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.


  • 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, 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


John Wesley Daugherty

Sarah Jane death registry

Sarah Jane

*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).


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.


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.)


  • 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 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, one on, 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.


Photo published by flyingmoose  on

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.

Oxalic Acid and Sugar Patties

It was warm again on Monday, so we borrowed the backup battery from our sump pump to power the vaporizer for an Oxalic Acid treatment. (And when I say “we,” I mean The Engineer muscled the thing upstairs and into the wheelbarrow for me to cart it outside and treat the bees.)

Bees don’t much care for  these treatments, and I don’t blame them. As implied by the name, the vaporizer fills the hive with Oxalic Acid vapor to kill Varroa mites — not a pleasant experience, I’m sure. It’s no surprise many chose went for a cleansing flight afterward. (Go here to watch them in motion.) I watched them for a few minutes before going back inside.IMG_3283
I heard it immediately after closing the door — the telltale buzz of a bee in the house — and mentally kicked myself for not checking my clothing.

I carefully took off my jacket and shook it.

No bee.

Convinced one was caught in my hair, I gingerly ran my fingers through the tangles.

No joy.

The buzz continued. Was I imagining things?

I went in the bathroom, examined what I could see of my back. Still no bee.

I took off my shirt, gave it a gentle shake.

No bee.

My jeans.

The buzzing continued, and I was starting to feel like a character in a sitcom.

Finally, I realized the sound was louder in the foyer, and looked up to see one of our girls banging on the second story window.

Sighing with relief, I grabbed a glass to catch her, released her outside, and watched as she flew straight back to the hive.

Even though a hive has thousands of bees, no beekeeper likes to be the cause of harm to even a single bee. Plus, in many cultures, having a bee come in the house is either good luck, or a sign of company is coming. Obviously, this only holds true if you don’t kill it. So, next time you find one in your house, use a glass and a piece of paper to catch and release her. I’m pretty sure there’s no such superstition about Yellow Jackets. Just sayin’.

Friday, we again had a look inside the hive. The weather has been changeable, the temperature readout extremely variable, and we had no idea how much sugar our bees might have consumed in ten days. As you can see from the pictures below, the answer turned out to be not much. IMG_3286IMG_3287
They were more interested in the pollen patty in the corner, which led me to surmise (possibly erroneously) they still have honey.

We’ll continue checking when weather permits, and I’ll keep you posted.

Until then, bee happy. 🙂




Bee Poop + A Winter Peek Under the Hood

Yesterday morning at 9 am, it was 53* F. The Engineer opened the upper entrance a little wider, and the girls went crazy(click through for a brief video),  seizing the opportunity for mid-winter cleansing flights.

Consider this: The frigid weather has kept these girls cooped up for weeks, unable to relieve themselves outside. Small wonder they were pushing and shoving to get out.

It was poopfest. And when we got in their way, they didn’t hesitate to use us as their alfresco toilet.

Later, when things calmed down a bit, we had a peek under the hood to see where they were in the hive and how much food they had.

Many were upstairs, and their sugar patties were gone. We think this means they are either running low on food, or have been unable to move to the honey they’d stored because of the extreme cold. Probably the former.

Unwilling to risk cooling the hive too much by keeping it open, we covered the top of the upper frames with sugar patties, and closed up shop. (Approximately four pounds of sugar patties according to our hive scale — a remarkably exact measure since I used four pounds of sugar to make them.)

Then, we took off the entrance reducer, fully opening the front door to scrape out the dead bees. We’d been warned it would seem like there were a lot. So, when it did, I tried to view it as part of the circle of life. (For more info, see Honey Bee Suite’s post on entrance reducers and how they can tick off your bees.)

“I hope the queen isn’t one of the dead ones,” my optimistic husband remarked, thereby giving me a whole new avenue of beekeeping worries.

We were also warned to wear our beekeeping gear because the girls don’t appreciate having their house opened in the winter, and we did, but they were pretty mellow. I think maybe we just lucked out with an easygoing hive.

Today, we’re back in winter, with predictions of an ice storm/blizzard. During the next warm spell, we’ll feed again and treat with oxalic acid once more so they can start spring with a low Varroa threshold (assuming they make it that far).

Temperature update: The hive has been fluctuating like mad, from the 20s a few days ago, back up to 90* this morning. It’s becoming clear the location of the bees  in the hive has a huge effect on the temperature readout.

Other bee news (sort of): Over the holidays, I got a couple of bee-related gifts.

The socks are from Darling Daughter, and the shoes from a friend.
Aren’t they the coolest?

That’s the all the news from Buzzers’ Roost. Talk to you again soon! Bee warm!



Glory Bees! They’re Still Alive!

Yesterday morning, the ambient temperature outside was 4* F.

The hive was a toasty 82*.

We know this because the first thing I do each morning after I jump (or stagger) out of bed is aim my phone at the precise point where it receives Bluetooth reception from the hive. (It’s right under a spot where a bird made a small mess, which means I can never wash that window.)

Anyway, 82*.  What a relief!

We had been bracing ourselves for the inevitable truth that the bees wouldn’t make it through winter.The daily readings had been dropping steadily since cold weather began until they were skirting the low 40s.

You see, bees die when their bodies hit about 40*. To survive winter, they form  a “bee ball” and vibrate their bodies to generate heat. (See HoneyBeeSuite for a better explanation.) When there aren’t enough bees, they can’t generate enough heat, and the hive will die.

Between the Yellow Jackets and the Varroa, we weren’t sure we had enough bees.

Still, we clung to the hope that maybe the bees hadn’t reached the part of the box with the temperature sensor. Also, from time to time, bee corpses appeared on the “porch” and in front of the hive, leading us to believe they were still moving around inside, trying to keep order.

Or it could have been the bodies of bees mistakenly went out for some reason and froze.


See the bee bodies on the snow on the porch and the ground?

The hive scale was also showing a slow decrease in weight, but we’re new at this and weren’t sure how much to read into this, though we hoped it meant the girls were eating.

We just didn’t know.

Then, just a few nights ago, the temperature shot up an amazing 20 degrees overnight!

Glory bees! They’re still alive in there!

I’m trying not to get too excited. This doesn’t mean they’ll make it through winter. Many bees make it through the cold part of winter, but die in March because they run out of food.

But for now, they’re okay.

Side note and catch-up time: I was stunned to see my last post was all the way back in November! I apologize for the neglect, and proffer this small catch-up. We managed to move the hive away from where the Yellow Jackets appear to nest and where we hope it will get a little more sun. As part of the procedure The Engineer also shortened the legs of the stand and set up the scale. Then, on the last warm day in early December we seized the opportunity to replace the full honey super, and re-wrap the whole thing.

If we get a warm spell in January or February (above 50), we’ll take a peek and add sugar patties if they are near the top of the hive.

We’ve also learned a good snowfall can add ten pounds to the hive’s weight.

On an unrelated note — though maybe it’s an excuse for my lapse — we’ve been busy cracking black walnuts.

Yes, they fell in November, but you’d be surprised how many nuts two aging trees can produce. Every year, we think they’re dead, and every other year, they surprise us with a crop. This year, it was a bumper one. Harvesting them is a major pain, but that’s a post for another day.

Meanwhile, I hope you can follow our bees’ example and stay warm!

One more thing, if you’re really interested, you can check the temperatures (and in some cases, the weight) of hives around the country by visiting

Update: It’s -5* this morning, and the girl’s are still at 77*.

Propolis, Beeswax, and Owning a Wired Hive

Before we took our beekeeping course, I didn’t know about propolis. Obviously I knew bees make honey from nectar, gather pollen, and somehow produce beeswax, but propolis? I’d never heard the word.

In case you’re in a similar boat, here’s WebMD’s definition: “Propolis is a resin-like material from the buds of poplar and cone-bearing trees … Propolis has a long history of medicinal use, dating back to 350 B.C., the time of Aristotle … Propolis seems to have activity against bacteria, viruses, and fungi. It might also have anti-inflammatory effects and help skin heal.”

Bees use propolis to seal small openings and cracks in their hives. Some breeds and hives propolize a little. Others propolize a lot. Italian bees, in particular, are said to be less propolizing than others.

Having no basis for comparison, I can’t say for sure our bees are overly fond of propolis, but they do seem to be rather particular about their hive, and I’ve certainly scraped off a lot of propolis.

Here’s the thing: Propolis is sticky (as one might expect from something made of tree resin), which makes it challenging to clean off a hive tool. However, I recently learned it’s also quite brittle when cold, which makes cleaning much easier. Supposedly people buy it for natural medicine, but I imagine it would take a long time (or many hives) to acquire enough to sell.

Here’s what our supers looked like before I scraped them.

I should mention bees have also been known to propolize heat-seeking mice that sneak into their hive. If you’d like to see a picture, visit

Beeswax is a different thing altogether. Bees use it to form comb for honey and brood. They also use it to fill gaps and holes that are too big to propolize.

We don’t toss any propolis or wax on the ground (nor dead bees, for that matter) because we’ve heard those nasty yellow jackets will smell it and be even more attracted to our hive. Instead we put both substances into jars for future use.

A few days ago, I finally got around to melting down the was. Below is a picture of two pans. One has the sludge left on the bottom of the pan after warming and then straining the wax. The other has the wax. We had a quart and a 1/2 pint mason jar full of wax, and the strained wax barely covered the bottom of the pan.  IMG_3018

That’s okay. It made the house smell divine, and there’s enough to coat at least one or two frames.

And, hey, did I mention our hive is now wired? The Engineer and I bought raffle tickets at OSBA, and each won two drone frames. Now we have seven, more than sufficient for our single hive, but at least we’re ready for expansion.

I also won a Broodminder temperature sensor, perhaps partly because I paid attention to what it was and put a lot of tickets in the jar. I think most people just noticed the drone boards.

It’s kind of cool. You stick it above the brood box, with the tag hanging out, download an app, and then start taking readings (though you do have to be within thirty feet of the hive). Dead easy once I realized the plastic bit was part of the device and not the wrapping as I first believed. I’m repeating a picture so you can see the tab on the front of our hive.

Beekeepers can then upload their information to the “Bee Counted” website where they and others can compare readings. Broodminder also sells a scale, but The Engineer won $30 off a wi-fi hive scale, so he bought that one, which has the advantage of being able to be read anywhere from any device.

I think we both felt too inexperienced to judge if our bees have enough honey for the winter.

So far, we’ve weighed our coffee table — 169 pounds, if you must know. It would be great if our hive weighed that much.

We’ll find out once The Engineer decides how to mount it. I’ll keep you posted.


Minding our Bees and Qs

I think I’ve established The Engineer and I have a lot to learn about beekeeping. If you haven’t yet reached that conclusion, I recommend you re-read my previous post, as well as the one before, which are full of corrections.

For this reason (and because Brushy Mountain offered 10% off any orders picked up at the event) we attended the Ohio State Beekeepers Association (OSBA) conference held Saturday.

We also planned to visit Darling Daughter, which morphed into attending a beer tasting event held by the Friends of the Worthington Library system. Bees, beer and books — what more could you ask for in a weekend?

The conference sessions were interesting and educational, though some were well beyond our beekeeping skill level. I’m quite sure we won’t be rearing queens for profit in the near future, yet it was good to be exposed to possibilities that are currently beyond our capabilities.

Our order from Brushy Mountain was hope, prevention, and current needs made manifest in beekeeping equipment — a nuc box in the hope that we’ll eventually have a large enough hive to split, a drone frame as part of our pest management plan for the future, and an oxalic acid (OA) vaporizer to treat once more before winter.


Oxalic Acid and Vaporizer, with my notes on use, painters’ tape for sealing hive, nitrile gloves and measuring spoons.

We previously treated Buzzers’ Roost with MiteAway Quick Strips (MAQS), which can be used with the supers on, but for the vaporizer, it’s necessary to remove them. This means first removing the bees from the supers, and to accomplish this, we used an escape board (picture below is from the Brushy Mountain catalog). 774-escape-screen-10-f_main-1.jpg

The board above is upside down, and you can see how it works. The beekeeper puts the triangular maze facing down so the bees easily enter through the big hole to return to the brood boxes, but find it difficult to find their way back to the supers.

After performing what will probably be our last semi-thorough check of the boxes on Sunday (when it was 67* F), we inserted the board.

At first we forgot to close the top entrance, rather defeating the purpose of an escape board, but once that was remedied, the board proved effective. There were only three bees in the supers when we took it out the next day. (If you leave it in too long, the bees figure out how to get back up, so this must be done within 24-48 hours.)

By then, however, the temperature had dropped to the upper 50s, necessitating a quick removal to avoid chilling the hive. About 30-40 bees were hanging out in the net triangle maze and had to be assisted back through the front door to their brood box. Even with our encouragement and guidance, not all managed the feat. (If we looked at it from the bees’ perspective, you could probably substitute “interference and meddling” for the words “encouragement and guidance.”)

Yesterday, I taped off the upper entrance and the small gap in the back where the bottom board is inserted, donned my mask, gloves, and eye protection, and used our new vaporizer for one last mite treatment before winter. You can see the tape in the picture below. And check out the verandah The Engineer created to help keep rain off the entrance. The metal thing is a mouse guard. Both were removed before the treatment. IMG_3003
Unsurprisingly, the bees don’t like this kind of intrusion. About thirty seconds after inserting the wand, a kind of quiet roar began emanating from the hive. Also, one befuddled bee tried in vain to find the entrance that had been there only moments before. No vapor escaped though, and the OA crystals were gone when I pulled out the wand, so maybe the treatment will prove successful. Between the tape and the bees’ propolis (more about that next post), the boxes were well-sealed.

I removed the tape so they would have the ventilation necessary to prevent a wet hive and left them to recover.

Then, this morning I woke up to this.unnamed-5

Time to put on the hive wrap.

Not all beekeepers wrap their hive(s), but since our bees had a rough start, we wanted to give them some extra help for the winter. This morning, I duct taped on the hive quilt we bought from B&B Honey Farm. There are other means to insulate a hive — a wind break made of straw bales, wrapping the hive in tar paper, crumpling newspaper to absorb moisture under the lid — about as many as there are beekeepers.

It seems the challenge is helping the bees keep warm while at the same time preventing condensation. Damp bees are dead bees.

We chose two tactics: the hive quilt and insulating foam under the lid.


Snow falling over Buzzers’ Roost

Cross your fingers that this is only a cold snap and not the start of true winter. We’d like one more warm day to move the hive, put the honey super back on, feed one last pollen and/or sugar patty, and attach our new wi-fi hive scale.






So, You Want to Be a Beekeeper? Prepare to Occasionally Feel Very Stupid

If you read my last post, including updates, you will see I was quite wrong about several things.

  • Although I knew drones were bigger than workers, the large eyes of the bee in the “stand-off” photos convinced me it was a drone, despite it not having a blunt body and being the same size as the other bee.
  • When we tested for Foulbrood and the test was negative, I assumed (always a mistake), our bees were in the clear. Wrong again. They have Parasitical Mite Syndrome, which means their chances of making it to spring are slim indeed.

And yet, as one reader commented about the Yellow Jackets, we can’t give up until the bees do. As long as they are alive, we will continue to do everything we can to give every chance possible to survive.

What this means in practical terms is pretty much following the winter strategy we had already decided on.

  1. Feed them as much as they want to take.
  2. Treat them again for Varroa (this time with a vaporizer).
  3. Winterize their hive with insulation and a wrap.

If they don’t survive, our next bees will benefit from this year’s bees’ work by starting with drawn comb instead of foundation and having honey, rather than sugar water, as food if they need it.

So, lessons learned:

  1. Beekeeping has a steep learning curve. There is much to know, and I don’t think anyone can become an expert in a day (if ever).
  2. Sometimes, you just have to do what you can and trust your bees to know what’s best for them.
  3. If you are the sort of person who wants to feel smart and be right all the time, beekeeping is probably not for you.
  4. Some hives thrive despite ignorance and lack of care.
  5. Other hives fail no matter how much care and thought they are given.
  6. Use drone frames early, and make sure you take them out before the drones (and Varroa) emerge.
  7. Treat for Varroa. Just assume your hives have them. They do.
  8. When you put out dry pollen for your bees, every bee in a five mile radius will come to call.
  9. Everyone has different ideas about how to do things. Some of these strategies may work for you. Some won’t.
  10. Because every hive is different.
  11. In no way does the above truth excuse you from learning as much as you can.