No News = No News

It’s been a busy few weeks. We were away two weekends in a row and have had a lot of social engagements when we’ve become accustomed to having few (and for a long time, none).

Plus, immediately after Oshkosh, my co-worker was on vacation, which meant I picked up an additional day at work. You wouldn’t think one day would make a big difference, but it did, coming just when peppers, tomatoes, and zucchini were coming in full force.

That meant one day spent making and canning hot pepper jelly, and another making and canning zucchini salsa.

Of course, both days were over 90F, making those endeavors that much more enjoyable.

Still, the work had to be completed, and we are once again fully stocked with salsa and jelly.

I also hoped to make zucchini relish, but found I didn’t have time (nor inclination). I got around the lack by the simple expedient of ordering some Slawsa. The grocery store where I work used to stock this condiment, but cut it just before I discovered how good it is. I found another store that carried it, but they seem to have dropped it too, so I was forced online.

Ah, well, needs must, and ordering online was better than another sweltering day in the kitchen.

We spent one weekend away in Columbus, fitting in a events we couldn’t have done a year ago (and may or may not be able to do in the near future).

First, The Engineer was able to finally redeem his certificate for an hour in a 737 simulator at Take Flight Ohio. Darling Daughter and I bought this form him for Christmas in 2019, but COVID interevened, postponing his “flight” until now.

I think it was probably the best gift we ever gave him.

We were also able to fit in dinner with Darling Daughter and her partner, before traipsing back to our hotel for the evening.

The next day, we went to Seltzerland — kind of like a beer festival, but with alcoholic seltzers. I’ll just say it was a beautiful day and a fun event, but I’m not sure I’d want to do it on a regular basis, though we did get a lot of cool swag.

If we hadn’t been fully stocked with coozies before (we were), we are now.

Saturday was completed with a passable Indian meal.

Then, on Sunday, we stopped to ride a few miles on a rail-trail we’ve been exploring. It’s in Holmes County, which is said to have the largest population of Amish and Mennonite in the world. Or maybe it was in the U.S.

I just looked it up, and the two websites I consulted say Holmes county actually has the second largest population in the country.

Doesn’t matter. What’s interesting is the rail-trail there was designed to accomodate both bikes and buggies.

For some reason, I feel like I mentioned this before in a post, so if this is a repeat, I’m sorry.

Here’s a picture from when we first rode the trail last year.

We’ve made plans to go back a few times to complete the trail because it’s a nice one.

The following week was full of work and canning and visiting Mom, and then it was Friday again, and we were off once more, this time for a camping trip with DD and her partner.

We went to Salt Fork, an Ohio state park that’s very popular, especially with boaters, because it’s around a huge (HUGE!) reservoir. Wikipedia says the lake is 2,952 acres.

Truly, there are many things you can do very well at this park — archery, swimming, boating, kayaking, horse camping, RVing — but tent camping isn’t one of them.

First of all, there’s very little shade. Secondly, there are possibly six sites suitable for tents unless you are the hardy type who prefers primitive camping.

Call me a wuss, but these days if I’m spending more than a few hours somewhere, I like to have running water.

I know there were only about six decent tent sites in the “developed” part of the campground because we looked.

Our site looked good on the reservation website, but turned out to contain one long tarmac pad almost parallel to the road, and two small grassy areas on either side of it, which left very little space to pitch tents.

The pegs from ours ended up about an inch from the road.

Still, we enjoyed ourselves, cooking over the fire and making tea using our Kelly Kettle.

Man, I love that thing. And I think we finally have the knack of starting the fire and keeping it going.

Did I mention the weather was hot? So hot, in fact, we had to leave our unshaded campsite to visit a microbrewery Saturday afternoon. 🙂

Fortunately, the Wooly Pig Farm Brewery was a mere half-hour away.

Specializing in German-style brews, staffed with friendly, courteous people, and with plenty of shaded, outdoor seating, the brewpub was a great find.

Plus … pigs. The wooly sort. Although — full disclosure — the only pig we saw was wallowing in the mud with its eyes closed beneath a tree.

Not that I blamed it — that mud did look cool and inviting.

Wooly Pig (the brewery, not the farm animal) also had a food truck, and food trucks are one of my favorite things about visiting small breweries. Something about the symbiotic partnership of two small businesses just makes me smile.

Also, they had loads of colorful zinnias that were full of pollinators!

It was our kind of place. Even The Engineer, who tends to prefer British-style beer, admitted to liking it.

We liked it so much, in fact, we stopped the next day for lunch on our way home.

By now, you may be wondering what’s up with the bees, so I’ll give you a quick report. That’s all I can give you because bees don’t like it when you bother them with a full hive check in hot weather.

I think I may have mentioned it’s been hot.

And yet, we know all three hives are full of bees because they look like this.

That’s the original OH, Girls on the left and second OH, Girls split on the right.

The pictures below are of the first OH, Girls split, taken from different angles so you can see just how many bees there were on the hive.

It’s cooled down slightly, so the beard is a bit thinner now. Think goatee or soul patch instead of the full ZZ Top/Lumberjack version above.

This morning we had a quick look at just the honey supers, stealing five more frames from the original OH, Girls hive, and taking them down to two supers by removing five other lightly filled frames.

Goldenrod is just starting to bloom, and we can smell the honey being made from about four feet away. It smells of butterscotch (some people say old socks, though I’m not sure where they get that from!).

We’ll have a better idea about the hives’ statuses when it cools enough to do a complete check. With any luck, they’ll have a good fall harvest and make plenty of honey for themselves. Although I do love Goldenrod and Aster honey, I’d rather they have enough for the winter.

Meanwhile, come Monday, we will be treating them again, this time with Formic Pro strips. The weather is predicted to be below 85 for the next few weeks, making it possible to switch up our treatment method to this one.

Because we’ve had issues with bees dying, including several queens, when using formic acid strips, we do the longer 20 day treatment of one strip for ten days followed by a second strip for another ten days. It’s slightly less effective, but we’ve found it results in a much lower mortality rate.

Also next week, we plan to extract the frames we’ve pulled.

Sometime after that will come the second batch of mead.

And I still need to research wax rendering. I’m not completely satisfied with the methods I’ve tried, and I’d like to use the candle forms I won to make some candles.

So, as you see, there’s been no actual news. We’ve just been very busy, and it doesn’t look like we’ll be slowing down anytime soon.

Dual Queens

Remember the dying queen? I wouldn’t blame you if you don’t. With all my talk about queens, even I find it hard to keep them straight.

Anyway, it turns out the dying queen isn’t dead. This is quite a surprise because when we checked that hive (the first split from OH, Girls this year) on 4 July, we were very happy to find the beautiful new queen the workers bred to replace her. Here’s her picture from that inspection.

Today, when we checked that hive, The Engineer once again spotted New Queen (near the bottom, surrounded by her attendants). And isn’t she gorgeous?

Only later, he also spotted Dented Queen.


In this picture, she’s pointed out with a hive tool, and I’ve circled her in red to make her easier to spot. You can clearly see her dented thorax. (Note all that lovely, glistening white larvae beside her!)

Here’s another pic.

She’s surrounded by her court of attendants.

But if you look at the picture below, and you have sharp eyes, you’ll find both Dented Queen (near the hive tool) and New Queen (near the capped brood at the top of the picture.

Above is Dented Queen (middle left) and New Queen (upper right, circled).
Dented Queen (red) and New Queen (green)

We heard this sometimes happens, but when we took our classes, I got the impression that having two queens co-exist in a hive was unusual. True, there are ways beekeepers occasionally manipulate hives to run two queens, usually by using queen excluders to keep the royalty in separate areas of the hive.

The situation can also arise when one queen isn’t yet mated, the bees are getting ready to swarm or they just haven’t killed the old queen yet. According to this article, the workers keep the two queens in separate parts of the hive, but as these pictures show, New Queen is definitely mated, and she’s not only on the same frame as Dented Queen, she’s mere inches away.

And these two have been sharing the same hive for at least ten days, likely longer.

I expect eventually the workers will kill Dented Queen. She’s still moving and laying, but very slowly, while New Queen sprints around laying as fast as she can.

Meanwhile, the workers have been making comb on the new frames we gave them like their lives depend on it.

Oh, yeah … their lives do sort of depend on it. They’ll need that comb to store honey for winter.

Such a pretty sight (especially after yesterday’s mess)

And our two queens are already using the new comb. There’s larvae in both the pictures below, although it’s harder to spot in the second one.


After our unusual find in the split, we looked in on the Kremlin. I was ready to dispatch Olga to the big beehive in the sky and steal a frame of brood from OH, Girls split #1 so Kremlin workers could make a new queen. The Engineer convinced me we should give her one more chance. Her laying seems to be improving slightly, with more larvae closer together, but if it’s not dramatically better at the end of the month, they’re going to have to make a new queen. This is cutting it fine because August is when beekeepers need to start thinking (read “worrying”) about winter.

There’s an expression about beekeeping, something like “Take care of the bees that will take care of the bees that will need to live through the winter,” and August is when that begins.

Olga needs to step up her game.

Lastly, we had a look at the honey supers on OH, Girls and stole two filled frames, replacing them with super frames with drawn combs. Truthfully, we could have probably pulled more for extraction, but we’re being conservative this year and waiting until the frames are at least 90% full … at least as long as nectar is still coming in.

A lot of the frames look like this, nearly solid on one side and not completely capped on the other (although some had a lot more capped on side #2).

We considered putting a honey super on OH, Girls Split #1 because the hive has a lot of bees, along with a queen cup that might have had larva in it. Ultimately, we chose not to. We gave them several empty frames when we put them in the big boxes so they still have space.

Also, we tempted fate by leaving the queen cup. We’re not 100% sure it was filled, and if we scraped it off, and they want to swarm, they’d just build another.

Speaking of swarms, we still have three swarm boxes up, and at least two are getting a lot of attention from scout bees.

I’m not sure where we’d put another hive, but we could probably find space on one of the stands if we have to. 🙂


Bee Bus Arrival: Hello GeeBees

A week ago, on a lovely spring day, we picked up our package of bees. Because the weather was so nice, we were able to install them immediately (unlike last year).

By evening, they were beginning to bring in pollen, and on warmer days this week, they’ve been quite active.

The girls came not from Michigan as expected, but Georgia with a Michigan-bred queen who was mated in Georgia.

Intitially we were concerned because in the US, when you buy southern bees, you run the risk of getting Africanized bees, notorious for being overly aggressive and dangerous. It soon became clear, however, that the bees we received were mild-tempered, interested only in adjusting to their new circumstances. And, on review of the package description, I discovered I had misread the details.

Also, the package seemed to me to have fewer bees than last year’s, an idea that may be only a figment of my imagination.

Photo by The Engineer

Below are two pictures from the 2020 Bee Bus, but since they’re from a different angle from this year’s photo, it’s hard to tell.

The 2020 package was the Saskatraz bees that grew into the hive that made it through the winter. We named them California Girls, but rechristened them OH Girls to celebrate their having survived an OH (Ohio) winter).

In a nod to their origin, the new hive is called GeeBees (Georgia Bees).

We had a bit of a scare during the week when I came home to find a frenzy of bees at the entrance of the new hive. I was sure they were being raided for the honey stocks we’d given them and blocked the entrance until things calmed down. When I reopened it, the girls came streaming out, so perhaps it was them all along.

Still, I’d rather be safe than sorry.

We plan to look in both hives tomorrow — a quick check to see if the queen has been released in GeeBees and a more lengthy look at OH Girls.

While picking up a few things at Queen Right Colonies, I found Honey B Healthy has a new product called Amino B Booster, which I’m looking forward to trying. If I’m reading the information correctly, it may be a better supplement than pollen patties, which tend to attract Hive Beetles.

I also picked up two frames and wax foundation so we can try to jar some comb honey this year.

In other unrelated news, I managed to get an appointment for my first vaccine next week. I’m nervous because I’ve read if you’ve had the virus, it can really knock you down.

Stay tuned for details and more bee progress updates!