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Time Flies When It’s 85 Degrees in March…

Yikes! We’ve been busy!

We made it out to check on the girls tonight. We were probably overdue on getting out there and switching the bottom and top hive bodies. Bees like to work in the ‘penthouse,’ as in, they tend to be clustered as high in the hive body boxes as possible. So there they are, all smashed in the top of the two hive body boxes, looking down their bee-noses at the more-empty hive body below them. We’ve had a tremendous overwintering population, and they are busting at the seems. So, we flipped the boxes around to force them to fill out the lower box. But wow – we found lots and lots and lots of bees in both boxes. We are very proud bee parents right now.

A couple weeks ago I had the opportunity to bring a Des Moines Register reporter to the Dept of Ag’s hives for a photo op. An hour later Rodney White had gathered what seemed like thousands of photos and even video. The video is posted at Fun stuff! I guess I’ve figured out that I’m never going to make a million dollars as a model, since they’ll only take a picture of me if I have a big bee veil covering my face…

As I type this I’m listening to State Apiarist Andy Joseph (he works at the Iowa Dept of Ag) be interviewed on the April 11 Fallon Forum show, based in Des Moines. He’s doing a great job explaining the intricacies of the issues around the bee issues. He starts about 4 minutes into the recording, and that section runs about 30 minutes,


Summer in March?

We're hungry!

We fed the girls Sunday night – first time in two weeks. They had totally demolished the last patties, other than a speck of paper still inside he hive from the last meal. They tore into the new patties within seconds. Watching them belly up to the edges of the protein/carbohydrate patties like cattle at a trough was fascinating. Since rain in a constant in the forecast for a while, we’re not sure when we’ll get back as we need dry weather to get through the field to the site.

Pig the Wonder Cat + Mark = Construction Success!

Construction on the new facilities for our expansion has been moving along. More supers need to be put together and then it’s time for paint, paint, paint.

WHAT is with this crazy-warm weather in mid-March?! We took the winter tarpaper and lid insulation off this weekend. Now, everyone cross your fingers and ask Mother Nature to not plunge us back into a cold streak.

Robin had her allergy tests a couple weeks ago. Kind of. Confusion at the office reigned as she requested the stinging insects test but the appointment was not timed right so it could be completed that day. Back to the drawing board on the 26th.  *sigh*

Aye. I’m not fond of shots…

From Robin …
Well, I did it. I called an allergy doc and 17 years later, I’m going back for a second round of allergy tests and likely, allergy shots.  [insert sad trombone here]

The good news I’d that this time I won’t have to be tested for an allergy to rats. – – Long story, maybe some other time…

I had two substantial reactions to bee stings this past summer. My reaction is crazy-bad swelling and a good 10 days of itching. I wake up – itching in my sleep. I sit and itch through meetings. I itch on airplanes. I look like an itchy monkey. Not cool. The swelling is like a golf ball under my skin that lasts for a month. So far, no signs of anaphylactic shock, but my reaction thus far concerned my regular doc enough enough that I was given a prescription for an epi-pen and sternly told to USE IT. I didn’t get stung again once I got the epi-pen, but I did have fun practicing stabbing myself in the leg with the trainer.

(Note: I like breathing. Breathing is good. I want to keep breathing and not flirt with the inability to breathe.)

Oh, and while he’s at it, I might as well get doped up for my pollen and feline allergies.

I hated allergy shots back in the 90’s. The shot doesn’t hurt, but the process of going to the doc once a week to get the shot was more than annoying. I hope the last 17 years have yielded substantial medical progress!

Coooommme & Get It!

Dinner time! On Friday, February 17, Mark snuck out to the hive while it was in the upper 40’s. His primary mission was to put three Dadant Winter Patties on the hive as we’re concerned their food reserves might be on the light side. He was hoping to see bees out, but a cold wind was blowing so the girls were snug in the hive. They had finished off the pan of poorly made fondants from four weeks ago and eatten about two-thirds of the protein patty.

It’s February, so roughly half the managed colonies in the US are in California right now, pollenating the almond crop. Without pollinators, there would be no almonds. None. One would think the almond event would be bee-nirvana, but it’s not. The almond pollen alone is not that nutritious from a bee’s point of view. And, clustering all those colonies together give diseases the ability to jump from one colony to the next. From a commercial beekeeper point of view, it’s good money, that keeps the operation humming, but it has its downside too.

Results from a study by Purdue University has been getting a lot of ‘buzz’ as it has identified the talc in treated seed/planter boxes as being a significant source of neonicotid insecticides blanketing agricultural areas. When the bees visit flowers covered in the insecticide-laced talc, bee mortality ensues.  Couple the coverage with a half life of the compounds of ~1,000 days and well, there’s trouble in River City. Here’s a news piece on the study – Iowa Farmer Today.

Honey Comb, Here We Come!

Photo credit -

Mark has become particularly fascinated with producing honey comb. And, so has his Mom since she remembers eating it as a young girl, from her father’s hives. I too am intrigued – it looks like ridiculously delicious ‘natural’ candy. However, I fear that once I start eating it I might not be able to stop!

Last week while talking to another beekeeper we asked about the Bee-O-Pac system. Turns out that person had give the Pee-O-Pac an ol college try, and well, it didn’t work too well. He didn’t recommend it. We were bummed, as it looked so darn slick on the internet.

So, we’re going to try it old school this year and bought sheets of wax comb and wood frames. We keep asking ourselves, “What’s the worst that can happen – we fail – and try again?” We learned that you melt a little wax and ‘caulk’ the wax sheet into the frame. We think we’ll be particularly good at this since in a fit of pure insanity (oh yah, and we were broke), we reglazed all the old windows in our previous house.

Looks like we’re spending our birthday weekend trying to reorganize the basement so we have space to work to put all our the hive bodies, supers, and frames together. Aye, aye, aye – we have six years of junk down there.

Okay, all this talk of honey comb has made me hungry. I’m going to the kitchen now to eat honey right outta the jar!

Old Man Winter is MIA

The girls are out on a 50 degree day in January!

Is it normal to worry about tens of thousands of insects sitting in a wooden box a couple miles from your house? Well, it’s the new normal in our house. We have one colony of honeybees riding out the winter on a nearby prairie, and this wacky winter weather has thrown us for a loop. Is it so warm that they’re not slowing down – and thus eating through their food reserves too quickly? Or, is this warm weather making it easy on the bees, and so they have lots of food in reserve?  Ayyyye, we don’t know.

Last Monday, January 30, Mark made it to the prairie with a plate of bee fondant*, or bee candy, and a protein patty. It was hovering around 50 degrees, so he didn’t tear into the hive too much, but the girls were certainly active and flying around. He took off the lid and the bees boiled up from in-between the frames. That’s a great sign! Of course, we keep hearing that March is the month that is the real tests – if you’re going to suffer winter losses, March is when it happens. We’re trying to give them every advantage possible by feeing them now.

* – Bee fondant. Basically, it’ hard rock candy for bees. We read what seems like a million recipes online, and, our attempt mildly failed. It’s more of a sad taffy than rock candy. *sigh* We happened to be in Sioux City this past weekend and picked up a big box of  winter patties at Dadant & Sons. When the temps get high enough we’ll switch the taffy out for the real-deal winter patty.

Speaking of feeding bees, one person has told us that putting on a protein patty now is a good idea, and another tell us that we should NOT have a protein patty on now as it will promote egg laying and you don’t want to do that this early in the year. But, we’ve also heard that because of the warm weather egg laying has started. Like we said before – every beekeeper seems to have a different opinion.