Monday, May 13, 2013

Bees! - May 2013

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This is not a trip report. In fact it is the opposite. It is a picture of one of the adventures we get involved in when we stay home.

The Spiders, Barking, Mom, and Little live nearby. You may have become acquainted with them as characters in a few of our stories. This tale features Little Spider.

Little lives at home with her parents and is finishing up her college career. For a number of reasons, she became interested in bees and beekeeping. After much research, discussions with experts, and visiting other people with backyard hives, she (with help from her Dad) was ready to put a hive together and get bees. We were lucky enough to receive updates on the project. We visited when the hive was assembled and we were walked through how bees are housed, cared for, and how bees produce honey for harvesting.

This past weekend was for chores around the home place and Sunday was, of course, for the celebration of Mother’s Day. The Spiders stopped by Saturday morning on their way down the hill to pick up the bees they had ordered. They were excited. We were excited too when they showed up later with over 4000 bees on our doorstep. It was exciting to hear over 4000 bees buzzing at the same time. Buried deep in the bee box was the real prize, the queen.

Late Sunday afternoon was the big day. The bees were going to be introduced to their new home, the hive in the Spider’s backyard. Would you miss the chance to see this show? Novice beekeepers were going to handle over 4000 bees for the first time.

Equipment was ready.

A small flame was started in the smoker.

The proper amount of sawdust was added to smolder and produce the smoke.

Smoke calms bees and also masks the pheromones they produce to communicate with each other. The smoke must also be cool and not too hot. It is poor form to cook your bees. There is a bit of art involved with these new skills.

Everything is set up close to the hive.

Little gets ready to open the cage.

Spraying the bees with sugar water (food) calms them.

The cage is sealed with a can of food that feed the bees during their time in the cage. It is removed.

The queen is housed in her own small cage that is carefully removed and set to the side.

Three of the frames are removed from the hive and the bees are dumped into the hive.

Since the bees are not defending a producing hive, they are remarkably docile. This is also why this process is done at the end of the day, the usual time bees would be returning to their hive.

The queen is introduced to the hive by opening her cage and suspending it between two  frames. The opening of her cage is blocked with “candy” that the workers eat through and free the queen after a day or so. This gives the bees and the queen time to “bond”. There is a lot of singing and dancing and pheromones involved in this process.

The bees are carefully moved out of the way and the frames are placed back into the hive.

Since this is a new hive without honey for food, these bees need a lot to eat to get going producing young, honey for their food, and honey for us. A food box is placed on top.

A gallon of sugar water is poured in.

The emptying bee cage is placed at the front of the hive and the top goes on.

The bees discover the entrance to the hive. As they settle, the message goes out with a special dance. The butt goes into the air and wings are fanned. Pheromones also put out the message, “This is it! This is a good place! This is our new home!”

It starts with one bee.

The bees remaining in the cage get the message.

Other bees are circling above the hive and getting oriented. Their GPS’s are getting set on the location of their new home. They will never get lost.

Another bee starts the butt in the air dance. Bees are discovering their new front door.

After fifteen minutes to a half hour, the bees are content and happy. They are home.

Sunday was Little Spider’s birthday.

In a couple of days the hive will be opened up, the empty queen cage will be removed, and the queen checked to see that she is on with her queenly duties with the proper pomp and circumstance.

It was great fun to share this event with our friends. The neighbors below and other friends also watched the show.

That night when we were back home, I asked the Lady, “So the next time we set up camp are you going to put your butt in the air and fan your wings and let us know it’s a good place?”
I got a smile but no direct answer. I guess I’ll just find out.

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