Sunday, September 20, 2009

Bye Bye Boys...Hellooooo Honey!

Well, it has been quite a while since I last wrote. Summer has been busy, not just for the bees but for me and my family too. I have been in the hives many times since my last blog entry and overall things are going well. The rooftop hive continues to look very strong - they have put away a full super of honey (pictures later) and the population seems large. They are still bringing in tons of pollen, which most likely means they are bringing in lots of nectar too, so they are still making honey. The late summer weather has been much more cooperative then the early summer, so this means a better nectar flow.

The garden hive is still a little behind but they are trying hard to catch up. I just added a 4th super on this hive (the rooftop hive has had 4 boxes for a while now). I also fed this hive some honey to give them a little extra boost - they gobbled up 3 pounds of honey in a few days (actually, they most likely just moved the honey I fed them into the hive's honeycomb for storage). I also took a full frame of honey from the rooftop hive and gave it to the garden hive. In the words of the outspoken, queen guru of small-cell, zero treatment beekeeping, Dee Lusby, this is the Robin Hood style of beekeeping - steal from the rich (strong) and give to the poor (weak). Hopefully we will continue to have nice mild fall weather so that the bees will have plenty more time to work. This is what a frame full of capped honey looks like (notice there are some uncapped cells on the sides) - it weighs about 3 pounds -

At this time of year, one of the interesting things that happens with the hives is the "expulsion of the drones". In preparation for cold weather and a smaller winter population, the worker bees get rid of most, if not all of the drones. Those poor boys get dragged, bitten and stung as the workers kick them out of the hive. The "hive-mind" views the drones as a drain on resources and as little help in maintaining the hive. The ground in front of the hive is littered with drones - some dead, some half-dead and some wandering around aimlessly. They will not be allowed to re-enter the hive should they try. I did at one point get to see one of the drones being dragged out - there were 3 workers herding and corralling the drone out the front door! The workers will also chew out and expel any drone brood that are growing in the comb. Don't mess with these girls!

A few other fun, bee-related things have happened in the past month. We went to visit our friends and one of my bee mentors, Vicco von Voss, at their farm on the Eastern shore of Maryland. While we were there, I helped Vicco check on his hives - he has five or six, most of which were swarms that he captured this year. Here are some pics of us at work -

Here we have taken comb from one of the cut-outs that Vicco did and rubber-banded it into a frame - the bees will fill in all of the gaps, attach the comb to the frame and chew up and discard the rubber band.

Love the satellite dish coming out of my head - really looking like a space cadet!

And finally, a very shaky video (Teresa was holding Jonah & trying to take video!)

And one other exciting development is the founding of the Philadelphia area beekeepers club. We had the inaugural meeting at the historic Wyck House in the Germantown neighborhood of Philadelphia. This effort is being led by Germantown brothers Joel and Jeff Eckel - who were recently part of a great article on hobbyist beekeeping in the Philadelphia Inquirer. Until now, Philly didn't have its own beekeeping club. This is why I have been hauling out to the Montgomery county beekeeping association for the beekeeping classes - but that is a good 45 minute drive - pain in the ass! There was a great turnout for the first meeting - about 25 people attended. I am excited to share with the group all that I have learned about small-cell, zero treatment beekeeping and I think that they will be quite receptive to hearing about these methods. Viva la small cell revolution!

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