Thursday, November 20, 2014

Almost Thanksgiving

The weather has been rather cold for bees, but at least we don't have 8 feet of snow on the ground, my sympathies and prayers to Buffalo, New York area!

My co-worker and I, the "outside kitties", have been busy readying the ten frame hives for shipment down south for the winter.

We have been averaging about 5o hives a day.  There are four hives to a pallet, and usually about four pallets to a "bee yard".

The town is a rural Maine farming community, must be good dirt up there, lots of farms, lots of owner builder camps.  Being an architect nut, I have been immensely enjoying driving from bee yard to bee yard on the  back roads.

The weather has been surprisingly compliant compared to the rest of the country; most of the bee yard locations are sheltered, and the early winter sun has made the job not as miserable as it could be.  There is still snow in the shady parts of the fields, but basically just crumbs.

We have a nice pace worked out.  We arrive at the yard and J starts hauling boxes of bee candy.  I grab the riobi drill and start shutting the entrance reducers on the first pallet, then move on to cracking the top covers while J moves on to the entrance reducers on the rest of the pallets.

Cracking the top covers is a bit like Christmas-what's under there? Are there a pile of bees on top of a queen excluder, buzzing and perhaps flying right at my face?  Will  I see a few bees? Will they be the bright yellow Italians, or the dark carniolans? Will I be met with dead silence and have to press my ear against the top of the frames and listen to detect a buzz in the lower super, or with a stillness that determines the hive is an "out"?

Depending on what I discover determines my next course of action.  If there is no queen excluder, I am to carefully place one on top of the frames and then two bricks of candy and then replace the cover.  Sometimes the inside of the cover is covered with honeycomb and bees.  Bees make use of available space, and I have just used that space up with candy and have to remove the comb to replace the cover.

Being a softy, I want to save every bee, even though by this point I usually have at least a dozen trying to get me through the gloves, pants, hood, back....

So I shake the cover over the candy, trying to get the bees off.  The owner can do this magically with a flick of the wrist, but either I am lacking in skill or the bees are just more tenacious when the temps are30 or a combinations of just is not that simple.  So sometimes I lean the cover in front of the entrance while I am placing the candy, and then shake, and then thump a corner on the ground to get them in the corner of the cover so I can shake them in, but they are clinging little creatures and this usually involves several thumps and shakes and on a rare occasion results in a clump of bees on the ground near the entrance.

There was one hive today that I kept returning to, scooping up bees off the ground-they ball up when cold- and trying to shake them into the entrance to save them.  My seniors on the job scoff at this behavior, but in my greeness I feel every bee matters and keep returning to try and save every stray bee, knowing that a bee too long outside the hive will just freeze to death.  I have flicked many off my coat that had died in  place.

Sometimes they burrow into the folds of whatever-and hours later come crawling out of what feels like every orifice ....and  I have bees emerging from my clothes in the car, the grocery store, my home...

Because when you are working the whole day outside in these temps, you dress in layers.  I found my bee coat doesn't quite come down over my hoodies.  The first few days this week I left my bee hood off until I had to, and then bees had worked their way inside the hoods of my coats.  I wear a sleeveless tank long enough to tuck in, a long sleeved shirt, a fleece hooded coat, and two hood sweatshirts and then the bee coat.  I wear a pair of sweatpants and a pair of jeans.  I gave up on the leather bee gloves this week-the sleeves are just a pain to get over the bee coat and they get cold wet and slimy-and wear a pair of insulated gloves. The bees haven't managed to sting through them yet, although they have been trying. 

Generally if I get a lively hive that comes at me, I back off and start flicking them off, hoping they haven't suicided on me yet and might get back to their hive before they freeze to death.

So it's been a lively week...

The Firebird is getting enquires from colleges about soccer recruitement, just not the colleges he has applied/been accepted to.  So I hope wheerever he settles he will be able to continue with soccer.

The Willow has had artwork accepted to hang at the capital.

My freezer is filled with turkeys @ 59 cents a pound.

Turkey turkey turkey.

Saturday, November 15, 2014



Well I have been pretty busy. Here's a pic I took of a sundog on the way home the other day.

The shop bee colonies all headed south this week.  I wanted to take a pic of the truck all loaded up but it was gone by the time I walked from the employee lot to the front door.

That was a lot of hard work.  We had a freak snowstorm that dumped two foot drifts the week we were supposed to be strapping them up, and we had to spend a day shovelling the hives out of snowbanks.  My feet were wet for two days straight.  Apparently my new boots are not entirely waterproof!

After the snow melted, a cold front came through, and the wind was whipping across the fields.

The day of the storm I was working on the goat farm and managed to walk into a barn door and gave myself a bloody nose for two hours.  We lost power for two days at the house.  So that was quite a week!

This week ended on a high note, I finally found a replacement vehicle.  A big SUV-filled it up today and it cost $50!  Ouch!

Our land line has been pretty much out since the storm, along with our dialup internet.  So today I invested in a wifi hotspot and some datacredit and now we have wifi!  Ten years on dialup, three years in the subbie, a big week for change!

This week we have to gather up all the local outlying bee yards and get them ready to ship out.  We spent two days making a pile of "bee candy" sugar and water and pollen substitute.  I really can't stand the smell of the pollen anymore. 

We mix the sugar and water in big enamel canning kettles and then cook it on gas burners in a box truck.  Then my co-worker lugs it out and I wait for it to cool to 180, then add the pollen and mix it.  Then I pour it into molds in another box trailer to make big slabs that go right in the hives.  I don't know how many big kettles worth I poured in two days!

We managed to make it a little more fun by rigging the radio out in the yard and cranking oldies.  The first day it was a balmy sunny 50,  Friday was in the thirties and we had a snow squall.  My co worker took a few pics-I am sure I looked quite happy out there mixing bee candy in a snow squall.

At least the paycheck is being put to good use.  :)