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P1110996Truth can be stranger than any fiction. We were reading an interesting article yesterday about parasitic flies that are eating the brains of Vermont honeybees. These flies, known as phorid flies pierce the abdomen of honeybees and deposit eggs. The fly larvae then consume the insides of the honeybees, turning them into what has been dubbed zombees. These bees exhibit extremely strange behavior such as leaving the hive in the dark and have been seen flying around outdoor lights, where they often are found dead the next day. This is strange with a capital “S” behavior.

There have been a lot of sightings of zombees on the west coast and yesterday we learned that these zombees have been found most recently in Vermont as well. There is a site called www.zombeewatch.org which is attempting to document the presence of these zombees. They are looking for zombee hunters, (a/k/a citizen scientists) so if you’re passion has been to hunt zombies, hunting zombees might be up your alley. There is a tutorial on how to become a zombee hunter on the website, which includes collecting the dead bees that you may find in certain outdoor locations into resealable plastic bags. The guide will instruct you on how to make a light trap to capture zombees and how to contain the dead bees while you wait and then watch the larvae emerge. Since I personally squirm when there are maggots in the summer garbage can, I most definitely can tell you that this is not the project for me; I am sure that those who are of much hardier stock may take some great interest in helping the folks at ZomBeewatch.org document the presence of these infected bees around the country.  I mean, how cool it is t be able to say that you are both a citizen scientist and a zombee hunter in the same breath?

The honey bees seem to approve of the new flower bed. They are out there since we have had some beautiful summer days busily doing what bees do. The coneflower and the liatris appear to be favorites. Here are some pictures of those little guys at work.

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It’s been two years since we last harvested honey. Tom pulled off the supers last week and then this past weekend, the potting shed was converted into the honey extraction chamber. The portable electric heaters were placed out there to bring the potting shed and the honey up to a warmer temperature. Much like syrup, cold honey does not flow. Since Friday night, (off and on) Tom has been uncapping the frames and then placing them in the extractor and spinning them out. We have been very fortunate to have about 11 1/2 gallons of honey from this harvest. There is one five gallon bucket that will sit in the basement and another that was siphoned off into smaller jars (about two cases worth), plus another five half-gallon mason jars of honey. That is a lot of honey.

The thing about honey, is it is great to put up. It’s filtered several times and then jarred — that’s it!

 

 

 

 

 

I just read about this over at Good and it is pretty interesting. Chicago’s O’Hare Airport is the first United States airport to host beehives. The airport land is presently home to a 2,400 square foot apiary. There are presently 23 beehives along the eastern edge of the airport property. The land upon which the airport presently stands was an old apple orchard (and coincidently that is why O’Hare’s airport code is ORD) which may explain why the pairing of bees and planes seems right. Evidently this has been done in Germany for a number of years already and is pretty successful. It makes use of the vacant land which is necessary for the operation of an airport, but leaves such big, vast spaces empty.

The airport joined forces with a community program called Sweet Beginnings which trains prisoners in the art of beekeeping, as well as creating bee by-products, such as lotions, candles and the like which are being marketed under their own line –Beeline. It is anticipated that the products will be available for sale in the airport.

 

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A bunch of our bees decided to fly the coop (or more correctly, the hive) in search of greener pastures. They opted temporarily for a branch on a very nearby apply tree.

They started this morning, beginning to make the characteristic swarm of bees indicating that they had run out of room, created a new queen and were prepared (at least in part) to move on. They create a cloud of bees which had appeared to take up residence in a cherry tree located in by the goats. Do I have to tell you that the goats were NOT happy with a humongous cloud of bees swarming all around them. We went in to work and figured that lunch time would be the time to move the swarm back into a new hive.

Lo and behold when Tom went outside, there were no bees in the tree and as we walked the yard, no bees had swarmed in any one of the trees. Since he had put additional supers on the hive, the theory was that perhaps they changed their mind and returned to the hive.

This afternoon, just a little while ago, I was outside and there was the cloud of bees again. Upon closer inspection, they had taken up temporary shelter in an apple tree.

Tom suited up and headed out to climb into the tree and cut off the branch in an effort to re-capture the newly formed hive.

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The bees were happy, the kids were happy, we were happy. The honey flowed. This afternoon, we figured that we’d take advantage of the heat and do some impromptu honey extraction. It was another hot afternoon, good for honey flow, bad for people.

The bees were more than happy to help with the leftovers and suck in that last little bit of honey left in the comb.

The extraction…..

Drove over this morning to Greenwich, New York (ever been?…me neither until today) to pick up Tom’s bees. Who would have thought that there were these many people also picking up bees?

but there were… so we waited…..

and waited… about an hour and a half all together to get these babies….

And I really thought that Tom was kidding when he said that the bees were riding in the truck with us…seriously riding with like tens of thousands of bees for about an hour or so….who signed me up for this?

Especially considering that there were stragglers…..which weren’t caged.

Evidently (and luckily for me) straggler bees are far more interested in trying to get in to where all their long lost relative bees are in captivity than in worrying about stinging me….so we got along beautifully for the ride.

Now, the bees are chilling (literally) in the basement where it is cooler until Tom can get them set up in their hives tomorrow.

18 pints and 12 half-pint jars or 4 gallons. That’s how much honey we processed and we were hardly neat with it, being our first foray into honey processing. We harvested the hive Saturday since the new bees were arriving. Saturday Tom spent the afternoon spinning and then Sunday we were sieving and filtering and yesterday, we jarred. Amazing how few people use honey, we tried giving a jar here and there to some friends and neighbors and a lot of people said “no thanks, we don’t use honey”. The bees will be devastated.  More for us, I guess. I am psyched that I found a “Cooking with Honey” cookbook in the bookcase which “came with the house” and I might be able to put it to good use with all this honey. 

We have the beeswax out by the hive getting cleaned by the bees so that I can use it to try my hand at beeswax candles. I feel so “Little House on the Prairie” but this is really cool!

A lot has transpired since the last post. We got to see our newest family member Emily while we were in NJ. We came back and had my sister and her family come to spend the 4th with us. Fireworks at one of the neighbors’ houses with a gathering of good friends and good desserts….it was a nice evening. The next day we spent at a summer party at our next door neighbors which was relaxing and fun. Company is gone, the house is clean and we are ready for the next influx of friends coming this weekend.

The new bees arrived on Saturday (well Tom had to get them). We took the old frames out from the deceased bees and spun out the honey which was a sticky project but a lot of fun. Tonight we just finished filtering it into the final bucket for jarring. Tomorrow we will jar the honey and I cannot wait to use it in some recipes.

Two of the boys are in ACE Camp at the airport which is really neat, here are pictures of them flying today. What a cool experience it must have been. Many thanks go out to the Young Eagles Program at the Rutland Airport. What a great opportunity that these volunteers give the kids.

Evilwife on the move

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