Saturday, May 2, 2009

Going into the Hives -- Take Two

I wish I had pictures for you, but I was focused on only one thing when I went into my hives yesterday -- my bees and what my jobs were. 

The good news is, I did much better. I felt I had gained a little more experience and knew how the hive would look and sound when I went in. I knew what the bees would do and sound like when they got mad. [For example, if I bee-brushed a small group of bees off a piece of burr comb, this got them mad or irritated or defensive. They make a much louder bbbbuuuuuuuzzzzzzzzz sound and maybe one or two may start to bounce off your veil -- but no worries, they can't get in. You simply puff a little smoke at them if you want and they go away.] I also learned that you don't have to take all of the bees off everything before you set it to the side. [For example, when you take the inner cover (top) off, sometimes there are bees on it. Just set it aside in away so they don't get squished and they just stay there -- hangin' out. No biggie. Once your queen is out and established, of course you check to make sure your queen isn't on anything you take outside of the hive.]

So I felt calmer. I had thought about where to keep the things I might need. I thought ahead about what I needed to do and how I was going to do it. I feel very good about this accomplishment. 

I put my get-up on, got my smoker ready, my tools organized and approached my right hand hive from the side. I puffed smoke in the front entrance. I took the top off methodically and calmly. I puffed some smoke through the hole on the top of the inner cover. I took off the inner cover. What did I see? My queen cage, wedged in between two frames, had dropped to the bottom of the hive. This is the same area of course where all of the bees are. I just couldn't bring myself to stick my hand in there and dig her out. I was calm, but I froze. A friend of mine who is a new bee keeper from my bee class had this same thing happen to her. She had had another new bee keeper with her and got up her nerve to remove two frames from the sides that didn't have bees all over them, set those aside, then put her gloved hand into the hive and pulled the queen cage out. I knew this story, but couldn't bring myself to do what I needed to do. I hadn't planned on this! It seems that this is part of bee keeping. You go in there expecting to accomplish a certain thing, and the bees throw you a curve ball and you have to decide what to do on the fly. And, according to long time bee keepers "if you ask 10 different bee keepers a question, they will give you 10 different answers". So, it's really your own journey with your own hives. But as a complete novice, this is a hard thing to get used to. I closed the hive back up. Not a good move, but it's what I did.

Now, onto the second hive. This is a big improvement from the day before. On Thursday when I went into the first hive and things didn't go as planned and I got overwhelmed, I just 'called it a day'. Yesterday, I was determined, calm and focused . . . I just wasn't ready to put my hand into the hive without support. 

I stoked and restarted my smoker and went around to the side of my left hive. I smoked and slowly opened it up. My queen cage in this hive thankfully was where it was supposed to be. Great! I was prepared for this! It is best for your hive if after three days your queen has not been released through the candy plug that the bees are supposed to eat through, to go ahead and let her out. Your bees will be happier and will be able to get to work and do what they are born to do. Plus, your queen will be able to start laying her eggs!

My bee keeping friend Diane seems to use a large nail for most everything -- so I had one of those in the pocket of my bee suit, and a very small screwdriver. I smoked the tops of the frames before I went to get the queen cage out from between the frames. I moved the outside frames over slightly, then slowly took my gloved hand and put my two fingers onto the cage slowly allowing the bees to move out of the way as I went and held on to it to be certain it didn't fall to the bottom of the hive. Through all of the bees clinging onto the queen cage, I could see that she was still in there. 

Okay, I was planning on this and I was prepared! I can do this. I probably puffed a little smoke, then I slowly got my small screw driver. The queen is literally caged into the small box by wire mesh that is stapled closed. What I needed to do was use the screw driver to pry open the wire mesh -- over the hive so you don't lose your queen -- set it down on the tops of the frames and allow her to climb out (don't worry, apparently she isn't interested in flying away). So, I used my screw driver and worked at the staple. It was like Fort Knox. Seriously, give me a break. You really have to pry. I finally got the thing out and tossed the staple to the side. At this point there seemed like so many bees were around the area, and around the queen cage I felt like I was going to make everyone mad and squish a few in the process of actually setting it down . . . so I held the cage nice and low right over the frames and pulled the mesh open and dumped. I saw her drop in. Done. I ended up brushing the remaining cluster of bees off the queen cage, but realized later that I could have just set it at the opening of the hive. Brushing kind of makes them irritated. BBbbbbbuuuuuuzzzzzz. 

Now, my next issue was the bees in this hive had put a large piece of burr comb onto the frame in the center where the queen cage was that extended too far out -- into that space. There were bees all over every inch of it, and I had just released the queen into that area. Again, I didn't know what to do. To me it looked like I was going to have to scrape the whole comb off the foundation, but it's possible that this comb wasn't actually attached to the foundation. In any case, not knowing what to do and not wanting to lose my newly released queen, I closed the hive up. 

Again, I had accomplished some things, and felt much better about my 'performance', but I still had big problems in both hives. I left a message on my friend Diane's answering machine and begged for help. She called me back and said she would be happy to come over tomorrow (today). I am a blessed woman. 


Amy said...

We were outside the other day and the bees were flying around us. AJ and Eliana do NOT like them so I told them you had some hives at your house and AJ's question for you is "Do the bees like it when you go in there with them?"

Sandy said...

Well AJ, with a little smoke they don't seem to mind too much as long as I don't stay too long. This is their house, after all. As you see from my pictures, they really just keep about their jobs while I'm in there.

Honey Bees are especially calm. Unless you are a flower (which, ahem, you're not), they want nothing to do with you. Even if they landed on you, once they realized you don't have any nectar or pollen on you (which you don't) they will be on their way. And, the calmer you are, the calmer they are. Ooo . . . it's just like parenting!