A chat with Uncle Fishy about beekeeping.

Frequent commenter, sibling, and bon vivant Uncle Fishy recently set up a backyard beehive, but lately he's been worried about the bees. This came up in a recent online chat:

Dr. Free-Ride: So, what's worrisome about your bees?
Uncle Fishy: i dont know if they'll make it
Dr. Free-Ride: :-(
Uncle Fishy: there were fewer coming out to sting me last night
Uncle Fishy: maybe it was just past their bedtime
Dr. Free-Ride: Maybe they had better things to do than sting you again

Uncle Fishy: well, I may be attriting more of them that I need
Uncle Fishy: I may not yet have a queen
Dr. Free-Ride: Uh oh
Dr. Free-Ride: How do you get a queen?
Uncle Fishy: there are queen cells
Uncle Fishy: one of them should hatch
Dr. Free-Ride: Oh
Uncle Fishy: (and kill the others)
Uncle Fishy: but I also have little ants invading the hive and that pisses them off real good
Dr. Free-Ride: Ant invasions piss me off, too
Dr. Free-Ride: Can you videotape the killing and post it on YouTube?
Uncle Fishy: Uh....no....?
Uncle Fishy: I'm a commoner
Uncle Fishy: I cant be a party to the coronation
Dr. Free-Ride: But as the bee keeper, certainly you're entitled to install video surveillance
Uncle Fishy: I'll have to wait until we get this for the bedroom
Uncle Fishy: http://www.honeyrunapiaries.com/observationhive.phtml
Dr. Free-Ride: WANT!
Uncle Fishy: I like the padlocks
Dr. Free-Ride: Would your landlord be cool with it?
Uncle Fishy: I doubt it
Uncle Fishy: although every time i turn on the AC I get wasps blown into the house
Uncle Fishy: so we already have a stinging insect observation area of sorts
Dr. Free-Ride: But it's not explicitly forbidden in the rental agreement, is it?
Uncle Fishy: they live on site....
Dr. Free-Ride: Hmmm
Uncle Fishy: my bees are at the community garden
Dr. Free-Ride: Can you maybe drape it with scarves?
Uncle Fishy: the bees hate that
Uncle Fishy: trust me
Dr. Free-Ride: You've draped bees with scarves before?
Uncle Fishy: haven't you?
Dr. Free-Ride: I was never that into dress-up games
Dr. Free-Ride: with stinging insects
Uncle Fishy: the kids should see the bees next time you're in town (provided they live)
Uncle Fishy: the bees that is
Dr. Free-Ride: The better half noticed honeybees among the bumblebees in our trellis flowers
Dr. Free-Ride: And I totally thought, "We should provide them with a hive"
Uncle Fishy: they know what they're doing
Uncle Fishy: it's tough catching them one at a time
Dr. Free-Ride: Can't I encourage them to squat?
Dr. Free-Ride: "If this was your hive, you'd be home already"?
Dr. Free-Ride: With colorful condo flags?
Uncle Fishy: what with colony collapse there's a whole shadow inventory of hives
Uncle Fishy: the bees have their pick
Uncle Fishy: RMD only got stung once on the top of the head
Uncle Fishy: we may get her a veil too
Dr. Free-Ride: Do you go full beekeeper ?
Uncle Fishy: I have a veil
Uncle Fishy: I use yellow dishwashing gloves
Uncle Fishy: and a heavy shirt
Uncle Fishy: got stung twice through my jeans
Dr. Free-Ride: (Hmm, you seem to be telling me that bees are stingy)
Uncle Fishy: well, mine are
Uncle Fishy: but after the first sting it bothers you less and less
Dr. Free-Ride: Maybe they heard from the mosquitos about your vulnerability
Uncle Fishy: I haven't tried them as a beard yet
Dr. Free-Ride: I'd start with a goatee
Dr. Free-Ride: Or maybe a bee soul patch
Uncle Fishy: i thought I'd just put honey on my beard and see what comes of it
Dr. Free-Ride: Ants!
Uncle Fishy: nobody wants a beard of ants
Dr. Free-Ride: Might give you a stronger, more lustrous beard
Dr. Free-Ride: (the honey, not the ants)
Dr. Free-Ride: What if you put royal jelly on your beard?
Dr. Free-Ride: Then the bees who augment the beard could be queens!
Uncle Fishy: you should really get your own bees....
Dr. Free-Ride: We have bees
Dr. Free-Ride: But they're wild
Uncle Fishy: um
Uncle Fishy: tamed
Dr. Free-Ride: Yours don't sound especially tamed
Dr. Free-Ride: ours don't sting me
Dr. Free-Ride: I'm just saying
Dr. Free-Ride: why wouldn't it be worth seeing if a honeybee colony could be lured to a hive by mere location?
Uncle Fishy: hmmm
Uncle Fishy: not likely
Dr. Free-Ride: We surely have an array of pretty flowers with which to bump uglies
Uncle Fishy: the traditional method is to find the swarm
Dr. Free-Ride: How do you do that?
Dr. Free-Ride: Is that something I can trick someone else into doing?
Uncle Fishy: I saw one in a loquat tree on echo park ave a month back
Uncle Fishy: well, there are bee traps
Uncle Fishy: or you can do a cut out
Dr. Free-Ride: What are they like?
Uncle Fishy: a big cardboard flower pot with pheremones
Dr. Free-Ride: And they sell them on the internet?
Dr. Free-Ride: How many bees must there be for it to count as a swarm?
Dr. Free-Ride: (And most swarms probably don't include a queen, right?)
Uncle Fishy: no, they all do
Uncle Fishy: that's the point
Uncle Fishy: a swarm is a queen and half the hive decamping
Uncle Fishy: and finding a new home
Uncle Fishy: (that's also when they're in the beard wearing phas)
Dr. Free-Ride: So, a bunch of bees w/out a queen is just a bunch of bees
Uncle Fishy: yep
Uncle Fishy: or a gaggle really
Dr. Free-Ride: And I suppose it would be pointless or cruel to attract a gaggle of bees
Dr. Free-Ride: then provide them a hive
Dr. Free-Ride: where they could live free of the crushing heel of a monarch
Uncle Fishy: it be like building long term housing for a bunch of shakers
Dr. Free-Ride: only to purchase a new queen to boss them around once they're settled in
Uncle Fishy: well, that's possible
Dr. Free-Ride: wouldn't the gaggle be pissed?
Uncle Fishy: but you cant just add the queen
Dr. Free-Ride: and sting me
Uncle Fishy: they'll kill her
Dr. Free-Ride: Hmm
Uncle Fishy: you put her in a a litttle cage with this thing they eat through
Dr. Free-Ride: so the queen needs to be one of theirs
Uncle Fishy: (to try to kill her)
Uncle Fishy: and by the time they get her out they're all used to her and she's the queen
Uncle Fishy: a bloodless coup
Dr. Free-Ride: the whole genetic homogeneity thing
Uncle Fishy: it's all scent based
Uncle Fishy: actually
Dr. Free-Ride: then there ought to be a way to trick them
Uncle Fishy: there is
Uncle Fishy: it's like adding a goldfish to a bowl
Dr. Free-Ride: we always had great luck with that
Dr. Free-Ride: NOT
Uncle Fishy: well, the other goldfish didn't sting the one in the bag, did they
Uncle Fishy: that would be much worse
Dr. Free-Ride: Although stingers on goldfish, conceptually, would be kind of cool
Uncle Fishy: yeah. it was a joy when I tried to noodle a bass in NC as a kid.....
Uncle Fishy: stingy
Dr. Free-Ride: with a real noodle?
Uncle Fishy: with my hands
Dr. Free-Ride: (what does it mean to noodle a bass?)
Uncle Fishy: you're not familiar with the term
Dr. Free-Ride: no
Uncle Fishy: grab a bass
Dr. Free-Ride: Oh
Uncle Fishy: catfish noodling is a popular southern activity
Dr. Free-Ride: grab has fewer syllables than noodle
Dr. Free-Ride: Oh, but in the south the relaxed pace of life allows for more syllables
Uncle Fishy: per the internets
Uncle Fishy: http://www.catfishgrabblers.com/grabblinis.htm
Dr. Free-Ride: So why are bass sting-y?
Dr. Free-Ride: Prickles, or scales, or what?
Uncle Fishy: spines in the dorsal fins
Uncle Fishy: trust me, it hurt
Dr. Free-Ride: Ah
Dr. Free-Ride: I trust you
Dr. Free-Ride: the slime coat is enough to put me off fish handling
Dr. Free-Ride: (Now there's a sect that never took off)
Uncle Fishy: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noodling
Uncle Fishy: I actually realized I caught a brown trout after a series of rainbow because the slime felt different. And then I unhooked it and realized it was Salmo trutta and not O. mykiss
Dr. Free-Ride: Wow
Dr. Free-Ride: I totally don't have that kind of fish-fu
Uncle Fishy: I use all the senses while fishing
Uncle Fishy: provided they're keepers
Dr. Free-Ride: You don't taste the fish while you're catching them, do you?
Dr. Free-Ride: (or the bait?)
Uncle Fishy: I saw Dad kiss a sunfish once
Dr. Free-Ride: I heard him converse with seagulls more than once
Uncle Fishy: http://failblog.org/2009/04/01/warning-sign-fail-2/
Dr. Free-Ride: Dad should sue the sign maker for royalties
Dr. Free-Ride: (Did he kiss the sunfish after happy hour?)
Uncle Fishy: Is was one that actually got hooked
Uncle Fishy: rather than nibbling on the worms and being landed without even getting hooked
Dr. Free-Ride: Well, kissing the sunfish that are still in the lake is harder
Uncle Fishy: true
Dr. Free-Ride: Not impossible, if you're committed to it
Uncle Fishy: my beekeeping club is really interesting too
Uncle Fishy: http://beehuman.blogspot.com/
Uncle Fishy: it's sort of organic bee raising
Uncle Fishy: no foundations on frames mean bees make smaller comb
Uncle Fishy: which leads to smaller bees that seem to last better agaisnt varoa mites and the like
Dr. Free-Ride: Is that better for the bees?
Uncle Fishy: yeah
Uncle Fishy: no chemicals
Dr. Free-Ride: Interesting
Uncle Fishy: they hatch younger so the mites seem to bother them less
Dr. Free-Ride: probably somewhat lower honey yields?
Uncle Fishy: well, I suppose a larger comb would maximize volume
Uncle Fishy: but I haven't done a max min problem not involving a sphere in years
Dr. Free-Ride: I'm guessing that optimizing bees as honey factories might weaken them with respect to surviving their environments (and mites and stuff)
Dr. Free-Ride: Dude, the White House garden has two bee hives?!
Uncle Fishy: yeah
Dr. Free-Ride: That's pretty cool
Uncle Fishy: once again, I'm ahead of the curve....
Dr. Free-Ride: Now I can couch my quest for bees as an act of patriotism
Uncle Fishy: it'll be as popular as mushroom hunting
Dr. Free-Ride: Some people will not groove on mushroom hunting unless it is done with rifles
Uncle Fishy: it's not a new world bug
Uncle Fishy: you might have jingoist bumble bees
Uncle Fishy: (i dont know if they're a new world species either but I'd guess they are)
Dr. Free-Ride: I understand that non-honey bees also make a honey like substance
Dr. Free-Ride: we should learn to like that
Uncle Fishy: yes, but not in vast quanities
Dr. Free-Ride: I mean, bee vomit is bee vomit
Uncle Fishy: like, no one makes llama milk cheese
Uncle Fishy: (they might but I don't think they do)
Dr. Free-Ride: I'd rather milk a llama than a gorilla
Dr. Free-Ride: Just saying
Uncle Fishy: or a mountain lion
Dr. Free-Ride: Yes

More like this

We will not be getting an observation hive for the bedroom. I'm afraid it would upset the house cat more than having the FR Offspring come to visit.

But I would like a veil so I can see the distressed bees up close.

My beekeeping class the guy said to go ahead and start w/ two hives. Why? Because you start out paranoid that your hive is dying and are too likely to futz with the hive in a counter productive way. If you have two and they're doing about the same, then you can be reassured that the one is doing as well as the other and that if they really are in a bad way you should get a different hobby with your luck anyhow.

He's also a very big proponent of the "Buckfast" variety of bees, which are supposed to be pretty dang docile (non-stingy) and do well down here in Tejas. Don't know how they do in California.

By Wilson Heath (not verified) on 09 Apr 2009 #permalink

Great sibling exchange... especially the mountain-lion-milk end note. Also good to hear about the bees!

By joanna dillon (not verified) on 10 Apr 2009 #permalink