I’m in isolation for six more days, and The Engineer is quarantined as well. Meanwhile, Poor Mom gets fourteen days in her room, though thankfully they started counting from last Tuesday’s visit.
Yesterday I noticed I was feeling a bit worse. Not I-can’t-breathe-go-to-the-hospital bad, just … worse.
Mostly I’m just tired. After every small task, I need a little sit-down and a cup of tea. Compare this to Saturday, when we prepared a raspberry bed. I dug the 9’x18″ plot while The Engineer planted trellises.
Now, I do something, and then sit down. It reminds me of when I was in chemo. Then, as now, I experienced few of the dreadful symptoms that go along with the illness and treatment. I was just exhausted.
And then, as now, the awareness of how lucky I am remains foremost in my mind.
So, I rest on the couch and drink tea I can’t taste. It’s still comforting, though the loss of smell and taste is slightly worse too.
When I try to sniff the eucalyptus oil, I don’t even feel it in the back of my throat.
Cooking is interesting right now. Today I made spaghetti sauce with lots of onion, peppers, and garlic.
How weird is it to cry from the onions you’re chopping but smelling?
On the bee news front, today we’ll treat give the bees their third Oxalic Acid treatment. We didn’t see much of a mite drop after the last one, which is a good sign.
It’s getting warmer, at least temporarily (this weekend, the nights are going below freezing again), and the girls have been quite active, even bringing in pollen
My co-beekeeper took this picture yesterday. Isn’t she beautiful?
Summer is slowly winding down, and the bees have been making the most of the fine weather. They’ve been in a foraging frenzy, perhaps sensing the forthcoming temperature changes.
It cooled down over the weekend, with rain on and off all day today. Each time the showers stop, the foraging begins again.
And yet, when we checked the hives a week or so ago, Buzzers’ Roost had no honey, and FreeBees had very little. Instead, we saw loads of pollen, lots of nectar, and a surprising amount of capped brood.
Still, with all that nectar, there’s bound to be some honey soon.
Check out the graphs below. Notice any trends?
The first two graphs show the weight of the hive over the last month — finally trending upward. The next two show a week each, and you’ll notice daily ups and downs, probably from when the foragers are out.
So, we’re not too worried about honey levels, at least not yet.
Below is a picture of a frame containing both nectar and pollen. We also found several that were filled solely with nectar or solely with pollen. Theoretically, we should be able to identify the source of the pollen by its color, but unfortunately, I’ve not found an accurate chart online. Here are links to two if you’d like to try: Sheffield Beekeepers’ Association and Metrobeekeepers.net. My guess is mostly goldenrod because the fields are full of it.
While we had the hives open, we did alcohol rolls on both. This is supposed to be a more accurate way to count Varroa.
Our count was a big fat zero on both hives.
Yeah, we must have done it wrong.
Either that or the hive beetles are eating them. Don’t even ask how many of those we found. It was too many to count.
The weird thing is, the bees mostly ignore the beetles. Once in a while, they’ll herd a particularly brazen one into a corner, but then the bees go back to whatever they were doing, and the beetle scuttles away. (Unless we get it first!)
There was propolis everywhere, especially around the beetle traps, which makes me wonder if this is the bees’ response to the pests. There were a few beetle corpses in some of the propolis, so who knows?
Unfortunately, our girls don’t seem to grasp that the traps are there to help them and had propolized the openings where the beetles are meant to enter. At least one trap had every opening completely blocked.
But let’s get back back to the subject of the main hive pest — the dreaded Varroa. For two years, we’ve used drone foundation as part of Varroa control, with very little success.
Last year, the hive used the drone foundation mostly for honey.
This year, both hives have ignored them.
This year, a few short weeks — okay, a few short months — before the workers start kicking out drones (to lower the number of mouths they have to feed in the winter), FreeBees has decided to make drone cells. Half the foundation was full of capped drone brood, and there were more cells on the top of some of the other frames.
Weird. Also unusual in placement. Drone cells are usually at the bottom of hive frames.
Whatever. It’s their hive. They can do what they want.
As we’d been instructed, we removed the drone foundation and opened the cells to check for Varroa, but found none there either.
I can’t believe there are no mites at all, but am willing, even eager, to believe the treatments have been working, and the threshold is safely low.
Just to be sure, we will treat both hives with Oxalic Acid before winter after we take off the supers.
I’m still holding out hope that we might be able to pull at least one frame of honey for ourselves.
Despite carefully setting the power washer away from the hives, The Engineer was stung last week when he attempted to wash our deck. Maybe the vibration upset them. Whatever it was, my poor husband ended up cleaning the deck in the August heat clothed from head to toe, including a bee hat and veil. Since his reaction to the sting was nearly identical to mine, I’ve concluded mine was probably one of our girls after all.
Below is a short clip of FreeBees on the front of their hive. I learned their “dancing” is also called “washboarding,” and nobody really knows for sure why they do it. It may be they are orienting themselves as mentioned in my earlier post. Or maybe they do it for a completely different reason. It’s interesting that, despite being the same race, Buzzers’ Roost bees haven’t behaved in this manner, especially since both hives seem well-populated.
FreeBees also “beard” more than Buzzers’ Roost. Bees do this when it’s hot — kind of hang out on the front of the hive and porch to alleviate the heat. To help in this endeavor, beekeepers can ensure the hive has adequate ventilation (a screened bottom board, more than one entrance, and possibly offset the boxes to allow more air to circulate) and water nearby. We’d already taken off the robbing screens, and both hives have screened boards, and top and bottom entrances, so all that was left was offsetting the boxes, which we did yesterday. We also set out a dish of water with sides shallow enough to prevent drowning while drinking. I’d done this earlier in the summer, but the bees ignored it. We’re trying again anyway.
The goldenrod is blooming! And as you can see from the video, our girls are as busy as bees, making their home a veritable hive of activity. (Sorry, but as soon as I sit down to write about them, the clichés flow just like, well, honey.) Maybe this new bounty will improve their mood. If you look carefully below, you’ll see cells packed with yellow pollen, and the glisten of nectar in a few other cells.
I had high hopes of seeing honey in the supers, but there was only a smidgen in Buzzers’ Roost and none at all in FreeBees. Still, I caught the faint whiff of butterscotch (some compare the scent of goldenrod honey curing to dirty socks, but it’s butterscotch-y to me), so maybe they’ve got some in the deep boxes.
We’ve avoided doing lengthy hive checks during the past month. No point in annoying them more than necessary! Yesterday’s check was just a quick peek at the supers.
Both hives have had issues with hive beetles. We’ve been using the traps, changing them out regularly, and are again trying the microfiber cloth. We tried this several times last year with Buzzers. Each time, they carried every strip of cloth all the way down through two deep boxes and out the front. Perhaps with a new queen, and all all new bees, they’ll leave it in place to catch beetles. Good news is: There were no flags of cloth out front this morning.
We still need to do an alcohol wash and mite count. Depending on the results, one or both hives may be due for another treatment before too long. I’m a little nervous about this, especially with FreeBees, because the process kills all the test bees, and their queen isn’t marked. If the weather cooperates, we’ll try for this weekend, maybe get an idea of their stores in the process. Please cross your fingers that all goes well.
In other news (and I use the term “news” loosely), I’ve been trying out new recipes like crazy in an effort to waste as little of our CSA share as possible. Earlier this month, I made and canned zucchini relish.
Spicy-hot, But Not Atomic, Zucchini Tomato Salsa
This week, it was zucchini tomato salsa. It’s definitely zucchini time!
They look a lot alike, but taste completely different. Both delicious, of course!
Soon, it will be pepper season, which means hot pepper jelly. I always make as many jars as possible because I give it as gifts at the holiday.
Pears, apples, and cider will follow, and be transformed into jars of applesauce, jams and jellies.
I know it’s silly, but I find canning so satisfying, not only for the food, but because it’s like a connection to my ancestors. My parents grew and canned almost all the jellies, fruit and vegetables we ate. They also put up grape and tomato juice. And I know that’s how my grandma and grandpa, and their parents managed to raise families down in West Virginia. Somewhere in heaven, I know Grandma is laughing that I’m so proud of a few jars in my pantry.
That’s okay. She, Grandpa, and my dad would also be pleased. And I know my mom is because she tells me so every time I take her a jar of jelly.