Dr Warwick Kerr, the “Man Who Created Killer Bees”, has died | Bad Beekeeping Blog

It is with regret that we report that the humanitarian, geneticist, and scientist, Professor Warwick Kerr, passed away this morning, September 15, 2018. He was six days past his 96th birthday.  Dr Kerr, a Brazilian bee scientist, had one of the most maligned lives of any research scientist. He will be remembered by some as…
— Read on badbeekeepingblog.com/2018/09/15/dr-warwick-kerr-the-man-who-created-killer-bees-has-died/

Advertisements

Sarah Jane, Jacob, and Julia

I started climbing the family tree again last night and found myself back on the branch of Sarah Jane Daugherty Feather(s) Scott. (Click through for background on her story.)

Somehow I had stumbled across the Ritchie County (WV) page of the USGenWeb Project. Most the project’s sites are hosted on RootsWeb, long offline, but now coming back up.

Browsing through the Scott Cemetery transcriptions, I came across the following:

Amos M. Scott
Born Aug. 28, 1845
Died Dec. 11, 1918

Sarah J., wife of Amos M. Scott
Born Nov. 1842
Died Oct. 7, 1901

Charles E., son of  A.M. & S. J. Scott
Born Dec. 3, 1883
Died Aug. 4, 1884

? W., son of A.M. & S.J. Scott
Born Dec. 30, 1881
Died July 26, 1882

Alfred G., Son of A.M. & S.J Scott
Born Mar. 10, 1876
Died July 20, 1877

Look at the dates of the children’s deaths, born over a period of six years and dead before any of them reached their first birthday.

Above these dates are two others, who proved to be Sarah’s grandchildren through her eldest son Aldine (whose father, Cornelius, was killed in the Civil War).

Willie I. Feather
Feb. 10, 1898
May 8, 1906

Edna Feather
Aug. 3, 1893
Apr. 18, 1900

I moved on to the Reeves Cemetery transcriptions, and discovered Jacob — Sarah’s brother who fought for the Confederacy — and his wife Julia suffered their own share of sorrow.

Julia wife of Jacob Daugherty  Aug 30, 1832  Aug 27, 1891
Jacob Daugherty  June 27, 1892  May 15, 1908
Children of J. & J. Daugherty
E. U. Wm  Aug 18, 1857  Sept 20, 1861
Mary C.  May 10, 1853  Oct 8, 1861
Allis L.  Jul 21, 1864  Aug 11, 1868

Two children dead within eighteen days of each other at a time when Jacob and Julia’s home counties were in the process of seceding from Virginia. The secession could only have added to the emotional turmoil Julia and Jacob were feeling at the death of their children, especially since we know, in the end, Jacob decided to fight on the opposite side of his brothers.

Thinking perhaps the Butchers (Julia’s family) were Confederates and had influenced this decision, I had a look at one of her brothers (Valentine) and learned he fought for the Union. Of course, there may have been others in both families (Daugherty and Butcher) who favored the Confederacy, and we can never truly know why another person makes any decision.

Yet when I think of these families, I don’t think about the men and their big decisions about who to fight for. I think of the women and how they paid for living in a time where the death of a child was the possible price of having them.

Having seen how quickly a child could be taken, did they cling more tightly to ones that remained or followed? Maybe the knowledge of how easily their heart could be broken made them more reluctant to let a new baby into that heart. Perhaps these losses were accepted as part of the sorrows of living.  Life was hard. Children died. And I’m sure the war magnified the hardship exponentially. Yet each of these couples had other children that survived to have children of their own.

As I discover this type of hardship in my family history, I am forced to recall that these same hardships — child mortality and civil war — are a daily reality for others, and I hope that this realization continues to spur me toward a more charitable way of living.

 

 

Cleaning House

I wrote too soon about the microfiber strips staying in the hive.

While doing dishes this morning, I noticed something yellow near Buzzers’ downstairs entry. I thought it was a leaf until it began moving. I got out the kitchen binoculars for closer look, saw a small regiment of workers inching this out of the hive, and laughed out loud.

This yellow scrap is all that remains of one of our would-be beetle cloth traps.

Different queen. Different race. Different bees.

Same reaction.

Will they do this to all the strips? Will FreeBees do the same? I’ll keep you posted.

We do not like this yellow strip.

We do not like it, not one bit.

We do not like it here nor there.

A beetle trap? We do not care.

We do not like it on the floor.

We do not like it in our door.

We do not like this yellow strip.

And now we have got rid of it.

Minding Our Bees and Qs

A quick update on the bees.

  • Despite carefully setting the power washer away from the hives, The Engineer was stung last week when he attempted to wash our deck. Maybe the vibration upset them. Whatever it was, my poor husband ended up cleaning the deck in the August heat clothed from head to toe, including a bee hat and veil. Since his reaction to the sting was nearly identical to mine, I’ve concluded mine was probably one of our girls after all.
  • Below is a short clip of FreeBees on the front of their hive. I learned their “dancing” is also called “washboarding,” and nobody really knows for sure why they do it. It may be they are orienting themselves as mentioned in my earlier post. Or maybe they do it for a completely different reason. It’s interesting that, despite being the same race, Buzzers’ Roost bees haven’t behaved in this manner, especially since both hives seem well-populated.
  • FreeBees also “beard” more than Buzzers’ Roost. Bees do this when it’s hot — kind of hang out on the front of the hive and porch to alleviate the heat. To help in this endeavor, beekeepers can ensure the hive has adequate ventilation (a screened bottom board, more than one entrance, and possibly offset the boxes to allow more air to circulate) and water nearby. We’d already taken off the robbing screens, and both hives have screened boards, and top and bottom entrances, so all that was left was offsetting the boxes, which we did yesterday. We also set out a dish of water with sides shallow enough to prevent drowning while drinking. I’d done this earlier in the summer, but the bees ignored it. We’re trying again anyway.
  • The goldenrod is blooming! And as you can see from the video, our girls are as busy as bees, making their home a veritable hive of activity. (Sorry, but as soon as I sit down to write about them, the clichés flow just like, well, honey.) Maybe this new bounty will improve their mood. If you look carefully below, you’ll see cells packed with yellow pollen, and the glisten of nectar in a few other cells.

img_0537

  • I had high hopes of seeing honey in the supers, but there was only a smidgen in Buzzers’ Roost and none at all in FreeBees. Still, I caught the faint whiff of butterscotch (some compare the scent of goldenrod honey curing to dirty socks, but it’s butterscotch-y to me), so maybe they’ve got some in the deep boxes.
  • We’ve avoided doing lengthy hive checks during the past month. No point in annoying them more than necessary! Yesterday’s check was just a quick peek at the supers.
  • Both hives have had issues with hive beetles. We’ve been using the traps, changing them out regularly, and are again trying the microfiber cloth. We tried this several times last year with Buzzers. Each time, they carried every strip of cloth all the way down through two deep boxes and out the front. Perhaps with a new queen, and all all new bees, they’ll leave it in place to catch beetles. Good news is: There were no flags of cloth out front this morning.
  • We still need to do an alcohol wash and mite count. Depending on the results, one or both hives may be due for another treatment before too long. I’m a little nervous about this, especially with FreeBees, because the process kills all the test bees, and their queen isn’t marked. If the weather cooperates, we’ll try for this weekend, maybe get an idea of their stores in the process. Please cross your fingers that all goes well.
unnamed-6

Zucchini relish 

In other news (and I use the term “news” loosely), I’ve been trying out new recipes like crazy in an effort to waste as little of our CSA share as possible. Earlier this month, I made and canned zucchini relish.

unnamed-7

Spicy-hot, But Not Atomic, Zucchini Tomato Salsa

This week, it was zucchini tomato salsa. It’s definitely zucchini time!

They look a lot alike, but taste completely different. Both delicious, of course!

Soon, it will be pepper season, which means hot pepper jelly. I always make as many jars as possible because I give it as gifts at the holiday.

Pears, apples, and cider will follow, and be transformed into jars of applesauce, jams and jellies.

I know it’s silly, but I find canning so satisfying, not only for the food, but because it’s like a connection to my ancestors. My parents grew and canned almost all the jellies, fruit and vegetables we ate. They also put up grape and tomato juice. And I know that’s how my grandma and grandpa, and their parents managed to raise families down in West Virginia. Somewhere in heaven, I know Grandma is laughing that I’m so proud of a few jars in my pantry.

That’s okay. She, Grandpa, and my dad would also be pleased. And I know my mom is because she tells me so every time I take her a jar of jelly.

The Sting

In a little over a year of beekeeping, I’ve been stung four times, three times last year and once two days ago.

The first sting made my hand look like someone had blown air into a rubber glove. It hurt like hell, and throbbed and itched for several days before subsiding. I never saw the bee.

A few weeks later, I decided to have a look at the bee hives at our airport. Accustomed as I was to the laidback temperament of our hives, I was astonished when the airport hive’s guard bees came at me before I got within three feet of their hive. I backed off, but they actually followed me back to our hangar, a distance of over 50 feet (maybe way over – I’m no good at estimating distance). Despite waving my hat and jacket to disrupt their plans, I got stung in the back of my head – a sharp hot zap that eventually became a small knot.

Toward the end of last summer – probably during the nectar dearth, when bees are particularly defensive about their hard earned stores, one of ours got me near the eyebrow. Being stung near the eye (or anywhere on the face) is cause for alarm, but other than that hot, sharp pain, I had no reaction. No swelling, and I don’t even remember itching.

This photo shows the swelling and redness of my latest experience with venom – another time I never saw the insect.

It’s a just like the first one – crazy pain the minute it happened, followed by swelling, throbbing, and itching as the poison works its way down my arm.

Each time I’ve been stung, I immediately scraped the area to get the stinger out, so the difference can’t be from an imbedded stinger.

I’m beginning to think that stings #1 and #4 weren’t bees at all, but wasps.

You see, I’ve learned bee venom is different from wasp venom. And it turns out you can be allergic to either, but rarely both. (Go here for more info: http://archive.boston.com/business/articles/2010/05/17/how_do_bee_and_wasp_stings_differ/)

Also some wasp stings are more painful than a bee’s. We know this because a guy named Justin Schmidt subjected himself to a variety of stings and bites to create the Schmidt Pain Index (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2148089/The-10-painful-stings-planet-self-sacrificing-man-tried-150-different-varieties-science.html). Crazy, right?

Paper wasps (which I’ve seen in our traps) are right up there, above both yellow jackets and honey bees.

So maybe #1 and #4 were paper wasp stings. That would account for the different pain levels, and if I’m more sensitive (not allergic, but sensitive) to wasp venom, this would also account for the ballooning.

If my theory is correct, I got off easy both times because unlike honeybee workers, whose barbed stinger can only sting once (causing them to die), wasps and hornets can sting multiple times.

On a side note: queen honey bees stingers are not barbed, so they also can sting multiple times. And a drone honey bee has no stinger.

Hot Day at the Hive

According to “Mother Earth News,” these young bees are orienting themselves to the entrance, a good sign the hive is healthy and queenright. Since we did a hive check on Friday and counted four frames filled with capped brood and many more partly full, this would seem to be true. And we only checked one of the deep boxes.

The robber screen is to help keep keep out potential hive raiders. Like the hateful Yellow Jackets we have in abundance. For more info on this behavior, go to https://www.motherearthnews.com/homesteading-and-livestock/at-the-hive-entrance-zbcz1408

My Unsolicited (and Opinionated) Advice on “How to Do Oshkosh”

So, you’re finally doing it. This year, you are going to be one of the 590,000 or so aviation enthusiasts at Airventure 2018.

Congratulations! Be warned, however, “doing Oshkosh” for the first time can be overwhelming. So, let me give you some advice. I’m good at giving it, and you’re going to need it.

  1. First of all, no one but EAA officials call the event “Airventure.” It’s “Oshkosh,” plain and simple. Yes, I know EAA’s first fly-in was in 1953 at Timmerman Field, and it moved to Rockford, IL in 1959 before settling in Oshkosh in 1970. I understand non-aviators associate Oshkosh with overalls. Doesn’t matter. To those who love planes, Oshkosh = Airventure, and vice versa. (This may not be fair to Oshkosh residents, but they do benefit to the tune of $110 million economic impact from a single (crazy) week.)
  2. Even if you make use of the trams, you will be walking. A lot. Wear comfortable shoes. I always pack my Keen sandals. As The Engineer said when I finally bought him a pair, “They feel like real shoes.” (Note: Although I mention specific brands and link to their sites, these are merely my favorites. I have no connection with any of these companies.)
  3. And speaking of trams — they get crowded, especially on the weekend, and often there’s someone who seems to think their packages or the airing out of their groin deserves space more than the attendees waiting for a ride. Don’t be that person. Smile and scoot over.
  4. I always wear my FitBit or other activity tracker. This enables to say to myself at the end of the day, “Wow! I walked 7 miles today. I deserve this ________.” I then fill in the blank with “beer,” “ice cream,” “new t-shirt,” or whatever else I’m trying to convince myself I need. At Oshkosh, you can rationalize almost anything if you try hard enough.
  5. Bring a water bottle and an easy means of carrying it, but try not to weigh yourself down with too much stuff. Things grow heavier toward the end of the day after you’ve walked miles in the sun. (See #2.) It’s a good idea to keep your electrolytes replenished, so I add Nuun tablets to my bottle.
  6. Wear sunscreen. There are very few trees. (This is #1 in my list of reasons why high-wing aircraft are better than low-wing [they provide shade], but that’s a blog post for another day.)
  7. In your daypack, you might pack a few snacks. Choose healthy ones that won’t melt, and you won’t be tempted to shell out megabucks at the snack bars. My favorite snack bars are made from nut butter, so not a good option. This year, I’m trying One bars. Low in sugar, high in protein, and the ingredients seem reasonably clean. Other options: beef jerky, dried fruit, nuts. And low sugar, high protein drinks might deserve a place in your cooler back at camp or your motel fridge. Iconic is my current favorite.
  8. You may also want to bring earplugs, especially if you’re camping. Plane noise starts early and goes late. Throw in an eye mask too so you can rest up for the next days walking.
  9. For heaven’s sake, wear a hat! (See #6.)
  10. Bring a chair. I love my Tommy Bahama beach chair. It has a head rest, drink holder, and a mini cooler and deep pocket on the back, as well as straps to carry it like a backpack — everything I need when settling in on the flight line to watch the show. Others prefer those camp chairs that fold into bags or stools that double as a cane/walking stick. Find one that works for you.
  11. We camp in a tent under the wing of a plane. If you’re doing the same, I recommend the best camp mattress you can afford. A few years ago, we splurged (and I do mean splurged) on a pair of Nemo Cosmo air mattresses and never looked back.
  12. I also recommend a PackTowel, rather than one from your bathroom. These towels wring nearly dry so you can pack them away almost immediately, an important feature if/when it rains during the week. Get the largest size you can find, and you can laugh at me cowering in the shower truck behind my tiny, ancient one. While we’re on the subject of showers, you’ll probably want some kind of small bag to carry your toiletries and clean/dirty clothing from the shower buildings/trucks.
  13. You’ll also need some kind of light, mostly for use in your tent at night. I take about three flashlights (solar-powered) because at least one goes missing in the tent on the first night. Last year, I added a couple of Luci lamps to our gear. They’re also solar-powered, and store flat until you need them. Get this, you blow them up like a beach ball when you’re ready to use them. Perfect for plane trips because they are so lightweight.
  14. While we’re talking lightweight items, one of the best purchases I ever made was my plastic mallet. I think I got it at K-Mart for under $20, and we’ve used it for years to put in (and pull out) tent pegs. Much better than the bowling pin one acquaintance used to bring every year for this purpose. (Not a joke.)
  15. Clothespins weight next to nothing and have a way of coming in very handy. Likewise, plastic bags and Ziplocs.
  16. Possibly my most important piece of advice has to do with planes, and it’s something that shouldn’t need saying. Unfortunately, it still does. Don’t touch another person’s plane unless you have their express permission!!! It’s okay to admire a plane, maybe even peek through the window at the avionics. It’s not okay to lean on, sit on, pull on, or press your greasy nose or fingers on someone else’s plane. Look, Oshkosh is all about planes, and we all find aircraft we’d like to inspect more closely. But it is possible to look without touching. If the owner is around, engage her or him in a conversation about the plane. Chances are they’d be happy to tell you more about it.
  17. Lastly, please don’t assume the pilot and/or owner of the plane is always a man. Women fly. Women own aircraft, and have done so from the start, yet women pilots still struggle for recognition. If you’re scoffing at my statement, perhaps you’d like to read the story of Elaine Danforth Harmon, a WWII military pilot, whose family had to fight to earn what should have been the right to inter Elaine’s ashes at Arlington. That was just two years ago.

So, have fun, don’t be a sexist, and share your tram seat. Don’t try to fit everything into one day, one week, or even one year. I know I haven’t touched the subject of what to see, where to go, or what you can learn. Frankly, that task is just too daunting even for someone as opinionated as me. 🙂

Feel free to add your own advice by commenting!

Shaken, Not Stirred: Performing A Sugar Shake/Roll

Check out what our queens have been up to!

This frame is from Buzzers’ Roost (the weaker, over-wintered hive). Look at all that lovely covered brood. These are two sides of one frame. Notice the glistening nectar on the left in the top photo? And can you spot the queen? We were happy to see she’s now laying in the deep box instead of the smaller medium one from the winter (also referred to as a super).IMG_0185
IMG_0186

Here’s a frame full of larvae and eggs.IMG_0187

And this one had pollen (near bottom), capped honey (bottom right), some capped brood, and larvae. If you can’t see the difference, here’s a great post from BackYardHive on identifying types of comb. You’ll notice they use different style hives, but the comb is the same. IMG_0188FreeBees also moved up into the deep box we put on last week. IMG_0192See the difference in the color of the bees? Buzzers’ Roost bees are still mainly Italian (offspring of the ill-fated Red Queen), and the FreeBees hive is Saskatraz. We’ll notice a shift in Buzzers’ Roost as the eggs and larvae from the Saskatraz queen emerge and take over.IMG_0193IMG_0192I think we counted about seven and a half frames full of brood in FreeBees. At about 7,000 cells per frame (3,500 a side), that’s a lot of bees! I keep thinking I must have mis-counted, and I didn’t write that figure down (too busy taking pictures and running the timer for the Varroa check).

Part of this week’s inspection was a sugar shake (also called a sugar roll) to check for Varroa. It was much easier this time, partly because we’d done it before, and partly because we used the University of Minnesota’s scooping method to measure out the 1/2 cup of bees (about 300) needed for the sample.

Basically, we measure out the bees, dump them in a jar with a mesh lid, measure in a couple of tablespoons of powdered sugar, roll or shake until they’re covered.IMG_0184After letting them set for several minutes, we shake the sugar onto a paper plate, wet it to make it melt, and count the Varroa.

Now, you’re wondering, “But what about the bees?”

Here’s the answer. IMG_0195-2When the sugar-covered, unhappy bees settle, we dump them back into the hive with an interesting story to tell their sisters. They immediately started fanning, (perhaps to spread the word), which you can see in the video below. (I’ve discovered that I seem to be able to upload videos to WordPress from my iPad, but not my computer of phone. Weird.) If you’re going to do a sugar shake/roll, here’s a pdf, also from the University of Minnesota’s Bee Lab. Please follow their precise directions, and not my description above!

Lastly, we replaced the pollen patty on Buzzers’ Roost and gave one to FreeBees. We’ve noticed Small Hive Beetles come around whenever we feed this way, so if you do it, be sure to put in a beetle trap or two, and check them regularly. The Buzzers’ Roost trap caught several SHB last week, and I took great delight in seeing them do the dead beetle float in the olive oil. IMG_0194-2Despite not finding any Varroa in our sugar shake, I know they are lurking in all that beautiful capped brood, especially in FreeBees. That hive now has enough bees, and we’ll do a Formic Pro treatment as soon as we get a spell of weather cool enough for the process. This week’s temperatures are predicted to be in the 90s, so perhaps the next week will be better.

We’ll also be keeping an eye on Buzzers’ and doing another sugar shake for both hives in early August, treating again as necessary.

Queenright Hives

Queenright: A term used to describe a hive or colony of bees that has a producing queen. (Definition from the Maine State Beekeepers’ Association’s “Beekeeping Glossary.”)

We checked our hives Friday, and both are (finally) queenright.

<Insert sigh of relief>

Buzzers’ Roost have accepted their new Saskatraz queen. She’s laying — there were eggs and larvae, as well as a fair amount of brood  — but the hive’s population is still low. Given the rough spring they’ve had, this is not surprising. Since they still have honey from winter, we put on a little pollen patty, closed up the hive and left them to it.

FreeBees appear to be thriving, with lots of capped brood, eggs and larvae, and foragers lugging in nectar and pollen from dawn to dusk. Because their population is growing so quickly, we gave them pollen also and put another box on Monday. We were planning to feed them sugar water, but realized we had excess honey in the freezer from Buzzers’ Roost — the hive’s winter bees proved to be very frugal — so instead, we put some of that and all the drawn comb we had in the new box. Drawing comb takes a lot of energy, so providing foundation that’s already drawn will make it easier for the hive to continue to grow.

IMG_0152-2

FreeBees keeping an eye on us as we check their hive.

At last, The Engineer and I can feel cautiously hopeful about our hives.

On a side note, I now see why many beekeepers recommend starting with two hives. With one, we had nothing to compare to and no resources when our hive ran into trouble. Having two hives means we can “borrow” honey or drawn comb, for example, even supplement a weaker hive with capped brood from the stronger hive if necessary.

Looking forward to next week, we will be doing a sugar shake, followed by an alcohol wash on both hives (to monitor for Varroa). With luck, the MAQS should have wiped out any of the nasty buggers in Buzzers’ Roost, but we’ll likely need to re-treat FreeBees. If you remember, we treated them with Oxalic Acid, which kills mites on the bees, but not under the capped brood. The hive’s population is now large enough to withstand that treatment, and we’ll  do it when we expect a spell of slightly cooler weather. IMG_0151-2
I’ll leave you with this shot of the FreeBees bridging (sometimes called “festooning,” which I love) when we separated their frames to inspect the hive. I’ve read several explanations of this behavior and have chosen to accept it as another mystery of the Apis Mellifera.