This weekend the weather and our schedules finally allowed us a little overdue hive housekeeping on Sunday afternoon. But before we report on that drudgery let us cover some fun.

Last Saturday we attended the Ann Arbor’s Fifth Annual HomeGrown Festival and chatted with Rich Wieske of Green Toe Gardens. In spite of the busy crowd wanting to buy his honey and examine the small observation hive he had set up, he made a little time to talk with us about our bees. We especially appreciated his consoling us when we sadly mentioned our hives having small hive beetles. With a comforting touch on the arm he assured us that “Everyone has them” and that we should just make sure the hives otherwise stayed strong. Thank you, Rich.

On a less bee-related note we also happily discovered Flying Otter Winery‘s Northern Lights, a lovely semi-dry blend made from Chardonel and Traminette grapes. Grapes used in wine production are mostly hermaphroditic and can fruitfully pollinate themselves with a little assist from gravity and the wind. Not requiring any of the usual help from bees, they do not bother to make sweet nectar to lure pollinators. And so there is no such thing as grape-blossom honey.

Then on Sunday, after the yet-to-be-discussed housekeeping, we had visitors to the bee-yard. Here is one of the eight. We are quite spoiled by regularly seeing deer, rabbits, and birds of all sorts in our backyard but this was the first time we saw a flock of turkeys walking through. Sadly by the time we got the camera we could get a picture of only this straggler, the rest having reached cover growing under the sumac just to the north of the hives. It is a pity they did not linger and snack on some yellow jackets but fowl prefer crawling and leaping insects to flying. Also the turkey’s featherless head suggests it would particularly not be keen on flying, stinging insects.

Yes, there are still some yellow jackets flying around the hives at ankle height. Not that the glass bowl has been entirely ineffective. It took a week or two but that nest seems inactive and the current pests are from some other, possibly distant, nest which we have not located. Perhaps we can manage these with traps.

Veering off topic again we finished Sunday with a screening of indie science-fiction film Ghosts With Shit Jobs at the Ann Arbor Workantile. Set in a near future when China has become the world’s dominant power and outsources its menial jobs to the West, it is a documentary that follows some of these workers in Toronto. While their lives are full of drudgery the film could hardly be called a dystopia and is full of humor. Four thumbs up.

And so, going back to Sunday pre-turkey afternoon, we finally get to the housekeeping. Starting with Annabelle we:

  • Removed the aluminum foil from her roof, expecting absorption of sunlight to be more important now than reflection. Something odd has occurred under the foil as the roof is no longer entirely the bright blue it was but has patches of chalky white. It resembles the bloom old chocolate gets. No matter.

  • Replaced the empty feeder baggie with a new quart of syrup: two parts sugar to one of water and some lemon juice.

  • Replaced the old bait in the small hive beetle traps with freshly made. This was more annoying to change in the field than we expected. We shall have to just make more traps so we can swap them out as we do feeder baggies.

  • We saw perhaps more than five but certainly fewer than ten beetles. The girls were still vigorously chasing any that dared appear. And, of course, we crushed what we could during this visit.

  • Cracking open the propolized follower for a peek at the hive proper we saw that there was quite a bit of comb on the last bar so we added one more bar and closed up. Sadly the comb was not all that straight. It was in three sections, each of which curved onto the previous bar. We shall have quite the time when we must move these.

  • Annabelle is up to sixteen full bars, one empty, and six on the other side of the follower. Not that we expect or should expect the hive to be completely filled before winter. There is also a gap of less than a bar’s width at the end. We fill it with a bar set sideways but should make a proper spacer.

We repeated the above procedures and observations for Beatrix except that her plywood ersatz roof looks as it did before being foil-covered, her comb is straighter, and the girls are just beginning to festoon her last bar. We gave her a new bar also anyway. She is now at fourteen full bars, two empty, and eight on the other side of the follower. We must finish making her a proper roof.

So concludes our out-of-order Sunday report. And now to close, a Monday afternoon addendum with the bees busily working a patch of fragrant goldenrod. We are hoping that the smell meant there was nectar to be had. We certainly did not see the girls accumulating any pollen.

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