Thursday, July 17, 2008

Always something to learn

So I went to the beeyard on Monday to check on things, and found the weak hive still weak, and the strong hive, really, really strong. For hours, I worked on relocating the weak hive to a sunnier spot. This picture shows a worker at the entrance fanning the queen's scent to the outside of the hive, so that field bees on foraging trips while I moved the hive can find home again. The brood nest spans 3 medium boxes but is only a couple frames wide. The queen is laying in the second and third frames from the side of the box. It is possible that the colony needs more heat reserved during the day to cope with the coolish nights, so I have taken the hive from behind the sheltering stacks of stored boxes, and placed it in the sun. It is clear to me at this point that the weaker hive will have to be combined with the stronger when it becomes time to prepare them for over-wintering. The queen was probably the one that spent several nights outside in the Spring, and will not sustain a productive hive.
The clip shows the frenetic activity at the lower opening of the strong hive. While I was doing maintenance on some frames, I retrieved some old comb that had melted out of the frame. Probing with my hive tool, I found that each cell could be separated into a single hexagonal cylinder:

I thought that each cell borrowed the walls of the adjoining cells, but these images show that in building the cells, the bees give each cell six discrete walls. The wax is dark because this comb comes from the brood box, and has picked up years of heavy foot traffic. It is opalescent because it has been in the sun and gotten soft and melty
I cleaned up the storage stacks, bagged up some equipment to bring home for cleaning and went to get lunch for for Cath, Miss and I at Area 57. Area 57 is on county Highway 57 and is operated by the nicest people you can imagine. They serve excellent wholesome food that is the equal of anything I'd find in the Cities. Soups, sandwiches and amazing desserts. My new favorite as of Monday is their smoked turkey philly - it's not on the menu - you have to ask for it. If you are going to keep bees and have to travel, you gotta have a joint to go to afterwards - this is my joint. After lunch I went back to the beeyard. I had saved the strong hive inspection for last. Good thing. These bees are the kind that are fine with you being in the beeyard, fine with you in the supers, but touch the brood boxes and they become extremely defensive. They chased me for 50 feet from the hive. I anticipated trouble and had my gauntIets and veil on - which I hadn't used through the morning and the move of the other hive. Their attack pattern was really unusual in my experience. Rather than going for my head or torso, they went for my legs, and got several hits, the worst being below the pantline tucked inside the boots I wear. I reacted differently to their venom also - it blistered and now I have a small sore there. I eventually used a little smoke on them, just so I could get the hive reassembled. If they make it through the Spring, I am going to re-queen them, to improve their disposition and guard against any worsening reaction to this breed's venom. As I was leaving I pressed a cork into the upper opening, which the bees were trying to close with propolis. The propolis gets hard as peanut brittle when it is cold, but when it is as warm as it was on Monday, it was very soft and pliable. This box may be permanently corked!


twinsetellen said...

The individual cells look like pomegranate seeds! Way cool. Though of course no where near as well read or experienced as you are in the ways of bees, I, too, had always assumed the cells had shared walls.

Eryka Jackson said...

Where can I get some of your honey? Also, do you do a lot of honeycomb knitting patterns? I think it would be neat to do a blanket or shawl inspired by beekeeping.

beegirl said...

Ellen - they do look like pomegranate seeds!

Eryka - I can bring honey to the next knitting night I make it to - September. Or if you want some sooner, give me a call! I'll also bring some to the Widji retreat at the ed of September in Ely, if you decide to go.