Friday, May 30

I can hear you

Yesterday I sat near the hive for a while and watched the bees.  Not much to see from the outside.  Looks like business as usual.  I lose track of how long I sit there.  Also, I kind of never want to walk away.  
I lifted the outer cover off and peeked through the screen on the hive-top feeder, I pressed my ear against it to hear them buzzing.  On Saturday I think I'll open it again, but I'm concerned that 6pm is too late in the day.  (If all the bees are home for the day, it's hard to work in there.)

Monday, May 26

Burr Comb and Heartache

It's been a little over a week since the bees arrived and I was fluctuating between eagerly wanting to open the hive and see what they were up to and being filled with dread about what I might find. (A missing or dead queen, a less than populated hive, hyper-aggressive bees...)
I finally got enough fuel into my smoker (tried pine needles but they were too damp, settled on dried mowed grass which stank a lot but gave off a good amount of smoke) and took the hive apart.

I noticed that the main cluster of bees were spread between one or two frames, about near where I'd left the queen cage. I assumed the queen was in there, too. My first task was to remove the wall frame without crushing or rolling any bees, and I was able to do that easily. It was covered in bees, though, so I carefully leaned it up against the hive stand and hoped any wayward transports would find their way back through the hive entrance should they not make it back in upon that frame.

The most startling thing I encountered was a wealth of burr comb, rogue patches of honeycomb that the bees build between the frames, not on the foundation that is stretched within the frames. This happens, I've learned, if there is too much space between frames. In this case, the gap where the queen cage had been suspended between two frames left plenty of space for them to build this comb. Unfortunately, if the comb is left it would make my task in manipulating frames in order to inspect the hive a difficult one, and knew I had to get rid of it.

I felt then - and still am agitated by - a canvassing sense of sadness for having to destroy this comb. I cannot describe how beautiful it was. Translucent, sweet smelling, clean, light as air - some spaces in the comb were filled with clear nectar, others with a variety of colored pollen, and, heartbreakingly, hundreds of cells with a singular egg in them.

On one hand, I knew I was right in removing the burr comb. Also, it was an obvious indicator of the productivity of the hive and the presence of a laying queen. On the other hand, I felt as though I was confiscating and destroying a week of their hard work. All they know how to do is to gather and build and raise their young, and that's what they did, and here I am, imposing a sense of order on an arguably immaculate natural order/process. (Apparently my sadness over this was visible to others for the next 24 hours, even.)

The heartbreak!

In conclusion - the hive appears healthy, some of the actual foundation was being drawn into comb and now the frames are properly spaced. Hopefully next week's inspection will find them following the laws of their new home.

Tuesday, May 20


Entirely random - I had a dream that I ordered a second package of bees and had them kept in my studio until I could hive them. I think I was adding them to the same hive that I just set up. Anyway, in my dream, I had to do it all by myself and so I started, spraying the bees with sugar water inside of their crate, only when I sprayed, it blew out one screen panel, opening up the package.
The second half of my dream consisted of calling beekeeper friends for help and frequently checking my studio to see if they'd settled down enough so that I could somehow catch them all.

Saturday, May 17


I just spent 30 minutes sitting in front of the hive, watching the bees enter and exit. I would look out into the yard and wait until I could see one returning, and focus on it as it landed and went into the hive. I was amazed at how clearly I could see the pollen they were carrying, and I was in awe of how quickly they worked.

It's amazing.

Friday, May 16

All quiet. I hope it's growing!

It's pouring outside today, so I am glad that we were able to put the bees in yesterday.  When I went to look at the hive this afternoon there was one little bee venturing in and out, but other than the humming of the bees inside the hive, there was no sign of action.

Here are three bee facts for the day, as I anticipate the hive's growth over the next month:
The queen can lay 2,000 eggs per day.  Likewise, 2,000 new bees are hatched each day.
The hive's population averages 60,000 worker bees in the summer months.
Male bees, or drones, make up less than 1% of the hive population.

Day One - Bees in the Mail

Carin suggested that I blog this endeavor, and I felt like that was a good idea.  

In my head, I've composed a range of entries about the beehive already, addressing why I decided to do this, what the past six months was like, what needs to happen next....  Once the bees get installed into the hive, they musn't be disturbed for a week.  Plenty of time for this beekeeper to blog, I suppose.  ("It's like nature vs. machine...")

There are many photos of the whole hiving process on flickr.

And here is a video of what I arrived home to.  Bees in the mail!