Sunday, May 17, 2009

It's beehive hot!

Our normally temperate weather turned much warmer over the weekend, 93F yesterday and about the same today. As much as I was waiting for the cool evening weather to hit, I considered that the inside of the hive is usually kept at 95F. Those girls must have been hot!

I was out all day Saturday, so today was more my day to see how the hive was doing. I noticed that some of the girls were flying in and out of the hive, but it wasn't the usual bee cloud we've been seeing.

Later in the afternoon I pulled the mite drawer out of the hive to check for mites. I admit that I was pretty curious to check on the hive, and thought this may give me a look into the hive without breaking open the supers. It may also provide the girls with extra ventilation. This is also a passive method of pest control as described in Natural Beekeeping.

The paper (upside down wrapping paper sprayed lightly with cooking spray, a suggestion from Backyard Beekeeper) was removed for a look. Happily - no mites! There was plenty of pollen, and happily - brood caps. Those tiny little things that look like contact lenses are brood caps that have been chewed off. That is a great sign - the queen is laying, the brood have developed, and our bee numbers are increasing. Hooray!

Too little wax to collect, methinks. All the same, I wrapped it up to save.

Overall, the bees seemed in an industrious, but pleasant mood. I was amused by this little bee. I sat a minute to the left of the hive, next to the potato bush. As I sat there, she came over to look out every five to ten seconds. Good guard bee! I'm glad the entrance is facing into the fence. It helps give the bees a smaller area to define as theirs to defend, and I think it also provides for a harmonious relationship for hive and house.

The only difficulty in removing grass or weeds from the front (so ants can not climb into the hive) will likely require suiting up for safety. I'd rather the hive be strong and queen right (and disease resistant!) than total pushovers.
Sunday brought some cooler weather during the late afternoon and evening. I spent some time watering the garden (and enjoying the cooler temps!) and keeping an eye on the bees. I noticed a piece of mulch about ten feet from the hive move. I stopped to check it out, picked up a piece of wood, and noticed a small bee walking on it. Her wings seemed a bit off - not K shaped or deformed, just... that she wasn't used to them. I walked her over to the hive where I noticed a couple other bees acting funny. They'd fly, then seem to drop out of the air, and spent a bit of time walking around. A minute or so after I got this picture, the bee buzzed her wings fast without taking off - sounded like angry buzz, or the way they buzz when they are trying to dry off. Could this be our new brood taking their first orientation flights? I hope so. I'd hate to think our girls are sick.

EDIT. Option three was pointed out to me last night, and I have to say as sad as it makes me - it fits the description. Worker bees die not from heart disease or cholesterol, but from their wings literally wearing out. Their inability to fly back to the safety of the hive is a death sentence. This morning I saw two more bees on the sidewalk not flying, and it seems to be just as we are seeing our first new brood appear, we are also seeing our first generation wearing out. It's awful to see these bees and not be able to do anything for them.

Definitely think I saw some drones as well - there were a few bees flying that were huge!

Some videos:

The camera is sticking inside of the hive, where the mite board was. Above is the screen for the mites to fall through. I was attempting to capture the loud buzz of the hive. It can be heard, but what really got to me about this video - you can see the bees walking along the screen. Bee feet!

One of the bees sipping from their water bowl. The corks are in there to prevent evaporation and provide the bees a place to stand when drinking. A bowl of water on its own could cause them to fall in and drown. This one cracked me up - see her feet constantly gripping the sides?

The same bee mentioned above. I hoped to catch her doing more of the buzz! but instead caught her grooming.

The best thing (and we always save the best for last) was something I discovered as a result of going to work early and coming home late. It'd been a few days since I'd seen my bees, and I worried. I missed seeing the little gold beauties darting in and out of the hive! I stopped next to the hive, and pressed my ear against the hive. I could hear the collective buzz, much like a cat purr. What was new this time was the smell of hot honey. The space where the two supers don't quite fit together (and the bees haven't propylized yet) hot air from the hive is wafting out. The smell of honey is unmistakable and intoxicating.

I left work late Friday to find a flat rear tire. One of my co-workers was also leaving and offered me a ride home. It ended up being a serendipitous occasion, and I offered to introduce her to the girls. I showed her the hear and smell technique. I was happy to see how confident she was with the bees (and how quickly!) and I think she had the same sense of wonder and intoxication that I did. (Dr. R if you are reading, hi!) :)

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