Last Bee Check for 2015

Yesterday was basically the last time we will have checked in on our two bee hives. Despite our warm Autumn, I’m sure it’ll get cold soon and we won’t want to open the hives anymore.

I think we’ve done a good job combating yellow jackets this year, as opposed to last. Neither hive shows any signs of yellow jackets raiding honey.

Hive No. 3 is not looking too good though. We don’t believe they have a queen anymore and their numbers are way down. I don’t think that hive will survive the winter. I’m not sure there is anything we can do anyway, as there isn’t enough time for them to re-queen themselves, and brooding days are over so no new bees will be emerging to replace the ones that die off. There’s one frame of capped brood but it doesn’t look viable. Bees live about 30 days in summer, and can live inside the hive throughout the winter. But there just aren’t enough of them really. They have enough honey  with one full super, and several deep frames in the middle box. We shall see.

Hive No. 1 is still going strong. We didn’t see the queen, but they still have a frame or two of capped brood that looks to still be viable. And there are still a ton of bees in there.

They had actually close to two boxes of honey up top. The one had several frames with a little bit of uncapped honey. We reduced both hives to two deeps and now medium super, so I took nine frames of uncapped honey out between both hives. Right now the frames are sitting out there, I’m letting the bees and yellow jackets raid them. I’ll go look and bring them back to the garage later today. I didn’t want extract any honey anymore this year. It’s just more work than I want to deal with. I will scrape off the nine frames and store them for next year. There really isn’t much honey on them, and it’s not worth taking full frames from the bees, to simply replace them with these meager frames.

I’m not sure what else I’m supposed to do.

I’ll put the insulation wraps on the two hives, and rearrange the hay bales later this month to protect them from the cold.

Hive No. 1

With much apprehension I opened up hive No. 1 yesterday to see if there was anything left. Much to my surprise the bees were doing as well as could be expected. I saw a few hundred bees working diligently to repair the damage caused by the yellow jackets.

I saw hive No. 1’s queen as well.

There weren’t as many yellow jackets as there had been before, outside the hive. Inside the hive I didn’t see any. The entrance reducer, and closing up the other entrances, had allowed the remaining honey bee forces to shore up their defenses. With just one small opening they could then take the fight directly to the yellow jackets on, one at a time. I witnessed at least one or two being escorted from the entrance to meet their demise. I encouraged two honey bees to back off and personally killed one yellow jacket myself with a stick.

It felt good.

I moved all the honey I could find towards the center of the hive. The bees were busy relocating honey as well and repairing damaged comb, as best I could tell.

The wasp traps were doing their job finally. Each had yellow jackets inside. The traps, from Lowe’s, feature two chambers. The upper is filled with soda, the lower has some sort of scented pad. All the scented pad does is attract honey bees, so I have to help any trapped ones get out before they die.

The upper soda filled chamber is working well to kill flies and yellow jackets. Pepsi seems to work better than Sprite.

Hives No. 2 and No. 3 seem to be doing well, with little or no yellow jacket activity.

Hive No. 2 should be okay for the winter. As should No. 3, though it appears to be lagging the powerhouse that is No. 2.

Hive No. 1 could survive, but no way to know for sure.  The last couple days of warm weather have been a boon. And we’re feeding as much sugar-water as we can to the weakened hive. Eventually we will take the empty deep off the bottom to make the hive more compact, and reserve the pollen laden frames for spring. The bottom deep is empty so no need to keep it on stand over winter.

Wait and see. And hope for a warm winter.

Here are some pictures, including a glorious photo of hive No. 1 still alive, as well as the traps.


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.


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 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.