May-Bees or May-Bees Not

We’re up to four hives now, if all works out, which is kind of funny because our aim has always been two.

But, here’s the thing: Strong hives swarm. If a beekeeper wants to try to prevent that, we have to split them before they get too crowded.

Ergo, we have four hives.

You may recall a month ago, when we had a plan to split California Girls and ended up splitting Buzzers’ Roost instead because they were building queen cells.

Well, Cali Girls have only gotten more crowded, and Saturday was the day to split them. We had to wait a month because we treated both big hives with Formic Pro, which is effective, but has always resulted in bee loss for us. Last year, when we treated, we lost two queens during the course of the treatment.

Naturally, correlation does not equal causation, and there were a lot of queen problems last year, so the two facts may have been unrelated.

Still … this year, we chose to do the“one strip” treatment, putting in a single Formic Pro strip for ten days, and then replacing it with another for an additional ten days. (The other option is a single fourteen-day treatment with two strips.)

This meant we couldn’t do anything with the main hives for twenty days. And we didn’t want to mess with the split until they had a chance to requeen, though last week we did take peek, and saw no signs of eggs, larvae or a queen.

Meanwhile, California Girls were bearding like crazy, so we knew they were getting cramped. Bearding is something bees do on hot days, but Cali Girls were doing it all the time.

And I mean All. The. Time. Morning, day, and night. Before the recent hot weather even arrived.

They looked kind of like the picture below, which is actually from today (90s and quite humid).

Look at the hive next to them. No beard whatsoever. I’m beginning to think Saskatraz bees like to beard. I read one blog post that referred to them as “active,”, and they are definitely that. In both this Saskatraz colony and the one we had last year, there was a a lot of going in and out, even when the other hives showed little activity.

As for the continued bearding, we think this hive is still crowded, and will be adding more frames soon. Also, I’ve noticed when it cools down at night, the bearding diminishes substantially, something it wasn’t doing before Saturday’s split, so they’re better.


Approaching Saturday’s inspection, we knew we had much to accomplish and had to plan accordingly to make sure we got everything done.

Here was our list:

  1. Look again in the split (NewBees II) from Buzzers’. If there was still no signs of life, we would need to combine the bees from that hive with one of our other hives. We planned to make that decision but not act on it. If they were doing well, quit feeding and add frames to the box we’d been using to feed from.
  2. Do a general check on Buzzers’ for queen activity, honey production, crowding, etc. If there were queen cells, we were going to clear the frame of bees and use those cells in the California split since Buzzers’ Roost (II) was an Ohio-raised nuc with a nice fat over-wintered Ohio queen who was a proven layer. If needed, we would add another honey super.
  3. Check and split California Girls. We decided to do this a little differently than in the past, by just removing one of the boxes after making sure both had eggs. If we found queen cells and/or the queen, we would make sure they went in different boxes, unless we had queen cells from Buzzers’, in which case, we’d scrape off the Cali queen cells and use the Buzzers’ cells instead.
  4. Feed the split.
  5. Add another deep to the orginal California Girls and an additional honey super if they were still crowded and their first super was full. The added deep would contain open frames, but also frames with honey and pollen from last year.
  6. Feed probiotics (Super DFM) to all hives.
  7. Check and replace beetle hives. The good news is we haven’t seen beetles this year, which we put down to using nematodes. Again, correlation is not causation, but we had real problems with these little nasties, and they disappeared as soon as we started with the nematodes.
  8. We discussed removing the first supers if they were full, but our schedules preclude  extracting in the next week, so it was better to just leave them on.

I think that was the list. We actually made a little flow chart to make sure we got it all.

It was a hot day, so hot, in fact, that we ended up taking a water/cool-off break between the Buzzers’ inspection and California Girls.

First up was NewBees (II).
They had built a little comb between the inner cover and top of the their frames, and filled it with honey. When we scraped it off, they all gather round for a slurp.unnamed-13

Then, we took a look inside. There were larvae! And … drum roll, please, The Engineer spotted the queen! She was big and beautiful, but moving too fast for me to get a picture.

They were bringing in pollen and nectar, so we took out the food, gave them DFM, added frames, closed the hive up, and left them to it.

Next, we turned to Buzzers’. They also had larvae. I’ve zoomed in and circled them in the picture on the right. Have a look, then enlarge the one on the left, and see if you can spot the larvae there.

There also still had plenty of bees in the hive despite being split a few weeks ago.unnamed-6
If you look on the bottom of this frame, you’ll see burr comb, which could be mistaken for queen cells if you’ve never seen a queen cell. (Or, like me, you could freak out the first time you see a drone cell.)

Queen cells are shaped more like a peanut. Below are some from last year. The frame on the left is being held sideways (cells would normally be pointed down). Once it gets to the point that they’ve built this many queen cells (and there were many more in that hive), the bees are going to swarm. Ours did despite us splitting them at this point. We were too late.

But, Buzzers’ had no queen cells to steal for for California Girls. In a way, this was good, although it means Cali Girls will have to use eggs to make an emergency queen cell. But the lack of more queen cells means we may have managed to avoid swarming this year.

I’m crossing my fingers because you can never be sure what those girls are going to do.

We also saw Buzzers’ queen, still going strong. Two for two, so far.

I got a nice picture of them festooning on the bottom of a frame, which I’m including simply because I love using the word “festoon.” unnamed-8
Sometimes, you take a frame out, and they do this between frames, like a bee bridge. Maybe I’ll get a photo of that next time, and I’ll be able to use my newly favorite word again. 🙂

Their honey super was full of beautiful honey, just being capped, so we added another super, and left them to it. We put an empty quilt box on to help ventilate the hive. A recent purchase, a quilt box is mostly used to absorb moisture in the winter, but can also be used now.

We took our drink break here. Feel free to do the same.

Finally, we turned our attention to the wild and crazy California Girls.

Looking inside this hive reminded me of inspecting our FreeBees hive (Summer 2018-March 2020, also Saskatraz), which at  I won at Queen Right Colonies‘ Open Day in 2018 .

Like then, there were so many bees they seemed to be boiling up from inside the hive. Not in a bad way — they weren’t aggressive. There were just so many bees.

We’d smoke them so we could pull a frame, they’d go down, and by the time we’d get the frame out, they’d look like this again.

unnamed-10They were also making lots of lovely honey. unnamed-9Clearly, they needed space, and we were there to give it to them.

To make it three for three, we also found this queen. And by “we,” I mean The Engineer spotted all of them. I was most impressed by his finding the NewBees (II) queen because she was both unmarked and fast!

We caught the queen, and put her in the top hive box, which we had moved to make one hive into two. Because there were still so many bees in the box we were leaving for the split, we shook two brood frames of bees from there in with the queen. (By choosing brood frames, a beekeeper ensures most of the bees we shake are nurse bees, rather than foragers who are oriented to the old hive. Nurse bees will be more likely to stay with the new hive and eventually orient to it.)

The super was full of lovely honey, also in the process of being capped, so we added another super, gave them a beetle trap, and fed them some DFM.

Thus, the original California Girls were now in a new place with a setup of two brood boxes and two supers.

The new split remained in place on the hive stand, with a brood box and another box on top to feed from. We ended up putting some frames in that box on either side of the syrup jars because they still had so many bees. We also fed them pollen patties and DFM. Next week, we’ll probably have to fill the second box with frames, or they’ll start building comb, and it will be a mess.

We can put another deep (brood) box on to use for feeding them, or even a super if they’re making a lot of honey, but won’t mess with them too much while they’re making a new queen. It’s a delicate process, plus it’s important not to give them too much to defend if they don’t have enough bees, probably not a problem with these girls.

They looked like this when we were done. Does that look like an underpopulated hive to you? I half think the quilt box should go on this hive!unnamed-5
We are calling them “MayBees” because Maybee they’ll make a queen.

unnamed-4Our new setup looks like this. Left to right: NewBees(II), MayBees, Buzzers’ Roost (II) (with its quilt box smiley face), and California Girls.

Using the picnic table as a stand for California Girls is temporary. It’s several feet high to inspect without a ladder. You probably don’t need to be told this, but it’s not a good idea to be lifting boxes of bees up and down a ladder (slight understatement).

Hive boxes get very heavy. A deep ten-frame brood box (the big boxes) full of honey can weigh eighty pounds, slightly less for brood, and a full ten-frame honey super (medium boxes on top) can weigh up to fifty, so even Buzzers’ is going to be challenging for us (and by “us,” I mean The Engineer) to lift.

Suffice to say, if I were beekeeping on my own, I’d either be using medium and small boxes or eight-frame boxes, probably a combination of both.

When The Engineer made the hive stand (which has proven perfect for our needs (once he shortened it), we thought we were being optimistic in planning that we might someday in the distant future have three hives. We certainly didn’t expect to have four.

Of course, with bees and Ohio weather and Varroa being what they are, that will probably change.




Standing on the Shoulders of Our Ancestors

I was raised to do two things: Work hard and get a good education, with the expectation that doing so would result in success.

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Because my childhood neighborhood in the smallish (now bigger) suburb/town was populated mainly by factory and steel mill workers, the value of an honest day’s work was instilled in most families.

At the same time, many who put food on the table through manual labor did so hoping their children wouldn’t have to work quite so hard to make a living.

This wasn’t the case for everyone, however. There were students at my high school who expected to get a job at the mill or Ford or Chevy like their fathers and uncles (somehow the mothers rarely figured into this) and make a “good living.”  They believed this despite being warned by teachers that those jobs weren’t going to be around.

Some parents probably encouraged this belief, not wanting their children to “get above themselves,” perhaps fearing those children might one day look down on them (as if children don’t do this anyway <grin>).  I’ve heard this is referred to in Australia as “Tall Poppy Syndrome.”

And the same attitude exists in England, where my husband was raised, as my mother-in-law once shared in recounting the following anecdote.

My then future husband was one of two boys in his village school class who were given the opportunity to attend a more scholastically rigorous middle school that would prepare them to attend University.

Naturally, my MIL chose to send him. But the mother of the other boy did not, explaining she didn’t want her son to get any ideas about being better than he was.

The (future) Engineer did attend that school, which resulted in much greater and more opportunities than he would ever have had if his mother had chosen to have the same attitude as her neighbor.

For me, a higher education was imperative because I was hopeless at anything requiring hand/eye coordination (coordination in any form, in fact), and at age eighteen, I was a woefully impractical dreamer with my head in a book. A college degree would help me find my way.

It did, though that path proved more meandering than anyone expected, moving from job to job in several fields, mostly restaurants, and sometimes doubling back to work at a previous job once more. I made a living working two jobs (sometimes three) or working full-time and going to school (plus side gigs) until after I was married and had our daughter.

Eventually I found my place at the local library, and worked my way up the ladder, which entailed getting a second degree. (Later, I chose to work my way back down, but that’s another story. :-))

For my field, education meant two college degrees, backed up with many years of customer service jobs. For someone else, education might be an apprenticeship, on-the-job training, a vocational school certificate, or a combination of all these.

Thus, I’ve come to define education as the means to develop a knowledge base that makes one employable, preferably with the possiblity of improving one’s life.

It means being given the opportunity and the encouragement to make the best of the talent and brains we are born with.

Many people get neither.
I was privileged to have had both.

Part of the answer lies in the color of my skin and where, when and how I was raised.

But with a family tree populated mostly by farmers and manual laborers, how is it that my particular branch tried to reach higher? Who of my ancestors decided their children should be encouraged to do more?

How did it happen?

I am not casting aspersions on the industriousness of farmers or manual laborers. Without farmers, we wouldn’t eat, and despite the advance of technology, many of what we consider life’s necessities wouldn’t exist without manual labor.

However, farming and manual labor are, and always have been, jobs where the pay rarely reflects the toil expended. To this list,  I would add most jobs in the service industry, which frequently require more skill than people realize, yet are still inadaquately compensated.

Most people don’t choose to work poorly paid jobs, even if they enjoy the work. They do it because they have no choice.

Who in my family began the process that gave me that choice? Who looked at her or his life and said, “This is okay, but I’d like my children to have other options,” and then, somehow managed to provide those options?

neon signage

Photo by Ivan Bertolazzi on

It wasn’t my father. Although his father was a laborer and farmer, Dad was pushed to go to college.

I don’t know if similar expectations were placed on his sister.

It was common knowledge that Dad skipped two grades, landing in high school at age twelve. Although this doesn’t jive with the year he graduated, his parents moved to Ohio around then, and he enlisted in the Navy at seventeen, so he probably lost a couple of years in the process.

ByrdMerlinE_Navybuddy WWII

Dad’s on the right.

After World War II, Dad went to Glenville State College in West Virginia on the GI bill, graduated in three years, and then returned to Ohio, where he eventually met and married my mother.

She was a high school graduate, but there was no expectation of any higher education for Mom, her two sisters or four brothers. In Mom’s family, the kids were encouraged to get out of the house as soon as possible. From the choices they made, the options on offer seemed to be finding a job, joining the service, and/or getting married.

Mom got a job, and then married my dad.

Back then, the working world was divided into “white collar” jobs and “blue collar” jobs, terms that I have only just now realized are incredibly sexist, as well as arbitrary.

Dad was neither, and both. He grew up poor, in the hills of West Virginia, yet had a college degree. As a warehouse foreman for Goodyear, he was considered management, and thus wore shirts and ties to work, but his work clothes reeked of Eau de Rubber.

auto black black and white car

Photo by Gerd Altmann on

In fact, the clothes stunk so badly, he and Mom took out a loan to add on a second bathroom with a closet, so he could shower, change, and store his work clothes separately as soon as he got home.

Dad never called himself white or blue collar, but hillbilly or redneck instead. Repeat those words to Mom, and she’d laugh, saying he’d lived in Ohio longer than he’d ever lived in West Virginia and was a transplanted buckeye.

In truth, he was no longer a hillbilly or a redneck, but he also never went corporate, turning down promotions to avoid having to move, and occasionally siding with workers in labor disputes.

I find this dichotomy in myself, and I’m grateful for it because it reminds me not to take too much for granted.

My father thought deeply, and Mom thought quickly. At least that’s how I viewed them. And the encouragement to make the most of ourselves came from both.

Still, I think the expectation originated with my father’s family.

Specifically, it came through my grandmother, Leone Catherine Lang. The eldest of seven children of Thomas Jefferson Lang and Emma Virginia Weinrich, she finished high school and the one year of college needed to teach in a one-room schoolhouse in Alice, West Virginia.

Wikipedia’s entry for Alice says, “Alice is an unincorporated community in Gilmer
, West Virginia, United States. Its post office [2] is closed.”

End of entry.

Evidently, it’s not a big place and probably never was.LangLeoneMemorial1993


Grandma’s teaching career was brief, ending when she married my grandpa, Everett Ernest Byrd, at nineteen. As I write this, I think about how young she was and wonder if she was one of those teachers who had students who were bigger than her. I also wonder if the experience of controlling a building full of children of all ages, coupled with having been the oldest child in her family, made her the strong-willed woman I knew.

When she told me married women weren’t allowed to teach, I was outraged! She calmly explained that a man might need the job to support his family, and I was surprised she accepted the limitation so easily.

Despite her having spent the time and effort to qualify as a teacher, the expectation was that grandpa, with his eighth-grade education, would find a way to support them and their children.

And, so he did.

Initially, I thought this disparity in education was an anomaly in our family, that my grandmother continued with school because she hadn’t yet married.

When I looked deeper, however, I discovered this wasn’t the case.

Though her father and mother, Thomas Jefferson Lang and Emma Virginia Weinrich only went through eighth grade, at least five of their seven children surpassed that level, including all the girls.

Leone completed 1 year of college.
Harold Clare (Heavy) stopped attending school after eighth grade. He married Alma Gay Bird, who despite the different spelling of their last names, was my grandfather Everett’s sister.
Fay Dorrette was a student nurse in 1930 before dying of TB in 1933 at the age of 24.
Lacelle finished high school, worked briefly as a maid, and then moved to Ohio, living in the same town as Leone. She married at age 66, returning to West Virginia with her husband, before coming back to Ohio on his death. I inherited her amethyst ring (eventually). If you’d like to read about that, click on her name.
Thomas Jefferson (Jr.)’s life is shrouded in mystery, at least so far. Though he was living with Thomas and Emma  in 1930, I have found no further trace of him until he washes up in Florida many years later. My mom and dad said he was a hobo during the Depression, riding the rails, which is interesting if true. Sadly, life as a vagabond doesn’t lend itself to record keeping, so I know very little about him, though I remember meeting him as a child.
George W. had completed two years of college by 1940 but hadn’t attended any school during that year. He went on to be a three-term president of his local autoworkers union.
Darlette Kay finished high school, but shot herself in her father’s barn at age 36. Although her brother George lived in Ohio by this time, he was the one to find her body.

The records I’ve found lead me to believe this is the generation when our family developed a culture of encouraging further education, though of course, I can’t prove it conclusively. Until 1940, the census didn’t ask about levels of education, only if each person could read and write, and sometimes not even that.

Assuming I’m correct (always a dangerous thing to do), what caused this sudden emphasis on further education and/or training?

Here are my two hypotheses:

  • Sometime between 1900 and 1910, Thomas began working for the  Rural Free Delivery (RFD) mail service. The RFD began in several West Virginia towns in 1896, and quickly expanded to cover the state. Thomas delivered the mail at least through 1940, first as a contractor, and then as an employee of the USPS. In 1910, he and Emma were living in a rented house. By 1920, Thomas listed his occupation as farmer and RFD carrier, and he and Emma owned their home, though it was mortgaged. By 1930, they owned the home and farm, possibly able to afford it because of the extra income from his mail route. Did this income also make it possible for their children to pursue further training and/or education?
  • Or was it Emma who was responsible for encouraging this advancement? She was born in 1876, a year after her sister Helena, to a father and mother who were unusually old for first-time parents. Emma’s mother, Elizabeth Daugherty, was thirty-five when she married Karl (Charles) Weinrich, a German immigrant and Civil War veteran sixteen years her senior. This means Emma’s father was fifty-five and her mother thirty-nine when Emma was born. Could having older parents and/or an immigrant father somehow have affected Emma’s attitudes toward educating her children?

Clearly, I can never answer these questions, just as I can’t be 100% sure it was Emma and Thomas whose influence has carried into my own generation.

In all likelihood, the true reason for this change was the result of several factors, some of which I  probably cannot begin to guess. In the end, I can only take away this lesson: When someone talks about how slavery was so long ago, I can see how long ago it wasn’t. The Civil War that legally ended the abhorrent institution was fought by ancestors whose lives had direct impact on family members I knew as a child.

Because my great grandparents had the ability to freely establish families, work for pay, buy land, and send their children to school, their children had advantages which ultimately affected me.

The last American slave ship came to this country in 1858, just twenty years before Thomas Jefferson Lang was born. The cargo — calling the enslaved people “passengers” would whitewash the experience of their journey — may have had children the same age as Thomas or Emma.

Do you think the descendents of that human cargo would have had the same advantages enjoyed by Thomas and Emma’s descendents, e.g., me and my siblings?

Viewing family history from the perspective of a genealogist has also enabled me to see how a change of attitude or circumstance can affect a family for generations. In the case of my 2x great grandfather, Montcalm Armstrong, his Civil War service had a great affect on his children, which almost certainly filtered down to his grandchildren, perhaps even his great grandchildren.

Being a slave during the same time period could only have worse consequences.

We stand on the shoulders of our ancestors. And those whose ancestors were forced to kneel in subjugation begin their climb from a much lower place.


This is Thomas Jefferson Lang’s fiddle, which I ended up with. I didn’t even know I had a musical ancestor until my stepmother gave it to me, having somehow gotten it from one of our relatives, probably Thomas Jefferson Jr. Initially she said it was my grandfather’s, which I knew wasn’t correct. But then she added that Uncle Jeff (Thomas Jr.) said he remembered his father playing it, I understood. She was thinking he was my uncle, rather thanmy father’s. Ergo, the fiddle belonged to Dad’s grandfather, the older Thomas Jefferson Lang, who I knew when I was very young. He died in 1966, at age 88, followed by Emma a year later at age 90.






Flight 93 Memorial

We camped at Ohiopyle State Park, a favorite because there are several options for rafting and kayaking, plus a great rail-trail bike path.

Ohiopyle is about an hour from the Flight 93 Memorial, and this time we took the opportunity to visit this site dedicated to the thirty-three passengers and seven crew members who fought back against the hijackers of their plane.

IMG_3123The black granite represents the path of the plane’s descent toward its final resting place near Stoystown, Pennsylvania — less than 20 minutes flight from Washington D.C, the hijackers’ intended target.

77A23339-995C-4620-9CCA-19F84F07D957Friends and family watched the investigation from this vantage point.

The impact crater was filled in at the request of the coroner, and the site marked with a boulder visible through this gate. IMG_3125IMG_3124
As you can tell from these photos, it’s a quiet place — nothing like the scenes from the Pentagon and World Trade Centers — which makes the Memorial all the more humbling because we are forced to consider what might have happened without the bravery of the passengers and crew.

They are memorialized by individual slabs of white marble on which a single name is engraved.IMG_3127

As I said, it’s a quiet place, and the few visitors we saw seemed to respect and honor those represented here.

If you’re ever in the area, I hope you’ll make time to visit, if only to remind you that sometimes human beings can work together to overcome evil.

To prepare for your visit, The Engineer recommends The Only Plane in the Sky, by Garrett M.Graff, which I ordered on audio for him from the library. Billed as a “comprehensive oral history,” it’s read by a 45-person cast, and has been receiving accolades far beyond my husband’s.
only plane
Image from Barnes and Noble website (link above).

For more information on the Memorial, visit the National Park Service website.

Camping Inventory

person holding white ceramic mug

Photo by Dominika Roseclay on

On Departure
Camp Supplies
Tent, stakes, poles, lines
Sleeping bags
Flashlight/camp lights (solar)
Little broom
Bug spray
Bug zappers
First aid/meds
Clothes pins
Tent mallet/hammer/hatchet
Bikes, helmet, handlebar bag, lock, inhaler, lymph sleeve, gloves
Trash/recycle bag
Baby wipes
Bungie cords
Sanitizing wipes
Duct tape
Tie wraps

Cooking Supplies
Camp stove and fuel
Pans w plates, cups
Cast iron skillets (deep, shallow)
Dutch oven and lid
Utensils — cooking and eating, tongs, flipper,
Roasting fork
Sharp knives, lg and small
Foil (heavy duty)
Paper towels
Pie maker
Bucket, Coleman water cooler
Dish soap
Scrubbie, steel wool pad
Dish hangers made from onion bags
Water bottles
Can opener
Pot holders
Charcoal and chimney if using
Oven gloves
Plastic containers

Phone charger
Power block
Nook or book

Food, clothing, personal items

On Return
All the above
More mosquito bites than I can count
Sunburn on both wrists and one ankle that I evidently missed with the sunscreen before rafting on a sunny 94F day. (Turns out sunscreen really works, at least on the parts you manage to cover.)
Several inexplicable bruises
Possible poison oak blister (or maybe just a bad insect bite)
Newly gained knowledge on dutch oven campfire cooking
Several additional items for future camping inventory:
Volcano (Kelly) kettle
Cutting board
Chums (for glasses)

Verdict: Yes, we can manage eat well in camp using only a single burner and campfire. (On past trips, we ate half our meals in restaurants — not something we feel comfortable doing at the moment.)

burning wood on fire pit

Photo by vlad shu on

If you’re interested, here’s what we ate:
First night
Quesadillas done in dutch oven (black beans, chorizo, salsa, cheese, tortillas — slightly burnt, but good)
Second day
Breakfast: Oatmeal with dried cranberries (The Engineer refused to eat his. Thirty-two years in, I didn’t know he didn’t like oatmeal. Go figure.)
Lunch on the river: Pre-made curried salmon salad in a pita, pre-cut veggies, apple, snack mix
Dinner: Foil wraps done in the fire (potatoes, bratwurst, carrots, onions and a little butter — an old favorite)
Snacks: Cheese and cracker sandwiches (Store bought in a package of eight — these filled in the gaps quite nicely), ice cream from local parlor
Third Day
Very Late Breakfast: Hashbrown, onion, pepper, cheese, egg scramble wrapped in tortilla (I ate mine with my homemade zucchini salsa. Delicious!)
Snack/lunch: Cheese and cracker sandwiches (packaged)
Dinner: Chile with cornbread topping done in dutch oven (leftover black beans and chorizo, onions, peppers, seasoning topped with cornbread made from a mix with some cheese added in — I loved it, especially the cornbread. The Engineer liked the chile, but not the cornbread. No surprise there.)
Fourth Day
Breakfast: Same as third day
Snack: Packaged cheese cracker sandwiches, ice cream from local parlor on way home
Late lunch/dinner: Picnic of leftover salmon salad, pre-cut veggies

On a completely different note, none of these pictures are mine. I just discovered WordPress’s free image library!



We Had a Plan

A quick, mostly pictorial update on the hives.

The California Girls hive needed split, we both agreed. The queen’s laying pattern was spotty, and they’d be more likely to get through winter with a locally born and mated queen. Or so we’ve been told.

We gathered the boxes and frames needed to make the split, but chose to check Buzzers’ Roost (II) first.

The hive was packed with bees, with many, many uncapped queen cups.

Last time we had a hive in similar condition, it was FreeBees. With them, we waited a few weeks to make a split, and they ended up swarming anyway.

Determined to avoid a similar error with Buzzers’ Roost (II), we adjusted our plan, and split the hive by taking out a few frames of brood and eggs, shaking in some nurse bees, adding frames of honey and pollen, and giving them sugar water and pollen patties.

We’ll check back in a few weeks and hope to see fresh eggs and larvae. If we don’t see this, we’ll make a decision whether to buy a queen or reunite them with their mother hive and let them swarm (and hope to catch it).

Both hives had tons of pollen, more than I’ve ever seen stored before in one of our hives.

Here are some pictures of Buzzers’ stores.

When we smoke the hive to inspect, the bees sometimes react by sticking their heads in the cells, supposedly to gorge on pollen and nectar in case they have to flee the danger.
The little things on the bottom that look like Kix cereal are capped drone brood.
More colorful pollen, along with glistening nectar. They were also capping honey, but apparently I didn’t get a picture of that.

There were a lot of bees. Nearly every frame was full.

Now we just have to hope the split raises a queen.

Next we turned to California Girls. They’ve also been busy raising babies, but fortunately weren’t quite as crowded as Buzzers.

Here’s a nice frame of brood. See the freshly capped honey at the top left and drone brood on the bottom?

The queen is laying better now. Look closely, and you’ll see the tiny eggs in almost every cell – much nicer than last inspection when she was laying unevenly.

You can also see some larvae in the lower left.

The picture below has everything but pollen! There’s nectar, a few capped brood cells, honey and eggs!

We also saw the queen, always a welcome sight!

And remember this?

And this?

Well, look at it now!

It’s the comb they started building down from the inner cover several weeks ago that we rubber banded to a frame. They’ve filled in almost the whole frame!

If you’re observant, you may notice something about the size of the cells. They’re bigger than usual, which means they’ve been built for drone brood.

This is something we’ll have to keep an eye on because varroa love drone brood, and we don’t want to encourage varroa in our hives. Also, we don’t need that many drones unless we were getting into some serious queen raising, which we’re not.

We did end up putting the honey super we’d intended for Buzzers on California Girls. There’s definitely a nectar flow on, and they’re doing well so we’re giving them space to store it all. It may come off when we split that hive, but that’s a judgment call we’ll make at the time.

On the “Decluttr Kym” front, I sorted out my jeans and am embarrassed to report I gleaned six pairs to donate without even having to think much about it.

And, lastly, the unrest here has caused me to realize our country can’t move forward until we finally admit we were founded on the backbreaking labor of slaves. I’ve heard people say, “That’s over a hundred years ago. It’s ancient history.”

But as a genealogist, I’ve learned a hundred and some years is not ancient history. It’s just a few generations back, and that history creates a culture, both familial and community, that directs our present.

We can’t forget this happened, and although I’m not sure what I can do personally, I know the first step is to learn more about my personal biases and not be afraid to call out others who express more overt racism.

I will start by reading (no surprise there) and forcing myself to sometimes be the unwelcome voice in the room.

Royalty in Residence

Fly the royal standard! The queen is residence, at least for now.

Unfortunately, this photo isn’t great because it doesn’t  show how much bigger she is than the worker bees.

Last time we checked California Girls, we didn’t see this big girl, so we were anxious to spot her today. Even when we see plenty of larvae, both small and large, and capped brood, we always feel better when we see the queen.IMG_3591 This is especially true when we have to do a hive check when the sun isn’t at it’s highest making it difficult to ascertain if there are eggs or not.

They’ve also been busy building comb. IMG_3344
I love new comb! Isn’t it beautiful? And if you look closely, you can see some eggs. IMG_3344
This isn’t a good laying pattern. A strong queen would have laid eggs in all those cells, not in such a scattershot pattern, which makes our plan to requeen this hive look like a better and better idea.

This is frame, from the same hive, looks better, but compare it to the pictures of the frames below taken from Buzzers’ Roost a few weeks ago.IMG_6548IMG_4852What Buzzers seem to excel at is bringing in nectar and pollen, especially nectar, as you see below. Note the freshly capped honey in the corners. So pretty. IMG_3703IMG_4572
Also, remember this from our last check? Bees
We experimented by rubberbanding this comb into an empty frame, hoping they would continue building it. IMG_7287
See the original comb at the right? They’ve attached it to the frame and continued to build! IMG_3656
We were even able to take the bands off.

Watch this space to see how they progress. 🙂

And now … for something completely unrelated: My tomato, pepper, and basil plants came in the mail yesterday. I order online because it’s difficult to get organically grown plants at our local nurseries (although I usually get a few organic herb plants from our CSA each spring). IMG_7675
The Engineer made me an enclosure to keep the red squirrels and chipmunks from digging them up.

I’m telling you this because I think it’s funny that my plants look like they’re in plant jail.

Whatever it takes to have home grown tomatoes and peppers this summer!


Decluttering Kym: A Continuing Saga

The holiday weekend seemed the perfect time to do several things:

  1. Go for a bike ride.
  2. Finally see Darling Daughter (for the first time in 3-1/2 months).
  3. Wash my car.
  4. Get rid of some clothes.

Here in Ohio, we’ve gone from winter to summer once again, do not pass go, do not collect $200, no spring for you.

To illustrate my point: On May 9, we had snow, and not just a few flakes either. Oh, no, this was stick to the ground snow, bend over branches because it’s so wet and heavy snow, kill the buds on my rhododendron snow.

Today, a little over two weeks later, it’s nearly 90F.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m delighted to put away my sweaters. It’s just, sometimes it would be nice to work up to the heat.

But, enough complaining. My bout with cancer taught me to be grateful for each day I get. “Happy to be here, happy to have hair,” continues to be my motto, as well as a reminder to keep things in perspective.

And yesterday, I was happy to see Darling Daughter and her partner. He’s just bought a house, which means they’re still picking their way around the boxes. Never one to miss the party, we were bringing more — including the china cabinet I mentioned in my previous post.

It felt odd, and somewhat dissatisfying, to have to sit six feet away and wear a mask, but I work with the public, and The Engineer lives with me, so we’ve been cautious about possibly exposing anyone to coronavirus. And Darling Daughter and partner are just careful, which is good, I think.

At least we got to see them and explore the house before heading home to top the day off with a bike ride on a cool, tree-lined path. It was delightful.

That left today for the car and closet.

By the time I got back from visiting Mom and our late breakfast, it was noon. The Engineer told me it might be a good idea to wait on doing the car.

Did I mention it’s a sunny, 89F today?
And we have mineral-rich well water.
Also, the car is black.

Suffice to my pigheadedness about doing the task on my schedule made the job much harder.

You probably know this, but don’t wash a black car at noon on a hot day. The whole surface looked like the bad example from a movie on how not to wash a car. It took a lot of muscle to get it presentable.

After that, the closet was easy, taking less than 30 minutes to fill three boxes.


Hangers Emptied by My Purge Today

I was disappointed not to fill all five boxes I’d brought home, but I did empty a  lot of hangers! You can’t tell, but I’m blushing to realize I had enough clothes to empty fifty hangers without much effort.

I’ll use the other boxes for the book clean-out.

Addendum: I did take a moment to remember the purpose of Memorial Day and be grateful for those who have fought for our country. This day always make me think of my dad. He was in the Navy, 1944-46, enlisting at the age of seventeen.

Dad died in 2002 and is buried in Ohio Western Reserve National Cemetery.

ByrdMerlinE_Navybuddy WWII

Leonard Bujak (possibly Byak) and Dad — just a couple of sailors during World War II

I share Leonard’s name in the hope one of his descendents might come across this blog and see this picture of him, just in case they don’t have a copy.





Our New Neighbor Is Walking Around with a Tank on His Back Spraying His Yard

So, after four days of dead bees, we see this.

They know we keep bees. We have two, “No spray! Honey bees!” signs out front.

And I welcomed them to the neighborhood with a jar of honey.

Why do this in an area that is predominantly natural?
And why in the middle of the day, which is the worst time?

Seriously? What’s a dandelion, but a flower?

So frustrated and disheartened.

All we can hope is our girls don’t go over there.

Also, we can hope that all our dandelion fluff blows in that direction, making his battle such a losing one that he finally gives up.

What Honey Bees Do When Left to Their Own Devices

We checked both hives yesterday.

Buzzers’ Roost (II) seemed to be thriving despite the pesticide deaths. We saw eggs, larvae, capped brood, lots of nectar and pollen, and the queen.

In fact, they seemed to be getting crowded, so we added a deep box full of frames, plus an empty super for feed jars. We don’t use outside feeders because raccoons make a nightly circuit of our yard and would be delighted to gorge on a jar of sweet liquid.

The bees have also been making queen cups — lots of them. Though they were only cups and none had any eggs in as far as we could see, this is something to keep an eye on in case they’re getting ready to swarm.

This morning we had even better news:  There were very few dead bees outside their hive.

Perhaps the worst is over.

California Girls are also doing well, though there was fewer of everything — fewer eggs, fewer larvae, fewer capped brood cups. We also didn’t see the queen, always a little concerning especially this early in the year when the hives aren’t as full, and she should be easy to spot.

This isn’t as worrying as it would be at another time of the year because we plan to try to force them to requeen in the next few weeks anyway so we’ll have a locally reared queen for the winter.

We’ll do this by splitting the hive — taking the “old” queen and a few frames for brood and food and putting them in a nuc. If the full hive doesn’t successfully requeen, we can put them back together. No harm, no foul. And if worse comes to worse, and the queen is already gone, queens are generally available for purchase this time of year.

Still, they’ve been busy, as you can see below.


This lovely piece of fresh comb was brought to you by California Girls. 

Last time we checked their hive, we thought they needed more room, but were reluctant to add a full deep box. We compromised by adding a deep box half full of frames and using the other half for a big jar of sugar water.

I’m not sure we’ll do that again since this was the result. We should know if you give bees space, they feel compelled to fill it.

And yet, it’s gorgeous, isn’t it? Because it was evenly made, we were able to remove the comb from the inner cover and insert it into a foundationless frame, affixed with rubber bands.

This is an experiment which could go horribly wrong because although bees fill empty spaces, they do so by their own logic.

They might build out the comb, attach it to the frame beside it or create something we’d never dream of.

What we hope is they’ll use this comb and the attached frame as a base for a comb made wholly of wax.

Will we be kicking or congratulating ourselves next week?

Check back to find out!





Keeping Me Honest

Hi all. This post is more about holding myself accountable for a project I’m calling “Declutter Kym.”

Here’s a little background:

Last year, we moved my mom into a long-term care facility. (Before you ask, she’s fine. There have been no corona cases at her place, at least for now. Feel free to send prayers, good karma, whatever, that it stays that way.)

Anyway, Mom moved straight from the hospital to her new place, which left me the job of sorting, winnowing down, and cleaning out her belongings. She lived in a one-bedroom, one-floor apartment with four rooms including the bathroom.

It was not a large place.

Still, it’s amazing how much you can fit into a little place when you’re motivated, isn’t it?

Over the course of a month, I dug through Mom’s belongings, moving what she could use, and trying to make sure she had what she valued, while finding homes for the rest.

Fortunately, I had help. Darling Daughter gave up two of her weekends off to work with me, and The Engineer provided extra muscle and his van for the thrift shop donation and recycle bin trips, of which there were many. I also had two good friends help me sort out the last, for which I will be eternally grateful.

I wrote about some of this in an earlier post.

That experience caused me to look at my many, oh, so many, possessions with a new eye, and vow to pare them down to a more manageable amount.

You see, our house is too big for us and has been for years. We bought it because Mom was going to live with us (failed experiment), Darling Daughter was still in residence, and we had visitors from out of town fairly frequently.

Most of that is no longer true. It’s just The Engineer and I, and in a few years, we’ll move into a smaller place, which is another good reason to get rid of things.

Despite this, I ended up bringing “stuff” from Mom’s house to ours. I think she hoped we would sort of enfold all her extra items into our household, but even I drew the line at that.

Mostly, I took kitchen utensils and other useful items, but there were some sentimental objects too, and a huge collection of photos.

The albums took many evenings to sort through, and I’ve finally begun the process of scanning those relevant to my genealogy and loosely organizing the whole collection in archival envelopes and boxes.

Maybe someday I’ll sort through my own pictures and do the same.

First, I have other things I need to part with.

I began with the low-hanging fruit, books and clothing, keeping what I use or think I might use, and donating the rest.

In the ensuing months, however, I’ve learned this paring down process will need repeating  because my clothing and books again seem out of control.

Then there were the china cabinets.

I had a small corner cupboard, plus another small one Mom left after her brief residence with us. When we moved her, we brought home another, a larger, “primitive” one someone had made for her apartment.

I’d always liked that cupboard, homemade as it was, but face it, no one needs three china cabinets.

Our kitchen has enough cupboard space that I probably don’t need one. Yet I’d managed to fill two with garage sale treasures — Willow Ware, Lusterware, and bits of English china I’d collected through the years — and now brought a third one home.

Something had to be done before I managed to fill that one up too.  After a few weeks of trying to give it to friends, we donated Mom’s little one to a thrift store.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago when Darling Daughter was moving with into a house with her partner.

“Do you still have that little china cupboard that was Grandma’s?” she asked.


I looked again at the little corner cupboard (isn’t corner-shaped furniture clever?) and all the stuff inside.

I’d spent years and good money collecting those things, and had been putting off cleaning it out because that would be like admitting I’d wasted that money.

On the other hand, would anyone really buy any of it? Even if someone did, was the money I might recoup worth the time and effort it took to sell it?

Text to Darling Daughter: Do you want little corner china cabinet?

Response: Sure.

Response from Mom when I told her what was happening: What happened to my little cabinet?

See what I mean about enfolding her items into our household? In her mind, everything she owned is now living at my house.

Answer: Donated to Hospice shop.

Mom: I paid $150 for that!

Then she said she knew we couldn’t keep everything and it was okay.

Sunday, I cleaned out the collectibles, filling six empty kombucha boxes to take to the hospice shop. Working at a grocery store has proven very handy during the last year, if only as a continuing source of empty boxes :-).

This motivated me so much that today I sorted through my purses. I won’t tell you how many I’m getting rid of because it’s embarassing to own that many, but I’ll tell you I’m keeping about eight or ten, which should give you an idea.

In my defense, I bought most from charity shops and have used them all, but I no longer live a life that requires endless changes of purses. In fact, I’ve been using the same two for the last six months.

I know I still have too many.

It’s a process, remember?

And now, I need to look at those books again. Darling Daughter inherited a bookshelf from Mom, which we’ve been storing. Some of my books have accidentally migrated onto it, and I need to clear them out so we can take it to her.