This post is covered in bees
As Shazz pointed out, I was initially apprehensive about her keeping bees. Given that both her and Neil's schedules are so hectic, I was convinced that his assistant Lorraine and I would end up being the bulk of the work. And while I don't have a bee phobia, the idea of intentionally walking up to a big pile o' bees and tearing their home apart to steal their honey gave me pause.
So it was a little surprising to find myself heading off to inspect the hives today, alone. Well, except for Cabal the beekeeping dog, who really serves only in an advisory capacity.
Another thing is that the bees themselves aren't aggressive. As long as you handle the boxes carefully, and smoke regularly, most of them just go about their business, even as you take the frames out, one by one. You'd think you'd get a bigger reaction, since they live and work in darkness, but opening the hive really only affects a small portion of the hive, who come out and buzz around, but don't immediately attack. Part of this, of course, is because we go out in the middle of the day, when the foragers are out collecting pollen, but still.
The only time they've become deliberately aggressive is when a frame we were handling slipped from the glove, fell about an inch, but landed on the hive with a good, solid, bonk! In a split-second, the buzzing got much louder, and Sharon and I both froze.
"I wish that hadn't happened."
Still, even when they're buzzing around your head, butting against the screen that shields your face, there's not really a sense of attack--though we have been stung in the gloves a couple of times. Maybe it's because before all this, my interaction was with lone bees--foragers, and all you think about is the stingers, rather than them working as a group, building a hive.
So anyway, I like the bees. They're kind of cute. Perhaps it's because they're fuzzy.
And now for your weekly bee report.
Queen Kitty II, by the Grace of God, Defender of etc., etc. had been accepted into the hive and it was hoped that she would start laying workers to replenish the hive. I'm happy to report that I believe this is happening!
Let me first apologize for the quality of the pictures; taking good shots of bees is tough enough, but add in a black screen in front of your face, direct sunlight on the view screen, and sweat dripping onto your glasses, and it's hard to feel the love when you're trying to get out of there as quickly as possible, before you need to find out if you're allergic to bees (and you realize that you left your cell phone back at the house. Screaming "911" doesn't really work as well).
Plus, and I hate to gossip, but the bees just really didn't take direction well. "Throw back your wings!" I shouted. "Show me how much you love that honey! Stick out your proboscis!" Honestly, it was like they weren't listening at all. Prima donnas.
This is the top box of Kitty. Some activity there, and a lot of buzzing. The last few times we visited the hive was very lethargic (quiet), so I took this as a good sign. Pulling out the end frames:
Workers, drawing out comb, which means that they're building their own comb on top of the plastic sheets in the middle of the frame. I don't know if you can see it in this picture, but there are a lot of bees in the middle box, below this one. Pulling out the center frame:
It's almost entirely filled with honey, some of it capped. This actually made me a little apprehensive, because what we hoped for was brood: eggs that would turn into workers. At least, I pretty sure it's all honey. Sharon's the head beekeeper here and I'm just trying to remember what she told me as I watched her inspect the hive. Anyway, not seeing any evidence of eggs, I moved onto the second brood box.
Tons of activity and a lot of buzzing, which I was happy to hear. On the end of the box they were drawing out more of what looked to be honey, and making more of their funky comb (Kitty hive takes after her namesake). I was pleased by the activity, but knew that I had to keep digging until I could report to Sharon that we had larvae. So, moving into the middle frame of box 2:
Larvae! Precious, precious larvae! Now, if I remember correctly, the worker cells are relatively flush with the comb while drone cells puff out, because the males need more room for their recliners and beer. So, is this almost all future workers for the Kitty hive. In addition to this, there was a lot more activity going on inside, lots of noisy buzzing. Yay!
Having established that Kitty II was having a prosperous reign, I closed the hive and moved onto Olga.
Olga, as you'll recall, was our big hope for honey after the Kitty I decided to go on tour with her Swarm (which would be a good name for a hair metal band, late 80s. So if you're thinking about traveling back in time and living like a modern cowboy, on a steel horse you'll ride...). However, after having no end of problems with the first honey super (the wax centers kept collapsing), we added a section of plastic rounds, but left the first super on as well, just to see what the bees would do.
And here it is: The bees are building feral comb in the empty frames, which, if all goes well, will translate into edible honey for us, albeit in a very funky form. Olga, your bees are getting results, but they're not following the rules!
Suddenly I'm a chief inspector in a bad 70s cop show.
Very little activity otherwise. Moving onto the plastic rounds:
We're getting completely nooged by the Olga bees, who I think might be onto us. One was constantly buzzing my head, and despite my best efforts to smoke her, she kept right on flying a patrol around my noggin. Lots of bees running around in the plastic rounds, and they'd glued them all together with propolis so tightly I had to pry them out with both hands, but not a single spot of comb.
UPDATE: Turns out the plastic rounds are supposed to have a wax foundation (like the other frames) that goes in between them. After rummaging around in the shipping boxes, I found them, added them to our second set of rounds, and swapped the boxes. Needless to say, the bees don't really appreciate two visits in one day. Ah, life.
So, this concludes your regular bee update. And now, if everyone will please close their browser windows...
A PRIVATE MESSAGE TO SHARON:
Darling, please come home. I'm sorry I made jokes about birds. I'm so, so sorry. I miss you. The pets miss you. Well, Cinnamon doesn't, but you know what I mean. I promise never to make jokes about how brown birds look exactly alike, even though they obviously do. And all those times I said you were nuts to go and stand in a field at 5 a.m.? Well, uhmmm... well, I was right about that, too, but if you come back I'll keep it to myself and only laugh when I think you're not looking.
Please, please come back.
END PRIVATE MESSAGE.