Turkey Tracks: Moving the Bees

Turkey Tracks:  February 9, 2012

Moving the Bees

Last Thanksgiving, we were in Charleston, SC, with our children.  Both of our sons and their families live within two blocks of each other, so we stay a chunk of time with each family.

My daughter-in-law, Tami, has been a backyard bee keeper for the past year.  And, by year’s end, she had harvested her first honey:

Tami’s hive was in a shady part of the yard, however, and had acquired a worrisome kind of little beetle that can harm the hive.  So, just after Thanksgiving, she and her bee mentor, with the help of her fellow beekeeper Kay, decided to move the hive to a sunnier spot in the yard.

Here’s Kelly, all ready for the move–see the hive alongside the back fence?

Here’s Kay and Tami with the children, starting the smoker:

The boys are ready for the next step of the move:

The bee mentor and his wife arrive, and here’s the whole crew, moving the bees.  Notice Kay’s daughter standing nearby without any protection.  Bees really are not aggressive unless you directly threaten the hive and/or its honey.  They are especially not aggressive if they’ve been smoked.

Here’s the new site–note the sun:

Here’s the hive in its sunny new site alongside Tami’s raised vegetable beds:

But, this picture isn’t the end of the story.

There are two other pieces.

First, all the bees that were out foraging came home to find no hive where they left it.  Hundreds of them swarmed around the spot where the hive had been.  By nightfall, they lit on the fence and on the ground below the fence.  Tami and I couldn’t bear it; our hearts were breaking.  We donned gloves and took a flashlight and scooped up as many as we could with sheets of newspaper and slid them into brown paper sacks.  We then put the sacks, open, next to the hive.  By morning, the bees were gone.  Rejoined, we hoped, with their hive.  We had “saved,” we hoped, hundreds of bees.

Second, Tami thought the bees were ok in their new spot.  There was a lot of activity at the hive.  Bees were coming and going.  But, when she returned from Christmas in Maine, something didn’t seem quite right.  She donned her gear and opened the hive–something one does not do much in the winter.

The hive was empty.  Not a bee in sight.  And all the honey was gone–though she had left two flats of honey for the bees to use over the winter.  The bee activity she had seen were robber bees from another hive, taking all the honey.

She does not know what happened.  Was the queen damaged in the move?  Did a nearby automatic water sprinkler wet the hive?  There was some mold on the bottom layers…???  Was it colony collapse disorder?  Or, had her bees, simply, departed.

She’s ordered more bees and a new hive, since the old one has to be destroyed in case there was a disease present.

She loves her bees, and this loss was huge.  For us, too, as we loved her honey.

Turkey Tracks: Blueberry Buckle

Turkey Tracks:  July 24, 2011

Blueberry Buckle

We’re still making desserts this summer from recipes in RUSTIC FRUIT DESSERTS, Julie Richardson and Cory Schreiber:  http://www.amazon.com/Rustic-Fruit-Desserts-Crumbles-Pandowdies/dp/1580089763.   (A book suggested by Tara Derr.)  We freeze about 20 pounds of ORGANIC wild Maine blueberries every August, which our wonderful CSA, Hope’s Edge, makes available to us.  I don’t know if you’ve ever had wild Maine blueberries.  They are much smaller than the big round ones most people can get in supermarkets.  And, they’re chock full of flavor.  Once you’ve had these little guys, the big blueberries seem utterly tasteless.  So, be warned!

Now, the “wild” Maine blueberries are anything but wild.  Yes, there are some wild blueberries at the edges of our woods.  But, commercial wild blueberries are a wild myth!  They’re heavily cultivated, actually.  And in the harvest year, which is every other year, the commercial (as in NOT organic) are heavily sprayed with all sorts of heinous and poisonous pesticides and herbicides that get into the watershed (atrazine compounds)–in Maine we have a LOT of watershed–just take a look at a map of  Maine–and that stay in the ground for up to 175 days, like the organophosphates often used as pesticides.  Organophosphates attack an insect’s nervous system.  And it remains a mystery to me why people think a compound that attacks nervous systems is NOT going to affect THEIR nervous systems–especially when it hangs around for 175 days on the ground, gets tracked into homes on shoes and clothes, and when it, often, gets INTO the plants and berries themselves and CANNOT be washed out.

Many of these chemicals kill bees and any other insect that gets in the spray, which, in turn, affects the bird population.  But, since commercial bees (poor things) are trucked in from across the country to pollinate the crop BEFORE it is sprayed, it’s our LOCAL bees and hives that are at risk.  (How dumb is that?)    And, many of these chemicals affect a human’s endocrine system (read reproductive ability), cause birth defects, cancer, and so on.  (How doubly dumb is that?)  The EPA is going to render a new verdict on atrazine in the near future, and it’s already been banned in Europe.

So, if you want to try a “wild” Maine blueberry–for heaven’s sake–buy organic ones.  Or come up here and pick some yourself!

Anyway, since I usually make blueberry cobblers, making a blueberry buckle was an experiment.  So, far, it’s been voted the favorite dessert and has been repeated once more.  (It’s GREAT for breakfast too.)  It’s a rich cake, studded with blueberries and lemon, topped with a crunchy crumb topping, and drizzled with an intense lemon glaze when it’s still warm.  Here’s a picture:

Here’s a better one!

Turkey Tracks: Green Hive Honey Farm

Turkey Tracks:  January 24, 2011

Green Hive Honey Farm

“Raw Honey From A Thousand Flowers”

 Isn’t this the prettiest jar of honey you ever saw?

From the moment I saw it I fell in love!


For the past five years or so, I’ve made a right hand turn onto Wiley Road from Barnstown Road and, in doing so, passed a house where the most amazing flower garden begin to appear.  Last year some time, a friend told me that the occupants of this house, Clay and Mary King, had put in hives and were going to sell honey.  I’m always looking for local, NONHEATED honey, and that’s what the King’s have.  They have hives located in other places besides their yard, each site carefully chosen to support bees.  Last year, the honey bottles were plain.  This year, when Clay brought us a case of honey, here’s the jar that emerged from the box.  I’ll never be able to throw away a single one of these bottles.  That’s for sure.

For those of you who are local and who are reading my blog, this honey is amazing!  You can reach Clay and Mary at greenhivenoney@gmail.com.  Or, 207-542-3399.  The web site is www.greenhivehoney.com.  Clay and Mary, by the way, have a therapeutic massage practice.

For those of you who are not local, I urge you to find a local source of unheated raw honey.  It’s full of things that are good for you that come from your own region, and you’d be supporting someone who is trying to make a difference. 

Raw honey, combined with raw butter, has been used traditionally as a healing compound and for immune support.  I try to eat some every day.   

Strangely, in the way that things come together all at once some times, Paul Tukey of Safe Lawns sent out a posting listed on his blog this week that shares the fact that the lead researcher for the USDA has definitely connected the use of the class of insectsicides called neonicotinoids, which are synthetic nicotines, with the colony collapse of bees–and at, writes Tukey, “doses so low they cannot even be detected by normal scientific procedures.”   Apparently, Jeffrey Pettis (the lead USDA researcher), has known for two years about the neonicotinoids, but said that official publication of his findings has been stalled.  What a surprise!  This story is as old as industry use of chemicals.  Some names of these synthetic nicotines are imidacloprid and clothiandin.  Pettis, writes Tukey, broke his story to a documentary filmmaker rather than to a government source.  That’s interesting…   That’s one way to get around the “stalling.”

Neonicotinoids act on the central nervous system of insects and are thought to have a lower toxicity to mammals because they block a specific neural pathway that is, according to Wikipedia, “more abundant in insects than warm-blooded animals.”   More abundant…  My first thought is that, as with BPA, they don’t really know how dangerous to us these chemicals are.  And, no one is looking since we operate within the notion that harm has to be proved before our government even begins to look–which translates into having enough dead or harmed bodies.   Imidacloprid is systemic.  It amazes me that people can watch chemicals drop bugs and not connect the dots that those same chemicals can have an impact on their systems as well.  Again and again, the history of chemical use demonstrates that “they don’t know.”  Or, if they do and it’s dangerous, they hide it.  So, I have no confidence in our government’s ability to protect us any more.     

Imidacloprid is widely used as an insecticide worldwide–except in France and Germany where folks seem to have started questioning impact.  Imidacloprid is used, says Wikipedia, against “soil, seed, timber, and animal pests” and is used as “foliar treatments for crops including:  cereals, cotton, grain, legumes, potatoes, pome fruits, rice, turf and vegetables.”  That’s a LOT of poison.

Feral honey bee populations in America, writes Wikipedia about pollinator decline, have declined by 90 percent.   And, two-thirds of managed honey bee colonies have disappeared.  Two thirds.  The economic and human hardship potential for disaster if this scenario continues is enormous.  About one-third of human nutrition depends on bee pollination.  Think about it.  We’re talking about the majority of fruits, nuts, vegetables, and crops we feed to animals, like alfalfa and clover. 

Most bees right now are moved around the country to service crops, which stresses them.  Often, they only have access to one crop, like, say, almonds, which also stresses them since they need more variety.  Often, they’re fed in winter with high fructose corn syrup because we’ve taken all their honey.  No wonder, often, they die.

So, my hat’s off to Clay and Mary.  The honey is beautiful, the bottle’s beautiful, the label’s beautiful, and I will support you.