Changing the feeder hive #1 at the end of the day, heading into dusk. The bees were coming home after a hard day’s work.
It doesn’t get more accurate than this.
Meet the bee assassin. Assassinating one of my bees through the devious means of hanging out on one of the hives. Now the conundrum: assassin bugs are, in general, considered to be beneficial insects. But I consider my bees to be higher on the “beneficial” chain than these. What to do?
The bees in both hives in the rear were bearding when I went out to change the feeders – the bee kind, not the closeted dude kind. The feeders are full of simple syrup, to answer a question I received: equal parts water and sugar, heated until the sugar dissolves and there are no crystals left, then cooled and jarred. The bees need to be fed right now because we’re in a dearth period (nothing in particular is blooming for them to gather the amount of nectar they need) and because they’re new (so no stores for them to live on until the next bloom). We will undoubtedly not have any honey to harvest this year and likely not in the spring, either. Our target is next fall, assuming all goes well.
Another day without a workout. One good thing: a visit with the ENT today, who gave an all clear: everything looks good, feels good (no lumps or anything in my tongue, mouth, or neck that he could feel). I have two CT scans on the 2nd, and I’m hopeful those will come back clear as well. We’re still on a 6-month rotation for visits to the various doctors and for scans, and maybe next year we can get back to yearly.
Today, though, more pain from the dental work and a couple of teeth that will be the next two to be pulled. The jarring from the jumping is a killer. So, new plan: restart on Sunday to give it a couple more days to calm down.
In the meantime, we’re still watching the floodwaters recede, slowly but surely, from the two feet or so that dropped in when Debby did Jacksonville. The bees survived high and dry, thanks to good placement of the hive. The chickens…well, chickens are not that bright, so they looked like drowned rats for a few days since they were not always smart enough to get in the coop and out of the rain.
The garden: the garlic has had it. After the fast, high heat, then a lot of rain at the beginning of the month, and now this rain, a lot of it is rotted. There may be some that can be salvaged, but for the most part, I’m counting it as a loss. Next season, I won’t be planting nearly as much, and only ordered a total of 20 pounds from Big John’s. This will give us a lot more room for tomatoes, once the frames are reworked. The remaining tomatoes out front are likely dead now, and the cukes were pulled two weeks ago after the first rounds of rain killed them off.
Looking forward to a reboot of the garden!
And a grey, chilly, rainy day. A break in our streak of springlike weather around here, but this too shall pass. In a few days we’ll have 80 degree temps with showers here and there – perfect time to go start seeding the areas I’ve set aside as forage areas for the bees. By the time they arrive and are ready to get to work, those areas should be in full bloom. I also need to continue my quest to get all the frames ready to go, so we (I) can start planting in a couple of weeks. I may need some farm labor help for that, since my back is still(!) twinging me. Guess it really was pretty bad, whatever I did, although all I was doing at the time was shoveling, something I’ve done a ton of around here. Funny the way things work.
Reading around on some bee news today, since I’m in enforced idleness, courtesy of a horrendous back strain (from yesterday’s adventures in hauling dirt). I ran across this story about stingless bees. Very interesting stuff, and would be something to look into if we actually lived in an area where their foraging would enable them to subsist. To be honest, I’m not overly concerned about being stung by the bees we’ll be getting here at the ranch. Occupational hazard, in the same way that slicing open a finger or knuckle on a heatsink or edge of a server chassis is in my business. I’d like those stings to be as few in number as possible, of course – who wouldn’t? – but I have to say I’m just as excited now about getting bees here as I was when we first started discussing it.
I’ve watched Colony several times now. The synopsis as given by the filmmakers says “Colony documents a time of unprecedented crisis in the world of the honeybee through the eyes of both veteran beekeeper, David Mendes, and Lance and Victor Seppi, two young brothers getting into beekeeping when most are getting out. As Mendes tries to save the nation’s collapsing hives, the Seppi’s try to keep their business alive amidst a collapsing economy.”
This may be the documentary they wanted to make, but it doesn’t actually seem to be the one they did make.
Colony collapse disorder (CCD) is touched on in the film, but as one person (Randy Oliver) puts it, sometimes things like this are cyclical and happen for no particular reason other than it just does. Maybe it is systemic pesticides, maybe it is disease, maybe it is the stress that bees face due to the migratory nature of commercial pollination, maybe it is some combination of these and other factors, or maybe it’s something else altogether, but the film itself takes no particular stance on it, nor does it offer any steps that any individual could take to help. Dave Mendes is featured, talking to groups about pesticides, trying to get people together to do something (in the film, what this may be isn’t entirely clear). Outside of the film, anyone interested in bees at all knows that Mendes is all over the place talking about the need for research and so forth, but this isn’t really touched on in the film. There are some shots of a congressional hearing talking about money for research, but nothing more than one might get in a summary story from CNN or the like.
The rest of the film focuses on the Seppis, a religious family running a commercial operation in California. Most of that focus is not on the effects on CCD on their operation – although there are some points where they do talk about dead hives – but on their negotiating attempts with almond farmers to get a certain price point per hive for almond season. While this holds some interest for people really interested in beekeeping, I imagine this would be fairly boring overall. Quick summary: almond farmers pay migratory beekeepers a price per hive to have bees to pollinate the short flowering season in the fields. With hundreds of thousands of acres of almonds in California, as you might guess this involves a lot of money in the end: with an estimated 1.4 million hives required to pollinate, do the math at even a hundred dollars per hive.
And this business side, I think, is where people like me begin to really think about what’s going on in this film. Before I get into that, though, I have to point out one of the most irritating moments about this film, which involves one of the Seppi sisters talking about the hive. While holding a frame covered with bees, she points out the queen, and says, “They’re somewhat of a matriarchal system.” No, they are a matriarchal system. That’s what it means when the female of the species is in charge, making the decisions, and doing the work. She mentions the queen lays all the eggs and the workers do the nursing, cleaning, and foraging, and says, “But they wouldn’t be there without the male.” After pausing, she gives a little smirk to the camera, and spouts this gem: “You have to remind feminists that.”
OK, which feminists would that be? The ones who never got out of sixth grade biology and know nothing about reproduction? Or the ones uninterested in the submissive woman line touted by certain religious sects – the women (and men!) who happen to be the ones who fight for equal rights for women, and in the past managed to get women not to be counted as chattel, to be able to go to school and receive an education, to be able to work in the same fields as men, and got the right to vote? Those feminists? None of those I know think men are unnecessary or think that complete separatist living is the way to go – those types, like the people who seem to think feminism is a dirty word or that women should just give up their own dreams to accede to what someone else thinks they should do are, fortunately, fringe and rare.
On to the business side. The son who appears to be the primary force of the beekeeping business, says they had 1200 hives (and they want to “bless” farmers with their bees). During the film, the discussions with farmers talk about pricing between $140 and $170 per hive for pollination. For convenience, let’s just say a thousand hives. That’s a lot of money either way. At one point, though, the mother says that the parents are pumping in $20,000 above what the business makes to keep it afloat. Ignoring all the other income (the dad works as a teacher, apparently, and the family may have almonds of their own), as a businessperson myself I have a hard time understanding why it isn’t possible for them to run this business and live on $150,000 a year, even after expenses knock out part of that gross income, especially when they’ve had a few years of managing the business under their belts. Now, I don’t know anything about their accounting or their books or their expenses, but if you’re in the hole that much each year, perhaps you need to take some business classes or exit the field, because something is not right.
In the end, this was a rather unsatisfying documentary, and likely to be not something terribly interesting except to those of us who keep bees (or will be keeping bees).
Looking forward to the (short) series Doomsday Preppers coming up on National Geographic. They had a standalone episode last year, with one guy repeating the same long phrase about coronal ejections over and over – but he and his wife did build a tilapia tank out of their pool and used that waste to fertilize crops in a very nice setup. I’ve been reading the comments on some sites about the new series – in the clips for which I could swear I saw the Dervaes clan briefly, so that part will be muted out or forwarded on the DVR if that’s the case, since they annoy me – and I have to say that some of the fringe dwellers on those sites are absolutely batshit insane. Between the people with grandiose conspiracy theories about how the military is gearing up to take over at least one major city and the armchair commandos blathering about OPSEC, it can be amusing when it isn’t a bit scary. I watch this sort of show for the same reason I watch things like Hoarders: morbid fascination.
I’ve also been watching some bee-related documentaries and working up some reviews of those, including the single most annoying line out of all of them.
Mount Mulch is being taken down, slowly but surely. The back garden area has two walkway areas to mulch to be complete before I move along to the herb garden and berries up front. I figure Tuesday to finish the paths and begin on the other stuff. Wednesday is yet another trip to the dentist, so Thursday will be the day to pick things back up again. Instead of banging/jarring my head around working outside after the dentist, I’ll be starting the wine (riesling!) that we’re going to make here. Fun stuff.