Friday, March 21, 2014

Animal Update: BEES!

I've been unsure about bee-keeping.  They were fun to get and fascinating to watch.

 But the actual physical work involved was more than I expected.  I should have realized; we went to classes and heard repeatedly what the weight of a full hive should be to get the hive through the winter.  When one starts hearing the experts talk about "...minimum of 100 pounds..." one really should understand that the hive is going to weigh over 100 pounds.  Each one of those boxes when full and ready to harvest will weigh about 50-75 pounds.  They tell you that over and over in the classes.  But somehow it just didn't register that meant I was going to have to lift a box weighing 50-75 pounds to do the work.

I have been able to work around it.  I can take an empty hive box with me when I go out and lift the frames out one by one into the empty box.  It just takes a good bit more time and work to do that.

So as I said, I have been a little unsure about our future with the bees.

I did get out a couple of weeks ago and did as much of an inspection as I could. 

We have two hives, a strong hive and a weak hive.  The weak hive only has two boxes on it (a hive body and a super, in bee-lingo).  The strong hive has three boxes.  The strong hive was FULL.  It had honey up to the top, the queen seemed to be laying, and there were bees everywhere in there.  I should have realized then that a problem was forming.

The weak hive has bees but was almost completely empty of honey.  Not good.

I re-started the feeding and have been careful about trying to keep the feeders full of sugar water.

Wednesday evening I looked over to realize that the feeders were just about empty.  I went inside and intended to mix up another batch and put it out there.  Unfortunately I got distracted and it never happened.

Thursday morning was laundry day.  I noticed that the bees on the strong hive seemed pretty busy, which reminded me that I still needed to refill the feeders.  Just before I took the last load of laundry out, I opened the door to the back porch to let the cat out.  She was pretty frantic for some reason.  As soon as I opened the door, I heard the bees and discovered why the cat was so frantic.

The bees were swarming!

When a hive gets over crowded, when a new queen  hatches, when any one of a number of things starts to happen, a group of bees will leave the hive to find a new home, and that was happening.

It's an interesting thing to read about and see pictures of.

Some of the videos I have seen were amazing.

There's nothing quite like experiencing it first hand!

I quickly suited up and grabbed the camera and here is what was going on.

But first, I have to share a few disclaimers:

I am not an expert by any stretch of the imagination.  Several of my comments are not accurate.  For example, the bees are more likely to be swarming because of over-crowding and not under-feeding.  We are going to try and catch this swarm and have a third hive (more on that later).  So this is not an instructional video, but just a "here-is-what-happened-at-out-house-this-week" kind of a thing. 

And the final look of things:

Final note: I have been informed that if I think whipping up a top-bar hive is the "easy" way to go, I am completely nuts!  Our bee keeper friend/mentor/neighbor came over around dark and gave us some good suggestions and even gave us some scent to put in the hive to try and attract the bees.  He was all ready to try and help us capture the renegades, but we all decided that doing that on that hill after dark was probably not the way to go.

We'll give it a try in the morning and see what happens.  Looks like it is shaping up for a bzzy weekend!

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