In Atlanta (or “Hotlanta” as Linda’s Bees calls it), screened bottom boards are more than a good idea. They’re life jackets for your hot summer hive.
In the dry heat of Albuquerque, I’m still unsure if it’s part of my vital support systems.
Currently, I’ve got a screened bottom board and then below that a solid board. I’m still unclear whether I should remove the solid board during our dry summers, but until then I enjoy pulling it out once a week to explore the bee debris.
There’s a jumble of yellow, green, and orange pollen in addition to an assortment of wax flakes, bee wings, propolis, and unidentifiable gunk. It’s so pretty I might just use it to decorate holiday cookies 😉
Moist little larvae are pure eye-candy for the springtime beekeeper. When opening up your hives each week, you want to see plenty of larvae as evidence of your queen’s fertility.
This image shows larval stage bees (“grubs”) nestled in the comb. In a top bar hive like mine, the larvae are frequently mixed with honey and pollen on the comb.
Also, now that I look at this photo more closely, I notice a drone bee just to the left of the human finger. See it there, slightly larger with wider bands of black and oversized eyes on the top of its head?
Splendid shots by a photographer whose friend invited her to snap away at his hive. Incidental eyebrow stinging optional.
Splitting the Hive
Our friend Jason has a beekeeping hobby. Yesterday he invited us to come watch him “split the hive” and even though we weren’t 100% sure what that meant, we were pretty sure we’d get to see a beehive up close. We couldn’t resist. When we got there, he and the rest of the hive team (his mom and a cool bee guru friend of theirs) were all decked out in serious bee-garb which was a little off-putting. We were told we’d be ok as long as we didn’t wear black (which for us is actually really hard, but we found some white shirts and were feeling pretty brave). We got briefed that the way to survive being around a hive without protection is to wear white and move very slowly, and remain calm even when they come buzzing around you. No sweat.
Got me bees. Got me a queen. But I’m a little short on information since much of America focuses on beekeeping with commercial-style Langstroth hives. Thus, I do hereby highly recommend the following website:
With delectable bee porn and homey misspellings, it’s a website rich with information for hungry newbeeks like me. Dive in and enjoy!
More for my own reference than anything else, here’s a brain dump of questions I have 3 weeks into beekeeping:
- For the summer, should we remove the bottom board leaving only a screened bottom?
- Do drones buzz louder than worker bees?
- Is it possible that workers built a supercedure cell but didn’t move an egg into it?
- Do bees like cacti? They’re not on most lists of bee-friendly garden plants, but in the Southwest we’ve plenty.
If any of you bee sages out there have answers, I’m all ears.
I was about to quit and take up worm farming along with this guy, when suddenly in our inspection today, we spotted Queen Natasha happy on the comb. Actually, Aleksander spotted her and was giddy as an emo at the release of a new Harry Potter flick.
Why the drama?
Upon opening the hive last week, we spotted 2 supercedure cells and no sign of Queen Natasha, our new Allstar queen from B. Weaver. Not a promising vision for a newbeek such as myself. Much hand-wringing and frantic emails to TJ ensued.
Fortunately, things are back on track.
Upon the advice of my bee mentor TJ, we did leave the supercedure cells intact. The idea being that a hardy queen will terminate the upstarts or be terminated herself by a stronger queen.
My money’s on the haughty and virile Queen Natasha.
For your edification and delight, here’s some titillating footage of our bee package installation. It’s a kenyan top bar classic sure to amaze friends and family.
One week after installing a new package, we opened up our hive and found:
- tons of honey
- 2 new combs
- some larvae
- no queen
- no new brood
- 2 supercedure cells
Methinks the queen has disappeared. We didn’t remove the supercedure cells thinking that maybe the workers are trying to raise a new one but at the end of the day we’re utter newbies. Clueless.
I’ve got an email into TJ for advice. In the meantime, the only consolation is that I tasted my first homegrown honey today and it was divine.
44% of all the U.S. bees died last winter. Again, doing the math, that comes to 1.1 million colonies, just shy of what’s needed for almond pollination next spring. Hmmmm….
from ‘Colony Collapse Disorder: What We’ve Learned’
In the article above, Kim Flottum, editor of Bee Culture magazine, seems to conclude Israeli Acute Paralysis Virus (IAPV) has something to do with it.
Yesterday evening, I checked on the queen.
Activity around the hive had settled into a normal pattern, but I wanted to make sure she’d been freed from her cage properly. At sunset, A. and I opened the hive (my first opening without the patient oversight of TJ) to find that she was nearly freed but not quite. We smoked off her attendants and peeled back the mesh.
Queen Natasha (as I’ve just now decided to call her) skittered down into the hive without a moment’s hesitation. There was plenty of nectar already filling the comb and Natasha’s crew were busy and docile.
So far so good.