First Bee Post of 2008

Lots of snow has been falling in Mr. Neil's woods. There are some trails from the deer, some from the dog Cabal, and quite a few from rabbits, squirrels, and deer mice. This morning we took whoever was still around from the New Year's party out to the beehives so people could experience the magic of live buzzing bees while it was somewhere near zero degrees (Fahrenheit) outside.

As everyone was putting their ears to the Olga hive, I noticed a very steady trail of deer mouse tracks...

...leading directly underneath the Olga hive. This is not good. We have a mouse guard on the entrance, but our hives are elevated, so there is a space underneath the hive that a mouse could chew and gain access to the inside. It's a tempting abode for an enterprising deer mouse: bees keep it warm and you'd be surrounded by honey. Was the mouse just hanging out under the hive, or was it going up and into it? I stuck my camera into the space below Olga:

There was a pile of bee parts and some tiny wood scraps The bee parts could be decomposing dead bees that had fallen out, but the wood was a sure sign that some chewing was underway.

I tried to take a photo of the bottom of the hive, and low and behold there is a hole large enough for a deer mouse to gain access to the bottom of the hive. I think we have caught this early, I was just out a week ago and there were no tracks. Lorraine headed out and purchased some snap traps to place under the hive. I feel bad for the mouse, it's a clever way to survive the winter, but I have a responsibility to my girls to help them survive the winter--the mouse has to go. Funny thing--we had two traps, but had trouble setting one of them in the extreme cold because the metal was contracting.

But now to some very exciting news! We are prepping the hives for the coming spring! Last year, Non Birding Bill and I put the hives together and painted them. In preparation for this spring, we ordered assembled hives and Mr. Neil is commissioning artists paint them. The first artist?

Kelli Bickman came in from New York to paint one of the new hives! It is so incredibly cool(and isn't Kelli adorable?)! The colors, the dripping honey, the skulls! I love it, and I can't wait to see it alive with a colony of bees.

Here is the other side. Kelli has actually done three deep brood boxes and two of our comb honey supers. I'm going to find myself impatient to put this hive together through spring and summer in order to see the whole art, but it will be a gradual process.

Here is a close up of the eye. Kelli's cousin, Jen did all the detail work here, down to a bee in the middle of the pupil. Beekeeping is fun enough, but to have an artist create such a space for our bees, really takes it to a new level. This is just such a gift and this beekeeping thing combines so many elements I love: art, natural history, learning, and friendship. Kelli's work is so vibrant and the color composition has a way of taking me to a peaceful, vibrant world. Can't wait to see what the personality of this hive will be.

So, here we have it: The Kelli Hive. I like this new rule, you paint the hive, we name it after you.