The Dark Side of Beekeeping

Until now, I’ve not dwelled on the dark aspects of a beekeeper’s job.

No, I’m not talking about losing hives, dying queens, or even the Dreaded Varroa Destructor Mites.

I mean old beeswax.

Beeswax is a lovely substance. In its cleaner form, it smells delicious, is great for wood and has many other uses including beeswax wraps.

Unfortunately, wax that’s been reused gets old and ugly, and eventually bees refuse to use those frames.

I can’t say I blame them. The many herbicides and pesticides used in our world can accumulate in the wax and begin to affect the young bees.

Recently, we realized many of our frames have reached this state and have begun to clean and/or replace them.

Initially, we tried to extract the honey from the old frames, but it proved a lost cause. Instead we scraped them, and The Engineer powerwashed both the frames and foundation.

What to do with all that dirty, ugly wax though … hmmm, such a quandary.

Well, it turned out there was some honey, so I strained that to feed to the bees. It’s a little dark, and probably partly sugar rather than nectar, but I tasted a bit, and it’s not horrible. The Kremlin and the newest OH, Girls Split seem to like it.

I probably don’t need to remind you that honey is very, very sticky, but I’m going to anyway so you can understand the full beauty of what I was dealing with.

Straining left a dripping dark, sticky substance that stupid me decided to try to melt down.

Do NOT do this. It’s a waste of time. You get very little decent wax from a mountain of disgusting grunge.

Here’s an example of part of the mess I was working with.

At first it didn’t go too badly. I ended up getting what looked like a brand new electric roaster for $20. Using this at 200F, my first pile of wax left me with a dirty pile of … stuff … and more honey.

Still, honey is good, right? Better for the bees than pure sugar syrup, at least.

Once again, I strained the honey from the gunk, then did the same to the the other pile.

Next, I wrapped the black sludge (I’m running out of synonyms for what I cannot in good conscience call beeswax) in a cheesecloth, tied it tightly, and put it back in the roaster, with water.

Theoretically, the wax will melt and rise to the top, the gunk will stay put in the cheesecloth, and any honey that’s left will wash away with the water.

I’ve done this with cappings from when we’ve extracted, and it actually works.

Unfortunately, this stuff proved to have very little usable wax. And making matters worse, when I lifted out the second batch (while still hot, so it doesn’t get stuck in the wax), the cheesecloth slipped from my tongs and dropped back into the roaster.

Picture the first Apollo splashdown only with hot wax and honey.

Yes. It was a Big Mess, and I used every bad word I knew.

I hope the neighbors didn’t hear.

And, oh, yes, the floor.

This is from one side of the island. There was an equally disgusting spill on the other.

Lessons Learned:

  1. It’s probably worth it to stain and even heat dark old wax for the honey.
  2. It is not worth wasting cheesecloth, time and effort to try to render the wax.
  3. An electric roaster if you can get one cheap is excellent for melting wax.
  4. A smarter person would have used said roaster outside for this job, perhaps in the garage, if it’s raining or you’re worried about attracting every bee in the neighborhood.
  5. Cleaning beeswax from a linoleum floor is possible, but not fun. I used water heated in the electric kettle, a scrubby, a towel, and a mop.

That’s how I’ll do it next time, minus the scrubbing the floor (I hope).

I’ve learned from my mistakes. But I’ll feel a lot better if you do too.

On the bright side, here are the brand new frames we’ll be using to swap out the rest of the old ones in our hives. The Engineer assembled them, and they’re waiting for me to apply a better coat of wax.

If only I could have somehow used the stuff in the roaster …

New Hive Configuration … Again (short update)

In the end, we decided to harness the strength of OH, Girls Split #1 by putting it into two deeps (far left). We discussed moving the Kremlin into the small nuc boxes previously occupied by OH, Girls Split #1, but instead chose to take it down to a single deep box and make use of our feeding lid. This style of lid was supposedly developed in Siberia, which seems appropriate for a Russian-queened hive ;-).

Making these changes required several steps performed on different days.

  1. We inspected OH, Girls Split #1 on 3 July (although WordPress dated my post that day as 4 July).
  2. On 4 July, we moved them into two deep boxes, a fairly straightforward procedure of just moving their frames into different boxes. It was interesting because we could tell as soon as we inserted the frame that must have had the queen because the noise level of the bees on the other frames in the new box dropped exponentially. Still, any moving of bees results in some confusion because the foragers who are out who come back expecting to find the hive to which they are oriented, and it’s not there.
  3. As a result, due to the proximity of these two hives and the number of perplexed bees flying around, we chose to wait until today to wait to swap lids (having temporarily used the Siberian lid — the only spare one we had — on OH, Girls Split #1) and take the Kremlin down to one box. It’s a much better fit for them.

In the new setup, we have (from left to right) OH, Girls Split #1, the Kremlin, OH, Girls, and OH, Girls Split #2. Or something like that. We’re not 100% sure which of the two right hives has the queen OH, Girls made when we split it the first time, and which is making a new queen (we hope). The hive second from the right is more populated, but the one on the far right has foragers bringing in pollen, which can indicate they are feeding new brood.

We won’t know for sure until we check them toward the end of the month.

Our next step will be to treat the Kremlin with Oxalic Acid again. Because there’s brood (albeit not much), we will repeat this weekly for three weeks to be sure we get most the Varroa. I’ve written about the different treatments and their pros and cons before, so I won’t detail it all again here. Suffice to say, the hot weather we are experiencing precludes using Formic Pro.

And, that’s all the news from the OH, Girls Apiary … at least until the next drama. 🙂

Broody? Or Not?

Today we checked out OH, Girls Split #1. This is the nuc we created on 12 May from the ever-giving OH, Girls hive.

Of course, this was after we noticed the second split from this hive was being raided. I was surprised because the split is well-populated, but everything was fine once we put on this special screen we bought to use on such an occasion. In truth, this is the first time we’ve thought to use it, and I must say it worked very well. Things calmed down immediately. It’s similar to this one, but made of wood.

At any rate, once we got over that small disaster, we took the inner cover off the first split, and found this on the back of it.

Underneath was this.

It seems the girls have been rather busy. Thankfully, The Engineer thought to save that comb and the honey to add in when we extract.

This queen is prolific. Six of the ten frames in the hive were covered with capped brood and larvae.

Like their cousins in the original OH, Girls hive, these bees had refused to work a couple of the older frames, and now that we understand this, we’ve replaced two, and will replace the remaining ones as soon as we can find some new black foundation.

They had also filled and capped one deep frame of honey, which we stole from them, mostly to give the queen space to work. We added another deep nuc box too because they were bursting at the seams.

Here she is, much darker than her half-sister in the original hive, but equally big and fat!

We need to think how to give this hive more room — perhaps move the frames into full-sized boxes.

Next, we opened the Kremlin, and as The Engineer said, it was like moving from a crowded city to the country, with a lot fewer bees, and not nearly as much activity.

This could partly be attributed to the fact that they too have some old comb, but I’m afraid I think it’s Olga. Her laying remains spotty even on the brand new and newish comb and frames.

It’s here that having more than one hive becomes beneficial because we have options.

  • We could move a frame or two of brood from one of the crowded hives into the Kremlin. Unfortunately, I think this would just put off the issue. Besides, we gave them a frame when we introduced Olga. It may have helped them accept her, but they should be growing at a faster rate.
  • Another thing we discussed almost jokingly was to swap houses with the OH, Girls split. After all, we have a hive in small boxes that’s running out of space, and a hive in two full-sized boxes that can’t seem to fill them. I’m not sure this would remedy Olga’s poor laying, but it would benefit the split.
  • We could also requeen the hive, or “encourage” it to requeen itself. This could be done in conjunction with either of the above choices.

The Kremlin also needs treated for Varroa again because there was brood when we did the vaporizer a few weeks ago.

We generally prefer to mix up our treatment, and would normally use Formic Pro strips for this, but the weather has been too hot. It’s cooler now, but supposed to hit the 90s again next week, which is too hot for that method.

Right now, I think our best bet would be to do three treatments of Oxalic Acid over a period of as many weeks, then swap boxes with the split, give Olga another few weeks to show what she can do, and then requeen in some way if she hasn’t improved.

The Engineer and I will think on and discuss this before making any decisions.

In the meantime, tomorrow we will look again at the honey supers on OH, Girls with our fingers crossed (as always) hoping to find enough capped honey to make it worth the effort of extracting.

I’ll keep you posted.

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.