Sunday, July 26, 2015

God, Family, and Bees

My oldest and dearest friend, Chip Burnside (who is also my cousin) came for a visit.  So of course I
took him to my apiary.  He had a great time and took lots of pictures.  However, that is not what this blog is about today.

Today I want to talk about God and prayer.  I have a hard time imagining a beekeeper who is an atheist.  However, I suppose for the same reason a Christian looks at the wonders of bees and sees the divine - the atheist sees evolution.  Nonetheless, I am a man of faith - a foul-mouthed, perverted, angry, often self-serving sinner - but a man of faith just the same.

My cousin, Chip (I refer to him in that way so much, I think his proper name should be My-Cousin-Chip).  Anyway, Chip is a devout Christian of amazing faith - he's delightfully flawed but I know he is close to God.  I feel that he is more loved by God than me - though as I write this, I can see the error of that sort of thinking.  Just the same, I rely on Chip for spiritual guidance (even if I don't always agree with him).

This brings me to the point.  I have applied for a job with the USDA office.  I am perfectly qualified for it and the opening is right here in my own community.  The pay is very good and I would be home every night (unlike my offshore job).  So I have been praying for this job.  Praying constantly - since there is no job I have ever wanted more.  My family (especially my wife) are praying for this too.  I should know the full outcome in the next 41 days.

I of course asked Chip to pray with me about the job -- and of course he did.  But he prayed, "God, if this is your will, then let it be done."  My father-n-law echoes this same prayer each night at supper.  They both believe we should not pray for what we want but only for God's will.

Before I go any further, I know that God knows what is best for me.  I know that his will is better for me than mine.  I truly believe in Romans 8:28

King James Bible
And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

However with that said, I question this notion that we should pray for "God's will".  To pray for God's will is like praying for the sun to rise.  Only God's will is ever done!  I believe that God is in control of everything (though I don't believe he controls everything - some things he allows to happen without causing them)... but his will cannot be overcome.  So to pray that God does whatever he wants is like praying that the sun will rise... pray -- don't pray... it will still be done.

My point is this, Mark 11:24 says "...whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours."  The same is echoed in Matthew 21:22, 1 John 3:22, and many others.

Luke 22:42 Jesus prays "Take this cup from me.  Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done."  In this verse, Jesus asks that God change his will but agrees to be okay with his will no matter the outcome.

God's "will" is always accomplished - so I do pray that I will be okay with whatever his will is.  However, I also pray that he will give me this job and make it a blessing to me and my family.

I'm not a preacher, and I am sure that there are people that will both agree with me and others that will think I am a moron (if not a heretic).  I think I am writing this blog today, as a way to walk through my feelings on the subject.

I have prayed and I am confident that my prayers will be answered.


The moth infested hive has died.  I am now down to 8 hives.  One of my other splits has hive beetles. And the three hives that contain my new Italians are doing well if not still a bit slow.  I also found the queen in one of my hives.  It is the first time I have found one all year (I normally look for brood rather than disturbing the hive for a long period of searching).  I'm glad I got to share that with Chip.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Supersedure - Queen Cell

Very little knowledge is ever gained through success - it is through failure that we truly learn.  

I'm sure I am not the first one to say that but nonetheless, it's absolutely true.  So it is with beekeeping.  As Andrew Davis said in, The Wonders of Beekeeping, "Bees survive, not because of the beekeepers but in spite of them." - (I paraphrased).

In my last blog I told how my bees were failing to thrive.  Well it seems that I am not the only one who noticed - the bees themselves seem to be taking steps to fix the problem.  Here's how I find out:

In the picture below that I took the other day, you can see there is a queen cell (mine is the picture on the left).  So my question was, "Why do I have a queen cell in a hive with a laying queen that is not crowded?"

Up until now I only thought there were two reasons to find queen cells; either the queen was missing or the hive was too crowded and the bees were about to swarm.  I had completely overlooked the idea of Supersedure.  However in a brilliant European article from I found that each queen cell actually has different characteristics.

It is at times like this that I am in awe of bees.  It seems that nothing they do is accidental.

By comparing the characteristics of the queen cell in my hive to the ones on the article, I found that the bees are actually preparing to supersede the existing queen - not preparing to swarm as I originally thought might be the case.  How great is that?  Hopefully this will strengthen my hives and get them ready for winter.

On a more personal note:

I'm still unemployed for now.  I applied for my first unemployment check today.  I tried sooner but there was some bullshit about the fact that I made more than double my salary in the 4th quarter of last year than I did in the 3rd quarter... and they don't take the quarter you are in (2nd quarter of this year) into account... OR the quarter before that until you are in the Next quarter (3rd quarter of this year)... It's all a f***ing shell game.  

Well now I should be approved but you just know they are going to find some other way of f***ing me out of the poultry $247 a week they are offering.  Yep, I make six figures but the max unemployment benefits are less than $1,000 per month.  It is failed Socialism at its finest but I won't go into my rant about that now.

Luckily - or more by God's grace - my wife (the RN) has been picking up some extra shifts and keeping us in the black.  I am so thankful for her.  I feel really guilty that she is supporting us right now - PROUD - but guilty.  On the days she works I make sure to get out of bed with her.  I do the laundry and make the bed and cook supper.  I also try to get some beekeeping done and do a little writing - as well as looking for jobs on the internet.  After supper I wash the dishes and then rub her feet before bed.

I wish I could say I'm always Super Husband but when I am working I don't help nearly as much - though I still try to share the load around the house.  That's not true - I don't share the load.  My wife is awesome.  On the days she works I cook but that's about it.  On the days she's off, she washes clothes and does most of the cooking.  When I get back to work, I'll try to continue to do my share of the housework.

This started off sounding like I was a great husband... now I feel like I need to kiss my wife's ass a little more when she gets home tonight.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Failure to Thrive

Failure to Thrive is a medical term to describe children who are not gaining weight as expected and have poor height growth.  However, today is seems like a good description of my beehives.

Today I visited my hives at Dr. D's place - I have been avoiding my 3 hives at the old farm since two of them are filled with hateful bees.

Of the hives at Dr. D's place, only 6 are still alive after all of my splits earlier this year.  Below is a picture of that bee yard taken 5 weeks ago but shows the location of all my hives at Dr. D's:

The hives marked with an X are the ones that are now completely empty.  The rest are as follows:

Hive A: This is the first split I made this year.  I have 3 supers on this hive now - each has 3 frames of bees in them and is doing well.  I am feeding them sugar water and they had eaten about 40% of it in the past 20 days.

Hive C: This is the hive that had the moth infestation.  As of today, there are only three frames of bees in it.  This has not changed in the past 3 weeks (since I first found the moths).  I did find some Wax Moth Larva in the sugar water and I tried to remove them all.

Hive D: This is one of my original hives.  The bees in this hive are slightly aggressive but not nearly as bad as the ones in The Beast back at the old farm.  As of now, I have 4 supers on this hive: 2 are filled with brood and one of them is filled with honey already.

Hive F: This new Italian hive has a lot of wax but no brood.  The new Italian queen seems to be gone.  I removed one frame of brood from Hive G that had a queen cell on it and placed it in Hive F.  These bees had eaten half of the sugar water in their feeder trough.

Hive G: This new Italian hive only had 2 frames of brood and one of them had the queen cell on it.  I am confused by this since it is a new queen and there is brood - so why was there a queen cell?  These bees too had eaten half of the sugar water in their feeder trough.

Hive K: This new Italian hive had 3.5 frames of brood and bees with two additional frames of dark brown wax.  They too had eaten half of their sugar water.

As you can see Hive C, F, G, and K simply are failing to thrive.  Monday I will add brood from Hive D to Hives C, F, and K.  I will also move young brood from Hive K to Hive G.

The local crop for these hives is Soybean.  Soybean produces nectar and pollen from July 1 - August 31 in this area.  So I am hoping that my hives will be able to take advantage of this and increase in size.

BTW:  Today it was 91 degrees without a breeze - the heat index was 100 degrees.  I sweated so much that I could see my tattoos through my drenched white shirt.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

No Bees - No Pumpkins

When people find out that I keep bees, their first question is always, "Well how did you get into that?"

Pumpkin Flower
The answer to that is unique and goes back to the movie, A Walk In The Clouds.  If you've seen it, then you are probably thinking that there weren't any bees in that movie.  You are right.  However, I love this movie if for no other reason than the beautiful vineyards.  Napa Valley is one of the most beautiful places on God's green earth.  It is no surprise that I later fell in love with my wife while on a balloon ride in Napa Valley.

I still have a love for vineyards.  So about 14 years ago I began studying up on viniculture.  Since I live in Mississippi, the most appropriate vine to grow would be the native Muscadine.  Through my studies I found that on just 5 acres of land, one person could grow enough muscadines to make 10,000 bottles of wine.

So I began to make plans to grow a small muscadine vineyard in Mississippi.  However, I continued my research first.

It takes 3 years for a vine to mature to the point where it can produce a full harvest of grapes.  In that time I thought it might be a good idea to grow something in the vacant rows... something like watermelons.

So I began to research watermelons.  In that research I found that watermelons are grown from spring to early summer.  That leaves the latter part of the growing season for another crop... something like Pumpkins.

So now my plan was to grow a muscadine vineyard, plant watermelons for the first three years in the empty rows and plant pumpkins later in those years.  It seemed like a good plan.

So I began to research pumpkins... and that's when it happened.  In my research, I found that pumpkins do not self-pollenate but require bees for a healthy crop. 

So naturally I began to research bees (As you can see I am a big planner).  It only took one or two books for me to decide that the best agricultural invest I could make was to scrap all of my other plans and invest in bees.  So that is what I did.  Granted, so far it hasn't paid off but that is my fault - and I plan to rectify the situation.

So there you have it.  I became a beekeeper because Keanu Reeves fell in love with a pregnant chick in a vineyard.

On a more personal and present note: I am still laid-off.  The oil field is in a steep down-turn.  I am scheduled to return to my job in October but there is no guaranty that will come through.  The stress of it all is exhausting.  

However in a positive turn of events, while searching online, I came across an awesome job opening with the USDA as a Safety Manager only 16 miles from my home.  It would be a dream job.  The really peculiar thing was that I found this amazing job (that I am perfect for) by mere happenstance and it was only open for applications/resume for 8 hours.  The fact that I found the job and applied for it in such a small window, seems like divine intervention.

The pay is very good (for the Delta), I would be home every night (unlike offshore), and I would be working in an agricultural research center.  The truth is that even though I am very qualified for the position, it all just seems too good to be true.  Yet no matter how hard I try to tell myself not to get excited or too hopeful, in my heart I want this job with all of my being.  I'll let you know how it works out.  If you are reading this, say a prayer for me.

p.s.  In the Labels of all my blogs, I use the label: NAKED.  There is nothing in my blogs about nudity but I need the traffic and perverts sometimes keep bees. :)

Monday, July 6, 2015

A Nope Snake

Nope! Nope! Nope!
A few weeks ago I went to the farm where we first started our apiary and collected all of my old hives.

The mason blocks I originally used had, for the most part, turned to rubble.  This left many of the hives laying in the mud, accelerating their deterioration.
However some of the hives seemed to be frozen in time like the remnants of an ancient civilization.  And like the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza, what caused the exodus of my bees can only be speculated about.

With each hive I gathered, my spirit fell a little lower as I began to fully realize how many of my original 100 supers had been lost to rot.  Even now, I feel a little sad at the thought.

As I gathered box after box, my thoughts jumped from the cost of repairs to the hours it would take to  rebuild the supers.  Yet, my thoughts were instantly brought into the moment when I lifted the lid of one of my hives only to find a big ass Nope Snake -- to be honest, I may have peed a little.

I immediately jumped back, keeping the lid between myself and what was obviously an Anaconda!  Now I don't have a phobia of snakes.  I just really hate them.  It's not that I am scared of them, it is simply the fact that I have the reflex time of a sloth in oatmeal.  If a snake were to feel inclined to bite me, my only quick muscle reaction would be in the form of my bowel movement.

My wife was driving the truck along the route as I loaded the trailer with the old supers but I decided not to alarm her until all of the work was done -- no need to worry her.  I took a few pictures from a  distance and then gathered the rest of the hives.  

When I had gathered all of the other equipment, I went back to deal with the snake.  That was when I figured out that the only thing worse than finding a snake in your hive is not being able to find it a few minutes later!  I didn't spend much time looking for him.  No... that is not correct... I didn't spend much time looking for him around that hive.  I did however, fervently search for the Nope Snake all the way back to my truck!  The hive is still out there -- I mean what's one super worth anyway?

Nonetheless, the Nope Snake is not the only horror in the attached photo.  If you will look between the tan box and the white box, you will notice a sprig of poison ivy.  The two weeks that followed this picture I was covered up to my elbows and knees with raspberry colored whelps that itched like fiberglass and alcohol soup.

I love beekeeping but I'm not sure how much more nature I can handle!

p.s.  I looked it up and the Nope Snake is technically called a Speckled Kingsnake.  While I don't have an unhealthy fear of snakes, I must say that just looking at the Google photos of Mississippi snakes gave me a shimmy!

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Cleaning a Mountain of Frames - Procrastination tips

Hundreds of old frames
"Procrastination is like masturbation; it's good in the beginning but in the end you realize you have only screwed yourself" - Anonymous

My mother says that when I was a kid I would roll around on the floor and stand on my head to keep from doing homework.  I suppose some things never change.

In the picture on the left you can see over 500 plastic frames that I need to clean.  I've been plucking away at for about a week but it is such a daunting task!  Each frame has to be scraped, scrubbed, soaked in a drum of bleach water, hosed off, and then staked to dry.  It takes about 2 to 4 minutes per frame.
 (father-n-law & close friend)

The worst part is that my Father-n-law lives next door.  He is the salt of the earth and I love him to death but I know he is thinking, "Damn my daughter married a lazy bastard."  I am slowly getting them done but the misquotes chew on my ass the whole time and I stay soaking wet for the whole job.  I peck away at it 4 hours at a time but I still have a mountain of frames left to clean.

I know i need to get them done but I have found a dozen things to do instead: fix the washing machine's water pump, do laundry, write blogs, wash the dog, cook supper, grocery shop, clean house, etc... See how I made it look like I was doing noble things... FINE!  So also watched about 20 hours of TV this week... you happy now?!

Anyway, I looked up procrastination online and was directed to Psychology Today.  Here is what they suggest.

Dr. Ferrari recommends these strategies for reducing procrastination:

1. Make a list of everything you have to do.

2. Write a statement of intention.

3. Set realistic goals.

4. Break it down into specific tasks.

5. Make your task meaningful.

6. Promise yourself a reward.

7. Eliminate tasks you never plan to do. Be honest!

8. Estimate the amount of time you think it will take you to complete a task. Then increase the amount by 100%.

I really like Number 8.  I always get frustrated when things take longer than I have estimated.  That being said, I suspect I will be finish cleaning these frames in about 30 continuous hours.  I'll let you know when I finish.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Keeping A Beekeeping Journal

Keeping a Beekeeping Journal is a great way to monitor your progress but it is also a great way to record your beekeeping journey.

NC State Beekeepers Association suggest that you log the following items.

1. How much you feed your hives.
2. Hive brood pattern and how the queen is laying.
3. Treatment plan and alternatives.
4. Honey production.
5. Bloom Times.
6 Pollination Chart.
7. Repair of the hives.
8. Strong or weak hives.
9.  When you put your supers on and take them off.
10. Might count.

As for me, I think any journal should have a format and a narrative.  Of course, just like anything, there is a little evolution of necessity that happens.   At first I started with the page you see at the top of this Blog.  I use Avery Labels and print out my pictures - a picture is worth a thousand words after all.  I always start with the date, then a narrative, then I like to say how many stings I got that day, then I add a diagram of my hives layout.

Since the first entry I have added in weather and a personal note.  The personal note is a reminder.  Some days I feel very defeated and I think, "How is this ever going to work?"  Other days, I feel more positive and think, "It's going to take time but I can do it."  Sometimes the note is even better:
Personal note:  My heart was broke and I felt crushed.  However, Jen (my wife) reminded me that even though I have had failures, we have still tripled our hives this year so far.  She is my rock.

In years to come, I will look back at this early entry and remember that God blessed me with a wonderful wife, even back then.  My point is, use your journal and make it not just a tool for improvement but as a reminder of where you started and how things have changed.


Wednesday, July 1, 2015

The Breath of Death - oh how my bees hate CO2

Found on
My mother had a stroke about ten years ago.  She has recovered but the stoke left the left-side of her body paralyzed.  After a few months of therapy, she was able to walk short distances and is able to live alone - though my brother lives across the street from her and I live just a few doors down.  

The point is that she enjoys going with me to my bee yard.  She sits in the truck (wearing a veil - just in case) and watches me as I work my bees.  Truth is, she just likes getting out of the house.

Half the time I drive right up to the hives but only when I need to carry in large amounts of equipment.  The rest of the time I park near the land owner's house and just walk in to keep from harming his grass.

Yesterday was one of those days.  I left mom sitting in the truck with the windows down and a cooling cloth (it's like a shammy and when you wet it, it stays cool.)  Then I went out to check the bees.

After about 25 minutes I heard my mother shouting.  My hives are about 150 yards away from the house, so I couldn't make out what she was saying but she sounded like she was in distress.  I dropped everything and began to run through the woods towards her.

While in the days of old, I was quite the athlete, these days I am fat and out of shape and resemble a water buffalo with a bruised testicle when I run.  Nonetheless, I ran with all my might until I was in eye sight of mom.  However, by this time she was waving her hands for me to stop.  When I was close enough to hear her, I asked what the hell she was shouting about.

She said, "You were gone for a while and I wanted to make sure you were okay."

"I have a phone!  Why didn't you just call me?"

She replied, "I didn't want to bother you."  

Believe it or not, she had those same reasoning skills even before the stroke.

Well, I was on my last hive so I went back into the woods and continued my inspection.  I gave the bees a puff of smoke and then began closely checking how many frames of brood they had produced - not realizing I was still panting like an asthmatic porn star.  That was when it happened.  The bees, who until now had been politely milling around the hive, instantly and in complete unison, looked up at me and began furiously fanning their wings.  I swear I heard one of them tell the others, "Lock the door!"  However, since this hive is one of my new Italian Hives, a single puff of smoke neutralized their aggression and they went right back to milling around.

Had this happened in my bad hive, known as The Beast, the bees would have tried to kill me.  Did you get that last sentence, "The bees would have tried to kill me."  That brings me to my point, while good bees are an absolute joy to work with, an aggressive hive like The Beast is actually filled with bees that want to kill me.

That thought crossed my mind yesterday and for the first time, I realized that working with The Beast is actually a life and death event.  Some day soon, I am going to have to face The Beast and either the queen will be killed or I will.  I know it is not quite that dramatic but then again maybe it really is.  I normally get 50+ stings when I just inspect the hive.  If I do not properly suit up, then that number could go high enough to kill me.  My friend Marvin told me once that 200 sings is equivalent to a rattle snake bite - I'm not sure how he knows that.  Just the same, it does put the task in a rather harsh light.

In the audio book, The Wonder of Beekeeping: National Trust Beekeeping, Written by Andrew Davis and narrated by the coolest sounding scotsman, Alex Norton; Davis says, "Don't make excuses for bad bees."  I think this is good advice.  The only question is how do you get rid of a bad queen when the hive is so aggressive?

Well anyway, that is all for today.  I still have a few hundred plastic frames to clean, so I had better go find something to procrastinate on to avoid having to deal with that.