We always find attending a SEMBA (SouthEast Michigan Beekeeping Association) conference exciting as we listen to presentations, examine the new bee books and other wares from vendors, catch up on gossip with now-familiar faces, and just immerse ourselves for a day in all things honeybee. The most recent one was particularly enjoyable as we attended with our niece, who will be getting her first bees later this year, and her enthusiasm generated an additional second-hand excitement in us. The downside of all this excitement is that it is tiring, especially for a pair of old introverts, and we never have energy to write about the conference without a longish rest during which we forget all about it. Here then a few weeks late are a few items that stuck with us.

Foraging for water is more dangerous than foraging for nectar. In either case the fluid is held by the forager in her crop, a pouch between her mouth and stomach. Although her mission is to keep her payload there until, arriving back at the hive, she regurgitates it to receiver bees for handling, she can instead send it the other way to her stomach. Filled with nectar if she starts feeling faint on the flight home, perhaps because the temperature suddenly dropped, she can just help herself to a nip and keep on. But filled with water the wee sip will do her no good at all. It is rather like running out of gas/petrol while hauling a load of jerrycans home. If the cans are full of more fuel then you arrive home with a slightly smaller payload. If full of water then you are stuck by the roadside, although unlike the bee you might have a mobile phone to call for help. Our unfortunate water forager will simply expire.

Crystallizing in honey can be a problem. We have often been asked if crystallized honey had somehow gone bad and reassuringly replied that, no, it was fine and a little gentle heating would put things aright. Our response is still true as far as it goes but the concentration of sugar in the honey matters. As sugar crystallizes out of the honey, the remaining fluid grows more dilute. If it was not very concentrated at the start then it may even grow dilute enough for mold to form and yeasts to ferment it. There are better ways to try making mead.

Paint hive bodies to prevent damage by woodpeckers. This may not be as general a principle as we have stated it but it is supported by the experience of Rich Wieske of Green Toe Gardens. Always a delightful speaker, he gave a fascinating history of beekeeping in Detroit from its rural beginnings to his own current urban experiences. One of those he illustrated with a picture of a row of Langstroth hives with each unpainted one bearing a large hole through the handhold where the wood is thinnest while the painted ones were untouched.

In more recent news, yesterday was our first day without snow on the ground. A few days before that, with the snow reduced to patches, crocus finally appeared.