The Bee Lady nominated for Versatile Blogger Award!

Many, many thanks to Anita at Beverly Bees (Boston, Mass.), who nominated me for a Versatile Blogger Award! It’s refreshing to know that people out there are actually reading the posts on your blog and appreciate your work. I keep two blogs — The Bee Lady and Kowalogy, which focuses on my reflections of teaching and education. I need to post on that one a bit more often!

So a shout out to Beverly Bees and Anita, who’s got a BEAUTIFUL website and lovely blog about beekeeping and below you will find the rules for a Versatile Blogger nomination and a list of my favorite blogs, whom I’m also nominating for the award. I’m pretty selective about who I follow so I can’t quite meet the 15 blog quota but these are really great bloggers who deserve some serious kudos. Keep on bloggin’!

Rules for the Versatile Blogger Award:

1. Thank the Blogger who nominated you.
2. Include a link to their site.
3. Include the award image in your post.
4. Give 7 random facts about yourself.
5. Nominate 15 other Bloggers for the award.
6. When nominating, include a link to their site.
7. Let other Bloggers know they have been nominated.

SEVEN RANDOM FACTS:

  1. Like Anita, my next backyard barnyard endeavor is chickens. My husband will be building the coop this fall and we plan to get five ladies in January. I plan to name them Truvy, M’Lynn, Annelle, Clairee, and Ouizer — not all that original, I know, but I love it!
  2. I have two fancy goldfish — Sunny and Happy. They are so cute and I love them, but watching them while I’m eating grosses me out and makes me nauseous.
  3. I think the city bus system is actually a social experiment being secretly filmed and studied by a covert government agency.
  4. If I could, I would eat a pound of cherries every day.
  5. My husband makes me laugh more than any person I know. It’s one of the prime reasons I married him.
  6. My favorite food is pork soup dumplings.
  7. I have lost or misplaced a beautiful piece of jade that I got in Ireland and it’s currently driving me crazy that I can’t remember when I last wore it or where I put it.

Blogs I’m nominating for a Versatile Blogger Award:

Kitchenette Foodie: My friend Ilona who does a lovely foodie blog!

Gen Y Girl: Kayla Cruz — You’re my hero! I wish I were as outspoken as you when I was your age.

The Paper Graders: Sarah M. Zerwin (Doc Z) and Jay Stott (Mr. S) and Paul Bursiek (Mr. B)  — three teachers who write openly and honestly about what it means to be public school teachers and intellectuals.

Education Alchemy: Same as above.

LetMBee: Jason Bruns in Indiana, who — like me — let the beauty of the bees carry him in a new direction in life.

Bees & Chicks: Two women who combine two of my favorite topics — bees and gardening — and write about their experiences.

Mistress Beek: My fellow ABQ Beek Chantal Forster, who has done so much to advance beekeeping in The Duke City.

Backwards Beekeepers: Another amazing urban beekeeping group — in Los Angeles, nonetheless.

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REPOST Importing Bees: High Demand Creates a Huge Dilemma

Great article by Melanie Kirby of Zia Queen Bees in the Green Fire Times this month. Please read and share.

IMPORTING BEES: High Demand Creates a Huge Dilemma.

Beekeeping is not for everyone. Educate yourself first.

Being a novice beekeeper is challenging. The constant feeling that you don’t know what you’re doing is compounded by your sudden responsibility to these small creatures swarming in your backyard. As Zen-like and comforting as beekeeping is, there’s always that hint of stress induced by your wanting to do right by these little insects that give you loads of sweetness and joy.

Before I even considered buying a hive I read books about beekeeping. Lots and lots of books. The first one was “A Book of Bees” by Sue Hubbell. My husband bought it for me. Then it was “Sweetness & Light” and “Robbing the Bees.” These were by no means “how-to” books, but they did give amazing detail and insight into what it meant to be a beekeeper. I also found a mentor — Ken Hays of Hays Honey & Apple Farm — who’d been keeping bees for 25+ years. We talked often and he allowed me to shadow him on his daily yard inspections. He was patient, joyful, inspiring, and encouraging. He said I would be the best type of beekeeper: loving, nurturing, and serious. It was only after a couple of months of this research that I finally bought my first hive. I continued to read. I called Ken and another mentor, Jerry Anderson, regularly to ask questions. They were always eager to help.

At this point, Albuquerque had a decent community of hobbyist beekeepers — beekeepers with 1 or 2 hives in their backyard. Now, seven years later, there are an estimated 400 backyard hobbyist beekeepers in the city. A group of energetic and well-meaning volunteers have gotten the Albuquerque Beekeepers group to a functional organization that provides workshops, mentors, forums, and other resources for beekeepers of all levels.

Still, it’s disheartening and somewhat alarming when you hear one of these newbie beekeepers ask basic questions like, “What do eggs look like?” “What does the queen look like?” “What’s a wax moth?” “My bees are all dead. What happened?” In my opinion, this is essentially the equivalent of giving birth to a child and then asking someone how you identify whether its a boy or a girl.

There’s basic knowledge that fledgling beekeepers should have before even starting a backyard apiary. Knowing how to spot the queen, workers, drones, larva, eggs, swarm cells, disease, pests, etc., are all included in that essential information. To start keeping bees before you can answer and identify these issues is irresponsible at best and egregious at worst. I have seen some hack beekeepers around these parts. One person had their hive in the 3-foot wide easement between his house and his neighbors, in full slight of the street. When we visited, the bees were pouring out the front for lack of space in the hive, and they flowed out onto the gas meter, which was right next to the hive bodies. He seemed not to be alarmed by this at all. Once when a swarm landed in our neighbors yard, a man showed up, walked right into her backyard without asking or introducing himself, hacked away at her bushes only to get about 1/3 of the cluster, and left without saying a word. More recently, the threat of Africanized Honeybees has encroached on our peaceful existence, and still we have beekeepers who know not the warning signs or causes for AHB or how to deal with them. The beekeeping community should not have to encourage them to send their unusually aggressive bees to the extension office to be examined for the AHB gene. They should know to do this.

Beekeeping is an amazing experience. Even now after seven years I’m still educating myself. I’m still learning every day. I’m working toward my master beekeeping certification, and love to share my knowledge and time with anyone who is interested in this mission that is so essential to our own survival as human beings. As urban beekeepers, we cannot take this lightly. Read, read, read, and read some more before you go out and snag a swarm or mail order a box of bees. Yes, the bees are operating on millennia of instinct, but that doesn’t absolve us from our responsibility as partners in this endeavor. Lack of knowledge and a willful refusal to educate yourself BEFORE you get your bees only makes it more difficult for the other beekeepers in your community.

Preparing for the Honey Harvest

Ryan putting together all of our new honey supers. He’s preparing for the harvest, and getting some hive bodies for the new nucs that he’s creating.

We are Langstroth beekeepers, which means we use the stackable box hives as opposed to top-bar hives, and instead of using the shallow honey supers we use regular deep-hive bodies for the honey supers as well as the brood boxes. We didn’t do this for any  particular reason, just a matter of choice. There’s only one disadvantage to using deep-hive bodies for our supers: our extractor only fits three deep frames, whereas if we used the shallow supers it would take six at a time. It just makes the harvest take a little longer.

We’re eager to rob our girls!

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The Beekeeper’s Spring

As you can guess, springtime poses the greatest challenges for beekeepers. It’s a make-or-break time when you could easily lose a colony to cold snaps or starvation or swarming. This spring has been a particular challenge as Ryan has discovered that three of our colonies have become queenless in the past couple of weeks. Normally, the colony will notice if their queen is on her way out by her sparse laying pattern (or no laying at all). Their instinct is to rear a new queen so that she can begin laying eggs and building colony strength and numbers in preparation for the nectar flow. You don’t want your colonies to go queenless for too long, as it weakens the hive over a very short period of time. We’re not too certain what happened to these queens, but Ryan has instituted a queen-rearing project and hopes to have at least five new queens within the next couple of weeks. It will be interesting as this is the first time he will be doing this. As usual, he’s the consummate beekeeper — always equal to the task and ready to help his girls in any way he can.

On a lighter note, this spring has been a presentation spring for us. We were called upon to do a beekeeping presentation for Marissa Hamilton’s second-grade class at Hawthorne Elementary School here in Albuquerque. Ryan has been planning to make an observation hive for some time, and this was the perfect motivation for him to get the project completed. It was so great to see the looks on the childrens’ faces when we brought in our “glass” hive with the bees hard at work inside. Of course, I forgot the camera. {Post sad face emoticon here.}

We do have photos of another presentation we did for the Albuquerque Urban Beekeepers Association (ABQBeeks). Chantal Forster and Jessie Brown, co-coordinators of the group, invited us to the Spring Maintenance Meeting, where Ryan and I talked about maintenance of our Langstroth Hives. My presentation was pretty straightforward, but Ryan did a great talk on how he over-wintered a very weak colony by placing it on top of a stronger colony with a screened bottom board to allow for the warmth to sustain the weak hive during the coldest months. He also introduced his two-sided nuc hives, which were a great hit.

We hope to do more of these types of educational programs in the future, as we are both working toward our Master Beekeeper certification through the Washington State Beekeepers Association (New Mexico does not have such a program).

The greatest hit of all was the Observation Hive. Below are photos.

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