The plan for today was to open up the hives, put grease patties on the bottom to prevent tracheal mites, check the pollen patties and generously dust each hive box with sifted powdered sugar to control varroa mites. I also wanted to see if the bees were storing honey again.
Starting in Hive 3, I began to examine the frames. Yes, there is new honey being stored, but it is not yet capped. I was glad to see this as it indicates that the flowers have nectar and the bees are finding it. This is goldenrod season, a boon for the bees and a misery for allergy sufferers. I have given up all thoughts of harvesting any honey this season from these three hives.
Dusting the bees with powdered sugar is an integrated hive management technique. Integrated hive management means the beekeeper uses natural products instead of chemicals and poisons to control and prevent problems in the hives. The pesky varroa mites can't hang on to the slippery sugared bees and all that white powder spurs the girls into grooming behavior. I was told to sift four pounds of sugar into each colony. This is a lot of sugar and the bees were heavily coated. While working on Hive 3, my high tech sweatband slipped off my head and the band was bouncing around the inside of my veil/hood. When I finished my work in Hive 3, I moved away from the hives to unzip the hood so I could remove the sweat band. BIG MISTAKE! I had the right idea to move away from the hives, but I didn't move far enough away. As soon as the hood was unzipped from the jacket, a bee found her way into the hood and slammed into my right temple. I was stung and I knew this was going to be bad. Another bee was flying around inside the hood which was still on my head. I quickly moved across the meadow to shed the jacket and attached hood. I could feel a bee in my hair and as soon as the jacket was off, I bent at the waist to shake out my hair. It was a good idea, but not effective, and I knew if I ran my fingers through my hair I'd be stung on the hand. I hurried into the house and went for the wide-toothed smooth metal comb I used to use on my Himalayan cat's matts. The bee combed right out of my hair and fell to the floor, along with another I didn't even know was there. Those girls went out the back door.
My fingers went to my right temple and I could feel the stinger. It brushed out easily. Because I don't make the same mistake twice, I had taken a preventative Benadryl before I ventured out. The site of the sting was only slightly swollen, a normal reaction, and as beestings go, not particularly painful. After a moment of decision-making (do I go back out there or hang it up for the day?), I donned my jacket and hood and went to finish what I had started.
The sugar-coated bees were bearded off the front of their hive--thousands of them spilling to the ground. I wish I had taken my camera as it was quite a spectacle. I went to work on Hive 2. I figured if Hive 1 was as crazy full of bees as Hive 3, I wouldn't be able to work the middle hive. The girls in Hive 2 were very calm. These the the offspring of my Ohio queen. Most of my original bees and the offspring of my Georgia queen are dead. I can see that the bees in Hive 2 are different. These bees are very dark, almost black, instead of golden. This queen is not an egg-laying machine like the Georgia queens, so the hive is not so heavily populated. Everything appeared fine in there. They got their grease patty and sugar and I closed up the hive. The bees proceeded to make a beard on the front of the hive, but not as extensive as Hive 3.
On to Hive 1. There is much honey production going on in there, too. These bees were also calm and easy to work around which was a good thing as I was running on adrenaline and really just wanting to do what I needed to do and to get safely indoors. Grease patty, sugar dust, close the hive, collect my tools and gather all those empty powdered sugar bags.
The pollen substitute patties I placed in the hives on Labor Day were all gone. When I open the hives next week for another sugar dusting, I'll give each colony another pollen patty.
My tool basket and tools were covered with sugar, so I took the time to clean them up and went inside to assess my face. Only the slightest swelling was there, just at the site of the sting. I had enough time to shower and still take Sam the Dog to the club for the annual Doggy Dunk, a riot of a time held the day before the pool gets drained for the season. I made some lunch and the swelling began. In no time at all, my right eye was puffy and I knew I wasn't going anywhere.
By 3:30pm, the eye was swollen shut. I have been treating it with ice packs, Benedryl and Advil. As stings go, it is not very painful or itchy, but it looks dreadful. If I try hard I can open my eye enough to see with it. I cancelled my dinner plans (who would want to eat looking at this eye?) and pondered this hobby, beekeeping.
Let me describe my face. The right eye is swollen shut. If I open my eyes enough, I can see, but my field of vision includes the edges of my puffy lids. My right cheek is slightly swollen, making my face somewhat lopsided. If you have ever seen anyone after a nose job or eyelid surgery, it's a lot like that, except there is no bruising. If I had gone a round with Muhammad Ali, I might look worse. Lucky for Harvey, he has an airtight alibi as he left town Friday and is a thousand miles away. No, I will not post a photo.
Sting count: 12