Everyone loves gifts, right? Jonah certainly did. If it was something someone gifted to him, he seemed to know it and then treasured the item. The first incident I can think of is the stuffed frog that he carried with him everywhere. He would even take it on walks with us sometimes or we would find it on the driveway where he would have left it after sunning himself there in the afternoon. I had given him toys throughout his life but this particular toy he selected for himself one day when I’d taken him into the store with me to pick up some food. I must have had a few extra dollars that month so decided he could have a new toy or chew. I walked him down the aisle, letting him sniff everything he might want and telling him he could choose something with an encouraging note to my voice. He came to this bin of pink and green stuffed things: the pink ones were pigs and the green were frogs. Each was somewhat quilted in texture with a squeaker inside. He stopped and nosed around in it and came out with a frog. He set it on the ground and then rooted around in the bin again. I offered him a pig, which he sniffed and nosed, before returning to the frog. He pushed it a couple times, picked it up, and walked down the aisle with his tail wagging. Ok, that was the one.

I realized later, after returning home, that the first toy I’d ever given him was a small frog. I’d bought it at Target, where the toys weren’t really sized for big dogs so it was way too small for him and he’d outgrown it quickly. Was it a coincidence that he chose another frog for himself many years later? I like to think not.

Another cherished toy was the squeaky reindeer that Grandma Ann had given him the year we drove out to Alabama so he could come with us. Our granddaughter was just under four and it was the first year where she was starting to get into the holiday spirit. We were all excitedly opening gifts pulled from under the tree. I hadn’t thought about getting anything special for Jonah because he was already a dog with a box filled with toys and didn’t need any new ones. He’d never been a destroyer of things, other than cardboard or to surgically remove any hard-plastic eyes that a toy might contain leaving bits of white fluff coming from the orbitals. So he just tended to accumulate toys.

Thankfully, my mother-in-law is one of the most thoughtful people I know and had bought him a special something. She brought out a small gift bag, stuffed with some paper as one does with gift bags, and offered it to Jonah. He knew it was for him, and likely smelled the furry toy within, so he started nosing through the paper to find the toy. He happily pulled it out after a few tries and then proceeded to play with the toy for the remainder of his life. The frog and the deer were two of his favorites and he knew them by name. I would ask him, before he lost his hearing, where one or the other was and he’d look up at me, then wander off to wherever he’d last left them.

Last year at this time he was given a present by a friend. It had come completely wrapped, but he knew when the gifts were left which one was for him and he had nosed it but left the others. Come Christmas morning we were all curious what was in his box that he’d been able to detect was something particularly for him. I assumed it must have treats or some food item inside. We gave him his box and told him he could open it. Inside we found a stuffed seal (no ears) and a new water dish. No food. Huh. That was a surprise. There must be some particular scent to a stuffed animal. It was squeaker-less, but he loved it anyway and carried it with him for days.

Jonah getting into the Christmas spirit

There are other stories of special gifts given to him, like the slightly too-small bed from my Sharon and the purple dragon from our son and daughter-in-law. All of them he treasured and would use from time to time. I suppose we gave him the greatest gift this year by releasing him from this life where his body hurt and he struggled to enjoy his favorite things. He hadn’t played with his toys much for a while and he even had stopped obsessing about treats, so those were signs of what was going on for him. I had hoped to have another year with him, but life, as it often does, did not go as expected. I hope you have all your favorite toys surrounding you, Bubbaloo, and that you are chasing squirrels, birds, and deer to your heart’s content. There are days when your absence doesn’t hurt as much, and then there are gift-giving seasons when I think of your antics and I couldn’t miss you more. Merry Christmas Jonahroo. We love you.

Jonah with his favorite stuffies

When Jonah first came into my life, I was quite the stickler about rules. I crate-trained him so he would have a place of his own and, more importantly, so he would not have the opportunity to create much trouble. For the most part, it worked wonderfully and we only had one destructive event, which was entirely my fault. Despite his comfort with his crate, he always wanted to be on my bed as a youngster. I think this is because that’s also where the cats slept so he thought he should sleep there too. His logic was sound, but it was only a queen-sized bed and that seemed like way too many bodies in one bed. Plus, the cats weren’t thrilled that I’d added a canine to our pride. Eventually, I relaxed the rules and he was allowed up there. I had to beg him to join us on our bed when he was older, as he preferred his special orthopedic mattress (which was basically the same mattress type we used only thinner) since he didn’t need to climb up onto it.

Once he’d graduated to sleeping outside of the crate over the course of a few months, I bought a larger dog bed for him. Over time, we accumulated quite a few beds to the point that he had one in every room. The earliest beds, from when Eini was alive, were cheap ones from Costco. I used to tell Jonah that I’d buy him a really nice one once Einstein died because Eini had a penchant for peeing on Jonah’s bed as a way of expressing his displeasure with his failing kidneys. Poor Jonah. We’d all head to the room and our beds, and Jonah would just stare at his. I’d ask what was wrong and Jonah would look at me…look at the bed…look at me. That’s when I’d realise Eini had done it again.

I’d only had Jonah for a short time when we went to visit my mum. She had a little chihuahua-pug mix and various beds appropriately sized for such a small dog. I was working on her computer in the office and I heard Jonah come in to be close to me. I assumed he’d sprawl comfortably on the carpet there. But no. I looked over to find him curled into a bed that was many sizes too small for him. He seemed a little disturbed by it but was also content to curl up there.

Jonah in Buddy’s bed

The first time he was allowed to stay at my dad and Sharon’s home, Sharon was kind enough to buy him a bed and some toys, not knowing that we’d bring things from home for him. He was thrilled to have presents! (I’ll write more about his love of gifts in another post.) Even though the bed was a smidge too small for him, he slept on it while we were there. We left the bed in the front room upon our return home until we could figure out where we wanted it, but Jonah liked it there and it became a favored sleeping place. It didn’t matter that it was too small; someone had gifted it to him and that made it special.

Jonah on the bed Sharon gifted him.

He had five different beds at the time when he passed and I couldn’t look at them without thinking about him so I piled them all into the dining room, a room where I rarely went since we’d left our old dining set behind when we moved. I hope the SPCA, where they were eventually donated, was able to get use from them and that the dogs there can feel some of the love infused in their fibers by the years Jonah used them.

It’s a funny thing, grief. One minute all seems even-keeled. The next, a favorite song is playing…one that begs for joyously wild dancing, which I slide into without thinking. Song ends, and I fall onto the couch in a puddle of tears with thoughts of Jonah and how we would “dance” together swirling through my head.

Jonah wasn’t really much of a dancer. But he seemed to enjoy it when I did. In his youth when I danced around the house, he’d join in by walking around and bumping into me; I’d give him the sign to spin this way or that, which he’d happily do. As he got older and arthritis made it hard for him to get up and down with ease, he’d just watch me with what looked like a grin on his face. I’m pretty sure he thought humans were odd creatures.

It’s simple things I miss most about him. Working some magic in the kitchen and I’d look out to see him in the hall, next to the closet that held his treats, looking intently at me. I always wondered what went through his head. Was he willing me to stop what I was doing to give him yet another treat? Was he looking at me because I was his person and he loved me? Dunno.

In the last few months of his life, he slept a lot. But he still would come up to one or the other of us a few times throughout each day to nudge a leg or a hand (or in Marc’s case, testicles), in the knowledge that he only needed to ask, and we’d stop to pet him. Marc also let Jonah give him full-on wet tongue kisses on his face, and that was a regular part of the post-dinner cuddling time. I usually had a more complete knowledge of where that mouth had been and was not into wet kisses. Jonah knew the difference. For me, I’d get a gentle touch to my cheek or nose from his big ol’ nose.

When we’d first found each other, he had a habit of approaching to give kisses with his mouth wide open and it looked like he was about to bite. I don’t think he was, it was just really unnerving. I tried telling him no, but he wasn’t learning restraint quickly and he was eager to make friends. So I decided to act like a dominant dog might and I bit his ear. As a bit of a germaphobe, this was a big deal for me to put his furry ear in my mouth. But I thought it needed to be done. I’m sure there are much better ways to teach a dog, and yet this was highly effective. I did it one time, just hard enough that he let out a quick yelp and then I let go. He never came in for a kiss so aggressively again. I did the same to teach him not to jump up on people. I’d tried the various tricks my friends had shared with me like shaking a jar of coins when he jumped. He thought everything was a new game to play. So I bit his ear for that as well and afterward, he would come up onto his back legs, but at a distance from the person. I called it his rearing pony.

I miss that silly guy more than anything. I miss the laughter and smiles he brought to my day. I’m thankful he’s out of pain, but I really wish he could have stayed a little longer to explore this new place with me. I know this sadness too will pass, and a part of me doesn’t want it to, because that, some photos, and these memories are all I have of him in this world.

I had wanted a dog for a very long time. I tried adopting one when I was first living on my own again in La Jolla. It lasted about a week. My cats were furious with me about the new “friend” and I had not thought through the level of commitment required to have a dog, particularly when one does not have a yard. So I took the dog back to its foster parents and promised myself someday.

Fast forward about six years. I had moved to Eureka for grad school. I still had only an apartment, but I had more time and I wanted something or someone to help me stay active in the dreary yet beautiful Pacific Northwest. So I started looking again for the right dog for me.

I had grand plans for what this dog would be like. I didn’t want a puppy as they required a little too much time than what I had. I thought a teenager the perfect age: they could sleep through the night without needing to go outside and they had already gone through the worst of the chewing phase. I also have allergies and occasional asthma, so I wanted a short-haired dog that didn’t shed a lot. And I have a love for the “bully” breeds: pit bulls, Dobermans, Rottweillers…the dogs that tend to be misunderstood. So I checked the local shelters and I waited. My boyfriend at the time had a dog and we’d look together. And I waited. One day, we found an ad for the perfect dog, Red Baron, who would be at the local Farm Store shelter event in a couple weeks.

We turned up to the event late during the final hour or two, because my boyfriend was late absolutely everywhere, and I had preferred to wait for him than to go alone. The site was arranged in a horseshoe, with vendors making up the outer ring of the circle. A large, chain-link kennel was in the middle of the circle. It was partitioned into three, with several dogs in each section. As we walked up to the circle to hunt for Matt’s sister and where to find Red Baron, I noticed the intent look of a handsome shepherd mix at the door of one kennel. Not Red Baron, but a striking dog.

We found Red Baron on the lap of a foster family member in a different part of the event. I introduced myself, but this dog had clearly bonded with his family and was in no way interested in me. “Oh well; he’s not the one.” While I wanted a dog and my life was in a good place for one, I also still rented an apartment and dogs were not permitted. I went back to the main event to look for my people. As I entered the circle, I met the focused gaze of that same shepherd mix.

Now for all I know, Jonah looked at everyone that way and I just happened to be the human that noticed him looking. Or maybe he didn’t; maybe he knew I was his person before I did. Both stories exemplify who Jonah is: a dog who absolutely loved everyone he met, including me.

I asked a little about him and if I could go in. He was about 70 pounds and a year and a half old. I entered the kennel and he immediately tried to jump on me. I told him “no” and put my hand out, trying to show him what I wanted from him. We didn’t know each other at all, but I could see he was trying to understand and do what I asked. I was impressed. He was in a new environment, stressed and tired, yet still trying to please.

As I came to know, he’d been abandoned about nine months earlier in a stolen car with the windows rolled up and left on the Eel River. A no-kill rescue had taken him in as a youngster and cared for him. They had a lot of animals, so they had not been able to give a lot of time to training or individual attention. He was clearly a smart dog and willing, he just needed someone to spend time with him. I found Kate and Matt to find out their thoughts; Kate had been at a booth near the kennel all day and had noticed him too.

The event was ending and, knowing his story and how long he had been without a person of his own, I couldn’t bear the thought of him going back to the rescue. Matt said he’d help me with him since I knew nothing about training and wasn’t supposed to have a dog in my apartment. I paid the cost of his adoption with the money in my wallet, gas and spending money my sweet mum had given me because I was a student again. We went into the store and bought the few things I needed for him that Matt didn’t have: a collar and a leash are all I remember. Then we loaded into Matt’s car and drove home with Jonah falling asleep in the back like a kid with FOMO: his eyes and body drooping into sleep, only to wake up and drift off again.

Jonah in my apartment, shortly after joining the family.

Life has been a whirlwind since last I had something to say here four or five months ago. I accepted a new job, we moved, and I had to say goodbye to my best friend. To be honest, the bees have not been very interesting since they swarmed in May and I basically started from scratch with a new queen due to errors. They’re hanging in there, adjusting to their new location, but it’s winter here in Sacramento and too cold to open the hive unless there is something urgent that I need to do, like give them some more food.

The most interesting day was moving day where nothing went to plan. We woke at 3am to duct tape shut the entrances and load them into the truck. If you know me, you understand how committed I was to their well-beeing that I was up that early to get on our way. I was on the road by 4:30am to beat the worst of the day’s heat. I opened the truck at about 1pm after chatting briefly with our new neighbors.

Opening the U-Haul containing the bees

That was the best day we had. Immediately after our arrival, our dog was ill; he’d likely been ill, we just didn’t know it. One week later he was gone. At Samhain, I was talking with a dear friend who encouraged me to share Jonah’s stories; we had twelve years of adventures together. So for a bit, likely for the winter until the bees become active again, this blog will be a different sort of bee-longing.

A little more than a week after installing the queen, I opened the hive to ensure she had been released. She had. All had calmed from the prior week’s mayhem and the bees were peacefully about their bees-ness within the hive. But the peace had come at quite a cost. All of the honey that had been stored for the winter was gone. I was thankful to have harvested in May because I think that, had it still been on the hive, it would have been taken as well. All that remained were a few frames containing some pollen stores. I don’t know if this is normal for a year when we received less than half our usual rainfall. On my most recent beekeepers’ meeting people were already talking about feeding, but others have mentioned that my area is still having something of a nectar flow. So it seems like this occurrence was unusual and likely linked to whatever it was I had witnessed, whether that was robbing, or an attempted takeover, or something else.

With all the honey resources gone, I need to supply them food again to ensure they can feed themselves and the new bees needed to rebuild the colony’s strength. I had placed a feeder on the top when I locked them in since they were already low on honey at that point; most of the damage had already been done. When I checked the feeding station, I was shocked to find an unmarked queen wandering on the board. How had this happened? I don’t know for certain, but I may have missed this one when searching, she may have recently hatched from an unseen queen cell, or she had recently returned from a mating flight. Clearly, my inspection technique needs improvement and I really need to be able to see eggs, since that is the hallmark of a queen-right colony; I’ve been skating by on seeing young larvae and it is not sufficient. Marc recently purchased me a magnifying glass, which should help with the eggs immensely. The rest, I hope, will come with practice…and probably more mistakes like those I’ve made over the past two months.

But what does that mean to find this wandering queen? Primarily, that my bees had not been queenless when I installed the new queen, which may have been the reason for all the turmoil. She may still have been in her cell growing with the few remaining bees caring for her, and the bees would have been reluctant to accept the new brood and bees I introduced from Andrea’s colony. It was odd to find her in the upper chamber because I had used a queen excluder so I wondered if she had hatched and then been trapped above, possibly leaving her a barren queen if she had not been able to conduct her nuptial flight, which is the one time she mates and collects all the sperm she will use for her lifetime of egg-laying. I caught her and a few others in my queen clip, which Andrea kindly bought for us after our last misadventure in trying to catch a queen.

Queen in a clip

Once I observed bees flocking to her without intending her harm, I decided to leave her in the upper box to see what she would do. Everyone was peaceful inside so it seemed she had been accepted along with the White Queen. However, she apparently had other ideas. When I returned with the refilled feeder, she calmly walked to the upper entrance and flew away. So far, never to be seen again.

I added a pollen patty a few days later and used my new magnifying glass to verify there are eggs. I also removed the empty honey super after finding wax moth larvae in it, a sign that there is too much space for the bees to defend from invaders. At this point, my plan is to stay out of the colony except for adding pollen patties and sugar syrup or fondant as needed. There really isn’t much I can do for them except keeping them fed and avoiding disrupting their brood nest. I’ll inspect it again in mid-August when I do another mite check for Mite-A-Thon.

I carefully installed the new queen (All hail the White Queen!) Tuesday night by nestling her cage between two of the three frames of brood we had just taken from one of Andrea’s colonies. I went to sleep content in knowing the bees would be back on the road to self-sufficiency soon. I peeked out at them after walking Jonah, sometime around 7 in the morning. What I saw had me thoroughly distraught.

I thought, at the time, it was a good sign that these bees were walking calmly over the cage containing the new queen. She’s not pictured here, but she has a white dot on her back marking her as a queen hatched in 2021.

Surrounding the hive were what seemed to be hundreds of bees at the entrance, at the back, up and down the sides of the hive, all trying to get in via any small crack they found. I thought for certain they were being robbed. I had never seen the behavior before but knew it was something that tended to happen when resources were scarce once the nectar flow dried up (called a dearth), which is what we’re experiencing in parts of San Diego county. Upon closer inspection, I could see bees being dragged from the entrance, and others tussling on the sides or in the mulch below.

I realized that the hive entrance was wide open. When a colony is strong and the weather is hot, the entrance can be open to better ventilate the hive, but for my weak queenless colony, that left them vulnerable. Maintaining a smaller entrance gives the bees a narrower area for the bees to defend from any intruders. I immediately grabbed the reducer and squeezed it into place, but it would do little to help them at that point.

The robbers’ strategy is to attack the entrance to overwhelm the weaker residents and raid the delicious, nutritious contents. There are multiple techniques to minimize the damage from robbing; the one that came to mind was the use of wet towels, blankets, or sheets to completely envelope the hive. The robbing bees can’t find the way in but the residents can because they know their home. They can also just stay home for the day and use the existing resources in the hive. I pulled the bottom board out to ventilate the hive so they wouldn’t cook inside from the heat. Marc was working from home and agreed to keep the sheets wet if needed. There was little else I knew to do.

Of course I called Andrea to give her the blow-by-blow and she was intrigued because a couple things did not seem to square with robbing: robbing tends to happen later in the day and the robbers overwhelm the entrance but not other parts of the hive. This seemed to look more like they couldn’t find an entrance they thought should be there. Hmmmm. Was this actually robbing? Or was something else happening? Could there be too many conflicting pheromone smells emanating from the hive? I had added both brood from another colony as well as a queen with a distinct scent from another colony. Perhaps they were simply confused. Could one of the hatched queens have finally returned? I didn’t know and there seemed little I could do at this point; they would have to sort themselves out.

I attempted to lock them in the following night using a plug of grass, which they promptly pushed out of the way. This seemed to indicate to me that the problem was coming from within and not robbers from without. Following another day of mayhem, I locked them in late last night with a properly sized piece of wood fully placed across the entrance and some Gorilla tape to hold it in place. There are still bees buzzing about the hive, but they are far fewer. The casualties seem extreme; at least the birds and ants are enjoying the spoils. I hope when I check back in a few days that they have released the White Queen and the survivors can go back to a harmonious existence. We’ll see!

Mayhem Day 2. I was fairly certain this was not robbing, so I removed the sheet and let them duke it out not knowing what else I could do for them.

When we left off, I had just harvested some honey and was searching for my queen. As you may have guessed, she was not to be found. What we did find were emerged swarm cells indicating multiple swarms had already departed. Eek! That was not part of my plan! I hope they found safe homes where they aren’t disturbing people and causing trouble.

There were a few capped queen cells, but when I checked again a week later, there was no queen and the cells were empty. Another week later and there is still no queen. By my estimate, the swarming happened sometime between the beginning and middle of May. The queen was definitely there when I added the new deep body because I saw drawn comb with young brood in one of the new frames two weeks later. As of today, they have been without a queen for at least a month, possibly as long as six weeks. The break in brood rearing helps with mites since the mites depend on young larvae for their life cycle, but a colony cannot survive without a queen. The remaining bees can raise a new one from eggs laid by the queen before she left. But those eggs are long gone; the egg stage is only three days. So what’s a colony to do?

Andrea caught several of her swarms and has more colonies than she wanted. We planned to remove one of her extra queens for my colony so she can combine two of hers.  Capturing a fast-moving queen on a frame full of bees is not as simple as it seems, or at least it wasn’t for me. I had her in our improvised cage but thought we also needed some attendants for her. In trying to get just one more bee into the cage, the queen escaped and flew away. We checked again for her a few days later and the colony had started making queen cells, an indication that the queen did not safely return. Ugh! Now we’re both queenless. We did learn an important lesson in the process, however, which is that specialized equipment exists for a reason. There are special clips that will scoop the queen plus the few surrounding bees in one swoop, we just did not have those to hand when we needed them. We’ll have them for next time.

This season started so well where it seemed I was able to keep on top of the need for increased space to avoid swarming and I harvested a half super of honey. Four months later, nearly all my bees are gone and they probably produced multiple swarms to annoy my neighbors. Yet all is not lost. A new queen arrives on Tuesday. I have hive bodies full of drawn comb. There is a super nearly filled with honey for their use this winter. The brood break should have reduced the mite population. Approximately a year into this adventure, I have learned a lot…and there is still a lot to learn.

When last I posted I was on a bit of a high in terms of how well the bees were faring. I knew we had cut things close with space, and hoped I had added another hive body before the swarming hormones fully engaging. However, I failed to find the queen the next inspection two weeks later on May 14 despite bulging honey supers mostly filled with capped and uncapped honey, part of which I happily harvested because there were plenty of stores at that time in the brood nest. I was ecstatic harvesting frames for the first time and then learning how to uncap and extract the delicious sweetness from them.

During that inspection, I also learned a valuable, albeit sad, lesson about the queen excluder. As experienced beekeepers are likely already well aware, drones, like the queen, cannot pass through it. That would not ordinarily pose a problem, but when I added the additional deep hive body for more space, I moved the medium with a mix of brood (larvae and pupae, aka baby bees) and honey above the queen excluder thinking that the brood would hatch from their cells and the cells could then be used for honey. That worked fine for any workers hatching above the excluder, but the larger drones were unable to pass through to the hive exit. When I removed that hive body, out fell several dead drones who had spent their short lives trapped in the hive unable to fulfill their destiny of inseminating a queen.

The various manipulations likely stressed the bees by adding too much space and spreading the brood out too much. I won’t do it that way again. I kept multiple brood frames together and had honey and pollen stores near them, but it still required the nurse bees to cover more area to keep all the brood warm and there may not have been enough of them. Further support for using a single-size hive body, which would have made things more interchangeable, rather than a mix of deeps and mediums.

I also did a sugar roll to assess the number of mites in the colony as part of Mite-A-Thon, a citizen science project to measure mite loads across all of North America. I had nine mites in my sample of approximately 300 bees, which equals three mites per hundred bees. I thought my measure was a little short, but when I discovered upon rechecking the protocol that it generally takes only a half-cup, not a full cup, to approximate 300 bees. The mite estimate was lower than I expected since I had been seeing a large number of mites on the bottom board. The sugar roll method tends to underestimate, so it is possible that the actual number is somewhat higher. Treatment is recommended above three mites per hundred bees, but chemical treatments including Apiguard cannot be done with honey supers on the colony leaving me with only non-chemical methods like a break in the brood cycle or powdered sugar treatment.

Sooooo, back to that missing queen…

(and just like a rollercoaster ride, this one’s a cliffhanger)

Very lengthy hive inspection video. Maybe one day I’ll figure out how to speed up the video and add a voiceover afterward.

It’s been a bit over a month since I’ve posted about the bees. It’s not that there isn’t anything interesting happening; au contraire! I’ve been busy with them, whether mine or someone else’s, nearly every weekend. I simply have not taken the time to organize my thoughts about what to write.

Since I began learning about beekeeping, I find myself questioning my own motives, as well as those of other well-meaning folks who want to help “save the bees”.  Non-native honeybees, as far as I can tell, are not the pollinators desperately in need of our help.  Humans generally recognize the importance of honeybees in pollinating our food crops and, since they are useful to us, these bees tend to receive the attention they need. Plus, the increased attention on honeybees has been instrumental in conversations to limit pesticide use, which helps far more species. So I’m not completely knocking the honeybee; rather, I am simply cautioning that there are native bee species who may need our care more.  What about species that aren’t as charismatic as our sweet little honeybee?

The diverse array of native bees, of which there are 1600 species in California alone, are left mostly to their own devices. Fitting, I suppose, since many are solitary bees.  However, to compound the issue, not only have we eliminated much of the native habitats and open spaces these species depend on for nesting and foraging, but the landscape is swarming in non-native honeybees who out-compete these locally-adapted species. Native bee species tend to be specialists that are evolved to forage on plants local to their environment. Non-native species, like honeybees, can take advantage of a wider variety of species, and in better pollinating them, help those to spread even wider.

So where does all this leave me and my wee colony of bees? Well, they are growing well. So well that I needed to buy an emergency extension when the equipment order did not arrive in time (a local beekeeper was generous and offered me a loan, but I was pretty sure I’d need the gear eventually). I don’t want to be a beekeeper who is casting swarms about willy-nilly and adding to the problem; I don’t think it’s particularly neighborly to do so when living in a residential area.

In my last hive inspection, I did a sugar roll to count the number of mites and found two, which equates to less than one mite per hundred bees and is in the acceptable limits. I’ll do another count in a week or so as part of Mite-a-Thon, a citizen science project to track mite numbers across North America.  I sent the inspection video to a few family members as a preview, and my mum supplied me with some questions that I’d like to answer here for her and others. I think my mum asks some pretty great questions about things that I tend to go over quickly or ignore assuming everyone knows what they are. Anywhoo, I hope you’ll find these interesting:

  1. Q: Did I ever find the queen? A: That day, nope, I don’t think I did; but there were other signs of her somewhat recent presence through young larvae.
  2. Q: What are those two cups for that were on the first few frames? A: Those are the start of queen cells, signs that the bees might be feeling a little cramped for space or that the queen isn’t doing an adequate job. Not things one wants to find in the colony, and signs that make finding either the queen or eggs important.
  3. Q: What was that white looking screen for? A: That is a queen excluder. The spacing is such that the larger-sized queen can’t get past it, but the workers can. It’s used for limiting where the queen can go and lay eggs.
  4. Q: Every time you inspect the hive, you have casualties? A: Yes, unfortunately. It’s one of the reasons to not inspect too frequently. Every 2 – 4 weeks is recommended, depending on timing and other considerations.
  5. Q: What do you think the bees think when you put all the sugar on them? A: “WTF, lady? Get this shit off of me!”
  6. Q: What happens with all those bees flying around afterwards? A: They all go back home. They know exactly where it is and will go back to their home with their queen, who is the only one that can reproduce. An individual bee can’t survive by herself. She needs the hive and her sisters for food, warmth, and protection.

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