Yellow Jacket

Hive No. 1 is decimated, and the other two hives are battling for survival.

We checked the bees yesterday and found hive No. 1 to be essentially empty. Devoid of honey bees, and honey. The bottom of the hive was littered with our fuzzy honey bees’ bodies, many cut in two. Honey bees will defend their hive to the death. A weak hive, which hive No. 1 apparently was or became weak without our intervention, can’t defend for long.

We basically lost 30+ pounds of honey, and our colony to yellow jackets. Two years of work down the drain.

The yellow jackets don’t stop at the honey either. They eat all the eggs, larvae and baby bees. Looking at the frames it’s like looking at a ghost town.

Hives No. 2 & No. 3 are currently battling for their survival as they are under attack by these merciless raiders.

Ironically yesterday was the first time ever we spotted all three queens upon inspection. Sadly the queen for hive No. 1 had but a handful of subjects left guarding her. Likely she’s dead by now, as I write this; unceremoniously put to death by the raiders of her kingdom.

Of all the pests, I feel most powerless against yellow jackets. We should have known better when we started seeing them earlier in the fall; before it was too late. In defense of all three hives we installed an entrance reducer in each, bottom boards and sealed up the upper openings around the cover area. This should help hives No. 2 & 3 put up a better defense. But as of today hive No. 1 was still under regular attack – yellow jackets leaving at will from the small entrance that is left. I did place cement blocks under the hive, as a lot of yellow jackets were congregating there. I’d kill each one by hand, but that like shooting arrows at a tank.

We put up a yellow jacket trap nearby, for what good that will do.

Because the hive is raided, this means we likely won’t harvest any honey for another 18 months out of hive No. 1. We’ll have to get a new package of bees in the spring most likely. There just aren’t enough bees, time or honey for anything to survive the winter.

We’ll see if the other two hives survive. Otherwise all will be lost.

It really f*cking sucks.

If I could kill every yellow jacket on earth I would.

No photos – I wasn’t in the mood. But did take some others today including hive No. 2’s fuzzies at their door, and hive No. 2’s beautiful brood and honey frame.

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Autumn

Autumn berries in the front yard. We have so many different "wild" berry trees. Fall is an incredible time to visit and see them all.

Autumn

Summer lulls us into thinking eternally. Long, sun soaked days. Memories wrought from indelible saturated greens. Fireflies dancing on warm evening breezes. An abundance of life, promises and time stretching horizon to horizon.

Time is of no consequence to never-ending days.

Autumn wipes away all that has been built, in transitional beauty second to none. With one gentle hand she harvests.  And with one firm hand lays the landscape bare. All in a concert that is both subtle and fantastic. Autumn knows where we have been, and guides us to where we are going. She is ruled by schedule. Ruled by time.

And time is of the essence.

Every season has the upper hand on the one preceding it. And serves only that which is to come. Everything is a cycle. Everything in balance. Summer is born of spring, and winter of autumn. There is a perfection in the seasons that speaks to a higher order of things. An order that is beyond the means and imagination of mankind.

The last four weeks have not been easy. After an abundant September, the tap has shut off in October. When that happens stress levels go up, and my ability to appreciate life falls by the wayside. At the rate I’m going, if I see fifty autumns it’ll be a miracle. Layered upon this has been a week in which three people I know (knew?) passed on, never to see another season as we know it.

Personally the greatest loss was my grandma passed away. She’d seen a hundred autumns. We had just celebrated her birthday.

To the very end she had her wits about her and she looked great. Thought she couldn’t hear worth a damn in her later years. But I suspect if I were that age I wouldn’t care too much about what others had to say anyway. I jest though. Grandma was never like that. She was loving and kind. And she listened.

I try to reflect back on my memories. Try to somehow articulate them into some sort of meaning. I’m not sure there’s much that is monumental here. And therein lies the beauty of it. She was my grandma. To me it was that simple. And in this world simplicity is a wonderful thing. At the risk of being taken for granted, constants, such as my grandma, are rocks that we can cling to when storms whip seas into a frenzy. In my mind’s eye she did not change in the forty-one years that I’ve been in this world.

I’m sure she was anything but simple. You don’t live that long without a treasure trove of memories creating a complex, colorful canvas of a lifetime. I think we fall into that trap of just framing other people into the context with which we know them. Think about it this way, I can write all I want about my grandma but I only knew her for forty-one percent of her life. That leaves nearly sixty years of hopes, dreams, wishes, accomplishments, and tears that I’ll never know about.

So I can only imagine.

I like to think for all her being my grandma, she also was once a little girl who fell down, laughed, played and probably had as much joy on her face as I see in my own children today. She grew up, facing similar wonder, problems and heartaches that any of had as teens. I can imagine her getting yelled at for maybe staying out too late, or whatever you did back in the 20’s and 30’s to get hollered at. Eventually she grew up, fell in love and had a bunch of kids. As a new mom I bet she was scared as hell holding her baby for the first time, just as my wife and I were when we had our son. She went on to a lifetime of work, play, celebrations, happiness, sadness and a myriad of other experiences.

I think there are universal hopes and fears we all have. And for whatever reason, that’s what I find most interesting. To transport myself to those times. Sure monumental events are remarkable and recordable, but the emotion of the mundane is what makes us human.

What I do know beyond that, are my first hand memories.

I do remember visiting grandma and grandpa’s house. Grandma would be baking or cooking in the kitchen and I’d sit on the floor playing with wooden blocks she’d given to me. Simple cut off blocks from her job at some factory. I’d stack them up and knock them over. We even have a handful of the very blocks still to this day. And my kids play with them.

Beyond that though, she fostered creativity and caring in me. Life tools that I carry with me to this day. She helped me understand freedom (walking to the store) and warmth of family (under the protection of her hand knit afghan blankets – one of which I still use to this day).

There are other memories as well. It makes me want to look through old photo albums.

I suppose when you’re a hundred, you outlast many of the people you’ve known. I think I’d be lonely really. Might even be ready to go. I don’t know.

Grandma went out on her own terms I like to think. Peacefully I hope. I don’t know much about anything beyond that. None of us ever could. But we know she’s gone. At least gone from here, where we could hug her or see her ever present smile.

That’s what summer memories are for though.

I’ll miss her.

One of my first pictures with grandma (R) (actually both of my grandmas).

One of my first pictures with grandma (R) (actually both of my grandmas).

The last picture of grandma and me. Taken about two weeks ago on her 100th birthday.

The last picture of grandma and me. Taken about two weeks ago on her 100th birthday.

Autumn Bee Check & Early Winter Hive Prep

We did a quick bee check of all three hives today. It was a fairly temperate day, and we just had our first frost, so all the signs point towards checking bees while we still can. Snow will be upon us soon enough. This is probably the last or second to last check of the bees until spring

Our goals for checking the bees in fall:

  1. Start moving honey frames towards the center – the bees will form a big warm ball of bees in the center of the hive, likely the middle or lower deep. They won’t go far to get honey, even if they are hungry. Also they likely will move up the hive, so it’s important that the middle deep is where most of the honey is at
  2. Check for mites – hives 1 and 3 both have mites, so we decided to treat all three hives with Hop Guard. Mites create bees with deformed wings, kill baby bees before they hatch and generally cause decline in bee populations. The cardboard strips of Hop Guard are placed over the deep frames, two to a hive box. They are not placed in the honey “supers” higher up in the hive.
  3. Treat for hive beetles – hive 1 has beetles so we decided to put beetle traps in all three hives. The trap is just a clear injection molded compartment that we fill with safflower oil. You can use canola oil, or other type of cooking oil that’s lying around. The beetles check in, but they don’t check out.

Later on this month we’ll install mouse guards to the entrances. These sheet metal shields are perforated to allow bees to come and go, but they won’t let rodents enter the main entrance of the hive. Up top we’ll place a queen excluder screen to keep the mice out of the top of the hive, as well.

Sometime in November I’ll fashion insulating shells, from 2″ rigid insulation. The insulating shells will protect the hives from what is supposed to be a very cold winter. This will be a pain to do every year. I’d like to invent a hive with rigid insulation built into the boxes. This would regulate temperatures year round just like an old hollow tree trunk would (that’s my theory at least).

The bees seem happy, as happy as bees can be. Hive No. 2 should be fine, as should hive No. 1. Hive No. 3 is lagging behind honey-wise and bee population-wise, so I’m uncertain. All three hives have eggs and / or a visible queen (we saw hive No. 1 queen today).

Here are today’s photos including a bee birthday.

Autumn Scenes & Honey Bottle Label

Autumn is in full swing.

Today we labeled our honey bottles. The labels look okay. There are some design changes I’ll make but those can wait until the next batch. We needed to get them labeled for tomorrow’s community yard sale.

Here are a few photos, including one of a frog that jumped out in front of the Rabbit the other day. It’s a northern green frog (Rana clamitans melanomawhich is can be found throughout Ohio. It’s fun discovering a “new to us” species on our land. Especially this large of an amphibian. One of these days I should do a book on all the animals we have on our land.

So many ideas, so little time.

Bee Wildflower Honey

Had to share my impromptu design for our honey jar labels.  I want to get them labeled for this weekend. There’s a village peddler’s day this weekend and I’m going to whore my wares in the center of town; selling honey alongside my old lawn mower and any trash to treasure stuff I can find in the basement or garage.

“bee” is our brand 🙂 I don’t know if anyone else is using that, but I’ll keep using it until someone tries to stop me (I generally always get what I want).

I drew the wildflowers using a photo I took earlier this year of flowers on our land. I don’t know what they are but they are yellow with red centers. There’s a photo on the blog somewhere.

The copy font is avant grade which is one of my all-time favorite fonts. The font choice, along with my black and white trace drawing kind of gives the label a retro 70’s vibe which I like a lot as a child of that decade (and the one after). We grew up in a classic 70’s house and they type of architecture is prevalent throughout the valley in which we live if you know where to look.

You know what’s really cool? Just like wine I’ve labeled the honey with the season, year, type and even which hive it came from. Honey never spoils, which makes it even better than wine. (We’re having a honey tasting later this fall, as a random side note – just like wine tasting!)

Available in 8oz and 4oz glass bottles, 100% of the proceeds from our honey sales go towards educating our kids, paying for our eco-friendly house, buying wildflowers and trees, and supporting our bees.

Seems legit, right?

Label for "bee" brand honey - includes hive, season and type information.

Label for our “bee” brand honey – includes hive, season and type information.