I lieu of working my own hive this weekend Chuck invited me out to "the Fort", his place in Ft. Valley, where he manages four hives, 2 of Italians, 1 of Carniolans, and a "split" that he created from a few frames of brood from each. He's been at this a few more years than have I and can do fun things like that with entire colonies. I hope to split my hive next spring, but first I have to see them through the coming winter, so that's a post for another day. He makes no claims to being a mentor but the truth is I wouldn't have gotten this far without his help, insight, and guidance.
Because I'm obstinate I don't regularly wear gloves when working my own hive, and because I'm dumb I left my wedding band on while working Chuck's hives. And bees, being bees, generally are all about the bling in the worst possible way - as in "Oh, Shiny! Let's attack that!" So while Chuck was going through the frames on hive#2 and I was taking pictures I was stung on the back of the hand, and then again on my left ring finger which is now swollen to the point that I can't get the ring off. So far, it's not so bad as to cut off the circulation but it certainly hampers my already meager typing skills. I'll attempt to get a point across with as much cutting, pasting and pictures. . .
|Hmmmmm. . . accessing these files lends a whole new dimension to "buggy" software. Chuck uses an 8 frame version of the standard 10 frame Langstroth hive and I probably would, too, had I met him earlier. They make lifting a super full of honey much lighter and easier. Notice also the tool he's holding in his right hand. He's gotten me in the habit of using a painter's 5-in-1 rather than the classic hive tool or even the "improved" modern version (the one with the yellow paint) We've just found that the 5-in-1 allows us to apply a lot more torque when prying loose sticky, propolis-bound frames.|
|Happy birthday, Beautiful! From a group of capped brood cells a brand new bee chews her way into the world! She'll begin life as a nurse bee staying within the confines of the hive until gradually transitioning to foraging duties as she gets older. Within the span of a few weeks she will have worked herself to death for the greater good of her sisters. Don't we all wish we had family that dedicated!|
|As fun as it might sound, the point of regular hive inspections is not getting stung repeatedly but rather checking the health of a colony. The best way to determine how well the hive's doing is to locate the queen, and in a burgeoning colony this becomes an increasingly difficult task. Sometimes the mere evidence that she's been there recently has to suffice, such as the presence of brood and, especially, eggs. The maggotty-looking things toward the center are larval bees. In the upper left-hand quadrant you might be able to make out eggs resembling tiny grains of rice anchored to the bottoms of the cells. (click through for full-size) This is good news! It means the queen has been there sometime earlier that day.|
|Of course, nothing beats meeting Her Majesty in person! She's the one with the enlongated abdomen. Within a few days after hatching from her special over-sized cell she'll take to the wing for her mating flight where she copulates with dozens of drones, or male bees. Bee breeders attempt to control the lineage of their bees by restricting her access to certain drones usually those of the same species, and specifically those with desirable traits of productivity, gentle temperament, and disease and pest resistance. After returning to the hive her sex life is pretty well over. Although it's a common practice for beekeepers to replace a queen every to every other season, she can live a (re)productive life for as long as three. At this point she's basically an egg laying machine. |
|Can you spot the queen?|
|Here, take a closer look. . . |
|Still no luck? Now imagine trying to find her in a box of eight to ten frames as she moves from one to the next among hundreds of other bees milling throughout and you stand in the hot sun, sweating head to toe in your full length bee overalls and veil while the rest of the colony flies ass-first into your face in an attempt to kill you by stinging your eyes and mouth shut! Still photographs on the internet leave a lot to be desired. . . I consider it an exercise in patience and presence. Lapses in mindfulness during a hive inspection are punished with swift certainty! |
|Ha ha! Bees. . . so called the "angels of agriculture". The real point of all this masochistic craziness is the honey harvest (granted, bee folk love their bees for their own sake) It's an age old arrangement of housing-for-honey, like taxes we attempt to get Nature to do what we want, and we're "The Man". We estimated that there's probably at least 7 lbs. of un-extracted honey within this single shallow frame. If you can visualize ten or more of these per hive twice a season you'll get a sense of why we bother. |