Luckily, a couple of days ago, my husband ordered some stuff from cvs.com that came with a sample packet of "The Mitigator," a salve for bug bites and stings. Talk about intervention from on high: the stuff works, and thank goodness!
Today was menthol placement day, and yesterday I mixed up 4+ gallons of sugar water in hopes of making the medicine go down sweet. Nice try, but..
I started by taking Twain apart, down to the bottom board, for the first time since mid-July. During the intervening weeks I have been either on vacation or dodging stings as I pour sweet stuff into the feeders. So I needed to figure out:
- whether or not their honey stores had been depleted through the past few weeks of drought and dearth;
- whether any brood was still being produced;
- whether bad things like "becoming pollen bound" or similar meant some frames should be manipulated; and
- whether there was any evidence of disease like American Foul Brood, since I knew some people who had it.
It was just brutal, kids. At the club meeting on Wednesday night, I felt a bit reassured because Barry, a really experienced beekeeper, shared with me how his girls were like to "eat him alive," these days, and that there was no way to find a good time to do anything right now. You just have to.
After a relatively calm start, trying the light smoking and calm movement advice again, I still ended up with a boiling mass of furious bees when I reached the bottom. There is very little brood, meaning that not only the field bees but the nurse bees are at loose ends. I need to ask if the absence of any capped brood is a bad thing for this time. I removed the BeeCool unit from the top, closed the screen bottom board, and left a screen packet of menthol on the bottom, then closed her up, at speed. Yes, lots of squashing, but I was sweating terribly, and in the places where I soaked through the veil I got stung: back of neck, tip of right ear, inside of elbow. 6 in all.
So after finishing one colony, I retreated and sighed. I gave Twain a full two gallons for their pains, though it raises more questions: they already have a deep hive body and two mediums full of honey, plus a few frames in the brood area. I think this means they already have 100 pounds stored against the winter, before the 8 pounds of sugar they received today.
I slapped the Mitigator on my wounds, filled the tub, and soaked my sore spots. MaryEllen and I are going to another Bee club's meeting next week, so I can ask all those new victims all my questions about "how much honey is too much?" "should I worry about brood?" and all the other wonderings we have as we face the upcoming winter.
And I get to look forward to Menthol Monday for the Wilde colony!