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Archive for the ‘Bee Stories’ Category

Winter gold

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The elves have been busy on our little island.

The much respected Elf Elder, passing through from the Canadian steppes, lugged in some of this golden goodness from his hardworking honeybees. He knows that no honey will ever be more loved and appreciated than that of his clover-collecting hive, now safely tucked away from the prairie storms.

Tall Elf, and one who may now be vying for role of Tallest Elf, put together these purty little labels. Mother Elf is finally and clearly convinced that last year’s gap year was of value. The kids knows his way around Photoshop.

This is part one of this year’s teacher gifts.

Tomorrow I’ll show you part two.

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Bee mine

Our honeybees relocated to their new home last weekend. Four thousand hard working spinsters, two eggs-on-demand queens, and a couple dozen ne’er-do-well drones, all tidily packed into two screen and cardboard boxes.

 

Popping off the top, ready to transfer bees to vacant hive and empty combs

 

Good Neighbour Ian lives a few kilometres away where he cares for three hives of bees

Healthy government-approved bees are harder to come by than you might expect.  Honeybees used to be imported from the US until the 1960s but American Foul Brood, the varroa mite and the fear of cross-breeding with the Africanized bee — also known as the ‘killer’ bee) slowed down importation until bees could no longer be legally transported across the border.

A solution of protein-boosted sugar water has kept the bees sated for their transworld journey

 

The queen gets her own chamber, only to assure the bee buyer that she has arrived alive; many bees do not survive the journey and up to 20 per cent expire within the first few weeks of arrival

 

 

 

So now Canadian bees share much in common with the lifties from Whistler — they’re all from New Zealand! (cheap shot joke) NZ bees are supposed to be good New Canadians on the wet west coast as our climate bears considerable resemblance to that of the kiwis’.

Were it a hot summer's day these gals would be in attack mode; the current chill is potentially lethal so they clump together

 

An unceremonial dump of the clump

 

And so last week, as if the Christchurch earthquake weren’t enough, these little gals, with a queen per box, were hustled onto a cargo plane with several zillion of their sisters, and carefully kept at about 90 degrees F — their optimal ambient temperature — at least until they arrived in our laundry room, where they huddled and buzzed, loyal subjects keeping their queen warm.

 

The queen, who for the last few minutes has been tucked in a warm jacket pocket, makes her triumphant arrival

 

And off she crawls to prepare for her life's duty -- when the warm weather arrives she will begin laying upwards of 2000 eggs per day

We’d confined them to the laundry room until the outdoor temps were above zero for a day and then with the assistance of a kind neighbour Ian, we welcomed the gals to their not so tropical isle.

 

No flowers in bloom right now therefore no pollen -- no food; we'll be feeding them 'pollen patties' for the next few weeks

 

Stragglers must find their way in before they're too cold to move

 

Can’t say they were thrilled but we’re hoping they’ll enjoy the view.

 

 

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Question: How much honey will two small bee colonies produce in one late-start summer?

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Answer: This much. Seventy pounds. Three juice jugs and one wine bucket.

In the old days, in the urban days, in the pre-child days, we would save our empties, amble down to the DIY wine store and bottle our own vino.

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This time I drove into town, spoke with the owner of a small Italian grocery, purchased some antipasto containers, came home and container-ed some honey.

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Variations on a tasty theme.

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A Bee Story: Part Three

When you’re out driving in the country and you’ve seen tall white wooden columns tucked in the corner of a pumpkin patch or clover meadow or alfalfa field, you’ve known you’re looking at a colony of honey bees.

Farmers and apiarists may be one and the same, or they may have a symbiotic relationship — the bees pollinate the crops for the farmer and the bees produce honey for the apiarist.

Each wooden column is composed of a number of boxes. One of the boxes, the brood chamber, is the queen bee’s domain — where she lays up to 2000 eggs per day.

The other boxes, or supers, are filled with frames for storing honey.

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Each hexagonal cell of this frame is filled with honey and capped with a thin layer of wax.

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In order to access the honey, the top layer of wax is removed — called de-capping — with a specially designed hot knife.

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Cells that have been missed by the hot knife can also be scratched open with a comb.

The hot wax falls off the frame and into a tub and can later be melted down for other uses.

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With both sides decapped, the frames are placed in an extractor.

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When filled with frames the extractor spins (by either electrical or human power) and centrifugal force draws the honey from the cells where it hits the sides of the drum and then runs down to the bottom.

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And out it flows, golden, aromatic and absolutely irresistible to the human finger tip!

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Now the frames are empty and light, each hexagonal cell a ready repository for more of the bees’ labours, and are replaced in the super and returned to the hive.

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All is calm and well with the world once more.

Tomorrow: Can you ever have too much money honey?

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Bee Story: Part Two

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Prior to his theft, the beekeeper prepares to subdue the bees.

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On to a board he sprinkles drops of a smelly substance called Bee-Go.

Beekeepers are not renowned for their poetic nature.

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The Bee-Go board is set to the side.

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The beekeeper prepares to remove the hive’s lid.

Fly away, bees! Fly away!

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Bright sunlight and cool air blast into the normally warm and dark honey storage chamber of the hive.

Bees maintain their hives at a constant 90 degrees F.

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The alarm is signalled:  Intruder alert! Intruder alert!

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But before the bees can defend their honey stores by attacking the enemy, the Bee-Go board is down and a blanket tossed on top to send the foul smelling pheromone deep into the hive.

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The bees are not happy. The stink has forced them from their home. Those that are not stunned by the Bee-Go whirr about in confusion. Their home has been invaded.

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The box, called a super, is slowly pried off. The colony, doped and confused, is helpless to defend its stores.

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The theft complete, the beekeeper absconds with his golden treasure.

Tomorrow: How the beekeeper sleeps at night

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A Bee Story

Behold the bee.

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Industrious, diligent, tireless.

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An indispensable element of the planet’s ecosystem.

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A wonder of a symbiotic relationship.

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Living together in the hive by the thousands they work endlessly to produce the honey they will consume as food over a cold dark winter.

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They defend their queen and their honey with their lives.

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Behold the beekeepers.

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The beekeepers plot, prepare, conspire and calculate how they will invade the hive and abscond with the bees’ efforts of a lifetime.

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Fly away, bees! Fly away!

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