Reintroducing Honeybees to California Woods Nature Preserve

Once you start a good thing in motion, it sort of takes off, doesn’t it? I’m thinking of Justin Dunham’s drive for Eagle Scout and his project to reintroduce honeybees to the California Woods Nature Preserve.

To my mind, Justin has shown a great deal of maturity as he’s corralled the resources and coordinated the various entities involved. You know, Reader, it’s not easy to work the red tape…particularly red tape involving state or county or city or other government systems. And especially particularly when coordinating government and private businesses…which is exactly what Justin’s doing in this Eagle Scout project.

Yesterday, Justin coordinated and chaired a meeting of Gia Giammarino, Manager of California Woods Nature Preserve (one of Cincinnati’s City Parks), Justin Dunham (future Eagle Scout and all-around successful person), Justin’s dad (the future beekeeper Jeff Dunham), and me (Queen Bee at TwoHoneys Bee Co). We all sat together at a picnic table in the shade of California Woods and planned the honeybee reintroduction. There’s a lot to consider…I won’t list all of the details of our discussions here…I’ll let Justin’s work simply unfold. But let me say that he’s getting it done. He’s keeping us on track.

Let me also simply say that soon Justin and his scout buddies will be clearing some trails and an overgrown bee yard. He will be making some room…you know these things don’t simply happen. Preparation is involved. And there are literal thorns to battle. And probably poison ivy. There are definitely mosquitos.

Gia Giammarino and Justin Dunham discuss honeybees

My New Green Metal Lawn Chairs

I’ve been handing out the coolest business cards ever. Seriously. Ever. And they all contain the address that leads to this blog. Which will (honest-to-goodness) eventually be a full-blown website. Jerod and I are working on it. But for now, that web address leads folks right here. So I’d better provide something worth finding once people get here, yes?

Today I want you to meet my new chairs. For some reason I’ve become a little bit obsessed about metal lawn chairs, and I’ve begun to carry cash in my pocket so I can offer people money wherever I find them. (Reader, if you’ve got a metal chair anything like this one…or a metal glider…please let me know. I want it.)

A couple of days ago, I discovered these on a front porch near a local Starbucks. There was a very threatening (for some reason I read it as hyperbolic) note taped to the front door, so I went ahead and knocked. No answer. Knocked again. Nothing. But there was a truck in the side yard (to say it was in a driveway would be overstating it), and this note led me to indicate that whoever lives at this house isn’t planning on answering the *effing* door, so I went around to the side and knocked on a door I found there. Waited. Knocked again. Then, the side door creaked open and a most interesting looking man walked out in his stocking feet. I liked him.

I asked him if I could buy his chairs. He said I could have them. He doesn’t like them. Never has liked them. It was his mother who liked them.

I asked him who painted his house those two shades of blue. He laughed. Said he and a friend did it a few years ago (I’m betting they were high when they did it. I’m betting he was high during our conversation). I told him that whoever chose the paint color for that house would also naturally love those chairs, but he said, no, take the chairs. I paid him $20 for the pair and put them in my car. As I put my beauties in my car, I worried a little bit if it was okay to do business with someone who is high. Then I decided that it’s his business if he does business while he’s high. I thought it was a fair deal. Heck, I don’t even know if that guy lives in that house.

I wish wish wish I’d taken his picture. And a picture of the sign on the front door. It may be worth going back to get the pictures. But, you know, Reader, sometimes you just want to let things be the way they were because they were so good. That’s sort of the way I feel about meeting this guy and getting these chairs.

What does all of this have to do with bees? A lot. Every beekeeper needs a good chair to sit in while she watches her bees fly.

My First Swarm-Bait Box Is Now Hung in a Tree

You know, I wait all winter long…think all winter long…plan and build all winter long…and still I am late when it comes to execution. Well, maybe not late, but certainly not early.

I think it’s swarm season, and as of yesterday I still hadn’t hung my home-built swarm boxes in their trees.

So, yesterday I hung one box in a tree in my beeyard. I’m not sure it’s high enough, and I may have put a bit too much lemongrass oil in the little container, but it’s hung. And even though I painted it camouflage, Deb spotted it immediately when she got out of her car. “What’s hanging in that tree?” she said. Bummer.

Come on, my little swarmies.


Swarm-Bait Box (fit with top bars for a Kenya Top-Bar Hive)
Swarm bait box decked out with camouflage and duct tape!
Swarm-bait box hung in the beeyard

A Beeyard Deal

When I got home from work yesterday, I lit the smoker, changed my clothes, and headed out to the beeyard. (I say “beeyard,” but it’s not really a separate yard, it’s simply the space where I keep the bees at the edge of the wood behind our house. I just like to say “beeyard.”) I removed the bottom 10-frame deep box because it’s a ghost town in there. The bees had not yet moved into it. There were maybe a couple of cells of stored pollen in the entire box, no eggs, no other activity, so off it went.

Then, I placed an 8-frame medium box on top of my apiary’s last remaining 10-frame deep…the one that houses my awesomely surviving Amazons and their wonderfully gorgeous queen. I replaced the top cover, and that was that. No more disturbance.

Speaking of beeyards…I think I’ve lined up an 80-acre place within a 30-minute drive of my house where I can keep a lot of bees. My friend, Michael, who is building a home on a part of the acreage, has agreed to let me keep bees there; in exchange I’ll teach him what I know about beekeeping. I’ll give him his own hives to work. So, that’s totally cool, isn’t it? If I collect any swarms or if any of my future cut-out attempts succeed, those bees will go to Michael’s place.

Yesterday, too, I ordered veils, hive tools, a smoker, and a copy of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Beekeeping for each of my bee stewards. They don’t know about their bee-steward package yet, and I think they’ll like it.

I’m thinking of naming my future honey “Amazon Honey” and my own personal future queens “Amazon Queens.” ¬†Perfect.


I Love the Term "Beeyard"

In her very sweet way, Deb has “suggested” that we put no more bee colonies on our little hill.

Last spring we began this adventure with one hive. Then two. One died over the winter. We added two. That made three. We split one into two. That made four. We collected the bees from the tree. That’s five. And now we’ve collected the little swarm. Current count is six.

(You know that only 2 or 3 of these colonies will survive the winter. But then, I plan to capture some swarms in the spring, so the number should continue to grow. If you’re reading this post and you live in Cincinnati and you want to keep some bees at your place, let me know.)

And, although all six colonies are tucked into the woods’ edge, they’re still visible from our house. They’re also visible to any neighbors who drive by, and we don’t want to overtax our neighbors’ generosity in regard to bees. There’s always a breaking point, yes?…I mean, at some point some neighbor will say, “Hey. That may be a one or two too many bee colonies on the block.”

Although I think those colonies are spectacular to look at, and I never get tired of watching the bees dart through the woods and our garden, Deb admits she’d probably prefer gazing into the naked woods without having to see the hives.

So, last night after dinner, we went on a little yard walk to see where we can place the swarm hive and any future hives we might add. We decided on a spot behind the garage near the wood pile. The problem with our new spot, however, is that we’ll have to mow around the hives there. I’m not thrilled about that, but if that’s what it takes to keep a few more colonies around here, we’ll do it.

Maybe we’ll let some ground cover take the place of the grass back there. Or, better yet, maybe we can plant some wildflowers there. That would be awesome.