Friday, June 22, 2012

I am a terrible, lazy blogger. I mean, it's been a whole year since I've had anything to say. It's not like I haven't been busy like a cracked-out border collie, but I haven't done much in the yard other than try to keep my bees alive and the lawn mowed.

Today I have more to say than can be contained by a simple status update on Facebook, and I also want to illustrate with pictures. So I came back here.

This is from a few weeks ago. The crazy-lookin' yellow hive is empty with swarm lure inside. I don't know, something about my "apiary" looks like it's the trailer park version of bee yards. Ha!

This afternoon, I did another hive inspection of my three colonies. I wish every inspection could go like today. It's hot as blazes outside, but the bees were happy, calm, and didn't give a damn that I was in their homes. There were no signs of disease or infestation. I barely had to smoke them, I managed to remain graceful and not do anything stupid, and I didn't get stung. Pretty much perfect.

Bees! Doing what bees do!

The reason I went out in the first place was that I was concerned that my White hive was queenless. Two of my hives are in ten frame boxes, but the White hive is an eight frame box. Since it's a smaller hive, it should build up faster than my others. But it wasn't and that concerned me. I'm trying to learn how to gauge how a hive is doing just by watching the activity at the entrance, and I noticed two weeks ago that it didn't seem all the busy anymore. I couldn't tell if it was a slow dwindling or it happened all at once - I have been distracted with finished school and haven't been watching the hives like I should. But the Blue hive, which is the split I made from my old Green hive, is doing great. It's bustling like mad.

So I inspect it then. I find that the Blue hive is doing awesome. There are eggs and larva everywhere, and they are ready for another super (they already have one deep box and one medium super). I get into the White hive, dreading something terrible. I'm immediately confused because there really aren't nearly as many bees as there should have been. It's not bad, just lower than expected. Then I see that there are no eggs or larva at all. There is some capped off brood, but basically the queen hasn't been laying for at least two weeks before this. Goddamn. After my queenless experience earlier this season, I'm not real happy to discover this. BUT! I don't panic. I take a frame of eggs from the Blue hive and pop them into the White hive. So the bees can make their own queen.

A week later, I go check on the hive. I'm further confused because the bees are trucking along just fine, taking care of the frame of baby bees, but there is no sign of a queen cell. And they aren't acting queenless. They are cheerful and calm. Feeling like an idiot, I call an experienced bee friend to say "What the hell?"

He said that based on everything I've seen, the colony had swarmed. I expressed disbelief that a new package of bees would swarm so early, and he said that he's seen it often. That there probably is a new virgin queen and to just keep an eye on them. I'm super annoyed that they've swarmed, which has reduced the strength of the colony and dammit - I didn't get to see it!

Today, I go to look. Lo and behold, there are eggs everywhere. There definitely is a new queen and she's gotten to work. The frame of eggs I gave them wasn't a waste because it helped boost their numbers in the meantime and they were busily drawing comb way faster than they had been before.

Built up foundation - full of eggs! Look at all those happy girls!
Gorgeous new comb in the White hive. This is their own handywork in an empty frame.
I check the Blue and Green hives while I'm out there. Green hive is fine, like normal. They haven't given me much trouble since they got a new queen this spring. But the bees in the Blue hive are building comb in the most bizarre way. I have given them frames without foundation, but instead of drawing down from the top and center, they are starting at any old spot - sides, bottom, corners. It doesn't matter to me, I'm not trying to sell perfect comb. I just think it's interesting how different colonies will react differently to empty frames.

Weird comb in the Blue hive. I mean, what?

More strange comb. I mean, rock on. Don't let The Man get you down. You make comb how you feel like!