Thursday, April 9, 2009

As far as I know, "beginners luck" does not refer to beehives.


While I was at work, the amazing bee man assembled the hive and separated the two-fer of bees. One for Urania, one for Terpsichore. He mentioned that the bees seemed louder and ready to fly. Hm.

The weather Wednesday started out overcast and cool, with a bit of rain around the bay area. By the late afternoon, it had cleared and the sun had come out. If observation of two hive installs has taught me anything it's this: bees are best installed on cool and overcast evenings. The demo install showed the bees eagerly entering the hive. Ours? Not so much. We donned our gear, locked the cat inside, and away we went!

Getting the smoker can ready in the photo to the right. Burlap bag is the best fuel we've found so far. Newspaper just doesn't last, and having a smoker ready to go adds a certain amount of security. We also had a 1:1 sugar:water solution ready in a spray bottle.

Me, pulling out the Queen cage. Her adoring attendees! I carefully walked them to the open hive and gave them a shake to dislodge them. Their sweet "buuzzzz" went to a "BZZ! BZZ!" oooh. You *can* hear their mood change.

Incidentally, if you're a guest here - the table and chair are kind of for show. ;) The table is handy for setting tools on, but yeah... sit on the chairs on the deck, yeah?

We kept the Queen separate, but did not put her in our pocket as there were too many workers all over her cage. How, folks? How does everyone else make it look so clean, neat, and easy? Am I the only one suppressing the urge to scream and run?

Once the Queen cage was free, I did walk the box over to the hive. Making sure no workers were hanging on to the frame, I gave the box a solid *whack* on it's bottom, quickly flipped it over, and chunks of bees came out. One of the guys at the demo said "if you put your hand under the box, it feels like soft warm kittens!" aw. It also sounds like the pits of hell have opened. I kept my gloves on.

So I pour out what I can, and realize the bees are *everywhere* Consensus had been reached that it was us that had kept them pent up for too many days, and they were not happy. They were bumping into our nets and increasing in volume and intensity. We set the box down, and walked to the other side of the garden where we sat for awhile. The most important lesson from this experience? Never underestimate the power of a time out. ;)

The next job, once we & the bees had settled a bit, was to secure the Queen cage to the frame and get the hive closed for the night. This went ok - the Queen cage got dropped in between the frames into the mass of bees. Bless Beeman - he dropped her, so in he stuck his arm. I held one of the frames out. He got the Queen, secured her to the frame, and we started to close things up. Cover on, empty brood box on, can of syrup back in, and telescoping cover back on. It was here we started to think a bee brush may not be such a bad idea. The bees reminded me of my cat - once she decides she's sitting somewhere - she. is. sitting. there.

Later that evening, we happend on a youtube video that suggested using grass or plants for a bee brush, as bees do not attack vegetation. Brilliant! We used springs of Lemon Balm from our garden today as a bee brush, and it worked pretty well.

By this time, I was feeling fairly full of adrenaline and more than a little "dear gods, what have I gotten myself into?" I was reminded of snowboarding - that sinking feeling that I should be having fun, but instead I was miserable and full of dread. Not exactly what I was wanting to feel.

This girl really changed that. I looked on my hand, and my anxiety was enough at that point my first thought was "she's going to sting me!" I sat for a second watching her, and her bright colors, the way she was so interested in my gloves, and how fragile and wonderfully alive she was shifted much of the fear and anxiety.

The hive before we went in for the night, after doing a check of each other for hitchhiking bees. Many of them were going for the extra sugar water left on the hive.

Also made sure the fountain had water in it for the bees, and corks floating in the water to provide a place for the bees to rest.

Finally, a video of the experience.

After we'd come in I kept thinking I saw bees flying in front of me, very similar to the way the ground will rock side to side after getting off of a boat. Weird! Has anyone else had that happen?

Now, there's no good photo for what happened next, but I'm going to fess up here. We came in for dinner just before 7, the work had taken us about an hour in total. I removed my bee clothes and changed into some jams and a sweatshirt for the evening. Had a leisurely dinner, and before doing the dishes remembered I needed to take out the recycling. I exited the house through the deck door to give the bees their space. Got the recycling out, came back in, and put the leftovers away. Once that was done, I started to wash the dishes. (get the idea that we were no longer beekeeping here?) I was almost done with the dishes when I suddenly felt a rapid vibration on my left forearm, just under where my sweatshirt sleeve was rolled up. Almost simultaneously, I felt a hot stab. I yelped, and pushed at my arm and sweatshirt sleeve. Looking down I saw a bee fly away. I realized she'd somehow ended up under my sweatshirt sleeve, and was totally happy there until the sleeve trapped her. At the time I thought it wasn't a sting, but just my fingernail having scratched my arm. Beeman caught her in a wine glass (she'd landed on the soji screen) and walked her outside, saying she looked unwell. I took a look at my arm, a small bump rising on the skin. It looked like the bump from a TB test. It didn't itch or hurt after the initial sting. I watched it, wondering how my body would react. The next moring I found the bee in the wine glass, her body split from stinging me. :( Today it's a small red bump. Beeman started to shout "I'm telling! First sting!" but I protest - I'll count my first sting when it directly involves me & the bees. Me in my jams washing dishes isn't exactly beekeeping - that could have been random unfortunate hitchhiker.

Next: Thursday! (bet you didn't see that coming!)

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