Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Ten Apples (And a Sting) Up On Top

I guess I will start with apples. A couple of weeks ago, while the fruit trees were in bloom, the small apple tree in the backyard was covered in bees. The hum of the bees in the tree could even be heard inside the house! Thanks to those bees the tree is now loaded with marble sized apples. I think we can look forward to a bumber apple crop this year. The pear tree, on the other hand, does not seem to be producing quite like the apple tree is. It never had the huge swarm of bees that the apple tree had but it did still have its fair share. Now we can only find a few developing pears in the whole tree. I guess there is nothing left to say about the pears except "Hmmm...."

I did something stupid this week. I was anxious to see how much progress the Virginia hive had made. It was a couple of days before I would be able to do the inspection and I wanted to see if, after the population explosion, Virginia's bees had started building comb on the outer most frames. So, after work when the evening was cooling down, I decided to just lift the edge of the top hive feeder and peek in. I had done this before without any problems, but that was when the population was a lot smaller. Anyway, I went to lift the edge but the bees had stuck the feeder to the hive with propolis (that's bee glue made from tree sap). The propolis broke free with a loud CRACK and the feeder popped up completely clear of the hive. The bees did not like that at all. I don't know how many bees came out of the hive but they all headed straight for me. I quickly replaced the feeder back on the hive as the bees were divebombing my head. As they chased me across the yard I felt the tiniest pin prick on my forehead. I thought to myself "That could not have been a sting, it didn't hurt." It gave me no problems that night so I thought I really had escaped unscathed. The next day it swelled up into a hard red knot and itched for the next four days. If that is all bee stings are made of- I say BRING THEM ON!

The last inspection occurred on May 29th. The hives are making progress filling in the empty frames with comb, but it is slow. In Virginia, we expected to see that she had finished drawing comb on the las three frames of the lower deep hive body and that the bees had moved up to the upper deep. Well the bees did move up but they had not touched the last 3 frames in the bottom compartment. The bees have always been clustered in the hive just to the right of center and had filled up the frames on the right side faster than the left. We were not sure what to do to get the bees to fill in the last three in the bottom or if we should just let them do their thing and they would fill them in eventually. We got some good advice from another beekeeper on and will replace the three empty frames in the bottom deep with three frames filled with comb but no brood from the upper deep. We will then take the empty frames from the lower and move them to the outside edge of the upper., by the way, is an excellent resource for beekeepers. It is visited everyday by hundreds of beekeepers from all over with all kinds of experience. They are always happy and willing to share their expertise and answer any question anybody has, even obvious questions from newbies like us. We recommend it to beekeepers who want to share, new beekeepers who want to learn, or anyone just thinking of starting a couple of hives of their own.

Georgia's bees had set up in the same position as Virginia- just to the right of center. They finally did fill out seven of their ten frames so we added a second deep hive body. Now we will see if they follow Virginia's example and move up without finishing the last 3 frames. In the last post we mentioned a curious cell in Georgia's hive. It looked too big to be a drone cell but not quite right to be a queen cell. Well, it wasn't there this week. Either it was our imagination or it was a drone cell that finally became a drone bee. I dont't think it was a queen cell because the hive didn't swarm and if it had been a supercedure cell I think there would have been more of them. Now we wait for the bees to fill in the deep hive bodies so we can start adding supers to the top. Have I explained what a super is? I'll do it now just in case I haven't. A super is smaller than a deep hive body and is placed on top of the deeps. The queen stays in the deep hives bodies laying eggs and raising brood. The worker bees fill the deeps up with honey and pollen for the hive to use. Any extra honey they produce they put up in the supers. That will be our honey!

Bees always amaze me and I could watch them for hours. Yesterday morning I got up early to weed and thin the lettuce in the garden. The hives are located just a few feet from the garden so I had a good view of them the whole time. Before the sun rose high enough in the air to shine directly on the hives there were just a few odd bees flying outside. As the sun peeked up over the hedge and direct sunlight hit the hives there was a sudden burst of activity and the bees poured out of the hives. It is like they were inside the entrance just waiting for the sunlight to hit. Beautiful!


Anonymous said...

Well, that was a good read. You are becoming so knowledgeable about the whole bee thing. I am way excited to hear when you get to extract some pure golden honey!

Anonymous said...

that was just me, Margaret. I haven't gotten a way to identify myself.

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