Poetry Sunday: In the Month of May

In the Month of May


In the month of May when all leaves open,
I see when I walk how well all things
lean on each other, how the bees work,
the fish make their living the first day.
Monarchs fly high; then I understand
I love you with what in me is unfinished.

I love you with what in me is still
changing, what has no head or arms
or legs, what has not found its body.
And why shouldn’t the miraculous,
caught on this earth, visit
the old man alone in his hut?

And why shouldn’t Gabriel, who loves honey,
be fed with our own radishes and walnuts?
And lovers, tough ones, how many there are
whose holy bodies are not yet born.
Along the roads, I see so many places
I would like us to spend the night.

Long trap-out cone (I plan to shorten this today)

I Worried all Night about the Trap-Out Bees

Two days ago, a woman called me to say she had just witnessed a swarm moving into the roof of her porch. And lately there’s been a discussion among my Beemaster.com forum friends about how easy it is collect a swarm immediately foll0wing its move into a structure, so I decided to give it a try.

Now, let me say right up front, that it’s a LOT easier to capture a swarm BEFORE it moves into a structure. When my friends say it’s easy to trap a swarm, they mean it’s easier than cutting (which is a helluva lot of work and destructive to the home) or trapping an established hive (a process which usually takes 12-16 weeks). No matter what, setting up a trap out is sort of complicated.

So, yesterday I assembled and installed my first swarm trap out. But I think I got a few things wrong, and I need to return today to make it work better.

There are details I won’t add here because the process may bore you…but the theory is this: We want to encourage the bees to easily transition from their porch home and into a hive box. At this point, because they’ve lived in their porch cavity less than 48 hours, the colony has very little invested there…they’ve built very little comb, they have no brood, and they have very little stored honey—all of which means they will more willingly leave it.

So, before setting up the catch box, I spent some time closing off all their other entrance points by stuffing holes in the porch with insulation and calk…for a trap out, it’s important to control the bees’ point of exit and reentry. I designed a cone from #8 hardware cloth that will allow the bees to leave for foraging but will confuse them when they try to reenter. And near their old entry point, I’ve placed a very nice new home (one that some of my bees lived in over the winter…so it smells like bees), complete with open brood (from one of my other hives…the new bees will find the open brood very appealing and will want to take care of it, so they’ll choose to stay) and a few frames of honeycomb (from a recent cut out). I’ve added a few drops of lemongrass oil and swarm lure to make it smell like home.

I placed the lure box near the entrance to the bee’s new porch home, so when they return from foraging and find their old home inaccessible, they can simply wander right into their new digs.

Today I plan to move the lure box closer to their porch entrance (which I’ll have to do by suspending the hive box with ropes), and I plan to shorten the cone so the bees won’t have so far to travel out of it…we want their leaving and their choosing a new home upon their return to be easy.

It stormed all night long, and I could hardly sleep wondering how those bees were doing over there. This stuff is tough on the psyche, but it sure is good for keeping the brain exercised.

Long trap-out cone (I plan to shorten this today)
Catch box and the trap-out cone
Radishes from Amy

Radishes, Lettuce, and Pears

I love keeping bees not only because of the bees and the honey…I love keeping bees because they present me with challenges, and they allow me to spend time with people I might otherwise never meet or hang with.

You remember Amy the swarm capturer? I think of her as Cincinnati’s version of Martha Stewart (with attitude) complete with garden, kitchen, chickens, etc. (FYI: Amy is way more buff than Martha. Amy lifts the heaviest hive boxes). Some of my visits to Amy’s bees end with a gift from her garden.

Yesterday, on the way to her hives, Amy pointed out that her pear trees (from which she collected her swarm) are already bearing fruit. Sure enough…there were tons of little brown pears growing. I love pears. And when I left her, Amy gifted me with some beautiful finger radishes, lettuce, and two jars of the pretty pears she canned last season.

Deb ate every radish that I didn’t add to our Amy’s-lettuce salad, and at Amy’s suggestion, we used the pear syrup to sweeten our iced tea. It was a delicious meal (though Amy would probably disapprove of the tube of Pillsbury Grands! Golden Layer biscuits that Deb specifically requested we eat with our steak. Deb needs comfort food right now).

Matt and Doug meet Doug's Bees

Resources for New Beekeepers

Doug will arrive any minute now to pick up a swarm I captured hanging from a loading dock two days ago. I brought the swarm home in a cardboard box (my preferred method these days) and immediately hived the swarm in two medium-depth supers and on foundationless frames. Doug will want a crash course in top-entrances, bottom-board feeders, foundationless frames, medium-depth supers, and all the other quirky things I’ve incorporated into my apiary.

Matt and Doug meet Doug's Bees

Here’s the reason for this post: A number of wonderful people want to keep bees, and they want to start right this minute. And I’m more than happy to accommodate. However, I don’t have the time right now to teach all these nice people how to keep bees. It’s a process that takes many years to learn (though everyone has to begin…so it’s fine that folks want to start right off…I did too. But then I had to begin reading my crazy brains out to figure out what to do with all those bees in the box. And I encourage all beekeepers to likewise read their brains out).

I’ve compiled the following list of resources that I found invaluable as I began keeping bees. So, Doug, welcome to the first of your many many future hives. Now, start learning from the world-wide community of awesome beekeepers:

  1. Linda’s Bees. I’ll bet I’ve read every entry of this blog.
  2. The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Beekeeping: Written by smart people who keep their bees treatment free. Change the world.
  3. Any word ever written by my bee hero, Michael Bush: The Practical Beekeeper (both the website and Michael’s new book contain the same information…the book is simply more organized.
  4. Michael Bush and my other bee heros (such as JP and kathyp and iddee and schawee and others) post frequently at my favorite beekeeping forum: Beemaster.com. Go there, sign up, and read until you can’t ready any more. I read the posts in General Beekeeping, Bee Removal, and Top-Bar Hives almost every morning. Watch JP’s bee removal videos. It all contributes to making me a better and more knowledgeable beekeeper.
  5. There’s a group of wildly radical natural beekeepers over at the Organic beekeepers yahoo group. I highly recommend subscribing to the group and reading the threads. Yes, they’re radical vigilantes, but they’re also right about it.
  6. Read everything about Dee Lusby, the leader of the Yahoo group and a misbehaving woman. I’ve spent time with her, and I find her sweet and shy. She’s simply right and ruthless about eliminating chemicals in our food and on our plants and in our beehives, and she keeps on talking. Which I find heroic. Google her.
  7. Learn all you can learn about running all medium-depth supers (this is Michael Bush’s big idea, so read him).
  8. Learn all you can about running foundationless frames.
  9. Learn all you can about Langstroth hives with top-entrances (Michael Bush again).
  10. Read all you can about Michael Bush’s idea for using the bottom board for a feeder (Yep…Michael Bush).

Below is a list of beekeeping suppliers I use and like. You can find equipment and order online, but upon request, each of these companies will also send a paper catalog, and I find I learn a lot by thumbing through those. I like the pictures. But, let me say this when it comes to beekeeping equipment: Less is best. I ordered a lot of little things I thought I’d need and will never ever use. I’ve since simplified (and I usually keep on hand the few pieces of equipment I use in my own apiary. So, if you need something immediately, I’ve probably got it, and I’m happy to sell it to you):

  1. Walter T. Kelley
  2. Brushy Mountain
  3. Dadant
  4. Mann Lake
  5. Rossman Apiaries