For many creatures out in the great wild, winter is a potentially life-threatening period. Heck, for me it sometimes feels that way. Anyhow, many mammals hibernate and some creatures otherwise adapt their behavior to just make it through. Honeybees are like that. Winter is a time to just survive. Honeybees are cold blooded so cannot self-regulate their temperature. Individually, they would freeze to death quickly if exposed to the cold of winter. Luckily bees live in community and work together to keep the inside of their hive warm through the winter.
Honeybees progress through various job functions between hatching and becoming field workers that collect pollen and nectar. Some bees clean honeycomb cells, others guard the hive from intruders and others take care of the queen. Researchers have discovered a previously unknown job in the hive. There are “heater bees” whose job it is to keep the hive warm in fall, winter and spring when temperatures are low. Basically, they can vibrate their abdomen or…get this…decouple their wings from their wing muscles so they can vibrate those muscles without having fluttering wings flying around all over the place in a cramped hive. Muscular vibrations cause friction which causes heat. Beekeepers have always known that bees somehow vibrate in a hive to keep warm, but the discovery that there is a class of workers who can detach their wing muscles to manage heat is new.
So, last week we had a few nice days. As I have mentioned before, bees don’t poop inside the hive (as long as it is a healthy hive and they don’t have nosema…bee dysentery). They still eat honey through the winter as they need the energy to keep warm…food in means they still make waste…but they hold it…until nice days like last week. I wandered down to the apiary to see how the bees were faring….to see if they were surviving the winter. If things aren’t just right, bees can starve to death, freeze to death, or otherwise disease to death. On nice days, I like to take a look to see how many colonies are flying…warm sunny days guarantee the bees will head out to poop! I love to see them out on these kinds of days as they are generally pretty docile and seem to enjoy landing on me to gain a little warmth. Sure, they can sting, but they rarely do.
So, friends, the bees look pretty good so far this winter. We are nowhere done with winter and many hard days are yet ahead, but this is a good sign for the midpoint of winter in the apiary!
More bee stuff
Most people have touched a Rubik’s Cube at some point or another and most probably tossed it aside after awhile, the blocks approximately as disordered as when they received the cube. Of course, plenty of people know an algorithm to solve the cube and some can even do it behind their backs in a matter of seconds. I am not either of those…I can usually solve one side and part of another, but I have never solved one out-right…I don’t know the algorithm.
I remember when I went to the Knoxville World’s Fair in 1982…the Hungary Pavilion had a large Rubik’s cube as a major focal point of its display. I think 1982 was probably at the height of the Rubik’s cube craze, and it’s inventor, Ernő Rubik is Hungarian. I am pretty sure that’s about the time that I got my first cube. Some people knew the tricks to solve it, but I was 10 or so and without the Internet, there were no real shortcuts. Many of my friends had Rubik’s Cubes and none of us, as far as I know, ever solved them on our own when we were in school. A few people peeled the stickers to solve their cubes and a few people threw them in the river I suppose. Mrs. Donato, one of our elementary lunch ladies knew how to solve the cube so some kids let her solve them during lunch. I am sure my old cube is at my parents’ house somewhere, still unsolved.
Anyhow, back to now…Isaac and some of his buddies are into cool stuff…ciphering and figuring and, of course, puzzles and games and stuff like that. The other night, Isaac brought a Rubik’s Cube home to solve. One of his buddies learned one of the algorithms to solve it and Isaac was busy learning as well. Of course, being into things like that, he dedicated a fair amount of brain time to learning the tricks that night and can solve it on his own now. Honestly, as a kid stuck in 1982 (apparently), I was amazed that someone in my own house could solve the Rubik’s cube!
All four of us dutifully got our flu shots in October or November…whenever they came in at our doctor’s office. We usually get them every year and have mostly been well served. Both kids and Emily are exposed to a lot of potential flu-people though so it’s always a bit of a gamble as to whether or not someone will end up with the flu at our house.
This year, of course, the flu shot is apparently not as effective as the CDC had hoped…and sure enough, Abigail was diagnosed with the flu last night. I didn’t realize they had a quick-swab test thingy that could positively identify the flu in a matter of a few minutes…thankfully they do and she and Emily were on their way a few minutes later. Of course, the flu isn’t gone in a few minutes and tamiflu apparently only knocks it down a day earlier than it would have been, I guess a day is a day so that helps.
I went to the pharmacy last night to pick up her meds and was helped by the parent of one of the boys on my soccer team. She knew why I was there based on my prescription for tamiflu. I think it also was clear what the 4 bottles of wine were for as well…my medicine! Wine, you see, is prophylactic for all illnesses. I should be good with the wine only, but if I come down with anything, I’ll kick it up a notch like my Grandpa used to do…ginger brandy cures all! Time will tell, dear friends!
So, right before lunch time, I called Abigail to check on her and see what she wanted for lunch today. Her throat and snot-maker are so congested/screwed up that she couldn’t speak clearly enough for me to determine what she wanted. We hung up and 10 seconds later I got a text, “Donuts” As a donut connoisseur myself, I certainly appreciated her need. I popped into Krispy Kreme, which, incidentally, I think makes the weakest of all chain-donuts, to buy a cool dozen for Abigail to eat at lunch. I mean, one needs energy and comfort when fighting an illness, right? Hopefully the other 3 of us can remain healthy. We’ve broken out the disinfecting wipes and gas masks and flame throwers and stuff we use to kill germs in the house. Hopefully we can stay ahead of it!
Wish us luck dear friends…today is also the one year anniversary of Aquapocalypse 2014…the mess where some chemical storage tanks leaked a bunch of crap into our water system which resulted in 300,000 local folks not having safe water to drink.
I am having a terrible time getting back into the swing of life after a really great holiday season. Winter is always tough for me to bother getting out of bed, and since this holiday seemed so fun this year, I guess I am a little more weird than normal this January.
So, what, you may ask, are we doing to occupy our time during the cold Winter months? My brother gave Isaac a new game for Christmas and we have been enjoying playing it of course! The game is called “The Settlers of Catan“. I have seen it before and sort of always figured it was a little more deep than I wanted in a board game…and by deep I mean I had no intent in playing a game that would take 17+ hours to play or required me to think super hard or that required me to keep the cats away from an elaborate board covered with important pieces. We just never bothered to look into it any further. On our fiasco trip to PA a few months ago, we ended up walking through a book store that had the games for sale. Since we were a somewhat captive audience, we read more about the game and thought it might be worth a go. When my brother gave Isaac the game, it seemed like perfect timing.
It seems a bit complicated at first read of the rules, but the idea really is pretty simple…build settlements (and later cities) using the basics of civilization building – wood, wool, bricks, ore and wheat. (As a side, this makes me think of the saying, “…with caffeine, nicotine, and kerosene, one can take over the world”) It’s a fun mix of Monopoly (but nowhere near as tedious), RISK (with a lot fewer moving pieces) and chess.
All 4 of us played several rounds of the basic map and we have just started making our own maps (it’s all very simple to lay out with the map tiles). We trash talk and make under the table deals. We laugh and fuss (and sometimes cuss) and actually talk with one another. It’s a great diversion from life and just challenging enough to be interesting, but fast enough and simple enough to be a fun evening-time game for 4 nerdy fantasy lovers.
If you are into board games and like fantasy (although it isn’t dwarf or elf-laden at all…it just feels fantasy-ish to me but I suppose I am imposing that on the game), give Settlers of Catan a try. It’s a little spendy, but it has revived our board game playing and has already made for several evenings of laughter and talking and fun!