Thursday, February 28, 2013

Beekeeper as Murder Suspect

Last night we watched the last episode of the second season of Vera, a series of mystery films made by ITV in Britain. In this episode, titled A Certain Samaritan, one of the suspects is a beekeeper. Actually, in the opening sequence of the movie, some beehives are vandalized, so we were hooked from the start to follow the bee-related thread of the story. While the beekeeper isn't the main character, he's an interesting supporting character, and the varroa mite becomes a metaphor in the story.

Oh, and as a special bonus for fans of Downton Abbey, the actress who plays Mrs. Hughes has an important role in this episode as the mother of the murder victim. It was fun to see her in a modern-day role.

In general, this is a great series of made-for-TV movies starring Brenda Blethyn as a police inspector in the north of England. Toward the end of the episode last night, I was saying it's too bad there aren't more episodes to watch! But there are two sets of dvds available in the US, and a third series of episodes will be available one of these days, too.

If you like thoughtful mysteries, I think you'll like Vera.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

A Great Bee Blog from Applegate, Oregon

"Applegate" just sounds like a good place to live, doesn't it? The name of the town makes me want to retire to an orchard right now. Actually, the house where we live in northwest Seattle used to be on an orchard, but that was a long time ago.

Back to Applegate, Oregon. This morning I happened upon a website from a family (identified as the Shockey family on their site's about page) who lives in Applegate and, among other things, has a strong dedication to natural beekeeping. In fact, their website is named after the Roman goddess of pollination, Mellonia. They have a nice little page which gives an overview of their beekeeping practices, which include beekeeping with the Warre style of hive, which they like because "because its theory and construction is such that you don't keep disturbing the bees to see what they are doing."

I also like that the Shockeys talk about how they "are not in the honey business" and thus wait until spring to harvest any honey that the bees don't need after getting through the winter: they "[believe] that honey, not sugar or high fructose corn syrup, is meant to feed bees."

See also this nice post by the mom of the Shockey family, Nadine Levie, about her excitement regarding the construction of her first Warre hive.

I'll definitely check back on the beekeeping adventures of the Shockey family in the future.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

The Positively Charged Bee

Trish sent me an interesting article about bumblebees and flowers from NPR. Here's a little quote: "'When bees are flying through the air, just the friction of the air and the friction of the body parts on one another causes the bee to become positively charged...' It's like shuffling across a carpet in wool socks. When a positively charged bee lands on a flower, the negatively charged pollen grains naturally stick to it."

There's always more to bees than we know!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Buying a Package of Bees

When I first learned that honeybees are sold by the package, this sounded strange to me, as I couldn't make sense of comparing bees to other items that come by the package. I was picturing bees arriving on the doorstep like other brown cardboard boxes that come via UPS or FedEx or the postal service. I've heard that some people do in fact get bees by mail order, but this isn't how Trish orders her bees. She buys her bees from the Beez Neez in Snohomish.

If you're in the greater Seattle area, the Beez Neez is a great place to buy your bees. Trish orders a three-pound package of bees for one of her Warre hives. (They also sell four-pound packages.) The way it works is that you order online ahead of time (they are taking orders now!), and then you get an email notifying you about bee pickup day, which is sometime in April. On that day (well probably the day before), the bees are driven north from California on a big truck and dropped off at the Beez Neez warehouse, where they await pickup.

It's a unique experience to see a crowd of people lined up to get their packages of bees, but that's exactly what you see on bee pickup day. I know because I've been there! It was a little unsettling for me because there were a lot (A LOT!) of bees flying around, but the beekeeper/bee-retailer explained that these were just "hitchhiker" bees who had been attracted by the large number of bees (especially queen bees) all in one place. He brushed the extra bees off the sides of each package before giving it to the beekeeper who had come to pick it up. There were no loose bees in the car or anything like that.

Well, if you ever wondered, "where do you get your bees?" when you want to start a hive, buying a package is a great option. You can also get a wild swarm, which is a whole other story and not something we personally have done. For more about swarms, check out the swarms page on the Urban Bee Project site (also maintained by Seattle beekeepers).

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Bee Mine

In honor of Valentine's Day, here's a bee-themed card from The Simpsons.

Remember the Valentine's episode from early in the series where Lisa gives Ralph a Valentine, and then he thinks she's his girlfriend? Later she makes things right by encouraging him to be friends instead. :) A classic.

Happy Valentine's Day to all of our honeybee friends--and all of our fellow friends of bees!