Road Trip(s)!

Well! We have been busy! After camping with Darling Daughter and partner, we were home for a week or so, and then back on the road again for Labor Day weekend (the first weekend in September).

I worked Friday, but we’d been warned we had to make it to Illinois to help a friend of ours celebrate his retirement from United Airlines. He’s been a captain flying mostly overseas for many years, but hitting 65 meant leaving that job behind.

He and his wife chose to celebrate with a fly-in pig roast at their grass strip — the same place our group congregates before heading to Oshkosh each year.

Unfortunately, it became clear on Friday morning that the weather in Illinois was not going to be conducive to visual flight rules flying on Saturday. And since The Engineer is not instrument flight rules current, this meant a road trip.

We left bright and early Saturday morning after throwing our camping gear in the van on Friday night. I’m embarassed to admit that since we knew this trip was coming, we’ve left it in our foyer since the last camp trip (with Darling Daughter and Partner).

It was a long drive (about seven or so hours), but we had all day and made stops as needed for meals and to stretch our legs, arriving in plenty of time for the evening’s festivities.

And although I loved seeing many of our friends from around the country at the party, I have to admit I enjoyed the day after more. It seems the older I get, the less I enjoy being part of a crowd for more than an hour or two.

So a Sunday hanging around the hangar chatting to whoever was around was just fine with me.

It really was wonderful to be able to visit with friends we only see once in a while.

I also enjoyed being able to sleep in before going for a late breakfast on Monday, and then packing up for our trip home.

We took the backroads instead of the freeway, stopping to spend a night in Marion, Indiana where we used up some of The Enginner’s many Holiday Inn points for a room, and went out for a Mexican meal.

Illinois and Indiana is farm country — mostly corn and beans — and the country roads are mostly narrow and straight.

The roads are so straight, in fact, I felt compelled to take a picture when we made a turn!

After arriving home Tuesday evening, we got up to a day of preparing for our camping trip on Thursday.

First, I visited my mom, who is once again in lockdown at her nursing home. They have had four staff cases of COVID (most, if not all, of unvaccinated people) and one resident who tested positive after she exhibited symptoms.

Fortunately, none of the other residents have tested positive (so far), but this means Mom is spending most of her time in her room again, with no group activities.

How long will this go on, and why has protecting ourselves and others from illness become a political football?

And that’s all I’m saying on that subject.

In addition to seeing Mom, it was time to put in our second strip of Formic Pro in our three hives, so we did that too.

Also, we had to go flying.

I know …. such a shame, but someone has to do it.:-)

We decided to fly for dinner to a rural strip with a restaurant. We often visit there for breakfast, and their evening meals proved to be as filling (and cheap) as their breakfasts.

Plus, it was so nice to see trees again after all the corn and bean fields!

The sunset was magnificent!

Thursday, it was off to the campground, which proved to be a welcome haven from our busy month.

We set up our big tent in a beautiful spot in the shade of several large pines at the end of one of the roads. I say “big tent” to differentiate it from the smaller one we take to Oshkosh. They are identical except for size, with the little one being a four-person, much more suitable for loading in the plane, when weight is a concern.

The “big tent” is an eight-person, and it’s huge! The Engineer can stand in it, and he’s 6’3″. I got it for a ridiculously low price on Craig’s List, and we’ve been referring to it as the “Taj Mahal.” But in Illinois, a friend of ours called it the “Garage Mahal,” a name I think will stick.

Here it is in all its glory.

I also recently invested in a double pie-maker. We had a small single one, but I came across a book with all sorts of delicious sounding recipes to make in a pie maker, so I decided to splash out on a bigger one too.

Here are the samosas we made on Thursday night in our new cookware. I’m very proud I managed to not burn them.

We used one of those cans of croissant dough for the first ones (and then I made a chocolate croissant with the small bit of leftover dough). The Engineer also used the little round pie iron to make another samosa using the filling in plain, old white bread. (Well, it wasn’t actually plain, old white bread. It was the rather expensive white bread I buy because it actually has flavor, nutrition, and texture, but that’s sort of beside the point.)

Anyway, The Engineer said the second samosa was as good, possibly better, than the first.

The next morning, I once again used our Kelly Kettle to make tea. I know, I know — I go on about this piece of equipment, but it’s so fast compared to making tea on our old camp stove.

So I’ve dressed up the picture with a shot of the pine cones we used for kindling, honey from our bees, the tea pot and cosy I pack with our gear, and the freebie fan I got from Seltzerland and used to create a draft for the little fire.

Friday, we rented a canoe, and discovered Grumman — the maker of F-4 Wildcats and F-6 Hellcats (World War II combat planes) also made canoes.

Of course it was The Engineer who made the connection between the name on the boat and the aircraft-style rivets.

View of Findley Lake from a Grumman canoe

When we stopped for lunch, The Engineer discovered this.

He’s very observant, that boy.

I, on the other hand, am in charge of research, and all I could find (with a very quick search online) was that the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Water does some kind of sediment survey using these markers.

Enlightening, that bit of information is, isn’t it?

The canoeing made us thirsty, and we retired to a local(ish) brewery. The place seems to be in the middle of nowhere, or at least a lot of farmland, but it was filling up when we left, so people seem to be finding it.

I found Muffleheads Brewery online (how else?), and we both found it delightful.

Here’s a view from the patio (before the groups of people began to show up). The owners have clearly spent a lot of money to make their brewery dream come true because the place was full of comfy seats and fire pits by which to enjoy your beverage.

The beer was good too.

If you’ve never heard the term “mufflehead,” it refers to an mosquito-like insect that invades western Ohio in early summer. They don’t bite, but appear in such great numbers as to be more than a little annoying.

Now they have a brewery named after them. Go figure.

Dinner that evening was our household specialty, which consists of chopping up some kind of sausage and throwing it in a pan or wrapping it in foil with potatoes, carrots, onions, and any other vegetables we happen to have on hand, along with a few dabs of butter. We put it in the fire and let it cook until done.

This time, the potatoes came out a little charred, but thankfully, my husband claims to prefer them that way.

On Saturday, we met our friend MJ at the local fairgrounds for the LCBA End of Summer Classic. Along with the educational sessions on bees, this beekeeper group had organized a Corvette Cruise-In, a Classic Car and Bike Cruise-In, Amish buggy rides, fair food booths, door prizes, vendors, and a variety of other activities.

We concentrated mostly on the bee presentations, though I did manage to find time to spend probably more than I should have on raffle tickets. I can’t feel too guilty though; the money goes to the organization, and they present several of these events a year.

Also, I won a basket, though I’ve not yet had time to see exactly what’s in it.

After the Summer Classic, we all drove back to the park for the “Friends of Findley State Park Tasting in the Woods,” which I’d seen on the park website a few days before.

I’ll admit Ohio hasn’t had a history of producing great wines, but when an opportunity arises to drink wine and eat pizza in a beautiful setting while supporting a worthy endeavor, you take it. Travel magic, right?

The people were friendly, and the three of us (The Engineer, MJ, and I) each found several wines we liked.

Plus, pizza.

I should have taken a picture of the two delicious pies we consumed, but we scarfed them down so fast there wasn’t time.

Eventually MJ had to make her way home, and The Engineer and I meandered our way back to the campsite for one last campfire.

Since it was probably our last camping trip of the season, and thus, our last camping trip fire, I made a cherry pie to celebrate.

The next morning, after one last Kelly Kettle cuppa, we went for a short dam hike. (Sorry. I couldn’t stop myself from phrasing it that way.)

A few photos of wildflowers because they looked pretty, and soon after that, we were packed up and on our way home.

Forty Years

Yesterday, The Engineer commemorated his fortieth anniversary as an employee of the company where he’s worked since he was sixteen.

In that time, the company has been bought and sold — taken over and renamed — five times. It has been downsized, and many have lost their jobs, but The Engineer remained.

In some ways, he was lucky. Finding a career that suits your abilities at such a young age is unusual, quite unlike my own meandering path to my eventual avocation.

Also, engineering pays reasonably well, always a nice perk.

But having been next to him for thirty-three of those forty years, I know for every penny he’s been paid, his employer has reaped far more as a result of my husband’s labor, knowledge, and work ethic.

Granted, they have earned some of that money, having provided him with training and the structure within which he works. I hope you believe me when I say he has repaid all of their investments a multitude of times and continues to do so every working day (and night).

My husband is smart, pragmatic, and logical. He rarely takes things personally, and I’ve never seen him panic, even in situations where panic would seem a normal reaction.

He approaches problems from the bottom up, looking for the simplest explanation first. This has proved an extremely effective way of troubleshooting.

The Engineer can fix almost anything. In fact, I often tell the story of when Darling Daughter, aged six or seven, took a squirt gun to our television.

This was out of character for her because she wasn’t a bratty kid. (I know I’m her mom, but truly, she wasn’t.) Surprised at her actions, I asked her to explain herself, after first doing some explaining of my own.

“You’ve broken the television,” I said. “Why did you do that?”

Completely unfazed, Darling Daughter replied, “Daddy can fix it.”

Her faith in her father’s abilities was absolute.

I shook my head. “I don’t think so.”

But he did.

On the other hand, my husband has no qualms admitting when he’s out of his depth. Many times I’ve heard him remark on a situation at work that it’s time to get the designers or the masterminds in.

And there are a few (just a few) home repair tasks he won’t tackle because he knows they are beyond his ken.

The Engineer is creative, able to look at an item and see alternative uses for it. This year, he repurposed some pieces of hive frames as handles for my thirty-five-plus-year-old Weber grill. And in our hangar, we still have picnic table benches he made from our old wood waterbed frame.

Also, he has a sense of humor, not raucous, but playful and clever. I’m sure most readers will agree about that attribute is invaluable in a workplace.

Engineering suits my husband, but with his native intelligence, character, and integrity, I know he could have been a success in a variety of careers.

As I said earlier, his company is lucky to have him.

Unfortunately, that company is part of a huge, global corporation, so no one at the top even knows his name.

For forty years, he’s earned them a lot of money, and I doubt he’s even seen as a cog in a wheel because the leaders seem to view everyone as replaceable.

True, some of the managers he reports to (and there are many — more managers than engineers, in fact) understand and appreciate his capablities, but even they are small fish in an ocean of international trade.

Forty years he’s spent doing his job in a time when many people complain about how no one has a work ethic anymore, and workers flit from job to job with no loyalty to their employers.

Well, I was a child of the seventies, and I remember the days when a “good job” was one where working for a company for your whole life meant you could look forward to a pension when you retired. It was like an unwritten contract between an employer and their employees.

Do a search on “raiding pension funds” to see how that worked out for employees. (I’ll save you the trouble, click here, here, here, or here.)

On the other hand, the CEOs did just fine, even if they’ve run those endeavors to the ground. Those high flyers — including the ones where The Engineer works — come and go, often leaving with a gold, no, make that platinum, handshake for their efforts.

In fact, the most recent figures put the average CEO salary at 299 times the average worker’s.

Meanwhile, The Engineer’s employer has gone from being considered a solid investment and blue-chip stock to quite the opposite.

Thus, it’s a little galling that their HR department regularly send emails offering financial tips. And the 401K fund options they offer are extremely limited, with most of the funds being run by his employer.

It’s a bit like the old “company stores” that once proliferated in factory and coal towns. You can spend or invest your money anywhere you want … as long as your employer make a profit on it.

So, if those employers complain about the dearth of good applicants for jobs, all I can say is they are reaping what they’ve sown.

Hey, I know we’re lucky to have had retirement plans and the money to invest in them. Many don’t have that option. We’re fortunate to have had careers that meshed with our interests and skills. Countless others slave at positions that offer little hope for advancement or financial stability. And how many people work multiple jobs just to make ends meet?

I know I did for many years.

Still, forty years is just over 70% of The Engineer’s life so far, and I can’t help feeling that much dedicated work should be recognized by a bit more than a form email from the current CEO and the option to order some useless item from an online catalog.

We chose to commemorate his efforts our own way, by going out for a nice Indian meal. And you know what? It was lovely.

Also, when The Engineer retires (and when I eventually follow him and retire from my little “retirement job”), we hope (plan, pray) to able to reap the benefits of both our efforts and savings.

End of rant.

To end on a more positive note, here’s a picture of the honey we extracted yesterday. My best estimate is we got about twenty-seven pounds.

Bee Clean

After discovering our bees won’t use old dark comb and honey, we’ve been gradually sorting through our frames, replacing the dark ones with new(er) and setting aside the old ones for cleanup.

At first, we thought we could extract the honey and maybe even use some of the wax, but ended up with more mess than anything, though we did manage to eke out a little honey. We hope to be able to use it as food to help the hives prepare for winter.

Still, the remaining “ugly” frames need dealt with.

After seeing how eagerly bees (possibly our own) robbed the Kremlin of its meager supplies, The Engineer had the idea of putting the old frames outside for the bees to clean.

I’m still not convinced about his choice of placement for this, but I must admit the bees did a great job of removing most of the honey. According to him, there was quite the feeding frenzy!

Why they want it now when they wouldn’t eat it when it was in their hive … well, we’ll probably never know the answer to that question.

Below are four pictures of one frame showing before and after shots of each side taken less than eight hours apart.

All photos were taken by The Engineer.

It’s very clear they’ve removed most, if not all, the honey. And notice how some of the edges on the cells appear ragged? The Kremlin’s frames also looked like that. I’ve not noticed that roughness on emptied honey cells inside our hives and can only guess (so much of beekeeping seems to be a guess) it’s because the bees were trying to haul out as much honey as possible as quickly as possible to take back to their own hives.

Now, all we have to do is clean off the wax and pressure wash the frames. Believe me, that’s quite enough for us to be getting on with!

No News = No News

It’s been a busy few weeks. We were away two weekends in a row and have had a lot of social engagements when we’ve become accustomed to having few (and for a long time, none).

Plus, immediately after Oshkosh, my co-worker was on vacation, which meant I picked up an additional day at work. You wouldn’t think one day would make a big difference, but it did, coming just when peppers, tomatoes, and zucchini were coming in full force.

That meant one day spent making and canning hot pepper jelly, and another making and canning zucchini salsa.

Of course, both days were over 90F, making those endeavors that much more enjoyable.

Still, the work had to be completed, and we are once again fully stocked with salsa and jelly.

I also hoped to make zucchini relish, but found I didn’t have time (nor inclination). I got around the lack by the simple expedient of ordering some Slawsa. The grocery store where I work used to stock this condiment, but cut it just before I discovered how good it is. I found another store that carried it, but they seem to have dropped it too, so I was forced online.

Ah, well, needs must, and ordering online was better than another sweltering day in the kitchen.

We spent one weekend away in Columbus, fitting in a events we couldn’t have done a year ago (and may or may not be able to do in the near future).

First, The Engineer was able to finally redeem his certificate for an hour in a 737 simulator at Take Flight Ohio. Darling Daughter and I bought this form him for Christmas in 2019, but COVID interevened, postponing his “flight” until now.

I think it was probably the best gift we ever gave him.

We were also able to fit in dinner with Darling Daughter and her partner, before traipsing back to our hotel for the evening.

The next day, we went to Seltzerland — kind of like a beer festival, but with alcoholic seltzers. I’ll just say it was a beautiful day and a fun event, but I’m not sure I’d want to do it on a regular basis, though we did get a lot of cool swag.

If we hadn’t been fully stocked with coozies before (we were), we are now.

Saturday was completed with a passable Indian meal.

Then, on Sunday, we stopped to ride a few miles on a rail-trail we’ve been exploring. It’s in Holmes County, which is said to have the largest population of Amish and Mennonite in the world. Or maybe it was in the U.S.

I just looked it up, and the two websites I consulted say Holmes county actually has the second largest population in the country.

Doesn’t matter. What’s interesting is the rail-trail there was designed to accomodate both bikes and buggies.

For some reason, I feel like I mentioned this before in a post, so if this is a repeat, I’m sorry.

Here’s a picture from when we first rode the trail last year.

We’ve made plans to go back a few times to complete the trail because it’s a nice one.

The following week was full of work and canning and visiting Mom, and then it was Friday again, and we were off once more, this time for a camping trip with DD and her partner.

We went to Salt Fork, an Ohio state park that’s very popular, especially with boaters, because it’s around a huge (HUGE!) reservoir. Wikipedia says the lake is 2,952 acres.

Truly, there are many things you can do very well at this park — archery, swimming, boating, kayaking, horse camping, RVing — but tent camping isn’t one of them.

First of all, there’s very little shade. Secondly, there are possibly six sites suitable for tents unless you are the hardy type who prefers primitive camping.

Call me a wuss, but these days if I’m spending more than a few hours somewhere, I like to have running water.

I know there were only about six decent tent sites in the “developed” part of the campground because we looked.

Our site looked good on the reservation website, but turned out to contain one long tarmac pad almost parallel to the road, and two small grassy areas on either side of it, which left very little space to pitch tents.

The pegs from ours ended up about an inch from the road.

Still, we enjoyed ourselves, cooking over the fire and making tea using our Kelly Kettle.

Man, I love that thing. And I think we finally have the knack of starting the fire and keeping it going.

Did I mention the weather was hot? So hot, in fact, we had to leave our unshaded campsite to visit a microbrewery Saturday afternoon. 🙂

Fortunately, the Wooly Pig Farm Brewery was a mere half-hour away.

Specializing in German-style brews, staffed with friendly, courteous people, and with plenty of shaded, outdoor seating, the brewpub was a great find.

Plus … pigs. The wooly sort. Although — full disclosure — the only pig we saw was wallowing in the mud with its eyes closed beneath a tree.

Not that I blamed it — that mud did look cool and inviting.

Wooly Pig (the brewery, not the farm animal) also had a food truck, and food trucks are one of my favorite things about visiting small breweries. Something about the symbiotic partnership of two small businesses just makes me smile.

Also, they had loads of colorful zinnias that were full of pollinators!

It was our kind of place. Even The Engineer, who tends to prefer British-style beer, admitted to liking it.

We liked it so much, in fact, we stopped the next day for lunch on our way home.

By now, you may be wondering what’s up with the bees, so I’ll give you a quick report. That’s all I can give you because bees don’t like it when you bother them with a full hive check in hot weather.

I think I may have mentioned it’s been hot.

And yet, we know all three hives are full of bees because they look like this.

That’s the original OH, Girls on the left and second OH, Girls split on the right.

The pictures below are of the first OH, Girls split, taken from different angles so you can see just how many bees there were on the hive.

It’s cooled down slightly, so the beard is a bit thinner now. Think goatee or soul patch instead of the full ZZ Top/Lumberjack version above.

This morning we had a quick look at just the honey supers, stealing five more frames from the original OH, Girls hive, and taking them down to two supers by removing five other lightly filled frames.

Goldenrod is just starting to bloom, and we can smell the honey being made from about four feet away. It smells of butterscotch (some people say old socks, though I’m not sure where they get that from!).

We’ll have a better idea about the hives’ statuses when it cools enough to do a complete check. With any luck, they’ll have a good fall harvest and make plenty of honey for themselves. Although I do love Goldenrod and Aster honey, I’d rather they have enough for the winter.

Meanwhile, come Monday, we will be treating them again, this time with Formic Pro strips. The weather is predicted to be below 85 for the next few weeks, making it possible to switch up our treatment method to this one.

Because we’ve had issues with bees dying, including several queens, when using formic acid strips, we do the longer 20 day treatment of one strip for ten days followed by a second strip for another ten days. It’s slightly less effective, but we’ve found it results in a much lower mortality rate.

Also next week, we plan to extract the frames we’ve pulled.

Sometime after that will come the second batch of mead.

And I still need to research wax rendering. I’m not completely satisfied with the methods I’ve tried, and I’d like to use the candle forms I won to make some candles.

So, as you see, there’s been no actual news. We’ve just been very busy, and it doesn’t look like we’ll be slowing down anytime soon.

All Hives Are Queen Right Once Again

But first, the bad news. On Sunday, The Engineer had to put a screen over the entrance of the Kremlin because it was being attacked by robber bees. Today, when we checked the hive, we discovered the assault must have begun while we were gone. It was devastated, with few bees remaining — certainly not enough to grow into a viable hive in time for winter.

So, we are down to three hives, all of them originating from last spring’s Saskatraz package.

The good news is all of them are queen right.

Eager for a lift of spirits after the disheartening discovery in the Kremlin, we turned to OH Girls Split #1.

This is the hive that had two queens when last we looked.

Today, we — and by “we,” I mean The Engineer — spotted only one. I suspect the original dented one who began this dynasty is probably dead.

Thankfully, her good genes continue their reign in each of our three hives because each is queened by one of her daughters.

Here’s one of her beautiful offspring in OH Girls Split #1.

The residents of this hive have been toiling hard while we were gone, building comb on the new frames we gave them before we left. There was even capped brood on one of them already!

I love the way new comb looks — so fresh and perfect.

Below, you can see one of the hive’s many frames of capped brood.

Next, we turned to OH Girls and OH Girls Split #2. The split was made at the end of June, and we weren’t sure which hive ended up with the queen. We checked the original OH Girls first.

It’s big, two deep brood boxes and three honey supers. There were a lot(!) of bees. With a hive this size and well-populated, it almost seems like they are just boiling up out of the hive.

It was also filled with many frames of capped brood, which means it is queen right. Yay!

I admit I’m pathetic when it comes to spotting queens, but I don’t know how anyone can find them in a hive this full.

But Engineer found this one too. She’s golden, so might be the queen from OH Girls. Or, maybe she’s just another golden queen.

Here’s three photos of her. Can you find her in all of them? (And don’t go all smug on me if you do. It’s easy when you’re only inches away and it’s a still photo.)

So … did we also find a queen behind door (hive) number three?

No, we did not. However, we found something almost as good. Capped brood, and lots of it!

This is what I mean by bees just kind of boiling up. It’s like they coagulate or something!

In other good news, all three hives have begun storing honey in the corners of some of their brood box frames.

We hope to see more of this as they prepare for winter, even if it means they pay less attention to the honey in their honey supers.

OH Girls still has three of these smaller boxes, and many of the frames are nearly fully capped. We didn’t pull any of them today, opting instead to wait and see how it goes.

Now that we have three queen right hives, I’m sure something else will pop up to torment us.

Oh. Yeah. Winter is coming. Guess it’s time to start worrying about that.

I’ll leave you with this photo of OH Girls Split #1 after we checked it. I’m not sure why they all decided to cluster around their two bottom entrances, but I’m sure they have a reason.

Oshkosh 2021: A Photo-blog

Last night, we got home from Oshkosh. It was a great trip, and we were able to visit with many friends we haven’t seen since 2019. Still, after ten days of camping, porta-potties, and showers with handheld nozzles, I was glad to be home.

Rather than writing about the experience, I thought I’d show you some of it in photos.


En route, we stopped for breakfast at Port Clinton’s Tin Goose Diner where plane spotters outside watched us manouver our 182 between two other planes. When one of them thanked us for the show, I wasn’t sure if they meant the parking job or The Engineer’s landing prowess. 🙂 As it turned out, it took longer to park than to decide to press on after hearing there was a 30-45 minute wait for a table.

Farms in western Ohio — the topography many picture when they hear our state’s name.
Setting up temporary camp at our friends’ grass strip in Illinois.
Obligatory photo of dusk at the airstrip
Lineup of traffic going in to Oshkosh. Note: this is on the Saturday before the event begins on Monday.

On Sunday night, we celebrated two birthdays. A piper who was camping nearby heard us sing, so she brought her bagpipes and played us several tunes. I didn’t get a picture of her, and the one I took of her pipes includes the face of another camper. Although unwilling to share that photo without permission, I am mentioning the story because it illustrates the magic of Oshkosh.

View of camp on Brat Night, a yearly feast when many visit us to dine on brats and corn on the cob. We had between 200 and 250 people this year. Unbeknownst to us, balloonists had been scheduled for a demonstration at the end of our row. What a beautiful sight!
A few of the planes at the EAA Museum.

Below are some scenes from the Fly Market.
This made me smile.
Despite being only a short bus ride away, the seaplane base is an oasis of calm, away from the hurly-burly hustle and bustle of the main event.

On the way home, we flew past Chicago.

Here’s the city, hazy in the distance.
Growing closer.
Navy Pier
Chicago on the aviation chart.

Of course, there’s always the aftermath. Since I worked today, this pile of dirty clothing awaits my attention tomorrow.

Dual Queens

Remember the dying queen? I wouldn’t blame you if you don’t. With all my talk about queens, even I find it hard to keep them straight.

Anyway, it turns out the dying queen isn’t dead. This is quite a surprise because when we checked that hive (the first split from OH, Girls this year) on 4 July, we were very happy to find the beautiful new queen the workers bred to replace her. Here’s her picture from that inspection.

Today, when we checked that hive, The Engineer once again spotted New Queen (near the bottom, surrounded by her attendants). And isn’t she gorgeous?

Only later, he also spotted Dented Queen.


In this picture, she’s pointed out with a hive tool, and I’ve circled her in red to make her easier to spot. You can clearly see her dented thorax. (Note all that lovely, glistening white larvae beside her!)

Here’s another pic.

She’s surrounded by her court of attendants.

But if you look at the picture below, and you have sharp eyes, you’ll find both Dented Queen (near the hive tool) and New Queen (near the capped brood at the top of the picture.

Above is Dented Queen (middle left) and New Queen (upper right, circled).
Dented Queen (red) and New Queen (green)

We heard this sometimes happens, but when we took our classes, I got the impression that having two queens co-exist in a hive was unusual. True, there are ways beekeepers occasionally manipulate hives to run two queens, usually by using queen excluders to keep the royalty in separate areas of the hive.

The situation can also arise when one queen isn’t yet mated, the bees are getting ready to swarm or they just haven’t killed the old queen yet. According to this article, the workers keep the two queens in separate parts of the hive, but as these pictures show, New Queen is definitely mated, and she’s not only on the same frame as Dented Queen, she’s mere inches away.

And these two have been sharing the same hive for at least ten days, likely longer.

I expect eventually the workers will kill Dented Queen. She’s still moving and laying, but very slowly, while New Queen sprints around laying as fast as she can.

Meanwhile, the workers have been making comb on the new frames we gave them like their lives depend on it.

Oh, yeah … their lives do sort of depend on it. They’ll need that comb to store honey for winter.

Such a pretty sight (especially after yesterday’s mess)

And our two queens are already using the new comb. There’s larvae in both the pictures below, although it’s harder to spot in the second one.


After our unusual find in the split, we looked in on the Kremlin. I was ready to dispatch Olga to the big beehive in the sky and steal a frame of brood from OH, Girls split #1 so Kremlin workers could make a new queen. The Engineer convinced me we should give her one more chance. Her laying seems to be improving slightly, with more larvae closer together, but if it’s not dramatically better at the end of the month, they’re going to have to make a new queen. This is cutting it fine because August is when beekeepers need to start thinking (read “worrying”) about winter.

There’s an expression about beekeeping, something like “Take care of the bees that will take care of the bees that will need to live through the winter,” and August is when that begins.

Olga needs to step up her game.

Lastly, we had a look at the honey supers on OH, Girls and stole two filled frames, replacing them with super frames with drawn combs. Truthfully, we could have probably pulled more for extraction, but we’re being conservative this year and waiting until the frames are at least 90% full … at least as long as nectar is still coming in.

A lot of the frames look like this, nearly solid on one side and not completely capped on the other (although some had a lot more capped on side #2).

We considered putting a honey super on OH, Girls Split #1 because the hive has a lot of bees, along with a queen cup that might have had larva in it. Ultimately, we chose not to. We gave them several empty frames when we put them in the big boxes so they still have space.

Also, we tempted fate by leaving the queen cup. We’re not 100% sure it was filled, and if we scraped it off, and they want to swarm, they’d just build another.

Speaking of swarms, we still have three swarm boxes up, and at least two are getting a lot of attention from scout bees.

I’m not sure where we’d put another hive, but we could probably find space on one of the stands if we have to. 🙂


The Dark Side of Beekeeping

Until now, I’ve not dwelled on the dark aspects of a beekeeper’s job.

No, I’m not talking about losing hives, dying queens, or even the Dreaded Varroa Destructor Mites.

I mean old beeswax.

Beeswax is a lovely substance. In its cleaner form, it smells delicious, is great for wood and has many other uses including beeswax wraps.

Unfortunately, wax that’s been reused gets old and ugly, and eventually bees refuse to use those frames.

I can’t say I blame them. The many herbicides and pesticides used in our world can accumulate in the wax and begin to affect the young bees.

Recently, we realized many of our frames have reached this state and have begun to clean and/or replace them.

Initially, we tried to extract the honey from the old frames, but it proved a lost cause. Instead we scraped them, and The Engineer powerwashed both the frames and foundation.

What to do with all that dirty, ugly wax though … hmmm, such a quandary.

Well, it turned out there was some honey, so I strained that to feed to the bees. It’s a little dark, and probably partly sugar rather than nectar, but I tasted a bit, and it’s not horrible. The Kremlin and the newest OH, Girls Split seem to like it.

I probably don’t need to remind you that honey is very, very sticky, but I’m going to anyway so you can understand the full beauty of what I was dealing with.

Straining left a dripping dark, sticky substance that stupid me decided to try to melt down.

Do NOT do this. It’s a waste of time. You get very little decent wax from a mountain of disgusting grunge.

Here’s an example of part of the mess I was working with.

At first it didn’t go too badly. I ended up getting what looked like a brand new electric roaster for $20. Using this at 200F, my first pile of wax left me with a dirty pile of … stuff … and more honey.

Still, honey is good, right? Better for the bees than pure sugar syrup, at least.

Once again, I strained the honey from the gunk, then did the same to the the other pile.

Next, I wrapped the black sludge (I’m running out of synonyms for what I cannot in good conscience call beeswax) in a cheesecloth, tied it tightly, and put it back in the roaster, with water.

Theoretically, the wax will melt and rise to the top, the gunk will stay put in the cheesecloth, and any honey that’s left will wash away with the water.

I’ve done this with cappings from when we’ve extracted, and it actually works.

Unfortunately, this stuff proved to have very little usable wax. And making matters worse, when I lifted out the second batch (while still hot, so it doesn’t get stuck in the wax), the cheesecloth slipped from my tongs and dropped back into the roaster.

Picture the first Apollo splashdown only with hot wax and honey.

Yes. It was a Big Mess, and I used every bad word I knew.

I hope the neighbors didn’t hear.

And, oh, yes, the floor.

This is from one side of the island. There was an equally disgusting spill on the other.

Lessons Learned:

  1. It’s probably worth it to stain and even heat dark old wax for the honey.
  2. It is not worth wasting cheesecloth, time and effort to try to render the wax.
  3. An electric roaster if you can get one cheap is excellent for melting wax.
  4. A smarter person would have used said roaster outside for this job, perhaps in the garage, if it’s raining or you’re worried about attracting every bee in the neighborhood.
  5. Cleaning beeswax from a linoleum floor is possible, but not fun. I used water heated in the electric kettle, a scrubby, a towel, and a mop.

That’s how I’ll do it next time, minus the scrubbing the floor (I hope).

I’ve learned from my mistakes. But I’ll feel a lot better if you do too.

On the bright side, here are the brand new frames we’ll be using to swap out the rest of the old ones in our hives. The Engineer assembled them, and they’re waiting for me to apply a better coat of wax.

If only I could have somehow used the stuff in the roaster …

New Hive Configuration … Again (short update)

In the end, we decided to harness the strength of OH, Girls Split #1 by putting it into two deeps (far left). We discussed moving the Kremlin into the small nuc boxes previously occupied by OH, Girls Split #1, but instead chose to take it down to a single deep box and make use of our feeding lid. This style of lid was supposedly developed in Siberia, which seems appropriate for a Russian-queened hive ;-).

Making these changes required several steps performed on different days.

  1. We inspected OH, Girls Split #1 on 3 July (although WordPress dated my post that day as 4 July).
  2. On 4 July, we moved them into two deep boxes, a fairly straightforward procedure of just moving their frames into different boxes. It was interesting because we could tell as soon as we inserted the frame that must have had the queen because the noise level of the bees on the other frames in the new box dropped exponentially. Still, any moving of bees results in some confusion because the foragers who are out who come back expecting to find the hive to which they are oriented, and it’s not there.
  3. As a result, due to the proximity of these two hives and the number of perplexed bees flying around, we chose to wait until today to wait to swap lids (having temporarily used the Siberian lid — the only spare one we had — on OH, Girls Split #1) and take the Kremlin down to one box. It’s a much better fit for them.

In the new setup, we have (from left to right) OH, Girls Split #1, the Kremlin, OH, Girls, and OH, Girls Split #2. Or something like that. We’re not 100% sure which of the two right hives has the queen OH, Girls made when we split it the first time, and which is making a new queen (we hope). The hive second from the right is more populated, but the one on the far right has foragers bringing in pollen, which can indicate they are feeding new brood.

We won’t know for sure until we check them toward the end of the month.

Our next step will be to treat the Kremlin with Oxalic Acid again. Because there’s brood (albeit not much), we will repeat this weekly for three weeks to be sure we get most the Varroa. I’ve written about the different treatments and their pros and cons before, so I won’t detail it all again here. Suffice to say, the hot weather we are experiencing precludes using Formic Pro.

And, that’s all the news from the OH, Girls Apiary … at least until the next drama. 🙂

Broody? Or Not?

Today we checked out OH, Girls Split #1. This is the nuc we created on 12 May from the ever-giving OH, Girls hive.

Of course, this was after we noticed the second split from this hive was being raided. I was surprised because the split is well-populated, but everything was fine once we put on this special screen we bought to use on such an occasion. In truth, this is the first time we’ve thought to use it, and I must say it worked very well. Things calmed down immediately. It’s similar to this one, but made of wood.

At any rate, once we got over that small disaster, we took the inner cover off the first split, and found this on the back of it.

Underneath was this.

It seems the girls have been rather busy. Thankfully, The Engineer thought to save that comb and the honey to add in when we extract.

This queen is prolific. Six of the ten frames in the hive were covered with capped brood and larvae.

Like their cousins in the original OH, Girls hive, these bees had refused to work a couple of the older frames, and now that we understand this, we’ve replaced two, and will replace the remaining ones as soon as we can find some new black foundation.

They had also filled and capped one deep frame of honey, which we stole from them, mostly to give the queen space to work. We added another deep nuc box too because they were bursting at the seams.

Here she is, much darker than her half-sister in the original hive, but equally big and fat!

We need to think how to give this hive more room — perhaps move the frames into full-sized boxes.

Next, we opened the Kremlin, and as The Engineer said, it was like moving from a crowded city to the country, with a lot fewer bees, and not nearly as much activity.

This could partly be attributed to the fact that they too have some old comb, but I’m afraid I think it’s Olga. Her laying remains spotty even on the brand new and newish comb and frames.

It’s here that having more than one hive becomes beneficial because we have options.

  • We could move a frame or two of brood from one of the crowded hives into the Kremlin. Unfortunately, I think this would just put off the issue. Besides, we gave them a frame when we introduced Olga. It may have helped them accept her, but they should be growing at a faster rate.
  • Another thing we discussed almost jokingly was to swap houses with the OH, Girls split. After all, we have a hive in small boxes that’s running out of space, and a hive in two full-sized boxes that can’t seem to fill them. I’m not sure this would remedy Olga’s poor laying, but it would benefit the split.
  • We could also requeen the hive, or “encourage” it to requeen itself. This could be done in conjunction with either of the above choices.

The Kremlin also needs treated for Varroa again because there was brood when we did the vaporizer a few weeks ago.

We generally prefer to mix up our treatment, and would normally use Formic Pro strips for this, but the weather has been too hot. It’s cooler now, but supposed to hit the 90s again next week, which is too hot for that method.

Right now, I think our best bet would be to do three treatments of Oxalic Acid over a period of as many weeks, then swap boxes with the split, give Olga another few weeks to show what she can do, and then requeen in some way if she hasn’t improved.

The Engineer and I will think on and discuss this before making any decisions.

In the meantime, tomorrow we will look again at the honey supers on OH, Girls with our fingers crossed (as always) hoping to find enough capped honey to make it worth the effort of extracting.

I’ll keep you posted.