I Should've Worn a Hat

I went out to the beehives at 3:15 PM yesterday in order to film for you the young Amazon bees orienting. They were so active that I wanted you to see them, too, Reader. I got a brief video of them, but then a bee went in my  ear and freaked me out. I slapped and slapped to get it out.

Then I heard more bees. In my hair. By this time I was running through the yard slapping. And getting stung. (Yes, Reader, I am well aware that this slapping and freaking out doesn’t help the situation. I’m not stupid.) I picked up an old sweatshirt laying in the yard and began slapping my head with that. I got stung about 6 times—in my head and ear and neck.

Once the stinging stopped, I realized that all this slapping had flung my glasses off my face. Probably deep into the woods. Deb and I have searched and searched and we can’t find them. We even went out there at night to see if the beam from a flashlight would reflect off them. No.

I am now wearing very very old glasses. I look odd, and I can’t read.

But here’s your damn video. (Once again, I forgot to turn the camera sideways for the wider view. I don’t know why I can’t remember to do that. Sorry.)


Poetry of the Hive

There’s a bewitching hour at my hives. It’s the hour when the youngest bees have their little orientation party (they’re 3-4 days old when they do this…and they orient at this hour for several days in a row), and it’s also the hour when the drones fly out to their congregation area. At my hives, these two things occur sometime between 3:15 and 4:30 PM and it last for 20-45 minutes.

Many days you’ll catch me just standing in the yard watching this flurry—I just stand there. Or I go stand right next to the hive to see it better. It’s a completely mesmerizing scene, and I never tire of it. For some reason it reminds me of kittens or puppies playing.

And I usually stand watching just as I’ve come home from work…before I even get into the house. Which is exactly what I think is going on at the hives, too…work has wound down for the day, the kids head out to play in the yard for a while after finishing their chores, the guys go off to hang out together and talk about guy things, and the workers all over the hives are saying, “Ahhh. A few minutes of alone time here before they all come back in and sit on the porch.”

I think I love it because it’s so rhythmic. The entire hive cycle is rhythmic. And the sight of all those young bees orienting is a sure sign that things are good in the colony.

The Universe Forgives My Ineptitude

I had a happy sighting yesterday. Remember that split I made exactly 24 days ago? No? Well, let me remind you:

I took a frame containing some queen cells I’d found in Tomboys, and I made a split…which means I began a new colony from an old one by placing that queen-cell-containing frame in a box of it’s own. To it’s new box I added a nice frame of honey (in order to provide food until the new colony begins its own foraging), two frames of brood (so there’ll be a force of nurse bees available once our newly hatched queen begins laying her eggs), and all the nurse bees that were on those frames at the time of the split (to care for the brood I’d moved in there as it develops).

But I worried about how few bees there were in the new colony, so a week later I did a swap: During the day when all the foragers were out in the field, I moved the entire Tomboys colony to the place occupied by the new split and the split to Tomboys’ old spot. I hoped that all the foraging bees who thought they were returning to Tomboys would actually return to the new split (with their food stores) and decide to live there. This is one way to build a work force in a weaker hive.

But there’s been little activity over the past week or so in the new split. I thought that perhaps the queen had failed and the whole colony had absconded. I really had little hope for this experiment’s success.

Yesterday, though, I noticed a little activity in front of the hive…it looked to me as if new bees were orienting to the front of the hive. It’s a cool thing to see. So, I went to check it out…sure enough, new bees were hovering around the front of the hive trying to zero in on home. They always do this late afternoon around my hives. At around 4 PM, all the new bees fly all around the face of the hive—they face it—as if to say, “Okay, if I leave this place, this is what I’m gonna look for when I come home. This is home. It looks like this at this time of day. I don’t go to the hive next door. I come here.”

You know when you park your car far away from wherever you’re headed? And you sort of look around to get your bearings? You turn to look at your car; then, you turn all around to see where it is in relation to where you’re going; you say to yourself, “Okay, I parked near this big light post…the light post nearest the entrance to the Great American Ballpark. The one from which you can see the river.” Well, that’s what bees do. They do it before they ever leave their hive, and then there’s no need for them to reorient unless I move them.

I’m so happy to know that new bees have just emerged from the split hive…these new bees have to be those which were only eggs when I moved the brood-containing frames from Tomboys. It’s still too early to expect brood from the new queen (if she’s in there). It’s been 24 days now since I created the split. The new queen should begin laying eggs about 21 days after she emerges—that should be sometime this week. I’m not gonna check for at least another week. Well, I might pop the top and peek inside, but I’m not gonna pull any frames. I’m not gonna upset their delicate balance so early in their game.

I’ve held off giving them a name for fear they wouldn’t make it.

I Don't Know If This Is Good or Bad

This is a video of either 1) the Amazon swarm robbing Tomboys and Girls of Summer, or 2) new bees doing their orientation flights. This is either a good thing or a bad thing, and I can’t tell the difference. Ignorance is making me nuts.

For some reason, I feel as if this is simply the sign of a healthy hive, but I’ve taken action as if it’s the sign of some strong bees taking advantage of two smaller, less established colonies. I think I’ve got enough experience and enough knowledge to begin practicing the “art” of beekeeping. At some point, you just have to go with a gut developed by information, instinct, and experience.

Okay, I’ll stick my neck out: I believe this is simply some vigorous orientation flights. There are no dead bees being hauled out of the hives which would indicate robbing. I’ll give it another day with the entrance reducer and with the ventilation holes plugged against intruders, but I’m opening the hives again soon so these vigorous girls can get to work and haul in the goods.