. Because more than a story it’s a journey. And it is one that seems honest to the feelings grief can produce. I guess I like watching it when I’m sad because it’s not a classic “WE OVERCOME” story. Nor is it a “we give up.” It’s one of “we have problems and it’ll take a while, but we’re moving forward.” “We’re not going to let our failures or grief define us.” “We can learn to laugh again.”

So as a movie, it’s weird, it’s flawed, heck, it’s mediocre AT BEST. But as a piece of media that both meets me in my grief and tries to elevate me just one tiny step out of it, I kind-of love it.

Plus it has Orlando Bloom and Kristen Dunst so: SOLD. (Let’s be honest that’s probably the only reason I saw it in high school.)

#Quotes

You want to be *really* great? Then have the courage to fail big and stick around. Make ’em wonder why you’re still smiling. That’s true greatness to me.

I want you to get into the deep beautiful melancholy of everything that’s happened.

You have five minutes to wallow in the delicious misery: enjoy it, embrace it, discard it – and proceed.

It takes time to be funny. It takes time to extract joy from life.

I want to learn to cook and I want to learn to laugh and I want to TAP DANCE!

Death and life and death and life: right next door!?

If it wasn’t this it’d be something else.

INSTALLING THE BEES

THE
DAY
HAS
ARRIVED.

I drove down to the store wherein my two packages lie waiting for my arrival. Our journeys have been long, arduous, and not all of us have made it to this moment. But we are finally united at once.

Okay but for serious, I wanted to hug everyone, step up into the truck filled with bees, and give an Oscar acceptance speech. Instead I listened to the guy explain how to install the bees (I’ve realized at this point that every one of these spiels is different because bees are complicated and everyone does things the way they want), pulled my car around, and PUT THE LADIES IN MY CAR YAAAAAAAS. I set them behind the driver’s seat on the floor and another guy comes up to me and asks, “You’re putting them THERE?” “Um….yes?” (Not sure if a trick question.) “I was gonna put them in my TRUNK!” “Oh, I would but it’s full.” (Finally starting to realize he’s saying oh my head you’re putting thousands of bees right behind your head while driving this is fine.)

Normal person: STOP THE CAR THERE’S A BEE IN HERE
Me: *opens car door* Yes, this way please. *thousands of bees pour in* I will be your chauffeur today.

The store owner told me “drive safe” which I realized had different implications than usual.

“Drive safe, THERE MAY BE BEES.”
“Drive safe or there WILL BE BEES.”

Either way, I drove well, the ladies all behaved, and we made it home without incident. I’m sure the classical music helped.

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LOCKED AND LOADED WITH BEES

At this point they mostly just seemed like a box when I put them in and drove them. I’m not sure if I just didn’t notice before but when I took them out they were VERY BUZZY. Maybe they got warmer? Maybe the reality of BEES finally dawned on me?

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Anyway, I put them in the garage since it was drizzling, washed my hands very well, got them some water, and dabbed it onto the screen with my fingers so they could get a drink if needed.

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Also I took pictures.

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At this point in my brain they’re just one clump of bees. Not thousands of individual bees. “I’m here for my two clumps of bees, please.”

I’M ANTSY. I WANNA GET THESE GALS IN THEIR NEW HOUSE.

But the rain is doing its falling thing.

I decide, as a good and proper Avenger, it’s:

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Protip: scratching your face while suited up is very difficult. I bet you never think about THAT downside to being Ironman, huh?

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It can be done, but not gracefully.

I put the feeders in, psych myself up, then wait.

Eventually I see a break in the clouds and decide IT’S DO OR DIE. PREFERABLY NOT DIE. I’ve been training for this moment my entire life.*

*For the past year.

I manage to wrestle the hive roofs off, make space for bees, and try to FEEL CONFIDENT. Here’s the plan: pull the feeder can out, grab the queen cage, put the feeder can back in to keep the workers contained till I’ve placed the queen, pull the cap off the queen cage, make a little hole with a screw or nail, put her in the bottom of the hive, dump the bees in, put the top bars on, throw the roof on. Intermix snapping a few cellphone pics of my accomplishment and TA-DA, PERFECTION.

At least, that’s how it was SUPPOSED to go.

Now, before you get concerned that I screwed it up, nothing terrible happened (that I know of). But…it didn’t quite go as smoothly as I mentally planned.

First off, apparently I have a huge problem with getting those dang cans out. I used a screwdriver as leverage but it still was NOT EASY to get a hold of that thing and pull it out. Also there’s the fact that it opens the FLOODGATE OF BEES. I’m still trying to remember how, when I watched this being done, people just casually pulled it out, grabbed the queen cage, and slid it back in. Cause these ladies were like “DEATH FIRST IF YOU WANNA PUT THAT CAN BACK IN.” And, since I didn’t have the guts to start it out with just squishing a bazillion, I didn’t manage to cover it back up. So, they’re just coming out now. Oh well.

ANYWAY, this has me slightly flustered so I give myself a pep talk which always goes, “DEEP BREATH
THIS IS FINE
EVERYTHING IS FINE
STAY CALM.”

There are just so many bees.

I grab the queen cage and OBVIOUSLY the workers and/or attendants are all around her like a tiny bee ball. I am, meanwhile, trying to see if she’s alive in there, making every Canadian proud by saying “sorry” individually to a thousand creatures as I try to brush them aside with my clumsy gloved hands. Short story long, I’m 75% sure I saw both queens moving around and alive SO THAT’S GOOD.

Anyway, I start to plop the first queen in and then after my pep talk remember DON’T BE A DUMMY, YA DUMMY, you have to pull the cap off so they have access to the candy and can chew her free!!

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This was the type of cage my queen was in btw. Pic from Assebee.com because AS YOU PROBABLY GUESSED I did NOT manage to take pictures during all this.

Here’s the thing, again, no one ever seemed to have trouble with this in their videos, but I COULD NOT FOR THE LIFE OF ME manage to get the cap off for some reason. Probably because I didn’t want to move the bees over so I could get a good grip. Eventually I did, then made a little hole with a screw so they would have an idea of what was needed to free the queen. I decided to put her in the bottom which was my plan all along. I’m feeling good about that decision because in all the cap nonsense I busted off the little hanger and I just think hanging it would’ve stressed me the crap out.

IMPORTANT EDIT: APPARENTLY you’re NOT supposed to put the queen on the bottom unless the temperature is going to STAY ABOVE 60 degrees. I’m not sure why that wasn’t on ANY OF THE PREVIOUS THINGS I READ. So probably both the queens will freeze. I attempted to go back in to hang them but decided it would cause so much chaos and probably not result in my success, so I’m hoping they somehow both get released very quickly. Probably hoping in vain.

SECOND EDIT: I went in and (attempted to) wire the queen cages to a top bar. Hopefully it holds. I have a lot of complaints about queen cage design. I also now understand why some people are afraid of bees. They clearly have decided they love their queen because it was a bit terrifying how aggressively they were trying to murder me. Hopefully they don’t abscond.

Aside: If you were wondering, why is the queen in a CAGE? The answer is that technically this isn’t THEIR queen. It’s a queen that’s been foisted on them and THEORETICALLY in the time it takes them to free her by chewing the candy in the cork her pheromones will have converted them all into lifelong followers. Like a cult or something. (LOL) There is the chance that they don’t accept her, and still murder her face when she gets loose. BUT WE TRY NOT TO THINK ABOUT THAT.

I had talked with the store guy about putting the queen on the bottom and he said he hangs it because he doesn’t want to have to get down to the bottom of the hive. I’m gonna be in there in three days to get it out anyway, so…I guess we’ll see if I regret it. I just feel like having to worry about them drawing comb around it if it was hanging off the top bar wasn’t worth it for me. Hopefully it all works out fine.

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Langstroth and Warres have gaps between the tops of their bars so I think hanging is easier. Picture from Sourwood Farm.

After the queen was placed I dumped the bees. I really enjoy watching this part, but doing it was…more intimidating than expected? I was telling some friends it’s weird how “fluid” they are. Like a very pliable silly putty made with bees and not very touchable.

It’s just like, there are no bees, *dump*, THERE ARE FOUR INCHES OF BEES. WEIRD.

Video for those who don’t know what I’m talking about:

Anyway, again, dump them in, put the top bars on, it’s EASY. Except I don’t know if it’s because of how slowly I did everything or what but they were all like “HEY OOOOO LET’S CRAWL EVERYWHEREEEEEE” and it was suddenly like playing hot lava except bees and I didn’t want to squish or trap any BUT IT WAS ALMOST IMPOSSIBLE.

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OH NO I SQUISHED ONE

Anyway, putting the roof on was kinda mayhem BUT I THINK WE MANAGED.

Then I did it with the second hive and it went better? But also differently? They seemed more active and ALL crawled up to where I needed to rest the top bars. WHATEVER. The dogs also decided to help the stress levels by BARKING AT WHO KNOWS WHAT almost the whole time. Eventually Finn laid down and just watched from the pen.

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Workers fanning the queen pheromones out of the entrance hole so the other bees will know where she is.

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What I imagine queen bee pheromones say.

ANYWAY I’m sad there aren’t pics but I figured that wasn’t really the priority. They’re all in the hives, I’ve been watching from the house as a bunch do orientation flights, and I saw a few buzzing around flowers about fifteen minutes after putting them in the hive. Praying they all become HAPPY FAMILIES, appreciate the hives I built, and start making the new homes their own!

Final Bee Launch Checklist

Though the hive was “technically” finished in my last blog post, there were a few last things to make.

FINAL PREP LIST

  1. Follower boards
  2. Feeder access boards
  3. Feeder holder
  4. Feeders
  5. Sugar syrup
  6. Hive configuration

Follower Boards

So I reaaaaally should’ve included this in the hive build but I just WANTED TO BE DONE. The hive technically wasn’t complete without them though so oops. The follower board’s purpose is essentially to make a top bar hive smaller by restricting the bees’ access. See, with the warre or langstroth hives, you’re constantly making the hive bigger by adding boxes, whereas with the top bar hives you make them the “final size” and can’t add on to it later.* SO, when installing bees, you want to restrict their space so they aren’t overwhelmed with the sheer GRANDEUR of a hive you’ve created.

*Don’t tell me what I can do! I mean, as with anything, there are ways, but they aren’t easy.

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A follower board in action.

As such, the follower boards have to fit…very snug. Because, bees are sneaky little ladies who WILL NOT BE STOPPED by your attempts to box them in! A lot of people actually start their hive making with the follower boards, then lean the outside boards against the followers and make the hive like that so that they KNOW their follower boards will fit perfectly. I…am not that person. I though, “hey, I have a template for the outside end, how can this be a problem?” Not remembering I am the Queen of Problems.

Needless to say, they aren’t a PERFECT fit. But I also can’t tell if that’s my fault, my template’s fault, the warped plywood’s fault, or my circular saw’s fault. I’m ready to assign blame to any and all animate and inanimate objects at this point. Per some random article I read if you want to try and make them fit better you can put plywood, masking tape, or wax along the edges. Since I already had the wax and I was ready for a rematch, I decided to do that. IT WENT MUCH BETTER.

After that, it was off to my brother’s house where he kindly assisted me by attaching my follower board to a flat top bar I had made (basically same process as before just without making the wedge). I decided nail guns were indeed MOST FABULOUS.

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The finished product.

Feeder Access Boards

This is basically a follower board with a hole in it so they can crawl there. HIGH TECH.

Can you guess how I made this?

If you guessed “made a follower board then drilled a hole in it” YOU ARE CORRECT DING DING DING!

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ALL HAIL THE ACCESS BOARD

I’m sure there is a real name for this but for some reason “access board” sounds cool. So I’m rolling with it. THEORETICALLY I could use one of my extra corks to close it and make it a normal follower board because I used the same size drill bit (3/4 in.). I doubt I will, BUT I COULD.

Feeder Holders

At times when food is scarce or when LIFE IS CHAOTIC (ie. you and your thousands of sisters just got dumped into a new hive after being driven across the country) the bees get sugar syrup. (Or candy boards but that’s another topic for another time.) There are many ways to set up a feeder but the second most simple way I could find in my situation is by making a board that fits in the hive that holds the jars upside down. The problem is, I AM THE QUEEN OF PROBLEMS. I had a hack saw but it was the world’s most difficult saw to use (is the blade dull? I DON’T KNOW) so I decided I’d drill a thousand tiny holes and then hit it with a hammer.

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Seconds before the Calamity.

SPOILERS THIS DIDN’T WORK. In fact, it resulted in the board snapping at the other end where I had managed to hacksaw my way to creating a circle. Now my beautiful circle was broken.

I was pretty upset and NOT ABOUT to do that whole thing over again so I just used random scraps to brace it back together. It’s trash but YOLO.

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THIS IS FINE

The next one I was smarter about, and used the bigger drill bit. Then I hacksawed off the little pokey pieces, and used a dremel to round it off a little more. Like I said, it’s trash but it works.

Oh, also, obvious but make sure you use your jar lid to make the template.

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You can tell how good I am at that.

I then also cut a piece of plywood to fit above the feeder so the bees can’t get up in the roof area.

Feeders

Next was the feeders themselves! I got my jars and jar lids out, grabbed a thumb tack, and punched a bunch of little holes in the lids.

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I thiiiink I shouldn’t have used such large jars, btw. It seems to leak fluid too quickly. I don’t know. Queen of Problems, remember? Hopefully it all works out.

Sugar Syrup

I thought this was the easiest part. Put water in, put sugar in, heat and stir.

LITTLE DID I KNOW (till AFTER) that YOU ARE NOT SUPPOSED TO HEAT SUGAR. I don’t even want to go into it but apparently there’s a BIG OL’ FIGHT about it and MAYBE SCIENCE says it can kill them because reasons. So AFTER I had used 4 lbs of sugar and made a motherlode of this stuff I discovered that. CLASSIC KATIE. Anyway if you feed hummingbirds that might be something to keep in mind when making hummingbird food (since it’s the same thing).

I made another batch this morning (heat the water THEN turn off the heat THEN put in sugar) and did half and half. So if I’m killing my bees I guess I’m only half killing them. *CONSTERNATED SIGH*

Btw this is a 2:1 (2 parts water 1 part cane sugar). The ratios change depending on what time of year you’re feeding because BEES ARE COMPLICATED LADIES.

Hive Configuration

I started out with 10 empty top bars for them to draw comb in, then an access board, then the feeder, then the follower board.

So open, it looks sort-of like this:

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The follower board isn’t pictured here. But that’s how the feeder (sans jars) sits in the hive.

And this is what it looks like closed:

Left to right: 10 top bars (near the open entrance), access board, plywood over feeder, follower board.

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I closed up all the entrances with corks except the one desired:

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And that (until I put the sugar syrup in) means I’m READY FOR BEES!!!

Project: Making a Kenyan Top Bar Bee Hive (Part 3)

Preface: This is the final part of a series which starts here and continues here. This section covers the legs, roof, and painting. Enjoy!


DAY 11: ROOF ATTEMPT #1

After feeling like I was ready to after recent life events, I resumed my hive building project. I was definitely not ready.

I had decided I would use whatever lumber I had left to make the roof. This was a bad plan that ended badly. I eventually decided to quit while I was behind and rethink my life.

I managed to make a frame (it was somehow both too tight and too loose I think?) and then realized I had not thought about how to attach my roof plywood.

DAY 12: KIDNAPPING THE MAN BRAIN

After my failure I decided I needed a fresh set of eyes. Since stealing eyes is generally frowned upon, I just kidnapped some from my husband. He helped me come up with a battle plan and we attacked the home improvement store, raiding it for supplies.

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THE RAIDING PARTY WAS SUCCESSFUL

We had to be somewhere so couldn’t do much, but decided to at least cut the roof peaks to length and then decide on the pitch.

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I don’t actually know what the pitch angle is, so don’t ask! It’s also not even…oops.

Today’s purchases:

  • (2) 3/8 in. x 4 ft. x 8 ft. plywood for the roof @ $15.93 each
  • (4) 2 in. x 3 in. x 8 ft. wood for the roof frame @ $2.69 each
  • (2) 2 in. x 10 in. x 8 ft. wood for the roof ends @ $7.52 each
  • Total cost for today: $57.66
  • NOTE: I ended up not needing the second of those 2 in. x 10 in. x 8 ft lengths. And I could’ve been smarter with the plywood too.
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The spoils of war the home improvement store

DAY ??: THIS PROJECT WILL NEVER END

Sometime after this point I lost track of time forever.

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I will say this up front though: the roof was THE WORST. I expected the top bars to give me trouble, and I even expected the roof to give me some trouble, but I HAD NO IDEA.

The next weeks? months? years? (IT FELT LIKE IT) was a constant struggle of trying to get the roof tight enough that bees couldn’t slip in and decide to make their home in my gabled roof vs. loose enough that I could get it on and off. It is a battle that I lost, honestly. It is somehow, simultaneously, both.

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This was how the majority of the time was spent.

THAT BEING SAID, I decided the first thing to do was to attach my roof rests so that I could actually try putting the frame on and seeing how it worked. I JUST WANNA SAY, this was the best idea. Moving these hive bodies around was SO HARD because they’re ridiculously heavy, but these “handles” made it SO MUCH EASIER.

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BEHOLD THE BEAUTIFUL “HANDLE”

Once I attached those, I needed to cut my roof supports to match my gable angle. How did I figure out the angle? Measure it? Do math? No, I just straight up guessed because I AM SO OVER ANGLES, YA’LL.

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I either got lucky or I’ve gotten dang good at guessing angles cause I basically nailed it in one.

After cutting all those (two for the bottom outside, two for the upper inside), I threw together the basic frame and tried it out.

As you can see, my foreman on the right was unimpressed but I SURE WAS. The first one I did was “too big” (spoilers it ended up too small by the end) so I decided to make the next one slightly smaller (UGHHHH). In hindsight I would’ve given probably a half inch of leeway on every side and just hoped the bees wouldn’t want to live in the roof. That might be terrible advice, hopefully someone with experience will comment and tell me where I went wrong.

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This was the cut for my roof frame for those who want to see that sort of thing.

There were two signs I noticed from this day that I took as warnings that this project has gone on too long:

  • I kept trying to plug tools into each other instead of into the extension cord
  • It took me FAR TOO LONG to figure out all I needed to do for the other side’s gables was just to rotate the cut piece 180 degrees

MOVING DAY

At this point my dad decided he wanted his barn area back someday so it was MOVING DAY. I really should’ve taken a picture of the truck loaded because we really packed it in.

Honestly, this was probably the salvation of the project because it meant that my garage could not be used for parking the cars in till the hives were finished. For some that might be somewhere between “normal” or a “slight inconvenience” for us it meant “OUR WORLD IS UPSIDE DOWN.” Turns out the habit of parking in the garage is DEEPLY ingrained and when we have the many hoards over at our house the driveway space is essential to have for guests. SO A FIRE WAS LIT (literally, later in the project) and WE* GOT GOING.

*By “we” I mean me. I just like to pretend I’m not alone.

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Post moving stack!

With that done, framing happened ASAP. And now we come to another thing: the ventilation holes. So I drilled 3/4 inch holes in the gables for ventilation, thinking I would cover them with screen on the inside. I’m not really sure what order would’ve been best, but the order I did that all in was awful. I decided to staple the screen in at the very end, but SPOILERS the gables blocked my staple gun which resulted in trying all purpose spray adhesive which SPOILERS got all over my hands and caused SO MUCH MAYHEM so yeah just….think ahead (not like me).

THEN came the plywood! After attaching all my supports, I marked with chalk line where I needed to screw the plywood in, and then went at it!

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I’m bad at chalk lines.

I was going to cut the top of the plywood at an angle so the two sides would join together nicely but I was now sans table saw and PRETTY OVER ANGLES so that didn’t happen. I only very VERY slightly regret it.

FIELD TRIP

At this point I thought, “A house is only as good as its roof,” and based on a recommendation, took an adventure to LARRY’S SHEET METAL. This is the best part of the roof experience. When I called he suggested I bring them in, so I went to work fitting them in my car (SUCCESS!!!).

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Here is a picture of my TERRIBLE, TERRIBLE ventilation holes. I did one in all the other sides because I can’t decide how much ventilation to have. ANYWAY I FIT THEM IN MY CAR ARE YOU PROUD?

Anyway, the man I met (whose name wasn’t Larry, I’m 98% sure, so FALSE ADVERTISING) was super nice, had one of those COOL ANGLE MEASUREMENT TOOLS, and told me each roof would be $35. That was…more than I hoped but also I HAVE COME THIS FAR.

The roofs and I departed, with the promise to return three days later to retrieve our sheet metal.

THE BOB ROSS OF BEEHIVES (ISN’T ME)

Since I had a few days, I decided to PAINT. I hate painting. I’m bad at it. Mostly because I’m

SO

VERY

IMPATIENT.

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THIS ISN’T EVEN ALL OF IT

I went ahead and primed everything except the insides of course, and by the time that was all complete it was time to pickup the roof three days later. Okay, I jest, but IT FEELS REAL.

Oh, right, I kinda skipped the part where I cut the legs. Basically that was another trial and error with emphasis on the error – I used 20 degrees because that’s what a video I watched said, then just tried to pick a height that worked for me. Along the way I also forgot to get enough legs (salvaged wood, accidentally got four instead of eight) then when I went to buy bolts for the leg attachment I almost did that AGAIN, stopped, though “I’m doing eight legs,” got eight bolts, and totally forgot I needed TWO bolts for each leg. Needless to say, there were many aggravating trips to the store.

HOWEVER if I hadn’t gone I wouldn’t have seen awesome stuff like this exhibit of A++ ingenuity:

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I have a lot of questions, but even more respect.

 

WE HAVE LIFTOFF

As you can tell, I wasn’t the most exact with my circular saw cuts on the legs. I’m pretty confused about it, honestly, because I used one as a guide for the rest, but whatever. The project was a slow decent into inaccuracies, but I was SO EXCITED to finally see them up off the ground, looking REAL. VERY EXHILARATING.

Up until that point it felt like I was just making puzzle pieces, and boy was I tired of puzzle pieces.

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IT LIVES

Supply list:

  • ~1 qt. of exterior primer: already owned
  • (8) 2 in. x 6 in. x 40 in. lengths for legs: salvaged
  • (1) screen door screen 24 in. x 7 ft. for ventilation and/or blocking entry to the gable roof if it becomes a problem: $5.49
  • (16) 4 in. x 5/16ths bolts: $0.53 each
  • (16) 5/16ths nuts: $0.44 each
  • (16) 5/16ths washers: $0.29 each
  • Total for these trips: $25.65

IT ALL COMES TOGETHER

Roof pickup day came, and it was time to paint and glue the sheet metal on!

But first, LOOK HOW BEAUTIFUL THE ROOFS ARE:

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That’s right, he matched my angles perfectly, turned the edges so they aren’t sharp, it’s all one piece, gave me advice on attaching them, and CAME IN UNDER HIS ESTIMATE WHAAAT.

So they turned out to be $30 each which I feel good about. He recommended gluing them so I got a tube of construction adherent (liquid nails, basically), and we got them on. Actually I ran out halfway in the middle of application and it was all mayhem per the usual BUT HEY. I have a really bad relationship with glue. No joke, it doesn’t matter what type, it’s gonna be a bad time.

PAINT HAPPENED, and I am SO HAPPY with the color. Since bees see in the ultra-violet range and I love purple/blue, I went with something in that range.

Supply list:

  • 1 qt. exterior paint: owned
  • (2) custom made roofs: $60
  • (1) tube of construction adhesive: $4.67
  • Total: $64.67

Then we loaded them up with top bars, carried them out (why YES they WERE too big to fit through the gate AND the door how did you know?), and now we await the bees!

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I’m still debating placement. It’s hard.

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Ignore the mayhem which is my messy yard but ISN’T THE HIVE SO CUTE

And that, my friends, is the completion of the hive build. As you noticed, it got progressively less amusing as we went along. My apologies. To both you and mostly me.

In all, I spent $251.08 on this project. This of course doesn’t count things I was gifted, salvaged, or already owned. I will say, however, that I have three pieces of lumber I’m going to try and return, so that will maybe bring my overall price down by a whole $10 or so. This is NOT including the bees! However, it was cheaper than the bees, and significantly cheaper than buying a locally made one which are $300-$350 apiece. While I spent more than I would have liked, I’m still pretty pleased with the price. I think if I had to do it again I would definitely be able to cut costs in some way.

Things that went well:

  • I’m really happy with how the top bars turned out. I guess I’ll see how the bees like them, but they seem pretty solid.
  • I really like the metal roof. I think it’ll add a lot to the longevity of the hive.
  • Angles, surprisingly, for the most part, went better than expected.

Things that did not go well:

  • Everything about the roof sans the metal. It’s incredibly heavy (way too heavy for me to lift alone) and doesn’t fit right. I’m not sure how (or if) I can modify it to solve either of those problems. More sanding perhaps and consider adding a hinge. I’m not sure.
  • Not having a miter saw. The legs in particular were too hard to get right with a circular saw (especially one that felt like it was fighting me). There were SO MANY CUTS like that where I just wish I had a miter saw and I’m sad I didn’t.
  • Safety features that are not safe. I’m not sure I talked about this but the table saw I was using had a guard and that thing was almost my doom several times. It would get caught on the wood and not stay centered where it should, causing all kinds of mayhem. “SAFETY FEATURES SHOULD NOT BE UNSAFE!” I yell, as my car is being recalled for shrapnel airbags.

Bestest thing that went well: THEY ARE DONE! HALLELUJAH!

Oh wait, I promised fire. So, theoretically, bees like the insides of their hives a little singed because I dunno, probably hive makers want fire. (I think it’s because they often build hives in burned out trees but yeah.) I didn’t have a torch of any sort, so I tried…making a fire…in my hive….in my garage…

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I would VERY HIGHLY NOT RECOMMEND doing this for about a thousand reasons. Please don’t. I didn’t listen to myself.