Oh boy, life’s been busy.
I helped a bunch of Lulu’s friends get our homeschool group’s first-ever yearbook off to the press. There was a fair amount of last-minute photography and proofreading to do. Then I spent all weekend coordinating baked goods sales at Lulu’s ballet shows.
Oh, and I had a kid turn seventeen. How could that possibly be?
We cooked dinner for a herd of hungry teenagers on Saturday. In between all those ballet shows.
I’m not the only one who’s been busy. There are approximately 10,000 girls in my front yard, working away. The ultimate cliched description of busy.
They’ve been here for three weeks now, and it’s been an adventure already. We’re using foundationless frames, which you can read more about here. Basically, rather than having the bees build on wax or plastic comb, you give them a little strip of something to start on. We’ve inserted paint stir sticks–which fit quite nicely into the frames–with a little beeswax painted on them. Here’s a video showing just how to do this.
The bees build smaller cells when left to build it on their own. Some think that this helps keep Varroa mite problems under control–although this is disputed by others. Some think bees prefer to make comb this way, so they build it faster. If nothing else, it keeps the comb free of the chemicals which are bound to be in wax foundation, and it makes for pretty easy harvest when using the crush and strain method. Check out this video to see that in action.
I’d like to raise these bees as unobtrusively as possible, so I thought I’d try it out.
When we opened the hive after the first week, we saw that the bees had started building comb alright. But in the wrong place. They’d built eight perfect rows of comb on a hive piece called the inner cover.
This was my mistake. I’d left some extra space in the hive by leaving a wooden shim between the hive body and that inner cover. The shim had been in there to accommodate a baggie filled with syrup, which is one way to feed the bees until they get their hive fully up and running. Trouble was, our baggie leaked because I’d done a few things wrong in that department too, so I’d gone back to feeding them via the can that came with the bees. In which case I should have removed that shim–if you leave any extra space in a hive, the bees will use it.
I went to the Beemaster Forum for help. The comb pieces were too small to tie into frames with string or rubber bands, which is what is typically done when repositioning comb. Someone who’d had a similar problem had cut the comb out with an uncapping knife and rewaxed it into the frame with some melted beeswax. We tried it.
It wasn’t easy. New comb is beautiful and white but very delicate and fragile. We had gloves on because the comb was covered with bees. The day was cold and I was just getting the flu. But we got some comb on every frame, and put them back in the hive.
It worked! When we checked last week, only one piece had fallen out; it was big enough to rubber-band back in place. On every other frame, the bees had continued building gorgeous comb. We saw eggs, we saw larvae.
We saw Queen Bee-atrice!
I did a quick check yesterday. Most of the frames were nearly filled out with comb, and there were lots and lots of larvae, plus much capped brood, which are larvae cells that the bees have capped so the larvae can develop into pupae. And Queen Bee-atrice was walking circles around the center of a frame again, just like she’s supposed to be doing.
Fun thing is, I’ve roped the whole family in. Chris got suckered in from the beginning, when I needed a partner out there, especially through the comb-transferring debacle. (Although he is not fond of wearing his geeky bee hat in the front yard.) H has become the beekeeping photographer, and he’s taken many great shots via telephoto. I can’t believe he got that shot of Queen Bee from the distance he did. Guess I should have realized his video-filming talents would transfer to the still camera. Lulu and Mr. T seem sufficiently fascinated by the whole endeavor, and my parents, who happened to be here on the last two Sundays when I opened the hive, are enjoying the ever-wacky antics of their daughter. Last night, when my dad asked my mom if she’d started the salad yet (they were making a birthday dinner for the family, at our house) my mom called back, “You do it. I’m watching Tricia and her bees.”
So hopefully the girls will stay busy, but I’m looking forward to life slowing down a little. Before my favorite month of May passes by.