Saturday, April 7, 2007

Apiaric regicide? Maybe not

UPDATE: Pictures taken early Saturday morning on the farm, just as the sun was coming up and the snow was about to melt.

The bees seem to be alive and well, at least as of last night.

I did what Howard told me on Tuesday which was to make sure the bees had food and close up the hive for a couple of days and see what happened. I was worried about the queens, fearing that I had exposed them to mortal danger when installing the colony (see previous post).

I opened the hives yesterday morning (Friday) and found thousands of bees buzzing, hovering, waddling and huddling about. They looked like they were doing okay, but several interesting things were happening:

• The two hives were forming distinctively different patterns of behavior. The one on the left (standing behind the hives) had remained above the two boxes of frame and were gathering together on the sides of the spacer box and under the top of the inner cover. The group on the cover had even started drawing a comb.

• The hive on the left, by contrast, had for the most part dropped down into the frames and seemed to be doing what bees should do at this point: drawing comb onto the frame foundations.

• The two cans of feed that had come in the hive boxes were completely empty. I had put Boardman feeders on the outside of each hive, and the bees had begun drawing from them a bit.

The bundle of bees that you see when you open the hive is utterly fascinating. I know now why beekeepers do what they do. The bees are riveting. I also know why many tend to ignore what seems to be good advice: Leave the bees alone as much as possible; let them do their own thing. If you're curious as to what is going on inside the hive -- and every beekeeper is -- it's hard to leave them alone.

I closed the hives up and called Howard Kerr to tell him what I had seen. He said he thought the queens might be okay (Long live the Queens!) and that I should just make sure the bees had food and were as warm as possible. I went back to the hives, knocked down the comb that the bees on the left hive had built under the inner cover and brushed them off the top and side of the spacer box. I was hoping that they would figure out that they were supposed to be down in the the frames, doing their thing.

When I checked on them late yesterday afternoon, they hadn't made much progress in getting there.

I'll try to get pictures of the inside of the hives today.

Weather note:
East Tennessee has decided to have its winter during the second week in April rather than January this year. We had a very cool day yesterday -- good for doing a lot of yard and garden work -- and this morning we awoke with a dusting of snow -- yes, SNOW -- on the ground. This is Tennessee, not Vermont. Good thing we covered up the blueberries last night.

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