Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Day #323 Night-time Cleanup Crew

Birdfeeders are messy. All around them, birds scatter seeds, feathers, and the end products of digestion. That’s what they do in my front yard. It’s okay, though. I have a clean-up crew who come around every night, 24/7. They never take a day off. They never complain. They keep the area under my “squirrel-proof” birdfeeders looking (relatively) tidy.

And I don’t have to pay them!

Last night I went out to bring in the feeders—because if I don’t, the cleaner-uppers climb the pole and empty them for me—and heard scrabblings up the trunk on the majestic tulip poplar that stands near my front door.

I stood still and waited. Within seconds a black-masked little face peeked around the trunk about ten feet off the ground.  Before I could say, “Good evening, little friend,” a second face poked its way over the first one’s shoulder.

Two nights ago, I remembered after I was practically asleep that I’d forgotten to bring in the feeders. I barged out the front door without thinking and startled a possum on my front porch. She cleans up the niger seeds the goldfinches drop.

During the day, pigeons and doves and other sorts of ground-feeders pick up what the raccoons and the possums miss.

And the daddy-longleg spiders inside the house clear up any ants who find their way inside.

Life is good.

BEEattitude for Day # 323:
       Blessed are those who take the time to observe what we animals do and who appreciate us, for they shall reap the benefit of our activity.

Coming Soon: a raffle, so your dog might be in my next book!
Details on September 1st!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Day #322 Dewitt Jones and his celebration of life

Dewitt Jones is a photographer who likes to share his work with me (and the umpty-kazillion other people who subscribe to his website). Every so often I get an email with a lovely photograph, some words of wisdom, and a gentle reminder to

“celebrate what’s right with the world.”

That’s a great idea. I celebrate
every time I step onto my deck to listen to the bees,
every time I look out the window at my beehives or the birds,
every time I share time with a friend, and
particularly every time I hear from one of you,
as well as a lot of other times in between.

BEEattitude for Day # 322:
       Blessed are those who share beauty, for it shall reflect back on them as well.

Coming Soon: a raffle, so your dog might be in my next book!
Details on September 1st!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Day #321 A Shrew and a Line

In the past few weeks I’ve seen two marvelous theater productions, and I'd like to share my delight with you.

The first was The Taming of the Shrew at the Atlanta Shakespeare Tavern. Shrew is one of those shows that a lot of people hate in our politically-correct times. I’ve seen it produced many different ways. That’s one of the beauties of Shakespeare – you can take the very same words, change the intonation, and get diametrically opposing interpretations.

This production turned out to be raucous, hilarious, and one of the finest love stories I’ve seen in a long time. I hope you’ll check it out. Through the end of September, they’re playing it in repertory with Two Gentlemen of Verona and A Comedy of Errors (which happens to be one of my favorites).

Then, on Sunday I saw A Chorus Line at the Aurora Theater in Lawrenceville. First, I must say I’m in absolute awe of anyone who dance that long and that hard, and make it look that effortless. I was almost reluctant to see it—I’d seen the movie and quite frankly was bored silly. But the play was something altogether different. Beautifully cast, and quite well-performed.

Then I came home to my bees and watched their daily production, choreographed by a master planner. Lovely.

BEEattitude for Day # 321:
       Blessed are those who work to excel at their craft, whatever it may be, for they shall be blessed with applause.

Coming Soon: a raffle, so your dog might be in my next book!
Details on September 1st


Sunday, August 28, 2011

Day #320 Bees at the Chicago Airport

This is a fabulous idea! Honeybees work the land that surrounds O’Hare Field in Chicago. All that land that an airport needs, but doesn’t really use, can be put to good use, and this little video shows how:

I went further, though, and checked out the site the beekeeper mentioned. Here’s some info I copied from their “about  us” page:

            Sweet Beginnings, LLC makes the family of beeline® products, an all natural line of raw honey and honey-infused body care products. We extract our honey from our all natural urban apiary in the heart of the North Lawndale community in Chicago. Our honey is known for its complex flavor, a result of the varied flora of our urban environment. Our beeline® skin care products are of exceptional quality and are all unique in their use of the natural gift of honey as a moisturizer. Not only do we respect the earth in the production of our products, but we also provide important transitional job opportunities for area residents who struggle with barriers to employment.

The page goes on to explain the skills the workers learn. It’s pretty impressive:

            Sweet Beginnings … offers full-time transitional jobs for formerly incarcerated individuals and others with significant barriers to employment in a green industry – the production and sales of all-natural skin care products featuring its own urban honey. Sweet Beginnings workers care for the bees and hives, harvest honey, make beeline® products, package and ship products, track inventory, fill product orders, and sell at retail outlets and special events. These training and work experience modalities transfer to market positions in manufacturing, food service, distribution, warehousing, hospitality, customer service, and more.

The truly important point here is that “The recidivism rate for former Sweet Beginnings employees is below 4%, compared to the national average of 65% and the Illinois average of 55%.”

Amazing what bees can do—as long as they are partnered with people who care enough to implement such programs.

I love finding proof that bees can make a real difference.

BEEattitude for Day # 320:
       Blessed are those who recognize our value and help to increase our numbers, for they shall have honey everlasting.

The teeny details:

     Please buy them from an independent bookstore or directly from my website.

my eBooks on Smashwords (for all other formats):

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Day #319 Bees are Easier than Cats or Dogs

I spent Thursday night visiting a friend in north Georgia. On the way back from there I stopped off at Quigley’s Rare Books and Antiques on the square in Dahlonega GA, where I signed some books and talked with folks.

As I left Quigley’s, having stayed an hour longer than I’d originally planned to stay, I was quite aware of how easy beekeeping is. I didn’t have to clean any litter boxes for them before I left. I didn’t have to worry about what would happen if I didn’t get back in time to feed them more sugar water. They’d get by even if I decided to stay an extra night.

And, thank goodness I never have to take my bees for a walk. Can you imagine 60,000 teeny-weeny leashes?

BEEattitude for Day # 319:
       Blessed are those who welcome friends into their lives, for they shall be enriched in so many blessed ways.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Day #318 Yuk Alert

Yuk notice: if you’re squeamish, you may want to pass on this picture.

I promised you I’d show you the bee sting results. Why, you may ask, would I continue bee keeping when this is what happens? Well, since the sting happened when I was in my front yard, I’m going to assume it was one of the wild bees.

My girls are sort of honey-colored, which is pretty appropriate for a bee, wouldn’t you say? Every so often, though, I see some almost completely black honey bees foraging around the flowers out front.

Since I never did see the bee that stung me -- I can think whatever I want to about her identity, right?

Okay, here's the ghastly picture coming up . . . close your browser if you don't want to see it!

Although the swelling’s gone down quite a bit, you can still see the big bulge on the right. No, that is not the way my leg is normally shaped…

BEEattitude for Day # 318:
       Blessed are those who check up on their friends, for they shall help to prevent the dread blog-loss disorder!!!!! 


Thursday, August 25, 2011

Day #317 Successful Hive Inspection!

It’s amazing what a little sugar water will do for a starving colony. I’m not talking about how people run in the door and yell, “What’s for dinner? I’m starving!”

I’m talking about 60,000 bees too exhausted and depleted even to buzz when I opened their lid. That was last week, though. After 7 days of sugar water feeding (I went through an entire 10-pound bag of sugar), the queen has started laying again, and the bees are happy and buzzy once more.

Thanks to my beekeeping mentor Tommy Bailey for helping me with my hives. He came over Wednesday afternoon and took both hives apart, teaching me what to look for, and why.

He said the places where the bees had bridged the space between two of the frames was okay for now. We saw eggs, larvae in all different stages, and capped brood where more babies will be hatching. I watched several babies clamber out of the cells they’d matured in – that was so absolutely amazing I could have cried.

Look at the places where the bright yellow comb is showing. The grungy looking brownish junk (shown here on the inside lid) is propolis, the glue-like substnce that I wrote about earlier this year. The bees had used it to stick the lid to the top of the frames. Thank goodness for my yellow hive tool; otherwise we might never have gotten the lid off.

When it was all over, I brought the super back inside. No comb on it at all yet. I'll put it back in next spring.

BEEattitude for Day # 317:
       Blessed are those who keep going in spite of discouragement, for they shall be pleasantly surprised.

Fran's bee.s.: Thank you to those who emailed me asking about the bee sting on my leg. It's still pretty swollen. To get an idea of the size of it, spread your fingers really wide and lay your hand along the side of your leg. I've started taking an antihistamine. Probably should have done that as soon as it happened. I'll see if I can take a picture of it tomorrow

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Day #316 One More Sting


Ka-phooey! I went outside Tuesday morning to collect the empty hummingbird feeder Lots of bees were buzzing around it. I lifted it from its hook, made sure no bees were still on it, and walked inside. As I turned I must have brushed my hand against a bee who’d taken a liking to my slacks.

I now have a red swollen area on my leg as big as my hand—my WHOLE hand.

Fortunately, I didn’t have an all-over reaction. I do have that epi-pen on hand just in case, but I’d really rather not need it.

Tomorrow morning as I’m coming inside, I’d better check my clothes in a mirror before I move!

BEEattitude for Day # 316:
       Blessed are those who watch where they put their hands, for they shall be safer in the long run.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Day #315 The First Major Pollinators

Now, since this is a blog about bees and beekeeping, I’ll bet you think I’m going to say the first major pollinators were honey bees—or bumble bees—or mason bees.


Several hundred million years ago, before there were bees to pollinate the plants, guess what critter filled that ecological niche?

Are you ready for this?


I would imagine that means mosquitoes were there to feed the first birds and frogs, too, when those came along.

So, the next time you’re outside slapping away at those pesky little skeeters who are after your blood, how ‘bout you thank them before you squash them!

BEEattitude for Day # 315:
       Blessed are those who slow down at night in case there are deer crossing the road, for they shall be safer as a result.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Day #314 Looking to Plant -- What???

I’ve been thinking a lot about my front yard, wondering how I can make it more bee friendly. The reason I’m thinking this is that a catalog from Wayside Gardens appeared in my mailbox Saturday.

The trouble is – my front yard is so small, I have to be careful what I plant. Anything too big will simply overwhelm it. That’s a lesson I learned the hard way. This fall I’m going to be taking out 2 confederate roses (they get ten feet tall and very bushy, and bloom in the late, late summer for a very short time). I doubt they have much bee value, but I’ll wait until after they bloom. If the bees like them I may reconsider.

And then there are those daylilies. All summer long—and I must admit they do have a fairly long blooming season—I never saw a single honey bee on them. Out of there! If anybody wants them, let me know. All you have to do is come over and help me dig them up.

I have a whole row of Rose of Sharon trees that were here when I bought the house. Do you have any idea how many seedlings those things give off? Good grief, I could pull up fifty and would still be behind. The bees visit them occasionally, but never look like they're very enthusiastic about it.

What to replace them with, though? I’m going to Google “bee-friendly plants Georgia” and see what I get.

Wish me luck.

BEEattitude for Day #314:
       Blessed are those who feed the hungry (bees) when we are in danger of starving, for we shall (someday) make honey for them.

bee.s. Thank you for the sugar water. It doesn’t have any pollen, but we’ll take what we can get this time of year.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Day #313 Esperanto

When I was having a cup of tea at Aristeacrats a few weeks ago, I spotted a book on Esperanto, the universal language.  I’d heard about Esperanto, but hadn’t ever looked into it. I have to admit, I’m fascinated by the idea. And I’m pretty sure that if I had a friend who showed any interest in it, I’d probably devote some time to learning it.

It’s so doggone logical. Each vowel has ONE sound, for instance. Each consonant has ONE sound.

That reminded me of a little word game my children played on me when they were in high school. Here it is:

What’s this word?        GHOTI

I’m willing to bet you’re saying something like
guh-hoe-tee, or even

Uh-uh. It’s     FISH.

“How’s that?” you ask.

Well, you take the sound of
“gh” as in laugh,
“o” as in women, and
“ti” as in nation
Put all three of those sounds together, and you get F-I-SH.

Esperanto is much easier to figure out than that. For one thing, every noun ends in –o. For plural, you add a –j.
one book=unu libro
two books=du libroj
three books=tri libroj
four cats=kvar katoj
kvin sinjoroj—gentlemen
ses virinoj—women
sep ĵurnaloj--newspapers
ok avantaĝoj--advantages
naŭ ideoj--ideas
dek bovinoj—cows

So, what does this have to do with beekeeping?

Years ago I read about a woman traveling in Germany. Walking down a residential street one day, she stopped to admire a beautiful garden. The woman working in the garden looked up, smiled. They quickly discovered that they had no knowledge of each other’s language until one of them pointed to a flower and called it by its botanical name. From there they happily wandered through her profuse garden, sharing the names in Latin, a very old common tongue.

I wonder what beekeepers do at international meetings? I doubt anybody there speaks Latin. Surely Esperanto would help.

Wonder if I can find a class somewhere?

BEEattitude for Day # 313:
       Blessed are those who learn another language, for they shall have their horizons widened.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Day #312 Drinking Like Crazy

The good news is that the bees are alive enough to be drinking like crazy.

I went from an absolutely full quart jar of sugar water to this in less than 18 hours.

Of course they're still not hanging out much:

 But if they're comsuming that much sugar water, there’s hope.

COMING SOON: a special raffle to benefit Walton Animal Guild (a 501(c)(3) rescue organization) SO YOUR DOG CAN BE FEATURED IN MY NEWEST BOOK! I’ll give you the link as soon as it’s ready
Donate $10 and get one entry in the raffle. Donate $50 and get 5 chances to win!

BEEattitude for Day # 312:
       Blessed are those who enjoy our favorite writer (Shakespeare), who said “To bee or not to bee, that is the question.”

Friday, August 19, 2011

Day #311 It's a Chance to Learn

That’s what I keep telling myself. This is a chance to learn.

Thursday afternoon I opened the brown/white hive. That’s the one that started out as a very inadequate nuke, worth less than half what I paid for it – but that’s another story. I’ve been reluctant to open the hives, afraid of what I’d find, but I finally screwed up my courage and...

What I found was:

1.       When I opened the box, the bees didn’t do that excited buzzy buzzy thing they usually do when they’re disturbed. It was as if they had no energy whatsoever.

2.      Top box (the supposed honey “super” where the bees were supposed to store extra honey) – there was still nothing in the super. Nothing at all. They hadn’t drawn out a bit of comb. The five frames were as empty as the day I put them in there.

3.      Middle box – this was the upper of two brood chambers, those two bottom boxes where the bees are supposed to do all their baby-rearing. There were lots of bees, but they were as lethargic as could be. They didn’t object at all when I pulled out the frames one at a time. One frame was completely empty. The other four had some capped brood, the cells with brownish-colored caps where baby bees are getting ready to hatch.

4.      The bad news was that there were no eggs, no larvae, no honey, and no pollen, which means that when those baby bees do hatch, they’ll starve to death. And as the older bees die off, there will be no younger ones to replace them unless the queen starts laying eggs pretty soon.

5.      Oh yes, the queen. I didn’t see her. If there’s no queen, the hive will die out.

6.      There’s hope, because I didn’t open the bottom brood chamber. I was too discouraged by the top one. There’s a possibility the queen is down there, waiting out this dry spell, knowing that there’s not enough forage to feed an increased population.

So – what did I do? I plopped a big quart jar of sugar water on there. At least that will keep them from starving, and give the emerging babies something to eat. As to whether or not the queen will make it – we’ll just have to wait and see.

I’m going to open the box again next Tuesday. Please send good wishes—and prayers if you’re the praying sort. My bees can use all the help they can get.

BEEattitude for Day # 310:

       Blessed are those who learn as they go, for they shall find lessons all around them.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Day #310 What do you get when . . .

a.      I had a faucet replaced recently by my favorite plumber people, Keep Smiling Plumbing.

b.      I caught two bees inside my house Wednesday night. They were looking for a way back out, of course, so I clapped a little plastic container over them (one at a time) and ushered them back outside.

c.       These two events got me to thinking …

What do you get when you cross a bee with a plumber?

Send me your answers by email or post them here.

BEEattitude for Day # 310:
       Blessed are those who return lost bees, for they shall sleep better.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Day #309 Perspective

Don’t let perspective fool you. You never know what might be around the corner – or under the overhang.

When I look down on my hives, I see this:

Looks like there aren’t many bees, right?
Ah, but I need to shift my perspective a bit, see the other side of this story.

When I look sideways at the hive, I see this:

 sorry the picture's fuzzy...
Funny what a little shift like that will reveal.

What can you look at from a different angle today?
  BEEattitude for Day # 309:
       Blessed are those who look at life from many perspectives, for they shall remain flexible all their lives.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Day #308 Bee Video

My friend Darlene Carter sent me a link to a fascinating bee video, and I wanted to share it with you. I watched the whole thing (all 42 minutes of it, including the commercials).

If you manage to get through to the end, it will be well worth it. There are loads of incredibly-detailed videos of honeybees inside the hive. At the very end you’ll see a brand new baby bee emerging from her cell and being cleaned up by nurse bees. I almost cried seeing it.

There’s one segment in here about bees as artists/sculptors.

You’ll see Dr. Mark Winston and some of his science students in the field experimenting with pheromones by removing a queen bee and observing how long it takes her workers to find her. (Hint: not long!)

Did you know Aristotle was a biologist? News to me!

BEEattitude for Day # 308:
       Blessed are those who are kind to hairy winged creatures, for we shall pollinate their world.

BEEattitude footnote:
     Bees are hairy. Wasps are not.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Day #307 Photo Winner?

Well, it seems the very favorite photo I’ve posted so far on this blog is the one of me kissing Lacy the Chicken. From the numbers of emails and phone calls I’ve gotten about it, I think it’s a clear winner. But if you’d like to vote for a different photo, like the one of me being downed by the police dog, the milkweed pod, Sparrow in the sink, the slurpy cow, or the thistle seeds in my granddaughter's hair, or any of the others that I've used in these posts, be sure to let me know.

Let’s take a vote:

What’s been your favorite photo so far?

BEEattitude for Day # 307:
       Blessed are those who praise where praise is due, for they shall promote praiseworthy behavior.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Day #306 Silence

I think it would be safe to say that most people associate silence with nighttime. Fifty-four years ago, in October of 1957, when I was in fifth grade, my father bundled me up in a gray and black blanket late one night and took me outside to watch the sky over Colorado Springs. Sputnik, the first human-made orbiting intrusion into space, tumbled its way across the background of stars. (In 1957 one could still see jillions of stars.) Against their spangles, Sputnik skipped in eerie silence. Eerie because I was old enough to have picked up on my parents’ fears about the possible launch of ballistic missiles.

In school over the next number of months, we had drills in which we sat—in silence, another kind of silence—beneath our desks with our heads ducked beneath our arms for protection. That was a silence stippled with fear and later, when the drills became old hat, and when we realized the enormity of what a nuclear attack would entail, with desks as scant protection, those were silences laced with derision.

We all have had numerous instances of silence in our lives. The silence of sitting next to a sick child, listening to each labored breath. The silence of that moment when we know the fever has turned and all will be well. The silence of sitting with a dying parent, knowing that the next breath might be the last. The silence of hearing that last breath and waiting for another that will never come. The silence of walking through a woodland park, unaware of the thunder from the interstate just one mile away, listening to the multi-faceted silence of bird song, coupled with the awareness that that particular kind of silence used to be a lot louder before pesticides and fertilizers and clear-cutting destroyed so many of our songbirds.

There is the silence now when we may sit with quiet around us, yet feel bombarded by questions and concerns from within that we cannot silence.

I find I much prefer the buzzy silence of my bees as I listen and almost don’t listen because I’m getting to be so used to their sound.

There is the silence now of ending this blogpost—my writing it, your reading it.

What silences do you remember and which ones have you forgotten to remember?

BEEattitude for Day # 306:
       Blessed are those who know how to be quiet in their own minds, for they shall radiate peacefulness to others.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Day #305 Pencils

Yesterday morning I stepped outside early, early, early. It was light enough to see but not light enough to start getting too hot. So I sat down at the table on my deck to listen to the bees for a while. It was so nice out there that I walked back inside to get the manuscript I’m working on. Give me some paper and a pencil and I’m pretty happy.

That got me to thinking about the common pencil. It’s a truly marvelous invention, and it’s been around since 1565. Anything that’s lasted that long must have a few things going for it. Here are just a few I thought of. Let me know if you can think of any others.

1.       A pencil is portable.
2.      It runs without batteries. For that matter, it can run without brains, but I hope that’s not the case here.
3.      It has an eraser, the 1565 version of a delete key.
4.      It provides a handy canvas for tooth imprints. I’ve never known anyone who hasn’t occasionally chewed on a pencil. What computer keyboard gives you that kind of alleviation? I don’t group solitaire, Pac-Man, or minesweeper in the same league with a yellow number 2 Ticonderoga.
5.      It can be thrown across the path / room / deck when simple deletion or chewing is not active enough (see numbers 3 and 4 above).
6.      It can be sharpened without a fancy gadget. My Swiss Army knife works just fine. In a pinch I can even sacrifice a fingernail to tear the wood back away from the graphite.
7.      It can be broken in half to fit in a tiny notebook or a small pocket. Of course, this eliminates the delete function of one-half of it.
8.     And, since it doesn’t beep or ring, it will never scare my bees.

What a handy little tool!

BEEattitude for Day # 305:
       Blessed are those who use pencils, for we bees appreciate their silence.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Day #304 Kisses from Two Very Different Critters

Awright, I know this may sound weird, but this morning, when Miss Polly woke me up by gently touching her paw to my cheek, I couldn’t help by think about a fly that got in the house a couple of days ago and ended up landing on my cheek – not for very long, of course, since I batted it away.

But the fact that two such very different creatures both touched my cheek led me to wonder what a fly looked like close up. I had already taken a picture of Polly’s paw as she snoozed on the couch, and I located (on the  MicroAngela website, the same place I found the microscopic photo of a honey bee head for Day #294) this picture that was labeled “Fly Kiss.”

Copyright by Tina (Weatherby) Carvalho - MicroAngela
Polly Paw
Thought you’d like to see the two side by side:

Given a choice, I'll take the Polly Paw anyday.

I wonder what a fly looks like to a honey bee?

BEEattitude for Day # 304:
       Blessed are those who think of fun analogies, for they shall entertain themselves.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Day #303 Bee Flight and Space Flight

One of the nicest things about bees—and there are MANY great things about bees to choose from—is the way they fly, particularly on their orienting flights, when they leave the hive for the first time. They circle around and around, making sure they know precisely where home is so that later on in life, when they’re three weeks old and begin to forage far from the hive, they’ll know what to come back to and where it is.

Wednesday morning I went outside at 5:45 to be sure I was in place for the 5:48 to 5:50 flyover time of the International Space Station. I found that exact time on NASA’s ISS Tracker site. Go to “Sighting Opportunities,” enter your country, and continue from there.

As I watched the space station fly over, I couldn’t help but think that all our space flights so far (and I vividly recall the very first one) must look, to beings far from Earth, like the orienting flights of bees.

There is the bright, shining space station, circling around and around its Earth hive, accompanied by millions of bit of debris that previous flights have left up there—dust, bits of paint flakes, and lots of bigger pieces, too. These bigger pieces (anything more than 10 centimeters in diameter) are what contribute to the “Kessler Syndrome.” This syndrome states the possibility that eventually we’ll fill the space around us with so much dangerous junk, that future space flights will be at risk or downright impossible because of the risk of collision.

Here are two pictures of space waste that I lifted from the NASA site and good ole Wikipedia.

Not a pretty picture, eh?

So, in that way, we are not like bees. Just about the only space debris bees leave is bee poop. They don’t poop in their own hives—there’s a big difference between bees and people! And bee poop is biodegradable, unlike the metal and plastic waste we tend to leave behind us, both above earth and on it.

Still, the ISS was gorgeous in that pre-dawn hour, and seeing it was well worth the early trip to the end of my driveway.

Now, over the upcoming weekend, I hope to see the Perseid Meteor Shower. If I do, I’ll let you know for sure.

BEEattitude for Day # 303:
       Blessed are those who clean up after themselves, for they shall walk and not stumble.