Flying Life

Some people buy vacation homes. Our second home is a hangar. Here’s what it looks like.

The man in the photo is my stepfather, who introduced The Engineer to general aviation.
Atwood Lake in Tuscarawas County, Ohio

Landing at Carroll County-Tolson Airport. There’s a restaurant on the field, and today we went there for breakfast for the first time in a year and a half.

Beautiful Ohio (and a windsock, which was all over the place today due to gusty, variable winds)

The heat and winds made for a bumpy ride today, but it was wonderful to be back up in our 182 after its annual inspection.

Walkaway, Walkaway

Well, I was going to open this post with something about that Dire Straits song, you know the one with “Walkaway, walkaway” in the words.

Except it turned out to be the lyrics were actually “rock away, rock away” in “Tunnel of Love.”

This is a classic example of a mondegreen, or misheard lyric. More examples are here, and I’m sure if you’re honest, you’ll admit (at least to yourself) that you’ve had your own experience with mondegreens. If I can confess, you can too.

Anyway, part of our bee work today was making a “walkaway split” from OH, Girls. This is the hive that was formerly known as California Girls before earning their new name by successfully overwintering in a cold Ohio winter.

Yes, I know we split them once already in mid-May, but in our last check, the hive was overflowing with bees despite having two deep boxes and three honey supers on.

Also, there were many (many!) queen cups, some that seemed to have larvae in.

It turns out we were wrong about the larvae in the queen cups, but there were even more cups this time, and tons of brood.

This new queen is one busy female!

Too bad we didn’t see her today.

The plan was to split the hive, moving the “old” queen to the split, and leaving eggs and queen cells/inhabited cups in the original hive.

Despite the “old” queen not really being old (since she was made from the split six weeks ago) and despite the queen cups being unoccupied, we still needed to split this hive before they began making swarm queen cells for real.

So that’s what we did.

We split the two brood boxes into two separate hives, added an empty brood box with waxed frames and a few frames started with comb to each, and split the honey supers between them.

When I say, “empty brood box,” I mean a new brood box filled with empty frames and a few frames of brood from the box below. Putting brood in the upper box will encourage the workers to move into their new box.

They went from this setup

to these.

The Engineer behind the two hives.

While we were in the hive, we also stole a peek at the honey supers. Although there were still no completely capped frames, there were many that appeared on the brink of being so, and we are hopeful we may be able to extract honey next weekend.

In the meantime, today we also finally gave in and attempted to extract old honey that’s been in and out of hives and discovered there’s a reason the bees haven’t been using it.

The comb and filling were practically solid, probably because most of it was made from sugar water. At least, that’s my best guess.

In the end, we scraped and power-washed all the foundation, cleaned off the frames, re-waxed the foundation, and used some of it today to create the new second story brood boxes on both hives.

Almost everything that has anything to do with honeybees involves stickiness.

We’ll see how the girls take to it. If they reject it, we’ll be investing in some new frames and foundation.

In short, we spent most of the day working on bee projects. And then we’ve spent most of the rest of it cleaning up after working on those projects.

And once again, we are crossing our fingers that the bees will be successful in creating a new queen.

The OH Honey Apiary Bottling Plant

So, we did the final bottling (we hope) of our first batch of flavored mead and re-racked the unflavored bottles of the same batch to get rid of the yeasty layer on the bottom. The idea is it will age more gracefully and clarify better without the scum. (The same could probably be said for all of us. 🙄)

Our labels – pretty basic, but then so are we. Since the mead is only for personal use and maybe gifts, it doesn’t need a fancy label.
Repurposing bottles: The big square ones are from Green River Humblebee Bourbon (their labels are impossible to remove!), the brown ones are old Grolsch beer bottles I got in an online estate sale, and the little ones I got a deal on at Queen Right Colonies. They didn’t work out for our honey, but are perfect “taster” bottles. I’m trusting you to ignore the dishes in the drainer on the counter.

Next up: Batch two, as soon as we find time to make it.

OH, Girls: The Hive that Keeps on Giving

This is the present configuration of OH, Girls — 2 deep brood boxes, queen excluder, 3 medium supers for honey, inner cover, quilt box, and outer cover.

It takes a long time to check a hive with this many boxes.
Correction: It takes us a long time to check a hive with this many boxes.

Again we hoped to find capped honey frames ready for extraction. There was one, which we pulled and replaced with an empty. But most looked like this, beautiful, but only partially capped.

Here’s a closeup.

In the first deep, there was lots of drone brood on the frames, and I was starting to develop a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. Was our new queen laying only drones? Did we somehow have laying workers? Again?

Also, there were queen cups with larvae inside. Had they killed the queen?

But then, we saw this, which proves we don’t have a laying worker, but a large hive with enough bees and food to support drones.

And finally, I spotted our beautiful queen (Me! The one who never spots the queen, especially an unmarked one!).

Sorry for the blurry pictures, but she was running around laying eggs as fast as she could.

So BIG! And surprisingly golden, which you may have noticed in my earlier post. Saskatraz bees are generally darker, as you can see from my photos, so to end up with a gold queen from a Sasky mother is kind of interesting.

Although we didn’t see any eggs, there was plenty of larvae, and the hive remains crowded. The bees evidently think so too since they are again raising queens.

Next plans for OH, Girls: Make another split this weekend, and cross fingers we’ll have enough frames to extract honey over 4th of July weekend.

Next door in the Kremlin, Empress Olga’s laying pattern is starting to improve.

At first glance, her capped brood still looks spotty, and in some cases, it is. However, there were also frames with larvae and eggs interspersed between capped brood cells. And she’s laying eggs more toward the center of the cells.

The Engineer Points at Olga with his Hive Tool

Plan for the Kremlin: Regular hive check in seven to ten days (probably over the 4th of July).

Finally, we turned to the OH, Girls split.

We haven’t done a true hive check on this hive since we saw the queen was injured on 26 May. When we’re hoping a hive will make a new queen, I just think it’s best to leave them alone to get on with it.

However, during our last hive checks, I asked The Engineer to tilt back the top box so I could check for queen cells. I saw one that was either opened or not yet capped, so we decided it was time to have a look.

When we opened the hive, we discovered the bees had completely propolized the top of the Beetle Jail, which drastically lowers the chances of any beetles actually being caught in the trap, although there was one.

Saskatraz bees also seem to propolize. A lot.

OH, Girls Split

There was larvae of all sizes.

There were also eggs, which you might be able to see if you look very carefully at the above picture. So, although we didn’t spot our new queen, we know she’s there.

Here’s her old cell (along with some of her brood).

And a closer look at that cell.

Plans for this hive: Continue to monitor, adding boxes if needed.

Other plans for all three hives: Start to replace old frames, discard old foundation, pressure wash the wood, and put in fresh foundation.

In summary, OH, Girls has truly been the hive that keeps on giving! We got honey from it last summer, they survived the winter, and bees from that hive have raised two new queens, with hope for another.

In other bee news, we attended the meeting of our local beekeeping group last night, the first one held in person for over a year. The topic was safety in the bee yard, presented by a nurse anesthesiologist.

Well! Her presentation was certainly enlightening, full of information about the types of toxins in bee venom, how to recognize if a reaction is mild, moderate, or severe, whether it’s localized or general, and what to do when a bee stings you.

She also had diagrams including one of a stinger. The picture I’ve linked to isn’t the one she shared, but it’s similar enough to show what I’m talking about when I say my idea of a “barbed stinger” was nothing like the actuality of one.

I pictured more of a hook, not something that looks like a twin-bladed saw! No wonder it hurts!

If you want to know more, you can go here. Again, not the exact information she shared, but it’s close enough.

Must close now. There’s mead that needs bottling, and we need to eat dinner before doing it because I know there will be tasting involved.

Almost forgot! Here’s the beeyard tool caddy
my clever husband engineered from an empty kitty litter tote.

Dad

As children, we rarely think about our parents’ lives. In fact, my adolescent self would have said with some certainty my own parents didn’t really exist until my siblings and I came along. (The “obviously,” if not spoken, would certainly have been implied.)

Now that I’m older I realize how lucky I am to have a mother who is still lively enough at ninety to answer some of the questions I’m sure I would regret not asking. (We use Bob Greene and D.G. Fulford’s “To Our Children’s Children” as a guide.)

However, my dad died in 2002, having been afflicted with Alzheimer’s several years earlier. This cut short any possibility of hearing much about the life he led before I knew him.

Oh, there were inklings of the past:

  • The foreign money and Japanese teapot he brought back from World War II.
  • Mom’s mention that he’d been in high school at age twelve.
  • Him once saying there had been a fire sometime in his childhood, his family escaping with only their blankets.
  • Also, he had a college education — a rarity in our neighborhood — a BS from Glenville State (in West Virginia) financed through the GI Bill.
  • There, he finished his coursework in three years, planning to become a teacher … at least until the experience of student teaching convinced him otherwise.
  • He was in a fraternity, and for a long time our spankings were administered with a paddle he’d received on joining. I realize now it was probably part of a hazing ritual. (A paddling by your future frat brothers seems positively innocent in these days of students dying by alcohol poisoning in similar rituals, although from the Wikipedia page, it’s clear needless deaths by fraternity hazing has a long and tragic history.)
  • Somewhere there exists a picture of Dad at a bar in his Navy uniform, and I also remember Mom saying my grandpa told him he’d never amount to anything(!) because he evidently liked to drink.
  • That may have something to do with another story he told me, about how while he was in college, he’d once bought and drank a six-pack. Since alcohol was forbidden on campus, he threw the bottles outside someone else’s window. That “someone else” turned out to be a football player who was either kicked off the team or banned for some games as a result.
    “Did you ever tell him?” I asked.
    Dad responded, “Are you kidding? He would have beaten the sh– out of me!”
  • As kids, we each had a turn wearing his US Navy uniform for Halloween. It fit because he was just a skinny kid when he joined.
  • Someone (maybe Dad himself) told me me he got two leaves while in the service. On one, he got the mumps. On the other, it was the measles.
  • He also got miserably seasick when he first went to sea.

Sometime after his death, in one of my genealogical research frenzies, I even sent away for Dad’s service records. And when my stepmother went into a nursing home, my stepsister kindly made sure I got most of his papers, some of which I’ve scanned and put into archival boxes.

Still, I never really pieced the information into a cohesive whole (and haven’t yet).

What I have done, just recently, is put together a timeline of his military service, and it’s that I’m sharing now. It’s not the story of a dashing hero, but a teenager from West Virginia who found himself thousands of miles from the mountains in a place very different from home.

In June 1943, Dad was considered available for work in an essential activity at his area of residence, which was Massillon, Ohio. Until I saw this form, I didn’t realize he had moved to Ohio with his parents before the war. They were in WV for the 1940 census, so this would have been a recent move. He was sixteen when he received the document, and it was good only until September of the same year.

From his separation papers, I learned he was employed by Republic Steel in Massillon as a “helper on open hearth furnace” from May 1943 to November 1944. My grandfather’s obituary said Grandpa he retired in 1964 with 21 years at Republic, so he probably got Dad the job.

I found an article from Indeonline.com that quoted a former Republic employee, “The area was ripe with manufacturing jobs. [Al] Longbrake remembers people joking that if they didn’t like their job they could walk down the street and find another one because someone was always hiring. The other joke of the time, he said, came from the West Virginians who came to the city for work. ‘They used to say that in West Virginia you studied the three Rs: reading, writing and Route 21.'” 

So, my family wasn’t the only one who made the northern trek to Massillon for work. The 1940 census also says Grandpa had been doing roadwork on “Public Emergency Work (WPA, NYA, CCC, etc.).” According to Mom, he dug ditches, and a well-paying job in a steel mill must have been appealing, even if it meant moving hundreds of miles.

But working in an essential industry didn’t keep my dad out of the war for long. From the same separation papers, I found the date of his enlistment, 4 October 1944. He always said he enlisted to avoid being drafted into the Army.

However, his “report for service card” instructs him to show up on 3 October of the same year.

From there, he was sent to the U.S. Naval Training Center, Great Lakes, IL, which naval archives tell us was (and is) on the southwestern shore of Lake Michigan. The change of address card above was sent to my grandmother on
15 November 1944.
Grandma got a similar card in February 1945 telling her Dad was going to Shoemaker, CA (in Alameda County).

Troops were sent to California by train, which I remember Dad once mentioning to The Engineer. That memory is fuzzy, but I confirmed by a Library of Congress audio recording of Raymond Harris’s oral history of his war. (I also remember Dad saying something about stopping in Kansas, but Raymond doesn’t mention that.)

This recording confirmed a lot of things I remembered hearing from my dad, and if you have any interest in hearing about US military veterans’ history, I highly recommend checking out that part of the LOC website.

Just two crazy sailors: Dad is on the right. His friend, Leonard Bujak is on the right.

Dad and Raymond (from the LOC recording) were both assigned to the USS Mount Olympus, although Raymond was discharged before my father. Mount Olympus was an AGC (Amphibious Group Command), launched in August 1943, sailing for the Philippines where she served as a floating headquarters.

From the naval military history website:

“… she called at Ulithi to allow Commander, 3d Amphibious Force, to disembark to travel by plane to Hawaii, while she herself sailed for overhaul at San Francisco, arriving 11 February[Kym’s note:1945] and leaving 22 April for Hawaii and Guam.

Arriving Guam 6 July, Mount Olympus sailed on for Manila, colliding en route with oiler Millicoma. The flagship was escorted to San Pedro Bay, Leyte, for repairs by Ajax, then continued to Manila, arriving 3 August. After the close of hostilities, Mount Olympus arrived Tokyo Bay 2 September with the 1st Cavalry Division on board for Yokohama. After 8 months moving occupation troops from the Philippines and other bases to ports in Japan and China, she left Shanghai 28 May 1946 for San Diego, the Panama Canal, and New York, arriving 7 July.”

This, in a nutshell, was my father’s war.

According to Raymond, the ship stopped at San Diego, Pearl Harbor, Guam, and the Philippines, where they were rammed. Another ship was torpedoed around that time and place. While the Olympus was in dry dock being repaired, those on board got the news that the atomic bomb had been dropped.

The Olympus led the convoy into Tokyo Bay, which Raymond described as being full of ships and “thick with airplanes, B29s.” Raymond compared the ship to the Pentagon because it carried the commanders. Dad had referred to it as a troop carrier.

When asked what there was to do on the ship, Raymond said not much, although there was a band and sailors got shore leave about once every four days while in port. He said the Navy was really confining, “not like the Army,” which “let you stay out all night.” Apparently, the Navy let you off around one o’clock, and you had to be back aboard by five.

I listened to a few tapes of men who had been on the ship, and one of them (possibly Raymond) described going on shore leave as being surrounded by sailors, that all he could see was the white hats of their uniforms.

According to both Raymond and my Dad, at one point Admiral Byrd was on the ship (interesting because it’s possible there is an extremely distant relationship between the two Byrds — my father and the admiral).

And Raymond also mentions them going back and forth between Japan and China.

I know Dad was in Tokyo for the official Japanese surrender because I have this.

I had wondered why Dad had saved an envelope and learned through my research that this is a piece of history. According to the Universal Ship Cancellation Society (who knew such an organization existed?), this is an example of a “fancy cancel” in honor of the surrender. When I looked more closely, I noticed the date (the day of the surrender) and the logo on the left side of the envelope which includes the letters “V” and “J” for VJ (Victory in Japan) Day.

On the Fold3 database, I found three muster rolls for Dad on the Mount Olympus, one for the quarter ending October 1945, one for January 1946, and one as he was being discharged in July of 1946. In October 1945, he was an S2c (Seaman 2nd class), but by January 1946, he’d worked up to being an S1 (Seaman), and his discharge paper lists him as having been AS (Able Seaman), S2/c,1/c. I couldn’t find out what the c,1/c means, but I believe Able Seaman and Seaman 1st Class may be interchangeable.

On 23 April 1946, they were in port in Shanghai when a tragedy unfolded on an LST (Landing Ship, Tank) that was also stationed there. A nineteen-year-old sailor just two months out of the US and fresh off standing a two-hour midnight watch “went suddenly berserk” and shot to death nine shipmates before stabbing himself. The quote is direct from several Newspaper.com clippings, leading me to believe the papers copied it word for word from a naval press release. The young sailor also injured a tenth shipmate before being knocked to the ground with a bench by another sailor.

Dad kept a clipping about the funeral services, and I can’t help wondering what he thought when he heard about the event.

Three months later, at age nineteen, Dad was discharged and given a travel allowance to find his way home from New York.

This paper provides a wealth of information — everything from how much money Dad got on being discharged, what medals he was eligible for, where he had worked right before the war, and what kind of additional training he was hoping to receive.

A further review of the document says he had three years of high school when he enlisted at seventeen. We know he was working at the steel mill by age sixteen, which means he had to have completed those years before going to work.

Ergo, he was in high school by at least age thirteen.

A deeper look at the 1940 census tends to uphold my mom’s version of events — that he skipped two grades and was in high school at twelve. From the census (taken in April), Dad is listed as having completed eight years of school at age thirteen. From this, we can surmise, he was in his first year of high school, having turned thirteen in November the previous year. Meanwhile, his younger sister, age ten, has completed three years of schooling.

If I had to guess, I’d say it’s likely the family moved to Massillon sometime after Dad’s third year of high school, and he didn’t re-enroll until after the war. If my grandfather’s obituary is accurate (and it may not be), Grandpa started at the steel mill in 1943. Of course, there’s no way of knowing if he started work immediately at Republic or if the obituary is accurate.

Moving forward from Dad’s discharge from the Navy, I found him mentioned in the 22 May 1947 issue of the Evening Independent (Massillon). This article says fifty-two of Massillon Washington High School’s 452 graduates (the largest class in history at that time) were veterans of World War II who completed their studies by correspondence. My father is listed among them.

Referring again to the separation document, I noticed under “Preference for additional training,” Dad asked for apprentice training (the handwritten copy spells out what “App. Tng.” stands for).

I wondered what happened to change his mind. But, then I remembered Grandma.

My Grandma Byrd was that unusual creature (especially in West Virginia), an educated woman. I wrote about her family in an earlier post focusing on the fact that at least three children of six in her family had some college education or vocational training.

Her husband, my grandfather, like many in that time and place, completed eighth grade. But Grandma finished the year of college necessary for her to teach school in a one-room schoolhouse.

One of her brothers attended Glenville State for two years, and a sister was in nurse’s training when she died of TB.

I know Glenville was a teacher training college, which makes me wonder if that’s also where Grandma went.

At any rate, I’m sure it was she who changed my dad’s mind and set him on a path to higher education.

Like so many others of his time, my dad’s life was changed by war when he was still in his teens. Although he never fought in any battles, I’m sure he saw the aftermath of those waged in the South Pacific.

I think about myself at sixteen, seventeen, eighteen, nineteen, and can only wonder how he must have felt.

Dad served one year, nine months, and fourteen days and is buried with many of his fellow veterans in the Ohio Western Reserve National Cemetery.

The Treatment

All week, it’s been hot and humid with dark clouds threatening storms, and today was no exception.

Still, our beekeeping duties required us to suit up and treat the hives for Varroa. Because I wield the magic wand (our vaporizer), I had the added pleasure of an N95 mask and safety goggles. It was Very Hot.

Using a vaporizer to treat with oxalic acid is usually pretty simple. You block the entrances, put the powder on the little tray, slide the tray into the hive, attach the leads to a battery, and leave the vapor to permeate the hive for the alloted amount of time.

Easy-peasy.

However, when you have honey supers on a hive, you have to take them off the hive to treat because oxalic acid guidelines say honey that’s been treated with OA shouldn’t be consumed by humans.

That’s how the guidelines stand at present, although the prevailing wisdom seems to be moving away from that idea because oxalic acid is a naturally occurring substance. On February 23, 2021 the FDA finalized a ruling that establishes an exemption from the requirement of a tolerance for residues of oxalic acid in honey and honeycomb.  

Nonetheless, “Bee Culture” magazine says this doesn’t mean we can all start treating our hives with honey supers on. So, we either take them off to treat with oxalic acid, or we use Formic Pro, which can be used with supers.

Formic Pro also has the advantage of killing Varroa that are in cells of capped brood. But it takes longer (14-20 days instead of minutes [or in today’s case, about an hour]), can only be used in a certain temperature range, and kills some bees along with the Varroa. Since one of bees that it may kill could be the queen, this can be a serious disadvantage.

In our situation, we have a new queen in OH, Girls who hasn’t started laying and possibly a new queen who’s not yet laying or a new queen in the works in the OH, Girls split. As a result, two of our three hives have no brood to worry about.

Meanwhile, in the Kremlin, Olga’s laying is a little spotty, and we treated that hive when it arrived as a package.

We decided to use oxalic acid on all three hives even though we’d have to get the bees out of OH, Girls’ supers.

In the past, we’ve had no problem using our escape board to accomplish this.

We insert the board between the supers and the deeps with the triangles down and leave it in for twenty-four to forty-eight hours. The bees seem to find their way down into the brood boxes for the night, but have problems finding their way back up. There are always a few stragglers left in the supers and/or the board, but they’re easily dealt with.

Today, however, the bottom of the board was seething with bees.

After regrouping, The Engineer and I decided to cover the hole in the escape board and treat the hive with the board in place.

Filed under “other problems” was the fact that the front porch of the hive was also loaded with bees who didn’t take kindly to me trying to move them either in or out of the hive so I could block the entrance to treat the hive.

Then, the part of the vaporizer that actually does that blocking fell off, and we had to sort of hold it in place while the vaporizer was working.

We were about halfway through the treatment when The Engineer realized we hadn’t replaced the bottom board. This meant all the vapor that was going in the hive was coming right back out of the hive through the screen at the bottom.

It was like a slapstick movie where Laurel and Hardy take up beekeeping.

Out came the vaporizer. In went the bottom board. And we started all over again.

The bees were delighted with these developments.
Not.

Also, we discovered a few guard bees took their jobs very seriously, butting our veils repeatedly.

Have I mentioned how much I love my hat and veil?

What a relief it was to finish that hive and replace the supers and quilt box!

We’d hoped to be able to pull some frames for extraction, but though most were full of honey and nectar, none were completely capped. 😦

Our best bet for getting the bees on the escape board back into the hive seemed to be to tip it in front so they could walk in.

A LOT of Bees

For comparison, here’s a photo from two years ago when we used the escape board to get bees out of the supers so we could extract.

Normally, the walking back in process takes a short time, even with lots of bees. This time, the bees on the board seemed reluctant to abandon it. The picture above was taken about thirty minutes after we finished treating, and it was over an hour later before the board was mostly empty.

Clearly, this hive is very full despite having been split a month ago, and we’ll need to keep a close eye on it, especially once the new queen starts laying.

Despite the rivulets of sweat pouring down our faces and OH, Girls’ diligent guard bees trying to convince us we should abandon our tasks, we managed to treat the other two hives without incident.

What’s next on our beekeeping schedule? We’ll need to do full hive checks on all three hives, looking to see if the new OH, Girls queen has begun laying, if Olga’s prowess at egg laying has improved, and if the split has managed to requeen.

For now, that’s all the news from the OH, Honey! beeyard.

In a Jam

It’s strawberry 🍓 season, which in my house means making strawberry margarita jam.

This year, it’s been challenging to find lids and bands. Although jars have become available again, I still can’t find small lids and bands to use with the jars I already own, except part of a box I happened across at a garage sale.

As a result, I’ve purchased some reusable lids with rubber gaskets, and will be trying them with my next canning effort.

Five quarts of berries from the Mennonite market makes about three batches of jam, with just enough left over to take my mom a treat.

With three pans on the fire, the house is sweltering.

Of course, strawberry margarita jam includes tequila, lime juice, and triple sec. And this time I tried something different – adding jalapeños to the last batch.

First, you cross fingers the jars will seal, then you pray the jam gels properly, although it’s great on cottage cheese even if it doesn’t.

Result? Twenty-four jars of delicious jam to share with friends.

OH, Girls! New Queen, Oh My!

The girls have done it! They’ve managed to create a beautiful new queen.

Can you find her? Admittedly, both of the pictures only show her abdomen, so the task may not be easy. And she’s not that big-eyed, fat one in the upper corner. That’s a drone, hanging around the honey as usual.

GIve up? Let me make it easier for you.

There she is! In the middle of the purple circle.

Of course, it was The Engineer who spotted her, as usual, and what a relief it was to see her.

She’s quite new, possibly still unmated, though she is already nice and fat. Could be she’s just not finished with her “maiden flights.”

There were no eggs or larvae yet, so she’s definitely not begun laying.

But now we have two queen right hives — definitely cause for celebration.

OH, Girls also kept busy while waiting for royalty to emerge. They have been socking away nectar and turning it into sweet, sweet honey.

In addition, they completely rebuilt the wax frames they took a dislike to.

Newly made comb is so gorgeous!

And since, unlike the last time, these frames aren’t in the brood chambers, there’s no chance of them being used as drone comb, which means we won’t be over-run with drones.

Next, we took a look at the Kremlin.

They have a great deal of pollen, nectar, and honey (both new and old). I think the pollen is probably a mix as well, but I still love to wonder about the sources of the various colors.

As you can see, there were a fair amount of drones in the hive — the result of those workers who were laying before Olga came along and set them straight.

Speaking of Olga, here she is.

I’m not 100% happy with her laying pattern. It’s kind of spotty, with brood and larva mixed together and backfilled with nectar and pollen.

Also, in the picture above, it looks like her eggs might not be being laid in the middle of the cells.

The off-center eggs are more clear in this picture.

I’ve heard sometimes new queens take a little while to get going properly, so this is something we’ll keep an eye on.

Another possible explanation for the spotty pattern (but not the off-center eggs) is the workers had backfilled many of the cells on the frames with nectar and pollen. We added another deep box with some more open frames to help alleviate this.

To add fuel to this particular fire, it looks to me like the bee in the center bottom of the picture above has a varroa mite under its wing.

We treated this package when we received it (before it had any brood) and had planned to treat both the others within the next week, but it looks like we need to hit this one again too.

Finally, we went into the split just enough to remove the bottom board and peek at the bottom of the top box to see if there were queen cells.

The weather has turned (again), and we expect temperatures in the mid 80s (F) all week. Thus, we are pulling all the boards so they have ventilation through the screened bottom. That particular hive setup requires you to almost pick up the whole hive to remove the board.

There was at least one open queen cell, but in my quick look, I couldn’t tell if it had been opened, or was just not yet capped, though I suspect and hope the former. When we looked in on the 26th, there was an uncapped queen cell. That was eleven days ago, so it’s entirely possible the uncapped queen cell we saw then with larva in it has since been capped and the new queen emerged.

Michael Bush’s “bee math” gives the following figures for bee development, and a queen cell is capped at eight days, with her hatching eight days later (give or take a few). If we saw the cell just before it was capped (and the larva in it was good-sized, so this is possible), she may be out and taking maiden mating flights.

Days until:
Caste Hatch Cap  Emerge	
Queen  3½   8 ±1 16 ±2 Laying        28 ±5
Worker 3½   9 ±1 20 ±1 Foraging      42 ±7
Drone  3½  10 ±1 24 ±1 Flying to DCA 38 ±5

Once again our fingers are crossed.

Filed under “Other Beekeeping Activities,” yesterday we attended the Lorain County Beekeepersfield day at Queen Right Colonies.

We last attended in 2018, when I won a beehive. In 2019, we were in France, and last year, of course, it was cancelled because of the pandemic, so we were eager to see what this year had in store.

To start with, we learned a bit about queen rearing from the folks of Z’s Bees. Mostly, we learned, as we always do when we attend a program on raising queens, that we’re not yet ready for that particular activity.

We next attended “Assessing Hive Health” and “Maintaining Hive Health” with Peggy Garnes, who happens to be the president of the Ohio State Beekeepers Association. Since she also sold us our first hive and was one of the instructors at the Beginner Beekeeping Course we took (twice), we knew her sessions would be worth our time.

It was a treat to watch her work as she took apart and inspected two hives, commenting on what she found, why she worked the way she did, and what next steps she would advise for each.

Several facts I found interesting:

  1. New sister/sister queens won’t usually kill each other. Half-sisters will. That is, if two queens hatch from eggs fertilized from sperm of the same father, they are unlikely to commit sororicide (yes, I had to look that one up). This is similar to something I heard at one of the (many!) classes we took. It seems a worker bee will always favor a full sister over a half-sister when feeding them as larvae.
  2. If you drop the queen, pick her up and reinsert her into the back of the hive rather than the front, and the bees will be more likely to recognize her as their own queen, rather than a strange bee.
  3. And the best fact of all: Ants produce formic acid!!! And what do beekeepers spend lots of money on to treat their hives for Varroa? FORMIC ACID!!! This means we’ve wasted five years fighting ants in our hives. Learning that fact alone was worth the price of admission.

Actually, there was no price of admission, but if there had been, I’d have gladly paid it to learn that!

Still, LCBA once again raffled off two hives, and I contributed to their coffers by entering.

They also had several guessing games, which were free. I guessed “the weight of the candle” and the “number of corks in the bottle,” but declined to stick my hand in the enclosed box to name the items within.

The “Bee Race” sounded like an interesting event, so I bought The Engineer the chance to be selected to participate. This involved six contestants each being provided with a marked worker bee in a queen cage. The contestants (both insects and people) were then driven several miles away. The person whose bee got back to the hive first won the pot of money collected for the tickets.

“Stuff the Queen Cage” sounded more painful than any possible prize could possibly be worth. Yes, it was exactly what it sounds like — stuffing as many bees as you could into a queen cage, with points deducted for every sting.

We didn’t even stay to watch.

The raffles and door prizes were awarded before those two events, and to my surprise, I won both guessing games I entered.

I’d known I was a contender for the number of corks because when I wrote down my guess, the lady taking the guesses looked at it and said I was very close.

However, the candle weight win was a surprise, although my guess was based on the many pounds of birdseed I buy for my mom’s and our feeders and all the dirt I’ve recently lifted to fill the pots that make up my garden. There were actually two winners for that game, and I was set to forego my prize since I’d already won, but then I saw they had two prizes, so I accepted.

Both my prizes were “Candle Flex” molds, a wise man and a shepherd. Since I’ve been wanting to start candle making (after a brief, not-very-successful foray into it last year), these high-quality forms will be very handy.

The winner of the “items in the box” was seated right next to me, so people were beginning to make comments about us sitting in the lucky row of seats.

When we registered for the event that morning, each attendee was given a ticket for the door prizes. The Engineer took charge of ours, and when they called one of the numbers, he went up to collect our new “Pro Nuc.”

Pro nuc box
Ours is a different color, but this is the product.

We will find this very useful either as a swarm box or as something to hold frames when we take them out for inspection.

In fact, The Engineer just informed me, it’s already up a tree as a swarm trap.

I was never lucky at winning things, but in the last ten years or so, my luck seems to have changed.

I’ve won:

  1. A pair of Keen boots
  2. A Leatherman
  3. A beehive
  4. A smoker
  5. Instructions for making a top-bar hive
  6. An uncapping tank (pictured in this post)
  7. A Broodminder and several drone frames (we don’t use either anymore — the Broodminder gave up the ghost last year, and the drone frames were more trouble than they were worth)
  8. Two candle molds

As you can see, most the prizes have to do with beekeeping. From this I can only conclude that we were destined to be beekeepers. 🙂

Between Saturday’s Field Day and our Monday-Thursday camping trip, we also drove 1-1/2 hours to the Harry Clever Field in New Philadelphia where our plane is being annualed. If you’re unfamiliar with general aviation plane maintenance, you may be surprised to learn every plane has to be taken apart each year and inspected by a Certified A&P Mechanic. To cut costs, we try to do as much of the work as allowed. This means, we take out seats, take up carpet, and remove inspection panels (lots of inspection panels — usually my job). Otherwise, we’d be paying mechanics’ wages to have someone else do what is mostly unskilled labor. Once the inspection is completed, we put back in the carpet and seats, and replace the inspection panels and trim.

That was Friday. You’ve just read about Saturday and Sunday, and I’ve already written about Monday-Thursday.

After this very busy week, I expect the next to be much the same. We’re both back to work, have the bees to treat, the airplane to finish, and strawberries are coming in, which means if I want to make strawberry margarita jam, it has to be this week or I risk not being able to get the berries.

I certainly don’t want to miss making the best strawberry jam in the world. (This links to a recipe very similar to the one I use, though it’s not exactly the same.) I mean, any strawberry jam is good with me, but including lime and tequila somehow works to make the flavor of the strawberries more clear.

I have some jalapeños in the fridge, and I think I’ll try adding a few of those to the second batch just to add a little kick.

I’ll keep you posted on how it turns out.

P.S. We had a little mead tasting with some out-of-town beekeeper friends who came in for the field day, and I think Sourpuss is my new favorite, although Ginger Rogers and Hot Mama are still contenders. Alas, OH, Honey needs more time to get rid of a yeasty smell.

Slugabed

From Merriam-Webster:

Definition of slugabed

a person who stays in bed after the usual or proper time to get upbroadlySLUGGARD

Or, in my case:

Slug I found in my bed (sleeping bag) this morning

Okay, if you’re being literal, it wasn’t in my bed, it was on my bed, but that’s just semantics when you get up to use the facilities and on the walk there, you find yourself wondering what the slimy, sticky streak is on your hand.

Ugh.

I must have still been half-asleep this morning because by the time I realized the mucusy substance was mucus which came from my bedfellow, I just opened the tent zipper and flung it outside.

Normally, I’m pretty sure there would have been some shrieking, possibly swearing, and maybe even a gag reflex.

Yes, we’ve been camping again. And yes, the second and third night and most of the third day were damp.

Still, we had a good trip.

We canoed on Tuesday, and this reprobate, whom you know as “The Engineer,” was in charge of steering. I took this photo over my shoulder without focusing and am quite pleased with the result (even though some of my wild camp hair made it into the frame). He looks like a badass, doesn’t he?

As you can see, it was a great day to be on the river, warm but not too hot, and not many people about because it was a Tuesday.

I did notice there are many more trailers parked on the banks than I remember from the last time I canoed there. But, heck, it’s only been about thirty years, why would things have changed?

We also went for a drink and meal at a local bistro. What a treat after so many months being unable to do so! It was such a treat, in fact, that I somehow managed to capture the experience without even realizing it. How clever of my subconscious to catch the name of the bistro in the corner of the photo as well as the sparkling clarity of the drink.

Also, we had some great campfires, and cooked solely over those fires and our Kelly Kettle. This was mostly because that’s how we like to do things, but partly because the one time we tried to use our little burner, it wouldn’t work properly.

So, our breakfast fajitas were made using the kettle too. If you wonder how that works, here’s a link to a picture. And once the kettle boiled for tea, we actually used the little metal apparatus directly over the fire base to hold the pan while I finished scrambling the eggs.

To make the fajitas, I just sauteed chopped onions, sweet peppers, and a jalapeño. Then I beat a couple of eggs with some water and made a scramble with the vegetables. Serve over a tortilla with grated cheese, some cilantro, and salsa (ours was my home-canned zucchini salsa).

Serve with freshly made hot tea, and eat sitting in your favorite folding chair. Delicious!

It can be a little challenging to get the fire started in a volcano kettle, but we’ve actually found ours easier to use, more versatile, and faster to cook with than our stove.

I love the way the fire illuminates the ODNR (Ohio Department of Natural Resources) letters.

We also made jambalaya, cooking it between rain showers.

Yes, that’s our Lodge Dutch Oven being put to use again!

This was based on a recipe from Leanne Brown’s Good and Cheap.

Again, you begin with sauteed vegetables — peppers, a jalapeño (Leanne called for a chile, but I had jalapeños), celery, and onions. Once they’re softened, you toss in a small can of diced tomatoes (or fresh) and a spice mix of thyme, cayenne, bay leaves, garlic powder, paprika, and oregano. I added a little extra garlic powder because I didn’t sauté any fresh with the other veggies. For convenience, I mixed the spices at home. Once the tomatoes cook down a little you add stock, Worcestershire sauce, and rice, and cook until the rice is soft. If you like, you can add other ingredients — Leanne suggests fried sausage, shrimp, leftover meat or beans — fifteen minutes after the stock. Since we were camping, I mixed stock base and Worcestershire before leaving home, storing it in our cooler, and mixing with water to make stock.

We had chorizo in the freezer, so I pre-fried that, as well, and used it for an add-in.

It was a little on the spicy side, but as The Engineer pointed out, it’s good to have something hot when you’re eating in a tent on a wet night.

Nonetheless, if I make it with chorizo again, I’ll cut back on the cayenne or maybe leave out the jalapeño. I’ll definitely make the basic recipe again, at home and at camp. Along with being Good and Cheap, it’s also easy and was simple to adjust to campside cooking.

And seriously, check out that cookbook. It’s a good one.

The mist over the river from the rain last night was like having a cloud come right down to the water’s surface, very atmospheric and moody. I took photos as the night drew in.

It was pouring this morning (hence, the slugabed), but The Engineer still managed to follow through on his promise to fire up the kettle and have a turn at making a welcome cup of morning tea.

Eventually the rain cleared momentarily, and we packed up our damp gear and took the scenic route home.

We really do live in a beautiful state.

Supposedly some folks on the East and West coasts consider Ohio a part of “flyover country.”

Because of this prejudice, our plentiful bike paths, incredible state and local parks (along with our national one), and the sheer loveliness of the countryside remain mostly uncrowded by outsiders.

And that’s just fine by me.

All Hail the Dying Queen

The Engineer: “I forgot the blue dot was almost worn off the queen. I wasn’t really looking for an unmarked queen.”

Me: “She’s dead. There were no eggs, and the few larvae we spotted were on the verge of being capped.”

The Engineer: “Yes, but I’d feel better if we went through that hive again.”

Me: <sigh> “She’s dead.”

The Engineer: “If we look and don’t see her, we’ll know to go ahead and get another queen to introduce.”

Me: “Okay. But, if we’re going to look, we have to do it early because it’s supposed to rain tomorrow. Then, if we don’t find her, I’ll order a queen.”

The Engineer: “Okay.”

It was thus that this morning found us once again going through the OH, Girls split, carefully studying each frame before placing it in a different, empty box. Doing the inspection this way, if the queen was still alive, she wouldn’t be able to slip back to a frame we’d already pronounced queen-free.

Frame 1: Old honey (from previous hives) with some fresh comb. No queen.

Frame 2: No queen, but lots of nectar and a little freshly capped honey. Isn’t it beautiful?

Here’s a closeup of a drone. See the big eyes and fat body? Naturally, he’s in the pantry with all the food! And look how fuzzy that little worker is next to him. She must be very young to still be so furry!

Frame 3: Pretty much a repeat of the second, except for several queen cups and the queen cell with a larva in it we’d seen yesterday. There were lots of bees tending to it, so much so that it was difficult to get a good picture of the larva.

You can just barely see the larva glistening inside, and the cell was longer than it was yesterday.

There were also a few more queen cups that may or may not have had larvae in them. It was hard to tell. I didn’t take pictures of all of them, but when I look at the ones I did, I think maybe my seeing larvae is wishful thinking.

Then we got to frame 4, and there was Her Royal Blueness. Her blue dot was gone, her thorax appeared to be — I can’t think of a better word — dented, and she was barely moving. Truly, she was in a sorry state. It makes me sad to even look at her.

We have no idea how she got into this state. When we put her in the split, she was in great shape, scurrying around as queens do.

Did she get rolled between two frames when we put the others in? Or what?

Now I wonder if we should have pinched her, both to put her out of her misery and so the other bees know without a doubt they don’t have a viable queen.

We didn’t, and we’re not going back in there, disturbing them further as they go about the delicate process of replacing their queen.

The fact they are making one would seem to indicate they are well aware of their situation.

RIP Her Royal Blueness. You served your hive well. We’ll consider ourselves lucky if your daughter queen turns out to be half as good as you.

Because of this fact, and because the bees clearly are making at least one new queen, we are going to let them get on with it instead of ordering a replacement.