|Bee calm, bee cool
||[May. 3rd, 2011|03:40 pm]
I'll make a confession: I'm pretty scared of bees. I'm okay walking around the hive and having them bopping around me, but when I have to actually approach the hive and do something with the bees, I get a bit heart-in-throat. I've gotten pretty good at changing out the feeder - partially because we realized that there was a leak in the base and it was dribbling out and causing us to refill more often. (Repair has been effected.) But since the installation of the bees, we hadn't gone back into the hive.
That had to change. When we got home from Penguicon on Sunday, we had planned to open the hive in order to make sure the queen had escaped her cage (queens have to be introduced slowly or the other bees will kill them). But it was cold and rainy, so we decided to wait for Monday. Monday, however, turned out to be just as cold and rainy, so we put off the hive opening one more day.
Today? Perhaps even worse weather. But it couldn't wait any longer. Because if the queen was dead in the bottom of the queen cage, or hadn't escaped, then our hive would not be filling with new brood and would be falling behind as the season progresses.
The problem with cold, rainy days is that the bees are all at home. The idea behind hive management is that you try to open the hive on a calm, sunny day when most of the inhabitants are out flying and the hive is relatively empty. But looking at the weather forecast, we aren't going to be getting any of those this week. So we waited as long as we could, and in a misty drizzle we ventured forth to open our hive.
There are a lot of firsts involved in this work. First fire in our smoker, which came with no directions. I thought I had it all ready to go when Ferrett suggested I give a couple trial puffs of smoke. Firey bee death shot out the snout of the smoker like the breath of a metal, bee-hating dragon. Yeah, maybe wait a few minutes....
Eventually we headed out into the mist, me bearing the smoker, Ferrett carrying an umbrella. We smoked the hive and took the top off.
I had this fear that we'd find a hive of dead bees. I knew this fear wasn't reasonable - they aren't flying around outside because of the cold and the rain; they're all indoors. But irrational fear isn't about reasonableness, so I was greatly relieved to find masses of buzzing critters.
Then came the alarm - masses of buzzing critters!!! I hope this will fade, but at this point there's still a bit of flight!! reaction upon seeing all those bees. Nevertheless, I took a steadying breath and removed the inner cover. To our tremendous relief, the candy plug in the queen cage was eaten away and the queen was out. I had to remove the queen cage, which meant putting my hands right down by the bees. I admit to being a bit shaky, but I managed it.
The next step is pulling out the frames and finding eggs, but that was not a job for today. Not on a rainy day. I'm hoping the weather will clear and we will be able to check the frames and assure ourselves that eggs are being laid and all is well.
And be a little braver each time.