Sunday, August 23, 2009

Hi everyone--I had quite the Beekeeping on Beaver Island! I learned not only about bees, but how to survive with no cell phone coverage. I also learned how to ride my mountain bike through the woods in dark and only rode into a tree once. (For those of you who know my luck with running into trees this is an accomplishment...) If you would like to comment on any pictures please keep them "school friendly"--I will be monitoring this site and my friends, coworkers, and family will be visiting it as well. Thanks so much!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

In this picture I am "decapping" honeycomb we harvested with a hot knife. It smelled so good the whole class and we kept snagging bits of honeycomb with extra honey to chew on. We then spun the frames to get the honey out. Dr. tracy was kind enough to let us each go home with a cup of honey we harvested ourselves! I am savoring my "cup 'o honey" I brought home from class--it is "State Fair" quality. (Nope, sorry, not sharing it :)

Six of the seven of us on the ride out to Beaver Island. This island is only reachable by boat (we took the two hour ferry) or plane. We had a small class and got to be great friends in no time!

I tested my "data collecting skills" and recorded all the information from the various stations. I also measured the data from the surface and bed water samples once they came up in their tubes. I didn't get any complaints and they ended up logging our results in the official data for the day, so I'd say we did a great job!

We rescheduled part of our day to make time to join the research vessel Jackson from Grand Valley State. We helped them collect data on the health of Lake Michigan. They took us out on the water and we took lake samples, collected plankton, samples from the floor of the lake, water temp., color, etc.

We partnered with a MSU research project to determine if powdered sugar was statistically as effective as the soap method to find mites. The powdered sugar method does not kill the bees as the soap does. I am giddy holding a buzzing jar of over 300 "ghost bees" covered with sugar. They were not happy to be shaken, but they sure looked funny when we released them back into the hives.

...and here is a 300 year-old birch tree! It was massive! They also have apple trees all over the island that were planted by the mormons when they lived on the island. It was also a kingdom at one point--the only part of the US to be ruled by a self-proclaimed king... that is, until he was shot to death. Today "King's highway" (the only paved road) is named in his honor.

On the weekend after we finished our homework we explore Beaver Island. They have lots of snakes! (Not a day went by I did not see ten or more.) We also saw the stone circle used by the native americans who live there and rocks like this one that were "dumped" by the glaciers. There are seven different and unique ecosystems that are found on this island--that's why so many people come here to study nature.

Here are the ladies bringing back pollen for the larva. Honeybees will only visit on type of flower at a time and will return to the hive before switching to a different flower type. They are the only bees that do this!

A look into the depths of the hive. We'd pull up each frame one by one and clean off and extra beeswax (called burr comb) so it would be easier for us to manipulate the hive around.

All the worker bees are female. Here they are filling up the honey combs with nectar and fanning it down to evaporate excess water and make it into honey. The male bees are called drones and tend to the queen.

Smoking calms the bees down and forces the queen into the bottom brood box. This way we squish less bees when we are moving throughout the honey supers. They were not defensive at all to us and it was always fun to watch them once they landed on you. They just walked around a bit to check us out and then flew off.

We are inspecting the hives on our first day and were assisted by our professor. After this we teamed up together and were on our own to clean off burrcomb, check out honey production, and help maintain the hives. I was on the team that discovered queenless hives twice and we introduced a frame of larva and by now they should be good to go for the rest of the season.

Buzz... buzz! We look so stunning in our outfits. Over the ten days of bees no one was stung thanks to these. They got a little hot after about an hour when it was sunny, but luckily we had very cool weather for late July!
I get a little goofy when I get up this early. Especially after going to bed so late fighting off the mosquitoes in our cabin.

Our first morning we got up to see the 6:14 a.m. sunrise over the water. I have never seen this and it was well worth the early morning wake-up.