Thursday, May 28, 2009

Quotes From Murphy's "Rationality and Nature"

I am currently reading Raymond Murphy's book Rationality and Nature -A Sociological Inquiry Into a Changing Relationship for my environmental sociology course this fall and for a paper I am writing on the rationalization of beekeeping and the possible irrational, unintended consequences such rationalization has had on honey bees. In this work, Murphy extends Max Weber's analysis of the rationalization of modern societies in order to create what Murphy calls "an ecology of social action." (p28)

I am still in the midst of this work, sorting out definitions and distinctions but it seems to have important implications for my own research on honey bees. At least since the mid 1800s, beekeeping in the United States has been typified by the ongoing formal, and instrumental rationalization of apicultural techniques. Modern apiculture strives to develop the most efficient means possible (formal rationalization) to achieve particular goals which are primarily concerned with "the pleasure of our own human species" (p 21) " and not the honey bees themselves (instrumental rationality). ... [T]his process of rationalization has been based on the erroneous premise of a plastic natural world and the unattainable goal of mastering nature" (p 26). All this results in "ecological irrationalities" which may well include the declining health of honey bees forced to live in an environment" increasing artificial" (p 21).

I will need to expand on and develop these ideas further, and honestly assess how useful Murphy's extention of Weber's analysis is to understanding the problems facing beekeepers and their collaborators, honey bees.

Carniolans Inspected and All Is Well

After two and half solid days of rain, the local weather finally became fit for honey bee foraging and inspection. The weather was sunny with a temperature in the low 70s. The dutch white clover is finally blooming, though I've only caught my honey bees on some purple nightshade protected by the front porch.

I first opened up Plan Bee..., the carniolan inhabited top bar hive. The honey bees were drawing comb on a all 13 bars. The penultimate bar on the side nearest the feeder had a bit of problem with some crosscomb which I promptly trimmed and moved into a straighter position. Last year, I might've allowed it to stay as is, hoping that the bees would fix it themselves but that only left me a real mess to deal with in October of last year. So I spent a little extra time, hoping the bees follow my suggested changes. I took out the feeder, put in the "longer" follower board where the "feeder" follower board had been and closed up.

The carniolans in Lib-BEE-taria, have drawn some comb on every frame in the one box. As with Plan Bee..., the hive looks very healthy and the queen is very productive. I imagine that next Thursday I will be able to add a box to this hive if they continue as they are doing. I was stung once on the tip of a finger while examining this hive. I accidently squashed a worker but she did not die without reminding me to be a wee more careful.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Video: NYC Swarm

The only thing that concerns me about this video is the way the announcer subtly reinforces negative stereotypes about the bees... However, it is good seeing bees reinhabit urban areas.

Another Inhabitant In Beelandia

Besides the rabbit family, another creature has moved into Beelandia: a hive of bumblebees. We are increasing the diversity of this humble kingdom (or its it a queendom?)

Sunday's Inspection

Sunday's weather was just perfect for inspecting the two "Minnesota Hygienic" hives: Metpropolis (top bar) and Bee Glad... (Langstroth). The honey bees were plenty active, bringing in an array of pollens. There are still dandelions in bloom, but the trees are about done.

I adapted my protective clothing today. I have long hair that, even when pony-tailed, tends to get in my face when I put my sheriff veil on. To solve this problem I wore one of those "helmet caps" as used by SCA (The Society for Creative Anachronism) fighters. It kept the hair out of my face though I did look a bit goofy in it.

Bee Glad... is doing very well. Eight of ten frames have some drawn comb, and the queen has been busy laying eggs wherever she finds a place. The capped brood pattern is very solid. Next week, I will probably place a second box on top of this hive. I am pleased.

The same can also be said with Metpropolis as well. All the bars were drawn on and everyone of the bars contained brood of all stages. I did find the queen laying eggs on a small section of drawn comb on the bar near one of the follower boards. I have to say that this year I've had a much easier time finding the queens than last year, and this is not only due to my increasing experience. The queens I have this year are significantly larger than those I had last year. (Last year, I had nothing but photographs in books or on the web to judge by.) I hope this is an indication of a healthier package of bees.

I "harvested" a bar of capped drone brood from Metpropolis as part of my varroa mite control program, added a bar to replace this one, and a bar of drawn comb to the edge of the hive.

Friday, May 22, 2009

This Week's News in Beelandia

I am a bit behind in blogging on the comings and goings in Beelandia. Two days ago, I did an inspection of the two hives containing Carniolan honey bees. The top bar hive, Plan Bee..., is doing very good. Twelve of the 13 bars between the follower boards have some comb built on them. Plenty of brood, at all stages of development, were observed on each of these bars. At the edges on each side, a significant amount of capped honey and multi-colored pollen is stored. The weather has been pleasant the last few days, so the foragers have been out and actively returning with pollen, mostly I imagine, from dandelions at this point. As I worked with the carniolans in Plan Bee... I noticed how much more "gentle" they are than my Minnesota Hygienic bees: calm on the comb, and more intent on what they're doing and less focused on my intrusion. Of course, just at the time I was thinking this, one worker, intent on letting me see that no man controls their activities, stung me on the left wrist. I added one new undrawn bar to one side of the hive and closed the hive up.

I opened up Lib-BEE-taria after this as the wind picked up. The carniolans did not like the wind too much and the smoke was just ineffective, but what I did see I did like. I had to scrape some burr comb off the top of frames, and the bottom of the feeder. Like in Plan Bee..., the honey bees in this hive are active in drawing comb, caring for the young, etc. the wind made it difficult to inspect this hive however, so I closed it up swiftly. No reason to stress these honey bees.

Earlier in the week I did a sticky board examination of each hive looking for varroa mites. I am happy to report: no mites sighted.

I added some floating plants to Lake No-Bee-Gone and the honey bees are finally using the pond as their "watering hole." Even though some view them as a pest, the water hyacynths I placed in the pond are extremely "popular" landing sites for the bees. I also planted some floating parrot feather as well. The white clouds also seem to "like" the new additions.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Report from Rushford

I spent this afternoon helping my friend Chris with his bees on his farm in Rushford, Minnesota. Chris had a slight and embarrassing accident with the new queens he purchased yesterday at B and B Honey Farm in Houston, Minnesota. He went back to purchase some new ones today and place them in the splits he made from two of his hives. He did have to take a little teasing from the staff at B and B. Chris successfully placed queens in two of his eight.

We went on to inspect the other six hives. Two of those contained the queens from last year's package. They were active and seemed healthy, though Chris took the advice of a local beekeeper and treated them both with formic acid. They had not been treated before.

The other 4 hives contained newly hived packages purchased two weeks ago. We saw the marked queens in each, and the drawing of comb on at least 4 frames in each hive. The really interesting thing was to see the color of this drawn comb. Chris' bees have been foraging on wild mustard all throughout his farm, and the comb reflects this foraging; it is bright yellow in color.

One concern was the appearance of a good number of dead bees in front of the entrance to one hive. These dead bees had their probosces extended, possibly indicating poisoning. This is a mystery. Where does the poison come from?

Inspection Of May 17

Sunday afternoon I inspected Metpropolis and Bee Glad... The honey bees in each colony were active on this morning after two days of unseasonable cold and rain. On Sunday, however, the weather was in the 70s and sky only partially cloudy. The bees were bringing in pollen of various color, though probably mostly from dandelions.

I inspected Bee Glad... first. The bees had actually started work on 8 of the 10 frames in this Langstroth hive. The queen has been active, as I observed brood in all stages of growth in the hive. Another healthy inspection! I closed up the hive and put some more sugar syrup in the feeder. After the bees drink this gallon up, they should be ready to go it on their own, so to speak.

I can give the same report for Metpropolis as I did for Bee Glad... Plenty of brood in all stages of development. The two empty bars I placed in last week have comb drawn on them. This hive tends to have a voracious appetite for the sugar water, consuming a half gallon in little over a day. I will continue to feed this one until I see evidence of refusal.

While in Beelandia I placed a sheet of sticky paper under both Bee Glad... and Lib-BEE-taria to test for mites. I did a 24 hour check and I am pleased to report not a single mite was sighted in either hive.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Learning Queen Rearing Long Distance


One of the joys of the internet is "picking the brains" of beekeeping experts all over the globe. I had one such experience today, spending the afternoon in a facebook chat with Gabriel Antonio Bussoli, operations manager for Agrovivo in Vina del Mar, Chile. Gabriel breeds queens that are exported around the world. Mr. Bussoli offered me a "short course" in queen rearing this afternoon, complete with emailed photos from his own operation. Despite the difficulties communicating at times (his English is much better than my Spanish and my Italian is non-existent), I learned a great deal in the two hours were we were online. After his short and clear explanation, I finally feel confident in trying my hand at queen rearing in the near future. Thanks so much, Gabriel.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Year 2, Week 5: Pleased to See the Queen

My friend Joyce and I did a quick inspection of Plan Bee... and Lib-BEE-taria this morning, after a quick program meeting. Although it was a bit cool for a mid-May day, the carniolans were very active, bring in pollen of various colors and shades.

Plan Bee..., the top bar hive, continues to draw out more comb, and the queen is laying a nice solid capped brood pattern. I had to add another bar to the hive, and fill the feeder with more sugar syrup. As usual, the bees were calm and gentle. No real problems seem to exist in this healthy hive of honey bees.

I did find the queen in Plan Bee... She attempted to hide under some workers but was unable to escape my gaze. She is large, at least larger than the queens I observed last year in my two hives.

I am pleased to report the same for Lib-BEE-taria as well. The carniolans in this hive haven't shied away from drawing comb on the plastic foundation. I am reluctant to admit that the black color of the plastic makes it much easier to see the eggs and young larvae in the open cells. This colony is producing a little more drone brood. I don't think this is a problem, just something I noticed.

In two days I will open up the other two hives and see what I can observe there.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Retrieving More Queen Cages

I opened Metpropolis and Bee Glad... to retrieve the queen cages I left inside during last week's installation and took a very brief look at what was going on in the two hives. All seems to be well in both hives. The bees have been bringing a tremendous amount of pollen and nectar and are building comb quite rapidly.

I placed the fish back in Lake No-Bee-Gone today as well: two koi (one was in the pond last year), and 4 white clouds (all had been in the pond last season). Interestingly enough, here I have this pond as the water source for Beelandia, yet the bees prefer our muddy parking area to collect water. Hopefully, when the water dries in parking area, they will return to consuming water from the pond.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Year 2, Week 4: A Quick Inspection While the Sun Shined

Today was one of those days in Minnesota. Just wait 5 minutes, the weather could get worse. The temperature was in the upper 60s, amidst periods of sunny skies and rain. I quickly got in my inspection of the carniolan bees hived in Plan Bee... and Lib-BEE-taria, between down pours.

The bees have been quite active this week. Trees of various types (e.g. crab apple, maple, cherry) are still blossoming and dandelions are in full bloom as well. The bees come back to the hive looking like participants at a clown convention, pollen of all color types on their back legs.

The carniolans in both hives have been quite active. In the top bar hive, nine out of ten bars had some comb drawn on them. The queen in this hive seems quite good. The capped worker cells on both sides of 5 of the ten bars is solid, very few empty cells to speak of. I closed up this hive, added one undrawn bar to one side, filled the feeder with some more sugar water and went on to Lib-BEE-taria, the Langstroth hive.

The honeybees in the Langstroth have been as well although they have been somewhat reluctant to draw comb on the plastic frames, as I expected they would be. Two frames have capped worker brood but with slightly more empty cells as the top bar. I had to remove some cross comb as well. The carniolans in this hive seem a bit more defensive than in the top bar but were still quite decent to me. I "escaped" this inspection without a sting!

Just a note about the other two hives in which I installed Minnesota Hygienic bees two days ago. So far they have seem to be doing well. Metpropolis, the top bar hive, had drawn comb from last years bees and this year's inhabitants have been cleaning out debris and dead bees from it. They were bringing in pollen and have gone through half a gallon of sugar water already. The other hive, Bee Glad..., the other Langstroth, seems to be doing fine. They have a harder week ahead, having to draw comb in 8 out of 10 frames. I will take out the queen cages Saturday or Sunday, weather permitting.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Installation of More Bees

Yesterday, I installed two more packages of bees (Minnesota Hygienic), one in Metpropolis, and the other in Bee Glad... I was in the middle of grading finals so the bees came at a very busy time. I was in my office yesterday morning, around ten, when I received the call from B and B Honey Farms. I left immediately with my friend Joyce to pick the 3 pound packages up.

The installation went without a hitch. I took a bit of time to make last minute adjustments to each hive, while I waited for Monta to return from work to photograph the process. The actual installation took just a few minutes. Quite a difference from all the fumbling and tentativeness that went on my first year!

Video: Anti-bee Propaganda!!!! (Warning: No Sound)





I found this video on youtube while searching for other things. I thought it was an interesting bit of "data" on the cultural perceptions of honeybees.

I remember growing up in New York City in the late '50s and early '60s and watching the older (1920s) Farmer Al Falfa (aka Farmer Gray) early in the morning as a child. Memorable music was added to these. I am willing to bet that this video was a sound cartoon repackaged by Castle Films for the 8mm home movie audience. There was no sound on 8mm films.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Gustavus Presentation

Yesterday, I spoke at the Alpha Kappa Delta Honors gathering at Gustavus Aldolphus University in St. Peter, Minnesota. (Alpha Kappa Delta is the International Honors Society in sociology.) My talk was called "Honeybees in the Iron Cage." I examined how the formal rationalization of apiculture over last 150 years has possibly impacted the health of honeybees.