Festooning is more fun than sulking

Don’t Sulk—Festoon!

Festooning bees rebuilding comb

Perhaps the quality I admire most in honeybee colonies is resiliency. I can’t tell you how often I make mistakes that set the colonies back: I mishandle individual honeycombs; I squish bees; I’ve accidentally dropped an entire eight-frame super filled with brood and honey and pollen…eight frames rich with bee economy and life was strewn on the ground around the hive while the air filled with displaced bees. I’ve mutilated queens that eventually died. I’ve been neglectful when the colony needed nectar or sugar water. I am sometimes a klutz, and the hive pays the price for my mistakes.

But here’s the miracle in it: the bees don’t fret. They don’t hold resentments. They don’t attack me in anger or act out in retribution. Actually, it seems to me that when I make my bad moves, the bees don’t even acknowledge my presence. I am invisible to them. Why? Probably because they sense that I don’t have a single thing to offer them when it comes to their recovery. They know I am powerless when it comes to helping them repair my ignorant or careless mistakes and that the rebuilding must come from their own efforts. They organize and set about IMMEDIATELY repairing. They waste zero time in looking back with regret; instead, they festoon—they link themselves together, Reader, and they channel their combined energies into what needs to be done to set things right again.

So, on this day following the 2016 US Presidential election, the results of which did not swing my way, I plan to link up and start the rebuilding, too.

Jerod Visits the Bees

Jerod is the first person other than me to work in my hives. He’s also the first person to visit the bees who wants to keep a hive himself…and I trust the way Jerod works, so there you go. In anticipation of getting his first hives next spring, he’s been reading The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Beekeeping, and he wanted to see into a living hive so he could identify what he’s reading about.

So, he suited up, lit the smoker, kept the smoker smoking, smoked the hives, lifted the lids, removed the frames, and inspected the bees. I didn’t touch a thing. (He also helped me rake a mound of sugar from under each of the hives…I can’t tell if the sugar is slipping out of each hive or if the bees are removing it intentionally, but the yellow jackets were going bonkers in it. Damn yellow jackets).

Before we began, I asked Jerod what he was looking forward to as he got his first glimpse into a bee hive. He said he was curious to know what it feels like to be stung, and he was curious to see if he got a little squirrely when he saw that many bees in one place. I’m here to report that although Cricket, Jerod’s dog, was stung, Jerod was not. And Jerod was as calm and soothing as could be with the bees. And the bees responded by being mellow beyond belief.

We saw bees coming in loaded with pollen, we saw drones, we saw bees eating, we saw bees festooning. We saw bee bread and capped honey and capped brood, and we saw a bee get her first glimpse of the world…she was just poking her head from her capped cell. Very cool…she seemed all eyes.

It was nice to be able to take a few pictures for you, Reader…it’s not easy to handle a camera and the hive tool and the frames of bees all at once. And those gloves don’t make it any less of a challenge.

Jerod and I are now talking about building our top-bar hives this winter.

The End

The Bee Tree Adventure: Conclusion (due to Boredom)

Aren’t you getting tired of this? I am. Let’s just cut to the chase. We got the bees home, and the next morning they were crazy busy…and busy loooong before my other bees. The air and the garden and the woods were full of them checking out their new surroundings.

When I went to feed them, they were already festooning like a new swarm. It was delightful to see.

Then we went on vacation.

When we came back, they were less vigorous, though they’d eaten all the sugar water I’d left them.

I fed them again, and though their activity has slowed, there are still new bees orienting out there this afternoon.

I’ll bet they die. Everyone tells me that this rescue was too late in the season for them to have much chance of survival. Which is a major bummer. But we’ll see. I’ll keep you updated.

The End

The End
The End