Thursday, May 12, 2005

Bees going in 5 directions

Or is it the beekeeper?

It's hard to collect just one coherent message to record here, there is so much to say. These bees are leading me in agricultural, philosophical, social, organizational, and even political directions that seem so very odd.

Today, details about beekeeping, because keeping track is increasingly important.

This week has had lots of events, none of them catastrophic, thank goodness. The weather went from slightly chilly to really really warm, and that has affected the speed of developments. On Wednesday, I removed the paper that separated the top and bottom halves of Colony 1 – the troubled gals who got the new queen last Thursday. No effort had been made to chew through at all, but all seemed really quiet (too quiet to my mind), so I took it out. The queen was still fine upstairs, and she had definitely been laying. She was working a mostly full frame with capped brood, some of which had hatched. I got to thinking that she needed more comb, and more workers to draw it. In the absence of hostilities, she got access to those things. Colony 1 has started to show some interest in the syrup feeder, without drowning any bees like the last time. Feeding them lots is a way to get them to pump out the wax, so this is what we like to see.

Colony 2 is, of course, the party colony. They got more syrup on Monday, ate it, and got a whole gallon more today. They filled most of the frames that they got 8 and a half days ago, do I gave them another 10 frames in a medium deep hive body. The colony is simply roaring: they are capping brood on a frame placed there only days ago: this means that they drew the comb and it received eggs within a day of placement. I am not sure this makes sense! The nectar flow around here is supposed to be beginning either now or over the next few days. I am not sure what this means for how high Colony 2 may go.

There is a CLOUD of buzzing bees around the front entry. You can hear them from several feet away. I'll try to get you a recording. Yesterday, when it was really hot, a few hundred bees were on the sides of the hive, fanning rapidly to cool things down. It seemed like the right time to bring the new 4 foot tall butterfly bush – bought especially as a source of shade, with a bonus August bloom time – up to the roof and place it to throw a shadow. You can see the arrangement at left.

The local beekeeper association's monthly meeting was last night, and there was much talk of odd weather this year and its affect on Queen breeding. A beekeeper of nearly godlike status in the field mentioned that he had received 7 "dud" queens from the 45 packages (FORTY FIVE PACKAGES!) he had ordered this year. He got his bees from the same guy I did. How many colonies must a guy have to need 45 packages?

Anyway, the Spring was late here and in Georgia where the bees were bred. That means, in order to meet the promised delivery dates, the Queens were bred at the first possible moment, and that may have resulted in a larger number of poorly mated or just plain not mated queens. It seems unlikely that I would get a dud with only two packages, but what it might mean is that I was in a shaky situation that was not really tolerant of beginner error. Our cold weather right after the first brood were laid did not help,

There is much more to tell, but since the hives should be left alone tomorrow and Saturday, I will save it until then. It's just great watching the buzzing hoards of bees in the sun, many of them now born right here!

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