And They Shall Be Called … 

Since we got our hive, several people asked if we’d named it. To be honest, this was something I hadn’t previously considered.

However, after some thought, I came up with with an appropriate moniker, which I shared with one friend and The Engineer, and then promptly forgot.  

Fortunately, The Engineer didn’t. 

Readers, allow me to introduce the Buzzers’ Roost. 

If you look closely, you’ll see several of the buzzers are upside down fanning their wings to cool their home on this hot summer day. 

Honey Bees and Yellow Jackets = Two Different Things

I’m not fond of yellow jackets. I don’t know anyone who is, though they are considered a beneficial insect because they pollinate.

Here is a sweet little honey bee. Look at that fuzz, those intelligent looking eyes! Even though she’s capable of stinging, you know she’d rather just get on with her work.
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Now look at this dying yellow jacket. Even in the throes of death after being zapped with my handheld bug zapper (and, no, I do not feel the slightest bit guilty), she was still trying to sting. IMG_2508
Not only are yellow jackets capable of stinging (multiple times, unlike a bee), they also bite. So says Dr. Leonard Perry, Extension Professor at the University of Vermont.

Becoming a beekeeper has made me dislike them even more. These shiny-bodied menaces will raid beehives. And they are omnivores (some say carnivores), so they not only rob all the honey, they also eat the larvae and bees. (If you want, you can find videos of this on YouTube. I couldn’t stand to look.)

Nasty(!) and more than a bit unnerving since The Engineer and I began to see yellow jackets snooping around the ground by our hive shortly before leaving for Oshkosh. We’ve even seen them trying to drag away bees that were inadvertently squashed by our clumsiness in replacing boxes after an inspection. (I doubt you can imagine how awful we feel when this happens.)

I did some research, and the more I learned, the more concerned I became for our hive during our absence. It turns out the late summer dearth (when food becomes less available for the would-be robbers and bees) is the most common time for hive robbing. And a newly established beehive like ours could be an enticing target.

A strong hive is less tempting, so we made sure to leave plenty of sugar water for our girls, and hung a few commercial traps around the yard, well away from the hive. (We had practiced due diligence in the spring and put out homemade ones to catch the queens, but had no luck.) Additionally, we’d planned to put in the entrance reducer before leaving but reached Illinois before realizing we’d forgotten.

Perhaps you can imagine our relief when we returned home to find our bees still busily working and the traps holding some dead and very annoyed yellow jackets.

Unfortunately, there are still yellow jackets cruising around. Since they always come from the growth nearby, we think it likely they have at least one nest in the ground there.

Knowing this, I’m ignoring my aversion to using chemicals in our home and yard, and tonight attempted to deploy the “nuclear option” mentioned in this article from the Natrona County Beekeepers’ Association wiki.

I’ll let you know how it works.

In the interest of fairness, I should mention honey bees will also raid other hives to steal honey. Here’s a blog post that discusses when, why, and how this happens.

If you’d like more straightforward information on the difference between bees, yellow jackets, and other stinging insects, read “All About Yellow Jackets, Bees, and Their Kin” at Gardeners.com.

 

Trip to Oshkosh — Photos

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We call our friends’ grass air strip “The Field of Dreams.”

 

En route to Oshkosh.

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Flooded fields on our way to Oshkosh from Illinois.

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View through the back window of our Cessna.

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Part of the Airventure 2017 NOTAM (NOtice to AirMen) for Flying into the “World’s Busiest Airport”

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When I put this photo on Instagram, it was cropped to a square, which made it look like the “7” was a cropped off “T.” As one friend remarked, “You read it your way. I’ll read it mine.”

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Sunset at camp on a cloudy evening in Oshkosh.

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Panorama view of our camp with two rows of planes.

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Back seat and cargo area on return trip

Oshkosh

Oshkosh

Fine, But Not Yet Super-Fine: Take Two

When we last checked the hive, we added a honey super. Like all decisions regarding our girls, we weren’t sure if this was the right decision or not, but I read in a blog post (that I won’t link to here), you add the super when the second deep box has 6-7 full frames.

Our second deep had 6-1/2.
We added the super and took off the feeder as instructed in our beekeeping class.

When we went inside, I checked my email and found an update from the Ohio State Beekeepers’ Association reminding us we were coming up on a nectar dearth the end of July and into August.

Well, shoot! We’ll be gone during some of that time period. Would our bees starve now we’d removed their feeder?

Again, I turned to our Bee Guru, shooting her an email. When I got the reply that I should maybe call her, I knew we’d made the wrong decision.

She advised us to go back in the hive, take off the super, set up the feeder (again) and rearrange the frames to encourage the bees to fill the ones they’d ignored. And time was of the essence.

The only time The Engineer and I had available was early morning, before the sun hit our hive. (Although it’s in our yard’s most advantageous spot, we live in the woods and it doesn’t receive the ideal amount of sunshine.)

From what we’ve learned, it’s best to work the hive in the afternoon, when most foragers are out and there are less bees. Early morning was not a good time to be doing what we needed to do, but neither of us would be home to do the work later.

There were many, many, bees around, and they weren’t happy to be disturbed so early. Who can blame them?

We did what needed done, carefully, but as quickly as possible, and closed the hive. Then, we set about lifting the ones that fell to the ground back to the entrance of the hive. The area around the hive is mulched, which means we were picking up any piece of wood with a bee on it and lifting it to the entrance so the bee could would scurry back in the hive.

Here I should note that many — possibly most — beekeepers work without gloves. I lack the confidence to do this, but had taken mine off for the “mulch rescue mission.”

You know what’s coming, don’t you?

As near as I can recall, the piece of mulch I picked up had not only a bee on the top — the one I was rescuing — but also one on the bottom, who felt a threatened when a giant hand closed around her.

Well, wouldn’t you?

Reader, she stung me.IMG_2349
I did what you’re supposed to do:
Remove the stinger.
Take off your ring.
Take a picture.

Okay, the last action isn’t in the manual, but I thought my first sting as a beekeeper was a moment worth remembering.

My finger didn’t look too bad at first. Eventually my knuckles disappeared, and I couldn’t bend them. I probably should have taken a picture of that stage, but I was too busy whining.

It wasn’t a good day, not because I get stung, but because I felt like our bees deserved better than our fumbling attempts to help them grow a hive strong enough to last the winter.

And yet, by that evening, they appeared to be back to normal, bustling in and out of their home and attending to business.

Again and again, I am amazed by these incredible creatures.

P.S. If you’re wondering about my sting, it got sore and swollen the first day and very sore and swollen the second day. By the third, the swelling was subsiding, and now all that remains is a red mark and a bit of pink around it.

 

Thirsty Bees

Bees, like other creatures, need water. According to Kim Flottum, editor of Bee Culture magazine, they use it to dissolve crystallized honey, to dilute honey for food for larvae, and evaporate it to cool the hive. They also enjoy a cool drink on a hot day. (For more on the subject, see “Why Honey Bees Need Water” from the “Bug Squad” blog.)

In our beekeeping class, the teachers stressed the importance of a water source when deciding where to place a hive. Since we have a stream that runs sporadically on our property and maintain a birdbath full of fresh water for the birds even in the winter, I figured we had the water source covered.

But for the first month or so, we didn’t see any bees on the birdbath, and I assumed they’d found water elsewhere.

Well, guess what! They’ve discovered the birdbath!
I was so excited I went out to take a picture.IMG_2321
Then I crept closer and took another.IMG_2322
Closer for another.IMG_2323
And another.IMG_2324
I’ve been taking pictures of thirsty bees ever since. But I promise, this is the last I’ll share.IMG_2330
Then we did our hive check on Sunday, and once more, I freaked out over something that turned out to be nothing.

You see, as soon as we opened the hive, there was a nasty little beetle staring right at me. I tried several times to smash it with my hive tool and missed. The darn thing ran right back into the hive.

Sigh.

Beetles, if you don’t know it, lay eggs that turn into larvae capable of turning a hive into a slimefest faster than you can imagine.

So, of course, I immediately imagined anything that glistened was slime. I was so creeped out I sent this picture to the Bee Guru. She said it was just nectar and pollen.
Whew! IMG_2340I’m not completely stupid. The frame above looks vastly different from the one below from a few weeks ago. Don’t you think?
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We’re quickly discovering that beekeeping is an education in how little we know.