You Gotta Love a Future Eagle Scout

Justin Dunham in the Meadow at California Woods Nature Preserve

Reader, it’s time for you to meet Justin Dunham. Justin is a young man determined to reintroduce honeybees to California Woods Nature Preserve. But to get started, he’s had to sort of corral me…in a season that’s made me almost uncorralable (yes, I may be inventing words here, but it works). And Justin has very politely and diplomatically and doggedly pursued me, pinned me down, won me over.

Justin is a boy scout who is plotting to reintroduce honeybees to the nature preserve as a part of his Eagle-Scout project. I mean seriously, I love Eagle Scouts. I know a few, and I like each of them a whole lot.

Apparently, California Woods Nature Preserve once had a small beeyard, but because of budget cuts, the staff could no longer afford to manage the bees there, and the beeyard fell away with the money. When Justin visited with the nature-preserve staff and explained his idea to them, they explained back that although he was welcome to put bees in the old beeyard, there would be no one available to manage them…the staff probably thought this would be a real obstacle for Justin, but, as I told you earlier, he’s a determined young man. I think Justin spells “obstacle” C-H-A-L-L-E-N-G-E.

Justin discovered this TwoHoneys website, where he learned that I manage honeybees placed in various properties around Cincinnati and Kentucky. A little light bulb lit in him. Justin figured this was part of his solution…he would orchestrate the various players—the bees, the staff at the nature preserve, and me. So he contacted me. I hate to say that I didn’t respond to his first email. I wanted to, but things were flying apart around me at the time, and I put it off. Justin was not deterred. He contacted me again. He got my phone number and he called me. He called me again. Justin has a steady and even voice. He knows what he wants to say when he says it. You can hear him thinking before he speaks. And I like that a lot in a young man. He very respectfully and yet persistently contacted me until I responded to him. Then, he then kept me on track with our conversations and with setting dates for our meeting at the nature preserve.

We met for the first time amid a fury of mosquitos yesterday. Justin wore one of his scout uniforms, and I like that. A lot. Justin’s dad, Jeff, drove him to the nature preserve and walked the trail to the beeyard with us, where we all discussed the promises and the challenges of Justin’s project. Justin carried a notebook with him. He took notes.

Reader, this is your introduction-to-Justin post. I have a feeling you’ll be getting to know Justin pretty well over the next years. He has four years to complete this project…which, I’ll have you know, involves more than simply putting a few beehives in an open field and turning them over to my care. But I’ll let you wonder more about it…I’m not gonna spill all the beans right here.


What I Reclaimed from the Compost Heap

I spent some time yesterday setting up the site for the new bee colonies. First, Deb helped me move the remnant of an old wood pile. Then, I had to move the compost heap.

As I was shoveling the compost to its new spot, I uncovered something that promises to work great in the smoker I use to calm the bees. Yep, you guessed it.


Preparing the Ways

Yesterday I began the process of converting to foundationless frames. I’m going to let the bees do their thing without purchased, pre-formed beeswax. Why? Well, there are good reasons, none of which I will go into here—I think these past few posts have been sort of boring because there’s just too much detail.

To prepare my new frames, I used melted wax to attach popsicle sticks to the bottom of the frames. Hopefully, the bees will use these as a guide with which to build their comb.

I made sort of a mess of things, though. They sell special wax-applying gizmos, but I don’t want no stinkin’ gizmos. I melted my wax in a glass measuring thingy that I’d placed in a pan of boiling water. Problem is, spits of wax splattered the stove and the countertops, and Deb’s freaky freaky about keeping those things spotless. It took me forever to clean it off. I can see already that I’m gonna have to buy a little hotplate and do all this work in the basement at my workbench.

Here are the globby frames. My bees have to be very patient with me.

popsicle sticks on foundationless frames
popsicle sticks on foundationless frames

Also, I mowed a nice, wide path to the bee yard. Poison Ivy in the path had become an issue. Every time I took someone to see the bees I had to ask, “How are you with Poison Ivy?” Invariably everyone stood there like a frozen sissy. So, I mowed the sissies a swath.

new path to the bee yard


Even with the one hive of bees dead, I’m so so eager to get started with this stuff again. I’ve now got a basement brimming with pretty brood boxes, supers, bottom boards, inner covers, outer covers, feeders…and there’s nothing I can do with any of it until spring…meaning March or April. Okay…I need to settle down a bit because it’s only January.

But it’s the end of January. Which means it’s almost February. Which means my one sweet Amazon queen will begin laying her eggs. Which means there will then be new bees. Which means the possibility of swarming. YIPPEE.

I mean, really, it was quite affirming to see those girls so busy in that box yesterday. It warmed my heart. I want a yard and a garden full of them.

I like the guy in this video. He’s one of those hearty Minnesotans (if you’ve never been to Minnesota, trust me…GO!). I like the way his bee yard looks. I like the way he’s set up his hives (mine aren’t set up this way, but I might do it in the future). I like his attitude. Maybe I’ll go to Minnesota to meet him.