Friday, June 03, 2011

Checking Honey Bees

Friday, June 3, 2011

66° with bright skies and a 4 mph wind. It's a good thing the wind is blowing because the continuous rain has given us a bumper crop of mosquitoes and black flies like we have not seen in years. Here at the house where I am marooned with this broken leg, we have always had a reputation of black fly season lasting until just after the July 4th holiday. In contrast, the nursery, even though it is close to the Winooski River, never has a bug problem because water usually does not puddle up there and the wind always blows. Everything on earth has a purpose but I am at a loss as to the benefit of black flies.

This morning my friend Michelle came up to help me check our honey bees. Michelle and Mike have gone in on this endeavor with me and it's nice to have partners. Michelle has no fear of bees and almost seems reluctant to need a bee suit before opening the hive. I'm a real neophyte and a suit between me and 4000 bees still seems quite nice!

As history, we bought the bees on Tuesday the 24th and set them up at the nursery that night at about 9:30. The night of the 26th over 6 inches of rain fell and by the morning of the 27th, the hive had been entirely under flood water and we thought everything was probably dead. With the help of my neighbor Kim, we screwed the hive together for transport and brought it here to the house. We headed it into the southern sky and hoped for the best. Each day the exiting and arriving worker bees seemed stronger but I still wasn't sure if the queen had survived or the hive was in the process of being requeened by the remaining bees. Today was the test.

We removed the roof, then the honey super and then the inner cover to the growing sound of disturbed bees. These bees are hybrids from three crosses made at Singing Cedars Apiaries in Orwell, Vermont and I have to say, they have nice personalities. There may be a few loose canons out there among the thousands of bees we have but all and all they are friendly and not prone to stinging.

I started with gloves, then found that trying to take pictures just didn't make it. I removed my gloves and despite plenty of bee company as we removed frame upon frame for inspection, not once did we get stung. Part of this I am told is just relaxing yourself and of course the personality of the bees is the other part. People place the blame on the queen and tell you "Be sure to get a queen with good personality" but except for giving a few laughs as you think about the suggestion, what you get and how you react are in the cards. If you question me, Google up "queens with good personality" and it will become more clear.

On the last frame we found the queen and that was a welcome sight. She had a long "to do" list so we slid the frame back and buttoned things up. The bees are making honey, the queen is laying more bees and the buzzing bee music sounded good to our ears. The bottom half of each frame had been lost to the flood waters and the bees had already retrained their thinking as if they had been through this before. They are a mystery but ever so much fun to watch. Here's a brief video to see some of what we saw.

Writing from the mountain above Peacham Pond where the warm sun makes me smile.

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener
Vermont Flower Farm
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