Thursday, June 14, 2012

Too Many To Count

Too many to count!  Bees?  Well, yes, but I am actually referring to the flowers in the meadow.

The meadow is still growing.  In places it is now chest high, almost five feet.  The tickseed (coreopsis) has been blooming for a while, giving us scattered blossoms of yellow. I have been watching the buds, hundreds if not thousands, forming on the rudbeckia (black-eyed Susan), and waiting and WAITING for them to open.  The waiting is over and the meadow is now a sea of yellow daisy-like blooms. I thought the bees would be square dancing about all the flowers, but when I looked at the meadow up close, I saw wasps, yellow jackets, a new kind of dragonfly, butterflies, smaller pollinators and daddy longlegs, but no honeybees.

At the OSU beeyard last night, I asked if bees are attracted to black-eyed Susans and was told that bees don't like them.  Well, this is a real missed opportunity! I am delighted to report that when I walked around the meadow this evening, there were plenty of bees in the yellow flowers.  I did not see full pollen baskets so I am assuming they are after nectar.  The misinformation at the beeyard brings home the point that if you ask a question of two beekeepers, you will get three answers of varying accuracy.

From the house, the hives have almost disappeared from view.  In the photo, you can easily see hives 2 and 4 and just a glimpse of hive 3.  Hive 1 is still there, I promise.  In "Oklahoma!" the corn was as high as an elephant's eye, but in my beeyard, the meadow is as high as a deer's eye. This afternoon, I saw movement out there by the hives. I waited and watched and saw a pair of deer ears, just the ears, moving across the tops of the flowers. The meadow plays tricks on my eyes. First, I thought the deer was on the path between the hives and the meadow. Then it looked like the ears were surrounded by meadow. Quite possibly, the deer was in the thick of it.

Parts of the meadow are falling over.  It might be due to collapsing under the weight of the thick plants, but it might also be that deer are bedding down in the meadow.  In either case, I am confident these are natural occurrences.  The falling down plants are still thick and blooming heavily.  This is NOT a tidy garden. In this photo you can see the unevenness of the plants.

The iPhone camera is not the best for closeup photography, but look closely and you'll see the honeybee on the center flower.  That's my girl!  Actually, there's really no way to know that, but I'm claiming her anyway. Unless she stings someone.

Shifting my attention from flora to fauna, here's the latest bee news.  At the beeyard last week, I was encouraged to take honey again before I head south for the summer.  Susan and I are now partners in an extractor.  We will now be able to take honey without having the bees devour it while we wait for our turn to borrow the bee club's extractor.  Harvey and I got the garage all set up yesterday and I headed out in the cool of the morning for a solo harvest.  I started with Hive 4, my strongest hive.  At the first harvest I saw that the queen had been all the way up in the top box.  There was capped brood up in the honey super.  Last week when I checked, the bees had emerged and the cells were filled again with honey. Yesterday, I saw that the queen had been up there again.  There was one nice frame of capped honey, some frames with capped brood and mostly frames filled with nectar.  Uncapped honey should not be harvested because it has too high a percentage of water.  The bees know when it is right and that's when they seal the cells.  I trust the bees to seal it when it is ready and that's when I will harvest.  I pulled the frame that was ready and went on to the next hive.

Hive 3 is the weakest hive.  I found lots of capped brood, plenty of stored nectar, and I decided to give these girls a boost with a frame of capped brood from another, better populated hive.  When I opened Hive 2, I switched two frames with Hive 3, only to realize when I continued my search for honey in Hive 2 that something is not quite right in there.  There was plenty of honey (one frame capped, so I pulled it), mostly uncapped, lots of capped brood, but almost no larvae.  I have to wonder if the queen I waited so long for has gone missing and if the hive is queenless once again.  Hive 2 could not afford to give up frames, so I decided to take two frames from Hive 1.  Musical chairs, bee style.  

Hive 1, the swarm hive, is going very well but there was no honey for me to take. It wouldn't pay to harvest just the two frames of capped honey--too much clean up time for six jars. There would be no harvest on this day. In the future, I need to make better mental notes about which boxes have frames out.  I had to open all the hives again because I didn't remember which boxes were incomplete. I can do better with this.

One very neat thing is, for the first time, I got to see bees emerging from their capped cells. I wish I could take photographs when I'm in the hives, but the iPhone would never be the same from my propolis-sticky fingers.   There is a solid pattern of tan capped cells where the bees are growing.  When she is ready to emerge, she chews a ring out of her cell cap.  What I saw was her beady eyes and antennae poking through the hole, and then her head.  I had too much to take care of to sit and watch bees emerge and didn't want to run the risk of agitating the bees by keeping their hives open too long. So, I moved on.

I am already noodling new ideas for improving my harvesting logistics.  If the weather holds out, I will try to harvest on Saturday, my last chance before I head south until August.  

I got through all those hive boxes with no stings.  However, when I inspected last week I did get the teensiest, least little sting through my glove on my right index finger.  It was less annoying than a mosquito bite.  I hope my luck continues to hold out.

2012  4
2011  13

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