Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Beekeeper's Assistants

Rebecca and Anne are here for the holiday weekend. Rebecca has understandable misgivings about being in the midst of thousands of potentially stinging insects, but I learned that Anne has been interested in bees since her high school days when she considered six weeks of beekeeping for her Linworth Walkabout.

Anne is an artist and loves to paint, so she agreed to paint the hive boxes. There will be more about that tomorrow. With three hive boxes suitably decorated and ready to put in place, I wanted to do that when she was available to watch. I knew she wanted to get close to the bees. In addition to swapping hive boxes, I needed to examine each hive and see what progress had been made since last week. I also had made a new batch of syrup for food and some grease patties to protect the bees from tracheal mites.

The grease patties are made of sugar, crisco and peppermint essential oil. Examination gloves were a smart idea for the mixing and pattying. A patty is placed under all the boxes on the bottom screen of the hive just inside the front door. When the bees come and go, they must traipse through the sugar, grease and aromatic oil. When the ladies clean each other up, they medicate themselves and make themselves resistant to tracheal mites, tiny critters we can't see but can weaken the bees and wipe out the entire colony. The patty should last a couple of months and then will be replaced.

The hives are all in great shape. The bees are drawing out comb in the upper level hive boxes. In the lower boxes I can see where cells are empty after providing safe haven for pupae. The workers will clean out all the newly empty cells and the queen will lay eggs in them again. Each hive has frames filled with capped larvae, developing larvae and capped honey. Hive 1 continues to be the star of the show. I only saw one queen (Hive 1) and God knows I tried, but I couldn't see any eggs. I do believe they are in there. Formerly weak Hive 2 is looking much healthier with its new Ohio queen, even though I couldn't find her. And latecomer Hive 3 is almost as full as the others.

I convinced Rebecca that drones have no stingers and showed her how to spot them. Then I put one in her hand. Oh, how those boys buzz! Anne took lots of terrific photos which I will post soon.

The bees in all three hives were oh so calm today. What a difference from when I released the Ohio queen last week. Even though I removed all the frames from each hive, swapped out the upper boxes' frames into the newly painted ones, placed the grease patties, scraped burr comb and poured syrup into the feeders, I am happy to report none of us were stung.

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