Archive for July, 2010

Rare Sea Turtles Released into the Wild From the Cape Charles, Virginia Beach

Wednesday, July 14th, 2010

Caught in a Tangled Web

Rare Kemps-ridley Sea Turtle Released into the Wild

In  June at the public beach on the Chesapeake Bay in the little coastal town of Cape Charles, Virginia on Virginia’s beautiful Eastern Shore, conservation scientists who specialize in the rescue and rehabilitation of marine animals released 12 extremely rare Kemps-Ridley sea turtles into the sea.  These turtles had spent the winter at the Virginia Institute of Marine Scince (VIMS) aquarium in Virginia Beach, VA,  reviving from their near-death paralysis due to exposure to  cold and injuries from power boats, having been rescued from beaches all along the East Coast of the United States. With a world population of only 2,000, the Kemps-Ridley sea turtles represent the hopes of marine conservationists around the world.  Hundreds of well-wishers gathered throughout the morning in the bright sunshine and the warm salt waters of the lower Chesapeake Bay to see them off.  Children and adults alike were absolutely astonished by the robust health and activity of the turtles as each one was carried by a volunteer down to the water’s edge and carefully dipped into the sea to be released. Off they swam,  like birds in flight, flippers pumping in quick rythm.  The waders cheered and jumped out of the way to give the turtles room to roam.  May they all swim merrily on their way and have lots of babies!

Rare Kemps-ridley Sea Turtle Released into the Wild

At Cape Charles VA town beach, a rare sea turtle is released into the wild.

The Cape Charles Golf Cart Parade

Tuesday, July 13th, 2010

July 4th 2010

Like most people, I’ve been to a lot of   parades  in my life,  both large and small, most of them colorful and fun, sprightly, with plenty of loud John Phillip Sousa  for good measure  ( which I dearly love) , but I had never been to a parade which featured gussied  up golf carts until this past 4th of July !  It was part of  a 3 day  week-end we spent at a friend’s  beach home on Bay Avenue in Cape Charles, Virginia  together with various family members on various days.   We woke up early to take our dogs for a walk before all the hustle and bustle of the set-up preparations for the concession stands, artist’s tents,  bouncy houses ,etc. which were going to line the  west side of Bay Avenue,  the Cape Charles waterfront boulevard.  The parade would take place on the east side of the street  and we were all lined up on the porch ready to enjoy our 50 yard line views, munching down on ice cold chunks of ruby red watermelon, the official fruit  of the 2010  Fourth of July, ( southern style  BBQ  and potato salad being the official foods of the 2010 Fourth of July.)

Balloontiful

 First in line , of course, was  the Grand Marshall,  followed by  the Color Guard of the U.S.  Coast Guard, Cape Charles Station, looking spiffy and marching ramrod straight.  (Guys and gals, we’re proud of you.)  Then, of course, the various fire and rescue companies with both new and antique equipment, flags waving broadly, horns  honking (actually,  horns blasting),  drivers and crew smiling and waving back to all the friends,  neighbors and visitors  lining the street  to see the parade.  And next,  my favorite of the day, the  golf cart parade. Uniquely, golf carts are street-legal in Cape Charles, and literally dozens of golf carts of all sizes and persuasions were dressed up in their best finery, each one in its turn proudly stopping in front of the review stand (The Gazebo, of course)  for the Mistress of Ceremonies , Trina Veber,  to read aloud  the particulars of each participant . 

Uncle Sam

Uncle Sam

Boldly decorated, with  smiling owners and passengers, these cute little eco vehicles delighted on-lookers as they paraded  on down Bay Avenue,  throwing  out wrapped hard candies  to thrilled youngsters along the way including, by my side (now off the porch onto  the sidewalk, the better to take advantage of all the candy action),  our two youngest grandsons who smiled from ear to ear as they caught grand  prizes of hot cinnamon Jaw Breakers  and guaranteed to wreak your teeth  little rolls of  Sweet Tarts !  What fun they already had and still all the concession stands with cotton candy, cool Italian Ices, grilled sausages with peppers and onions,  funnel cakes (my husband’s favorite) , game booths with prizes,  bouncy houses shaped like dogs, etc., etc  to look forward to for the rest of the afternoon.  And at dark,  the brilliant colors and booming sounds (which frightened  one of our dogs  so much she had to be put back  in the house)  of the annual fireworks show.  It was well done as ever ( although we don’t live in Cape Charles we are only 20 minutes away and usually try to attend).  Afterwords we lingered on the porch for a while,  just enjoying the little hustle bustle  of the activities winding down,  a relaxing end to a wonderful day.

Now that I’m Interested in Bees, “Bee Stuff” is Everywhere

Tuesday, July 13th, 2010

Buzzy As A Bee

I’m sure it’s a scientific phenomena and has a long  Latin name but I’ve discovered that ever since I went to the formative meeting of the Eastern Shore Beekeeper’s Guild  I’m  noticing  ”bee stuff” everywhere.  I’m also sure  the ” bee stuff”  was there all along — I just wasn’t paying any attention to it.  ( Incidentally, one of the great  things about living here on the Eastern Shore of Virginia  is that just about any Northampton County home  is less than an hour’s  drive  to Virginia Beach.  This happy circumstance  gives us  the incomparable lifestyle of  residing in a relaxed rural area  but with fast, easy access to metropolitan shopping, cultural and culinary amenities.)   So when we were at the Virginia Beach Barnes and Noble bookstore  last week ( B&N is my home away from home when I visit Virginia Beach for  our  ” lunch and shop”  trip  a couple times  a month,  Home Depot is my husband’s )  I noticed a display unit  featuring “Honeybee: Lessons from an Accidental Beekeeper”"  by Marina Marchese.  It’s  the  story of   her  career change from advertising to  beekeeping  and honey marketing –  I bought it  out of sheer curiosity  (definitely after a real estate career spanning decades,  it’s a little late for a career change, even if I wanted one ).   Browsing the Mystery section (I’m completely addicted to good mystery novels)  yielded three  novels by Laurie King,  Sherlock Holmes reprises, –  ”God of the Hive” , “Language of Bees” and “The Beekeeper’s Apprentice” ,  all of  which I left on the shelf because I  prefer  my Holmes and Watson straight up from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.   More  “bee stuff”  included  a program on PBS last month about Emily Dickinson who apparently wrote nearly 50 poems  featuring bees,  including one entitled “To Make A Prairie It Takes A Clover and One Bee”,   which is surely an optimistic  concept.   That led me to search Google Scholar tool on Google  for detailed info on bee poems,  of which, as it turns out, there  are so many more than anyone (well, me)  would have ever guessed.  Whole books have been written about bee imagery in works by Sylvia Plath. 

So then I got curious about how many books on  beekeeping are listed on Amazon.com .  Its  advanced search  yielded  589 results including available books  about bees and beekeeping  in such far flung corners of the  earth as Russia, Ireland , Great Britain– even one about beekeeping in Cuba.  Plus a  ”Beekeeping for Dummies”.   Who knew ??   From there  the obvious next step was, of course,  some research  on what bees are generally kept for in the first place– HUNY, as Pooh Bear would insist !

It's Thyme 4 HUNY

 283  results on Amazon for cooking with honey, one of the most seemingly interesting being a new book by May Berenbaum, coming out in August,  entitled  “Honey, I’m Homemade: Sweet Treats from the Beehive across the Centuries and Around the World”.  I will  definitely be buying  a copy when it comes out. 

Surprisingly,  the most interesting  things  I learned about honey I found perusing  www.ScienceDaily.com ,   a website I love and check out several times each week.  First, a vocabulary lesson —  I learned that any  honey which comes primarily from any one single plant species  ( think delicious orange blossom  or sourwood honey ) is designated as   ”manuka”  honey.   But the really fascinating  articles were about new medical uses of honey.  Because so many bacteria have become  resistant to even the most powerful antibiotics,   apparently doctors are now sometimes turning to  honey as a wound dressing  because of its strong anti-bacterial properties, so strong that recent  laboratory tests showed that honey can  kill the MRSA bacteria.   (I’m impressed ! )  It seems that  in centuries past,  honey was routinely applied to wounds to prevent infection  (never knew that).  Now researchers have discovered that these ancient home remedies have a scientific basis.  The strong antibacterial properties in honey  derive from a protein,  recently  isolated and named  “defensin-1″,  which is  the active ingredient which  kills  bacteria.   It seems that bees manufacture defensin-1  as part of their immune system defense and then add it to their  honey.    Scientists now believe that the isolation of this  protein will lead to new treatments for burns and skin infections  as well as  “medical grade”  honeys.  So,  instead of putting aloe on my next little burn,  I think I’ll try some huny instead.   And to think that I’m becoming aware of a  whole  new world of bees and honey  because I decided,  strictly  on the spur of the moment,  to attend a little Beekeeper Guild meeting  in Nassawadox.   As they say,  live and learn.

To Bee or Not To Bee ??

Tuesday, July 13th, 2010

Meeting under the old oak tree

That was the question I hoped to get answered when I decided to attend the formative meeting  of  the Eastern Shore Beekeepers Guild. Since the announcement  for the meeting indicated that it was open to anyone interested in bees in general I decided to attend to see what it was all about.  My first surprise as I drove up to the library in Nassawadox, running late as usual, was that the parking lot was already jammed full and both sides of  the street were lined with cars but  it didn’t occur to me  that they were all there for the bee meeting.  As it turned out, so many people showed up that  the meeting had to be moved outside to a breezy spot under a huge old oak tree, everybody toteing their own little library chair. The organizers were delighted with the unexpected large turnout– more than 40 people took time on a busy Saturday morning to try to discover whether or not they have the makings of a beekeeper.  Let’s face it– beekeeping is a pretty unusual hobby. 

Intricacies of the bee box

The speaker was Paul Kist , an experienced beekeeper who manages about 20 hives.  Paul brought with him examples of  just about everything needed to set up an ameteur apiary. The tall white bee box (think home sweet home for bees) was disassembled, parts shown, explained and re-assembled.  A long white beekeeper’s glove, reaching up nearly to the armpit, was passed around for inspection.  I was surprised at the soft feel of the billowy synthetic fiber material designed to protect the arm and sewn into the leather glove. 

Expert Advice

A  Q&A session followed which was most informative — who knew that you can receive a shipment of bees through the USPO ??   Apparently when bees are shipped they come packed in a  screened box,  worker bees just flitting around inside but the queen travels in her own private suite — a little box within the box.  (It’s easy for me to envision a scenario in a post office sorting room where the screen  rips, bees escape,  everyone  starts  running around , arms waving ,  bees angry and buzzing, think a Three Stooges  bumblebee version  version of  Hitchcock’s “The Birds”  ! )  The  Q&A  also elicited  interesting information on why some of the folks  had come to the meeting including several who were hoping for better pollination for their gardens. It’s easy to forget the critical role bees play in food production although it’s not uncommon here to see 10-20 bee boxes along the edges of  farm fields during the flowering stage of  the various crops grown here on Virginia’s Eastern Shore.  Others folks already had their hives but  wanted to learn more about how to solve some beekeeping problems.  And several of the folks there were like myself–  just trying to explore  their  “inner beekeeper”.   And then,  just at the tail end of the meeting, down the road came a parade of about 20 antique tractors, an  American flag  flying from each, driving north at a fast  antique tractor pace.  I have no idea from where they mustered  or where they were going,  but they were a lovely scene of  Americana past and a sweet ending  to our meeting.   So…  I’m still not sure whether “to bee or not to bee”  but  I did learn a lot about what could be an interesting albeit an unusual hobby.  And I’ll definitely be  attending another meeting.

When Does An Interest in Bees Become An Obsession ??

Tuesday, July 13th, 2010

 

In my last post on  the life  QUACK  !  ( gotta watch the video)  of  bees,  I had just finished plowing through the first  five pages of  Amazon. com’s  589  results for  the search term “beekeeper” .  Then my husband  said “Well, what about royal jelly ?   And don’t some people use bee pollen products ? 

 In fact, isn’t  your chap stick made by the Burt’s Bees company ?”  Well, yes, I seldom wear lipstick but I do use Burt’s Bees chap stick  and have for years,  despite my Scottish heritage inclination to frown on the price tag of $2.99  for a tiny tube of the stuff.  But you should know that it isn’t just  any old chap stick,  it’s  “Beeswax Lip Balm: Soothing, Cooling, Refreshing”.  The cooling part is what I love about it,  your lips just sort of tingle after you put it on, as if tiny bee wings were sending cool wafts of air towards them…. those  bees of  Berts’ specialize in lip cooling .

And then yesterday an article on  www.ScienceDaily.com    caught my eye, entitled “Honey Bee Venom May Help Design New Treatments to Alleviate Muscular Dystrophy, Depression and Dementia.”  The gist of  the article is that apamin, a toxic protein discovered  in bee venom,  is helping  researchers to develop a new type of channel blocker that could imitate apamin and thus help design new drugs to treat  these very serious medical conditions.  Together with  the development reported earlier of  “medical grade honey” to keep open wounds from becoming infected, it’s clear  that the honeybee is a truly unique insect. 

But I am wondering if all this bee stuff is becoming an obsession.   Don’t think so,  but if it were an obsession does that mean I would have to actually get some bees and become an apiarist ?   Does any of  this new found knowledge about the wonderessness  (is there such a word ?)  of  honeybees help me decide whether or not to launch myself into the world of actual, boots on the ground, beekeeping ?   Or is it enough to just be interested in bees ?   Maybe plant a few more nectar rich plants to help them along in this cruel, cruel  world filled with  pesticides everywhere they look  ?  It would, of course,  be nice to have ones very own (homemade ?  homegrown ?  home-hived ?)   Royal jelly.  And HUNY is great, especially on  cornbread with lots of butter,  hot from the oven, more southern fried chicken and lima beans, please.   Still thinking about it– worried  being stung,  the dogs won’t like that  either.  And then there’s all the extra responsibility– keeping the temperatures correct  in the bee box,  trying to keep them from getting bee mites, making sure they have adequate water nearby,  trying to get them back when the Queen Bee gets  naughty and everybody swarms  away, actually extracting the honey, etc., etc., etc.   Definitely a hands-on hobby. I probably won’t look that great in the funny safari hat with the cheesecloth, or whatever,  hanging  down, trying to get the smoker to keep on smoking to keep those critters calm.   So,  still thinking about it,  still planning  to attend another meeting of  the Eastern Shore Beekeeper’s Guild  but still keeping  plenty of HUNY  from the Farmer’s Market in my pantry and planning to research “royal jelly”  made by others when I have a little more time.