Friday, April 30, 2010

Bee Installation and Inspection

Hey Frank! Thanks for this photo! Beautiful!
Frame making was a bit tedious, but the company was good. This is Jan, doing her part, so we can install the foundation in the frames. The frames are the part of the hive that hang down that the bees actually build the comb onto. Foundation is a sheet of wax stamped in a honeycomb pattern that we install in slots in the frame. It was kind of fragile, but smelled really good.
This is Nora sliding the foundation into the slots.
The framemakers and bee keepers, yours truly on the left.
Now we're ready to pick up our queens! This was a chilly Saturday morning about three weeks ago. Each box holds a queen and about a thousand of her new best friends and minions.
The queen is segregated into her own little chamber, sealed in with a candy plug. The plug is meant to be breached, but in the meantime, the drones and workers have a chance to get to know her and each other.
Nora escorts our two boxes to the truck. They are surprisingly heavy.
We got the bees home and they stayed in their boxes in Jan's basement for a few days for further bonding. This is Jan on Installation Day. We've got the hives open and several frames removed so we can dump the boxes rather unceremoniously into the hive. The queen box is rubberbanded to one of the frames. The bees will eat through the candy plug and the queen will be free to move about the hive and hopefully get busy with Queen Bee business.
John, on the left, is very worried about a possible allergy to bee stings. Epi-pens have been installed in prominent locations. He didn't seem too worried here.
The boxes are opened. Frank (in all white) is a patient teacher.
That's me, pretty in pink, getting ready to load this box into the hive.
One down, one to go.
The bees look like they're finding their way around just fine.
Here's John again, clearly not worried about standing too close and unprotected.
The Feeding Box goes back on top. The frame boxes you see on the ground will go back into Jan's garage until the bees have filled up the first box, maybe in a month or so.
We put the boxes on the ground in front of the hives so that the last bees that didnt' get shaken out can make their way out and into the hive.
Thanks Frank! Now we can take off the gear and watch the bees settle in.
So far so good. Home sweet home.
Next up, our second inspection in which see if the queens are making brood (laying eggs), the workers are making honey, and that all's well in Dinwiddie St. bee world. My friend two streets over says he's seeing honeybees in his Hawthorne tree, which he's never seen before. It will be interesting to see if we can track reports of increased flowering and fruiting in the 'hood. Stop back by for further progress reports!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Dressed to the Nines

Reference after reference failed to turn up a definitive origin for the expression "dressed to the nines," although they all seem to agree on its meaning. Describing someone as being "dressed to the nines" implies the donning of expensive clothing, jewelry and other fashionable accessories, most likely for a formal dance or theatrical performance.

Bright-eyed boy professed nonchalance at the whole production of dressing for the Cotillion Black and White Ball, but I think he got into the spirit of the event.

Dad had to help with the studs. . .

And the cummerbund. Troy thought the waistcoats look cool, especially some of the more colorful varieties, but our vendor didn't carry his size, so cummerbund it was.

Then the tie.

Joe Cool channeling James Bond doing a Fonzie move. Heyyyy. . .

And it's off to the dances. The boys had the option of a suit and tie or a tux. Renting the fancy duds was cheaper than buying a suit he's going to grow out of by next week. The girls had a little more leeway, though the theme being black and white narrowed the choices a bit. All the girls had their white gloves on and dance cards on a string around their wrists.

Troy was a sport about all the pictures, but then he started dodging me like I was paparazzi.

I did get one more good shot before he dodged me entirely. Too bad nobody got a picture of me all dressed up for the ball. Moms got a dance with their sons, and dads with their daughters. No glass slippers though.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


This may be the first in a series of poetry by the bright-eyed boy. What a funny boy. You'll see some pics of him soon all dressed up for cotillion, but here's a sampling of haiku from a recent assignment. He does make me laugh.

I love dumplings and
my mother makes a good soup
that makes me happy


I'll get my passport
then I will travel the world
but mom, I will write

That last one got a "cute!" comment from his teacher. He's just dying to get out of the eastern time zone. . . he's not quite to the twilight zone, puberty-wise, but not too far off. . .

Friday, April 16, 2010

Your Intrepid Bee Keepers

Not everybody can look as glamorous as my bee best friend (bbf) Nora and I do. We just make it look easy, I know. I'll have to get a lighter weight jacket than this pink one. It was perfect a couple of weeks ago, but it'll be too hot for the summer.

The hive below belongs to our bee mentor, Frank. This is Frank's back yard deck. The hive is built in several sections, topped with a removable roof. An artist friend of his painted the hive boxes such that the design matches no matter which way you assemble them. There's a bathroom scale mounted at the base of the hive. Knowing how much the hive weighs at any given point in the season tells you if the hive has lots of reserves. If it's getting light it might be time to feed the bees, generally before the spring season is in full flower.

After we were all properly hatted, veiled, and gloved, Frank removed the roof and the top section cover. Then he pulled one of the frames, which he is holding below. This was very early in the spring season, but the bees were already very active and productive.

Not a very good picture, but that's the smoker on the left in the photo. Doesn't take much smoke. The bees were humming very quietly. Frank pulled one more frame out and showed us around a bit more. The humming rose very distinctly after a while, and Frank announced that we were done. He thinks the bees understand at some level that he doesn't mean them harm, but there definitely comes a point in time that he knows he's about to overstay his welcome.

This board slides in under the hive boxes. Frank oils it so that whatever falls down onto it will stick and can be easily observed. You want to be able to see if there are certain kinds of mites (bad) or comb moths (less bad). You can see particles of pollen, and we even tasted a bit. You can also see from this board which frames have the most activity.

This is Frank standing at his INDOOR hive. It was very cool. There's a clear tube mounted in the window so the bees can come and go from the hive to the great outdoors. The jar you see bottom right is sugar water to feed the hive. The bees were very active, even this early in the season. We could see the queen, and Frank has since identified a second queen in this hive, probably because the first queen is getting old and tired, producing fewer eggs. Frank demonstrated for us how warm the bees keep themselves. He had a laser thermometer he pointed first at the walls of the room-- 70F. Then he moved it toward the hive. . . 80, 83. . . then 90 where the bees were the closest together.

The bees are very visible in their plexiglass hive, busy as, well, bees. We could see that they already had honey production going, and new eggs were being laid. I can't wait to get our hives going. Nora and I finished putting the frames together last night. The bees are coming Saturday, and we'll let them rest, then we'll install them in their new home Sunday, with Frank there to direct us.
Nora is working on a label design, and has big ideas for soap, candy, t-shirts, etc. I'll let you know when the full catalog is available. Of course, we won't be harvesting any honey for the first year, so plans are definitely still on the drawing board.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Bees are Coming!

Nora, Jan, and I are having dinner with Frank the Bee Mentor this evening. He's going to take a look at our newly constructed hives and frames, and guide us in the placement of the two hives in my garden. Very exciting! Nora did a beautiful job on the painting. Pictures to be posted soon. The bees are due somewhere around April 10.