Death Comes to Buzzers’ Roost (Again)

Dead bees are part of beekeeping, just as death is part of life. That knowledge doesn’t make it any easier to see a sight like the one below, especially when we know it was caused by our actions. (Please excuse the blurred picture. I didn’t have on my bee jacket, veil, or hat, and the girls get a little testy after this treatment.)

These bees died after we used Mite Away Quick Strips (MAQS) to treat for Varroa. You may recall my post last fall about our experience with MAQS. We had problems with Yellow Jackets raiding the hive through the wide-open front entrance although I don’t remember this many dead bees. We might have been so focused on the Yellow Jackets that we didn’t notice.

So, why use MAQS? There are several good reasons. It’s the only treatment currently available that kills mites on capped brood and the only one you can use with honey supers on the hive. More importantly, responsible beekeepers employ Integrated Pest Management (IPM) using a variety of treatments. This helps decrease the likelihood of the mites developing resistance to a particular treatment.

Our treatment plan includes MAQS, Oxalic Acid vaporizing, and drone frames. If we ever manage to get a large enough hive to split, we’ll do that too.

We also use a sticky board and sugar roll to count our mite load and plan to try an alcohol wash this season just to get an idea of how many mites the sugar method is missing.

Though it looks horrible, having this many bees die is not a tragedy, but a side-effect. It’s better than helping cause a treatment to become useless. And it’s much better than allowing the Varroa load to get high enough to cause a hive collapse .

Because when a hive collapses, the bees that survive join other hives in the area.

The mites go with them, starting the problem all over for whichever beekeeper happens to be unfortunate enough to live nearby.

For more information on IPM, visit the following sites.

Ohio State University Bee Lab

Mid-Atlantic Apicultural Research & Extension Consortium


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Long May She Reign!

News flash: The queen lives on!

Perhaps we owe thanks to the previous queen for blessing our hive with easygoing offspring who acted against instinct and didn’t kill their would-be monarch. Maybe this queen possesses some extra-strong pheromones. Or it could be the stars just aligned in her favor. We know this apparent miracle isn’t due to skill or knowledge on our part.

But when we finally opened the hive today to see what was going on, this is what we found. IMG_0072
Notice anything?

If you look very closely, you’ll see two different kinds of bees, darker Carniolans from our previous queen and lighter yellow ones from the new Italian one.

In the second picture, you might even see that the new yellow bees seem a little fuzzier.

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Below, you’ll see larvae and capped brood, and the difference between the two races is more distinct.

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What we never saw was the queen, whom we’re calling “The Red Queen” because she was originally marked with red — this year’s color. Unfortunately, that mark disappeared by the time we released her, which is partly why we didn’t spot her.  (Our last queen was marked yellow, but we never called her anything but “The Queen.”)

I’ll admit the hive has seemed quite active for one filled with winter survivors. And you probably won’t believe this, but a few days ago, I saw a bee fly past our kitchen window and noticed it wasn’t dark like ours from last year. I went out to watch the foragers entering and leaving the hive, but when I didn’t see any yellow bees, I assumed the one I’d seen was from a wild hive somewhere.

Then today, before our inspection, The Engineer mentioned he’d seen some yellow bees around the hive.

Did we dare hope? All the books said a hive with laying workers would kill a new queen.

And yet … and yet … they didn’t.

This just proves once again the old beekeepers are right: Bees don’t read the books. IMG_0075
Here’s another picture of our diversely populated hive. (It does make you wonder, doesn’t it? If two races of bees can get along, why can’t people?)

We also saw several drones. I managed to get a picture of one for you, and even more amazingly, managed to mark it with an arrow so you can see him.IMG_0076
Notice how he’s bigger, with huge eyes. That’s to find a queen to mate with. Other than that, they kind of blunder around begging food from the workers.

<insert joke about males and their food and sex-seeking behavior here>

All the activity was going on upstairs in the honey super we left on for the winter. (If you wonder about our reasons for that, please read my earlier posts). The bottom deep box has only drawn comb and honey.

This is not how it should be, so we’re having a think about how we’re going to remedy this. We’ll go in again on Saturday if weather permits and do some rearranging. Then, we’ll treat for Varroa with Mite Away Quick Strips, followed by a sticky board count and a sugar roll and/or alcohol wash.

I’ll keep you posted.

Thanks to my friend, Kate (from the blog “Tall Tales From Chiconia”) for this post’s title. She writes about quilting and life in the Land Down Under.

 

Look what I found in our Yellow Jacket trap! She’s very big so I think she’s a queen, which means there will be that many fewer Yellow Jackets harassing our bees this summer!

Please Release Me, Let Me Go

Queen update: We had a look in the hive Saturday. I fully expected to find the corpse of our new queen. The Engineer was more optimistic, pointing out our bees have always been fairly mellow, that maybe she’d been accepted.

We were both wrong. She and her attendants were still in the cage. Directly above them was this puff of new comb. They were so light and airy I wasn’t completely sure the cells weren’t paper until I put a match to them.

It’s burr comb. I should have known. A more experienced beekeeper could possibly explain why the bees suddenly decided there was too much space beneath their inner cover, but I can’t.

Thats how burr comb is used – to fill in open space in the hive. This has to do with “bee space,” a concept discovered by Lorenzo Langstroth, who noticed bees fill in spaces less than 1/4″ with propolis and space over 3/8″ with burr comb. He designed hives to accommodate this, and it’s Langstroth hives that are most commonly used in the US.

But back to our queen quandary.

The the situation in the hive hadn’t changed so we had no reason to feel any more optimistic about her future welfare.

On the other hand, the workers didn’t seem particularly hostile to their would-be monarch. Most didn’t even seem interested.

We debated a few minutes.

The Engineer: “I think we should release her.”

Me: “They’ll kill her.”

The Engineer: “They’ve fed her for ten days. Look at them. They’re not biting the cage or trying to sting her.”

Me: “Well, it’s not like it will make a difference. They’ll probably kill her whatever we do.”

In the end – partly to just get it over – we opened the cage and watched her scurry into the hive.

I fully expect we’ll soon be looking for a nuc in the near future.

What I Did on My Spring Holidays: A Photo Essay

Q. What do you do when it’s March in Ohio, and you’re sick of winter?

A. You go to Alaska.

Okay, maybe our logic was a little skewed when we planned the trip back in October, but neither of us likes crowds (not a problem in Alaska in March), and we wanted to be available when things started happening with our bees.

Look how well that turned out. Sigh.

Still, our forty-ninth state was beautiful, thanks very much, and we enjoyed our stopover in Seattle and six days in Vancouver too.

I enjoyed it so much I feel compelled to share photos. These were taken on my phone. Imagine what someone could do with a real camera.

First, we flew to Anchorage, where we explored the aviation museum and seaplane base. Only we’d kind of forgotten the lake would be frozen, so we didn’t actually see any seaplanes take off or land. (No worries. We made up for it in Vancouver.)

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Old wooden prop from the wreckage of a plane (I think it was called “The Seattle”) that was one of the first to attempt to cross the Arctic Circle. Four started out. Two of them made it.

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We also saw a moose one night. It was laying on the lawn of a small house in Anchorage, right at the bottom of the front porch. At first I thought it was a lawn ornament. Because, you know, moose lawn ornaments are all the rage in Anchorage. Not.

Next we drove down the Kenai Peninsula to Seward. The weather was beautiful and the scenery amazing.
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The picture above is from Turnagain Arm. There’s a huge tide, so big I guess people surf there.img_3484
Evidently, there are also whales. But we didn’t see any.img_3483img_3477img_3480img_3481img_3487img_3485img_3486

When we got to Seward, we stopped at a little park. I’m pretty sure we saw a seal. I know we saw otters in the bay, and some waterfowl we didn’t recognize.

The next day was our whale cruise. Though the season had just opened, we saw a whale blow several times in the distance, but never managed to get close. We also saw Stellar Sea Lions, more otters,  Dall Sheep, and lots of Bald Eagles. Then, after we’d given up on the possibility of seeing more whales and headed back toward the bay, we saw a pod of Orcas, followed in rapid succession by a school of porpoises, some of them Dall’s and another type whose name I didn’t catch.

I’ll warn you now, I didn’t even attempt to get photos of any wildlife because then I’d miss both the photo and the experience. Instead, I opened my eyes wide and tried to take it all in.

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Returning to Seward.

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Pass this outcrop, and the next landfall is Hawaii.

We returned to Anchorage, and the next morning boarded the train for Fairbanks — a twelve-hour trip. Because they were still running the winter train, it was a “flag stop” train, stopping every so often to pick up and let off passengers in what seemed like the middle of nowhere. img_3525
We ate, drank, and watched the scenery, scanning for wildlife. Here’s a list of what I saw: many more eagles, about six or seven Moose, the backside of two Caribou, and more Dall Sheep. img_3520img_3524
I loved the skinny pines (which we were told were Black Spruce) and Birch. By the time we neared Fairbanks, many of the Birch were bent over almost in a circle, probably from previous snows. Looks like I didn’t get any pictures of that.img_3517 img_3522

And here’s a little movie. It’s not very exciting (but it is short with some nice train noise), and I’ve no idea why WordPress let me post it.

 

 

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I managed to get this shot of a little church in a tiny town we passed, but had to push a girl who was taking many selfies out the window to do so.

In Fairbanks, we had a balcony view from Pike’s Lodge. Here’s what you saw if you looked out past the air conditioning unit on the roof beneath our window. Believe it or not, they need air conditioning. Though the temperature regularly gets to -40*F in the winter, it hits the 80s and 90s in the summer. In town, they have electrical plugs in the parking lot, not for electric cars, but for engine block heaters so residents can start their cars after being at work all day.img_3529img_3530

The next day, we took a flightseeing tour. I was very proud of myself because I secured the right seat (next to the pilot) for The Engineer.

The guy sitting next to me said, “He must be a pilot, right?”

I nodded, and he said he was too.

“We have a Cessna 182. What do you fly?” I asked.

“Oh,” he replied, “I’m a military pilot. I fly fighters.”

We agreed he needed to switch seats with my husband for the return flight.

Once again, the weather cooperated, and the views were stupendous.img_3560img_3540ed12b940-a2fa-4bb6-9632-a6bd3c98ba3dWe landed in Coldfoot, greeted by two young women. One was wearing flip-flops.

Here’s a nice pic of the airport.img_3583
We got a little tour (it’s very small town, more of a way station). We also had a beer because how many people can say they drank a beer above the Arctic Circle? (Beer looms large on this trip. The far north and western Canada seem to require it.)

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Important signage of Coldfoot, Alaska. Possibly the only signage in Coldfoot, Alaska. Yup, that’s the Alaskan Pipeline.

And that was the end of the Alaskan leg of our trip. Our only disappointment was not seeing the Northern Lights. Guess we’ll save the Aurora for another trip. (Iceland, anyone?)

The next morning, we left for Vancouver. When planning this trip, I’d discovered the only way to get from Fairbanks to Vancouver is through Seattle, and all the planes from Fairbanks seemed to land after the last plane to Vancouver. No matter what time we left Fairbanks, we’d end up catching the plane the next day. Since we didn’t want to sleep in the airport, we’d arranged a hotel, and to fly to Vancouver the next evening.

This gave us enough time to take the train into the city, and have a quick walk around, then hop on the ferry for a view from the water. img_3631

In Vancouver, we had a great AirBnB, close to public transport. It was an apartment on a street that was surprisingly quiet despite being conveniently close to a commercial district full of restaurants, shops, night clubs, and more importantly, a grocery store. If we walked down a small hill, we reached a beach on English Bay where we could take a little ferry to a variety of places.

Here’s a view from the roof. img_3632

British Columbia is considered a temperate rain forest, which means it rains nearly every day. At least it did while we were there. We got used to wearing our rain gear everywhere.

On one of our first excursions (to Granville Island), we mistakenly took some bad advice and ended up taking a bus over the island, and had to navigate our way back down. By that, I mean The Engineer navigated, and I followed.

Darling Daughter thinks I have no sense of direction (correct), and can’t find my way anywhere (incorrect). I am actually quite capable of navigating. I’m just lazy and it’s easier to follow The Engineer.

ebe70a43-4780-4f8c-b395-cda1308d6c3eBy the time we got there, it was really raining, so we ducked inside the brewery, and, yes, had more beer.

In the interest of full disclosure, I should admit we spent some time in English-style pubs watching Premier League football. I offer no excuses except to say Liverpool was playing Man City, and on Sundays, they had roast beef with Yorkshire pudding.

Another day, we took public transport to the Waterfront Station. The next two photos look a little odd because they were panoramas, which kind of skews the the perspective a little.

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Waterfront Station — I think this was formerly the main train station in Vancouver.

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There was a seaplane base and service, and during our time in the city, planes were continually taking off and landing. img_3652img_3650

And the trees were beginning to bloom.img_3672099542b9-7140-4899-abb4-4d005c1aae44

In Gastown, there’s a steam clock (and lots of other tourists).img_3668img_3658 On the only clear day during our stay, we walked around Stanley Park (about 6-7 miles). Since we also walked to the park and home, our stroll ended up being about ten miles. We packed sandwiches, drinks, and munchies, took our time, and enjoyed the scenery, exercise, and fresh air.  img_3684img_3687img_3685

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“Girl in a Wetsuit”

There were purple Sea Stars nestled among the rocks by the side of the water.

d1ffc106-aa36-4271-860d-1f8d1eef92bfaa51a7a8-8f5b-43a4-b55c-378139936904Our walk in the park ended near this collection of totems. 47997e62-0058-4bb6-ab4f-9ff9a5ac8928A visit to a new city wouldn’t be complete without a stop at the library. img_3722
We also took the ferry to North Vancouver, where there is a strong shipbuilding history. The city has left many remembrances of the industry on display near the waterfront.bb02da87-4cf3-4889-9919-13fd270e3b70Vancouver has a bike loaning program, and these pigeons seemed to be waiting to hitch a ride. img_3721

On our last day, we did a walking tour of Chinatown.img_3732img_3736
There, we saw the world’s skinniest building. img_3735
Evidently, the original building jutted over the street. When the city wanted to clear the roadway a bit, they made a generous offer for that part of the building, assuming the owner would tear the rest down since it would be useless. Instead he took the money, extended underground and continued using the building.img_3731This building is owned by an indigenous people’s group. The totem and concrete lodge on top represent a blend of traditional and contemporary architecture. Inside, the group runs a small hotel and art gallery, with the profits funding community housing for indigenous persons in the building next door.

The tour (and our touring of Vancouver) ended with a visit to the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden — a green oasis in a busy city.img_3738img_3739img_3740img_3741

You can see more photos of our trip on my Instagram account (kymlucas54). 

 

 

 

The Queen is Dead. Long Live the Queen.

The queen is dead.

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Our former queen in her matchbox coffin. The Engineer kept her for several weeks before disposing of her, probably in the hope that someone could tell us why she died.

Long live the queen.

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Our new queen and her attendants in a queen cage. You can’t actually see the queen, but she’s Italian (therefore more yellow than black) and marked with a red dot (this year’s color). And yes, they do ship queens via USPS, but we got ours from a nearby bee supplier.

Except that queen’s almost certainly met her demise by now too.

So, why bother buying a new queen?
Good question, and one that requires a lengthy explanation.

Before you read on, please keep in mind I’m not a beekeeping expert. (I’m not even sure I qualify as a beekeeper yet.) If you’re truly interested in the subject, I suggest you check out a book from your local library.

But this is what I understand from what I’ve read and heard.

When a queen dies, a beekeeper can do one of two things.

S/he can allow the hive to do their thing and raise a new queen from an emergency queen cell. Doing this relinquishes all control over the type of queen that is raised and means accepting that the new queen may not be a strong one since she was raised in a crisis and not as a planned supersedure.

The difference between the two may seem small, but it’s important because a supersedure cell queen was raised from the start to be a queen in a cell designed for queen rearing. An emergency queen is raised in a normal cell that’s been enlarged, sometimes resulting in smaller queens.

The other option is possible only if the beekeeper catches the situation in time. S/he can order a new queen, introduce her, and hope the hive accepts her.

They might, or they might not, for a variety of reasons.
If they’ve started emergency queen cells by the time the new queen arrives, they probably won’t accept her.
If they’re feeling testy for whatever reason — say, for example, because the weather keeps fluctuating between 70* (like today) and snow (as forecast for Monday) — they may not feel like playing nice with a new queen. Hives aren’t overly welcoming to new queens in the best of times, and if you add in any additional stressors, all bets are off.
If the hive has gone too long without a queen, and workers have begun laying eggs, you might be able to get them to accept the new queen, but the process is more complicated.

You didn’t know workers could lay eggs? Generally they can’t because a strong queen’s pheromones will suppress workers’ ovaries. However, if the queen is weak — or dead like ours — workers can and will lay eggs. Since these workers are unmated, all offspring will be drones. You remember drones. They’re the male bees, the ones who do nothing but eat and fly out to try to mate with queens.

Some say the workers lay eggs in a desperate, hopeless effort to raise a new queen, but no one really knows the minds of the bees.

In a beekeeper’s mind though, laying workers are nothing but trouble.

Now you can understand the saga of our deceased queen.

In a previous post, I mentioned The Engineer always checked the dead bees we cleared from the hive this winter to be sure the queen wasn’t one of them.

About three weeks ago, she was.

So we had a look at the hive, going through all three boxes to see what was happening. There was lots of honey, a fair amount of bees, but no eggs, and therefore no supercedure or emergency queen cells.

After speaking to our bee gurus (we now have two), we discovered that we should be able to requeen the hive because the workers probably wouldn’t be laying this early in the season.

The problem was there were no queens available until 10 April. We again consulted bee guru #2 who thought we’d be okay.

We ordered a queen, picked her up Tuesday, and received very specific instructions on how to introduce her. (Remember, this weather makes the bees cranky too.)

On arriving home, we opened the hive to find drone cells.

This was bad news.

I have to emphasize this doesn’t mean our gurus’ advice was wrong. It’s just — repeat after me — no one knows the minds of bees.

Still, it was bad news.

I’d read up a bit on queenless hives, and generally the consensus was once the workers start laying, it’s difficult (if not impossible) to stop them. And if you can’t stop them, the hive will kill any queen you try to introduce.

Yeah. Bees are ruthless that way.

I won’t go into detail on the methods a beekeeper can use to try to introduce a queen into a hive with laying workers except to say due to several factors, none of them are available to us.

All we could think to do was put her into the hive, and let nature take its course.

We have a friend who’s getting a new package of bees in a few weeks. If we still have any bees left by the time her bees settle in, we’ll give them to her. Bees from a hive with laying workers can be introduced into a hive with strong, laying queen (a “queenright hive”) because the laying queen’s pheromones will suppress the laying workers.

By that time, though, our bees may be dead. They are winter bees, which means they’ve been alive a long time and, in the normal course of things, would be dying off as they are replaced by new bees.

It’s likely we’ll have to buy another nuc this year (if we can find one).

Meanwhile, I’m praying for a miracle (because no one knows the minds of bees). Maybe they’ll go against all reasonable expectations and accept her.

Right.

The bright side in this year’s adventures is we now have drawn comb, which will give any future hive a head start on the season. And we have plenty of honey if they come up short for the winter.

 

 

Genealogy Fact #2: Family Tree Branches Rarely Grow Straight — Sarah Jane’s Story

These are the facts:

  • Sarah Jane Daugherty/Dougherty married Cornelius W./C.W. Feather(s) in Ritchie County, Virginia on 12 December 1861. She was nineteen.
  • On 25 November the following year, she bore a son, Aldine.
  • C.W. fought and died in the Civil War, leaving Sarah a widow with a child before she hit thirty.  From the record below, you can see Cornelius/C.W. registered for the draft in 1863. His gravestone conflicts with this, saying he died in 1861, but the date on the original stone is illegible. C.W. lived and registered for the draft in Ritchie County, and both the grave markers and place of the skirmish where he is supposed to have died are in Calhoun County, which borders Ritchie, so the idiosyncrasies don’t bother me. Also, the stone with the 1861 date is clearly modern, which makes its date suspect.

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  • Sarah Jane’s brothers also fought in the war — George and John Wesley for the Union side, and Jacob for the Confederacy.* All three returned safely.
  • Tragedy struck again in 1866 when Sarah Jane’s younger brother, John Wesley, was killed by an accidental gunshot to the head.
  • Also in 1866, her older brother, George, married Matilda Scott, the sister of the man who would become Sarah’s second husband. (The wedding registers for both marriages confirm this, listing parents’ names.)
  • In 1869, Sarah Jane married her second husband, Amos M. Scott. The 1880 census shows them living with Aldine and four more children in Murphy, Ritchie County, West Virginia.  If we believe findagrave.com, they had three more children who didn’t live past their second birthday. The 1900 census backs this up. Actually, it says Sarah Jane was the mother of eight children, with only four living.
  • Sarah Jane died of cancer in 1901. She was 59.

Hers was a short life filled with much tragedy, and I share it for several reasons.

The first is to show that it takes very little imagination to see how seemingly dry historical records — the census, birth and death records, grave markers — can document both joy or — as was more often the case for Sarah Jane — sorrow.

That census record alone is enough sadness for a single life. Eight children, four living — add in the rest, and well, there are no words for such sadness.

The second reason I chose to write about this particular story to illustrate how tangled a family tree can become as you climb its branches.

I caught Sarah Jane’s branch while searching for information on one of my 2x great grandmothers — her sister Elizabeth. I’d run out of clues on Elizabeth and so turned my attention to her siblings, hoping their records might garner additional information on their shared parents.

When I found the registry of Sarah Jane’s first marriage, I also recognized her groom’s name. Cornelius/C.W. is the brother of one of my other 2x great grandmothers, Ida Francis Feather(s). This would make Sarah Jane something like my double 2x grand aunt.

You can practically hear those tree branches tapping against each other.

But the main reason I’m telling you about Sarah Jane is because to me, these records say she didn’t give up.

After being left a young widow with a small child, she lived through the strife of having brothers on opposite sides in a terrible war, then lost one to a horrible accident.

Still, she forged forward, marrying again and beginning a new family.

She birthed eight more children, burying four before they reached the age of two. A husband, a brother, and four children — for many people, these losses would cause a self-protective hardening of the heart. And yet, fifteen years later — just a year before she died — Sarah Jane and Amos had taken in his younger brother and two sisters to raise (documented in 1900 census).

So, maybe Sarah Jane Daugherty/Dougherty Feather(s) Scott wasn’t famous. My guess is even she probably would have said she was just a girl from rural West Virginia.

I disagree.

And that, my friends, is why I wrote this post.

Some documentation for Sarah Jane’s story

Sarah Jane Daugherty/Cornelius W. Feather wedding register

Sarah Jane Daugherty Feather/Amos Scott wedding register

Aldine Feather/Luna Cunningham wedding register

Aldine Feather death certificate

C.W.Feathers findagrave.com

John Wesley Daugherty findagrave.com

Sarah Jane death registry

Sarah Jane findagrave.com

*History of Ritchie County: With Biographical Sketches of its Pioneers and Their Ancestors, and with Interesting Reminiscences of Revolutionary and Indian Times, c. 1911, Lowther, Minnie Kendall, p. 268

 

Food for the Bees

It’s warm out — nearly 50*F — and tomorrow it’s supposed to be nearly 70*.  Don’t be fooled, this doesn’t mean it’s spring. Here in northern Ohio, you can’t be sure spring has arrived until June, and then it’s summer.

If the sun were shining, the bees would be flying. Instead, we have rain, making this a day of dullness, dead brown leaf litter, and grey skies and trees.

To escape, I’ve turned to the gardeners’ age old remedy for February: ordering flowers, a task made challenging because we live in the woods, with not much sun filtering through.

This activity was partly motivated by the beginning beekeeping class we recently repeated, which included a segment on planting for pollinators and reminded me it was time to get started.

These days, I order for the bees, focusing primarily on early spring and late summer bloomers, and making sure to order seeds and plants from nurseries that don’t use Neonicitinoids.

Simply put, Neonicitiniods kill bees. Not immediately, but this class of chemicals kills just the same. The pesticides reduce bees’ chances of survival and affect their hygienic behavior so they don’t clean the dead from the hive as efficiently, thereby allowing illnesses to spread more quickly. Even worse, Neonics affect the queen and the hive’s ability to replace her. Without a queen to lay eggs, a hive will die. (For more detailed information on neonicitinoids, visit PBS or the Xerces Society.)

So this year, I’m asking you to please think of our bees and other pollinators (and therefore yourself) when buying plants. Stay away from those who have been treated with Neonics. Several major retailers have asked their suppliers to label plants that have been treated. This is a good start, but try to avoid plants that a retailer can’t state unequivocally haven’t been treated. Ideally, stay away from pesticides altogether if you can, by buying plants that have been grown organically.

And don’t assume because a plant that’s labeled “pollinator friendly” hasn’t been treated. Some have.

Not so friendly after all.

If you’re truly concerned about the pollinators (and our world), you might go one step further by making your garden and landscaping plans with our flying friends in mind. To make this easier, Xerces Society provides suggested plant lists for every area of the country. 100Plantscover-224x300

They’ve also published several books on the subject including this one, which my friend Lynne told me about. (Thank you, Lynne! I use it every time I order plants!) Click here if you’re interested in ordering. I don’t get a kickback or anything. I just think it’s a great book, especially because it tells what type of pollinators prefer each plant.

One of the best early spring plants for bees is Skunk Cabbage. According to Wikipedia (from where these photos are borrowed) and other sources, Skunk Cabbage actually melts the snow, generating temperatures 27–63*F above the air temperature using a process called cyanide resistant cellular respiration.

Unsurprisingly, it’s one of the earliest plants to emerge in the spring, and a valuable resource for bees.
I ordered three.

Another early plant is the Hellebore (also called Lenten Rose).

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My Lenten Rose as it started to bloom last March.

Bees like Hellebores too. In truth, they probably like anything with pollen or nectar that blooms in March, but I ordered two more because I like them too.

The Figwort, Mountain Mint, Rattlesnake Master, and Virginia Bluebell seeds were just for them though.

I also bought some more Self-Heal seeds because it did well last year. The Bumblebees especially seemed to like it. See? I’m not just about the Honey Bee! In keeping with that thought I ordered seeds for two types of Milkweed to provide food for Monarch Butterflies.

We have one tiny part of our property that gets sun, and The Engineer (finally!) built a raised bed there, so I’m going to try Lavender again and Pineapple Sage along with our peppers and tomatoes. I expect the herbs will do better in amended soil in the bed rather than the hard packed clay that passes for soil in our yard. I often think we should take up pottery instead of gardening, but I think the raised bed will help.

And now, for the bee update. We checked the hive last Thursday when it was warm enough to actually take off the top cover. Here are our ladies on the inner cover, very much alive and well.IMG_3318
They have still hardly touched the (many) sugar patties we have provided (because we are — okay, I am — paranoid they’ll run out of food). They crawl around and over the sugar, but mostly ignore it. This is good news because it means they still have honey, a naturally more nutritious food. IMG_3317
We also pulled out many dead bees from the bottom of the hive. IMG_3320
The Engineer always sorts through to make sure the queen isn’t in the pile, though we couldn’t do anything if she was. There are no queens available this time of year.

On sunny days, even when it’s not very warm, the bees have taken to flying out of the hive and landing on the snow. As expected, this kills them. “Wet bees are dead bees” is a common saying among beekeepers, although the bees haven’t seemed to get the message.

One of the (many) reasons I love my husband is because he rescues them, carefully scooping the silly things up in a jelly jar, bringing them in the house, setting them in the sun until they recover, and then returning them to their home.

It’s fascinating to see them come back to life. Legs and antennae start to twitch, before they begin to move and eventually take flight, buzzing around the jar. If there are more than one, they examine each other, carefully touching antennae and wiggling their bottoms.

It’s as if they’re comparing stories.

Maybe they are.

 

Genealogy Fact #1: A Census Is a Beautiful Thing

To the genealogist, a census is a beautiful and useful thing.

For example, here are just a few facts I’ve gleaned from these documents.

  • My grandfather was earning a wage at thirteen.
  • My great-grandfather was a U.S. RFD contract mail delivery man.
  • The rest of my ancestors were mostly farmers, though I can also claim a few coopers, carpenters, servants and joiners.
  • My 2x great-grandfather couldn’t write.
  • The majority of my family members were born in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Virginia, and, later, West Virginia. But one was listed on three censuses as being born in three different states.

This brings me to my next point.

The census is not always accurate, and apparently, many census takers couldn’t spell. In addition, old-fashioned handwriting can be difficult to read, so indexes are not always correct. Still, if you find something repeated in enough censuses, you can probably accept it as fact.

It’s also useful to pay attention to neighbors because they were often the source of marriage partners. Say you have a great-grandfather named Andrew Warren Bird who was married to your great-grandmother Clara Olive Summers, and in earlier censuses you find a Byrd family living near a Summers family, it’s probably the right families, even if the names are spelled differently, and there is no Andrew listed. And if, a generation later, you discover that a Lang man married a Byrd woman, and his sister married a Byrd man, well, you’ll begin to realize just how small the marriage pool was. (Children of these two marriages are double-first cousins, and they share as much DNA as siblings.)

Something else you need to understand is that counties were divided to make new counties (and in the case of West Virginia, one state was divided to form two). You may discover a family that lived in Monongalia County in the 1840 census was in Marion County in 1850. And they didn’t move.

Alternatively, a family can be listed in once census, disappear entirely in the next, and reappear back in the same place in the following one.

Go figure.

Occasionally, someone appears in a completely unlikely place.  I have an ancestor who — after she was widowed — turned up in Oklahoma. At first I ignored that return on a search for her name because, well, she couldn’t be there.

She was. Her son-in-law was working in the oil fields, and my ancestor was living with him and her daughter.

In earlier censuses (1790-1840), women and children (and later, slaves) were listed only as hash marks, unless the woman was a widow and therefore head of the household.

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Copy of 1810 Census 

Still, the census, especially the later ones can provide a wealth of information including some, but not always all, of the following.

  • Name (occasionally misspelled and/or nearly illegible).
  • Age (from which you can generally guess about birth year, which you can use to find other resources).
  • Profession/occupation, and sometimes how many months they worked that year.
  • Race.
  • Value of property.
  • Place of birth.
  • Year married.
  • If the person attended school in the last year.
  • If the person could read or write.
  • If the person suffered from certain infirmities.
  • If their parents were “foreign-born.” In later years, this information is more detailed with the census asking parents’ place of birth.
  • Relationship of the person to the head of the family.
  • Whether the person was single, married, widowed, or divorced.
  • The Special Schedule of the 1890 census tells whether or not the person served in the “war of the rebellion” or was a widow of a soldier, sailor, or marine. (Note: If your ancestor isn’t listed, it doesn’t always mean he didn’t serve. I have several for whom I have Civil War pension records, and they don’t show up on this schedule.)

BirdAndrewWarren_Clara1910

  • How many children a female ancestor has given birth to, and (this one always gives me pause) how many of those children are still alive.
  • Year of immigration and mother tongue.
  • The 1900 and 1910 censuses also has a separate census for “Indians.”

So, what’s stopping you? Go to this page on FamilySearch.org and see what your ancestors were doing in 1940.

Or pick any decade. You might be surprised at what you learn.

Morgan, Meet Morgan

This post comes under the “Anything That Strikes My Fancy” part of this blog’s theme.

I’ve been working on my family’s genealogy on and off since Darling Daughter was a toddler. She’s now twenty-three, and I’ve gotten more serious about the project. In this case, “serious” means trying to get my stuff together so I have one working family tree instead of many, i.e. one on paper, one on Ancestry.com, one on FamilySearch.org, and one on the Heredis program on my computer.

Crazy, right? But that’s what happens when I only work sporadically.  I lose track of where I was, making multiple starts in multiple places.

Thus far, I’ve merged the ones from Ancestry and Heredis, and am working on transferring the information from Family Search and my paper trees and family group sheets onto Heredis.

When I get bored, I turn my attention to some of my “brick walls.” For this you should picture a barricade encircling the sixth generation with just enough windows to get the occasional peek at what I’m missing.

One lightbulb moment occurred a few months back, when I reached the Morgan branch of my family and discovered this direct ancestor was born in Morgantown, West Virginia.

A Morgan born in Morgantown. My synapses went into overdrive, as I deduced the obvious. The city must have been named after a member of my family. (It was actually founded by them.)

Since my family came north to pursue better economic opportunities, it was a shock to discover I’m descended from one of West Virginia’s founding families (some say The Founding Family).

Fast forward to two weeks ago, when a friend emailed me out of the blue and mentioned she’d been working on her family’s genealogy also. We decided to set up a field trip to our local historical library, and in one of emails flying back and forth to organize this, she mentioned finding her family’s direct link to Zackquill Morgan.  He’s the son of Morgan Morgan who is believed to have established the first permanent settlement in what is now West Virginia.

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Photo published by flyingmoose  on http://www.waymarking.com/waymarks/WM7GDN_Morgan_Morgan

Zackquill was my 5x Great Grandfather. Turns out he’s hers too.

This means we’re 6th cousins.

At least, that’s what I think it means. I tend to get a bit lost on the consanguinity charts, no matter how logically they’re presented.

My cousin and I hope to learn more on Saturday when we visit the research library.