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Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Inspection Notes: They call me mellow yellow

Yesterday was sunny and hot (about 82 deg. F.), which must have suited the bees to a tee because they were incredibly laid back. I've never seen bees act like that. I mean, some days are good days, and some aren't, but yesterday was... wow! There wasn't anything I could to do to rile them (not that I was trying, of course). They were perfectly good girls and did everything I asked them to. Nobody got crushed or offended. We just got along just swimmingly.

In fact, they were so mellow and placid, that I thought of something I'd heard recently. If one follows a biodynamic farming calendar, bees are supposed to be unbelievably docile on certain days... root days, I believe. I don't have enough experience of knowledge of biodynamic farming to discount it entirely; however, based on what I do know, I admit to being skeptical of Rudolf Steiner's work. The girls were so quiet, though, that I started to wonder if maybe it was a root day and there wasn't something to biodynamics. Turns out that it wasn't (it was a flower day), so I'm not sure what made them so easy. Maybe something in the smoker. Sleepytime tea bags possibly?

Hippolyte
I'm such a doofus. The last time I inspected, I saw some large comb cells, and I assumed they were building drone comb. Yesterday, I discovered that they'd been making a honeycomb. Of course, I felt silly when I realized that, but then, last year, my bees didn't start building honeycomb until the fall. It goes to show that we don't really see with our eyes but with the sum of our experience (in my case, very limited experience). It's amazing anyone ever makes new discoveries at all when we're constantly filtering present observations through the lens of the past.

All in all, they looked good. The first thing I noticed was that the ants were gone. Hooray for that!

Pretty decent brood pattern with honey band
That wonky comb is still wonky, but it doesn't seem to be hurting anything.
I've decided to leave it alone.
Next, I peeked at the feeders, and the girls appeared to be ravenous. Also a good thing. The comb is nicely built out. Lots of brood comb, and some thin honey bands at the tops of the bars. In both hives, I caught a lot of bees in the process of emerging. No matter how many times I've seen it, it never gets old, and I always feel like singing "Happy Birthday" to them. It's a lucky thing bees don't have ears.

Another fun thing that happened is that I actually witnessed Her Majesty in the process of laying eggs. I wish I'd been able to film it, but my bar holder is out of service at the moment. I didn't watch her too long, though. I remember being in the delivery room with my babies, and I didn't particularly want any gawkers hanging around.

Her Royal Highness is shy and trying to scoot out of the picture.

Austeja
@#$%&* ants! As soon as I opened the roof, it was obvious that I hadn't gotten them all, and there was a small (but very small) nest still remaining. The orange oil does seem effective, though, and none of the bees have absconded, so I plan to pick up another bottle today.

The bees in this hive are not terribly interested in the feeder either. Don't know why.

Austeja has built on more bars (12) than Hippolyte (10), but the bars are not quite as fully developed. Also, it has a lot of brood, but no honey bands on top of the bars or honey bars. I didn't see the queen, but I'm unconcerned since there were plenty of good eggs -- a single egg right smack in the dead center of each cell.

I examined the eggs pretty carefully because I was surprised by a bar of drone comb in this hive. Given that this hive is just starting out and doesn't appear to have too many backup resources, I hadn't expected to see that. They're the experts on nest-building, though, so we'll let their judgement prevail.

In the end, I gave them each three empty bars. Now that new brood is emerging daily, I'm more confident they can cover the comb. Since I'm trying to encourage them to expand the brood nest (because I want to do splits), I put the bars right in the middle of the nest. My pattern looks like this: 2 full bars, empty bar, 2 full bars, empty, 2 full bars, empty, 2 full bars.

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