Weekend Update, September 14, 2019

Bee Journal

Two weeks ago we had our first honey harvest, pulling out something to the tune of 13lbs. of honey. This was our first and last harvest of the year, being a new colony and pretty much the end of the foraging season in the Rockies. It is still plenty warm and the bees are still out and about, but the pickings are getting slim. We'll be supplementing their food supply soon.

It's remarkable how much honey 13lbs. really is, though we can expect even more next year since our first colony is established - assuming it survives the winter, fingers crossed - and we expect to add a second. We found ourselves filling every jar we could find and still having some left over. It is also remarkable how fast it goes, because it is so fun to share with friends, family and neighbors. Still, we have more honey for ourselves than I expect we've ever consumed in a normal year.

We don't yet have access to a honey extractor, as we haven't yet joined a club where we might get to borrow one. Because of this, we opted for manual extraction, where we took the honey and the containing comb off of the frames. This really just involves cutting the caps from the comb before scraping the honey and remaining comb wholesale off of the foundations. Having done so, we can return the frame briefly to the hive for cleaning. The bees are excellent housekeepers, they will recover any lingering honey and move it downward into the brood supers. Once they are done, we'll once again remove the frames and store them for the winter.

Today, we had an especially important chore to perform on behalf of the bees: we had to treat for Varroa destructor mites. What a horrifying name! These pests are ever present in North American bee hives, but they must be kept under control, particularly when the bees are vulnerable in the fall, mid-winter and early spring. For us, this is the first treatment. We've opted to treat using an Oxalic acid vaporizer which was included in the pile of gear we purchased at the beginning of the season. Oxalic acid is not harmful to the bees but should do some damage to the nasty mites. Once the treatment was complete, we returned the to-be-cleaned frames to the hive. We also had one remaining frame that I'd removed from a brood super as it was heavy with honey and no brood at all. Being a tall super, the frame would not fit in the shallow supers we use for honey, so I put it outside several yards from the hive.

A few hours later, I realized my error. The frame left in the open was covered with bees, and they weren't all ours! There were representatives from every colony in the area as well as their nastier stripey cousins, such as wasps and yellow jackets. What's more, it was evident at the entrance to our hive that attempted robbery was afoot! Our girls were defending their territory admirably, but having that frame sitting open attracting so much attention was not helping their cause. I suited back up and knocked off all of the gathered swarm and beat a hasty retreat, putting the frame away in a tote to be recovered later. Within an hour the colony had successfully fought off all attackers and life was back to normal. A healthy colony is more than capable of defending itself, but there is no reason to cause undue burden. I'll not be open feeding again!

BSides Denver!

Friday was BSides Denver, our local version of the community-driven, security focused un-conference. This is the first time have been able to attend as tickets, though free, tend to go very quickly. This year was touted to be smaller than usual with fewer tickets offered. Small it was, surely not more than a couple of hundred attendees all in one room with only one presentation track. As I've been prone to do lately, I immediatly found a capture the flag event to join with my friends and focused the majority of my energy on that pretty much all day. Though we were slow to start, our team did manage to pull second place before running out of time.

There's often a period near the end of a conference where I feel a bit sad. I think this time I've finally realized what this is. I've only been attending security and hacking events for a couple of years now, starting with the inaugural Wild West Hackin' Fest, but I don't know that I can call myself a member of the community. Am I? Perhaps. However, there are people who put time and effort into the community and they are rewarded by warm smiles and hugs when they see each other. I think I envy them this, and there is a part of me that wishes I had similar relationships. I am fortunate, however, in many other ways such as close friends and family. I realize everyone's lot is a little different and that I am beyond blessed, but perhaps I could find some time to give to the hacking community. Like anything, I'll bet you get out of it what you put in.

All Them Flags

Speaking of capture the flag, I've been a bit obsessed with them lately. Partly, this is just for fun. I really do enjoy having something like that to do at a conference when I just can't sit for another presentation. Additionally, however, I have found the idea of participating in a bug bounty program like HackerOne appealing. I guess I hope that continued practice on CTFs will help build my skills enough to do some hunting, perhaps even joining a red team someday.

There are a few programs of particular interest to me right now:

  • Hacker101 CTF - this is a free CTF run by HackerOne
  • Over the Wire - in particular the Bandit wargames
  • Hack The Box - just getting started here, you need an invitation code to join, and you are encouraged to hack the site to get it.

I've managed to gain some ground in both Hacker101 CTF, which is really about web hacking in the earlier levels, and Over the Wire which really leans on your Unix knowledge to progress. I just acquired my Hack The Box invitation today and haven't set up my environment yet, so I'll have to report back another time.

Ĝis la revido, kaj feliĉa kodumado!