Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Bee Checkin'

Hello all you who haven't been stung by a bee lately!

Well spring is attempting to sprung out here. Today it almost reached 80 degrees and found me wearing shorts (my usual summer uniform.) It was so nice I checked in on the bees.

For this first check I really didn't know what I would find, and it's always a surprise. You can only tell so much from watching them come and go from the entrance. I found good and bad. The good is that there seemed to be a large number of bees in the hive working, and they had a bunch of capped honey and pollen. This means they are set for brood rearing which should begin once the daily temperatures are consistently above 60 or 70. The bad news is that the top box I had put on last summer was empty of anything like honey etc and seemed to have something eating the comb in places. It looked like there were holes large enough for a mouse which might have been plausible except there was no mouse droppings and they had the front of the hive sealed up tight except for a couple of entrance holes only large enough for them. What I did find was an abundance of hive beetle which is not great. So I took the top box off and put the frames in the freezer to kill any beetle larvae and remaining live beetles. These frames will stock my bait hives I will be putting out soon though so that's a plus as I used all of the other spare comb to make a candle as you may remember. Some more possible bad is I found no eggs, which isn't that bad because it's still a little early, but I also did not spot the queen which may be just my inability to spot the queen. All in all they looked strong and ready for springtime.

Oh and I almost forgot to mention I was stung the second I opened the hive, whoa that was quick! I usually don't get stung until later in the season, but it was good to get it over with and subsided quickly once I had begun working the hive. Because of their willingness to sting I bathed my hand in smoke and put my gloves on not knowing how many others would be wanting to make this ultimate sacrifice against the 'stranger'.

Once I was finished with the inspection and was closing up the sound of the hive had steadily risen to a much more aggressive tone. I realized that it was not that I overstayed my welcome, but that there were bees from another colony robbing their honey out. I say this because after the hive was all closed up there was a huge brawl on the front porch pitting bees against bees. They grappled and rolled about buzzing furiously against the interlopers which were unceremoniously dumped off the landing area. One after the other were grabbed, and rolled off the platform to fly away unsuccessful in their attempts. After about 20 minutes it seemed to be back to business with all the thieves dealt with. That's good, it shows the hive can defend itself against robber bees which is another positive thing I witnessed today so hurray for them!

Today I also ordered my hive lure which in my case is Lemon Grass Oil. It mimics bee pheromones that will guide scout bees to the hive. See when a colony of bees thinks it has run out of room in their current abode they send out scouts to look for another place to live. If they find a suitable location the current queen will leave along with anywhere from 1/3 to 1/2 of the hive (which only includes bees that are more than 3 weeks old who can leave the hive) and go to the new location to set up shop. The Lemon Grass oil will attract the scouts and hopefully they will like the bait hive's location and size and bring everyone else to their new home.

A note about swarms: If you were alive in the 70's and 80's you may have seen movies depicting bees as killers and have an innate fear of a large number of bees when you see them out and about. In reality this is the time when they are most docile. Each bee's only goal is to stay with the swarm, more specifically to stay with the beloved queen. A bee that gets separated from it's hive, or in this case the swarm really only has a day or so left to live as they cannot survive without the rest of the team. So if you run upon one they will not attack you more than likely and if you were a brave soul could run your hand across them and not fear stings. Swarms are impressive when you see them but remember that they are in transit to somewhere else so bee calm and they will pass soon enough and for goodness sake don't spray them with ANYTHING!

Anyway, some upcoming tasks are to make a sign to hang on the fence announcing bee removal, and to post flyers at the post office, local tavern, and feed stores advertising my services. This again falls in line with my goals to increase the number of hives in the apiary this year. And I already have Curtis and Marybob's ok to place a bait hive on their property in hopes of catching a swarm(s) over there on their property which is about 3 miles away as the bee flies.

In other bee news: Progress on the Top Bar Hives has been slow but I do have 2 hive bodies completed and they need lids and the bars now. I have 7 hive bodies of the Langstroth type ready to go in the event of a spring swarm bonanza. And I have one of those big blue barrels that used to have wine in them which I will be making 2 more top bar hives from. It will be a feat to fill them all this season, a feat if accomplished will accomplish many goals. All these goals in amongst house building, goat milking, cheese making, and getting a soap making biz off the ground, it's going to be a busy summer again. Busy as a bee as they say.

Well that's all I got for you today, take care out there and thanks for stopping by!

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