Nothing to do!

Although the temperature was a brisk 18 degrees this afternoon, I visited the ladies in the backyard. There is absolutely nothing that can be done with or for the bees during the winter and after a summer and fall of thinking, watching, and interacting with them, I am experiencing feelings of withdrawal. I cleared the snow and ice away from the lower entrances of both hives and discovered a number of frozen bees, some on the landing boards and some stuck in the holes of the metal mouse guards. I wrapped both hives with tar paper to help protect them from the wind and raised the lid just a bit to provide a little ventilation. I have read and have been told that it is not the cold of winter that kills bees but an over abundance of moisture in the hive.

I put my ear up to the side of the main hive and could hear the quiet whir of their heating system- their wings; I smiled. I did the same to the small hive (the last group that swarmed in September) and could not hear anything. I know that doesn’t necessarily mean the worst scenario has played out but I do worry about them because they were small in number and have only the candy with which I supplied them to live on during the winter. I am sending them hopeful thoughts.

My husband and I recently visited Backwood Bee Farm in North Windham; I placed an order for 2 packages of bees (a package of bees = an Italian queen bee and approximately 10,000 honey bees). Their arrival date is mid-April!! I am very excited about the new additions and will begin preparing their hives. Actually, my husband will assemble most of each hive and I will give them a coat or two of paint. I wonder what colors these ladies might prefer!

Tucked in for the winter!

Tucked in for the winter!

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Ouch….finally stung!

Hello!
My apologies for not posting for some time; I got caught up in the beginning-of-the-school-year-teacher schedule!

I do have news….I finally received my first full-on honey bee stings and it hurt. I was rushing to get to school and was running late. My husband offered to help me by giving the ladies a jar of sugarsyrup.

When he returned from the hive, he stated, “Boy, your ladies are feisty this morning. There were so many of them buzzing me angrily so I just set the half-empty jar that I removed from the hive on the Adirondack chair in the yard, ok?”

“No, that is not ok!” I replied, with attitude my husband reflected. I explained to him that if you leave a jar of sugarsyrup, with a lid covered with small holes, near the hive it will attract honey-robbers (bees from other hives, hornets, bumblebees, etc.) Geez! So I marched right out, with attitude he reported once again, and grabbed the jar that was still covered with a handful of bees. I tucked my free hand behind my back and gave the jar a quick hard shake to dislodge the bees. A number of bees tumbled off, buzzing that I-am-really-really-angry buzz. Before I had the opportunity to give the jar another shake, I began to feel little jabs of pain on the arm that I tucked behind my back and another jab underneath my arm. They snuck around behind me to retaliate! I don’t think that I mentioned that when I marched out of the house I did not don a hat/veil or gloves. Perhaps marching out of the house, with attitude, prevented me from thinking clearly!

So what did I do? I did not go back to the house to get the appropriate accessories for safe beekeeping, no I did not. But rather, I left the stupid jar in the yard and went to work. Ok, so I do have to mention that as I drove to work I imagined that my face was feeling itchy and that I was having difficulty swallowing.

Quite dramatic. Of course, I was perfectly fine just making a big deal out of my first three bee stings.

Perhaps I shall trade them in for hermit crabs!!!

At the risk of sounding adverse to work…..these ladies are high maintenance! 

This past weekend Linnear, my mentor, agreed to help me medicate the main hive and the swarm of naughty bees, who are still in time-out. There are a variety of medications on the market as well as a variety of views on which one is the best to use. Of course, because of the cold weather and the status of my hive, the method of treatment recommended to me is the one that is messiest…Hopguard. Yep, made from hops. I like the idea that its base is organic but it seems next to impossible not to drown a number of bees in the process of applying the strips. There is nothing sadder than a honeybee stumbling because she is dripping with a sticky, brownish-red liquid.  

One might infer from the title of this posting that I am fed up with the ladies and the amount of worry and work they seem to be throwing my way. Actually, I still adore them. They are cute and fuzzy and such hard workers. That said, I admit to you all that I am slightly disappointed that I won’t have the opportunity to sample the fruits of their labors.  Their honey reserve is almost non-existence as a result of their attempts to move, putting them in a tenuous situation. I am afraid the ladies run the risk of not making it through the winter. Thankfully, Linnear has a few ideas up her mentor sleeve.

As soon as I got home from school today, I attempted to move a honey super from the original hive to the swarm hive but unfortunately there too many delicate nurse bees hanging out on the frames. So, I put on a bee excluder under the honey super, this will allow bees to go further down in the hive but prevent them from re-entering the honey super. Tomorrow night I will attempt to remove the honey super and give it to the swarm hive for nourishment. I will beginning pushing a thick sugar syrup for the ladies in the original hive.  Wow, it sounds as if I know what I am doing!!!! Throwing around bee lingo like I understand the whys and hows of all that I am doing for the girls. Not really, but I am slowly piecing it all together.

I do not know the first thing about hermit crabs but they certainly are not cute and fuzzy. I guess I’ll stick with bees.

Reflection & post-swarm activitiés

I have been thinking about bees and beekeeping and honey. And thinking about how I have only been beekeeping or actually beelearning since May of this year and what an exciting, wonderful, and challenging adventure it has been. Here I was thinking how nice it would be, how simply nice it would be, to have a quaint, quiet, sweet beehive in my backyard. A beehive filled with little workers who would love to share their honey with me.  No one mentioned a thing to me about the little darlin’s swarming not once, but twice. Or that when bees swarm they might settle 30 feet up in a tree, twice. Oh, and when bees swarm……..they eat all the honey before they leave!!  No one said anything about what to do when a queen bee emerges from a cell in a jar on your kitchen table or what to do when the queen bee refuses to go into the hive and crawls up your arm. Or how when it is time to give them their medicine, yes I said medicine, what a production that happens to be. Ok, I may have read about these nuances of bees, but I guess I didn’t really think all these events would happen in such a short period of time.   

A week after the ladies left their home again, my mentor Linnear and her mom helped me with the process of putting my hive back together again. Gee, that sounds a bit like Humpty Dumpty!  It was quite a process. You might recall that three weeks ago a restless group of bees convinced their queen that they had found a much nicer place to live and attempted to leave the comforts of our backyard. Their attempt was thwarted and they have been in a timeout in a separate hive. So, we first examined the swarm hive from top to bottom with a goal of locating the queen. There were quite a few bees and they were not very pleased with the home invasion. It took four of us examining the frames, twice, before we found the queen. She was beautiful: long, thin, and tan in color. Queen bees are much larger than the worker bees; this one did not have stripes on her body.

Now, we did see eggs so that meant that the queen had been there within the previous 3 days. But, before we reunited these ladies with the hive from which they swarmed we needed verify whether or not there was still a queen.  We put the hive back together and we inspected the original hive next primarily to determine whether or not there was a queen reigning over that hive. Because……well……you just cannot have two queen bees in one hive! Unfortunately, but fortunately, the original hive was queenless. This made combining the two hives a bit easier, relatively speaking. It took us about three hours to complete all these steps. Linnea brought her brand new smoker, thankfully!  The ladies were slightly irritated, especially when we placed the queen in a queen cage that looked like a hair clip! Why did we cage the boss, you might be asking?  We needed to treat the bees for mites with a strong medication that could potentially harm the queen. I do not think I could possibly explain all that we did, eloquently and possibly boring you a tad. That said, it was hard work but it was fun and fascinating at the same time.
Here are some pictures taken during our time in the backyard:

Beginning the hive inspection

Beginning the hive inspection

My mentor, Linnear, and her mom

My mentor, Linnear, and her mom

Queen Bee in a clip for protection

Queen Bee in a clip for protection

Two hives in one

Two hives in one

But, I don't want to go inside!

But, I don’t want to go inside!

Playing “Capture the Bees” or Where do you think you are going????

Here is the video of my husband and I retrieving swarm #2 two weeks ago. I propped up my iPad in a chair. It is not the best video production and I may have used the incorrect resolution in the uploading process, but it does capture the adventure! You will see that it was quite a windy day, the sound effects are dazzling (not really), and oh, if you listen to the audio, I may have uttered an inappropriate word when I spilled some of the bees. Sorry about that, it just slipped out and I just could not figure out how to edit the audio. At least I was able to figure out how to edit the length of the video from 25 long, long minutes to a mere 6 minutes! That said, feel free to cut it short 🙂