Building comb

We inspected the hive this morning. I still haven’t seen the queen in there, but then again I’m slowly building up my confidence when it comes to calmly removing top bars and inspecting them while the bees seem to get a bit pissed off. Also, I don’t seem to have the smoking technique down quite yet, as the bees sometimes ignore the fact that I’m blowing smoke in their little faces.
But in the top box, it looks like 6 out of the 8 bars have fully-built-out combs. I slid one out, a little surprised that it wasn’t attached to the sides yet – perfectly straight comb, covered with bees, and looks like honey on the back side.

Next time I hope to find evidence that the queen is healthy and busy – in the meantime, I’ll be doing more research to understand what that actually means.

Eyewitness weather: Cliff Mass and KUOW

BAROMETER, n.

An ingenious instrument which indicates what kind of weather we are having.

— Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary

There used to be a sitcom on TV titled WKRP in Cincinnati. Les Nessman, the weatherman, was heard on-air bringing the “Eyewitness Weather” report. On being questioned, he admitted: “well, I look outside and see what the weather is.”

On the other end of the spectrum we have Cliff Mass, local luminary, meteorologist and UW faculty member. Cliff has been presenting weather on our local NPR station, KUOW, not just as an animated map (try that on radio) but incorporating a peek behind the curtain, letting the gentle listener hear the lingo as the big weather dogs speak it, gaining a small understanding of The Big Picture behind our local weather.

No longer. Cliff has been canned.

Cliff made a mistake. Not by predicting a sunny weekend in error, or by referring to a Cirrus cloud as a Cumulus (terms few people would ever have heard on the radio if not for him). He didn’t cause thousands of people to leave their umbrellas home for The Big Game somewhere.

No, Cliff dared to discuss science and mathematics from time to time on his show. That’s right, math. This became indigestible for KUOW, who know how math people can get out of hand from time to time (math riots in particular can be quite, er, problematic). Going further, Cliff deigned to discuss the state of math education, veering into the politically thorny territory of UW admissions criteria. This seemed to prick both the UW Admissions folks and, more importantly, KUOW management.

As happens with anything political, swirl ensued, mud flew. A few interesting bits:

UW admissions policy regarding in-state and out-of-state students, GPA, and tuition levels. Or grade inflation in local school systems and “when does a 4.0 really mean a 4.0?” Ironically, it seems like Cliff might actually have been defending UW admissions policy against a story in the Seattle Times when he crossed the meteorological line.

Or public radio management drawing boundaries around acceptable topics for those presenting on air. College admissions shenanigans appear to be less of a hot potato than legalization of marijuana.

Or how a public radio station can hope to remain fresh and relevant when the management roster hasn’t really changed in a decade. I’ve wondered for years now when I’ll hear more than the same four voices on KUOW. Has the station become a club where the main operational goal is to preserve the places of those few in power rather than, as is their charter, provide information for the public good?

In the end, KUOW (specifically Steve Scher and Katy Sewall) fired Cliff. By email.

You can read Cliff’s account on his blog.

It may be that the only way we’ll continue to hear Cliff’s voice in the future will be through podcasts: “Canned Cliff”.

We bee hiving!

The bees arrived this weekend.
All 10,000 of them.

Notified of shipment last Tuesday, we expected them by Friday, US Priority Mail. Arriving home from work on Friday, there was no box of bees, no note in the door, and of course, unlike UPS or FedEx, USPS doesn’t update you during transit, only “each evening”. With no options, we went out to dinner and hoped the Post Office would let us know about the bees before they died in transit. The bees that is.

7 pm Friday evening, just as we’d ordered food at an area restaurant, I received a call from one of the workers at the local post office.

“The last truck brought in a box of bees… and I don’t know what the heck to do with ’em here… I feel very uncomfortable.”

We agreed to pick up the bees after dinner, a 5-minute drive from our restaurant. The bees were pretty dormant, but obviously alive, and spent the night in our garage.

The next morning, the fun began.

Keep in mind this is my first time as a beekeeper. I’d done the research, read hundreds of postings on the web, attended local beekeepers’ meetings, registered my to-be apiary with Washington State. I’d acquired the hive, the tools, and the highly-fashionable clothing. The thing is, just about every account of “proper” beekeeping seems to conflict with every other account – and some accounts contradict themselves in mid-post. In the end, I’d sort of taken a very non-scientific sampling and plotted my course somewhere along what I perceived as the mean. In short, I’d gone with a SWAG (Scientific Wild-Assed Guess). With 10,000 bees.

Sarah, my wife, handled the photo/videographer role with aplomb. All in all, the installation took about 10 minutes, and the bees seem pretty happy. First step taken!

More photos: bee package install photos

and a movie: bee package install movie