Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Wilde Gone Wild!

Today was the first visit with the bees in over a week, in part because manipulating the colonies is getting to be a more complicated and taxing thing!

So before going in, I made a list of the things that needed looking after:
  1. Find out if Wilde was making progress
  2. Transfer another frame of capped brood from Twain over to boost the workforce
  3. See whether Twain had made any use of the deep hive body I gave them last time
  4. Remove any stale sugar syrup, and
  5. Give new sugar syrup if the girls are still eating it

Since Queen Ellie over in Twain is running such a rocking and rolling outfit, I no longer have any empty medium frames reserved to substitute for the one I planned to steal, so I had to:
  1. Open Wilde first
  2. Grab an empty frame
  3. Open Twain
  4. Take a look at the deep hive body
  5. Remove it and set it aside along with TWO SUPERS FULL of honey (they are located, as they should be, between the roof of the colony and the brood area)
  6. Perform cursory inspection of Twain while selecting frame to steal
  7. Remove any hitchhiking workers and avoid removing or squashing queen
  8. Reassemble and close Twain
  9. Go back to Wilde
  10. Remove all supers and frames above brood nest
  11. Inspect structure of brood nest in order to select which frame to replace with the capped brood and to generally get some idea of how things are going
  12. Reassemble

Seems like a lot of steps, eh? That's why I had to sit down and think a bit before going in there. As the season goes on, the hive bodies in Twain are getting heavier and heavier, and they are harder for me to move. This is actually very good news: I already have more than 100 pounds of capped honey in there, almost enough for BOTH colonies to winter on.

But heavier hive bodies mean more bees get bashed: I can't perform the gentle-slow-sliding motions while bending over as well as I could when the frames were mostly empty. I have also had to give up bringing the camera during heavy manipulations, but the truth is that the girls (in Twain at least) are just making frame after frame of capped honey, and that is kind of a "seen one, seen them all" situation. Maybe I will try to grab you a picture next time.

It's also much hotter than before, and the bees (while still quite gentle) are easier to rile even as I am having trouble moving gracefully around them. And boy oh boy are there a lot of bees!

But I bet you are wondering what I found out, right?

Well, first of all, Wilde is doing better. That perceived traffic increase was for real: Queen Liz has been laying in every cell she can, and cells that held capped brood last time now have larvae a few days old. The workers have emptied the hive top feeder for THE VERY FIRST TIME, and they have worked every last frame in the bottom hive body. Weirdness, though: they have not moved up into the two other bodies I gave them (three medium bodies is your basic generic brood nest size). So, in order to entice them upward, I put that frame of brood stolen from Twain in the middle of the second (still empty) hive body. Considering the amount of capped brood that I saw in the bottom box, Wilde is right on the brink of exploding. There were a good 6 frames with two sides of mostly capped brood. Queen Liz was running around on the frame closest to the edge, looking for some room to get to work.

If the Wilde ones get their numbers up, and the honeymaking over in Twain continues apace, we might have enough bees and food for both colonies to make it through the winter. One thing I need to watch is whether those Wilde girls will get onto making more comb: we really need that. It would not be out of the question to steal some from Twain again, but boy is that heavy work! Sugar syrup supposedly prompts the drawing of comb, and younger bees are better at it than older ones, so maybe with this youthful onslaught, my final worry will pass.

Cross your fingers for us, OK?

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