The bees actually seemed quieter when I got up to the roof, ominously so it appeared. "Maybe so many have died?" I wondered... To work with them, I hauled smoker, lighter, fuel, tools, bee brush, an empty hive body, an extra set of baggy PJ bottoms to wear over my jeans, gloves, sheets of old fabric to cover open colonies and prevent robbing...
Oh I just hauled up everything I could think of, to put off what seemed like the inevitable.
I loaded up my smoker for bear, using sisal twine and some well-washed cotton scraps to get things started this time: I figured I might be working for a while, and I needed a reliable source. I smoked the bees a bit, and then postponed a bit more by gathering up the dirty roof coverings for cleaning, sweeping up debris, moving plant pots.
Then I went in. The feeder in Twain was stuck to the frames in the deep hive body below, requiring all sorts of prying. The worker bees stayed remarkably calm through all this. I removed the feeder, and then carefully took off every honey super, a total of three mediums and a deep, all of which weighed a ton. Then I arrived at the two medium boxes at the bottom, where the brood should bee.
The first frame I pulled out was full of honey on one side, pollen on the other. Not good but not really meaningful. The next was honey with empty brood cells. Gulp.
But the next was the lovely frame with capped brood that is featured above! Hurray! I did not see eggs or larvae on this frame, but I opted to close and assume the best for the bottom box, since squashing queens and otherwise committing beekeeper errors is such a high probability and source of nightmares (complete with sound track). Also bees at my feet began to fight, and I wanted that to Stop Right Now.
I carefully put the colony back together, taking a bit of time to scrape off the bits of beeswax that were sticking frames to feeder: the bees really hated that, but I would be extremely unlikely to be able to remove it later if I let them continue. I set the beeswax aside, and then turned to look at Wilde.
I did not want to go in.
There could be a handful of reasons, all of which would be excuses:
- I was tired and clumsy and sweaty;
- The Italian bees in Twain had a history of robbing the Carniolans in Wilde, and the former were already fighting and riled up:
- Twain for sure had an active queen, guaranteeing (for now) that there would be bees to winter over regardless; and
- I already suspected that I would lose Wilde, and it would hurt to see it as a fact.
But Twain had settled down so completely, no bees going after me only a few minutes after closing, and the smoker was still going and all the tools were out and it is supposed to rain tomorrow and on and on and on...
So I went in.
Wilde came apart quicker: the feeder was not as stuck, and the hive bodies were a bit lighter. I took time between removing each body to throw some fabric over the top before returning to the colony to pull off another piece. This seems like a very helpful thing for keeping the peace: fewer bees able to get to the beekeeper, as well as fewer robbers able to get at the lawful residents.
Wilde's brood nest is in a medium and a deep, slightly larger woodenware than Twain. The last time I checked, there was almost no brood in the deep.
But not today! I found capped brood on the third frame in, meaning perhaps as much as 6 frames in the deep, plus whatever is in the bottom. This is MORE than ever before. Once again, I did not continue all the way down: I will be back soon enough to place ApiLife VAR and the Fumagilin-B I have yet to buy. (This endeavor is still more full of chemicals than I like.) Wilde could also use a bit more sugar, in retrospect, but maybe I will do the candy/paste thing rather than sugar from now on.
Both colonies have queens, both have bees in the making, and Wilde is even marginally better than before. I am so grateful, so pleased. And there is more to come. Wonder what the theme song will be while I sleep tonight?