Saturday, December 19, 2009

Honey... Are you in there?

I dropped by the bee yard briefly today just to see how things were going.

I hadn't been by for almost 3 weeks. I noticed that. My entire summer was consumed by bees. Seeing the bees, working the bees, watching the bees, worrying about the bees and then on my summer vacation, reading about the bees.

I think about them still. I can't drive by every weekend or the guy who lives there will realize something about me. I'm a bit obsessed with bees. Actually, I think he's figured that out already.

I went out there once and he said to me, "You're a hobby beekeeper aren't you?"
I said, "Yes, why do you say that?"

"Because you've painted your hives all different colours. Commercial beekeepers," he laughed, "they don't do that."

I laughed too. "It's true, I have more time than they do."

"I can tell you're really into this hobby. You really love your bees," he said.

It's true. I do.

There were almost 100 dead bees in front of Hive #2 and not more than 15 in front of Hive #1. I do wonder at why? Was Hive #2 busier trying to bring in that last bit of pollen or nectar? Was Hive #1 so filled up and secure that they could afford to be more relaxed?

Then I wondered if anyone was in there. Could I put my ear on the hive and hear them? It'd be hard to listen through the quilted plastic covering.

I took some dry stiff flower stalks and scraped away the dead bodies. I did this for a couple reasons, one that it wouldn't looks so sad to see all those dead bodies, and two so that I'd know how many more may have died the next time I came out to check on them.

I looked over the bodies, looking for signs of Varroa Mite damage but didn't see any.

With my scraping I quickly got an answer to one of my questions. Are they in there? Oh yes they were! A bee flew out very quickly, obviously a guard bee, wanting to see what was going on. I stepped back really quickly just to make sure she didn't come after me.

So it appears that Hive #2 is still alive. But the actions of the guard were very aggressive which is what I experienced a few weeks ago.

My bee course instructor told me that if you let the bees make their own queen, the bees will get mean. I wondered about that at the time. Many would not agree. What do you think? I'd love to hear your comments on that. In a way it would make sense that the bees would do that. After all, they don't want you robbing their honey.

Time will tell on that issue when spring comes and I open the hive.

I took photos of the top exit. The inner cover is sitting underneath the styrofoam feeder so you can see it. It's also nested inside the "V" peak of the hive wrap, forming an upper exit for the bees.

At the bottom is a 3" nail, hammered into the hive. It's there to hold the plastic of the hive wrap back so once the snow falls the bottom won't get blocked. Of course, the entrance reducer is on it's smallest setting.

I read somewhere that when bees cluster, they work to keep their cluster warm, not the whole hive which I didn't know, thinking they kept the whole inside warm.

We've only had a light dusting of snow so far this year and temperatures haven't been colder than -10 yet. But that will come in time.

Meanwhile, my much loved bugs are pretty snug.


Anonymous said...

Hey Barbara! I went out to my hive yesterday after we got 8 inches of snow here, and I had about 50 or so dead bees just inside the hive. When I raked them out to keep the entrance for being clogged up, a guard came out and almost nailed me in the face, lol. I feel ya when it comes to thinking they're all quiet inside -- but that's hardly the case, huh? I posted new pics on my blog today so come check it out when you have time. Stay warm!

Gareth said...

I have had piles of dead bees in front of my hives also and have been worried. But when I put my ear down to the entrance of the hives, I can hear the cluster buzzing. I have not been charged by a guard though. As far as the queens go- It is my understanding that if bees make their own queen you are taking your chances with more aggressive genes. Whereas queen breeders are selective to breed queens from stock already known to be docile. But hey- What do I know? Not much really.

Bee Magic Chronicles for Kids said...

Mark - thanks for your comments. I'll drop by for sure to read your update.

Gareth - I believe you're right about the queens and genes. Breeders wouldn't want to carry on genes of an aggressive hive. If the aggression continues in spring I may have to consider requeening. My other hive has a purchased queen - so I'm experiencing both worlds.