Thursday, May 31, 2007

Beekeeping ( A second try)

I guess the frequency and the shortness of my posts can say a little bit about how life has been going lately. Even when I do have the time I do not have the concentration or the energy.

So, as I was saying before...Summer is here.

Over the last year or so many beekeepers have been losing their bees. The causes and symptoms are unknown or disputed. They are referring to it as Colony Collapse Disorder.

In my recent internship for the Stratford Ecological Center, I was able to try my hand at some beginner beekeeping. Aware that this phenomenon has been taking place, I wasn't expecting anything too spectacular. Last year Stratford lost their bees to a more well known diseased called Foul Brood. So when we ordered new bees (twice because the first batch died out in the cold snap of March), I was able to set them up in their hive. This was a challenge, getting into some beekeeping equipment, trying to practice my fine motor skills in leather gloves to my elbows, and a large brimmed netted hat. After shaking (yes, actual shaking) the bees from their travel container which consisted of no more than a few pieces of meshed stapled to a wooden frame, we inserted the queen and her worker bees into the hive. The queen comes encased in a box with a candy like substance that the bees eat through to get her out. After feeding them sugar water, because not many flowers and pollen were not out yet, we went to disassemble a hive from last year.

Much to our surprise there were bees living in it! It was a decent sized wild swarm that had taken residence in the empty hive. While other beekeepers were losing their hives, we were catching new ones!

It was a lucky time to see them, because we were able to witness a rare occasion of a rainbow in the comb consisting of honey, brood (or eggs) and pollen.

After that day we got busy on the farm and did not get out to see them much. My boss would check on them from time to time, but I did not suit up again. Then last week (when I originally started to write this post) something exciting happened. Another wild swarm made its way into the machine shed and into some unused hives were were storing in the loft. This gave us a chance to suit up again!

This time however, I was wearing shorts and a tank top. With the two beesuits alread in use, I put on a hat and a pair of gloves. Not wanting to let a beekeeping opportunity pass me by, I thought I would take the chance. We moved the hive outside and let the swarm settle in. This gave us the opportunity to check on the other hives.

The original swarm that moved in during early spring was now thriving and outgrowing their hive. Bees were all over the outside of the box and clinging to the grass outside of the entrance. The insides were full of honey, pollen, brood, and pupa. It was beautiful!

While I was standing outside of the hive and two other people were opening it up, I was able to just stand in the sun, bees swarming around me, in shorts and a tank top completely comfortable. I did not get stung, I was not afraid, in reality I was at peace with the bees.

Anyways, I just found this all fascinating, I hope you did too.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007


So it's pretty much summer here in Ohio. Wildflowers are bloomed and gone, the garden is greening, my skin is satisfyingly brown (and slightly pink), and it's HOT.

With finals over, I've had slightly more time on my hands. Still spending my days at Stratford, I was able to go to Alum Creek after a hot day on the farm. Alum Creek State Park is about 10 minutes from our house and offers a fabulous swimming area on the lake. There was a large number of sailboaters and four swimmers doing laps in wetsuits. I didn't blame them, it was chilly, but it felt good to stick my feet into the water and bravely dunk myself enough to get my head wet.

So life is good and the weather is perfect. Looking forward to the summer, camping, softball, baseball, and beer.

I need to go shower and get the lake dirtiness off of me.