Friday, April 16, 2010

Your Intrepid Bee Keepers

Not everybody can look as glamorous as my bee best friend (bbf) Nora and I do. We just make it look easy, I know. I'll have to get a lighter weight jacket than this pink one. It was perfect a couple of weeks ago, but it'll be too hot for the summer.

The hive below belongs to our bee mentor, Frank. This is Frank's back yard deck. The hive is built in several sections, topped with a removable roof. An artist friend of his painted the hive boxes such that the design matches no matter which way you assemble them. There's a bathroom scale mounted at the base of the hive. Knowing how much the hive weighs at any given point in the season tells you if the hive has lots of reserves. If it's getting light it might be time to feed the bees, generally before the spring season is in full flower.

After we were all properly hatted, veiled, and gloved, Frank removed the roof and the top section cover. Then he pulled one of the frames, which he is holding below. This was very early in the spring season, but the bees were already very active and productive.

Not a very good picture, but that's the smoker on the left in the photo. Doesn't take much smoke. The bees were humming very quietly. Frank pulled one more frame out and showed us around a bit more. The humming rose very distinctly after a while, and Frank announced that we were done. He thinks the bees understand at some level that he doesn't mean them harm, but there definitely comes a point in time that he knows he's about to overstay his welcome.

This board slides in under the hive boxes. Frank oils it so that whatever falls down onto it will stick and can be easily observed. You want to be able to see if there are certain kinds of mites (bad) or comb moths (less bad). You can see particles of pollen, and we even tasted a bit. You can also see from this board which frames have the most activity.

This is Frank standing at his INDOOR hive. It was very cool. There's a clear tube mounted in the window so the bees can come and go from the hive to the great outdoors. The jar you see bottom right is sugar water to feed the hive. The bees were very active, even this early in the season. We could see the queen, and Frank has since identified a second queen in this hive, probably because the first queen is getting old and tired, producing fewer eggs. Frank demonstrated for us how warm the bees keep themselves. He had a laser thermometer he pointed first at the walls of the room-- 70F. Then he moved it toward the hive. . . 80, 83. . . then 90 where the bees were the closest together.

The bees are very visible in their plexiglass hive, busy as, well, bees. We could see that they already had honey production going, and new eggs were being laid. I can't wait to get our hives going. Nora and I finished putting the frames together last night. The bees are coming Saturday, and we'll let them rest, then we'll install them in their new home Sunday, with Frank there to direct us.
Nora is working on a label design, and has big ideas for soap, candy, t-shirts, etc. I'll let you know when the full catalog is available. Of course, we won't be harvesting any honey for the first year, so plans are definitely still on the drawing board.


Kathleen said...

You guys look positively Victorian in the beekeeping regalia.

Is there an actual hole in the window's glass for the indoor hive?

Kathy said...

If you click on the photo to enlarge it, look under the desk lamp-- you can see the tube the bees use to go in and out. He opened the window about four inches and installed a wood piece that he could drill into for the tunnel. There's a similar arrangement for the bees to get to the sugar water.

kate said...

Wow, Kathy! What a great project. Can't wait to hear more as the bees make themselves a home in your garden! :)

Kathy said...

Kate! Nice to see you here. We're picking the bees up tomorrow. They stay in their little traveling case to "bond" until late Sunday afternoon. Frank will help us install them and I'll be sure to document. Maybe I'll do a Dinwiddie Bee on your quilt square!