My Brother versus the Honey Bees

By N. M. Cedeño

Photo courtesy of a neighbor. Beehive in the wall of my brother’s house.

What would you do if you discovered honey bees had moved into a wall of your house? My brother, who lives near Dallas, Texas, had this issue recently. Here is what to do.

In the thermal image bee activity is purple. Red is hive.

First, you call a beekeeper. The beekeeper will come to your home and takes thermal images of the area of wall where the hive is believed to be located. In my brother’s case, the hive was between the floors of his home. The bees had found a hole to enter between where the brick-covered ground floor ended and the HardiPlank covered upper story began. Based the on the thermal images, the beekeeper estimated 3 cubic feet of hive had been built between the exterior wall of the house and the floor joists supporting the second floor. The bees were under the floor of the upstairs master bedroom!

Next, you send notice to all your neighbors warning them to stay indoors and keep their pets indoors at the date and time of the removal. The beekeeper, in a piece of masterful understatement, said this is necessary because the bees will become “defensive” when he starts to remove the hive. And, 60,000 to 70,000 “defensive” honey bees are not to be trifled with. The extraction cannot be done during the workday. Instead, in order to remove as many bees as possible, the bees have to be removed around dusk as foraging bees return to the hive.

Putting the honeycomb in a frame.

On the day of the extraction, the beekeeper arrives and goes to work removing the bees and their home. For my brother, this meant the HardiPlank and plywood exterior wall on his house by the hive was removed, exposing the insulation. Insulation was removed to reveal a massive bee hive. The beekeeper went up and down a ladder for several hours, carefully cutting down panels of hive and inserting them into hive boxes that he brought with him, cutting the honeycomb to fit as needed. (For the enormous hive in my brother’s wall, a single box was not sufficient.) As he accomplished the removal, the beekeeper searched for the queen. Her capture was vital to the process. If he could find her, her colony would follow her.

If you are a normal person, you hide safely out of the way while the bees are extracted, allowing the beekeeper in his white protective suit to handle the matter. My brother, on the other hand, constructed a protected space for himself on his lawn: mosquito netting over a framework under which he placed a chair, so that he could sit and observe the beekeeper as he worked, with tens of thousands of angry bees buzzing around him.

The beekeeper working and my brother in his “safe” space. Picture from the neighbor.

Then, you, um, get a pizza delivered. As the hours went by, my brother in his netting safety cage, became hungry. So of course, he ordered a pizza to be delivered. But, how could he retrieve the pizza without endangering himself or the delivery person? Well, the hive was on the front of his home. He would see the driver arrive. It would be a simple matter for the beekeeper to walk over and accept the pizza, bring it to my brother, and slip it under the netting. The beekeeper agreed. So when the driver arrived, he stayed in his car, and the beekeeper asked him to lower the window just enough to slide the pizza out. This process worked as planned. Neither the delivery driver nor my brother was stung.

I suspect that the pizza delivery driver had never delivered to a fully suited beekeeper before. Hopefully, he wasn’t traumatized by the experience. My brother says he tipped the driver generously and shared the pizza with the beekeeper.

Honey comb in a bag. Picture by my brother.

Hours later, the bee hive is finally completely removed from the wall, and you get to taste the honey. The beekeeper supplied my brother with a chunk of honeycomb in a plastic bag. My brother reported that the honey tasted good. The next day, my brother received more news from the beekeeper. The hive had contained two queens, a mother queen and a new successor queen who had just emerged. The hive would have split with about half the bees swarming to follow the exiting queen, possibly within a matter of hours, if the beekeeper had not removed the hive when he did. With two queens and approximately 70,000 bees, the beekeeper was hoping to get two producing hives from the original one. A few days later, the beekeeper brought my brother two jars of honey.

Finally, the hole in the side of your house has to remain open for two days to allow bees from other hives to raid what is left behind. The raiding bees perform the final cleaning process, extracting any remaining honey. After two days, my brother got to repair and repaint his home. He planned to caulk very well to ensure no new bees move in.


N. M. Cedeño writes short stories and novels that are typically set in Texas. Her stories vary from traditional mystery, to science fiction, to paranormal mystery in genre. Her debut novel, All in Her Head, was published in 2014, followed by her second novel, For the Children’s Sake, in 2015. In 2016, For the Children’s Sake was selected as a finalist for the East Texas Writers Guild Book Award in the Mystery/Thriller category. Most recently, she has begun writing the Bad Vibes Removal Services Series which includes short stories and the novel The Walls Can Talk (2017).


Making it better

SJBROWN author picBy S J Brown

Each of us in our own way tries to make the world a little better. Writer’s help people escape their daily woes and immerse themselves in another place and time, making the world a little better.

SJBrown1I know a number of teachers that don’t end their connection with their students when the bell rings. They run after school programs, and tutor students. They go to work early and stay late with each student they guide they are making the world a better place.

Anyone who has met me, read one of my blogs or checked out my website site knows, like most wildlife photographers I feel a connection with nature. I try to do my part of make the world a little better. At home I grow my own veggies, compost, buy reusable products, and recycle.

SJBrown3 All of my paper and cardboard waste goes to a local nonprofit that recycles it and uses the money in local schools. I buy potted Christmas trees instead of a cut one and gladly share information on being more environmental friendly with friends and neighbors.

When I clean out my linen closet the sheets, towels, and blankets go to the local humane society. Once we were settled in our home Jay and I realized we had too much furniture. Instead of taking these items to the dump or selling them at a yard sale I listed them for free on a local website. When I remodeled my office I had several sliding glass doors that a gentleman from the area was thrilled to get. I am constantly finding ways to keep things out of the landfill.

SJBrown4Away from home I work with a number of other volunteers planting trees along stream beds. I do presentations for children and adults about wildlife, sharing my love of nature. I am a member of a local gardeners exchange group. There we exchange ideas, information and plants making our little corner of the world a better place.

Occasionally I will take friends or family members out into the field with me giving them a little different perspective on the natural world. I tag monarch Butterflies and take part in citizen science projects.

SJBrown2I buy books from fellow West Virginia writers whenever I can. My little purchase wouldn’t make a difference to Stephen King, but certainly counts to them. I have begun writing book reviews as a way of helping my fellow authors get a little more exposure.
There are so many ways each of us can make things a little better for another person, a critter, or even the world we all share. Take a minute or two and share with me how you accomplish this I am always open to new ideas.

Thanks for stopping by.

As a wildlife photographer and author I have been traveling extensively throughout the United States for over 15 years. I am always accompanied by my husband and spotter in my pursuit of the next critter encounter.
My work has been published internationally in books, calendars, greeting cards, magazines and newspapers. Sharing my photographs and written words are a way to share my wildlife encounters with others and possibly inspire them to explore their creative side.
My books, Close Ups and Close Encounters, All the birds I see, Clancys Cat Nap and two coloring books based on my images are all available through my website

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IMGP6507 By S. J. Brown

I hope everyone has been keeping warm in these frigid temperatures. Freezing temperatures add a whole new set of challenges for a wildlife photographer. It is a bit harder to sneak up on my subjects in layers of clothes and warm boots. Warm thick gloves make it a little harder to focus the camera and hit the shutter button.

1SJ Brown Waterfall

The cold can kill camera batteries quickly. Even keeping the camera tucked into my coat doesn’t work well for long. Any pictures I take in the extreme cold tend to be close to the shelter of a car or building. So in colder temperatures I rely on luck a bit more. Most critters only venture out into the cold to eat, so they are harder to spot.

So I try to concentrate on other things while I wait for the temperature to rise. This is the perfect time of year to work on those unfinished projects. Personally I have finished 2 articles I had outlined, scanned a bunch of images, and completed a few more chapters on a manuscript. Then I laid out a print Ad What do you think? Is it too crowded? Does it make you want to check out my website?

2 Book Maniacs ADThe local critters interrupt me a lot when I am working in my office. I have 6 windows and a set of glass sliding glass doors. So every bird that flies to the feeders catches my attention. Each squirrel that wanders past the doors distracts me. Before I know it I am behind the lens and my writing comes to a halt.

4SJ Brown DoveWhen I am writing I need quiet with no distractions, no television, no radio, no family members asking questions. I tend to be more productive in the evenings when the house is quiet, its dark outside and the woodstove has the house nice and warm.

What challenges do you face in the winter? How do you tackle those challenges?

3SJ Brown Rabbit  Thanks for stopping by and stay warm.

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Happy Friday the 13th

IMGP6507By S. J. Brown

Friday the 13th is touted to be the unluckiest day of the year. 2017 has two Friday the 13th’s, does that make it an unlucky year? Does Friday the 13th scare you? Since Halloween is just few weeks away is today the start of a spooky season? Are you superstitious?

1 SJ Brown Vulture

This ominous date has been used in movies and games for decades. The legends that surround this date go back centuries. However if you aren’t the superstitious type you can get a great rate on an airline flight, save thousands on your Wedding, or get a tattoo for a special price, so it’s not all bad.

2 SJ Brown OwlCrows, Snakes, Magpies, Owls and many other animals have been considered bad luck by a number of cultures. But animals are not the only things connected to bad luck. If you break a mirror you may be in for 7 years of bad luck. If you hang a horseshoe upside down the luck will run out. I haven’t had a black cat cross my path lately, but this black duck posed for my camera.

3 SJ Brown Duck

Like I have stated in a previous blog I am on the fence, a middle of the road type of person. If you missed that blog here is the link. of

4 SJ Brown CrowI am not sure if it is luck that allows me to find and photograph the critters I do. It could be research and timing along with a bit of practice.

5 SJ Brown SnakeIn closing I urge you to not open any umbrellas in the house, walk under any ladders, put your shoes on the table, step on a crack or put your hat on the bed.

Thanks for stopping by.


S. J. Brown

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My coloring books feature sketches based on my photographs.

My children’s picture books are perfect for 3-5 year olds

Available at

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Close up and Close Encounters is available on Amazon at

Or get your autographed copy at S. J. Brown website



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History’s Value

post (c) Doris McCraw


I had the privilege to attend the 14th annual Pikes Peak Library District’s History Symposium.  The topic this year was “Enduring Legacies and Forgotten Landmarks, the Built Environment of the Pikes Peak Region”.  You can view a portion of it on face book here:

As I sat and listened, along with timing the speakers, I realized that despite my love and research into history, there was so much I didn’t know.  I spend a lot of time focusing on the lives and stories of people, but the day brought home how much our environment is a part of that story.

Santa Fe 253
Hospital in Santa Fe, refitted as a hotel

As I listened to how architects saw and shaped the buildings in our world, I thought of how we as authors shape the world we see through our words.  As the day wore on, it became apparent that sometimes the built environment is the marker of our past. The Santa Fe Trail, which became a railroad then highway and how those changes brought a difference to the area. The building of NORAD, the Western Federation of Miners building, which was the touchstone for those who wanted better wages and working conditions, all are there for us to learn from.

Sometimes the environment creates the people who live there, as is the case of “Salt Creek” in Pueblo, Colorado. The area helped to build the lives of those who made it their home.

The end of the day was a look at the Rural Cemetery movement and our own Evergreen Cemetery. As the speaker said, cemeteries are not the end of history, but the beginning. So as you walk, drive and ride through this world, take a moment to think about and honor the built environment around you. Think about it as you write the words that are in your heart and mind, and let their auras seep into your life.


 Doris Gardner-McCraw writing as Angela Raines
Author, Speaker, Historian-specializing in
Colorado and Women’s History

For a list of Angela Raines Books: Here 
Photo and Poem: Click Here
Angela Raines FaceBook: Click Here




Step Lightly

IMGP6484By S. J. Brown

Now that spring has finally arrived everyone is heading outdoors.  There are so many places to explore and discover.  Before you venture out there are a few things to remember. 

Don’t forget your bug spray.  There are hundreds of little critters out there that would like to take a ride on your clothes or boots. 


Stay on paths and trails so you don’t trample on delicate plants and flowers or encounter a venomous snake. Watch where you step, many birds like puffins and killdeers make their nest on the ground.


That little fawn you find laying in the weeds most likely wasn’t abandoned.  Mother deer will leave their young hidden in overgrown weeds when they go off to feed.  When predators are near the mother will try to lead the threat away from her baby, to a mama deer you are a threat.   


One of the most important things to remember when you go for a hike or into any natural area is that Mothers will fiercely protect their babies.  A seemingly docile duck or goose can become very aggressive when you get just a little too close to their baby.


You may be able to defend yourself against a single goose, but they tend to stick together. You are no match for an entire flock.   A single flap of a goose’s wing will leave a welt and will sting for quite a while.  They can cause some serious damage with their beaks as well.


Many wild animals are deceptively quick.  That lethargic looking bear can charge suddenly and most likely will outrun you.


Most of the dangers you may encounter in the wild can be avoided.  Simply be aware of your surroundings.  Observe wild creatures from a distance and respect their space.  Remember you are a visitor in their world.

I hope I have given you a few hints that will make your next wild excursion a pleasant one.  Thanks for stopping by.


Connect with S. J. Brown on Facebook and be one of the first to see what she has been up and view her Sunday Shares.


S. J. Browns coloring books feature sketches based on her photographs.

CBCover Acover

Cover 3-26-23Back Cover 4-24-2013Close up and Close Encounters is available on Amazon  at

Or get your autographed copy at S. J. Brown website

S. J. Brown’s children’s pictures books are only available through S. J. Brown.

You can order your copies from her website S.J. Brown

Cover All the Birds I See Cover



A Couple of Friends



By S. J. Brown



Since Valentine’s Day is just around the corner I thought I should write about romance.  However Hubby and I aren’t really romantic type people.  If he came home to find a candlelight dinner he would ask how long the power had been out. 

Still its a couple’s time of year so I decided to write about some wild couples I have photographed.  Photographing wild couples is not always easy.  Critters aren’t like people you can’t tell them stand close to one another and smile.  Well you can, but it won’t do you any good.

I thought I would start with a pair of Mallards I discovered along a riverbank.  Slowly I crept up on them and zoomed in for a shot of him.


 She wasn’t quite close enough to get into the shot.  So I waited, and waited some more.  Finally she floated close enough to him I managed to get both of them in the lens and clicked the shutter button. 

As I stood up to walk away I heard someone behind me.  I turned to find a hunter.  He was clad in a combination of camouflage and bright orange.  In his arms was a large ominous looking gun.  This wasn’t the first time I had encountered hunters while out photographing critters and I am sure it won’t be the last.  He smiled and asked if I had seen any ducks.  I admit it I lied, and told him no. He thanked me and wandered down the path and around the bend.  


Once he was a good distance away I walked closer to the water’s edge and explained to the Mallard couple they needed to go hang out somewhere else.  I took the opportunity to click the shutter button a few more times before they heeded my advice and flew off. 

It took me quite a while to photograph a pair of wood ducks I discovered floating in a pond.  They were hanging out with a group of other ducks that were happy to have their picture taken.  I was getting some nice shots of each of the wood ducks, but I couldn’t get them to hang out close enough together to share the shot until they were good and ready to pose for me. 


This next couple actually hangs out together a lot.  They are pretty easy to photograph because they live at my house.  They let me take their picture in exchange for munching on a few of my flowers. I am hoping they have babies in the spring and I get a chance to photograph them as well.

s-j-brown4rabbits Over the years I have captured a number of couples on film. These couples and I wanted to wish everyone a Happy Valentine’s Day.  Even if you aren’t part of a couple you should be treated special on Valentine’s Day, and every day because you are. 

Thanks for stopping by.


Connect with S. J. Brown on Facebook , be one of the first to see what she has been up and view her Sunday Shares.


S. J. Browns coloring books feature sketches based on her photographs.

CBCover Acover

Cover 3-26-23Back Cover 4-24-2013Close up and Close Encounters is available on Amazon  at

Or get your autographed copy at S. J. Brown website

S. J. Brown’s children’s pictures books are only available through S. J. Brown.

You can order your copies from her website S.J. Brown

Cover All the Birds I See Cover


The Waiting Game.

Me3By S. J. Brown

At some time in our lives we all have to wait. We wait in line at the grocery store, or sit in the waiting room at the doctor’s office.  Farmers wait for just the right time to plant their crops, students wait for the end of the school day and all of us are now waiting for spring to truly arrive.

1 Flower

This time of year I am waiting for the days to pass, waiting for eggs to hatch, and baby animals to be born. Photographing baby animals is one of the hardest things about my job, besides paperwork of course.  Baby animals are soooo cute, but their mothers keep them close and are very protective.  I prefer not be clawed, pawed or pecked in the pursuit of an adorable image.

4 Goose

Once I am in the field I wait some more. I wait for the critters to get comfortable with me being in their home. I wait for just the right angle, and that treasured shot that fills the lens.  I don’t like causing Mama critters stress so I use a telephone lens, stay down wind, and shoot from behind a tree, bush, large rock whatever is in the area.

3 Squirrels

Then after I am sure I have the perfect shot I wait for the lab to develop the film.

2 robin

Once I have the prints in my hands I submit them to publishers, then I wait some more. I may wait just a few days or it could be weeks before I know if what I sent is what they were looking for. While I wait I am working on a memoir, once it is done I will wait some more.

5 Butterflies

I am also waiting for April 23rd.  That Saturday I will be signing books at the Chocolatefest & Book faire in Martinsburg WV.  This event includes over 20 authors, a chocolate walk, tours of a chocolate factory and more.

Chocolate 2016 both

So what are you waiting for? What drives you crazy when you have to wait for it?  What don’t you mind waiting for?

Thanks for stopping by.

Connect with S. J. Brown on Facebook and be one of the first to see what she has been up and view her Sunday Shares.


S. J. Browns coloring books feature sketches based on her photographs.

CBCover Acover

Cover 3-26-23Back Cover 4-24-2013Close up and Close Encounters is available on Amazon  at

Or get your autographed copy at S. J. Brown website

S. J. Brown’s children’s pictures books are only available through S. J. Brown.

You can order your copies from her website S.J. Brown

Cover All the Birds I See Cover

There’s a Lot of “X” Out There! and X is for Xeriscape


This blog post by Gayle M. Irwin Gayle_CactusForest_nearLakePleasant

During this month’s A to Z blog challenge, I drew the letter “X” … and frankly, that letter scared me! When I learned what my letter was to be, my brain nearly x-ploded, so I quickly x-plored the possibilities: x-ray, x-rated, x-chromosome, even x-axis and “X marks the spot!” I conducted an internet search and discovered there’s a lot of “X’ out there! (see

Flowering Catcus_OrangeSince April is National Gardening Month and since I live on the Great Plains where the weather is arid … and because I enjoy the desert so much … and because need to write about something starting with the letter X, in this blog we will learn about xeriscape. When a person xeriscapes his/her yard/garden, s/he uses plants that conserve water, those which are meant for arid or semi-arid areas. Drought-tolerant plants come in a variety of colors and sizes, from groundcover to bushes. Some examples include ice plants, thyme, coneflower (also known as echinacea), lavender, sunflower, coral bells, and hen and chicks as well as cacti and yucca. The wide array of plant variety and color reminds a person that Yucca and rocksxeriscape doesn’t mean gray, brown, and boring. Instead, the lively lavenders, bouncing blues, perky pinks, yapping yellows, and roaring reds create festive gardens and lawns that don’t drink a lot of water … or digest a lot one’s financial budget! And those vibrant colors attract necessary pollinators, such as bees butterflies, whose numbers are dwindling drastically.

Dougs AZ HouseMany home owners and gardeners in Wyoming and surrounding states, such as Colorado and Montana, implement xeriscape landscaping. Green lawns are pretty but not always practical. With California in such a historic drought and that state’s governor recently declaring stringent watering rules, even more western homeowners, gardeners, and landscapers will likely look into the practice of xeriscape.

When I visited Arizona back in March, I was reminded of the beauty of the desert. Wildflowers and cacti of the Sonora desert were brimming with color. The ancient saguaro stately stands amidst the chollo, yucca, desert evening primrose, and ocotillo. Colors of crimson, butter, and eggplant mingle with duller shades of gray and brown, enlivening the sandy and spiny Arizona ecosystem.

Coneflowers_side gardenOne of my neighbors doesn’t have a lawn – she’s filled her front and side yards with rocks and endless types of flowers. From iris to coneflowers, Mexican hats to blue flax, each season brings a variety of sizes, shapes, and colors. My friends whom I visit in Arizona have a desert yard, not a green lawn that drinks water and money.

I am not much of a gardener; I didn’t inherit that talent. I have been able to raise herbs, such as mint, tarragon, rosemary, and lavender. My parents, on the other hand, are very successful with both vegetables and flowers. Although they have a lawn at their Montana home, they have also established several rock gardens filled with columbine, blue flax, white daisies, hens and chicks, and hollyhocks. They rarely have to water these areas. Each spring they look forward to the welcoming blooms that grace their front and back yards.

Mexican hat_MontanaColorado State University’s “X-tension Service” has a website and several informational pamphlets about xeriscape. Learn more about this gardening/landscaping technique at

Remember there’s a lot of “X” out there … and it can be quite colorful!

For other gardening information and encouragement, including how-to videos, visit

Do you grow a garden? What are some of your favorite things to grow? Do you or have you ever landscaped with xeriscape plants?

Rabbit Brush with Butterflies

Post A-to-Z Road Trip [2013]     A to Z

Gayle M. Irwin is writer, author and speaker. She is the author of several inspiring dog books for children and adults, including Sage’s Big Adventure, Walking in Trust: Lessons Learned with My Blind Dog, and two dog devotion books: Devotions for Dog Lovers: Paws-ing for Time with God and Devotions for Dog Lovers 2: Sage Advice. She is also a contributing writer to five editions of Chicken Soup for the Soul. She’s also authored a guidebook for owners of blind dogs, available on Kindle. She has a passion for pets and the environment and she looks forward to composing more stories about animals and the beauty of the natural world.  Visit her website at

SageBigAdventureFront-small   SageLearnsShareFront-small   Walking_FrontCover_small   Dog Devotion Book_Cover_Final   Dog Devotions 2 Book Cover Sage Advice Cover   Blind Dog Ebook Cover_updatedMay2014