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Saturday, January 27, 2007

An Eventful Day in the Beeyard

This morning I decided I would check on the hives in an outyard of mine. I hadn't been there since I had to remove the Top Bar Hive on December 25th and, hadn't done a full inspection there for at least a month and a half. To be honest, I wasn't entirely sure what I would see there but, I had a guess that they would probably be in the same state of health as my italian hive at my house, or better. So, I unpacked the super I had fummigated and, was surprised to find that cockroaches had appearantly chewed through the bag containing the super and the PDB. WIth the bag removed, I could see that SHB had completely torn apart and slimed half of it and, the other half had become a black tangle of webbing and wax moths. Absent mindedly, I put the whole box outside and just loaded up two supers of foundation into the back of the car.

At the apiary, both of the hives had heavy traffic. They were bringing in alot of light, almost faded yellow pollen from Spanish Needle. I quickly lit the smoker and, with veil and coat on, began checking on the "russian" hive. This has been my worst hive and can't seem to make strait, good comb if it's life depended on it. They had the super still completely filled with honey and, the broodbox below was spilling over with bees. Good population. I began by attempting to pry a frame one in from the outside. I've known for a while that most of the brood was lumped against the other side so, I figured it'd be a good place to start. I loosened it as best I could with the hive tool but, it still wouldnt' budge. I eventually just slid it under the top bar and *pop* off it came. "I definately should have glued that." I said, more of an auditory "note to self" than anything else. Complaining a bit about the sorry state of the combs, I was sliding the frames and picking out any that looked interesting. I saw one with a particularly heavy group of bees and, lifted it out. There, in the center of it, was a large, well formed queen. She diffinately isn't the russian one I installed November 2005. She had no striping and a very light, amberish color to her abdomen. The brood pattern was probably the best I've ever seen in that hive which, although not great, is better than I thought it would be. I placed the frames back in, lifted onto them the super full of 100% capped honey, and ontop of that, placed a super of foundation. Another thing I had noticed was that these bees are much nicer than they were last year.

I proceeded to work the adjacent hive that I had installed from a package on June 16, 2006. The cinderblocks that stood next to it were the only remenant of it's previous neighbor; the top bar hive. I removed the cover and smoked them librally. This hive was full of bees, so full I'm suprised they haven't swarmed. I shuffled through a few frames of the super on it and, it was just like the "russian/half russian" hive, all filled completely with honey. It's almost aparant that the bees never even touched their stored honey this year. They had filled the gap between the brood chamber and the super with so much burr comb that I had to stick my hivetool in just about as far as it would go and not just pry the box, but every single frame. With that super off and on the side, I smoked them a bit more and had to scrape off all the burr comb. They didn't enjoy that process in the slightest and gave me a few stings in my left leg. In the broodbox, the outer two frames on each side had nothing but honey and pollen and, the rest had brood from top bar to bottom bar, and end bar to end bar. I'm sure this has mostly to do with the young queen and conditions but, it sure makes you feel like you're doing something right to see a brood pattern like that. Put simply, the hives in the outyard are currently in the best condition I've ever seen them in. Well, other than that broken frame.

I arived home after about an hour spent with the bees. But, my job was far from over. Remember that super I had laid down outside the garage? Well, the two hives at my house had taken to it and, the air was practically a swarm of bees. The buzz was auditory over twenty feet away! I had thought that given it all had been eaten by waxmouths and fouled by Small hive beetle larvae that there wouldn't be a trace of anythign the bees would find "appetizing". Appearantly, I was wrong. I lifted the super into my garage, turned on a light and shut the door. With a hose, I dilluted any of the honey that had spilled onto the driveway and, after about 3 hours, I had enough bees on the flourecent light in the garage that they practically eclipsed it.

All in all, beekeeping has been the learning experience it so often is. But, through it all with the presentation of constant new challenges, it never get's boring.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Interview with the Newspaper

On Tuesday afternoon, I received a call from a journalist for the St.Pete Times asking for an interview. Appearantly, she had spoken with the agricultural director and he suggested me as someone that may be up for answering some questions. I know, many have suggested not to talk with the media but, given the topic of her article has to do with how the whole issue with the Africanized honeybees had been completely overblown by labeling them "Killer" bees and such, how could I refuse? We talked for about half an hour and, before long, worked out that she and a photographer would be by Wednesday for an interview, and some pictures of the hive.

Being distracted with schoolwork and other adolecent excuses, my home apiary hasn't exactly been in "tip-top shape". I opened up the hives just to see how everything was going and, was amazed to find that, in one of them, they have drawn out and completely filled a medium super. Even in Florida, that's extremely uncommon this time of year. I will actually have to super a hive in January! I got down into the broodchamber and, it was packed....just absolutely packed with bees. It was in the mid 70s, clear sky with a light breeze and the hive was packed. The population and amount of brood is remminicent of what I was seeing in late February of last year. Small Hive Beetles must take up residence in hives when the weather turns cool. There are littlerally hundreds of SHB in the hive but, no larvae.

The nuc has been a different story. Despite these conditions that appearantly have allowed a hive to draw out and cap a super of honey in the winter, this nuc never seems to be in a "good mood". I'm thinking I will requeen them in February or March when good queens become available. Maybe I can use them to repopulate that Top Bar Hive. In any case, I will be changing out that queen if they can stay calm long enough for me to find her.

Wednesday started off cold and overcasted. By noon, it was raining and, at two I was in the door of my house. I didn't have any smoker fuel around; had burned it all off in November. But, wouldn't you know it, my father had left a wheelbarrow full of pine needles and sticks under the porch, having forgoten to dump it into the compost or garbage can. Within just a few minutes, the smoker was well lit.

The pouring rain had reduced to a light sprinkle and, gradually come to a stop. All the vines and overgrowth had been clipped from the apiary, and raked out. After half an hour, Rita (the journalist) had arived, followed shortly by the photographer. We began talking, her notepad everpresent in her hand as she looked down to scribble out quotes and key statements. FInally she asked, "Where are the bees? Are they here?"
"Sure, just around the corner"
Hopping over the knee high fence, around the corner of the house, I showed her the hives. They had been splashed with a little mud and dirt from the rain (and from the fact that by some mericle, I managed to line up the hive exactly where the water pours off the roof). THe photographer drove up and, in a hurry, suggested we jump strait over to the hive. I suggested that given they will be a little "grumpy" with the weather today, I may be able to show them the inside of a super but, we wouldn't get to any brood. Then, had to spend another ten minutes explaining what "brood" and "supers" are and, why they may be a bit "grumpy" when it's been raining. But, I do always have such fun explaining about the bees and beekeeping. As most of my friends could tell you, I can talk on the topic for, literal, hours on end.

Surprisingly, an hour and a half had passed before she ran out of questions. And, today, I just realized that we never covered the topic of what honey is, what wax is, the dances, etc. So, I e-mailed that over and, I'm expecting a call tomorrow.