Thursday, September 14, 2006

bees

Last Sunday the weather was nice for a change so I took that opportunity to install my screen bottom board. The screen bottom board is mostly for mite control (normally the mites fall off the bees and land on the regular bottom board, where they can just climb right back on, but with the screen they fall through and are trapped) but also for ventilation so that things do not get too moist and moldy in the winter. My bees don't have mites but if they do get a mite I want it to fall through a screen, dammit.

Anyway, the goldenrod nectar flow was on and the bees were very busy, lots of traffic going in and out of the entrance. It's good when they're busy because then they pay less attention to stinging.

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Here is some dark nectar the bees have collected... could it be buckwheat???

The bees are raising some drones. Drones are male bees and they are only around towards the end of summer; they grow up in larger cells from unfertilized eggs. Here is some drone comb that the bees built in the space between their top and bottom levels, it ripped open when I took the top super off so you can see the pupating drones:
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Here is a drone, all grown up, he is that guy in the middle with the big eyes:
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Drones are funny. They have no stings so you can molest them all you want. They are helpless and rely on the workers to be fed. They don't get up until afternoon and then they just go out and look for chicks. They also tend to clean their eyeballs with their forelegs a lot, which makes them look like vain men smoothing their hair.

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The first whole bee on the left is a baby who just hatched out of her cell - her fur is all damp and matted. Isn't she cute? Also you can see some foragers with orange pollen on their legs, they are looking for a cell to unload it into. It was crazy how much pollen the bees were bringing in, and the whole hive was busy and excited and rushing around, it was pretty neat.

Overall I am worried about my bees making it through the winter. They seem to be raising a ton of brood instead of storing up honey. They do have several frames of pollen stored, so that is good. (They use pollen to feed the baby bees and they will need it in the spring to get the colony built up again... assuming they are still alive...) They are supposed to have 60-70 lbs of honey to get through winter and they do not have that much at all, and they have frames and frames and frames of brood. I need to go back through and count up exactly what they have, but it's not good. It might be a problem that I have been feeding them light syrup (5 lbs of sugar in a gallon), which apparently stimulates brood-rearing more than heavy syrup (10 lbs in a gallon) which they are more likely to store. So today I made heavy syrup which is even more of a pain in the ass than making light syrup and I have to see if I can get corn syrup from the restaurant supply store, since I think I am going to have to feed them constantly for as long as I can into the cold weather. And trust that they are going to stop making more hungry bees and start making honey.

What they are trying to do is build up high numbers of foragers for fall nectar flow, but that is almost over and I think they are confused because I started them so late. Anyway I spent a lot of time reading (doom-laden) things on the internet and agonizing about what I should do (add a super? queen excluder? switch the top and bottom hive bodies? put all the old brood in the top and put a queen excluder in so that the queen will stop laying goddamn eggs in the empty cells and they can put nectar in there?) but I think I am just going to constantly feed heavy syrup and trust that the bees are not stupid and will figure out what to do... at least that is what I am going to do until the end of the month at which time I might freak out and do something else... like move them into my basement for the winter?

Also I bought a super fancy hive wrap insulation layer.

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Who is a very handsome dog?

4 comments:

jennifer said...

wow, you are such an educated beekeeper. I am sending my busy thoughts to your bees so they make enough honey to survive. And Oscar is the handsomest.

the knitrider said...

oman, that is some bee trouble. My first thought was to store them in a room in your house that you will never open, as you said the basement. will they survive indoors for the winter? they are probably just confused, but bees are smart, they will figure it out. Lots of times we dont even get an autumn and it goes straight to winter, and they seem to figure that out alright. i love the baby one who is all matted down. omg! good luck!

Blackbird said...

I'm smoothing my hair right now.

Evan Kessler said...

I take comfort in knowing that the phrase busy as a bee has some roots in reality.