Thursday, August 11, 2005

Putting the Gloves On

empty cellsAfter a couple of weeks away – fourteen days of baking bees – I really wanted to check in, especially on Wilde, to see if the colonies were standing up to the high temps and low nectar flow of late summer in this area. They are clearly in a totally crappy mood. Guard bees are taking shots at me when I am on the other side of the roof, watering plants: there is no chance I can manage them bare handed right now.

Before leaving on vacation, I ordered two new medium deep hive bodies, some menthol for tracheal mite treatment, and a new (non-toxic) varroa mite medicine from Brushy Mountain Bee Farm, and this had arrived precisely as I was leaving (late) for the airport. Well, all of it except for the "Api-Life VAR" varroa treatment, which I will have to reorder. I thought I had ordered pollen patties as well, but this apparently did not take place: pollen supplements might help the bees in Wilde rear more young faster, though I am not sure about this.

I need to paint the hive bodies before I can use them outside, and it is too hot for the menthol, so this check up will use the usual equipment – two hive tools, bee brush, smoker, fuel, lighter, veil jacket, two containers of sugar water, and ankle socks for tucking in my jeans. For the first time in a long while, I brought gloves. When I go up to the roof, I am carrying bags of stuff even when no new equipment is being deployed. I often look a bit spastic, trying hard to conceal the funky screen covering of the veil and the obvious shape of the smoker while going round and round a wrought iron spiral staircase.

I have placed a roof top storage shed on my must-have gift list. For those that are curious, that is. I prefer the one from Rubbermaid.

The photo above captures what seems to be the state of the colonies right now: it is a close up of a brood frame from near the top of the nest area in Twain. You can see nurse bees and brood at the lower right, and a band of empty cells above them to the left. There is still some honey stored in the corners. This means that the bees have been consuming the stores that had been packed in around the nest, and that these have not been replenished as fast as they were used. Adding sugar water today may help with that. I saw cells packed with pollen elsewhere, so maybe those pollen patties I was going to order would not matter. There were cells in the brood area itself that had no larvae or eggs, and Queen Ellie may be slowing her laying in response to these seasonal clues. Colonies often take a population dip in August, and add more in September.

These facts are for more worrisome for Wilde than for Twain. We have a real population deficit there, and it appears that nothing much happened to change that status while I was away. On the up side, nothing much happened while I was away: the girls are still there!

So today I decided to move two more frames from Twain to Wilde next week, something that will be easier to do once I get my new hive bodies painted and have some spare frames to substitute in. I am also hoping the temperature will be a bit lower: moving these hive bodies is pure murder with their heft, the heat, and how irritable the girls are when my motions are shaky or abrupt.

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