A President and Bees

Toomas Hendrik Ilves

A long time ago, in a place far away, I met a young lad at a children’s camp- an “Estonian Children’s Camp” called  Jõekääru (Camp River Bend). Many years passed by but we wrote letters, we loved language and words. He studied the words and read the books, I studied engineering and philosophy (which equals Architecture) and Toomas Hendrik Ilves became a President.

Yesterday, I flew to Ottawa to have dinner with the ex-President of Estonia. We had much to talk about and laugh about and think about what is happening in our world, especially the small Nordic country called Estonia. Our Parents were Estonians. They, and 60,000 other Estonians escaped the “iron curtain” that fell upon the tiny country (of about one million people) for 5o years.

Growing up in beautiful Canada, removed from an intense history, a lyrical language of poetry and song all my life, I was reintroduced to our culture from a champion of that Nation, now independant and free. It is no wonder that when I transferred my nucs into their new wooden homes I felt I had done this all before.

This poem, versed into music, is always the second last song of the Estonian Song Festival, a festival, which is known throughout the world, as how Estonia declared their freedom from Soviet Occupation.

Here is that song from the Festival (2009) & translated lyrics by: Hilary Bird Tartu, 2014

 

They Fly Towards the Beehive

The little bee flies from flower to flower,
her hive getting closer every hour.
thunderclouds over her they threaten and glower,
but home gets closer every hour.  

Though thousands fall upon the way,
thousands will survive and stay.
The little bees forget their care and worry,
as towards their hive they hurry.  

Soul, oh my soul, when times are bad —
Oh, how you long for your homeland!
Whether at home, or abroad and sad,
how you long for your homeland.  

The deadly winds, oh how they buffet and thrash,
and throw deadly missiles across your path.
But the little bee forgets both death and pain, 
and hurries to come home again !  

Soul, oh my soul, when times are bad —
Oh, how you long for your homeland!
Whether at home, or away and sad,
Oh, how you yearn for your homeland,
Oh, how you yearn for your homeland!

Bees. Humanity. Much to think about.

Toomas in the 80's web

Toomas –   all we can do is sow the seeds, even if it kills us.  Love, Rita

Opening Day

Honeybee greeting

Winter wraps have been removed from both hives,  the R10 2″ rigid insulation, candy boards and the cedar chip pillows. (note date: April 22 & 23 2019) Everyone seems happy. No sign of Nosema, yuk. Brood is in the works, (there has been some hatches as I observe the hovering flights at the entrances) Even Honey has been capped and there is a constant stream of the airforce with their payloads of Pollen! Where are they finding that? There are some minus temps coming up this weekend but I wanted to get the moldy bottom board out and help clean out old bees. Onwards!

Also, some interesting news and I will download the images, Rutter Tree Services was here today to take down the rogue beehive from last August. Yes, Hive No, 2 swarmed and set up their wild organic hive over 30 feet high in a spruce. A precision removal thanks to the hydraulic bucket and bim-bam-boom- I have a showpiece exhibit! later then . . .

Hive retrieval 1 web.jpg

a gorgeous day in the Thunder to do this . . .

Rutter Guys and Hive web.jpg

the PRIZE! Nature’s beehive, the organic forms of honeycomb in lobes.                          Bees, alas, all died with exposure.

 

The Bee Show

Customers at the hive web.jpgAt the Canadian Lakehead Exhibition’s 91st ‘Spring Home and Garden Show’ from April 5th-7th many exhibitors set up their wares to help Thunder Bay Citizens make plans for their home improvements over the good months ahead! Booth No. 28 had been reserved for the Thunder Bay Beekeepers’ Association.  I will take you to the show!

What happens when you put an architect in charge of an exhibit? Spell j-a-z-z, actually, describe passion. This new hobby (this word is not really appropriate, “strong” enough),  a chance to have an intimate relationship with one of the amazing forces of nature, bees, has put me in another zone of design.    All the stops were pulled out and just under two weeks many elements of an Exhibit came together: a banner was realized, a display hive ordered, a shelving unit procured from Home Sense, brochures were ordered from the “authorities having jurisdiction” (U of Guelph, OBA) t-shirts and buttons and business cards . . . all this and the most studied and touched and sniffed piece of evidence was a chunk of honeycomb. (!)

Children. Children were the inspiration for all the machinations, how to engage them in a friendly way- to invite them into the hive to sit for awhile, to colour and perhaps talk about and learn what they know about what is happening to the BEES.

After the take down Sunday evening, it was obvious Thunder Bay understands they can help.  Over 150 brochures of “Bee Friendly Plants” had been taken home. High-Five!

Children at the Hive web.jpg

A Bee Day

Well, I think it is safe to say we made it through the winter. Bees are out enforce and I have a coffee and a chair set up to watch. How did we get through? Beeginner’s luck? Perhaps it was the straw bale wind break surround or that I dried out the cedar chip pillows in mid February on a 0° day. I was concerned about air flow as the entrance cleat was at its smallest opening, less than 1″. Hive No. 1, the stronger- curious, no one is using the low entrance…I wonder what mess awaits down there in the bowels of the brood chamber. The big attraction today is a wet towel hanging from the deck railing- are they drinking? Yuk. The wet towel was sopping up the leak we have in the basement. Drag.

I will have to change into lighter pants when I go out now to insert 1:1 syrup jars. Last year I got stung through my black tights. Black = scarey animal coming to steal our honey! Will post photos of how the beeyard fared over the winter. Just excited to share the news. Toodles.

Disaster averted!

Dateline: February 13, 2019

A bulletin via FaceBook Thunder Bay Beekeepers  informed that fellow Member Rudy has lost 3 hives. Bees have starved. Rudy is the “European expert” with many years of beekeeping. Rudy has many hives and sells honey from his acreage on Oliver Road.

Eegad. I was worried before I heard about Rudy. We, meaning all of us (Husband, Kaya (the magnificent Dog) and the bees, made it through January and those Arctic Vortexes but I noticed over the last 2 weeks Hive No. 1 “looked quiet”. No bee casualties were to be found laying on the stomped down threshold. I am diligent to sweep aside or shovel snow around the BeeYard.  Hive No. 2 always had a few bodies and when I poke their upper exit to clear the ice someone inside gives notice: buzzzz!

I have been suspecting an icy “Attic” in No. 1 and have been preparing a new Cedar chip burlap pillow to change up, what I expect will be a ?frozen? one that needs replacing. Luckily, today climbed to minus -5° with that particular February sunshine and I opened  No. 1 up, fearing the worst . . .although in the morning I had found 3 bees on the threshold and hoped it was a sign.  It was!  (and not just stray bees from No. 2)            After I lifted off the layers of construction: Roof, top tray of cedar pillow, and top handhold cover of the upper super . . . Ta-Daah! behold the brown mat of bees, quietly buzzing, the candy board still full of white sugar fondant and that’s how you spell joy.

The top cover went back on quickly, my toque was stuffed into the hand hold,  a quick dash inside for a mohair blanket to substitute as temporary insulation while I cleaned off the ice and dried out the roof interior. It is obvious that the building science performance of this hive is not working, not enough airflow and the resulting condensation is icing the upper levels of the hive. It could be the opening of only 1 inch is not wide enough to draw air at the base. *note to self next year: use 2″ cleat and re-think the straw bale surround . . .I may have created a cold sink also. 😦 Tomorrow’s forecast will also be as warm but with snow. No. 2 will be checked if weather allows and then I have to think of jimmying another design of candy board to slide between the frames of No. 1’s super and No. 2’s situation, whatever I find there.                                                                                                                            Beekeeping . . .  one must have their wits about them and be ready to improvise. But seriously: whew!

The Busiest of Bees

Busiest of bees 2

The Busiest of Bees  (The Queen Part II)

Scouts, Inspectors and the  “Shakers”.  AS IF bees haven’t been observed enough during our time on this planet, there is and seems there always will bee,  more to learn.     Dr. Heather Mattila’s fifteen years of research at Wellesley College in  Massachusetts continues to define different classes of  worker bees and their specialized jobs.

Musing sidebar about research data gathering- the x-y axis of a graph: this high, this big, this far, time elapsed, is the graphic proof of scientific research. The numbers of data simplified to a crooked line (or a wavy one), some coloured apartment towers, dancing dots. In the watching and counting of the bees by a crew of research students, unquantifiable surprises are revealed. Ethology, the study of animal behaviour, is a word Professor (Dr. M) and Hobbyist (RitaK) stumbled over. Entomology being the Study of insects. Latin . . . it happens. If the Queen has been “well mated” with the biggest, strongest and fastest drones,  she will provide offspring who will be the best of the foragers. The success of the hive depends on the efforts of the foragers and those graphs illustrate the benefits of diverse genetics.

In the ‘zoo’ of bees, we learn of three classifications of the foragers resulting from Dr. Mattila’s research: There are the scouts, those bees who zoom away to find the sources of nectar- and don’t necessarily bring back anything, because they are on a quest with their sense of adventure and return long enough to relay the co-ördinates of location vis-á-vis the bee dance. Then we observe the inspectors (yes, we have bureaucrats and critics in the Hive) who ascertain the quality of the nectar payload. How the students observed this behaviour is still sketchy in my memory and notes from the lecture but what caught my imagination were the shakers. Yes, we have sleepy bees and those obnoxious early risers. How do you know a bee is sleeping? their antennae are drooping! and along comes one of those early risers, who climbs on top of sleepybeehead and begins to execute pounce-like movements and the day begins. So the Scouts, the Inspectors and the Shakers, remember that, I will.

The End Part II.

 

The Queen

Golden crown isolated on white - 3d renderThe Queen – Part I

 

The Bees in my hives are wrapped around the Queen in tight balls. I can hear the hum. Winter it is a time of study for Beekeepers and I throw my name into this tribe with emotional humility. With thousands of years of observation , there is a lot to learn and much information to share about these creatures, Apis, the Honey bee.

It came to the attention of Thunder Bay’s Beekeepers’ Association that we have an expert in our midst- a Dr. Heather Mattila, from Wellesley College, Department of Biological Sciences in Massachusetts returns home at Christmas to visit her parents and we had our own exclusive ‘Ted Talk”.                                                                                                                              The Topic: “Why do well mated queens produce the busiest bees?”

The language of science from a Phd Biologist keeps a person on point.  I have new information to share from Heather’s work over the last 15 years from her students at Wellesley  (of notable Alumnus: Clinton, Albright, Sawyer) and colleagues from Cornell.

Slide No. 2 of the Power Point show gets right down to the nitty gritty of the subject; an airborne Queen with the ripped off genitalia of a Drone dangling from her bottom. Imagine that visual!  My own musings (of a wannabe biologist) before the lecture were generic answers:

– because there is some selection going on                                                                                        – couplings are planned                                                                                                                         – drones have been selected.

The definition of a ‘busy’ bee, also explained in the Lecture will be explored in another instalment, Part II

Polyamory is a new word in my vocabulary. Today’s women are seeking more than one sexual partner but remaining in their marriage, apparently and Polyandry in Bees ensures genetic diversity, hence stronger . . . busier . . . bees.

The Queen’s flight away from the hive may occur up to three trips (maximum) in search of an aerial drone congregation travelling many dangerous kilometres to follow the scent of those minute pheromones on the wind. Once located, a mating comet of drones begins to swirl around her and the chase is on. The biggest, the strongest, the fastest Drone wins. Nothing new there >wink<.

Back in the hive, the Queen returns and worker bees are reassured by the ultra violet light emanating from the Drone’s still attached genitalia. The workers chew off the package and the colony is restored.

The End Part I

 

 

Drone package 2.jpeg

 

Illustration from C. P. Dadant’s “First Lessons in Beekeeping” 1918