Monday, October 11, 2010

how i spend time before moss gets awesome

and you thought this blog was dead. but it's not! things have happened, but as always, probably not enough things to warrant much of anything at all. this entry will be about bees, the next will be about our new love for space-age foam, 50's-era green, and post cards.

we are quintessential new beekeepers. we're (okay, i am) pretty sure something is always ready to go wrong. my instructor from the U, marla (who just won an amazing MacArthur Grant) told me that it was likely that the bees wouldn't produce much honey, due to competition from the U of M's bees (which are in relatively close proximity). sigh. she was right. she knows her stuff.

but before that, we were SURE that we had lost our queen. we didn't see any eggs or larvae in any cells. in fact, it looked like nothing much at all was going on.

so, we ordered a hot babe from california:

who garnered lots of interest from various parties:

and so, we did all the prep work. opened hive, blah blah blah. guess what we found? right. plenty of new brood. and the queen all fat and sassy:

we had a decision to make. to "dispatch" the old queen (think "liquidate". can i make that joke yet? probably not.) and hope that introducing the new queen would be a success, or to stick with the old queen (who was now laying really well) and find a buyer for the new queen was NOT a cheap endeavor). well, long live the queen. we kept snooki and found a guy to buy our new queen. everybody wins.

then, it came to our attention that the colony wasn't making much honey, so per jim's suggestion we consolidated our three deep hive bodies into two, removing mostly empty frames. one frame we removed had some brood ready to hatch, and because we are soft newbie beekeepers, we kept it in the garage and as the girls emerged, we dropped them at the entrance of the hive.

anthropomorphism is exhausting.

after the consolidation and queen drama, things have been seemingly alright. we did some supplemental feeding of 2:1 sugar syrup earlier this fall, but stopped because we didn't want to encourage more brood rearing this late in the season. we bought some nosema mite treatment, but made the executive decision to NOT treat this year. our fingers are crossed that with this nice weather, the bees have been able to put on some weight. we'll winterize the colony when the weather becomes cooler.

in the meantime, they've been enjoying the pond:

and making good-quality, if low-quantity, honey:

here's a video of a worker bee being "born" on one of our frames that i took a few weeks ago.

the cats, as always, really really REALLY care about all of this:

as does the city of st paul, via riverboat:

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

once, twice, three times a snooki

(the primroses are totally kicking this year, by the way)

we have actually spent a lot of time doing other typical spring yard things. cleaning, planting, staring at tiny green things in anticipation. however, we have been totally mesmerized by the girls. snooki's girls. it's typical to open up a hive and check things out about once a week or so.

first check, a week after putting in the package. in this check we're looking to be sure that snooki is seemingly present in the colony, and most importantly, laying eggs. eggs look like tiny grains of rice in the bottom of the cells. here's what we found that day, one week after the last blog entry:

bees under the lifted sugar water pail. good. eating. women love their sweets.

we provide what's called a foundation in the frames. this is a plastic molding of the classic beehive shape we're all familiar with. bees add their own wax to this, making the cells longer and deeper. if you click on this picture you can see that the bees have started to draw out this comb. there are also eggs on this frame, but mostly impossible to see in the photo.

girls on top of their busiest frame. they were calm for this inspection, which seems unseemly behavior for any jersey girl. but we'll take it.

pollen-gathering machines. check out the cankles:

second inspection happened about a week after this. here we're checking for a couple of things. first, that the girls are gathering pollen (their protein source) and nectar (which will feed the bees and some of which will eventually become honey). pollen is in the dark cells, and nectar is the more liquid delicious filling.

again, looking for eggs, but this time, also larvae and capped brood. it takes 21 days for a worker bee to go from egg to larvae to bee. when larvae are ready to be capped so they can develop into bees in peace, they give off a pheromone that alerts their sisters to cover them up. girls appreciate some privacy, even if they do use bump-its. this is a great photo showing cells with larvae of various stages and covered brood.

third inspection is more of the same. is pollen being gathered? nectar? is there brood? but, more importantly, is the brood hatching? yes, it is. look at the center of this photo and you can see a new baby chewing her way out:

here's another image, showing empty cells from which young bees have already emerged. the first of many jobs the workers rotate through is to clean out these cells in preparation for the next egg. also, this photo shows bees of different ages. unlike us, bees darken as they age. if you look at the bee the third down from the far right side of the page, notice her cute light fuzziness. we were shocked to realize that bees, in fact, have baby faces.

in this inspection, everything was so far, so good. bees being born, more foundation being drawn on more frames. there was some occasional burr comb (bees adding comb where it really doesn't need to be), but nothing to fret about. we just removed it:

but what was nice about this inspection is that we're starting to calm down a bit. the bees are busy (of course), but mellow. they just keep doing their thing as we rip apart their home (without damaging, of course. like if paul bunyon ripped off the top of your house and you continued to cook dinner as he commented to babe the blue ox how cool humans were, and what little ecosystems they develop).

so, we decided to look for snooki herself. and we found her without too much hassle at all. she's too fat with eggs and general good condition now to fly, so no fear of that. can you find her? because if you can't find a queen bee in this picture you may not be able to tell a dandelion from a tree:

and, again, more snooki. can you find the really young bee by her? she looks like an ewok. like, if i could pick her up and give her a hug i would totally do that:

so, that's the bees. they are awesome, and we're so glad to have them around. hopefully everything continues to go well.

we do have the gardens going:

but this picture is from two weeks ago. things are looking much better now.

and above is the arbor, where fierce oriole fights have been happening on a nightly basis.

lastly, a moment of fern zen:

Saturday, April 24, 2010

god (or two inept bee-keepers) save the queen

do you know how much fun writing a blog entry with another person is? not much. but i thank wine for putting me in good spirits, and summit for tempering the man's verbal taunting. anyway, the bees arrive. it is traditional to name a queen and her hive, and we have named our girl Queen Snooki and her Guidettes. we've only seen two episodes of the jersey shore, but that was enough to permanently burn a bumped hair-do, sausage-casing-as-clothing, and "italian"-ness in us forever. and, since our bees are of the italian strain, it only seemed rational...

sugar-water to spray the bee package with, sugar water feeder, and pollen patty--what keeps bees going during a normal april. with the back yard in full bloom, this is not a normal april but we're keeping with protocol anyway.

the package itself, around 20,000 worker bees (all females, if you didn't know), and a queen safe in her little itty bitty condo.

the prepared hive, complete with entrance stuffed with grass. the grass is to inhibit the wanderlust that the bees may have after being driven a thousand miles, sprayed with sugar water, bonked around savagely a few times, and dumped unceremoniously into a fully non-furnished pre-fab home. these bees got rid of the grass in hour.

spacesuits are essential for the full bee-handling experience:

(in the above picture, neil armstrong carefully removes the can of sugar water that satiated the colony until their arrival in st paul. gravity is an issue, unlike the moon.)

or, conversely, it is common to also dress in minnesota athletic wear for those "oh crap we really need to fix this and why are we so confused about a bunch of insects" times:

then, the bees are sprayed with sugar water to keep them from flying off. somebody did not spray them enough (that was me), so quite a few were flying around, confused and alienated, which was a lot like our clients at our day jobs. but most bees were shaken into the hive body (no pictures. 20k in bees kinda brings on a....rush, you know?)then, removal of the queen in her box:

just before adding the queen:

we unfortunately have no pictures of the queen release. this is for two reasons: she did not allow for photojournalists, and she was also incredibly feisty and all concentration was needed to be sure she didn't leave for greener hives.

ready for the top cover and feeder:

and the girls get used to their new digs:

after the condo-developers who also run this blog finally sat down with appropriate drinks to celebrate the new tenants, old friends flew over our heads and landed in the yard:

and in short order decided to visit the bee open house for themselves:

bees were installed thursday early evening. today, even with all the rain, many worker bees were returning to the hive with pollen on their legs. in a few days, we'll check for queen acceptance, and hope that snooki has decided to grace us with her brash italian presence.

Monday, April 12, 2010

total geekout

we're having bees! everybody is tired of hearing me talk about it, i know. we pick up a 2-lb package of italian honeybees (total guidos) next wednesday. we still have to paint the hive bodies, but man, it's cool to have this stuff and think about bee awesomeness in the near future.


foundation. these are made of plastic, but the bees add wax to it, making them large enough to raise babies, store pollen/nectar, and make honey:


we are going to look SO DAMN COOL:

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

all we see is a bright white light....

hello. let it be known that teachers in february are out of words. we don't even talk to each other, preferring to communicate via vague flailings of the wrist, barely audible groans, and occasional heavy sighs. it's just that time of year.

please note the common theme of WHITE with this update. WHITE on the outside:

and WHITE on the inside:

(not white, but SUCH FINE HELPERS):

white dishwasher. virginal. pure. not spewing water all over the entire basement:

Monday, January 18, 2010

winter at city cabin



cooper's hawking:

and, finally drinking:

these are the things winter is for.