With Great Sadness... Goodbye Bees

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So, this was a tough summer.... I had to find a new home for my honey bees.

First I need to say: I love my honey bees.

However, I could not keep the winged-wonders in my backyard (I had 2 active hives and 1 nucleus colony). I had been stung several times early in the summer due to bad luck (no issues with honey bee stings the past 3-4 years) and when trying to get a little striped lady out of my office one almost fatal summer afternoon, she stung my fingertip.

Within ten minutes, I had problems breathing and my skin was on fire and itchy. I could not stop scratching. Hives erupted all over my body. Threw myself in a tub of epson salts and water. Thank goodness I have been keeping up-to-date epipens and Benadryl with my bee keeping supplies... my husband Theron was available to make the injection.

I put the call out to the DC Beekeepers association for help. Then the saga was written up by avid beekeeper, Caroline Boucher Hutton:

Alston Taggart’s storied bees are nearing a happy ending. Huge appreciation to her for the loving care she gave them for years, and for her generous donation to the school program at DC International.

Denise Lyons coordinated the move last night. The two larger, main hives were moved (mostly) without a hitch and set up at DCI last night.

The nuc presented a problem because it was so heavily bearded, though. After some brainstorming and consultation with our fearless leader (Toni Burnham), we decided to return early this morning and move the colony to larger equipment and re-attempt to move it in a few days. As you can see, the hive was fit to burst! But they are now in space that is twice as large. We left the empty nuc gear so that the box-clingers could migrate over at their leisure.

We would also have been sunk without the help of newly Andrea, John, and Carlos (new-bee volunteers recruited to help move the bees.) THANKS!!!!

HUGE SHOUT OUT to the super bee-committed women who have taken my honey bees to their new home at DCI. Thank you Denise Lyons and Caroline Boucher Hutton for your strong commitment to these amazing creatures.

Sad that I can no longer care for them directly, but happy to offer my graphic design services for free for any pro bono bee causes/needs!

Envision • Lead • Grow

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Envision • Lead • Grow — a non-profit on a mission to end the cycle of poverty through entrepreneurship — had a conference here in Chevy Chase, MD at the 4-H Center May 31-June 3. This organization reached out to hundreds of girls in seven different cities (Memphis, TN; Greensboro, NC; Atlanta, GA; Baltimore, MD; Philadelphia, PA; Richmond, VA; Norfolk, VA) about starting their own businesses. The top performers have been invited to our Entrepreneurship Institute. The girls in attendence have created profitable ventures and are looking to grow their businesses further.

It was an honor to meet these young women (middle school and high school students) and learn about their unique passions. The girls had such businesses as making charmed bracelets, selling artwork, creating artist baked goods, and sewing scented spa wraps. They had a lot of great questions about graphic design, and it was fun to give them some advice to help forward their business.

Their mission is to create 1,000 new girl bosses by 2020 nationwide. To learn more, check them out: http://envisionleadgrow.org/

Love their tagline: Little girls with dreams become women with vision.

Nectar Flow

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My girls are busy (boys are lazy - no surprise…LOL)!  We are now in nectar flow season, when the bees are loving bringing home the nectar from local flowers and trees such as the Linden and Black Locust.  So how did we get here?

Well, about a month ago, my husband (maker of best self-leveling hive stand ever and dispeller of lazy boy myth begun above) and I went into to do our Spring cleaning of our single over-wintered hive, with the intent of dividing the hive (called creating splits) and creating our own queens with the OTS (“on the spot’ created by Mel Disselkoen) method.  I love this method of developing a sustainable and chemical-free apiary.  Essentially, you take a more active role and help your bees rear their own queen and break the Varroa Mite cycle (so do not have to use harsh chemicals).

We took out each frame, cleaned off the propolis and burr comb (goop on the edges so lots of scraping) and looked for the queen.  40 frames (frames hand vertically, 8 per box / super) and a bee-stung foot right later (note to self to ALWAYS wear my rain boots with my bee suit and not to not shake out a box of bees on my foot - I am not one of those cool / foolish beekeepers that goes in unprotected), still did not find the illusive queen.

We divided the hive in two, notching 1-3 day old larvae on selected frames to encourage worker bees to create their own queen in the 2 newly-divided hives.  A queen is created by continuing to feed royal jelly to the larvae beyond the worker bee level (worker bees are fed royal jelly, worker jelly, and bee bread -- mix of regurtated bee phlegm from plant materials — delicious) that seems to help develop her bigger / longer body and protects her ovaries so that she can lay eggs.  Amazingly, the major factor in the type of bee is simply what the larvae eat and is “chosen” by the hive.

A week later, we went back into the 2 hives.  In the first one,  queen cells had been made and were empty. This was great news and explains why those bees were a bit hot and grumpy!  In the second hive, we found the old queen right away (had doubts about queen finding skills after previous week).  So, we took the over-wintered queen and placed her in a small 5-frame box (called a Nuc, or nucleus hive) with a couple brood ( bee babies) frames and renotched frames in this second hive to help their new queen production along.  

By pulling the old queen, we created an artificial swarm.  A swarm is the sign of a healthy hive that has survived the winter and  is ready to divide and go out into the world.  Unfortunately in our urban environment, only a small number of those swarms can survive unassisted.  This negatively impacts honey collection since essentially half the workforce is on “strike!"

We look forward to checking back in on the buzzing ladies to see how all is going.  Hoping to put a honey super on the small Nuc and be certain the other hives have enough room for their honey stores.

Anti-Gravity Yoga

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A fun way to turn your world upside-down!

Using silk hammocks (at Crunch Chevy Chase), you have a great space to play and explore — its a wonderful opportunity to check in with where you are in your mind, body and spirit. Just like yoga, the movements follow the flow of the breaths, looking to dive deeper into oneself as movements progress and shift. AntiGravity Yoga is an aerial yoga and suspension fitness technique created by Christopher Harrison. It is very accessible: one can monitor one’s own resistance so the class can be as easy or challenging as you choose. 

How do you feel afterwards? Its like a great massage—the contacts points of body to hammocks help release tight muscles (might be uncomfortable at first, but after multiple classes your body becomes accustomed and actually craves the deep release). After class, you will be stretched to your maximum height (usually ¼” to 1½” taller — however, the effects are not cumulative!)  and you will feel lighter and refreshed.  Come fly with me!

Ciao!  This is Sofia Ligustica, an attendant bee...

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Ciao!  This is Sofia Ligustica, an attendant bee from the Court of the Red Queen, long may she reign! I am the beat reporter for the Daily Buzz, the most popular hive periodical with a readership of over 5,000 (though to be clear I understand it was over 50,000 last summer).  When I am not grooming and feeding my lovely Red Queen, I spend my time reporting on the activity of the hive. 

Because of my glorious Italian roots, the winters are pretty hard on me and the hive.  We get pretty plump over the winter, growing as much as 30%, but who can blame us?  There’s little to do beyond eat and sleep as it’s too cold to go outside. We spend our time "shivering" our wing muscles to keep the hive at a constant 92 degrees F. That said, being Italian has many benefits.  We’re more friendly, more clean and build the best combs (have Michelangelo to thank for that).

Speaking of food, our forager bees are starting to leave the hive when the tempeture is above 50 degrees F to see whether there is any delicious pollen and nector available. While these brave ladies have gone as far as two miles, we haven’t found anything substantial yet, but it’s not for lack of trying. I sure hope Spring comes soon since we’ve gotten down to only a couple frames to conserve heat. I must say it’s been tight quarters for me and my lady friends.

Meanwhile, the mortuary bees have been complaining of their long hours of work, carrying out the winter dead and helping to make the place clean for new bees (we lost almost 35,000 this winter). The Red Queen has started personally inspecting every single brood cell, and woe betide the poor worker bee that does not meet her high expectations.

February 11, 2018

February 11, 2018

Well, the Queen has let me and the other attendants know that her mind is soon to turn to replenishing the hive.  I cannot say I understand the magical workings of our hive, but we are all about our Queen and keeping her alive. We are literally lost without her (we will not survive!)  That said, duty calls; so I will leave you with wishes for a Happy Valentine’s Day. 

Long live the Red Queen!