Spring is in full swing here in Colorado and summer is just around the corner. Each day brings a new type of flower as a source of pollen and nectar for the bees. The roses started blooming this week, the herbs are starting to flower and the vegetable garden is coming along nicely. A wet May really helped move things along.
All my worrying about my overwintered hive paid off – it’s going gangbusters now. It’s chock full of bees (probably 20,000+), the queen is laying well and the honey flow is on. I’ve been keeping an eye on a few queen cells, but they are still empty and I think they are happy where they are. They’ve been building some new comb and I’ve moved the follower board back to give them some room to expand.
The new hive is doing well also. The first crop of new bees that the queen laid have hatched and they continue to expand. In one month, they’ve built 9 combs. They are not as active as the old hive, but I think they are doing well. I’m sure I’ll find something to worry about.
The other good news is that I haven’t found any mites in either hive. Both hives are making drone cells which the mites love to incubate in since they take longer to develop than worker bees. I went into the old hive yesterday because I was going to cull one comb that had lots of drone cells on it. You cut out the drone cells and freeze it to kill the mites (and then feed it to the chickens). Drones are pretty useless and there are already plenty in this hive. But when I got to that comb, most of it had hatched. I opened up one of the cells and pulled out the pupa, but it had no mites on it! Also, the mite boards below have been mite free so far.
This year, I decided to try a few changes in my inspection routines by not donning the full bee suit. On a sunny day, it’s just unbearably hot. I was inspired by Sam Comfort of Anarchy Apiaries as captured in this video by Beverly Bees:
The theory is if you are comfortable around the bees, they will be comfortable around you. Practicing that theory can be difficult.
Last week I decided to try inspecting the hive with long pants (since the clover and bees are thick around the hive), a T-shirt and no gloves. I decided to wear a veil because I got stung below the eye a few weeks before while just working in the garden when one bee apparently didn’t like my sweaty odor. (The face is the worst place to get stung, IMO).
Things were going pretty well for a while, but then the girls got a little pissy and I got a sting on each arm, so I put on a long sleeved shirt to finish the inspection. This week, I went with the long pants, long sleeved shirt and veil, but no gloves. When you wear gloves, you can’t always feel when bees are in the way as you are moving things about. Crushing bees make me sad and the bees mad. My son, Patrick, was helping with a bee jacket and veil, but wearing shorts. What could go wrong?
The bees have started making honey and at this time of year, they have that to defend. I was doing pretty well, but when we got into the brood nest where the queen was, there was a bit of a commotion in our yard. The neighbor kids came over with one of them sporting chicken which wasn’t supposed to be out of their yard. It started running around and my wife and the kids were trying to catch her. I think I started to get distracted and the bees got agitated. They started buzzing Patrick and he ran off. Then they turned their attention to me. One got me on the hand so I decided to quickly put on gloves and finish. When a bee stings you, it releases a pheromone that tells all the other bees – STING HERE! Even with the gloves on, they were going after my hands and head (glad I had the veil), so I finished up as quickly as I could. I still had the other hive to inspect, but they were much calmer. Maybe I should have started there. I probably should have pulled the stinger out before I put the gloves on, but didn’t. Once I was done and pulled the glove off, I got the stinger out, but by then my hand had begun to swell.
I usually have some swelling when I get stung – sometimes a little, sometimes a lot. I knew this was going to bee a good swell and that it would be really itchy. Ice usually slows the swelling, so I applied that liberally. I take the stings and swelling as part of the whole endeavor. I try not to get stung, but deal with the consequences when it happens. I find it amusing how the body deals with this intrusion. Patrick got stung on the leg (I told him to wear long pants!) and this morning he has a cankle. My swelling is moving up my arm so it’s time for more ice. I feel like Kirk in the new Star Trek series when Bones injects him with some virus to get him on the Enterprise and his hands swell.
Fortunately, I don’t have Bones around to give me another shot and some other reaction. This will pass in a couple of days.
It’s all part of the experience and joys of beekeeping.