Sunday, June 5, 2011

Women Beekeepers Potluck!

Queen Bees tart de citron by Danielle Marvit
A busy swarm of Pittsburgh-area women beekeepers arrived at SteffesWood Apiary Saturday afternoon to share beekeeping know-how and some fantastic food, including this delightfully decorated and delicious tart de citron (lemon tart) made by Danielle Marvit.  Danielle is a baker at La Gormandine in Lawrenceville and is a partner in Churchview Farm (busy woman!).

Joan and Chris "cracking" open a hive.
Claudia's in the background 
A hive inspection begins with "cracking" open the cover, which sounds much more destructive than it is.  Honey bees glue their colonies together with a sticky substance called propolis that they make from tree resin and their own salivary secretions.  So, to get into a colony, beekeepers have to "crack" the propolis seal on the lid with their hive tools.

After cracking open the inner cover, Jennie, Joan, Monica and Barb look at the top of the hive to see if the bees need more space.  The one below is a small 5-frame "nuc" (short for nucleus) that just got started this year.  The bees in this colony were still building comb and didn't need more room.

from l-r:  Jennie, Joan, Monica (behind Barb) and Barb looking
at newly opened colony to see if it needs more space
Monica, Claudia, Eva (holding frame) and Kerry
looking at a frame to see if it has newly-laid eggs
Monica, Claudia, Eva and Kerry inspecting a frame to see if it has newly-laid eggs.  Spotting eggs is an important beekeeping skill.  If you can see freshly-laid eggs, you know that the colony is "queen right"--they have a queen who is laying.  

Barb, Claudia, Kerry, Chris and Jennie take a close look at a frame to see if it has brood (eggs, larvae and pupae).  Eggs are very hard to see--they look like a tiny grain of rice at the base of a cell--so it sometimes takes close inspection!  We brought a couple magnifying glasses to the apiary to help us out.  

From left: Barb (in pink), Chris, Kerry, Claudia and Jennie
looking at a frame of brood
(Clockwise from lower left:  Christina (her back is to us),
 Barb, Jana, Roberta, Kerry, Wendy, Mary Anne and Lynetta
(Linda and Robin are hiding in the corner.)

We called this the first ever Western PA Queen Bee Pot luck, but we were much more like worker bees than queen bees.   Here's part of the "field force" enjoying dessert!

Then it's back to work again! :)

Queen bee?  Looks more like a worker bee!
Barb at sink with honorary "honey bee" Lucy the Dog
Thanks to everyone who came out, brought food, shared your knowledge and then cleaned up!

This is a tart drink that is nice after a hot day in the apiary.
4 cups rhubarb, chopped in 1 inch dice
2 quarts water
4-5 cups (even more, if you'd like) orange juice
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 cup honey (or more to taste)
Seltzer water (optional)
Place rhubarb and water into a large sauce pan and bring to a boil.  Simmer, uncovered for about 20 minutes, or until rhubarb is very soft.  While the rhubarb is simmering, stir together the orange juice, lemon juice and honey in a large container (3+ gallons).  Strain rhubarb water into the container, pushing on it a bit to release its juices. Stir well to dissolve honey and combine.  Cool to room temperature then place in refrigerator. To serve, fill a glass with ice, then fill half way with seltzer water and pour rhubarb mixture on top. Add-ins and alternate:  Add a splash of vodka   Or, use sparkling wine instead of seltzer.  Or, skip all that and just pour a tall glass over ice.  Makes...oh...a lot!

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