Posts Tagged ‘queen’

Moving Day(s)

September 12, 2010 4 comments

My goodness. Make yourself a cup of tea (with honey)–I’ve got lots to tell.

A few weeks ago, I realized that the bees were rapidly increasing in number and making it a bit challenging for all species to enjoy our postage-stamp-sized backyard. I started asking folks in our local bee group if they knew of any alternate sites. (Last year at this time there weren’t any good options.) Miraculously, the perfect opportunity presented itself. It turned out that an ideal apiary site, very close to our home, had room for another hive. Our boisterous bees have moved into new digs. And you could certainly consider the relocation a step up:

Our colony is now located on the gorgeous grounds of Arden Wood, a 12-acre Christian Science nursing facility that opened in 1930. The folks at Arden Wood, both staff and residents, have been very welcoming–and I and the bees are delighted. Here’s the apiary, pre-move:

“Move,” however, is really too small a word to describe the ordeal of transferring 60,000+ bees from one location to another. Here are some of the unanticipated highlights:

  • A full medium super can weigh close to 50 lbs. Our Tower of Beesa was seven boxes high, so the total weight of the colony was over 300 lbs. I therefore had to remove the honey supers (and brush thousands of bees off the frames), so we could carry the boxes separately.
  • In order to close up the hive with as many bees as possible, the transfer has to take place at night, when they’re all home. At around midnight, my beekeeping mentor and I started the final preparations. (I can only imagine what the neighbors must have been thinking.) My mentor snuck up behind the hive, quickly plugging the entrance with cardboard. He ratchet-strapped the brood boxes together, making sure they were securely fastened (!). We carried the boxes of extremely peevish bees into the back of my minivan. I tried to ignore the shocked expressions on folks in other cars as I (in full bee suit and veil) gently drove the bee colony to its new home.
  • After arriving at the new site, we set the hive on its stand and then my mentor pulled out the entrance plug. He warned that they’d exit en masse and be madder than hornets. That turned out to be an understatement.
  • The next day, about 30 bees were clumped in our backyard, right in the spot where the hive had been. I felt bad for them, so I scooped them up and drove them over to their sisters.

A few days later, I stopped by to see how things were going. The bees seemed to be doing very well. Here’s a picture taken before we added the honey supers back on.

Whew. I’m hoping this was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.


Lucky 7

July 20, 2010 2 comments

Today my wonderful mentor stopped by for another hive inspection. It was foggy and quite cool. (I’m sharing the weather report in an attempt to excuse the behavior of the bees, who ungraciously stung him six times… He’s the kind of natural beekeeper I aspire to be–he only uses a veil, no gloves or bee suit. But today didn’t offer much incentive to change my haz-mat approach.)

I’m so happy to report that everything’s going really well. We spotted Latifah in the middle brood box. The whole brood area was doing nicely–lots of eggs, larvae, and capped brood, but still room for more. It looks like three medium boxes is the perfect number for us, allowing for rotation of space through the frames, as needed, for egg laying and brood raising.

Above the queen excluder, the three supers have been filled beautifully. In about a week, I think we’ll have two supers to extract. That means the rush is on to buy jars, design labels, and, surprisingly, buy and build another super and frames. Yes, the hive’s going to be seven boxes tall. Please join me in thinking stable thoughts.

Beekeeping with Kids

May 23, 2010 4 comments

I love the first view of the colony, just after I take off the inner cover. All those little bee-heads (now, probably 20,000) staring up at me. Maybe our own house isn’t that crowded, after all.

We had a great family hive inspection this afternoon. Two of my kids are showing definite signs of beekeeping interest. They had to trade off using the one extra veil, but still had a lot of fun. They’re certainly more fearless than I am. And their adventurous natures paid off with an audience with our queen.

Latifah on 2nd frame of top box
As soon as we closed the hive, the foragers started returning–many with pollen baskets full of bright orange, golden yellow, and tan pollen.
It was a gorgeous (that is, un-foggy) day–and our other creatures enjoyed themselves, as well:
New bottle of sugar water on 5/20. Add third medium brood box in a week?

The Queen is Seen

May 13, 2010 2 comments

Another hive inspection yesterday (day 32)–and, aside from the usual evidence of the queen’s presence (eggs, etc.), I now have a photo:

The lighter coloring of the Italian queens makes them so much easier to spot. Ours was on the third frame of the bottom box. (About four frames in the top box were drawn out–I’ll probably add the last brood box in a week. After that, it’s honey supers.)

We’ve been trying to come up with a good name for our queen. After much family deliberation, my mother-in-law came up with the perfect one: Latifah.

New 800ml bottle of sugar water

Bees are Way Better than Sims

April 24, 2010 Leave a comment

Seriously. We’ve got a “life-simulation” game going on right in our very own backyard. Gender and class issues (queen, worker, drone); environmental concerns (El Niño, the nectar flow); political intrigue (the reliance on foreign sugar water)–all in one little, wooden box.

So, here’s the cast of thousands, foraging, on a fine, spring day.

I wanted my kids to be able to see the pollen baskets on the incoming bees’ legs, so I saved a section in slow motion. The bees seem a bit less graceful when you see how narrowly they avoid bumping into each other. (Or not.) But it’s still impressive that all the take-offs and landings are accomplished without air traffic controllers.

And now for the great news: I saw the queen! She’s a lovely golden color–and, yes, looks like a stretch limo compared to her daughters. She was running around on the 5th frame (of 8). The bees have drawn out beautiful, white comb on about 7-1/2 of the frames. There’s capped brood and larvae on the middle frames–and brightly colored cells of pollen (orange, yellow), as well as lots of nectar, on the outer frames and on the tops of the middle frames. This was a wonderful hive inspection. (Or as the bees would probably say, “Hey, a space alien just took off our roof!”)

The bees needed more room, so I stacked another brood box on top. They’re well on their way to a lovely, cedar high-rise.

Sugar water bottle empty; replaced with fresh 800 ml bottle.