Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Small Bee Emergency

Yesterday, when we got back from the Delta, my husband said, "Take a look at the bees. There are more than usual out on the front." The temperature was over 90 degrees so bees should be out of the hive, but there were still too many. I didn't think these new hives would need another brood chamber yet, but I was wrong. The other colony is not as strong, but this one is bursting at the seams.

So, today my husband and the Princess added another brood chamber and re-arranged the frames so that there are only 9 frames in the lower hive body. Losing a full brood frame to the upper chamber helps the bees move up faster and also makes it easier to remove frames and inspect bees. We use two different colors for hive bodies - green and white - so we can keep track of the rotation. The green frame in the white hive body is a plastic drone foundation. Supposively, mites prefer the drone larva, so we have one drone foundation per hive. Once the comb is built, the eggs laid, larva formed and sealed we will remove this frame and freeze it, thereby killing the mites. When we replace it, the bees will clean out the dead larva and the process begins, again.

The children started helping with the bees when they were 3 - just old enough to hold the smoker or hive tool. My son, when he was three, dropped the smoker into the bottom of a double hive when I had about half of the frames out looking for a queen during a requeening. The bees were not happy, so I told my son to run. Unfortunately, I had chosen this day to throw caution to the wind by wearing black pants. Most of the bees came out of the hive and attacked my pants (my legs), but I was able to maintain my composure and reconstruct the hive. I don't ever wear black pants anymore (except last month when my friend's bees swarmed and one other time)

Beekeeping started as my hobby. My husband was not interested at all. We still lived in town and he thought we would be a nuisance to our neighbors. Once we got the first hive, he began watching the proceedings from a distance. Then he moved closer and closer. Now we have to take turns working the hives. He loves it. Today was his turn to handle the frames, though we were all out there looking. In the last picture you can see a typical brood frame with capped honey at the top, some "green honey" below, and different phases of brood below. That glob on the bottom is free form brood. We removed it. Some bees keep a neat chamber and others tend to build and glue anywhere. We prefer these bees, even though they make globs because they are so calm that I trust my children to be around them, even in short sleeves.

With these strong young queens we could have double brood chambers and honey by the end of the summer in these two new hives. These bees earned the cliche, "As Busy as Bees."


Hornblower said...

Great photos!
Have you read The Beekeeper's Apprentice by Laurie R King? It's a mystery with a neat twist & a strong young female protagonist. Just reminded me of it....

wisteria said...

I haven't read it, but have put it on my list.