Amazon Swarm, May 2010

And There Was The SWARM

We’d just settled down in the Adirondack chairs when I looked up into the tree. And there was something just not right about something up there…it looked odd. And then I saw it—the SWARM.

My Amazons had swarmed and the swarm was drooping from the lowest branch of a tall tall tree. Too high to reach by any ladder other than one belonging to the the fire department.

Oh my gosh, did I jump to action. I ran into the basement and yanked all the leftover equipment stored down there and I ran it all out and set it up under the swarm…then I jumped in the car and drove like a crazy person to the Natural Food Store to buy lemongrass oil because it’s said to be a swarm lure. We smeared lemongrass oil and honey all over the super and frames set beneath the swarm, and we hoped the girls would decide it looked like a great home.

To make a long story short…we set the bottle of lemongrass oil on the lure box; we took the stopper out of it; we put the stopper into it again; we moved the lemongrass oil inside the lure box; we moved it out again; we set the lure box up on a ladder; we tried to throw a long rope over the branch the swarm was attached to; we couldn’t reach it with the rope; we tied a wrench to the end of the rope as a weight to help us reach the branch and tried it several more times again; we succeeded only in throwing the wrench and rope into the garden; we spread a sheet beneath the swarm in case the swarm dropped from the tree—we did everything we knew to do, and then we undid it. We have no idea what we’re doing. How on earth can you seduce a swarm of bees?

I went out there in the night with a flashlight to check on them.

They were still there this morning.

I turned my back on them for 10 minutes and they disappeared. They now live in some unknown hollow tree trunk in the woods behind our house. Deb’s been out there searching for them.

I was so disappointed.

I guess the good news is that now we’ll have a new queen in the Amazon hive because the older queen should have left with half the bees. God speed, bees.

It helped that I later discovered two frames of capped honey ready for harvest…and we collected about 2 pounds of gorgeous, almost-clear honey from our Amazon girls.

Amazon Swarm, May 2010
Amazon Swarm, May 2010

Swarm Lure, May 2010
Amazon honey, May 2010
Muth Jar

Glass Jars under Consideration: Ball, Bormioli, Kerr, Leifheit, Muth

I refuse to even think about plastic bottles for TwoHoneys. If you like those little squeezy bears with the flip-top hats, get out. Go get your honey elsewhere. TwoHoneys will be bottled in glass jars ONLY.

Now that that’s settled, I have to find some jars that fill the bill. They have to be small…no more than 8 oz. We decided that nothing’s worse than a big jar of honey that gets thicker and thicker on the pantry shelf for months or years. It simply gets less and less appetizing (though honey literally¬†never¬†goes bad). So, it seems to me that honey would be more fun if it came in smaller portions; I think smaller containers make us not only treasure whatever’s in it, but we use it more quickly, too. That’s what I’m after.

I’m testing different kinds of glass jars right now. No no no…there’s no honey for you yet, Reader. But it’s coming. Oh, yes. It’s coming.

My First Taste of TwoHoneys

Today I did a little work with the bees. They’re doing much more work than I am, let me tell you that. The new colonies (Tomboys and the Girls of Summer) are building comb like crazy. Because they were installed only a week ago, I had to leave them alone for a bit so they could release their queen and get to work without my interference. Their queens are active, and the workers are working up a storm.

They had built burr comb (comb built in odd places where it’s not wanted by me) that I had to remove…some of it already contained honey, so I ate it. Just bit right into wax built by my very own bees and full of honey from my very own yard. I tell you, Reader, I’ve never tasted honey so fresh and delightful. Deb had some, too, and she love it. It’s so bright and good!

The Amazons are about to explode with baby bees. Their hive is full of larvae, and I watched one bee morph from larvae to bee right before my eyes. I watched the queen walk all around the new brood, too. Very cool.

And I got a bee up my pants that stung me on the back of the leg. I knew it was coming, but what did you want me to do?!

Whatever Goes in Your Yard Goes in Your Honey Goes in You

The Scott’s lawn service truck just pulled up to my across-the-street neighbor’s house, and now the guy is out spraying chemicals on the grass. Deb calls them the honey-bee eliminators. Friends—pesticides and herbicides are bad for bees; and they’re bad for your honey. Whatever goes in your yard goes in your honey goes in you. How hard is this to understand? Let’s keep it raw and sweet. Dandelions and clover are very very good.

Live Blogging from Bee School

Sometimes I dread these things because I think I’ll get bored. But if I blog about this as I go, I might like it more.

There’s honey everywhere.

9:11 am

This guy, John Tew, PhD—from Ohio State University—said I should attend the Hive Management I and II sessions. He’s our Ohio bee guru, so, that’s why I’m sitting right now in Hive Management I.

9:21 am

We’re talking about varroa mites and lost colonies and the beginning beekeepers’ steep learning curve. Apparently I’m gonna lose a few hives before I figure out all these patterns. Good thing I like spotting patterns.

9:28 am

I need new glasses. I can’t see for shit from where I stand near the back of the room.

9:50 am

There’s a young woman sitting next to me. I’d say she’s 15 or 16 years old. That’s cool. Mostly, there are guys in Carhart and Farm Bureau caps, but there are a lot of lesbians here, too. The lesbians take notes as if their lives depend on it. Crazy lesbians. I wish I could get one to pose for you with her notebook and pen. That would be funny.

10:02 am

Remember: Dandilions are good..it’s the first source of the season that supplies both pollen and nectar. The hive just explodes when those little yellow flowers bloom.

Clover, too.

Too bad I’ve spent so much time and money trying to eradicate all those flowers-otherwise-known-as-weeds that are just perfect for bees. Who are the bozos telling us to destroy everything but grass? And why do we listen to that bullshit? What’s wrong with us?!

10:09 am

The ONLY job I have with a new colony is to get the bees through their first winter. Feed them until they won’t eat any more. Year One is not sexy.

10:52 am

Getting a little bored because this second session is a too theoretical for me this year. I want only practical stuff right now.

I’ve seen a couple of people I know.

11:06 am

The guy sitting next to me wears argyle socks. He’s sort of out of place here, don’t you think?

12:08 pm

We’re eating lunch. Here’s my friend Jim.

12:35 pm

Now I’m attending “Getting Started Installing Bees,” but this guy’s talking about his kids. What a bore. This place is packed. All kinds of people.

12:53 pm

I had to leave that session. They should ask me to facilitate a breakout session next year. I can sure as hell do it, and I guarantee you people wouldn’t slip out like I just did. Problem is, I don’t know anything yet. Well, that shouldn’t stop me. I think I’d call my breakout thingy “Things You REALLY Need to Know to Get Started, and I’m Not Blowing Smoke.”

Anyway, it’s pretty outside, so I’m gonna go get some air and sunshine.

1:33 pm

One session to go, and if this guy’s no good, I’m hitting the road. I’m dying for a a diet Coke. I’m also dying for a bike ride.

1:38 pm

I’ve seen only one African American here. Otherwise, we’re all caucasian. Three hundred ninety nine caucasians and one black person. Something’s wrong here.

And, as usual, I did not win a door prize. Shit.

2:08 pm

Nap time. I’m getting soooo drowsy. This always happens to me at 2:00 pm when I’m in meetings. I’m still trying to listen, but my eyes are closed. Someone should turn a hive of bees loose in here and wake us all up.

2:39 pm

Signing off from Bee School.