The Beauty of Pollination

If You Plant It and It Blooms, They Will Come

My Aunt Chris sent this video my way. She has one of the liveliest backyards ever…full of blooms and wonder. I’ve always loved thinking of her out puttering in her greenhouse and her gardens. It’s a trait shared by my mother, her sister—a trait inherited directly from their father. And although I consider myself late to the party, I can say that this dormant green-thumb obsession has now blossomed in me, too.

In the video, please note that the common denominator in all this wonder is flowers. If you plant it and it blooms, they will come.

Full of surprises and delight

Natural Delights and Surprises = Crystalized Honey

Full of surprises and delight

I tell you, Reader, so many people have asked me about crystallized honey lately that I’ve decided to write about it.

First of all: Honey lasts forever. And I mean forever. As in eternity.

Second of all: The composition of honey may change over time.

Third: Raw honey changes more than pasteurized honey because raw honey contains good and natural surprises in it. Whereas pasteurized honey is stripped of these delights. Good and natural delights change over time. Which is what makes them good…and exciting. Right? The more we try to control change, the less fun we have in this life, Reader. Take it from me.

Fourth: The more tiny bits of natural surprises (such as pollen or wax) in the honey, the more little things there are on which crystals will begin to form. This has to do with science, and I’m not going into science here…let me simply say that the less your honey is strained and heated, the more bits of nature remain in it. And this is exactly why you want to buy local honey—honey that has not been stripped of its local pollen. Local pollen in your honey tastes like home. It also helps those who eat it develop immunities when it comes to local allergens.

Fifth: You want your honey cloudy with little specks of colorful pollen in it. You don’t want your honey clear and runny. You want your honey the way you want your bread or your rice…you want it dense with nature. Not white.

Sixth: So, we’ve established that it’s a good sign if your honey crystalizes because it’s a sign that you are eating closer to nature and the earth.

Seventh: Some of the blossoms on which the bees forage crystalize more quickly than others. So, if your honey crystalizes, it’s a sign that the nectar from which your honey comes was collected from a certain blossom at a specific time of the year. Which is very cool. It’s one of the bonuses of buying honey from a single hive as opposed to buying honey gathered from all over several unknown continents and mixed together and heated in a giant vat.

Eighth: The crystals are reversible. If your mouth prefers to eat your honey without crystals, simply heat the honey-containing jar slowly in a pan of water until the crystals disappear. Or set your jar in a sunny place.

We strain very little of the wonder from our honey. You can still taste the Ohio in it. Which means it will eventually crystalize. Because it is that awesome.

 

Poetry Sunday: So This Is Nebraska

So This is Nebraska

BY TED KOOSER

The gravel road rides with a slow gallop
over the fields, the telephone lines
streaming behind, its billow of dust
full of the sparks of redwing blackbirds.

On either side, those dear old ladies,
the loosening barns, their little windows
dulled by cataracts of hay and cobwebs
hide broken tractors under their skirts.

So this is Nebraska. A Sunday
afternoon; July. Driving along
with your hand out squeezing the air,
a meadowlark waiting on every post.

Behind a shelterbelt of cedars,
top-deep in hollyhocks, pollen and bees,
a pickup kicks its fenders off
and settles back to read the clouds.

You feel like that; you feel like letting
your tires go flat, like letting the mice
build a nest in your muffler, like being
no more than a truck in the weeds,

clucking with chickens or sticky with honey
or holding a skinny old man in your lap
while he watches the road, waiting
for someone to wave to. You feel like

waving. You feel like stopping the car
and dancing around on the road. You wave
instead and leave your hand out gliding
larklike over the wheat, over the houses.

Jerod Visits the Bees

Jerod is the first person other than me to work in my hives. He’s also the first person to visit the bees who wants to keep a hive himself…and I trust the way Jerod works, so there you go. In anticipation of getting his first hives next spring, he’s been reading The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Beekeeping, and he wanted to see into a living hive so he could identify what he’s reading about.

So, he suited up, lit the smoker, kept the smoker smoking, smoked the hives, lifted the lids, removed the frames, and inspected the bees. I didn’t touch a thing. (He also helped me rake a mound of sugar from under each of the hives…I can’t tell if the sugar is slipping out of each hive or if the bees are removing it intentionally, but the yellow jackets were going bonkers in it. Damn yellow jackets).

Before we began, I asked Jerod what he was looking forward to as he got his first glimpse into a bee hive. He said he was curious to know what it feels like to be stung, and he was curious to see if he got a little squirrely when he saw that many bees in one place. I’m here to report that although Cricket, Jerod’s dog, was stung, Jerod was not. And Jerod was as calm and soothing as could be with the bees. And the bees responded by being mellow beyond belief.

We saw bees coming in loaded with pollen, we saw drones, we saw bees eating, we saw bees festooning. We saw bee bread and capped honey and capped brood, and we saw a bee get her first glimpse of the world…she was just poking her head from her capped cell. Very cool…she seemed all eyes.

It was nice to be able to take a few pictures for you, Reader…it’s not easy to handle a camera and the hive tool and the frames of bees all at once. And those gloves don’t make it any less of a challenge.

Jerod and I are now talking about building our top-bar hives this winter.

Don't Want No Stinkin' Sugar Water

The past two days have been….drumroll….SPECTACULAR! High 70s and nooooo clouds. And the bees are flying like nobody’s business. They come back to the hive heavy with pollen. They’re not touching the sugar water. No.

Spring Hive Cleaning

After bee school and before dinner at Lavomatic, I did some work with the bees. The weather was gorgeous, and it was the first time since fall that I could spend some time in the colony without disturbing things. So, I smoked the bees and then dug around in the brood boxes and examined 80% of the frames.

This is what I found:

  1. There was far less honey stored than I thought. Spring came just in time.
  2. The bottom box was a ghost town…no bees and no honey. Several of the frames had a grayish-colored mold on the comb.
  3. The bees had completely eaten the foundation from a couple of the frames.
  4. All the bees have moved up into the top box. This is the winter pattern…the cluster starts in the bottom brood box and it eats its way upward as the winter progresses.
  5. They have begun to store more pollen and raise brood in the top box.
  6. You know, I completely forgot to take pictures. That would probably help you see what I’m talking about…but once I get involved out there, I forget about documenting anything. I’ll try to remember next time.

This is what I did:

  1. I cleaned up the moldy frames. I cleaned the extra lumps of comb from the frames, too.
  2. I unstacked both brood boxes and removed the bottom board (which was loaded with winter debris…the amount of debris surprised me).
  3. I replaced the old-fashioned bottom board with a new screen-bottom board (this improves ventilation, and it gives me a way to check for mites as the season progresses).
  4. I reversed the brood frames as I restacked them.
  5. The box with all the bees went on the bottom, and the ghost-town box went on top. Bees work their way upward, so now they know there’s room above them and won’t decide to swarm (when they sense they’re out of room, they develop a new queen and swarm).
  6. I removed the queen excluder and the honey super I put on there a few days ago (I added that super to give the bees room so they wouldn’t swarm. But reversing the brood boxes gives me the same benefit while also assuring the bees first fill the two brood boxes with honey for themselves. Always insure the bees survival before harvesting the honey).
  7. I put a few lumps of bee candy on the inner cover. Though things are bustling, there’s still not enough pollen to keep the engine going. So, I’m supplementing.
  8. Today I’ll feed them concentrated sugar water in an entrance feeder…2:1 sugar to water. Moisture is a problem in hives at this time of year (and based on the mold I saw, we’ve got a moisture issue), so we want less water and more sugar.