Monday, May 18, 2015

Spring Fest!

Yesterday, Eric and I were so excited to represent the Northeast NJ Beekeepers Association at the Teaneck Creek Park Spring Fest Celebration.  We were given one of the awesome club tablecloths to use, as well as pamphlets, coloring books, and stickers from the club to hand out, but were actually worried our table would be boring and flat without more.  Silly us.

Like we weren't so excited we'd think of more to bring!

We brought my canopy, which was really smart, considering how hot and sunny it got on the blacktop.  And then we brought my beekeeping jacket and veil to hang from the canopy, which of course was interesting to non-beekeepers.

We got these amazing posters, one on pollination and the other on beekeeping, from Hudson Valley Bee Supply, got some poster frames for them, and they were a great eye-catcher.  Lots of people stopped to look at the photos and read about them.

On the table, we had the six different pamphlets, coloring/activity books, one of our empty new hives and an unused honey super with foundation frames in it, our smoker, hive tools, brush, frame rest, and my gloves, plus a shadowbox frame with our cool bee stages action figures and some information about the various stages of bee life.

And to prove we were there, there's us!

We had an amazing, amazing day.  With the exception of one man who seemed to only want to try and antagonize us (we didn't take the bait), everyone else was either excited about our booth or really looking for information.  It's terrific how many people either are interested in keeping bees or even just helping bees by planting the right flowers and herbs or putting out water for them; how many people were beekeepers, former beekeepers or friends or family of beekeepers.  We also met kids who ran the gamut from "I love bugs!" to being scared of bees until we were able to explain to them that yellowjackets are not bees.

The coolest, I think, was one young lady with really nifty pink glasses, who came over to ask us why, when she waved her arms and ran, the bumblebees flying around the area followed her.  Her dad was surprised when he found his daughter, who had just been running from bumblebees, over at our honeybee booth, but it made perfect sense to us!  Who better to come to with her question?

The biggest lament?  It's over and we want to do more!

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Best Inspection Ever!

Another hive inspection yesterday, and we are so happy! We didn't go far into hives when we didn't have to, but we saw what we needed to see. First, the Pooh Hive.

Our girls have the second brood box almost completely drawn and a few are up in the honey super. It's not drawn at all yet, but we having a feeling that's coming very soon.

 Next, the Fish Hive.  Unfortunately, this video is a bit blurry, and for that, I apologize.

This is the nuc we got this year, and it's growing really quickly. We might actually get honey out of this hive this summer! 

Last, Wonderland Hive.  

This is the split we took from the Pooh hive, which last week we were afraid were going to swarm.  They didn't but all the queen cups and swarm cells are gone - the girls removed them and hung around, drawing out the comb instead.  Plus, we found young larvae, so we've got a queen!

After our inspections, we spent some time chatting with our neighbors across the street, and found out that the husband used to keep bees too!  They hadn't realized we were keeping bees, but were really excited.  They've got an amazing garden in their yard, with fruit trees, a huge vegetable garden, roses, basil, mint, and all sorts of other herbs and flowers.

Apparently, the other day, their son was over and noticed a ton of honeybees on the apple tree.  He commented about it to his dad, who insisted that they hadn't seen honeybees in years, and that it had to be bumblebees.  The son insisted no, it was honeybees, and now they figure it was our bees!  That's both sad and wonderful.  Wonderful that they're seeing our bees, and that our girls are getting their sustenance, and without pesticides there, as they don't spray.  Sad, as they hadn't seen honeybees in many years, which is just evidence of the frightening decline of the population.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Woo, Boy.

We inspected all three hives today, starting with the split, now known as the Wonderland hive, since I stayed up until 3:30 a.m. Thursday night painting the brood boxes with Wonderland themed paintings.

We were pretty horrified to find swarm cells and queen cells.  You'll see them in the video where I point them out; swarm cells are queen cells that hang off the very bottom of the brood frames.  The workers build them and move eggs into them to grow into new queens, generally when they haven't got enough space to live.  They usually build regular queen cells on the brood comb when their queen is failing or has died and the need a new one.  This hive had both, and one of the swarm cells is capped, meaning there's a queen pupa in there; another was not quite closed but had a larva inside, and a third was being worked on by a worker bee.

The possible problem here, we thought, was that when we did the split, we moved four drawn frames of comb, and then all the foragers returned that evening, and there simply wasn't enough space for them.  Bees don't see new foundation without drawn comb as space in which to live.  Alternatively, our queen could be dead, as we didn't see her.  Either way, we needed to figure out what to do, and fast.

For the time being, though, we put that aside and did the fish hive inspection.  This seemed much better, though we didn't go far into the hive; our girls were going strong and building out well, so we added a second brood box.

Last, but not least, the Pooh hive.  This is the original hive from which we took the split.  They're going strong and building well, so we added our first ever honey super!  Those are the shallower (medium) boxes and frames (as opposed to the deeps we use as brood boxes) that will eventually contain the honey we can take for us.  So excited!

Once we were all done, we called two mentor (and friend) beekeepers and described what was happening in the Wonderland hive.  Both were under the impression (from us, because we told them we saw young larva) that the hive was otherwise queen-right and set to swarm.  

One suggested we completely cut off all the swarm cells we could find and checkerboard the undrawn foundations in between drawn comb.  He suggested that it could possibly confuse the bees into not swarming and building the new foundation out.

The other suggested that we should do something similar, but without removing the swarm cells.  He also agreed we could try removing the frames with the swarm cells and some honey frames, and move them to a nuc box to create an additional split.  That's what we were considering and intending when we went back into the hive.

Upon second inspection, though, we decided to follow the advice of neither of our more experienced beekeeper friends and leave the hive as it was.  We had been so freaked out at seeing the swarm cells that it wasn't until the re-inspection that we realized we saw capped brood and older larvae, but no new, young larvae like we had the week before.  That seemed to mean that our queen was gone, and the girls were doing what they needed to make a new queen and save the colony.  We decided to let them.  If we're wrong and they do swarm, hopefully the new queen they leave behind is strong and good, and mates well.  And hopefully we catch them in one of the two swarm traps we've set up.  If not, then not.  At least if they truly need a new queen, we're leaving them the best opportunity to make themselves one.

As it is, this was the smallest, least advanced of the three colonies, not a huge loss if it's lost.  And splitting prevented the Pooh hive from swarming, which it may have been populated enough to do.

We shall see.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Three! Three Hives! Mwahahahahahaha!

We had the one overwintered beehive (we'll call it the Pooh hive) from last June.  It's still going strong.  In fact, for the very first time on April 11, we think we finally saw the queen.

And then on Wednesday evening, we got a second nuc for the fish hive.  It needed to be installed into the hive on Thursday, but it was way too cold in the morning to open them up and separate them, so I begrudgingly had to go off to the day job and let Eric do it later in the day.  Fortuitously, though, some of my college friends were down here from Massachusetts with their kids, and were very into meeting the bees.  So Eric had assistance  installing the nuc after all - from Evan & Hannah, the kids!

It's terrific how totally unconcerned they were, as Evan held a nuc lid full of bees, and Hannah kept trying to get them to walk on her gloved hands.  Meanwhile, their mother was close enough to take photos of the event... and their father was across the yard, looking like he was shielding his eyes from a car wreck.


So if you're counting along, that's two active hives.  Not enough!  Plus, when we looked again, the Pooh hive was nearly bursting at the seams with bees.  Time for a split!

So Eric picked up a new queen from a fairly local bee supply place yesterday while I was face painting all day at the Tribeca Film Festival, and today, our first ever hive split!  Behold...

We're so excited about this!  Three active hives!  And even with the split, the strong one should still produce honey.  Fingers crossed people!

Thursday, March 12, 2015

It's Spring!

Or at least as far as I'm concerned, it is.  In my world here in northern NJ, spring started over the weekend.  Not because of the rising temperatures, though that certainly makes me happy, but because Saturday night the clocks changed!  It wears me out, more than you'd think a one-hour time change should, but it also makes me happy to be leaving the office in daylight.

And the other reason it started to feel like spring this weekend is because on Saturday was the first annual FLOW Green Fair (FLOW = Franklin Lakes, Oakland, Wyckoff), and I had a hand in it!  It was organized and hosted by the three environmental commissions, with my own commission chair and town's green team really spearheading it.  If you ask me, although of course as a first year event it had a couple logistical issues, it was a raving success.

I did two things for the fair, specifically.  The first was getting the president of the Northeast NJ Beekeepers Association (my local club) to take a booth and teach everyone about bees.  He had a lot of interest, of course.

And the second?  I spent the day face panting, of course!  I figured they had enough help with the environmental displays and organization, and it was something I could offer that others couldn't.  I was a hit.

Then again, so were the displays and the hip hopping fruit.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Back to the Bees

We had an ice storm last week.

Well, after the ice hit, I was terrified that all the bees were dead.  The next morning, I went out back and the entire front entrance was iced over, so I cleared it, and saw what looked like a sea of dead bees just inside the entrance & extending back.  We were really scared that they'd all died of starvation (the most common cause of colony decimation this time of year) or lack of ventilation when the entrance was covered, because they cannot have moisture.  Moisture is a much bigger bee-killer than the cold.

Happy surprise!  Yesterday when it got to 42F, although it was really overcast & even drizzling, we went into the hive to check on them.  Eric was smart & wore his veil.  I was a doofus and thought I wouldn't need veil or gloves.  Plus, I was in my big black winter coat, and they hate dark colors - they think you're a bear attacking.  My mistake.

We brought out what we have left of fondant and pollen patty for them, in case they needed it.

Took off the outer & inner cover, and there were a ton of them!  And they were ANNOYED.  They don't like being chilly and they don't like when it's not sunny, and they wanted us OUT.

We managed to get the inner cover back on & Eric snapped a photo through the hole before we closed it back up entirely (turns out they still had a bunch of fondant, meaning they'd had enough honey stores, so we didn't need to feed them yet), but unfortunately, they wouldn't let us photograph them with the inner cover off.

Still... so happy to see they're still there & OK!  In fact, Eric is working from home today (it's 52F & sunny) and says that the girls are going crazy in the warmth and sun.  Hundreds of the bees are flying, maybe more.  Did I mention how happy I am?  I'm just jealous I'm not home to see it!

Gonna buy more fondant and see if we can't feed them later this week.  Better to give them more than they need than let them starve.  It'd suck if they made it through winter ok & then died this late in the game.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Seeing Red

Every time I look in the mirror, in fact!

I've always loved red hair.  I was never one of those kids who made fun of the gingers, I thought it was great.  And by the time I got to college, I really wished I myself was a redhead.  Didn't try it 'til much later, though.

Anyone who's been reading this blog for any length of time knows I favor the natural, safe, and healthy when it comes to things I put on my skin.

Well, the hair dye I've been using since my 20s didn't really jive with that.  Obviously.

I generally don't mess with my hair.  I see it as one of my best features, and so the color needs to be right and I get really upset if it's trimmed too short.

My sister was always more daring with hers, trying different styles over the years, cutting it short, trying Sun In (whoa, that was a disaster!), spiking it and bleaching out the tips, all sorts of things.  Not me.  Finally, I must have been in my early 30s when I first tried it.  My sister was getting bleach for me to do the tips of her spikes again, and I decided to try a nice auburn, so I went to the store with her and picked a box.  Well... the sample swatch and color shown in the photo on the box were not what I looked like.  My hair ended up nearly purple.  It was bad... unless, of course, you're looking for purple hair, in which case it'd be just fine.  I was an attorney, appearing in court, and decidedly not going for purple.  Whoops.

Once that color was headed out of my hair, though, I started to realize how much white I'd started to get.  Heck, that had started when I was 26, and my law school loan payments began.  For real.  But in my 30s, I realized how much it started to show on the surface.  So I started getting my hair dyed by my hairdresser.  Usually dark brown, which is my natural color, and sometimes a little more red when I was feeling like it.  At times, when I didn't have time to get to my hairdresser, I'd dye my hair from a box, but only dark brown.  I didn't trust the reds they carry at CVS.  Still don't.

Well, this past weekend was one of those times when I really needed color, didn't have time for the hairdresser, and didn't even have time for a box from CVS.  I was at Wicked Faire, face painting from basically 3 p.m. on Friday until 5 p.m. on Sunday.  In fact, on Sunday, I looked like this.

Please don't be scared by my terrible roots.

Well, as usual, as I have been for many years now at this event, I was situated right next to the henna artist, Robin of Henna Rising.  She's awesome.  She also hennas her hair.  And as it turns out, she sells hair henna.  So I decided to take a bit of a leap and buy a packet.  She told me how to do it (it's easy, albeit time consuming), and on Tuesday night, I finally had time.  It took five hours.  Yes, really.

My instructions were to put the henna powder in a bowl with enough water for the consistency of mud, and let it sit for two hours. Then, I had to take sections of my hair and plaster the paste on.  I made sure to wear an old cruddy t-shirt and put down an old raggedy towel first. Good thing, too, because this is not a neat process.  Also, I bought a box of vinyl gloves at the pharmacy, and ended up using two pairs - one when mixing the henna and another when applying it to my head, which I did by hand.

The nifty thing about henna, though, it turns out, is that while henna that stains the skin needs to be activated with lemon juice and various oils, hair henna is activated with water alone... which means a stain on the skin won't stay!  Handy, too, since I got it on my wrists above the gloves, my ears, neck, forehead, and even down my back.  No stains.  Also, unlike hair dye, which always admonishes the user to Stay Away From the Scalp!!!, with henna you actually massage it into your scalp.  Why not?  Unlike dye, it won't burn or do any damage.  and it won't stain your skin.

Once I was all plastered with henna "mud," I had Eric help me saran wrap my hair all in.  I looked like a doofus, I'll admit, but henna soaks in better (to both hair and skin) when it stays warm and wet, so sealing it in with plastic was the best bet.

And then I had to wait three hours.  Three hours.  A couple glasses of wine and several TV shows later, I was ready to hop in the shower and rinse it out.  By then it was 12:30 a.m. and took 20 minutes.  Good thing I'm a night owl.

Eric was already asleep & my hair was wet anyway, so I had to wait for tonight for him to get photos of my new look.  Personally, I love it!  This is the bright-light look.  In less light, it's actually a darker auburn, but in bright sun and light, the red highlights are crazy.

I actually feel taller with red hair.  My step is springier.  I think I look great, and I think it's so much fun!  And Eric says my hair already looks shinier and healthier.  No more dye for me.  I'm a henna girl now!
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