June 20, 2007
You'll find this hive if you drive on Highway One near Muir Beach just across the Golden Gate Bridge and past the Marin Headlands. I would love to see it in person sometime. The brood chamber is permanent and cannot be disturbed. It looks like the only thing that is managed is the honey super on top.
"Green Gulch Farm Zen Center, also known as Green Dragon Temple (Soryu-ji), is a Buddhist practice center in the Japanese Soto Zen tradition offering training in Zen meditation and ordinary work. It is one of three centers that make up San Francisco Zen Center, which was founded by Shunryu Suzuki-roshi."
June 19, 2007
Such is their toil and such their busy pains,
As exercize the bees in flowery plains,
When winter past and summer scarce begun,
Invites them forth to labor in the sun.
Some lead their youth abroad, while some condense
Their liquid store, and some in cells dispense:
Some at the gates stand ready to receive
The golden burden, and their friends relieve;
All, with united force, combine to drive
The lazy drones from the laborous hives,
With envy stung they view each other's deeds;
The fragrant work with diligence proceeds.
--Vergil Aeneid I
June 17, 2007
The boxes of frames arrived today. I set everything up in the yard and started to build them. It has got to be the most time consuming and irritating process known to mankind if you don't have a work table. Or patience. I have neither.
Three different kinds of nails, wood glue, tacks. I have not even got to the part where you thread the wire through and fasten in the sheets of pre-pressed wax.
Labels: Building Equipment
June 14, 2007
June 7, 2007
I went to the beekeeper's house today and learned a little about what the hives look like and how to identify the brood and honey, the pollen, the queen and workers and drones. I'll order some hive boxes and put them together in time for the relocation of the swarm in a few weeks.
June 6, 2007
An amazing thing happened today. I was working at home and kept hearing this weird scratching noise in the corner of my office window. Then a hum. Then a louder buzzing that sounded like a pack of weedwackers coming up the driveway. I looked out my window to be greeted with the sight of more honeybees than I have ever seen in one place in my life. There was a dense cloud of thousands of bees filling up the space between my house and the neighbors' houses on either side. IT WAS A SWARM! I shut the windows and ran outside to see where they were coming from and they were just everywhere humming and swirling around It was beautiful; thousands and thousands of golden flying bees against the bright blue sky! I have never seen anything like it before. I turned the corner and saw that they were landing on the side of my house and forming a two foot wide eight foot tall river of bees that was getting bigger and bigger by the second. Right near the top of the column of crawling bees was a hole in the wood siding about the size of a half dollar. They were climbing in! The swarm was landing on my house and moving into a knothole in the wood siding that led to the space in between the siding and the inner wall of my apartment.
My first thought was that they were going to figure out a way to get into my house and I would be dealing with a thousand stinging bees in my living room. Then I remembered that when bees swarm, their main concern is to get into a suitable space and start making their combs. They are not interested in flying around and stinging anything. Their singular purpose is to make a home for the queen and get her started laying eggs.
I watched them until they all were inside. It took about an hour. I did not think to take any photos I was so transfixed, but here is an image from someone who did take a photo of their swarm in Boise, Idaho...
I called a few places to see how to relocate them but they all just did exterminations. I felt so responsible for these creatures and could not bear the thought of them being killed when there are so few of them around. I felt like they had accepted my invitation in such a dramatic way...I mean they swarmed right into the place I spend the most time in my house...they moved in three feet from where I sit at my desk and work and goof around on the computer and work on my photos. I could hardly bear the thought of someone deciding it would be better to exterminate them.
I have wanted a hive in the garden for a few months and was working myself up to asking my landlord if I could have a few stacks of hives in the yard. I could not quite bring myself to ask. I thought I would start with the vegetable garden then work up to the bees...and maybe chickens. But I never had to ask...the bees just showed up! My landlord, Peter, was here when
they swarmed and as we discussed what to do about it I felt like a kid about to ask my dad if I could keep a stray puppy, knowing chances were good he would say no...except it was thousands of flying stinging insects I was asking to keep....I watched his face and tried to guage how he felt about the whole thing. It looked like he might be excited and a little worried. Was he going to take the easy way out and just call an exterminator? Could I intervene? Was it rational? Could I really take care of a giant hive of bees? I decided to wait to see what he said and then advocate to keep them if he seemed like he was leaning towards extermination. Turns out he was as excited as I was about the possibility of keeping them. He wanted to put plexiglass in the outside wall so we could watch them! But we came to our senses and found a spot to have the hives in a more out of the way location on our the property. I get to keep my stray bees!
I had a beekeeper come over and positively identify them as honeybees. He brought some beekeeping supply catalogs for me to look at, and I am going over to his house tomorrow to see his hives and make a list of things to order. He said that there were at the LEAST, 20,000 bees in the wall. 20,000 living creatures that make it possible for us to have fruits and vegetables and flowers and HONEY! If you hold your hand on the wall you can feel the heat where they all are...they are building their honeycombs right now and making a place for their brood. I have about a month to get a set of boxes for them and have the beekeeper come out and vacuum them out of the wall and relocate them. And to get a beekeeping outfit!
June 2, 2007
Bees in the US are dying this year from a problem called Colony Collapse Disorder,,,the bees just abandon their hives en masse and disappear...in some places on the East Coast up to 70% of hives are empty. And it is spreading west.
In the last 20 years, wild honeybees and domesticated bees have been decimated by a mite from Asia called the varroa mite. Now Colony Collapse Disorder is doing a good job of wiping out the ones we have left. As you know, we need bees to pollinate our food crops. Commercial beekeepers that travel with hives and pollinate orchards and fields across the country for giant agribusiness crops have lost up to 90% of their bees this year. This is really bad news if you like to eat. And really bad news if you care about living things. No one can figure out what is causing it...cell phones? GMO crops? pesticides? fungus? Whatever it is, the bees are dying out fast.
Newspapers are reporting conflicting stories. Some beekeepers are taking it very seriously, other experts say this happens occassionally and is nothing to worry about. It seems to be hitting the commercial beekeepers the hardest. Organic beekeepers are not reporting as many losses.
Wikipedia has a thorough account. And you can find more info at celsias.com, the Washington Post, NPR.com and The New York Times