Save the Bees

Swarm

There is a great deal of talk about save our bees . Indeed, we need to protect our bees because they are beneficial. The majority of our crops require pollination by insects, and bees are among the best pollinators. As individuals, bumble bees are probably the best pollinators, but honey bees rank very high in the numbers of plants pollinated. This is because there are so many bees and they service a large number of flowers. If we were to lose our honey bees, our food supply would be cut drastically and would be limited to only a few foods.

The good news is that there is no reason to believe that we might lose our bees within a short time, but we need to protect bees now while they are plentiful.

There have always been dangers to bee colonies. One winter I lost half my hives to cold and mice. An earlier winter, my neighbor, a serious bee keeper with 30 active hives, was wiped out by an unusually cold winter. Bees have predators ranging from bears to mice to microscopic mites. The larger predators destroy hives physically or eat the larvae. The very small predators attack individual bees, but this weakens the colony. Bees also have diseases that can weaken a colony or even destroy it. Very cold weather can kill larvae directly or can simply cause a colony to run out of food.

More recently, bees have been at risk because of sudden colony collapse (SCC) or colony collapse disorder (CCD). Hives with with strong colonies suddenly are empty without signs of a large die off of bees or any signs of disease or predator attack. Researchers suspect it might be a virus, but they are still working on the syndrome. There have been efforts to quarantine the shipment of bees from regions with high incidence of SCC. A few geographic regions have lost almost all of their bees, presumably due to SCC. This is a problem, but not yet a catastrophic epidemic. Some researchers have found clues to prevention of SCC.

Insecticides also put bees at risk. Bees can tolerate some insecticides, but others are highly toxic to them. We need to be careful to only use insecticides according to directions, and never by random application.

Related to this is the increase in genetically modified organisms (GMO). Some GMO plants are more vigorous because the GMO plant has the ability to generate its own insecticides. In some cases this is not a threat to bees, but other plants generate compounds that kill bees. Some established bee keepers have had to move their hives because of large losses of bees when neighbors plant certain GMO crops. The use of GMO crops needs to be investigated closer.

While it is popular to be politically active against insecticides and GMO plants, the biggest impact an individual can have on the bee population is to report swarms. A bee keeper can easily capture a swarm of bees and install them into a hive to become productive bees.

Swarming is nature’s way of protecting bee colonies from overcrowding, and at the same time increasing the number of bee colonies.

Each colony had one and only one queen. She is the only bee in the colony who can lay eggs and will lay up to 2000 eggs a day. If a queen dies, the colony faces extinction, but worker bees have the ability to feed large amounts of royal jelly to extremely young larvae. As a result they grow into queens. Typically, when a colony loses its queen, a half a dozen or more queen larvae are started. The first one to hatch, kills the rest and becomes queen.

A colony swarms when it becomes overcrowded in whatever shelter it uses for a hive. By some signal humans are not aware of, the workers start queen larvae as though the queen had died. Then about a week before the new queen hatches, the old queen departs with about half of the population of the hive. They fill their stomachs with honey and fly, as a hoard, a short distance, 100 yards to ¼ mile and rest. Typically they rest on a tree limb but any surface will do. The bees cling together into a ball with the queen safely tucked in the middle. These bees are primarily busy trying to stay together and to protect the queen. While swarming, the bees seldom sting unless directly provoked. They will rest in a swarm formation for up to 36 hours. During this time the bees can be swept into a box and carried off. This should be done by a bee keeper who will then put them in an empty hive box in his beeyard where they can take up residence.

Far too many people panic and spray the swarm with insecticide thinking the bees might attack them. Here is where the public can SAVE THE BEES. Simply leave the bees alone and call for a bee keeper. Local bee keeper associations keep lists of bee keepers prepared to collect swarms. Each spring I send memos to police departments and to the 911 dispatch center. If you do not know the name of a bee keeper or the phone number of your local bee keeper’s association, call 911. I get about half of my calls through the 911 dispatchers.

While waiting for a bee keeper, stand back a respectful distance and watch the show. Some bees will fly off the cluster and return after a very short flight. Others will move a short distance causing the cluster of bees to change shape. Keep other people away from the swarm, and be on the lookout to help guide the bee keeper to the swarm. The bee keeper will sweep the entire swarm into a collection box. If he is successful in capturing the queen, most of those bees who did not get swept into the box will follow the box, many sitting on the outside all the way back to my bee yard.

Some bee keepers charge a nominal fee. I am told I should charge $35 for my services, but I am glad to obtain a new colony of bees, and some of my clients are of limited means so I charge no fee. In any event, by calling a bee keeper, you have protected a colony of bees from being killed.

While the swarm of bees is resting, a small number of scout bees are looking for a new home for the colony. If the swarm is not collected by a bee keeper, the entire swarm will take to wing and follow the scout to the location the scout has found. It may be a hollow tree, a hole in a wall, or a box with an opening. There they will establish a hive for the colony.

A problem occurs when the colony moves into a hole in the wall of a building such as a residence. Generally people do not appreciate bees flying in and out of a hole in their house. Once the hive is established guard bees at the entrance are more than prepared to sting people they see as a threat. Exterminators will kill the colony for a fee of several hundred dollars. For a slightly larger fee, one can hire a bee keeper who is prepared to remove the colony alive. Unfortunately, there is usually the need to open a wall which results in further costs. This is another way to save the bees.

Rather than run the risk of bees residing where they do not belong, I build swarm traps. This is a box that has all the attributes the scout bees are looking for. I have observed scout bees looking at the swarm trap. A few hours later, the box will be alive with activity as the bees settle in. When there is activity in one of my swarm traps, I dump the bees into a modern bee hive and have a new colony of bees in my beeyard. I have trapped as many as three swarms in a single season in the trap near my back door.

I lease traps to people and businesses in my locality who do not want to be invaded by bees. When activity is visible in the trap, I service it. I am willing to share the design upon request, but be aware that a swarm trap is of limited usefulness unless there is a bee keeper to service it.

To save the bees, become politically active if you have the talent, but everyone can help save the bees by reporting swarms. Each time a swarm of bees is collected by a bee keeper or caught in a trap, that colony is given a high probability to become a productive colony.

Long live the Queen bee.

Swarming season in New Mexico is usually April through June, but I have seen swarms as early as mid March and as late as mid August. Please be prepared to observe and report swarms. Further north, add a month for states like Kansas and add 2 months for Wisconsin.

Requests about a swarm trap or about bee keeping may be sent using the reply feature on his website, ReynoldConger.com.

Reynold Conger is a retired scientist, engineer and teacher who gardens and keeps bees. He also writes fiction. His books are available through on line book stores. For information about Reynold’s books, see ReynoldConger.com.

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First Person Plural

In theory one can write a book or story in any combination of voice and tense. Some combinations work well, and others are difficult to keep from being awkward. We usually write In third person past tense, or first person past tense. Third person works well when we are acting as a narrator telling someone else’s story. First person works very well when we are telling something about our self. Usually the story has happened, so past tense is a natural way to tell the story. We could use future tense or even present tense, but it won’t work as well, even for the best of authors.

Most scholars say that second person can not be used, but I know of at least one book written in second person. The technique worked, but not very well. First person plural, however is a viable option. The problem is that few of us are used to using “we” continuously.

My grandfather had five children, one of whom was living in India with her husband. He felt it would be helpful to have a family news letter. Every Sunday afternoon, he would prepare The Sunday Snooze. Only recently did a cousin inform me that it was a pun for “The Sunday’s News”.

At that time, one could purchase an aerogram for about half the price of an airmail stamp. This was a piece of light weight paper with postage printed on one side. One could write as much as possible on the paper, fold it, and mail it, but you could not send any enclosures. Grandpa would alternate sheets of carbon paper and sheets of manifold paper.. Manifold paper was the light weight paper then used by secretaries to make carbon copies. He placed the stack of carbon paper and manifold paper on the aerogram and crank the stack of paper into his typewriter. He would type a one page news letter and mail out a copy to each family.

The typed copy would be the aerogram to Aunt Wilma and Uncle Charles. Everyone else got a carbon copy. Originally there were five copies, or perhaps as many as seven if he sent copies to other relatives. My grandfather also had 14 grandchildren. As each of us married, he added another carbon and sheet of paper so that us married grandchildren could get our own copies. Fortunately he went into a retirement home before too many of us married. I do not know how he got all of that paper into his typewriter as it was.

I am now the patriarch of the family and decided to resume publication of The Sunday Snooze in the form of a group e-mail. A copy goes to each of my relatives and one to each of my wife’s relatives. I write it in first person plural because it involves news of the both of us, and sometimes items about other relatives. I write most of it with my wife adding a sentence or paragraph here and there as she proof reads it.

I found myself in deep distress. In the middle writing, “We went to the gym. . .”,I kept finding myself slipping into the use of singular pronouns. It is terrible to be talking about what we did and then say I did such. My English teacher would certainly have marked that down for not using the same tense for the entire paragraph or more. Of course, I have to go back and replace I with Reynold and She with Gay. It is frustrating, but probably good practice.

I recently wrote a book length manuscript about a future king of England who falls in love with the last remaining unmarried royal princes. Unfortunately she is not the kind of woman he should marry, and their relationship causes all kinds of tension in the book. At one point he tries to resolve some of the tensions by having a meeting with some of his adversaries. He is advised to remain very formal because formality will give him, the king, a psychological advantage. Centuries ago, the monarchs of England began the practice of referring to themselves in first person plural when seated on the throne for formal state occasions. For example the king might say, “We have read a report of the situation, and we are not pleased! We have determined the act to be treasonous, and upon conviction, we will order the crown prosecutor to ask for capital punishment.”

So here is this future king who is used to talking much like any commoner, and his advisers have recommended that he sit on the royal throne and speak about himself in first person plural. As with the family letter, I struggled with the dialogue. It was hard, but it was fun. The king certainly had a psychological advantage when he thundered, “We are not pleased!”

Most of the time we write in third person singular and occasionally in first person singular. If you are an author, consider trying to write something in first person plural or even in third person plural. It may not be anything worth publishing, but it should expand your writing skills.

Reynold Conger is a retired scientist and teacher. In his retirement he writes fiction. For information about his books go to www.ReynoldConger.com.

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Book Launched

My latest book as been launched as an e-book.bones-cover

I have been writing a series of novellas, The Richard Tracy Series. They are all available only as e-books. Book 3 of the series, Dem Bones Shall Rise Again is now on the market on the following websites: Amazon, Barnes & Nobel, Google, Indigo (Canadian), and Fnac (France).

These novelas feature Richard Tracy, a retired detective and Mary Beth Austin, a retired chef. They are senior citizens and avid gardners but don’t let any moss grow on them.

Book 1 is A Dangerous Bike Ride. Richard and Mary Beth meet during the Texas MS 150 bike ride. Sparks fly and they promise to keep in touch, but there is an explosion at the finish line. Richard is injured and Mary Beth is carried off by her ex-husband. Richard must find and rescue his lady love.

Book 2 is Gone Running and Gone. Mary Beth moves to an apartment near Richard’s house. Together they plant a large garden in Richard’s yard. They marry in the middle of Spring. Richard has been training to run a marathon. Mary Beth provides support and encouragement from her mountain bike, but suddenly, Richard disappears. Mary Beth must work with the state police to rescue Richard.

Book 3 is Dem Bones Shall Rise Again. Theodore, the dog next door keeps digging under Richard’s fence where Richard is digging a trench to lay pipe. WDSC03260
hen Theodore digs up a human bone, the trouble starts. Because it appears Richard may have buried the body, he becomes a murder suspect. In the end it is Theodore who catches the murderer.

More about this book and other books by Reynold Conger can be found
on his website,

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Enough! Children Play Together Nicely


As long as we have had elections, we have had division after the election. In our presidential elections, a 5% margin of victory is considered a landslide, so after each election we have almost half of the voters disappointed by the outcome.

Historically, the winners have cheered and the losers have licked their wounds. Usually within a few days of the election, almost everyone in the nation is pulling together. There have been many elections where the candidate I supported lost, but I have accepted the winning candidate because he is the new president. For better or worse, he is the leader of our country for the next four years.

This year is a little different. Mr. Trump won, but there are a large number of Mrs. Clinton’s supporters who are sore losers. Since the election there have been many liberals who refuse to interact politely with Trump supporters. Case in point is the restaurant in Hawaii who will not serve Trump supporters. This is only one of the more recent examples. In some cases Trump supporters have been assaulted.

Such behavior is simply juvenile. It is like a child throwing checkers around the room just because his or her opponent wantsto play with the red checkers (the pouting child’s favorite color). Usually in that case a parent says, “Children! Play together nicely.” Even after the game is over and the loser throws a temper tantrum, the parent says the same thing.

The behavior of these people throwing tantrums because their champion lost is childish. It is not appropriate for adults, and a requirement for voting is the voter must be an adult.

The election is over. The results are final. All of the protests and anger against people who voted for the other candidate accomplish nothing. The losers will accomplish more if they simply say, “I don’t approve of this man or woman, but he or she is our president.” After all, every government needs its “loyal opposition”. We need men and women who remain loyal Americans and who work with the government in power to run the country even though they do not agree with the government.

The loyal opposition has the following responsibilities: (1) Avoid obstructing the legal operation of the government bodies such as happened when Wisconsin legislators of the minority party boycotted sessions in an attempt to block a bill they did not like. (2) Legislators of the minority party are obligated to point out provisions of bills that they believe are detrimental to the country or to segments of the population. (3) They are obligated to offer amendments that will help to mitigate the problems pointed out under item 2. The loyal opposition is there to prevent the majority party from simply ramming their agenda through without giving some consideration to the concerns of the minority party.

What about the average citizen? If the average citizen is a member of the loyal opposition, they are obligated to write to their congressmen and senators when there is a bill before Congress that they oppose. Likewise, they are obligated to write to the White House with their opposition when the president is preparing to sign a bill or make an appointment.

The election results are final. Children! Play together nicely. There is an election every four years. Next time your candidate may win.

Reynold Conger is an author. Learn about his books at ReynoldConger.com.

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Ponder Eternity

Some of you may have noticed that I made no posts for several months until my last post on Christmas. In late October, I caught a serious, but not life threatening, infection. Early in the illness, I ran a very high fever, but antibiotics dropped the fever to a temperature only slightly high. Nevertheless I was ill. It was not until early December than my temperature dropped to and stayed at normal indicating that the infection was finally conquered.

A consequence of my illness is that my back became very weak. I could only stand or sit for short periods of time. By the time the infection was gone, I had lost 15 pounds and a great deal of muscle mass and muscle tone. Most significant was the loss of muscle tone in the muscles of the back that support the body. In the last couple of weeks, I have stretched and worked out with very light loads so that my back muscles are approaching a useful strength. I can now walk more than 200 yards and can sit for over two hours.

Needless to say, I had a lot of time to ponder things. Even though there was no risk of death, I pondered my ultimate demise. What if I did die within a matter of days or weeks?

In my condition, there was little I could do to change things. Fortunately, my will is in my lock box with a copy in my lawyer’s office, but other matters are unresolved. The garage would remain a mess until my widow and children took matters into their own hands. The garden needs to be cleaned up for the winter. Friends helped me there, but had they not, my heirs would have had to clean up the mess left by frozen valves. I find myself making resolutions to get the garage and shed in order once my health and strength return.

A more serious concern is what will happen to a person after they die. In my case, I have a prepaid burial so the body will be taken care of, but what about the soul? What happens to a person’s soul after death?

A few of my friends are either agnostics or atheists. They argue that everything ends at death, but the rest of the world believes that a person’s soul survives for eternity in one way or another. Thus for most of us, we need to ponder what is the destination of our soul, and what we can to direct our soul to a desirable destination. Monotheistic religions tend to offer the equivalents of heaven and hell. One will either be rewarded or punished. Most of the Asiatic religions teach reincarnation. The person’s soul will be reborn in another animal. Would you rather become a horse, a rat or a worm? At some time before death, we need to ponder the destination of our soul, and what, if anything, we can do about it.

Had I been on my death bed, there would have been nothing I could have done about the messy garage. What, could I have done about my soul? After all, eternity is a long time. If one’s soul ends in a place of punishment or in the body of an undesirable animal such as a worm, eternity is a long time to regret what one did in life.

The agnostics and atheists are in a bind. Because they believe that death is the end, there is nothing they can do. In fact, their life becomes meaningless unless by chance they did something of major benefit to mankind. Even then, they will never know how they have blessed or cursed their descendants. Personally, I believe there is a supreme deity who rules the universe. The agnostics and atheists will discover after death that they are accountable to this deity. Oh woe are they. It is interesting to note, that psychologists find that atheists have a greater fear of death than people who believe in a god.

So have you pondered your relationship to what ever deity you believe in? What destinations does your deity offer you? What, if anything, can you do to influence the deity? What have you done already? What can you do in the time remaining before your death?

In my case, my pondering consisted in reviewing and confirming the choices I have already made. I am a born-again Christian. I believe there is a God who is supreme and who owns everything. Our possessions have only been lent to us during our lifetime. There is nothing we can do to impress God. We can not pay him back because we own nothing. Even if we did, what of value could we give to the one who owns everything?

As a Christian, I believe God is beyond our comprehension. We simply can not conceive God in all His power and glory. As a result Christian theologians set forth the doctrine of the Trinity. No, we do not believe in three gods. Christians believe that this overwhelmingly grand and glorious God can be viewed in three ways. God, the father, the historical sovereign God. God the son, or Jesus, who lived among us in human form as an example, teacher and savior, and God the Holy Spirit who moves within our consciousness teaching, guiding and correcting us that we might work to glorify God.

As a Christian, the Holy Spirit urges me to do good works that glorify God, but what work can I do that can earn my way into Heaven? I do things to glorify God, but nothing I do “earns” my way into Heaven.

Some people use the metaphor of a balance with a person’s good deeds on one side and their evil deeds on the other. Others think of a celestial book keeper entering debits and credits for our good and bad deeds. Unfortunately, humanity is inherently sinful. There is no way for a person to be able to do more good than evil. We all deserve an eternal punishment that Christians call Hell. We can not buy our way into heaven with good works. There is nothing we can do that is of greater than our sins.

While many people get frustrated trying to work their way into Heaven, Christians get to Heaven on the basis of faith. It is an individual decision, but those who get to heaven believe that Jesus was born, died and rose again as payment of their sins. Only the death of a sinless man, Jesus, can atone for our sins.

You may have picked up that I said I was a born-again Christian. This means that I not only accept by faith the salvation that comes from Jesus, but I have given my life to him. He is my Lord and Savior. I strive to live my life to honor him and live in his strength and mercy.

I would hope the readers would seriously consider Christianity, but my purpose in writing this post is to get you to ponder your death and your future in eternity. Perhaps you disagree with me about Christianity, but in any event take the time now to think about what will happen after your death. If you are not sure of where your soul will go, or if you have doubts about what you have believed up to now, ponder eternity. Now is the time to look for a faith that works for you. Now is the time to change your life in a way that will impact how you spend eternity. Do not just stumble through life, and at death find yourself spending eternity in a place of punishment.

As for me, Christianity offers me the path to heaven. You are free to look for other paths, but the Bible says it is the only path.

Regardless of your religious beliefs, now is the time to consider how you will spend eternity. A sudden death could leave you spending eternity where you do not wish to be. Remember, eternity is a long time. While you are at it, you may also wish to ponder for a moment if you really believe your choice of religion. There is time to reconsider now, but not after death.

Reynold Conger is an author of fiction. He writes his books to entertain, but they are written from a Christian perspective. For information about his writing, go to Reynold Conger.com.

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Merry Christmas

Tis the season to be jolly. Among other things, we wish each other a merry Christmas. Yes, I know it is politically correct to say Happy Holidays, but that takes all the punch out of it. We could say that about any holiday, for example, groundhog’s day. There is something special about this time of year, Christians are celebrating Christmas and Jews are celebrating Chanukah. Both of these religious celebrations honor the God that is the basis of both Judaism and Christianity. Our Christmas season derives from these.

Being a born-again Christian, I wish that all people were Christian. To me the meaning of Christmas is that God sent Jesus to Earth as a baby to live among men. Jesus is an example how to live righteously, our teacher and our savior. Christianity make my life richer.

Our Christmas holiday, however is enjoyed also by non-Christians, agnostics and even some atheists. So I can wish a merry Christmas even to those who ignore the religious significance of the season because I wish them to enjoy the secular celebration of the season. I do wish my Jewish friends and other Jews a happy Chanukah and most of them wish me a merry Christmas in return. Even though they are celebrating Chanukah, they are part of the greater Christmas holiday.

Whether you are religious or not, please celebrate Christmas (or Chanukah) and help to spread the good will of the holiday.

 

Reynold Conger is a published author. For information about his books, go to ReynoldConger.com. 

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Do My Friends Get in Stories?

Every now and then, in a joking way, I tell my friends to be careful lest they end up as characters in my next book. Of course the same applies to my enemies, but they are seldom around to hear me give the warning.

There has to be consideration of libel laws, character assassination and loss of friendships, but most writers write about what they know. We write about people we see or meet, but who would we know better than our friends and our enemies?

Over the years I have written more than 20 manuscripts, mostly for practice and my own entertainment when on consulting assignments in foreign countries. I can only think of two manuscripts in which I directly recorded physical and personality characteristics of friends on the printed page. When I wrote My Knight in Shining Armor, I memorialized my late college friend who died in Vietnam. I not only used his real name, 2nd Lt. George Stivers, but tried to give him the same personality as he had displayed in college. My concept was to bring him back from the dead through literature to enjoy his chosen career and have a chance for romance with the girl of his dreams.

The other time was after I had been at my 40th reunion. All the writing coaches advise us to write about what we know so I wrote about a reunion caught in a crisis. As I wrote, it was a little startling to see my classmates come to life on the computer screen. I did change most of the names, but I suspect that any of my classmates could have read the manuscript and correctly identified most of the characters. Perhaps it is just as well I never published that manuscript. At my age, I am losing too many friends to death. There is no need to make any of the survivors angry.

As it turns out, my friends and relatives do populate my stories. I have not used any of my enemies, but several of my enemies would make good villains. My technique is to merge several personalities into one character. A character, I will call Dave may have Sam’s physical appearance, but John’s personality with a few of Sam’s habits thrown in. Dave may be a combination of Sam and John, but he will take some action that Charles once did. So is the character, Dave, taken from Sam, John or Charles?

As I flesh out a character, I usually find that none of my friends are exactly what the story needs. That is why I merge personalities together. I get richer characters, custom made for the plot in which they must function.

You ask about villains. Usually I have to make them out of whole cloth because no one I know has quite the right makeup to have the right combination of evil and potentially redeeming characteristics.

I did need a villain for a subplot, and once did cast in that role a girl who once jilted me. I did change her name, but left the rest of her alone. I did not assassinate her character. After all she is a classmate and a friend, and she plays the villain’s role in a manuscript that probably will never see the light of day.

Writers, take care of your friends and enemies. You never know when you will need them to populate your next novel.

Reynold is the author of three published novels and two novellas that have been published only as e-books. For information about Reynold and his work, see his website, ReynoldConger.com. His books can be purchased on his website or from most on-line book sellers.

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