Friday, March 18, 2011

The bees are getting ready for Spring...

Last year was our first year to have bees, and they have been pretty amazing to watch.  God made them with a purpose and they take it very seriously.  The girls work, and the guys breed the queen and hang out being 'comb potatoes' (you know...instead of 'couch potatoes'...ha ha!) until they are needed to breed again.  Yes...that is all I need to say!  :-) 

Winter was hard on us because we had no idea what was going on in the hives, and we hoped that the bee balls were staying warm enough and also finding time to feed.  We left the honey they produced last year for them to feed on, plus we also put pollen patties on top of the frames just in case they needed something extra.  Yep, we spoiled our bees!  :-)

Bee balls.....when the weather gets cold the bees form a ball to stay warm.  They rotate from the inside of the ball where they are warm and feed to the outside...they all take their turn.

Spring is here, and the nice days have brought them out.  They have been cleaning house...moving out all the 'junk' to prepare for the new season.  We did notice that one hive (Brian's) was weaker than the other hive, but I still thought it was okay.  They will lay enough eggs to make up for the loss as long as they have a good strong queen.  Anyways, Brian could not stand it, and he took the lid off his the other day!  YIKES!  He found out that yes, the hive was weak, but it was strong enough for a bunch of bees to come rising to the top, and they were MAD!!!!!  I turned just in time to see him put that lid back on and skedaddle himself away from there!  HA HA HA!!!!!

The weather got warmer and he planned a day for us to come home early to open up the hives and see what was going on.

Here is his hive...not many bees on the inside of the lid, and not many walking around the top of the frames, but we could see plenty between the frames.  The top box was very heavy, as it should be, so we knew they were working the way they should.  Each frame should hold about 5 lbs of honey.     

This is what had Brian stressed out...he could see a mouse nest from the entrance to the hive, and he had visions of the mice tearing apart the honeycomb.  No worries....just a nest and Brian cleaned it out.  He ended up putting some wire stuff on the entrance so the bees can come and go, but the mice can't.  It works...we found a dead mouse on one yesterday.  Made me sad...but we can't have them destroying a future food source.

Here is my hive!  I call it my hive because I was the one who dumped the new bees into this hive.  Look how many more of them there are on the top!  I have one bad a$$ hive!  :-)

Many of the bees gathered on the underneath side of the lid.

After Brian hit them with the smoker, a bunch of them went back inside the hive.  The smoke is supposed to calm them.  I don't know....they don't seem more calm to me, but I will go with it just in case.  We did not pull any of the frames this time.  Didn't need to...we knew they were full of honey because of the weight of the hive.

 Brian got a phone call while we were out there, and it was his bee mentor!  He suggested moving the bottom box to the top, and the top to the bottom.  Long story short - all the food supply will be moved to the bottom.  The bees will go to the top and clean out the old comb then lay eggs.  Once eggs hatch, they will start producing honey upstairs again.

Here is me moving the bottom box off the 'floor' so we can put the top one on the bottom.  We do NOT mix the hives!  If we take take one box from one hive and put it to the other, they may kill each other, not to mention we don't know where the queen is.  If both queens end up in one hive, the new one will be killed. 

  We wear rubber gloves like they wear at hospitals because the bees don't usually like to land on them.  This was the first time I had one land on my glove and she stayed there a while.  I just kept hoping she was in a good mood because she is able to sting thru the glove.  She tired of me and moved on.

Brian is putting the bottom box on top.  This is what I call the Bee Mansion.  They will lay eggs on both levels but most of the honey will be 'manufactured' in the top one.  The belief is that the queen likes to move up to lay more eggs, but doesn't like to go down.  Swapping the first and second story gives them something to do so they will not swarm.  If the queen gets the feeling that the hive is too full (like the top box originally was), she will take the swarm and move somewhere else.

Swarm:  Most people think of a swarm as something bad like an attack of a group of bees.  A swarm is a group of bees just like a bunch of horses is a 'herd' and a bunch of turtles is a 'flock of turtles'.  (My sisters 6th grade teachers used to say "I am off like a flock of turtles" and I never forgot it!  Thank you Mrs. Hannah!  You were an awesome teacher and I hope you are still at it!) 

I totally understand why Brian was worried.  I was too but I had to bee brave...get it?  BEE BRAVE....HA HA!  The good news is the hives are well.  Brian is ordering a couple more hives to set up this year.  He is hoping to catch a swarm out in the wild.  We met a man last Fall that has not bought bees for years.  He puts up traps (wood boxes that look like bat houses or bird houses) and catches them that way.  Cool!

I yammered on long enough...I tried not to talk so much but the bees fascinate me.

Until later...Karen and Tripp who say "The bees can stay OVER THERE!!!!"

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