Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Before and After, Part 1: Before

When I get stressed, tunes get stuck in my brain, whether I like it or not. Because of the persistent questions about whether the bees are making it, and a maddeningly apparent subconscious addiction to puns, last night my dreams were full of Ben Folds Five's "Smoke", a song with the refrain, "there will never be(e) another one." Consider it a beekeeper joke: we are the among the few people who discuss smoking as a tool or management choice, rather than a health problem.

Today, this entry is being added before I go upstairs to see whether there are any eggs or brood in the two colonies on the roof. This is a serious question. If I killed the queen(s) or if the bees killed each others' queen(s) during the robbing episode last month, my colonies will dwindle and die soon. Both of them.

Why would I even ask this question?

The bees have continued to be temperamental, and the twice weekly feedings (then menthol placement) seemed like they might be making the situation worse. When the menthol went in, I realized that there was an absolute ton of stored honey in each hive, so it also seemed like feeding them sugar syrup had been pretty much a bad idea. This blog has been post-less for over a week because I hoped that the tide would turn toward happier bees if they were disturbed less often.

So I left them bee, not entirely meant as a pun. A phone conversation with a more experienced beekeeper also made the menthol seem less necessary than I thought – apparently scientists are studying whether or not the tracheal mite this chemical is meant to kill is still a problem in our area! – and I am getting quite tired and discouraged.

I went to a different beekeeper's association meeting last night, and more than one experienced beekeeper there said that my bees seemed meaner than they should be, and asked if there was brood. I did not see brood when I placed the menthol, kids, though I was so tired and hot when I got to the bottom of the coloinies (where the brood nest is) that I did not check as thoroughly as I should have.

So today, with dread and absolutely no energy for the task, I am going to take apart both colonies to see if there are any queens active in there at all. Queen Lizzie, in Wilde, is marked so I have a chance of seeing her. Queen Eleanor, in Twain, is not, and I may just have to look for eggs or supercedure cells (structures the bees build when they know they are in Queen trouble), to decide what to do.

If there are eggs and brood in both colonies, there are healthy queens in place and I can stop worrying.

If there are no eggs and brood in one or the other of the colonies, a queen has died and I will have to unify them and hope for the best. If that happens, I will be calling MaryEllen to ask for her help and to borrow some equipment I would need to do it.

If there are no eggs, no brood, and no queens, I guess I am done. Perhaps I could scare up a queen somewhere, but it is probably a bit late for that.

Then the question might be whether I keep doing this at all.

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