Liralen Li (liralen) wrote,
Liralen Li

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Opening Up for Summer

The weather has been finally getting really hot, in the mid to high 90's for a few days, and I knew that I had to get better ventilation into the hive for those weeks when it would be close to 100.  The hard part of it all is that I have to replace the bottom board to do so.

There might have been other ways? But I've did this both years when I had my last hive, and I liked having the bottom board be sealed when the colony was small and needed fewer entrances to defend.  It was obvious, from watching the bees coming in and out each day, that they had good numbers to defend themselves, now.  Plus, the girls might need more room, so I prepared a super with another eight frames for them to build on and fill that would fit above the deeps that I was leaving for them to keep full of honey, pollen, and brood.


The first thing was the easy assessment of whether or not I needed to add a super. If the bees get too crowded or don't have enough room or space to move into, they can actually get into a mode where the queen decides she wants to go away with a lot of the bees. She'll leave eggs in the hive, which the workers can raise as a new queen; but she'll take more than half the hive with her.  This only happens when the bees don't have enough room to grow into, and while it's a natural way for a colony to make more colonies, a beekeeper really wants to keep the bees that they have, not let them run off.  So it's important to give them enough space to grow into.

And, yes, they'd already grown the hive and the wax up to the lid of the hive, and they'd actually built a lot of the wax out to the frames on either side.  So it was pretty clear that I needed to add some space.

The problem was that the top deep box was so heavy with honey that I couldn't lift it off the lower deep. The bees had also used a lot of propolis to stick the two boxes together. Propolis is made from tree sap that the bees gather and process into an extremely sticky substance that they use to seal all the holes in their home, and to help close gaps. So basically the two boxes were being stuck together with dried tree sap. I could lift one corner from the box below it, but when I set the tool down to grab the handle of the box, the whole thing would sink back down again and stick.

So I had to pull four of the frames out of the top box and put them into an empty box in the shade (to protect any bees that were on it), just to lessen the weight of of it all, and then and only then was I able to lift the top box from the bottom one. There were thousands of bees on each of the frames, and they spilled off them as I pulled them out into and onto the bottom frames.

These are the frames that I pulled out. They'd also built comb on the top of the frames, where the queen excluder and the next box was going to have to go. There was some honey in that comb, too, and I had to scrape all of that off in order to make room for the stuff that had to go on top.

But this is a particularly beautiful shot of the frames that I had to remove in order to move that one box.

Luckily, they hadn't put quite as much honey into the bottom box, and it was something that I could just lift off the board when I finally got it unstuck and free of the bottom board. I had used the new bottom board enough times that I at least knew how to get it into place and oriented correctly. The testing boards had to be put in from the back.

The new position for the hive was a real asset, as the front is pointed toward a fence, and the bees have to take off and go up and out in order get free. So the flight line is automatically above the heads of most people and animals. The bees don't just run into things if they're out of the flight path straight out of the hive. It also means that whenever I approach the hive, it's always from the back, so I don't get any undue attention from the girls themselves. This was very different than when I had to do weeding in the vegetable garden that was directly in the flight path of the old hive location.

There were a lot of bees.

The queen has been laying like a champ the the sheer numbers of workers was just astonishing, and they were packed all along the bottom board when I'd lifted off the bottom box, and you can seem them here all clinging to the lid. There was also wax and honey on the lid, which might have been the other reason, too. But I had to shake them off the lid into the hive so that I could actually put it back on after I'd put the queen excluder and the super on top of the old two boxes.

I was astonished at the sheer amount of honey, bees, and everything else. It was only a month since John and I had lifted the whole thing to move it into its new spot, and it hadn't been nearly as heavy as it now was. And the numbers of bees that had been in the hive just that month ago was less than half what it now is. The colony is doing really well. Very strong, and hopefully there are no mites, yet. I'll hope and see with the testing board that I put in.

All back together again.

It was a bit of a relief all around to get all of that done and everything back together again. The girls were pretty upset about me pulling the bottom off of their whole house. They just spilled out ready for a fight when I pried the bottom from the bottom box. It was a little intense.

Being an adrenaline addict, I am realizing that I don't have the tunnel vision that I had when I started out with the first colony of bees. I'm getting better at moving carefully with them and also when I just can't do anymore to save all the bees. There were so many workers that it was impossible to put the pieces back into place without crushing a few. It made me sad, but it was also just inevitable. And, of course, as soon as a few were crushed, the scent from that went out and put them all into a frenzy. One girl crawled into my boot and wasn't just barely unable to get to me through my wool socks. Another tried the cuff of my deer skin gloves, but backed out again pretty quickly.

A few of the girls really tried to sting me on the palm of my hand through the deerskin gloves I have, and I could feel them buzzing a vibration as they tried to get their stinger into the leather. Luckily, they couldn't, so they didn't kill themselves and they didn't get me. I was impressed by the gloves.

They were just trying to protect their home. And spraying around me with the sugar syrup caught a lot of the girls in flight. They had to land and clean themselves off before they could try and attack me again, and a good number seemed to just forget about it.

When I was finally done, I went and sat on the slide by Jet's old climbing structure, and just sat there while a last few angry guard bees buzzed and bumped against the netting of my hat. Finally, they gave up and went back home, and I was able to let John help me out of my gear.

I was so hot and sweaty, I just absorbed two quarts of iced water and iced tea. It was really good to do, and we got about a quarter cup of honey from the combs I had to rake off the lid and the tops of the frames. It was clear and pale and tasted, of course, of flowers; and it was wonderful on John's Sunday waffles.
Tags: bees

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