Monthly Archives: September 2014

Have Kids, Will…Battle Bugs and Harvest Honey

Just when I thought I had a good handle on my beekeeping venture, which I only started this past spring, I found my hives completely infested with Small Hive Beetles.  These creepy little pests didn’t exactly come out of nowhere.  I had noticed some during one of my weekly/biweekly hive inspections this summer, and knew I had to do something about them.  But, looking back, I think I noticed them right before we were taking a trip to the Outer Banks.  Then, I didn’t order my beetle traps until we came home four days later.  The traps took another week to arrive.  Apparently, that is plenty of time for a handful of small hive beetles to conduct quite an orgy, multiply, and destroy the entire hive of a bee colony.  I’m sure those of you who are expert beekeepers are wagging your fingers at me and shaking your heads.  I know.

Looking for help, I called my mentor, an apiarist with the University of Maryland Agricultural Extension, and asked for his guidance.  I also called one of my neighbors, a tall, statuesque blond, who has two more years’ worth of experience than I. Lucky for me, they both agreed to come right away.  As Mike the Mentor pulled frame after frame out of my hive boxes and knocked off all the beetles, as well as the surviving bees, my neighbor and I steadily smashed, by hand, as many beetles as we could.  Picture the game Whack-a-Mole, but with two ladies crouched over a hive lid beating tiny beetles with metal tools.  It was gruesome and barbaric.  The worst part was accidentally smashing bees when the beetles hid beneath them just as our instruments of death were coming down.  Mike assured me those lost bees were a necessary casualty in order to get the beetle population under control and to save one of my two colonies.  It really didn’t make me feel any better.

After about 30 minutes of continuous smashing and crunching, I stood, sweaty and woozy, to help reassemble the one hive that still had a chance for survival.  There was still a queen present, brood, eggs, and capped honey, all of which equaled hope.  I regretted the destruction I had allowed to happen due to my neglect, the loss of bees due to the violent measures we had to take that day, and the amount of honey I had to give up in order to provide more food for the surviving bees. However, there was an upside to the whole debacle.

Since I now needed to provide frames of capped honey for only one colony, the frames that were remaining from the disassembled hive were mine for extracting.  There wasn’t much, but out of six frames that were only partially filled, I got about three pints of my own, delicious, fresh-from-the-hive honey…a sweet reward despite a stupid mistake!  That simple gratification is the driving force for me to continue, with extra diligence, to care for my remaining bees and look forward to purchasing a new colony next spring.  That, and the idea that our mistakes don’t always lead to total devastation.  Sometimes there is something sweet to be gained from making mistakes.

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Have Kids, Will…Play Hooky

About this time every year, after all four boys have gone back to school, my husband will suggest we play hooky together.  Just us.  Alone.  It’s a proposition he makes with a wistful longing in his voice and a twinkle in his eye.  Like something forbidden and extra indulgent, he’ll devise a secret plan to get me to go along with him…on a datein the daytime!  I usually concede because, really, who doesn’t want to spend most of the day on a boat or at the beach without the kids and without paying a babysitter?

After a summer filled with fun vacations and much-needed “down time” at home, plenty of sunshine and water activities, as well as whining, fighting, and bleeding (as in noses, knees, fingers, and toes), we need a break.  When school is finally in session it’s the perfect opportunity to take one.  So, yesterday, we did!

Our clandestine plan was put into action without the kids knowing.  I dropped them off at school as usual, but with my bathing suit smartly hidden and my paperback tucked into my purse.  The idea of quietly reading on the beach without interruption was titillating! Meanwhile, my husband packed his truck with beach chairs, surf boards, and a cooler full of beer, sandwiches, and Prosecco (he thought we were really going to party!).  Then he met me at a hotel parking lot near the school, which added to the sense that we were being kind of naughty.  We drove to the beach with the windows down and music blaring, savoring our mischief.

Even though we were on a tight schedule, being an hour and a half away and needing to get back in time for pick-up, our precious few hours on the beach were refreshing.  As much as I love taking my kids to the ocean, going without them feels pretty good, too.  I’m not advocating regularly shirking responsibilities at work, but just like on those rare occasions that I skipped school as a teenager, doing something just a little out of the ordinary creates a kind of spring in my step.

Of course, once the boys saw all the sand in the car and the pink in our cheeks that afternoon, we were totally caught.  That’s okay–they should know that their parents still have fun together.  I hope the same for them someday!