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!
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. 🙂
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
On the way home, we flew past Chicago.
Of course, there’s always the aftermath. Since I worked today, this pile of dirty clothing awaits my attention tomorrow.