Wednesday, July 30

Bees in the Night

9pm, still about 85 degrees and the bees felt the heat all afternoon.  
I am never around at this time of day, but I have been told that they've been doing this each night.  Fresh air after a super hot day.  
I haven't looked inside of the hive in over two weeks, but I'm sure that they haven't swarmed, so I am not as concerned.  I will open the hive again on Sunday and see what has happened since August began.

Friday, July 25

Summer Bees

I have just returned from a week and a half of vacation, which I spent on Mt. Desert Island, ME.  Before leaving, I was super anxious about a potential swarm from this hive.  The day before I left, I opened the hive, brought two frames from the lower chamber into the upper hive body, and cleaned up at least ten more swarm cells.  I cleaned up as much of the excess propolis that I could and felt somewhat calmer when I closed it back up, thinking that the bees would begin to move upwards with that little rearranging.  
While I was away, I called home to have people look at the hive for me.  There is little that can be told from the outside, but just to hear that they appeared 'normal' was reassurance enough.
Also while I was gone, I read a great book, titled 'A Book Of Bees' by Sue Hubbell.    While I think that a lot of the charm of this book could be lost on someone unfamiliar with beekeeping, there is an overall sense of serenity and natural harmony in this book.  It is just as much a story of the year in one woman's life - her interactions with local farmers in her small town, the different creatures and plants she encounters in her daily routines, the chores of running a farm and a business - as it is about beekeeping.  
It really spoke to whatever in me is so compelled by beekeeping.  I still don't know why I began, or what it is that keeps me so fascinated.  All I know is - and I continue to encounter this - that people who keep bees all care very, very deeply about their bees.  It is a poetic, encompassing emotion that cannot be adequately described - though this book came close.

Clever Moves

Bee Boy Dance Crew Drops Dead
This is a pretty interesting video - I was sent it, and watched it just thinking it was a cool dance project, digging the dudes in bee suits.  At the end, I realized it was a commentary on Colony Collapse Disorder, and noticed that it was created from a general interest in and knowledge of honeybees.  Clever.

Tuesday, July 8


On a side note, I realized very acutely today one of the subtle pleasures of being near the bees: the scent of the hive.  When I sit near the entrance, I can smell it wafting from the inside.  It's a warm honey-and-life smell that I wish I could capture and distill.

Swarm Musings

I am determined to get to the bottom of this swarm thing.  It's inevitable that beekeepers will have to deal with swarms and it happens at least yearly, though it was my hope that with a new colony, I would be spared the drama during the first season.  I did know, however, that Italian bees have a high propensity for swarming.
I leave for a week starting on Friday, so I think I'll chance another disturbance to the hive and open it on Thursday, do a very thorough search for more swarm cells, and then transfer some of the drawn frames from the bottom super to the vacant top super.  That's my plan, as it stands.

Sunday, July 6

Swarm Cell

I opened the hive today, one week after adding the second super.  Now the bees have two levels in which to build, and I expected that the added space arrived just in time for the bustling hive.  When I lifted off the inner cover, I noticed that the upper deep was without any comb, but had a few hundred wandering bees.  At first, I was not alarmed.
As I made my way through the inspection of the lower super, frame by frame, I noticed that all but one frame had been drawn out.  There are large chunks of capped honey, there are cells of emerging bees and sells with milky white larva.  I saw the queen on one of the newest frames.  All seemed well - but why hadn't they moved upstairs yet?
Then I saw something that alarmed me - a swarm cell.  Typically, hives do not swarm in their first season, but Italian bees are predisposed to swarming and I am afraid that I added the second super too late.  I'm concerned that they haven't had enough time to build in the second super, and now they are faced with no space for the queen to lay eggs, and no time to build that space.  They could possibly swarm.
A swarm will occur when the hive is crowded - half of the team leaving with the old queen and moving to a nearby tree branch until they can locate a new place to live.  However, they will not abandon the whole hive without leaving a new queen.  Hence the swarm cells.  Built on the lower part of a frame, a swarm cell is a peanut shaped pod, much larger than any of the other cells.  Inside, a larger larva is forming - being fed special nutrients to potentially become a queen.  Several such cells will be made, then the hatched queens must fight until one remains, and will officially take on the role of the new queen.
I had to squash the one I saw, but now, in hindsight, I have convinced myself that I missed seeing a slew of others.  I hope that over this week they can make more space in the second super so that I don't return from a week's vacation to find a decimated, empty, unprepared hive.  (Or hear of any neighbors spraying a freak cluster of bees with bug spray should they alight in someone's front yard... my babies!)