Monday, 23 July 2012

Midnight Bee-napping

Just kidding. Erin and I could never stay up that late. But it was as close to midnight as we are ever going to get. A couple of days ago we moved two of the wild hives we caught up to Kwao's farm and one down to the house. Each hive had been left in it's original location for over a week so the bees had settled themselves and gotten used to their new homes. It was a tricky job. First, you have to do everything at  night, after it gets dark. If you do it earlier, not all the bees will have returned from foraging and they might get left behind. However, bees are also attracted to light so using lots of flashlights also poses a problem. A combination of overpreparedness and minimal flashlight use works best.

Moving the bees

The distance we were moving the bees was too far to walk (the farther away you move them, the less likely they'll return to the site of their previous home) so we had to get the hive ready to be moved by car. Since we also would be riding in the car, this meant making sure there was no way for the aggitated bees to get out. First, we lit the smoker and drove the bees chilling on the landing pad back into the hive. Then, we stuffed the entrance with a plastic bag so the bees couldn't get out. We then tied three separate garbage bags over the hive. Carefully, Kwao carried the hive back to the car and placed it on cushions in the back. Erin and I jumped in next to the hive to prevent it from moving as much as possible and we were off! Of the three hives we have moved we haven't had any problems so far. However, it only takes a small hole in our bags for the bees to join us in the car. Therefore, Erin and I ride with our gear on just to be safe.

Here are some real pictures of our night-time adventures:
Kwao tying up the garbage bags

Erin inspecting the hive once we let the bees out

The next day: Kwao with the beginnings of his apiary

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Meet the Family!

So I realized that I've been blogging about my experiences in Jamaica without giving any background on the people that I'm living and working with. So here goes!

Kwao, man of the house

Agape, the most patient mother I have ever met

Emmanuel, 12; hates bees, loves guineps

Melchizedek, 10; always tricking me

Joshua, 7; "I like that I hate you and I love that you hate me"

Enoch, 4; "Enoch, can I take your picture?" "NO!"

Kofi, 20 months; hates clothes, loves things that belong to him (everything)

Erin, housemate and fellow intern

Tom, beekeeping expert

Jessica, doesn't technically live with us but cooks our delicious meals, is terrified of bees

Lady, mangy dog, looks more like a rat

Suzie, "the rotweiler that will eat my face," according to Enoch, I don't think so

Wasp, always in our house making the long trek from under Erin's bed to under my bed

There are also some cats, I'm not really sure how many. I've been told numbers between zero and six.

Friday, 20 July 2012

Songs of the Beekeeper

Not the Bees! part 2

I've been stung! It was like a thousand tiny beedrills emerged from their pokeballs and attacked me all at once!

Just kidding. It was one little bee who stung me on my left shoulder blade. We were going into the hive to take out their feeders so we can move the hive without breaking any comb. I must admit, I've been getting cocky, or maybe just lazy. Either way, I was not wearing a bee veil or anything of the sort. As I was pulling out the feeders the bees got a little testy and one stung me. It hurt, I guess.

The circle marks around the bite are from where I pressed a penny against the sting for fifteen minutes. Shortly after arriving in Jamaica, I received an email from my grandparents saying that the copper in a penny counteracts whatever is in the sting that makes it swell. I'm not one hundred percent sure this is valid but it was worth fifteen minutes to try it! Really, though, I just feel bad for the bee who died from stinging me. While I understand the necessary survival instinct, I was not going to harm her or her hive in any way. I wish she had saved her one-time defense for a serious threat. But what can you do?

Fun (morbid?) fact: When a bee stings you it only dies because the barbed stinger get stuck in your skin and when it tries to fly away, all its organs get ripped out. Bees can sting each other without dying.

Got My Hair Did

I've done it! I've been here a month with a month to go, it was about time. I got my hair braided. Jessica's nible fingers spent three hours working my thick hair into a million tiny braids. My head feels one million times cooler. It's great!

Sunday, 15 July 2012


So, I understand the irony of posting this right after "Chiller Bees" but because of my limited internet access this is just the way things ended up. I was saving this post for when I got stung but the events of this past Friday screamed "NOT THE BEES!" almost as ferociously as Nicolas Cage does.

So here goes the events of this past Friday the 13th:

Erin and I wake up to just another normal day. At breakfast we ask Kwao what is on the agenda and he tells us that he wants to go take down the hive in a tree next door. Cool. Sounds like a plan. We get all our gear ready and walk to Strawberry Fields Together, ready to take down the hive. Since the hive is high up in a termite's nest in a tree, Desmond brings his chainsaw. After some discussion it is decided that the best course of action is to simply cut the tree down, let it fall over the gully, and work from there. Good. Solid plan. So we all watch as Desmond goes to work...

Unfortunately, I stopped taking the video at exactly the wrong moment. Literally seconds after the video ends, the bees started making their way across the gully towards us. No one had geared up yet so we started backing away carefully to let the bees calm down. All of a sudden everyone is running. I hear Emmanuel's frantic cries, "the bees! the bees!" Erin, calmly running beside me informs me, "shit, I think there are bees stuck in my hair." We stop to get the bees out of Erin's hair but unfortunately, she gets stung anyway. Now, I hear bees buzzing all around me and I realize they have caught up to us and are now in my hair. So there Erin and I are, running away from the hive whipping our hair back and forth like no others. Now we are far enough that we begin to slow down, laughing hysterically at our circumstances when Emmanuel sprints towards us crying that there are bees in his hair! We stop to untangle the two bees from his dreadlocks before continuing our journey home. Miraculously, I did not get stung at all! We chilled at home for ten minutes or so before returning to the hive to find Tom. Tom stayed the entire time and only got stung once. After all that excitement, though, it was time to get to work. The rest of the day was less exciting, thankfully. We tied the comb to our frames, found the queen, and wached as the bees filed into their new home.

Desmond's bee outfit after the chase

 The hive

The queen! She is the one with the big butt. No joke. We put her in a queen cage to make sure she was in the hive and that the rest of the bees would follow. We let her out once the bees got settled.

The bees entering their new home

Chiller Bees

So it turns out that Jamaican bees are the chillest bees on the planet. We're not sure exactly what species they are but they are definitely not the Africanized "killer" bees. Of the wild hives we have taken down so far, they have all been very docile. Part of it is probably because there is no honey right now, so they don't have as much to protect in their hives. But still, Erin and I are finding that we are much braver than we thought when it comes to gearing up to work with the bees. Below are some pictures of what we have been doing the past week or so (minus our Friday-the-13th hive--see "Not the Bees!").

Building a hive bottom with Emmanuel

Erin and I building hives

A finished 2-foot hive; perfect for the wild hives we've been getting

A 4-foot hive; large enough to house the bees permanently

Desmond (our chainsaw guy) cutting a door in a tree stump with bees
The opened hive

A baby bee being born!

Baby Bee's First Steps!!

No bee suit, no problem

The next hive we took down, in another tree stump

Inside the hive

The Bees Go Marching!

When you see the bees marching into the hive like this it usually means that you have the queen in the hive. The queen is crucial. Without her, there is little hope for keeping your hive. However, finding the queen is not always an easy task. We did not see her when taking down this hive but, because of how the bees were marching in and fanning the entrance (telling the other bees to "come here!") we figured that we had gotten her in the hive. Unfortunately, after checking this hive a few days later, the bees had left. Upon closer inspection we found a disgusting number of hive beetles in the comb. This is probably why they absconded but we will never know for sure.

Erin feeding one of our hives--again, no suit!

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Hollow Tree Hive

The other day we took down another hive out of a hollow tree. The comb was feet long, it went so far up the tree! We put the bees in one of our newly constructed 2 foot hives and they seem to be liking it so far.

Our hive next to the fallen tree. The hole in the tree was their entrance.
Our comb-tying station. We tied in pieces of comb to frames that sit in our top-bar box so the bees wouldn't loose their brood, nectar, or honey supplies.

Cute bee sucking out honey from removed comb as fast as she can. No worries, bee! We're giving it back to you.
Brood comb tied into a frame.

A queen cell!
They seem to like their new home.

Also, check out Erin's Blog for more on our life beekeeping in Jamaica!

Black Sand Beach + Waterfall

Today Kwao took me, Erin, and Tom to Black Sand Beach and then we hiked up to a beautiful waterfall!

A view down the coast.

Some goats we met along the way.

Ruins from a town that used to be there.

Me and Erin on Black Sand Beach.

The waterfall