High-Rise Honey Bees

Hives downtown help environment and attract tenants

Michael Thompson of Chicago Honey Co-op installs beehives on the roof of 540 West Madison, a downtown office building. Tenants get to enjoy the honey the bees produce. (Phil Velasquez/Chicago Tribune )

BY ALLY MAROTTI  CHICAGO TRIBUNE  5.21.17

Bill Whitney rolled up to the loading dock of a Near West Side high-rise with about 9,000 honeybees riding shotgun in his Chevy.

The pickup truck, sporting license plates that read “B SAVER,” was overflowing with the parts needed to construct three hives for all those bees on top of the 29th-floor roof of 540 West Madison, the West Loop home to firms such as Bank of America, biopharmaceutical company Shire and slot machine-maker Everi.

While human worker bees buzz about in offices below, the rooftops of some Chicago commercial buildings are becoming hubs of activity in their own right as landlords employ tens of thousands of bees in an effort to simultaneously help the environment and rope in some eco-friendly tenants.

Building owners and managers say it’s an easy formula: Set aside a few thousand dollars in the budget, contract with a beekeeper and, come autumn, enjoy fresh honey. Some have come to view the hives as an amenity, like rooftop gardens or water recycling programs. Tenants appreciate the honey and the efforts to help save the honeybees, a species under threat in the U.S. from a deadly combination of pesticides, loss of habitat and parasites.

And it’s cool, building managers say.

“It’s exciting because it’s not something you would expect in an urban area,” said Louise Harney, a vice president and group manager at Jones Lang LaSalle, the firm that manages 540 West Madison. “We’ve had people want to be here because of our sustainability program, and beekeeping is a part of that.”

Up on the roof Tuesday, Whitney orchestrated the bees like a conductor. Hive by hive, he released the bees, contained in three shoebox-sized containers, pouring them by the thousands into their new home. He stood among them as they swarmed up and around, scouting the area and creating a cloud over the high-rise.

Last year, 540 West Madison collected about 100 gallons of honey, the building’s first harvest. Much of the honey was bottled in 3-ounce jars and passed out to tenants, visitors and students who came for a tutoring program. The building managers put the jars in gift bags and handed them out around Thanksgiving and Earth Day. Slightly Toasted, the sandwich cafe on the building’s ground floor, used the honey in some of its specialty drinks.

The building expects to spend about $2,400 to maintain the hives this year, Harney said.

The staff at Everi’s development center on the 24th floor devours the honey every time building management brings it around, said Bradley Rose, senior vice president of game development. They usually drop some off around holidays or when they give building visitors a tour of the company’s office space.

“It’s so good it usually never makes it home,” he said. “We’ll go to town on it.”

Rose remembers the honeybees being part of the sales pitch when he was searching for office space for Everi’s 60-person staff. After looking at dozens of spaces, it was the amenities at 540 West Madison that helped him decide, he said. Though at the time he was more impressed with the building’s gym than the bees, the occasional honey deliveries work wonders in making the staff feel welcome, he said.

Whitney, a veteran beekeeper and owner of City Bee Savers, also rears queen bees and mentors budding beekeepers.

“I was more interested in, How will bees do 30 stories up in the air, right downtown in the concrete jungle?” he said. “Can they really thrive and survive? The answer is yes.”

But there are precautions Whitney must take to make sure the hives stay healthy. With the thousands of bees he had driven from a farm near Savannah, Ga., just days before, Whitney brought straps and bricks to put on top of the new hives to help secure them, protecting them from the strong winds that can blow above the city.

He’ll come back throughout the summer and maintain the hives, watching for signs of strain from a mite inflicting damage on beehives across the country. The mites don’t kill the bees directly, but they latch on to them, wearing them down and causing stress that becomes deadly.

Come winter, the bees do their best to keep the queen warm, with little activity outside the hive. Though a bee lives only four to six weeks in the summer, a healthy hive will survive the cold.

Nestled in a mostly shaded area of the roof, the hives face north. Visible from their new home is the building that houses Google’s Midwest headquarters, 1KFulton, where more bees that Whitney maintains reside.

The hives stayed when Glendale, Calif.-based American Realty Advisors bought the newly developed building last summer from Chicago developer Sterling Bay, said Rachael Bruketta, assistant property manager at 1KFulton. The company set aside about $3,000 this year to spend on the bees.

“(It’s) cool to say they do this. This is an amenity at the building,” Bruketta said. “Tenants like that we care, that we’re helping bee populations.”

The building’s two hives are on the seventh-floor roof deck. While tenants also have access to the deck, the bees aren’t aggressive and generally keep to themselves.

Hopefully, the green space will encourage the bees to stay closer, Bruketta said.

If not, they’ll seek out the city’s flowers, darting to the blooms along Michigan Avenue, Millennium Park’s trees, or weeds springing from sidewalk cracks and vacant lots. The bees have a foraging range of about 11/2 miles, Whitney said, though the distance they travel depends on the availability of food.

Hotels were early adopters in Chicago’s rooftop beehive business. Tended by hotel chefs and contracted beekeepers, the hives produce honey served to guests in their morning granola or tea.

At the Palmer House Hilton in the Loop, an old-fashioned walk-in cooler is full of tiny jars of honey. The golden hues of the sugary substance change each harvest, depending on what flowers the bees pollinate, said executive chef Stephen Henry. It’s usually a beautiful gold, he said, though last year it was darker, more like the color of iced tea.

The Palmer House has been keeping bees for about five years on its 25th-floor rooftop garden, which it populates with bee-friendly flowers such as marigolds. Henry incorporates it into recipes, replacing the apricot glaze on the top of the hotel’s famous brownie with honey.

The bees at Marriott Downtown Magnificent Mile produce so much honey that the hotel collaborates with a brewery to make a honey wheat ale out of it.

Several blocks south on Michigan Avenue, Chicago Honey Co-op maintains hives on top of the Chicago Cultural Center. The urban beekeeping cooperative also works with three other buildings.

Another company, The Best Bees Company, has installed hives atop other Chicago commercial buildings like AMA Plaza, 1 North Dearborn and 515 N. State St.

Unlike cities such as New York, Chicago does not regulate beekeeping, besides limiting a property to five hives. The state requires beekeepers to register with the Illinois Department of Agriculture.

Sometimes, new hives aren’t as accommodating to bees as the city is to keepers. On top of 540 West Madison on Tuesday, Whitney had to entice the bees to stay in the hive and claim it as their own.

He gave them a start with used honeycomb, pampering them with pollen and a few drops of sugar water while he watched them zip back and forth around the hive. Honeybees are rarely vicious, especially without an established hive to defend. They were memorizing their new home, Whitney said.

“They’re memorizing that pole; they’re memorizing that building,” he said, pointing to the top of a nearby high-rise. “They’re memorizing their spot here. They wouldn’t be doing this if they didn’t think this was going to be their hive.”

Illinois Bobcats

 

Bobcat conservation group continues fight after first Illinois hunt    source

While the Illinois Department of Natural Resources declared it first bobcat hunting season a success after 141 animals were taken from the lower third of the state last fall, groups that oppose the hunt plan to keep the pressure on.

These are the same groups that tried to get non-hunters to enter the hunting lottery for permits so they could reduce the number of hunters in the field, but the IDNR noted that the vast majority of those that applied had already been a previous user of IDNR licenses.

“Ninety-eight percent of them were current IDNR customers, and only two percent got permits in the lottery,” said Rockford resident Jennifer Kuroda, 45, who helped form the Illinois Bobcat Foundation, which now has a Facebook page for more than 300 followers.

The state had more than 6,400 people join the lottery, and 500 hunting and trapping permits were awarded, according to the IDNR. Approximately 98 percent of the 6,416 applications and 96 percent of the 500 permits issued were from existing DNR customers, according to the IDNR..

But Kuroda added that she feels “when all the news articles started coming out, it brought a lot more awareness to the issue. There are some people who didn’t even know we had bobcats.”

According to Kuroda, the foundation has networked with the Illinois Ornithology Society, Illinois Environmental Council, Sierra Club and the Humane Society. She is part of her local Audubon group and a volunteer at the Sand Bluff Bird Observatory near Rockford.

This battle against state-sanctioned bobcat hunts actually began about three years ago when the legislation was introduced, but it was eventually vetoed by Gov. Pat Quinn. But Gov. Bruce Rauner came into office and put the hunt back on for last fall.

“I have a cousin who is a deer hunter, and he put six trail cameras out, and he has never seen one in our area,” Kuroda said, adding that she meet another hunter who never saw one until he was ice fishing.

“A bobcat could be two feet away and you might not know it is there as you go down the path,” she said. “I wish more hunters would speak out. I’ve talked to some deer hunters who said they’d never go after a bobcat. It’s more of a trophy hunt.”

Kuroda said she was surprised to learn an estate sale had a mounted bobcat priced at $1,850. She added that the foundation asked if the owners would donate it, but they declined and sold it.

“I understand it would cost about $600 to mount, and the $5 bobcat permit means there is a pretty good profit, so it’s kind of disheartening,” she said. “I was surprised more were hunted than were trapped. I thought it would be easier to trap them because of the bait.”

According to the IDNR, 69 bobcats were taken by hunting, 49 by trapping, 12 by archery, and 11 from salvaging on roads. Bobcats were harvested in 44 counties in the open zone, which included the western and southern parts of the state. Top counties were Pike (11), Jackson (10), Jefferson (7), Carroll (6) and Randolph (6). The hunting area is described as the area of Illinois that is east of Interstate 39 and north of U.S. Route 36.

“We are very pleased with the response to Illinois’ new hunting and trapping season for bobcats,” IDNR Director Wayne Rosenthal said in a statement at the close of the season.

“The recovery of the bobcat is a conservation success story in Illinois,” Rosenthal added. “We were pleased with the response of hunters and trappers that applied for permits, and we will continue to evaluate the program.”

Prairie State cats

According to the Illinois Natural History Survey, bobcats were nearly wiped out from the state in the mid 1900s, and they were protected as a threatened species in Illinois from 1977-1999. They can be found throughout Illinois, but are more common in the southern third of the state, according to the survey.

The survey added that bobcats were thriving in Southern Illinois, and a study by Southern Illinois University pegged the population at about 2,200 south of Interstate 64 in 2000. That grew to about 3,200 bobcats in 2009, and they continue to grow in the state, especially along major rivers, according to the survey.

Another SIU study noted that the solitary bobcat needs a large range. Males need just over seven to 20 square miles, and females need more than three to six square miles.

Adult males can weigh up to 40 pounds, but the average is 22 pounds, while the females are smaller and weigh less. Males and females breed during the spring, and they may vocalize using squalls, howls, meows and yowls, according to the survey.

They prefer forest with a thick understory for cover and denning sites, and then they use the forest edges and fields for hunting. The cats eat rabbits, mice, voles and squirrels, but will also eat larger animals like muskrat and opossum. Bobcats will also dine on birds, frogs, insects, fish and snakes, according to the survey.

The survey noted that bobcats will also kill fawns or injured or sick deer, and they are capable of killing an adult deer when it’s bedded down or during periods of deep snow.

Kuroda said the foundation is presently pushing legislation in Springfield, specifically Senate Bill 1981, which passed through the Commerce and Economic Development Committee on March 17. The bill will amend the Illinois Wildlife Code to prohibit the sale of bobcat pelts and make it unlawful for any person to trap bobcat at any time.

Kuroda added the foundation would still like to see a moratorium on bobcat hunting, but the proposed legislation would be a step in the right direction. She sees the foundation providing education about bobcats and funding research. It is a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) organization, so contributions are tax deductible.

“Our goal is a moratorium on hunting until there is sufficient evidence to support hunting,” she said, “The IDNR said they had four nuisance reports (on bobcats) since 2015, so they really aren’t a nuisance at this point.’

Lake Forest resident

Steve Ballen, 66, of Lake Bluff, can’t get enough of his encounters with a bobcat named Boris in Lake Forest at the Wildlife Discovery Center. Besides the center, there is a Lake Forest Open Lands section of woods in Lake Forest and the Middlefork Savanna Forest Preserve just off Route 43 south of Route 176. This is also the site of the city’s Elawa Farm, which offers a farmer’s market, meeting rooms, programming and events.

Almost two hours a day, seven days a week, Ballen goes into Boris’ enclosure around 1 p.m. to feed him and play with him, and people are encouraged to watch. Ballen has been the bobcat’s caretaker for close to five years, and the bobcat has called Lake Forest home for eight years.

“People joke that I am a zookeeper and I moonlight as a CPA,” he said as he showed a visitor a pair of long, thick welder’s gloves, “I go through about five pairs a year. Sometimes Boris just gets into the seam and tears it.”

Boris was being raised by a couple who had dogs that were part of a circus routine and they purchased the kitten. After just a year, they decided they couldn’t keep the animal, and the Wildlife Discovery Center became his new home. Boris is 40 pounds, much bigger than his wild brethren, but then again he doesn’t miss any meals.

“When I first started, he was quite food aggressive, trying to take it away from me, and that was kind of dangerous,” Ballen said, adding that eventually they bonded. But he said you can see the wildness in Boris’ gaze and some of his actions.

“The bobcat loves to hunt. It’s in their DNA,” he said. “They will hunt even if they are not hungry.

“But I’ll ask people, ‘Why does the bobcat hunt?’ and people say ‘hungry’ or ‘instinct.’ The reason bobcats hunt is because they love to hunt — it’s something inside them, like I like to fish.”

According to Ballen, Boris is no exception to that rule.

“Bobcats have an essential investment in hunting to eventually pass on their DNA,” Ballen said. “He takes pride in hunting. He’ll stalk me, and I’ll play that game, and he can be real quick.

“When he surprises me with a false attack, you can see it in his eyes. He’s almost smiling, saying, ‘Point, Boris.’ He won the game. But I surprise him, he doesn’t get the joke and doesn’t like it.”

Ballen, who is also a member of the Illinois Bobcat Foundation, also voiced criticism of the state’s bobcat hunt.

“I don’t have a problem hunting deer or pheasants. I have a problem with hunting predators,” Ballen said. “I have a strong attachment to these animals because I have a relationship with one. They are so extraordinarily beautiful.

“I’d like to see a native population that’s indigenous again in Lake County and the rest of the state.”

Kuroda agrees, and she is sure it could happen if bobcats are given a chance to keep spreading north. The forest preserves offer some habitat, but there’s only been an occasional sighting, probably of a Southern Wisconsin bobcat, and there were reports of one near Wauconda a few years ago and a more recent one in Lincolnshire that Kuroda is investigating.

“Wouldn’t it be nice to see a bobcat in the wild?” she said.

Visiting Her in Queens . . .(poem)

 

Visiting Her In Queens Is More Enlightening

Than A Month In A Monastery in Tibet

 

For the fourth time my mother

asks, “How many children

do you have?” I’m beginning

 

to believe my answer,

“Two, Mom,” is wrong. Maybe

the lesson is they are not mine,

 

not owned by me, and

she is teaching me about

my relationship with her.

 

I wash my dish and hers.

She washes them again. I ask why.

She asks why I care.

 

Before bed she unlocks and opens

the front door. While she sleeps,

I close and lock it. She gets up , unlocks it.

 

“What I have, no one wants,” she says.

I nod. She nods.

Are we agreeing?

 

My shrunken guru says she was up all night

preparing a salad for my breakfast.

She serves me an onion.

 

I want her to make French toast

for me like she used to.

I want to tell her about my pain.

 

and I want her to make it go away.

I want the present to be as good as

the past she does not remember.

 

I toast white bread for her, butter it,

cut it in half. I eat a piece of onion.

She asks me why I’m crying.

 

Michael Mark        The Sun, March, 2017

 

 

 

 

Fastest Animal? Answer

Beyond doubt, the fastest animal in the world is the human, who can sail at 500 MPH, 4 miles above the Earth, and enjoy free peanuts and bottled water and a nap on the way.

________________________________

Susan is right of course in that the cheetah is the fastest land animal.    But there are birds up there and fish down there.  This list considers everybody.

For the greatest momentary speed, not considering distance, endurance, survival, we have ( source)

10 Fastest Animals On Earth

 How fast can you run? Research suggests that human beings could run as fast as 40 miles an hour—in theory—but sprint speeds average to closer to 12-15 mph.

You may be thinking, “that’s not too shabby,” but as you will see, a 15 mph sprint would not be enough to win a race with any of the fastest animals on earth. Many animals can go much faster than we can—some of them predatory. What is the fastest animal on earth? Let’s find out.

1. Peregrine Falcon

Peregrine Falcon (Wikimedia)

Peregrine Falcon (Wikimedia)

Birds have something of an advantage when it comes to speed, for obvious reasons. The peregrine falcon is particularly swift, capable of reaching speeds of up to 200 mph while at a dive, making it a fearsome hunter. ( diving on lunch is called “stooping” RJN))  The rest of the time it does not fly this fast, but that hardly matters to its prey. It is the fastest animal on the planet when in a dive.

2. Frigate Bird

Frigate Bird (Wikimedia)

Frigate Bird (Wikimedia)

This spectacular avian makes the peregrine falcon look slow by comparison. It can reach speeds of up to 95 miles per hour—much faster than you drive on the highway. It has the largest wingspan to body weight ratio and can stay in the air for intensely long periods. Sometimes these birds do not touch down for over week at a time. How’s that for speed and endurance?

3. Sail Fish

Sail Fish (Wikimedia)

Sail Fish (Wikimedia)

What is the fastest sea animal? That honor goes to the sail fish, which can read speeds up to 68 miles per hour—again possibly faster than you are used to driving on the highway. Can you imagine a fish racing alongside your vehicle and keeping up with you? That’s one fast sea animal. The characteristic sail is used when the fish is frightened in order to intimidate threatening animals. The rest of the time, it is kept folded up.

4. Cheetah

Cheetah (Wikimedia)

Cheetah (Wikimedia)

The fastest animal in the world is of course the cheetah. This animal is actually only slightly faster than the pronghorn antelope, and can reach speeds of up to 61 miles per hour. This record was set by an 11 year old cheetah in 2012 named Sarah. Unlike most of the other animals on this list, the cheetah is a predator. It represents a serious threat to animals on this list that inhabit the same geographic areas (not just grasslands, but forest environments as well).

The cheetah is a sprinter, not a long distance runner, but pairs agility with speed for deadly attack runs. Cheetahs are also very fast accelerators, and can ramp up their speed four times faster than human beings can. They can also pull to a stop extremely fast. It is also interesting to note that the speed and agility of the cheetah is not matched by strength. The cheetah is fairly fragile and will lose in most fights with other predators. As a result, they will quickly surrender prey to competitors. An injured cheetah may not be able to run quickly, which can put its life in danger.  (The cheetah will stalk their prey to within 100–300 m (330–980 ft); it will try to approach it as closely as possible while concealing itself in cover, sometimes even up to 60 m (200 ft) of the prey. The cheetah will crouch and move slowly while stalking, occasionally becoming motionless.[14] The chase usually lasts less than a minute; if the cheetah fails to make a kill quickly, it will give up. Cheetahs have an average hunting success rate of 40 to 50%. Wikipedia)

5. Pronghorn Antelope

Pronghorn Antelope (Wikimedia)

Pronghorn Antelope (Wikimedia)

This antelope (not an antelope though lots of Americans call it that.  RJN) takes second place among land animals for speed. It can easily out-sprint most predators at speeds as high as 60 miles per hour. Interestingly enough, a pronghorn antelope is not actually an old world antelope, and is native to North America. Actual antelopes are quite fast as well, but not as fast as the pronghorn. Also curious is the fact that the pronghorn is far faster than the predators which inhabit North America. This seems to indicate that it evolved its great speed at some point in the past under the threat of a now-extinct predator, perhaps the American cheetah.

The pronghorn has a number of special adaptations that allow it to function at high speeds, including cushioned, pointed toes to absorb shock, and extra large organs that assist with air intake.

6. Blue Wildebeest

Blue Wildebeest (Wikimedia)

Blue Wildebeest (Wikimedia)

Another swift land animal which also inhabits the plains is the blue wildebeest. They are not quite as fast as the pronghorn, but are still pretty impressive at around 50 miles per hour.

7. Lion

Lion (Wikimedia)

Lion (Wikimedia)

Unfortunately for the blue wildebeest, the lion’s fastest speed almost exactly matches. Lions can chase down their prey at around 50 miles per hour, making them extremely deadly predators on the plains.

8. Thomson’s Gazelle

Thomson’s Gazelle (Wikimedia)

Thomson’s Gazelle (Wikimedia)

This is another creature in the same category as wildebeests and lions, also capable of running at around 50 miles per hour. Chases between lions and cheetahs and gazelles can be quite intense as a result of the close speed matching. Unfortunately for Thomson’s gazelles, they are the preferred prey of cheetahs, the fastest animal on our list.

9. Brown Hare

Brown Hare (Wikimedia)

Brown Hare (Wikimedia)

One of the smallest animals on our list is the brown hare. This little creature can run extremely fast, reaching speeds of up to 47 miles per hour. The story of the tortoise and the hare is famous for a reason. Hares really are incredibly fast creatures, and they are capable of outrunning the majority of other animals.

10. Elk

Elk (Wikimedia)

Elk (Wikimedia)

There are a number of animals which run faster than the elk, but the elk deserves a mention because it is a good deal larger and less “swift” looking than a gazelle or antelope. Elks can be quite large, but their size and build should not deceive you. The elk is capable of running at speeds as high as 45 miles per hour. Do not make an elk angry. If it charges you, it is going to win.

As you can see, there are some impressively fast animals on the land, as well as in the sea and air. These remarkable animals showcase the many different ways that creatures can adapt to fulfill the role of either predator or herbivore. While we may be at the top of the food chain thanks to our tools and inventions, we are easily outclassed when it comes to speed. Many of these creatures are as fast as the cars we have constructed to get from place to place at a reasonable pace. If that isn’t a humbling thought, what is?

VIDEO

Here’s another way of looking at the whole question.

 

 

 

MICHAEL and the BEES

Alice’s son, Michael Foote,  his wife, Rachel Brodie, and their little son, River, live on their mountain-side farm in northern Vermont.  The upper part of their land is level with a vegetable garden, berry patch, and pasture for visiting horses. The property is wooded below that, falling to a stream that supported a beaver family until a neighbor shot them. Last Christmas, they gave jars of honey to friends and family with this letter.  RJN

___________________________________

Christmas, 2017

Dear Family and Friends,

Here is a jar of pure, unfiltered, naturally crystallized honey from my bees on Swamp Road to you.

Rachel thinks the rest of this letter makes me sound like an old Vermonter.  I take that as a compliment, so here we go!

Then: my brother Jesse and I received a grant while undergrads to buy bees, and we started the hives at Dartmouth College. The next summer, we drove them to Scout camp to offer the bee-keeping merit badge as well as to continue our study.

Now: It’s been a fun little adventure to get to this point–from buying a box of bees to where I actually have honey in containers.  This is my fourth year keeping bees.  The first year was a disaster.  I tried to be a little too creative, testing an alternative hive method before I knew enough to be doing that.

Displaying Top bar hive.jpgTop bar hive: My first hive, an alternative method, didn’t last the winter.

My first hive did not survive the winter, succumbing to an overwintering mouse.  If a mouse gets into a hive in winter, it can exhaust the honey reserve.  The mouse was cute, but seeing the pile of dead bees in spring was heartbreaking.

I started with the basics the second year, using a tried-and-true structure for raising bees.   I purchased mail-order bees (Italian and Carniolan bees) and dumped them into a couple of hives I had built from kits.  I was always worried about them.  When it was cold out, I assumed they were cold.  I wrapped them in insulation and anxiously pressed my ears up to the hives to hear the telltale buzz of life.  When it rained for several days, I assumed they would be in need of food, so I fed them sugar water and a pollen substitute.  I didn’t let them just be bees.  Still, whether my parenting style had anything to do with it, my bees did thrive that year.

In my third year, I purchased a Vermont mongrel hive that had been bred to thrive in northern climates.  I liked the Italian bees, but the Carniolan bees have been grumpy, so I was looking for a more docile, better adapted bee.  I relaxed a bit, and still the hives did very well, each producing about 200 pounds of honey.

Displaying Apiary.JPGApiary: A photo of three of my hives in the bee yard.

Going into my fourth, most recent yearI attempted to split some of my hives in two and start the summer with 8.  All but one split thrived and I took about 150 pounds of honey in all.  Not much, but a newly split hive must build its comb as well as store honey.

Displaying Splitting.JPG  Splitting: I made two hives from one, simply be splitting it in two. The queenless hive made a new queen to become “queen right.”

Swarming is the process by which a new honey bee colony is formed when the queen bee leaves the colony with a large group of worker bees. In the prime swarm, about 60% of the worker bees leave the original hive location with the old queen.

Displaying New home.JPG·        Swarm: One of my hives sent out a swarm, which I then caught and put in a new hive. Unfortunately it didn’t stay.

Displaying Swarm.JPG

I tried to capture a couple of swarms this year.  A swarm of bees lingers near its original hive for only a short period before moving to its new home.  I was late.

 

Displaying Very active.JPG  Very active: A warm summer day, lots of food to collect.

Luckily, in this neck of the woods, I don’t have the problem of the well-publicized colony collapse disorder where hives oddly become active in the middle of winter, leave, and die.  From my reading, I understand that saturation of the environment with pesticides and other chemicals, including neo-nicotinoids, is to blame.  Neo-nicotinoids are a major factor in the decimation of pollinators everywhere and in the build-up of chemicals in our own bodies.  Our nearby town of Richmond is aware of these chemicals and fairly progressive, to the benefit of my bees. Their honey is probably safer for us to eat than some produced elsewhere.

Future: I hope to try my hand at queen-rearing this coming spring to boost my hive numbers.  (You grow a queen, give the queen a couple frames of bees, and your hive takes off.)  I’m also hoping to plant a half-acre of Anise Hyssop for the bees to give their honey a hint of anise flavor.

I plan to pursue organic certification eventually, but, for the time being, I’m doing as much as I can to be environment- and health-conscious, as in buying hive wood from a responsible lumber yard down the road and using organic sugar feed when possible.

I should be clear–there’s no money in this business, but I love it.  I love to work outside, and I find the bees fascinating:  their complex social structure, their numbers (more than 50,000 in a hive), their communication systems (dancing, wiggling, pheromones, electric fields), and their ability to make wax, propolis, royal jelly and … honey!  I could watch my bees all day long as they go back and forth with little baskets on their legs filled with pollen.  I can’t wait until River is old enough to join me.

I rarely get stung, mostly because the bees are gentle. Still, when I’m opening their hives, I make sure to put on protective gear and use a smoker.  Smoke makes the bees think a fire is coming and they move into the hive to eat honey in case they need to leave,  After eating, the bees are pretty lazy and have a hard time bending their bodies to sting.  I still run away when they get angry and have no shame doing the bee dance, an awkward combination of flailing, running, and yelling when a bee gets under my mask.  When I do get stung I just bear it and feel tough.

Rachel supports my bee work and hasn’t complained about the cost of building an apiary.  She grows a little tired of finding everything sticky in the kitchen. I try to protect life at home and at work from losing to the bees.  I sneak out during River’s naps and get up early to do hive maintenance during the months March through October.  In winter I can enjoy dreaming about what I will do with the bees the next year.

I aspire to sell honey on the roadside this spring and to guests in our rental unit to earn enough money to build a little bee shed so that I don’t have to do all my honey extraction in the house.

Let me know when you need more honey!  Happy holidays.  Bee well.

More info

Note:  My honey, like all honey, naturally crystalizes, preserving flavor and quality (considered premium quality because it is not blended with other substances), yielding richer taste in cooking, and spreading well enough  Because I don’t filter or heat the honey, crystalization is quicker. Filtering honey removes a lot of the pollens and propolis that add to he nutritional value, and heating denatures the proteins,

Michael

To liquify honey, it is heated in a jar in a pot of hot water and stirred frequently until it is liquid.   For storage, honey is best kept at 50 degrees prevent fermentation, though the very old alcoholic drink made with honey, mead, seems to gaining popularity.

Emphasis added, RJN

 

 

 

 

 

Restoring Wild Habitat Here

Restoration boosting turtles, other wildlife

Nonprofit, scientists work together  to benefit several riverbank habitats

A great blue heron sits on a branch this week at the Skokie Lagoons nature preserve in Glencoe. Friends of the Chicago River worked on 8 acres there. (GARY MIDDENDORF/DAILY SOUTHTOWN)

By Patrick M. O’Connel   Chicago Tribune  11.26.16

A collaboration between a nonprofit group and forest preserve scientists aims to boost the area turtle population, while also benefiting bats, ospreys and riverbank habitats throughout the Chicago region.

While projects to help native species have been ongoing for decades, an effort led by Friends of the Chicago River has led to immediate improvements in turtle nesting areas in Cook County’s wetlands and woods.

“I’m thrilled out of my mind,” said Chris Anchor, a wildlife biologist with the Forest Preserve District of Cook County.

By clearing forest lands of invasive plants such as buckthorn — which choke out native sedges, rushes and reeds and also block sunlight from reaching the ground — the group and the forest preserve have improved soil conditions in wetlands along the Chicago and Calumet rivers, essential land for turtles to lay their eggs.

Transmitters placed on turtles let scientists know that the animals were returning quickly to cleared native habitat. (ERIN HOOLEY/CHICAGO TRIBUNE )
 Turtles, including the snapping, painted, stinkpot and soft-shell varieties, need soft soil in protected, sunlit areas for successful nests, Anchor said. When the riverbank areas are under siege from invasive plants, the turtles are forced to find other open spaces, often along busy roads and trails. Those locations make the nests easy targets for predators such as raccoons and opossums, who lurk to eat the eggs, Anchor said.

Using an anonymous $750,000 gift, the Friends of Chicago River partnered with the forest preserve on a three-year effort to restore acres of land to native conditions. Since 2014, staff and volunteers have cleared about 78 acres of brush at area forest preserves.

Group members earlier this week worked on 8 acres at the Skokie Lagoons, near the East Fork of the North Branch of the Chicago River. The Friends also have worked clearing areas of Chipilly Woods south of Dundee Road in northern Cook County, Watersmeet Woods near Northfield, Wampum Lake Woods near Thornton and in the Sag Quarries area near Lemont.

The habitat restoration efforts improve the conditions of woods, prairie lands and wetlands, in addition to helping bats and osprey. As part of the project, the Friends and forest preserve have been building bat houses and platforms for ospreys, which are hawklike birds who often nest atop trees near rivers, creeks and lakes.

“We enable them to reproduce more successfully. That’s the foundation of the whole thing,” said Margaret Frisbie, executive director of Friends of the Chicago River. “What they’re lacking is actual maternity habitats. These are species that with relatively little intervention, we can help them.”

Berries are seen on a tree stump this week at the Skokie Lagoons nature preserve in Glencoe. (GARY MIDDENDORF/DAILY SOUTHTOWN)

The restoration project also has the trickle-down effect of helping attract butterflies and bees, while aiding storm runoff, Frisbie said.

The forest preserve has worked hand in hand with Friends and has aided the efforts with prescribed burns and additional brush clearings throughout the county. While Friends took part in a prairie seeding effort this week at Skokie Lagoons, Anchor said manual seeding after clearing is usually unnecessary. Many native wetland plants have hard-capsule seeds that can rest in the ground for 40 to 80 years, waiting for the appropriate time to grow.

“That’s the beautiful thing about the wetlands,” Anchor said.

Anchor, who has worked with the forest preserve since 1981, said this was a rare example of an organization following through on its idea, bringing muscle to the project in the form of dollars and manpower.

He said the restoration efforts at Chipilly Woods reaped nearly immediate dividends. Using a pair of turtle-tracking devices, Anchor discovered two female snapping turtles that had been laying eggs along Dundee Road quickly found the newly cleared native habitat in the woods and safely made nests.

“The response was immediate,” he said. “It was fantastic.”

poconnell@chicagotribune.com

Twitter @pmocwriter

Building Walls

 

About 100,000 years ago, the glacier dropped an enormous number of stones  it had been grinding and carrying a very long time on New England. Most stones were buried but rose to the surface with thawing and freezing.  After white settlers cut down all the trees for farming, there was more freezing and thawing,  pushing more stones up to litter the farm fields.  They had to be removed and were used  for building fences/walls, marking off property, enclosing pastures and barnyards, and for building houses.  The walls had to be rebuilt, mended, from time to time.  RJN

Image result for photo new england wall

Mending Wall

Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,
And spills the upper boulders in the sun;
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.
The work of hunters is another thing:
I have come after them and made repair
Where they have left not one stone on a stone,
But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,
To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean,
No one has seen them made or heard them made,
But at spring mending-time we find them there.
I let my neighbor know beyond the hill;
And on a day we meet to walk the line
And set the wall between us once again.
We keep the wall between us as we go.
To each the boulders that have fallen to each.
And some are loaves and some so nearly balls
We have to use a spell to make them balance:
“Stay where you are until our backs are turned!”
We wear our fingers rough with handling them.
Oh, just another kind of out-door game,
One on a side. It comes to little more:
There where it is we do not need the wall:
He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
He only says, “Good fences make good neighbors.”
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head:
“Why do they make good neighbors? Isn’t it
Where there are cows? But here there are no cows.
Before I built a wall I’d ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offence.
Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That wants it down.” I could say “Elves” to him,
But it’s not elves exactly, and I’d rather
He said it for himself. I see him there
Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top
In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.
He moves in darkness as it seems to me,
Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
He will not go behind his father’s saying,
And he likes having thought of it so well
He says again, “Good fences make good neighbors.”

Robert Frost

 

Image result for fieldstone house photo

 

 

Solar Eclipse in Illinois !

 

Ask Tom       (Tom Skillings, Chicago Tribune 8.1.16)
______________________________

Dear Tom,

Concerning the total solar eclipse on Aug. 21, 2017, in Southern Illinois, what time exactly will this occur? I’m planning to drive down to see it.    — Jerry Boubin

_______________________________

Dear Jerry,

The Aug. 21, 2017, total solar eclipse is already generating a lot of excitement as it will provide Chicagoans a rare chance to view a total solar eclipse without the need for extensive travel.

Areas in Southern Illinois between Carbondale and Paducah, Ky., will be in the path of totality, while in Chicago about 87 percent of the sun will disappear.

In Southern Illinois, the partial eclipse will begin about 11:53 a.m. and end just before 2:48 p.m.

The period of total eclipse will last for two minutes and 40 seconds beginning just after 1:20 p.m.

In Chicago, the time of maximum eclipse will be at 1:20 p.m._____________________________________

Never look at the sun without protecting your eyes!  Click here for advice.   And here.

PS  It’s OK to look at the sun unprotected during totality of eclipse, about 2 minutes.

Gar Will Control Carp?

 

Once-reviled fish seen as weapon against Asian carp

An Illinois state biologist holds an alligator gar collected during a lake sampling survey. The second-largest U.S. freshwater fish was mistakenly believed to hurt sport fish. (Illinois Department of Natural Resources 2015)

By Tammy Webber  Associated Press   Chicago Tribune 8.1.16

(Check article in Wikipedia.)

CHICAGO — It’s a toothy giant that can grow longer than a horse and heavier than a refrigerator, a fearsome-looking prehistoric fish that plied U.S. waters from the Gulf of Mexico to Illinois until it disappeared from many states a half-century ago.

Persecuted by anglers and deprived of places to spawn, the alligator gar — with a head that resembles an alligator and two rows of needlelike teeth — survived primarily in southern states in the tributaries of the Mississippi River and Gulf of Mexico after being declared extinct in several states farther north. To many, it was a freak, a “trash fish” that threatened sport fish, something to be exterminated.

But the once-reviled predator is now being seen as a valuable fish in its own right and as a potential weapon against a more threatening intruder: the invasive Asian carp, which have swum almost unchecked toward the Great Lakes with little more than an electric barrier to keep them at bay. Efforts are now underway to reintroduce the alligator gar in the northern part of its old range.

“What else is going to be able to eat those monster carp?” said Allyse Ferrara, an alligator gar expert at Nicholls State University in Louisiana, where the species is relatively common. “We haven’t found any other way to control them.”

Alligator gar, the second-largest U.S. freshwater fish behind the West Coast’s white sturgeon, have shown a taste for Asian carp, which have been spreading and out-competing 

native fish for food. The gar dwarf the invaders, which themselves can grow to 4 feet and 100 pounds. The largest alligator gar caught was 81/2 feet and 327 pounds, though they can grow larger.

A mistaken belief that they hurt sport fish led to widespread extermination throughout the 1900s, when they were often shot or blown up with dynamite.

“Some horrible things have been done to this fish,” said Ferrara, adding that sport fisheries are healthier with gar to keep troublesome species like carp under control. “It’s similar to how we used to think of wolves; we didn’t understand the role they played in the ecosystem.”

Gar now are being restocked in lakes, rivers and backwaters — sometimes in secret locations — in several states. In May, Illinois lawmakers passed a resolution urging state natural resources officials to adopt regulations to protect all four gar species native to the state.

But the extent to which gar could control carp now is not well understood, and some people are skeptical.

“I don’t think alligator gar are going to be the silver bullet that is going to control carp, by any stretch of the imagination,” said Rob Hilsabeck, an Illinois biologist who says the best hope is that carp will sustain an alligator gar fishery to draw trophy hunters.

Others are more optimistic about the impact once the larger fish is established, which might require cutting notches in canals to give them access to spawning sites.

Asian carp reproduce more quickly, but alligator gar also grow fast: Alligator gar stocked in one Illinois lake six years ago already are more than 4 feet long.

Quinton Phelps, a Missouri state fish ecologist, said the only way to effectively control carp is when they’re smaller, before they can spawn, which is where alligator gar come in.

“There is potential for them to be a wonderful weapon, but it’s just potential right now,” he said.

One challenge is that huge gar could become a temptation for trophy fishermen, even before they’re old enough to spawn.

“It will be interesting to see if fishermen have enough integrity to pass up a 7-foot fish that’s 200 pounds,” said Christopher Kennedy, a Missouri fisheries supervisor who’s working on catch regulations. “We’d love to create a self-sustaining population that we can turn into a trophy fishery.”

Still, the fish has a public relations problem in some circles, including a boating group in Illinois, whose members recently questioned reintroduction efforts.

But avid angler Olaf Nelson, who in 2013 was the first to catch an alligator gar in Illinois in 50 years — a 2-footer in a stocked lake — said they’re important whether anyone wants to fish for them or not.

“They’re a natural part of the Illinois ecosystem,” he said.

– See more at: http://digitaledition.chicagotribune.com/tribune/article_popover.aspx?guid=4410f19b-9a9b-4e80-ab31-fa156bbb8c2b&t=1470057277646#sthash.9hjXiCYI.dpuf

Meteor Showers Soon

One  Autumn weekend we stayed at the Lion Inn on the Penn State campus for Alice’s  alumni board meeting.  I was time for the Leonid meteor showers!  On our last night there in very good weather we crossed the road into the golf course (with a good number of others) to look up into a fairly dark sky.

It was a good shower–meteors zipping around up there at maybe 3-5 a minute.  Even the next morning when left  we were seeing shooting stars until the sun was well up.

Another time, we joined an Adler Planetarium boat trip to see  the Perseid showers. That was after midnight of course, with a clear sky over Lake Michigan.  After a couple hours of watching, there a few people who thought they had seen a shooting star, maybe.

Image result for meteor shower photography

Chicago Tribune  7.28.16

Ask Tom (Skillings)

Dear Tom,

Where in Illinois or Wisconsin is the best place to see the Perseid meteor shower?

Dear Eva,

We posed your question to Dan Joyce, astronomer at Triton College’s Cernan Earth and Space Center, and he informed us that the best viewing will be after midnight between Aug. 11-13.

Joyce emphasized that there is no need to travel great distances to see the meteor showers, just any dark rural location away from light pollution.

The Perseid meteor shower is visible each summer starting in mid-July and ending in mid- to late-August as the Earth passes through the tail of Comet Swift-Tuttle.

Typically up to 80 meteors an hour are visible, but Joyce said that this year’s frequency could double that, with “outbursts” in excess of 150 meteors an hour at peak intensity.