Life is too short to be bored

How about a whole Flickr photo page dedicated to awesome up close shots of bees and other insects?

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“From Anne Arundel County, in Maryland, this is one of but a few Andrena that come out in the Fall. Brooke Alexander was the photographer.” -Sam Droege

      Check out the Flickr page of the USGS Bee Monitoring and Inventory Lab moderated by Sam Droege. For some up close looks of many types of bees including bumblebees, honeybees, and those that can be found in our National Parks or Puerto Rico this is the place. There is even a whole album of bee heads, an insect identifiers paradise.

This is one of those things that you happen upon and say “I can’t believe this exists.” and then, “I’m so glad this exists.”

 

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Guess what guys?!

It’s the 10th annual Sea Otter Awareness Week!

September 22nd -September 28th we celebrate all things sea otter!

Many organizations have special programs scheduled to educate about the otters and their need for our conservation efforts. Organizations include the Monterey Bay Aquarium, The Oregon Zoo and the Alaska Museum of Science and Nature.

Did you know? :

There are only 2,900 sea otters left in California.

Sea otters are social animals and live in groups called rafts.

Some sea otters eat so many sea urchins in a lifetime that their bones turn purple.

More stuff on otters in a previous HoneyBees post.

Check out this site www.seaotterweek.org for more info on Sea Otter Awareness Week including event listings. Hopefully, there’s one near you, or learn virtually from any of these partner sites www.seaotterweek.org/#!events/c20ug

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A Sea Otter Raft

Want more otters in your life? How bout 365 days of “otter raft antics awesomeness”? Back the Wild for Otters Kickstarter campaign here: Wild For Otters . These folks are raising funds to put a camera up which will film the otters everyday and stream it live to your home! The campaign only has 6 days left!! They, and the otters need your help!

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Sea Otter Holding Hands
A classic video- search on YouTube if you haven’t see it yet.

*Thank you to the photographers of these fab otter moments for use of your work in this post.

Summer Hive Update

Many of you have been asking (thank you) how the bees are doing. Here is a little summer time update. We have not been inside the box in over a month. The weather has been weird here. It’s either too cold, too hot or too windy for it to be good conditions to look inside during the middle of the day (when the most bees are foraging). So, alas, we have been observing from the outside.

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To prevent robbing behavior you can block the hive entrance with grass. Make sure you unblock it once the robber bees leave or it starts to cool down so your bees can go home for the night.I love this photo because you can see the bee in the top left corner in action with her huge orange pollen stash.

 

This has come with it’s fair share of worry and concern. We had another robber bee scare. While I was out of town my boyfriend notice a bunch of bees larger and furrier than ours hanging around. He witnessed fighting at the entrance and these larger bees flying sluggishly away from the hive (a sign they are full of robbed honey). We worked together to find a robbing solution- plug the entrance with grass so no bees can come or go and hopefully the robbing bees will leave while our bees congregate outside the hive. I also read you can place a wet bed sheet over the box, the robber bees have a hard time getting under and out from the sheet while our bees have no issue. We did both. The next day they were back. And the next day. Plugging the entrance is of concern because it means the bees cannot continue with their daily work. I took a trip to the local bee store.

I brought in specimens of the ‘robber’ bees and the regular bees. I was told you cannot tell if they are robber bees just by looking at their bodies because all bees in the hive will look different since they are all half sisters. But we do think the larger bees are the drones. The male bees. These bees are responsible for mating with the queen. They represent the smallest number of bees in the hive. They are fed and cared for by the workers bees. Once the mating season is over the drones are kicked out of the hive. They have no stinger and are larger and fuzzier than the workers. I think we have a match. So the colony marches on, robber free, and I can take a break from worry.

More on drone bees.

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Yellow Calendula aka pot marigolds can be eaten. Add the petals to salad for a zesty kick.

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Plant Marigolds with your tomatoes to ward off common tomato pests and to add more color to your garden. This type of Marigold is commonly used in the Mexican Day of the Dead celebration.

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The Pink Ladies, aka Amaryllis belladonna, came out this week to fill the air with their sweet, sweet fragrance. This is always a sign of August in Northern California.

 

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Pink Yarrow is a great perennial for California. It repels some garden pests and attracts beneficial insects including pollinators like butterflies and bees.Yarrow is used in herbal remedies and in Biodynamic farming methods.

While training for our last Tri my friend and I were out in my neighborhood riding our bikes one day. Once we were finished we only had a block’s worth of distance to go to get back to my house. We approached the main street which is a two lane, no shouldered country road with a speed limit of 35. There was a bit of traffic and we were waiting our turn to cross when we spotted a huge, white dog and a man and a woman walking down the middle of the street. Cars were just going around the trio into the other lane and the trio didn’t seem phased.

We stood there transfixed just watching this huge animal come closer to us. When they reached us the dog happily came over and licked our hands, arms, and legs and wanted us to pet his head and back. His fur was thick and soft. His eyes were slanted upward and had a deep ridge. His tongue was huge. I noticed the man was holding his leash and it was the biggest and thickest leash I had ever seen. The next step would have been a rope.

My friend said, “Wow this is an interesting breed, what is it?”

The woman replied,  “Arctic wolf.”

We both retracted our hands. “What?”

“Arctic wolf.”

“Oh, that’s frightening,” my friend said.

“No, it’s not frightening, he’s really sweet,” snapped the woman.

I kept looking at his deep eyes and large head. I watched him walk away with his huge paws on the black asphalt and thought ‘this isn’t his habitat, this must hurt his feet’. But he seemed happy and yes, very sweet.

We stood there for a few more moments unsure of what just happened. We watched until they were far down the road and hopped back on our bikes to go home.

Since then I watch for the wolf trio from my windows. No sign yet.

 

Update: The wolf trio just walked by! Mere hours after writing this blog. There’s one for ‘putting it out to the universe’. It’s been three weeks since I saw them.

Triathlon Time

On Cinco de Mayo, while many of you were sipping margaritas and eating guacamole, I competed in my second triathlon (don’t worry I made up for that later).

The distance this time:

1/2 mile swim

15 mile bike

4 mile run

Totally do-able, right?

Riiiight.

Each distance was just a little longer than my previous race and it was held at the same place. So I figured that with one tri under my belt this one shouldn’t be that much harder.

1/2 mile Swim begins at the triathlon

The 1/2 mile swim in the lake begins.

Goals for this race were as follows:

1. Finish

2. Don’t stop

3. Do not feel sick

4. Smile and enjoy the scenery

I am happy to report that I accomplished all my goals!

This race was tougher than my first for different reasons. First off, it’s much earlier in the year and the lake was much colder! Almost every contestant had a wetsuit on. As a kind of after thought I grabbed my spring suit that I had never swam in. (spring suit = no sleeves or short sleeves and shorts) But boy I was so thankful I had at least that to supplement my tri suit. The weather overall was also colder, which I will take, compared to just the day before where the 1/2 Iron Man contestants battled 90 degree heat.

The bike ride was four miles longer than the one I had done previously. And for some reason those extra 2 miles each way were the roughest road! I was so scared I was going to get a flat tire on one of the huge pot holes I got real good at looking ahead for. (One woman did get a nasty flat but she still finished!)

This race was also co-ed, while my first was all women. I was nervous about how this would change the energy of the race. Honestly though, I didn’t notice. All the guys who were competing for time were way ahead of me and I only saw them as they zipped past me on their ride back in.

I also spent a good portion of the race worried about my friend who was also competing. I knew I was out of the water first, but then I never saw her on the bike ride. All kinds of terrible situations rolled through my head. But then on my ride back in I saw her on the run, safe on land. She yelled she would explain. When we met up on the run she told me she finished the swim but didn’t have time to complete the whole bike course so they told her to turn around and then start the run.

I am so proud of her for completing the swim. It was one of the toughest swims I have done and I spent years on swim teams and in lifeguard training. She is new to swimming! And she had no wet suit! The lake was such a beast that there were guys in their 30s who looked buff and in shape that had to be towed out. And she did it like a champ, and came out with a smile on her face.

I am so proud of us both for committing to doing this race. Showing up pumped (and scared). Getting in that cold water, and coming out again. Getting on that bike. Doing the run. And finishing the race with a smile and a new determination to rock it harder next year.

Some FAQS about Triathlons:

1. What is the order of competition?

After the race. A little snack and some warmers clothes and we are all smiles.

After the race. A little snack and some warmer clothes and we are all smiles.

Swim, Bike, Run. Always. So nobody drowns.

2. What is the distance?

They vary. Sprint, Olympic and Ironman are three common categories of race. Sprints are shorter. Olympic is the middle distance. Ironman is the longest at a total of 70.3 miles. Start with a 2.4 mile swim, then a 112 mile bike and then for good measure, go run a marathon- 26.2 miles.  There is also a half Ironman distance at, you guessed it, 35.1 miles.

3. What kind of bike do you have?

Just a simple road bike that gets the job done and has Shimano shifters. It’s a Trek 1000. Aluminum. Blue.

4. Do you have bike shoes?

No, I do not have clip in shoes. Nor do I wear tight bike shirts with sponsors names. But I do rock a fanny pack from time to time. And always wear my helmet. Read Just Ride by Grant Petersen for why you do not need clip in shoes.

Got any more questions? Just ask!

This week has been all about bikes and bees.

I have taken a super fast crash course on both, because it was really crunch time.

This weekend I was to compete in my second triathlon (more on that later). Upon completing my first triathlon I discovered that I needed a real road bike. Or at least something a little more updated than my steel, late 70’s Centurion with down tube shifters, (I can say that now) that I affectionately call Rusty Red.

I spent months on Craigslist looking for that perfect used bike within reasonable driving distance and price range. I went to six different bike stores. I rode at least 20 different bikes. I stood over another 25 to check sizing. I heard all about the benefits of carbon, the drawbacks of aluminum, how Shimano gears work and the different levels they have, seat shapes, and fork materials.

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I never realized how much there is to know about bikes! I got a book called Just Ride: A Radically Practical Guide to Riding Your Bike by Grant Petersen, that helped me a lot. All I really want to do is ride. And be safe. This book tells it like it is. Why you don’t need clip in shoes and an aero helmet to race, how to not get car doored, and what makes a good saddle, etc.

Three days before the race I was still bikeless. And as soon as I felt I knew a lot about bikes (at least volumes more than I did just the week before) then I found that perfect Craigslist add, a bike in my small size, lightweight, affordable, and only an hour drive away (to a city I never mind going to visit). It was a match! And she performed great for my race.

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Upon coming home from buying my new bike I checked out the bee hive and noticed I had robber bees. Robber bees are bees of another kind, generally, that prey on weak hives and steal whatever sustenance they can. Unsure of what to do I consulted my books and learned I needed some more equipment to better secure the sugar water I am feeding my bees. Off to the bee store to talk with the experts and purchase some tools. (I am so lucky to have a bee store in my town!) Crisis averted and I think the hive is doing just fine.

On Friday, I had to go in for the first time since they had been active and release the queen. I was so nervous. First time lighting the smoker, using it, lifting the hive lid, and separating the frames filled with active bees. I found the queen box, brushed off her attendants, sprayed her cage with sugar water (so she won’t fly off), and took out the cork keeping her in the cage. Then I put her back in the box and closed it all up. No stings! I hope they are all feeling happy and will become stronger in the days ahead.

I have been saying this for weeks.

And they are finally here.

Local Honey Bees ready to be installed in their hive

Local Honey Bees ready to be installed in their hive

All 10,000 little souls that I ever so carefully drove home from the bee shop, stored in our cool cellar for this 88 degree day, and then (with great hesitation and full body coverage) released the queen and lowered the group into their new home.

Almost all of us made it out alive.

Now I leave the hive to adjust to their new residence for a few days before I do my first inspection. Which, honestly, I am already nervous about.

To prepare for the bees arrival I took a class at the local community college, from a known expert in the field. And I checked some books out from the library. So far Homegrown Honey Bees has been a good read. I took great solace in the chapter titled What Am I Getting Into? I have thought that very thing many times. It’s always one thing to read and study up on a subject, but another thing entirely when you’re standing out there holding foreign tools, wearing a bulky hat and veil with angry creatures swirling around your head.

So, why am I doing all this?

For adventure. For sustainability. For an awesome garden this year. For honey. And most importantly for the bees. (I hear it’s fun too!)

Unless you really don’t read any news, you must have heard about the plight of our honey bee in recent years. Colony Collapse Disorder, pesticides, cell phones, mites, die-off. These are all words associated with bees these days. Scientists aren’t exactly sure what is causing the great die-off of the bees worldwide but they sure have some theories. And I have mine, that I know its a man made problem.

Today, the EU announced a ban on a pesticide thought to be linked to the killing of bees. This is huge news and a great step forward. And fitting for the day that I venture into the world of bees, officially. I hope this is our answer, or maybe one of our answers to why we are losing our bees at such a rapid rate.

Most of us never stop to think about all the bee does for us. But without bees you could not have that juicy apple for lunch, broccoli for dinner, almonds for a snack, honey on toast, or stop to smell any roses. One mouthful out of three in our diets is directly or indirectly related to honey bee pollination. It is estimated that honey bees provide $15 billion worth of crop production each year. And they do it all for free, with gusto.

So my small contribution to the solution is to use a piece of my property and some of my time to care for a colony that will hopefully remain healthy and in return give so much of themselves. They will provide so many benefits for my health and enjoyment and for the land at large.

Hope I'm ready for this...

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Earth Day is today.

And everyday.

Earth Day is not about plating a tree, or bringing your own cup, or going to some festival.

Sure, these things are great, and important, but it’s bigger than that.

Earth Day allows us to stop and pay respect to this giant being that sustains all we do. I mean, really think about that, there really is no ‘us’ without Earth.

So yes, we give her one day where we are all supposed to stop and say thank you, just like we do for notable people who have changed history for the better.

One day, everyone living on this planet will also be a part of history. The path this history takes is up to us.

We make choices everyday. Thousands of choices. Where to go, what to eat, what to wear, how to get places. It goes on and on. Every time we make a choice we cast a vote. We are saying yes to a product, a way of life. And the choices we make have a consequence for Earth.

We all know there are a myriad of problems. Deforestation, habitat destruction, drought, overpopulation, rising sea levels, oceans full of plastic, etc.

Luckily, there are so many people and organizations working on solutions. But we cannot just think there are ‘others’ working on these problems that are also affecting ‘others’.

No. That time is over.

The state of the Earth is everyone’s problem. But it is also everyone’s opportunity.

We can all do more.

I always use my reusable cup & other utensils, recycle and compost everything I can, drive a low emission vehicle, grow my own food, drink tap water from a stainless steel bottle, turn off lights, always have my reusable bags, have a ‘green’ cell phone company, sign petitions, boycott certain companies, buy organic and local.

I CAN DO MORE.

We can all do more.

I challenge you to find a place in your life where you can do more. A place where you can educate yourself, your family or friends about the issues that affect us all and what things large or small we can do to help. Parents, teachers, commuters, shoppers, bloggers, artists, no matter what role in life you claim, everyone has this opportunity.

Tonight, say thank you to Earth. (And go see the meteor show she’s putting on to celebrate, best visible tonight). And challenge yourself to make tangible change for the better.

Because, really, where are we without Earth?

More Info:

http://www.earthday.org/take-action

350.org

http://earth911.com/

Poisoned Kittie

Everything fun and exciting that happened this week was overshadowed by the fact that our beloved cat, Little Girl, ate rat poison.

She is going to make it. That is only because of a series of fortunate events.

Little Girl

We saw her on Tuesday acting weird but were unable to catch her. Wednesday was extremely hot and she hid all day. It wasn’t until Wednesday night when we called for her with a can of wet food that she came and let us pick her up and take her inside. She was completely limp, wouldn’t eat or drink or respond to touch. We knew we had to take her to the emergency vet.

After a long, scary night of tests and uncertainty it was determined that her blood was not clotting at all and the probable cause was poisoning. Rat poisons are anticoagulants and that is exactly how they work to kill rodents. The animal bleeds from the inside and sometimes outside for seemingly no reason.

Little Girl was admitted to the hospital where she spent three days. She was given a transfusion and Vitamin K, which is the best treatment to introduce healthy platelets that make the blood coagulate again.

Little Girl was very lucky.

Unfortunately, this is a common experience and not all animals survive this occurrence. Children are affected by this every year, too. It is likely that Little Girl ate a few rats that had ingested the poison (she is a true huntress) or even ate the poison herself, as they try to make it tasty to animals.

We need to work together to help stop the spread of unnecessary poison in our communities.

What we can all do:

  • Do no use ingestion style poisons. (See alternatives below)
  • Talk to friends family and neighbors about the harm these poisons cause.
  • Do not create habitat for mice/rats around your home. Clean out garages, barns, wood piles and brush and do not leave food/trash around.
  • Value the neighborhood cat’s hunting abilities (or your own cat’s)
  • Adopt a barn cat (cool program in Sonoma County, CA and likely elsewhere)

Alternative Traps to Poison

  • Humane traps- a plastic or wire cage that holds bait and triggers when the animal enters. You can then take the animal out of the house or drive it away from your property.
  • Sticky traps- not so humane but not as harmful to pets.
  • Old fashioned snap trap (kills on contact)
  • Electronic trap- a plastic house that has voltage inside (not as humane if it fails)

If you suspect your pet has been poisoned:

  • Call your veterinarian, the nearest animal hospital or the Pet Poison Helpline at at 1-855-213-6680, especially if you notice your cat is bleeding.
  • If you can find the container or label for the poison, bring it with you to the veterinarian.

Remember, if a poison can kill a rodent it can kill a pet.

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