Thursday, July 3, 2014

The bees now have a condo

Worked the bees for the first time today and HOW MUCH FUN WAS IT!!!  I had a BLAST!  Yeah, I really think I'm going to like this beekeeping thing.  I remember liking it when I was a kid helping Daddy, but you know about childhood memories - they rarely live up to the hype when you revisit them.  But this time ... this time they sure did.

I woke up late, about 7:30.  I'd asked Rhonda to come over early so I could get this done while it was still cool out, and she got here about fifteen minutes after I woke up.  We had a little tea and coffee together then got to work.  I rounded up all my tools, handed her the camera and my big hat with the homemade veil, and out we went to the hive.

I got the smoker lit and got into my suit.  It would turn out that I really didn't need to be covered that much.  These bees are so gentle!  They didn't bump me at all, and I only got stung once on the thumb, and that was after I was putting the frames back together and you always squish some.  I don't blame them for being pissed.  And my smoker went out about then, so I couldn't calm them with it.  Despite all that, just one sting.  Nice. 

They tried to sting me a few other times, but not nearly as much as I thought they might.  I'm confident now that I can work them with just a veil, gloves, and long-sleeved shirt.  One of these days I just might be one of those crusty old beekeepers who works them without anything on.  ... I mean bee gear.  (Au natural beekeeping. Now that would be something.) 

I was able to carry out all my plans - get the frame feeder out, inspect all the frames, put more empty frames in the box, and put another box on top.  It went so smoothly and only took about half an hour.  And I was right - they were so out of room.  I should have done this last week.  Bad Beekeeper Linda. But now they have lots of room, an entire box full and then some.

I would have loved to see the queen, but it's not uncommon to not see her, so you look for eggs.  If there are eggs in there, there's a queen.  I couldn't see any eggs, but that's probably because I forgot my glasses in the house, so had to use Rhonda's and they're not as strong as mine.  I was also having a hard time seeing how much brood was in the frames, but thank goodness for Cameraman Rhonda.  She got some really good pictures that, once downloaded, really show how much brood is there.  Relief.  MUCH relief.  The queen is either still in there or at least was last week for sure.  I'll check on them again next week and remember my glasses this time.  If no eggs then, that means no queen and I'll have to get another, but that's not likely.  I think she's in there.  I just missed her.  I need to practice finding her. 

I went out there later in the day and they were back to being their so-calm-I-can-walk-right-up-to-the-hive selves.  So I did.  And took some more pictures.

I also brought them an "I'm Sorry" gift - two hummingbird feeders full of sugar syrup.  I took the little tray-covers off the bottoms so they can get right down into the syrup.  Nomnomnomnom.  I hope they like it.

Squinty McSquint.

Honey, honey, HONEY!

Pry out another frame ...

... and look at it ...

... closely ...

... and still closer. That's honey up top, brood below. See the little grubs in the black holes? Cute little boogers.

Got three out. Working on the rest.

Lumpy, bumpy drone comb.


Pull out another one ...

... and look again.

Putting everything back together and squishing some.  They got pissed ...

... so Rhonda and the dogs backed off, ...

... but not before Nellie got hit a time or two.



7:30 update: Only a handful hanging around the front door,
not too many more than what's in the pictures here.
I'm glad they're more comfortable now.  

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

The bees are doing something weird ...

... and I thought you'd like to see.

It's called bearding and I think they're doing it because they're out of room inside.  Bees also do it when they're hot, but I don't think that's the case here - it hasn't been that hot today, and I think they have plenty of top and bottom ventilation.  And bearding because they're hot would mean they'd go back in once the evening cools down.  I first noticed them doing it about five this afternoon.  I just went out to check, an hour after dark, and they're still doing it. 

Also, did you notice the washboarding, the bees "line dancing" on the face of the hive?  They line up and move forwards and backwards.  Nobody seems to know why they do that.  I think it's to make us wonder what they're up to.  (You can see it better if you click on the bottom-right YouTube link so it opens in a bigger window.)

When I first got them home two weeks ago I put out a hummingbird feeder of sugar syrup, but they haven't been much interested in it.  There are a lot of Gallardia (Indian Blankets) and Horsemint (Monarda citriodora) blooming.  Acres and acres of it just across the fence from them.  I think they're working those flowers and packing the existing hive body full. The Horsemint is a cousin of Bee Balm, so I'm not too surprised it's so popular.

When I got them, the box contained eight frames and a frame feeder.  I wanted to leave them alone for a good while before mucking around in their home.  (Okay, okay - that's not really true.  Yeah, I did want to get in there that first day, but learned my lesson then. *snicker*).  It's been twelve days.  I've seen beekeepers recommend waiting at least ten days after moving a hive before you go open it up.  I think it's time.

So I've got my plan ready.  Smoke the entrance and wait a couple minutes.  Lift the lid and set it aside.  Pry out the feeder.  Pry out the frames and inspect them one by one. I'll be looking for a nice brood pattern, along with some pollen and honey.

Then I'll take one frame of comb out of the bottom box and put it in a new box full of empty frames.  I'll put two empty frames back in the middle of the full box - one to replace the feeder and one to replace the frame I remove.  That full frame acts like a ladder for the bees to climb to the top of the new box and it's frames.  They like to work from the top down, and don't like flying up there.  I guess they bump their heads if they try.

Once I get that top box set on just right, I'll put the notched inner cover on and top the whole shebang with a plastic hive lid.  I got it for my birthday a few years ago from Kelly and Billy, friends who gave me their entire old hive.  That's the white one sitting next to my new one. Great birthday present, huh?  I certainly think so.  I've read other beekeepers' posts on forums, those from hot climates, who say the plastic tops keep too much heat in.  I'll keep an eye on it.  I have a backup plan - a piece of corrugated tin and a rock.  Fancy.

So Rhonda's coming over early tomorrow to be moral support and run the camera.  Wish me luck!

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