Monday, August 27, 2012

The Last Post

Due to a small glitch, I didn't have Internet access for my last few days in Jamaica, and I'm finally getting around to posting this.

My two-month stay has finally concluded, and first of all I would like to thank Kwao, Agape and their family for their hospitality and generosity. Without them, I would have never had this experience and would never have learned anything about bees! I also learned much more than I could ever write about on this blog.

There are many other people who contributed to my wonderful experience this summer. I had tons of fun with Jessica, Dee, and tons of other people. They all deserve a mention!

This was a summer that I'll never forget, and I can't wait to go back!;)

Monday, August 20, 2012


Since my family is here and they haven't shown quite as much as interest in sweating profusely under the sun as I have, we went and did some tourist-y stuff today in Ocho Rios.

We went to a local art/craft fair, and I picked up this sweet, dorky bag. They got some souvenirs and snacks from the supermarket, and then we had lunch at a jerk chicken restaurant nearby. I mean, you can't really visit Jamaica and not try some jerk chicken.

Then, we went on a serious adventure into the bush looking for a river tubing guide. Jimmy, a local driver who was taking us there, was very patient and we were able to find it after much searching. And the tubing was fun - a 45-minute, three mile float down a cool river. The guides were friendly and all, but they insisted on singing and making crazy jokes the whole time, which kind of took away from the beauty and relaxing environment of the river for me. Otherwise, the whole day was a success. And, as a bonus, Kwao had a productive day building a hive stand and setting it up, even without me.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Attack of the Killer Bees

It's been a while since we fed any bees, so today we made the trek up to the farm to feed two hives. One, affectionately (or maybe not so affectionately) dubbed "the mean hive," and another that was our first real attempt at a top bar hive. We decided to feed the mean hive first, since we don't really like them. They have pretty strong defensive mechanisms, and ever since we've gotten them they've been difficult to manage. Plus, they like to sting, and stung me straight through my jeans once.

Kwao removed the cover and went to crack open the back top bars to access the feeder, while I stood by with the sugar water. Two things happened at once - one, Kwao realized that the back bars actually had comb on them. Two, every single bee on or near that comb immediately attacked us. Kwao had about 20 stingers in his gloves right away, and I was covered in bees trying to sting my pants and shoes. Thankfully, we had properly suited up for this feeding.

Anyway, we basically took off. We had to brave the bees once more to replace the cover, but that was the end of working with the bees today. We settled for eating some guineps and going home instead.

A fun plus: my family arrived this morning to visit me and came to see the bees today, so now I'm going to spending the rest of the trip convincing them that this is not at all a normal experience. Oops.

Dee Lee-ves :(

I'm sorry about that title. It was my attempt to match my friend and (ex) fellow intern's skill at using awesome word play in her blog posts.
That's right, the infamous Dee Lee has gone home! Life in our house is not nearly as exciting without her, and I wish her the best of luck both in Chicago and in the coming school year.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Facebook Adventures

As an attempt to entertain/distract the kids here, I was showing them my Facebook profile pictures and having them guess where I was in the picture. (Desperate times call for desperate measures). Here are some conversations/comments:

"You look so much taller in America!"
"I thought it was impossible to be shorter than you."

About Michael:

Emmanuel: Who is that man?
Me: That's my boyfriend, Michael.
Selah: He looks awesome! He's got coooool sunglasses!

About Shun:

Selah: That guy looks Chinese!
Me: He's Japanese, so you're close.
Selah: His name is Japan?!

About my dad:

Emmanuel: Who is that?
Me: That's my dad.
Emmanuel: How old is he?
Me: He's 75 in this picture, I think.
Emmanuel: He doesn't look 75. He looks fifty....nine.

About Kim:
Selah: That girl looks Chinese!
Me: Well, you're right this time.

Also about Kim:
This picture, specifically.

Joshua: Who's that?
Me: That's my roommate again.
Emmanuel: What's wrong with her?
Me: It was her birthday.
Selah: Why is she sad about that? Birthdays are fun!

About Grace:

Every kid ever: YOU GUYS LOOK THE SAME.

About me:
Enoch: That's not you!
Me: It's totally me! That's my name on the coffee cup!
Selah: Why would you do that?!

Granted, this may have been funnier in person. But it's still pretty funny.

Bat Shit Cray

One of our side activities here is farming (plants, not bees). Part of being successful in that is fertilizing our plants because the soil in Jamaica is extremely clay-y. We start the plants in the red soil and transplant them later, but when we move them they need a lot of fertilizer because the poor soil we move them to shocks them. (Fun fact: Jamaica exports this red soil to make aluminum foil).

One main fertilizer we use is guano - bat shit! I had used it to plant before, but today we went to the caves where the rat bats live to harvest it. In Jamaica, bats are called "rat bats" while these big black moths are just "bats." We climbed into this tiny hole in the stone into a wall, which opened up into a larger cave. It was amazing! We filled several bags with the bat poop, and walked back home, where we promptly went to the beach and washed it all off.

Bat cave! 

Also: I got stung, again, bringing my total count up to 3.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Hurricane Bee

Okay, it's not really Hurricane Bee. It's not even a hurricane, really. It's Ernesto, a tropical storm south of Jamaica. However, Jamaica is a small island and even small storms on the other side of the island can have an effect here. It's been super windy during the day, and super stormy at night. Last night, the wind blew open the door on our house and a few windows!

However, the fact that a tropical storm/hurricane is here has not changed our plans regarding bees. Yesterday, we took down a super exciting hive - it was completely exposed! A stranger had shown us where the hive was, and we started by using a chainsaw to cut down the hive. As expected, it landed pretty hard and the bees were not pleased. This time, we were prepared & suited up!
This was probably my favorite hive. I was tying comb into the frames while Dee and Kwao were cutting up comb and searching for the queen. Dee found her, which was a first! Normally Kwao is queen-finding expert.

Then today we took down a similar hive, but with many more challenges. I spotted the queen (another first!) and we thought that was it, but the hive had been preparing to swarm, so the queen I saw was the new queen. There was another queen up in the branches of the tree, and most of our attempts to get her out ended up with bees raining down on us. Eventually we got her and many other bees into a trap hive, but the top bars were crooked and we just didn't feel good about it, so we raced home to eat dinner and build a new hive for them. We went back to put them in the new hive, but unfortunately were unable to find the queen. The bees were all fanning the entrance, which is a good sign.

So we ended up with two hives today, instead of one! It seems like a fair trade off for a bucket of honey and the sting on my finger, which has gotten more swollen since then, making this post much harder to write.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Spontaneous Beekeeping

Due to an issue at the post office, Dee and Kwao went to Annotto Bay and I stayed home. I had done some chores and was taking a nap when they came back, and we immediately suited up to go get a beehive.

This is what we do. 

We learned from Kwao's friend at the hardware store that it had been in a tree that had been bulldozed. All the comb had fallen from the tree and there were a million crushed bees. :(
We made short work of the comb, which I tied into the frames. For this hive, we used a Langstroth hive, partly because it was available. Many of our hives are still "in progress" and not completely ready for bees.
Dee found the queen! It took quite a while to find her, since this hive was the first one we took out that had drones. Drones are huge, male bees that exist solely for the purpose of mating with a new queen. They don't fight or do anything productive really. Their existence in the hive suggests that the bees may have been planning to swarm.
We came back the same evening to move the hive to the yard because we were worried about other people stealing the hive since bee products are a little scarce in Jamaica. They didn't have honey, but it was still a concern.
During the car ride, I sat in the trunk with the hive. It was wrapped in three garbage bags, but the box definitely wasn't bee-tight, so I could feel a ton of bees under the plastic. When we released the bees, they were everywhere. Today we checked on them, and they seem content in their new home. Hopefully the presence of drones won't cause them to swarm.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Goodbye Tom!

Tom, our visiting beekeeper, left for his home in Honduras yesterday morning. He definitely added to our bee knowledge and helped us improve our beekeeping!

You can find him on the forums at BioBees or Beesource.