Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Bees That Way Sometimes

My stepdad has all these crazy sayings that he spouts when he wants to succintly comment on some absurdity of life (actually, usually he just says them because he likes to say them).  Last week he busted one out that I hadn't heard in a while "Be(e)s that way sometimes" - now with my new hobby, that saying has taken on new meaning!  (One of my other favorites is: "It's not so oft the cough that takes you off, it's more often the coffin they take you off in.)

What a spring we are having - the bees are loving it - the pollen and nectar are flowing and they are busy working. We have had some really hot days already - this past weekend it felt like July.  We've also had some good rain, which will ensure that a good nectar flow continues for the bees.

With all of the crazy snow we had this winter, our roof sprang a few small leaks.  I enlisted the help of Cory Suter, from BioNeighbors, to repair our roof. We agreed on him installing an environmentally friendly white roof coating. Other than Cory deciding to move the beehive by himself and getting stung on the head, everything went smoothly! The bees are happy with their new, cooler roof -

Unfortunately I will no longer be keeping bees at The Spring Gardens community garden.  After the hive there died, I decided that I didn't want to keep trudging up to the top of that shipping container where the hive was.  It was a pain in the ass and I didn't feel very safe up there either.  I asked them if we could find a new spot within the garden for the hive but they were unwilling to allow the bees to be anywhere but up on the shipping container.  It's kind of a shame because the garden is a great place and I would love to be able to keep bees there and use the hive as an educational tool.  Oh well, their loss.

The good news is that I have made a great contact in our neighborhood who is totally supportive of the bees.  Her name is Penny Giles - community activist, environmentalist, general go-getter and I would say, unofficial mayor of Francisville (this is the name of the neighborhood where I live).  Penny has found me two sites where I can keep hives and I have already set up two hives at each of the new sites for a total of 4 new hives.

Here are some shots of the first spot. Penny is planning on putting in a bunch of grapevines and other garden beds in this lot -


 While I was cleaning up the site, I saw a couple of these little guys - kind of cool to see them in the city.  As totem animals, snakes are a sign of change - and change is coming to this run-down lot - so I saw it as a good sign.

 Here are the two hives -

While installing the packages of bees, I royally screwed up the entire process.  I lost one of the queens (she flew away!) and almost lost the other (so I had to order one replacement queen).  In addition to that, I was stung 8 times on the head and face, which was tons 'o fun - here's a look -

Speaking of stings - here is a great article on remedies for bee stings - the winner for best drug remedy was caladryl and the best home remedy, toothpaste!

Something interesting happened while I was waiting for the replacement queen to arrive.  I went back to check on the hives one week after installing them and I saw that the hives were incredibly unequal in terms of population.  About 2/3 of the bees from the queenless hive had migrated to the queenright hive.  This left the queenless hive very weak and low in population.  But, because the queenright hive had so many bees, they were able to fill ten frames of comb with nectar and brood in just one week (that is fast!).  Once the new queen arrived, I did a little switcheroo to try to equalize the populations of the hives.  I installed the new queen and then swapped the positions of the two hives.  Now, when all of the field bees from the strong hive returned they would, unbeknownst to them, become part of the weak hive.  Well, it worked.  I did that maneuver about two weeks ago and I checked on those hives today.  The populations are not totally even but they are much closer than they were.  The strong hive is still really strong and the other one is now about average size.

So, lessons learned from this adventure - wear my veil, be better prepared, don't rush, stay calm and most of all, be very careful with the queen!

I have some good stories from installing the other hives too, but I will post those adventures later.


  1. You've been busy! I've got two or three stings on my cheek right now from walking too close to the hive without a veil after harvest. Itchy! Thanks for the link to remedies.

    That roof looks great.

  2. yeah it's been a busy spring - i guess i can say i truly have bee fever now!