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Monday, July 28, 2014

Persephone Gets a Makeover (Sort Of)

You may have noticed that I haven't posted any photos of Persephone yet. Partly, this is because I haven't made a proper roof for her yet (she has only a sheet of corrugated plastic at the moment), and it seemed unseemly to display her uncovered. After all, whenever Queen Elizabeth appears in public, she wears a hat at the very least.

The other reason is that she was hideous. Although I had plenty of yellow paint left, I was completely tired of that color. However, I didn't feel like going to the store, so I gave her an armload of spray paint cans and let her go to town. The resulting effect was... incongruous when compared to the other hives. However, when my daughter surveyed her work, she squealed with glee, "This is the most fun ever!!!"

Once fully painted, the hive needed a name, and Persephone seemed most appropriate. For starters, Persephone is associated with springtime abundance, which appealed to my sense of the auspicious. However, she is also the queen of the underworld, and the hive looked like hell.

Before.
This is why stores keep spray paint in locked cabinets.

My DH, though, likes orderliness in all things, and he has been bitterly complaining about Persephone's chaotic looks for the past couple of weeks. So at 5 am today, I stopped up the entrance and began painting over the graffiti. In a way, it's wonderful how beekeeping gives you opportunities to do the unimaginable. Certainly, I never thought I'd be standing in pitch blackness, flashlight in one hand, paintbrush in the other, smoker between my knees. Oh yes, I did need a smoker. Turns out that there was a small gap between a couple bars, so blocking the entrance was a waste of time. The bees still poured out, annoyed by the light and vibrations of the paintbrush trembling through their house.

During this process, I had an uncontrollable urge to listen to "Dancing in the Dark," though I sang my own lyrics, using a theme of "Painting in the Dark." I'll spare you the embarrassment of having to read them, though. You can thank me in the comments if you like. BTW, although bees can't hear, I don't think they appreciate The Boss as much as I do. Or perhaps, they just objected to my corny lyrics.

After. Ho hum yellow.
I feel like she's undergone a tattoo removal. 

Anyway, I finished up a first coat around quarter to 6, thinking the hive still looked like hell, but a yellow hell. It was nothing that another coat of paint couldn't sort out, though. By this time, my sister had woken up and was brewing coffee. She inquired about what I'd been up to and then said, "You know, it's supposed to rain this morning..."

Dang it, she's right. 30% - 60% chance of rain all day. Doh!

Took a trip to a local museum recently and saw this lovely piece of furniture
embellished with a pomegranate motif. This is my inspiration for
decorating Persephone... if I can ever get her painted.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Inspection Notes: Guest Inspector

My sister's family is visiting for awhile, and her son has been wanting to see the hives for awhile. He's my favorite nephew, so I did an inspection just for him.

My favorite (and only) nephew
Unfortunately, I forgot to take my camera out to the beeyard, which was just as well, because I was busy talking and pointing thing out to everyone, so my sis supplied today's photos.

Watching pollen come in

My son, nephew, and Dad all peeking through the observation window
Since 7 & 8 year olds don't have much of an attention span, especially when it's hot outside & they're covered head to toe & wearing winter boots (my nephew's idea), we started with a nuc. I chose to to begin with Peach since I knew she had some capped honey, which I let everyone taste right there in the bee yard. It was a pale golden color, very light and delicate in both color and flavor. Could it be basswood? Whatever it came from, it was just fantastic. Normally, I wouldn't take honey out of a nuc that was only half full, but the rest of the comb was overflowing with nectar, so we took this little bit as a special treat for the boys. 
   
Honey! Nom! Nom! Nom!


Of course, once they had a tub of honey, the guys ran away to strip off their hot clothing and to play video games in the comfort of air conditioning. I took just the quickest of peeks in the rest of the hives, mainly because I was already out there.

I discovered that the adage "You can make bees, or you can make honey" is true in more ways than one. Usually, it applies to making lots of splits or packages vs. keeping large colonies that can pack away nectar during a flow. However, I also discovered that during a brood break, the bees having nothing else to do, store crazy amounts of nectar.  Of course, we're having an amazing flow this year so I'm sure that's contributing factor, but nearly every cell in every hive was overflowing with liquid gold.

As for brood, I didn't do full inspections, but Peach was the only hive that showed any signs of brood or eggs. They were a bit sparse, which is not unusual for a new queen, though in a good pattern. So although I still haven't seen her majesty, I know for a fact that Peach is queenright. As for the other hives, I'm not yet worried about a lack of brood. It might be another week or two yet.

The other day, I mentioned hearing Persephone piping, and I did find her. I really wished I had my camera (or that my sister hadn't gone off for a nap) because she was positively striking. Actually, I almost missed her because she was so dark and shadowy. She was completely jet black except for the sliveriest (yes, I'm making that word up) of golden bands circling her abdomen. Very fitting for a bee named after the queen of the underworld, I thought.

Austeja's sororicidal queen was also still piping and hunting for capped queen cells. I didn't do a full inspection on her either, but I saw one remaining capped queen cell, though there might have been more on other bars. The other queen cells were either open or in the process of being cleaned out. This has me wondering -- do queens wait until they've murdered all their rivals before taking a mating flight? I've heard that a new queen can take up to 15 day to perform a mating flight. I know weather is one reason to delay a flight. However, I was also wondering if she needs to get rid of any possible competition before taking off. Does anyone know the answer?

Future beekeepers, I hope
Oh! I nearly forgot! My husband and I have had a long-standing debate about the lawn. He likes short, mown Kentucky bluegrass. I like tall flowering weeds. This argument has resulted in a lawn with crop circles. Yesterday, though, I let him taste some clover honey out of Austeja. A couple hours later he said to me, "I used to think you were just being crazy, but you've won me over. I'm on board with planting clover in the yard now." Hallelujah! I have a convert!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Music to My Ears

About 7:30 this morning, my DH burst into my office to warn me that Austeja was going crazy. Quick as a flash, I zoomed outside only to find that the frantic behavior he had described had mostly subsided. A glance through the observation window displayed about the number of bees I'd expected to find, and the bees at the entrance were all bringing in a lovely dark reddish orange pollen. My guess is that a lot of bees were doing orientation flights.

However, since I was outside already, I checked Persephone's feeder. There has been very little activity at the entrance of that hive since I split them last week. I thought maybe they were low on foragers and were taking syrup. In fact, very little syrup had been used, so I'm not sure what's going on there. However, as soon as I opened the hive, I heard a queen piping. Her pitch seemed much lower to me than the queen I heard piping last week. That was sort of a surprise. I suppose I guessed all queens must sound the same, but in retrospect, that's a silly assumption. Why shouldn't they be different and individuals in their own right?

I didn't want to bother the bees too much this morning since I have an inspection planned for Sunday. Instead, I closed them up and let them get on with things. They appear to know what they're doing.