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Bees and Wasps--Phobics Beware! Non-Phobics, Come Enjoy Some Schadenfreude! )

Good Stuff :)

Jul. 6th, 2014 06:30 pm
dawn_felagund: (yavanna earth)
I want to apologize first to my flist for that long, uncut vacation post with pictures yesterday! (At least I didn't curse too much ...) I initially posted to DW, as I always do, to crosspost to LJ. I messed up the LJ-cut, went back to edit and fix it, and instead of editing the LJ post, DW crossposted a second copy of the entry, which meant that the first one sans LJ cut was left up with my realizing it. Sorry, y'all.

This weekend has had some remarkably good stuff, despite the fact that I'm back from vacation and staring at impending work tomorrow. (I probably wouldn't mind going back to work if we had one more day without the students, but when they give us our summer schedules and shove us out the door on the last day of school, that doesn't leave much time to plan when we walk back into the building again at the same time as the students, and there are things I will not get done because of it. I spent most of today on planning, but some things I just have to be in the building to do.)

First of all, we confirmed today that our bee swarm did indeed successfully move into the hive that Bobby hastily constructed for them, so getting stung on the nose was worth it. We now have two honeybee colonies. \0/

This is the wonderful time of the year when it is possible to find fresh and local pretty much anything you want to eat. The garden is crazy-productive this year; we front-loaded a lot of effort this year into properly preparing the soil and mulching while the plants were small, and the payoffs look like they are going to be huge. Bobby picked our first tomatoes today, and we have reached the point where we are leaving zucchini on the vine because we've picked so many. (The one bad point: We have squash bugs again this year. Ugh. Picking eggs off the plants and squooshing larvae and adults every day is not a chore I look forward to. If you've never dug around in squash leaves, they are very prickly; my arms are quite marked up right now.) Bobby harvested our garlic yesterday, and we had our biggest harvest ever. Our bramble fruits are doing ridiculously well; we harvested almost a quart of blackberries today, and Bobby has made jam with entirely our own berries for the first time ever. Everything is doing really, really well. I need to take and post pictures.

Last night, I went back to the gym after a two-week hiatus. Two weeks ago, I must have twinged my knee--I'd increased my weights on that night--and the next day, while sitting for a long time working with my leg twisted under me, I stood up to discover that my knee really hurt. I ended up missing almost a week of dance and gym, and our vacation followed immediately on the heels of it. I was not looking forward to going back last night, after two weeks of indolence and almost a week of eating horribly down the ocean. But I actually managed the same level I was doing before my two-week hiatus (600 calories in 45 minutes on the elliptical). My legs felt crazy when I was done, but I did it.
Cut for Discussion and Photos of My Bees, as Stinging Insects Aren't Everyone's Thing! )
Welp, it's been a busy past few weekends, hence my relative silence here. Bobby and I have been spending most of our time outside, getting ready for planting season. Everything was crunched into April and the first few weeks of May (versus beginning in March) since we were under a blanket of snow for just about all of March. And last year, what with Bobby taking his Outdoor Emergency Care class for ski patrol and me physically unable to do much beyond moan and groan, we slacked off on things like weeding, so we have extra to do this year, since one thing weeds do very well is make more weeds and survive conditions that kills just about everything else living. (The latter attested by the number of plants we lost this winter: both blueberries, a holly bush, both rose trees, and the arborvitae, of course. We also have broadleaf evergreen shrub that is trying hard to live with some modest success after all the foliage on it dying this winter. But the dandelions are doing great! :)

Anyway, Mother's Day is the traditional planting day in central Maryland for tender plants, so true to tradition, we started to put our plants into the ground a week ago, which means that this week has been a lot of weeding, planting, fertilizing, mulching; weeding, planting, fertilizing, mulching; and so on. But everything is now in the ground and doing great.

I wish I could say the same for our bees. Bee-Talk Cut for Those Who Prefer to Avoid Bee-Talk :) )

We've also been busy socially, seeing friends on the weekend (sometimes accidentally! We went out for Indian on Friday, and I usually email our friends Tristan and Don to see if they want to meet us over there, but we decided to go so late that I didn't this time. But when we arrived, who had arrived only just shortly before us? So we got permission to combine our tables.) Last night, we hosted dinner for our parents as a belated Mother's Day dinner. We had a green salad, teriyaki chicken (asparagus quesadilla for me!), Bobby's incredible "island rice," grilled asparagus seasoned with that ubiquitous Maryland seasoning of Old Bay, and tres leche cake for dessert, topped with fresh strawberries and mango. Bobby made piña coladas and got the moms pretty soused. I was supposed to make strawberry ice cream, but every place we checked this weekend was sold out of local strawberries (Bobby had bought his for the cake earlier in the week), so I had to do vanilla instead.

We are dogsitting for our friend Dawn this weekend, so in addition to our two big dogs, we have her big black dog Duffy. And my inlaws, of course, brought their Great Pyrenees Bella, so the house was overrun with dogs. Big dogs.

More & Pictures below the Cut )
Every few days, I think, "I should write in my journal about that!" but then never actually do. Although I'm not taking any classes right now, it's a busy time of the year in the House of Felagund, and I've been staying very loyal to my gym schedule. And I've been busy at work, with a large senior class this year and all of them in some form of jeopardy (usually related to HSAs), plus the after-school program. And trying to get the B2MeM ebook together. Anyway, I've been photographing things, so I'll at least share my photos and some updates will likely straggle along with those photos.

Pictures below the Cut ... )
As I posted earlier this summer, our bee colony absconded for some unknown reason. Well, a combination of busyness and laziness (I can't even blame the heat since we had a pretty mild summer) meant that Bobby and I didn't get around to breaking down the empty beehive until today. And we found it infested with wax moths.

We had been warned about wax moths in beekeeping class in the context of not leaving wax-filled frames unsealed over the winter. It has been in the back of my mind to get the frames brought in before, presumably, becoming infested with wax moths. Too late! We did manage to salvage the wax in just over a dozen frames, so we'll have something to give next year's colony to start with. And the good news is that, while the moths had done some minor damage to the woodwork of the boxes and frames, they hadn't actually destroyed any of the structures outright.

It was mostly just nasty. There were cocoons everywhere and webbing--our beehive had a rather Mirkwood-like quality to it!--and moth feces. I should have taken pictures. It was really something to see and took quite some time to clean up. The cocoons had to be pried off of the wooden surface of the hive and any damaged wax torn out and thrown away. There were quite a few--some large--spiders in there as well, which probably thought they'd hit the jackpot. Those I tried to save, since they were on the same team we were (and I like spiders besides).

So we'll start over again next year and hopefully have better luck. We knew going in that beekeeping can be a crapshoot, and that a lot of what you learn--despite the classes, despite buying and reading books--is ultimately learned the hard way. We certainly learned our lesson about wax moths.
Pictures and Narrative under a Cut for the Bee-Phobic )
The Fambly and I left for Charlottesville on Thursday afternoon after the students were gone for the day. Bobby and I rushed home, as we still had some things to do before leaving. One of those things was feeding the bees.

'Tis the season to feed the bees in our area. We've been feeding ours all summer, on the recommendation of more experienced beekeepers in the Carroll County Beekeeper's Association, so that they could expend more resources to draw comb. But this time of year, feeding is especially important so that they have adequate honey stores to get through the winter. The past few weeks have, as documented, been very rainy, which means that the bees haven't been able to forage, and we haven't been able to feed them.

It was drizzling Thursday afternoon. I should have known to put on my veil, but I was in a hurry. I paid for my haste.

Warning for the insect- and bee-phobic. Also warning for eye-related gruesomeness. )
We had our first encounter with our bees in a bad mood today. It was a confluence of factors that caused it to happen. It is extremely hot today, which makes the bees cranky, and makes us cranky ... and sweaty, which the bees don't like. We had to disassemble the whole hive because we had to get the small hive beetle trap out of the bottom box and move it to the top box so that we could check it weekly. This meant that we were in the hive much longer than usual and ended up squishing more bees than usual too. Squished bees release a pheromone that alerts their hivemates to stand guard.

They started at Bobby first, pinging off of him. One tried to crawl down his glove. He asked if I could handle putting the honey super back by myself, since he was starting to get nervous, and my number-one beekeeping rule is to only work at your comfort level. I'd rather work alone than with someone fumbling and bumbling and making stupid mistakes because of nerves. So he excused himself, and a bee followed him all around to the back of the house. When he came back around front, she started at him again, so I told him to go into the house, and I'd finish up.

I stepped back at one point, and two bounced into me, so I moved further back, and another bounced into my arm ... and stuck. She'd stung me in the right forearm. I scratched out the stinger and went back to my business. While putting the hive-top feeder back into place, another one stung me in the other forearm, and a third stung me right over that bony spot behind the ear.

Honeybees have a barbed stinger, so after they sting, they either pull hard enough to break away from the stinger, disemboweling themselves in the process (which is gross and upsetting to see), or they remain attached to the stinger ... and you. The stinger can be scraped out with a fingernail or the hive tool, and the bee flies off.

Both bees remained attached to me. There wasn't much I could do. I couldn't let go of the feeder or else I'd end up covered in sugar water, so I got it about two-thirds into place and then stepped back and scraped off the bee from my arm. The one behind my ear was trickier. I could hear and feel her buzzing, but it hurt less than you might expect; at first, I wasn't even completely sure if she'd stung me or if she was just caught in my hair. I went and knocked on the front door because I didn't want to bring her into the house. Bobby answered the door, but he's not yet been stung, and I could tell he wasn't comfortable removing her with a fingernail, so I told him to go get a butterknife from the house. There I stood, on my front porch, with a bee stuck behind my ear, still buzzing away.

He got her out with the butterknife, but then he couldn't get her out of my hair. What a scene we must have been on the front porch!

When she was finally out of my hair, I could feel the stinger still attached, so Bobby plucked it out for me with a pair of tweezers. We let the bees cool off for a few minutes, then went back and got the feeder fully into place and the inner and outer covers back onto the hive.

This certainly wasn't our most fun experience going into the bees, but I'm also glad that handling a hot hive for the first time is behind us! I know much more what to expect and will try not to make the same mistakes again.
10,000 Bees below the Cut--Insect-Phobic Beware! (Text and Photos) )
Photos and Narrative Below the Cut--Those Squeamish about Insects, Beware! )

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