State of the Bees: 2017/05/11

This post is SOOO LATE but we’re just gonna ignore that.

FOUR SCORE AND SEVEN YEARS AGO, my good friend Kevin came from California. Apparently not willing to be outdone by Galadriel, he game bearing gifts. SO MANY GIFTS.

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Fortunately he did not ask me to look into any creepy mirrors. (Art by Matt Stewart. Do yourself a favor and go look at his gorgeous pieces, seriously, your eyes will thank you.)

ANYWAY, after bestowing upon me homemade donuts, homebrewed pear cider, wildflower seed, and the (probably complete) works of Asimov, I decided I GUESS I’ll let you help me with a hive inspection. But of course it was raining. TO BE CONTINUED.

At some point that week (04/26?) I was out doing a little gardening and suddenly bees kept hitting me as I walked by the hives. This is usually a very rare occasion but I had three or four do it in the span of a few minutes. I looked at the hive entrances and it was like Los Angeles traffic at rush hour. They were landing three deep on top of each other, knocking huge bunches of other bees off onto the ground. MAYHEM. So I opened up another entrance. I didn’t want to till the brood started hatching (21 days after the queen was released, so still a week+ away), but IT WAS CRAY ALL UP IN THERE. I threw on a veil, opened up the next one over, and not more than a minute or two after it starts POURING. Going from sun to rain in Oregon is not unusual but this was pretty dang impressive, even for us. I was soaked by the time I got back into the house. The bees, by the time the rain started, had already gotten back in THEIR house. So I’m not actually sure they NEEDED the other entrance open so much as they had used their Bee Powers (™, probably) to sense the coming rain and all wanted to get in before they would be stranded who knows where. It was fascinating. I love watching and learning from them about weather.

DO OVER DAY (4/29)

The sun is shining, and we’re suited up and ready to go! Seriously though, I’M FEELING GOOD about this hive inspection. The bees are all out flying in force, it’s nice and warm, I’ve got someone to help me LIFT THE ROOOOOOF (apparently the coffee is working well this morning), and uhhh I guess that’s it. BUT IT SEEMS GOOD.

Inspection goals:

  • EVERYONE STAY CALM
  • Pull out feeders OR refill and replace
  • Go through frames, counting the number of bars with drawn comb
  • Put empty bars in-between straight-drawn comb
  • Smoker practice
  • TAKE PICTURES??

The smoker, as always, was an interesting challenge. Here’s the thing. I’m sure I’ve said this before BUT I’m great at fires. The best. I make the best fires. No one is better at making fires. I make BIG FIRES. HOT AND FAST. But with a smoker you have to basically make a really bad fire. A tiny, bad, very sad fire. I’m really bad at that. ANYWAY, Kevin got to watch me struggle to make a fire that is tiny, mostly dying ie. VERY SMOKY, but somehow alive enough to last for like thirty minutes while we dork around with the bees. IT’S HARD, K?

So, we popped the roof off on both of them, let things settle a bit, then checked out the feeders. They were mostly full, which I had assumed. I’m not sure if it’s because I am the #1 World’s Worst Sugar Syrup Maker or what, but nothing likes my sugar syrup. Even when I supposedly make it right. WHATEVER, IT’S FINE. But, unfortunately, even though it clearly hadn’t leaked, one of the hives definitely had MOLD???? NOT GOOD.

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WHAT THE WHAT

Fortunately it was just on the access follower and since they clearly had enough natural food sources I just pulled it and the feeder out. UGH, though. UGH UGH. So…I have to figure that out.

Then it was HIVE TIME!

I had my camera so here’s a shot of the “house hive.” SO CUTE. Devin (my husband) watched safely from the bedroom window. I was really glad he participated. FRIENDS DOING BEE THINGS WITH ME. MAKES ME FEEL SO LOVED.

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The inside of the hive! There were little white flakes at the bottom of this one that I’m a little paranoid about even though google searches seem to indicate it’s fine. I still need to ask the bee forum, oops.

PHOTO OP TIME!

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So much drawn comb! IT MAKES ME SO GLEEFUL. And also Kevin seems to enjoy it as well.

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Kevin holding the BUSY BEES

I still haven’t seen the queen. Well, that’s a lie. I THINK I see the queen ALL THE TIME but I don’t think I’ve ever ACTUALLY seen the queen. She’s a wily Russian lady. I’m still REALLY BAD at recognizing, well, everything. But I couldn’t figure out if this was capped brood (in the middle) or capped honey. A friend told me it was capped brood. I realized I could’ve popped one open to check but I was too busy working about goal #1 EVERYONE STAY CALM. In all, there were 8 bars with at least half or full comb drawn on them. That seems WAY FASTER than I was expecting? Especially since it had only been two weeks, at least one of which was basically solid rain? I don’t know, apparently these ladies are hardcore.

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Along the way I realized my smoke might’ve been a bit too hot. See, how do you even make cold smoke, this is so hard. It wasn’t SCALDING, but on the second hive when I puffed the guards they were all “YOU WANNA GO?” I convinced them, I would be going shortly, no need for a fight. It was the second hive (the “tree hive”) that had the mold pictured previously that I pulled. This hive didn’t have the white powder (which is probably wax flakes) at the bottom of the hive. It also had about 8 drawn bars, and with both hives I added two empty ones, and moved the last empty so that all three new bars were in-between straight drawn bars. Which, it appeared, was all of them! So either my bar guides are good or these ladies know how to keep a tidy house.

We ended up wrapping up our inspection and I think we accomplished all our goals! I don’t think we had any bees who got mad enough to try and sting us, though I did accidentally squish a few. All in all I think we were pretty calm!

MISSION SUCCESS

Adding More Bars (05/03)

On Wednesday the third of May we had an 80 degree (F) day because WHY NOT. It’s cool to go from 30 degree nights to 80 degree days. After doing some pondering I was really worried that after going through 8 bars in 2 weeks of rain they would’ve gone through 3 bars easy in the span of a couple good foraging days. Plus, the brood would be hatching VERY SOON. So, after Devin got home from work, I enlisted his help in putting more bars in. Apparently full of confidence (and being lazy), I just wore my veil. NO GLOVES. They say you shouldn’t wear gloves but honestly that’s the one thing I have a huge problem with. I don’t want to get stung on the hands more than other places. It doesn’t make sense, I know. Anyway, Devin was brave, we pulled the roof off (the house hive roof is sticking again, CRYYYYYY), and I popped ten empty bars in the back of each hive. I didn’t want to intersperse them because I realized I’m also concerned about breaking up their brood too much since the nights are still not warm, and I feel pretty confident about their neatness so far.

I need to go in and do another hive inspection to see if I should add MORE bars now that brood has hatched, but now we’re supposed to have more rain forever.

Yesterday was our last day of “nice” weather for a bit, and I noticed a lot of activity around one of the hives (the tree hive). I’m a bit concerned because it almost looked like they were being robbed by bees from another hive, but I couldn’t tell for sure, and it seems like a really weird season for that? But there were some bees moving quicker than I usually note, and trying to get into gaps in the hive that are not the entrances. I’m not really sure what to do about that…I thought about closing up one of the entrances but weirdly there aren’t many bees USING the second entrance anyway? More questions for the forum I need to post.

ANYWAY, that’s the State of the Hive Address for now. I will keep you better updated hopefully. OH WAIT MORE PICTURES.

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Look at ALL THE POLLEN this lady was bringing in! SO PROUD.

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I used the wet grass method to smother the fire in my smoker – they say it’s best if you plug the hole so it cuts off oxygen so you can save the fuel for next time. Also pictured: trash because my yard is a mess BUT ALSO a wee bit of comb I accidentally broke off in my last inspection that they didn’t reclaim.

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Finn showing off the blooming crimson clover on 05/11.

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Honeybee demonstrating the proper flight approach to said crimson clover.

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Honeybee demonstrating the proper om nom procedure on said crimson clover.

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4 thoughts on “State of the Bees: 2017/05/11

  1. That was a blast! Just standing there and watching all the bees going in and out of the hive was mesmerizing. Any time you need help just give me an 11-hour (drive time) warning. But seriously, be glad to help again next time I’m up in Eugene. Almost feel like I should pay. 🙂

    Did you get the photos I texted of you getting the smoker going? It looked to me like you had it going perfectly.

    Btw, my Mom texted me that she wants to buy some honey with comb in it.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m so happy for a bee update! This is intensely fascinating to me and I want my own so badly but am still too scared.
    Watching YOU do it makes me inch a little towards the “okay yes” column a little more each time!

    Liked by 1 person

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