My friend Sarah Brown interviewed me for her “Failing Forward” podcast which resulted in this mini episode about beekeeping…the “failing” parts aren’t explicit here, but believe me, failure undergirds it all.
Very listenable at 6ish-minutes long.
Also, in this image you can see my favorite Quoddy Ringboots (they don’t touch the floor because at 5’3″, I’m shorter than I sound). They are the most comfortable shoes you can imagine. Ever. In the world.
The wonderful people from CET’s Our Ohio spent a day visiting with me in my home and filming my backyard bee yard. They were a great pleasure to have around, and to my delight, each one of the crew donned a hat and a veil and handled the bees with their bare hands. I’m really proud of them.
Good morning, Reader. There are few things I enjoy more than getting a lift from the bee yard on a tailgate.
You can find the story behind this image here.
[Image by Patrick Reddy at the Cincinnati Enquirer]
Reader, yesterday I received a call from a reporter at WCPO’s Channel 9, Cincinnati’s local news station. Cierra Johnson asked if she could visit with me about the terrible effect the winter-of-the-polar-vortices had on the local bee population.
I was on my way to check on some bees when she called, so I invited Cierra to join me, and she did. We had a very nice time among the bees, and Cierra put together quite a nice story…which ended up being more about the effects the lack of good foraging has on the bee population. Which was a terrific adjustment on Cierra’s part, because she got it. She understood that the lack of a rich food supply is much more devastating for the bees than the cold. If they have enough food, Reader, the frigid temperatures shouldn’t be an issue.
I liked that when the piece came together on TV, the Channel 9 anchors kept calling me “Tilton.”
It was a beautiful day for a bee removal, Reader. And because it’s been an long and vicious winter since our last one, I thought it might perk you up to see our happy team at work together on a roof.
Two years ago, the homeowners who hired us watched as a swarm of honeybees moved into their roof through this gap. But because the hive is on the second floor, the bees weren’t a problem until the homeowners built a two-tiered deck. Now the family wants to utilize their second-story deck, and the bees make it difficult for them to relax there.
Terry Evans—who works for Jerry Hof, our brilliant contractor—removed the shingles, the siding, and the chipboard in order to access the hive. Terry worked methodically and thoughtfully to expose the hive without destroying the existing structure. His careful work paid off once the bees were gone and it was time to replace all the parts…the reconstruction took much less time than the deconstruction, and now the space looks as if neither we nor the bees were ever there.
We flipped the chipboard with much of the empty comb still attached. The comb heavy with honey and brood and bees, however, collapsed into the soft insulation.
You know, Reader, I have to tell you how much I love working with Nicola Mason. She will scamper onto a roof or shinny up the scaffolding. She will dig her arms deep into dark and mysterious bee- and honey-filled cavities. And she does it with such glee and energy that she fills me with glee and energy, too. She is a giver of enthusiasm.
Once we’ve exposed the hive and accessed the comb and bees, we begin removing one comb at a time. We determine where each comb should go in its new hive…and we also always always keep a sharp eye out for the queen.
It’s not easy to spot the queen in the chaos of a bee removal, Reader, but we’ve become rather adept at it. On this job, Nicola took responsibility for cutting and removing the bee-laden comb from its original location. After a while, she quietly and matter-of-factly said simply, “I see her.” Then she calmly removed her queen clip from the pocket of her shirt and collected the queen in it.
Capturing the queen guarantees the removal’s success because all the other bees will follow the queen’s pheromones…there is no more chaos or indecision. Wherever she goes, they go.
We catch the queen in this clip (which keeps her from flying away) and then attache the clip to a bar with rubber bands. This way, the worker bees will go into the hive where we place the queen.
You know, sometimes you simply have to stop and look around and wonder how you got to be so lucky—lucky to be high up on scaffolding on a beautiful day with nice people and a hive of honeybees. Especially after you’ve got the queen, and all is well.
Some bees are reluctant to go into the box…once the queen’s in there, they’ll eventually find their way to her, but we can’t always just sit around and wait for that to happen. Which is why it’s good to have a bee vac on hand. We vacuumed the reluctant bees and reunited them with their sisters when they reached their permanent home.
Once we vacuumed the stragglers and sprayed the area with bee repellant, we closed the hive and lowered it to the ground for transport to its permanent home.
And after a nice drive in the bed of a gorgeous pickup truck, the Alexandria hive reached her permanent home. The bees are now busy exploring their new neighborhood.
Reader, yesterday I spent some time with two other very wonderful beekeepers. On a cold, snowy day in February, we dreamed of spring. We all sat in the fine studios of WVXU (Cincinnati’s NPR station) wearing our very cool headphones and talking into big fuzzy microphones. For about 25 minutes, we talked about the joys of beekeeping. It wasn’t nearly enough time.
Perhaps I talked a bit too much. Perhaps I sounded overly enthusiastic. Perhaps I should tone it down sometimes. But if you’ve been wondering all this time what Ray Babcock (President of Southwestern Ohio Beekeepers Association, known affectionately as SWOBA by the locals), Sandra Murphy (educator at Gorman Heritage Farms) and I sound like, here you go (once you arrive at this WVXU location, click “Listen”):
I like both Ray and Sandra a lot.
And here’s the picture the nice people at WVXU took of us. They took three images. The minute they took the last one—the one that caught me sort switching between smiles—I knew that’s the one they’d use. Sure enough.
It’s not often, Reader, that I write about our bee-removal jobs. Why, you ask? Because the bee removals involve homeowners, and I’m not very comfortable writing about people who never intended to end up on a public blog.
But I spend a good deal of time in the company of some cool people as we remove honeybees and beehives from structures, and I am never ever ever bored by it. Often I am unnerved, but I’m never bored. Anyway, in the event you’d forgotten what I do with much of my time, I’m sharing a few photos of yesterday’s job with you.
Yesterday’s job was cool—not because of the size of the hive but because of the height of the nest.
Kudos to Jerry Hof and Co Inc (Jerry performs the contracting on all these bee removals with me) for constructing such a high and stable scaffold, for exposing the nest, and then for repairing the structure, and to Nicola Mason (a brilliant artist, writer, editor, beekeeper and all-around adventurous woman) for scampering effortlessly up and down and up and down and up and down the 40 ft. scaffolding all morning and for removing all the comb from the hive.
Reader, if you’ve discovered honeybees in your house or in some other structure, if you live in the Greater Cincinnati area, and if you want a team that’s not only great at this stuff but also delights in the work and is fun to spend time with, contact me. Not only can we safely remove the live bees and comb and honey and relocate them to one of our beeyards, but we can put your place back together so no one will ever know we were there.