The Beekeeper’s Apprentice

We are blessed with a wonderful young family for neighbors.  Now that our kids are (mostly) out of the house and on to other interests, I’ve been using the neighbor kids as  surrogates to practice my grandparenting skills (although I hope the real thing is still a ways off).  In particular, I’ve been sharing my bee obsession with the 7 year old boy, Duncan, next door.

The beekeeper's apprentice

The beekeeper’s apprentice

Last year, we started with the Bee’s Needs project – a citizen science endeavor at the University of Colorado to monitor native bee populations.  We do bi-weekly checks of our bee block and record what we see on the Bee’s Needs website.  It’s been fun learning about the different native bees and the different ways they build their nests.

This year, we’re still doing the Bee’s Needs with a new block but I’ve got Duncan working with the honey bees.  I built the Hello Kitty hive for his yard and for his first confirmation, we got him a kid’s bee suit (not the typical religious gift, but at least it’s white!).   Our first inspection was BnB2 and unfortunately he didn’t have real thick gloves and got stung on the hand twice.  But that didn’t deter him!  I bought him some kid gloves to help with the next inspections.

Last weekend, we inspected Hello Kitty and BnB1 together.  Hello Kitty is the hive in Duncan’s yard that was split from BnB2 in late June.  After some queening issues, I left her alone for a couple of weeks while Duncan was out of town.  I had been feeding them sugar water, but once that ran out, I left them to fend for themselves.

Hello Kitty with the pictures in place

Hello Kitty with the pictures in place

Since she was built up from capped and uncapped brood, it was going to take a while for the brood to hatch and for the older nurse bees to turn into forager bees.  When we looked inside, there was not much new comb.  The transition to foragers probably happened just as the summer dearth set in which could explain the lack of new honey in the combs. Although we didn’t find the queen, we saw that there was new brood, so she was alive.  I would have liked to see more brood and a better pattern, but at this point, I’m just glad she’s alive.

Duncan smoking the hive

Duncan smoking the hive

One tiny little new comb

One tiny little new comb

After Hello Kitty, we went on to inspect BnB1. I had been looking through the window to see if it was still the “stoopid season“, but things looked like the were going well.  When we took the top off, we found a huge spider at the back.  I think she hangs out there to catch the unsuspecting bee near the vent hole at the back.  Or maybe she’d been cleaning up the ants because I didn’t see as many of them.

Spider on the back of BnB1

Spider on the back of BnB1

We went through the whole hive to make sure things were going well.  There was evidence of some cocoon of some sort on bar 3 that I thought could be wax moths.  There was lots of honey and nectar in the back combs and there was minimal cross combing.  The perpendicular comb from a previous inspection was all fixed up.  They were making nice honey bands above the brood – already preparing for winter.  And the cocoon-like thing at the front turned out to be earwig detritus, not wax moths which is fine.

It as a pretty hot day and Duncan was burning up in his suit, so about halfway through, he took a rest on the back porch while I finished the inspection.  There are so many bees this year in the hive (30K+) and they were pretty ticked off by the time I was done.  I got zapped on the hand at the beginning of the inspection and my wife, who was weeding the gardens, got stung when she ventured near (but not very near) the hives.  I also had one girl crawl up my leg (because I forgot to put rubber bands on my pants legs) and I tried to get her before she got me, but she won that duel.  I didn’t see the queen, but there’s lots of new brood that shows she’s in there.

Band of honey above the brood.

Band of honey above the brood.

Today was the Boulder County Fair parade and Duncan and I rode the float (with his sister).  I enjoy that activity, but unfortunately, we didn’t have many others participating.  It’s a shame really, since it’s not often that kids get to ride in a parade and participate in an activity that is a part of the agricultural history of the region.  I’m always up for a parade and I’m glad my new apprentice is too!

The next generation of beekeepers

The next generation of beekeepers

 

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2 Responses to The Beekeeper’s Apprentice

  1. Julie says:

    Even if he did abscond for awhile, Duncan sounds like he has all the makings of a great worker bee! I’m so proud of him for not getting scared off by a couple of stings, too. You sound like you’ll be an awesome grandpa (someday, in the not-too-near future), too. 🙂

    Checked out the Bees’ Needs project website. Really neat! Will have to see if my state has anything like that.

  2. Pingback: Family Honey Harvest | Buddha And The Bees

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