Monday, April 26, 2010

Baby bees!

Today when I arrived at the apiary the parking lot was full- very unusual. A bunch of older men who have some kind of proprietary interest in the little field the apiary occupies were preparing to shoot some film for a PBS show about local beekeeping. They were really nice, and were kind enough to ignore me mostly while I asked Dr. Drone lots of questions and generally got in the way.

The bees didn't seem to mind all the extra company- they were working diligently, coming into the hive with yellow, pollen-laden legs. We crack open the hive and pulled out some of the frames and found something wonderful! Bee worms!

Well, they're not really worms, they're eggs. Or larvae. Not sure on this part exactly, my 3rd grade science is pretty rusty. I will look into it and make some more accurate explanations soon. Whatever they were, it means new baby bees, and soon new adult bees who will join our hive! I have never been so thrilled about finding insect larvae.

We dug through this incredibly stinky storage unit (think of sticking your head right into heavily used litter box) and got some extra deeps and some totally gnarly frames and put together a workable addition to the neighboring hive. Apparently bees love a little DIY home reconstruction. We'll see what they do with in in the coming weeks.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Neighbors

The hive next door to our hive is kind of like the trailer park of beehives.

They lost their queen overwinter (a Very Bad Thing) and so the various people who look after them brought them a new queen. The whole ordeal is very stressful to the bee colony, and so, out of respect, people have been leaving them alone to get through the honeymoon period I suppose. If this hive's a rockin' don't come a knockin'.

I have the utmost respect for bees, but also the utmost curiosity, and respect usually loses in these types of conflicts. So today we pried open the neighbor's hive and had a look. Compare and contrast- our hive:

Their hive:

I barely know a thing about bees, but even I can tell that's not what it's supposed to look like. You can't very well scream at a colony of bees "YOU'RE DOING IT WRONG!", but I wanted to. Dr. Drone explained that bees prefer a very specific amount of space between their frames- 3/8". Anything bigger, and they will fill it with comb until it feels nice and snug again. This type of comb is called burr comb and it's gnarly. The problem with the neighbors is a big one- the frames in their main deep are the wrong size, meant to fit in a much smaller box, so they've spent their honeymoon period with their new queen filling it up with twisted, bumpy, ratty wax in an attempt to fill in the huge gaps.

It really reminds me of a crappy apartment Mr. Holt and I used to share where the foundation had shifted and the walls were ominously separated from the floorboards. We filled the perimeter of the walls with furniture so we wouldn't have to look at the gap. It made our whole place look crowded and kind of askew, but we had no where else to go, so it worked. That's what the neighbor bees are doing. I think our bees complain about them at night.

"Did you see what they put out in their yard?!"
"I know! Someone should really do something about them. It lowers the property value of the whole block."

It'll be an act of charity to fix their hive and help them out. Dr. Drone assures me they do not actually care one bit about the aesthetics of their frames, and they are more than fine, but I am a nosy busybody, and I'm putting it on this list of things to do this summer.

#431: class up the neighbors.