Saturday, August 21, 2010

Murphy's Law of Beekeeping and Making a Decision

Mark got home after 6:30 p.m. tonight, hollered up the stairs, "Do you want to go check the bees?" and we were off to Bee Hill in spite of the late hour. He asked me what he needed, we loaded up the 4-wheeler, and took off.

When we arrived, Bee Hill was surrounded by millet* in bloom with small yellow flowers spread like confetti over the dark green foliage. Lovely! I think it made the bees happy, and from the pips and whirring of hummingbirds, they were happy too. *9-02-10 this is not millet, it's a weed!

What was missing: Mark's new veil. I'd brought his shirt out of the house, but didn't know where his veil was. We each assumed the other had it. So, instead of being my first time in my full outfit, I wore my jacket and he made do with the old veil and a shirt it couldn't attach to. Surprisingly, even though there were a lot of bees in the air, he had only one near miss. He realized one was about to climb into the veil, he had a frame loaded with bees in his hands, and he quickly handed it off to me. I sure was thankful I had those new gloves! So, Murphy's Law of Beekeeping is that no matter how much stuff you pile on the 4-wheeler or in the truck, you won't have what you need.

We were losing daylight fast, so he started in Hive 1. He checked the lower medium super and is pleased with the amount of drawn comb. He sprinkled the bees with powdered sugar to treat for pests, closed it up, and moved to Hive 2. He dusted them with powdered sugar, and moved to Hive 4.

We wanted to do a more thorough inspection of Hive 4 to make a decision about re-queening. What we discovered was odd. In the frames that Mark had used rubber bands to attach their old comb from the gas grill, they had drawn comb to attach it to the frames and filled that with honey. On the frames with plastic foundation, they'd drawn comb unevenly, not just in disorderly shapes across the plastic, but in varying depths. We didn't see the queen, but the brood appeared patchy. What we saw confirmed that we need to requeen, so the next step is to talk to an experienced beekeeper and find out if we can get some help finding the old queen and replacing her with a new one. They got dusted, and appear to be eating the protein patty with enthusiasm.

We ran out of time, so Hives 3 & 5 didn't get treated with powdered sugar.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Glossary of Beekeeping Terms & A Photo

I'm always afraid of calling things by their wrong names. So here is a handy list of words and their proper definitions, courtesy of the folks at Betterbee.

I have so much to learn! Part of what I'm learning to do is train my eyes. I have to say I was particularly pleased with this photograph, but also chuffed that I could see the little baby bees during the inspection. I used to be so afraid of bees and being stung that I wouldn't have taken the time to really examine what was happening on this frame of brood. Of course, it's a lot easier to get a close look by zooming in on a photo! What I saw in the moment was capped brood, and bees in the larval stage (curled like little white "C" shapes in the cells). What I saw when I zoomed in on the photo is a pretty solid pattern of eggs laid in the cells -- those little white dots centered in the cells, most visible in the lower left section). You can also see honey glistening in the top right section. Maybe someday I'll write a nonfiction article and be able to publish this photo with it! :-)

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Gear for me and a guest apprentice

This past weekend, blog follower Heather (Mark's eldest child) and her husband Ben came to visit. On Sunday afternoon, she bravely ventured to Bee Hill to check out her dad's latest passion. In exchange for taking notes and photos, I let her borrow my new gear.

Yes, we decided to invest in a beekeeper's jacket and gloves for me. Mark already had the bee veil/hat combo that would zip onto the jacket to hand down to me, and bought himself the model that can be used with regular clothing instead of a bee suit.

It was a good thing she had it, because apparently Mark made the bees mad. It's interesting how sometimes they're docile and he can do whatever he wants without smoking them, and other days they're out for blood.

His main priority was checking on Hives 4 & 5, as they're the weakest of the bunch. We'd decided together to supply them both with a protein patty (photo above) and see if that would give them a boost. Hive 5's sugar water feeder was empty, and given the amount of bees and activity, he felt it was safe to remove it. He added a shim to leave space for a protein patty, and added a moving screen for ventilation. She noted that Hive 5 is about ready for a medium super, which is good news. He left the feeder in Hive 4, and added a patty, and a screen. He may re-queen both of these hives as he's unsure of the age and stamina of the queens at this point, and we'd like to build up both colonies before the weather turns cooler.

Which can't happen soon enough!

He also checked the lower medium super on Hive 1, ostensibly to see if the bees were filling it and would need an additional super, but I think he was eager to show Heather the fruits of his labor. Hive 1 didn't disappoint.

Thanks, Heather, for taking notes and photos!