First, thank you to everyone who suggested catalogs. I think it's Baker Creek, but their online catalog doesn't show what I remembered. The Solomon book is here, patiently waiting for me to assemble ingredients.
It's been a biggish week in the garden, and it feels like the time of year when there's more happening than I can keep up with. The fall planting of "True Siberian" kale was going to seed, so I went out with kitchen shears and lopped off all of the leaves. There are enough seeds left from last year that I didn't need any more, and the tomatoes want to come out and play.
Almost ten pounds of nice greenness. I gave away five grocery bags full, and Sarafina and I ate a big bunch for lunch, with sweet sauteed onions, goat cheese, and toasted pine nuts. Amazing how so much cooks down to much less!
On Thursday, a new beekeeping friend and his wife came over to see if we can't make some queens from my terrific hive. Another, sadly unphotographed friend, came and took pictures and got her beekeeping feet wet. I think we made another convert!
It was great having so many hands to do the work, and great to have someone with a P-L-N. (Extra points for knowing the source of that one.)
So, for those of you to whom excruciatingly detailed beekeeping posts are lots of fun, let's go! First, we took off the honey supers, set up a spare deep hive box on top of the swarm hive, and split the two hive bodies on the bottom. We were looking for brood -- both open and closed. The next picture gives you a good idea of why we want to continue this queen's bloodline -- a beautiful frame of capped brood. She's laying in a great pattern, and that's what you want to see. The open cells are either brood the workers have cleaned out for some reason, randomness, or leftover stores or something. Hey, there's a LOT I don't know.
This is probably open brood or honey stores. No capped cells here, and you can see the darker area where brood has hatched out in the past.
Now you can see how we're set up -- honey supers on the junky old coop behind me, Alan telling me what he's seeing, Lisa waiting by the box we're isolating brood in, and the extra box on the second hive. We put all brood in the box on the ground, and all honey, nectar, and pollen stores in the unpainted box on the coop.
The wire frame thingy is a queen excluder -- the idea is to isolate the queen in one box only. It would have been great to have seen her -- but queens move fast and mine aren't marked. Yet. So we're going to do the isolation by making the hive into three distinct zones, between which only workers can move.
The bees grew more agitated the more we messed with them, of course.
Eventually, we divided the hive into two bodies of brood plus stores. Into one of the brood bodies, we put the capped brood -- brood that is going to hatch first. The other one got any open brood -- eggs and visible larvae. That box should have the queen, but we're not sure, not having seen her. We also put an empty frame in the middle of each of the brood bodies, plus some pre-formed plastic frames. These aren't so fun for the bees, so the idea is that, in their cramped, messed-up state, they will draw fresh, soft, new comb on the empty wooden frame. There's a strip of wax along the top to encourage this. As they're avoiding the black plastic frames, the queen will lay in the fresh combs as soon as they're ready. Because they've never had larvae hatch in them and leave behind their pupae shells, like the old brood comb, the bees will more easily be able to alter these cells into queen cells when we make that happen next week. I'll tell you how we're going to signal to the bees to do that when we do it!
By the time we got to "reassembly," we'd been at it for a while. Lots of unhappy bees, but I wasn't as wiped out as I usually am after a full hive inspection. I hadn't had to lift any heavy boxes alone, and there was a lot of good humor. We all took turns helping to identify whether we were seeing what we were thinking we were seeing.
One box, with excluder, ready to be the bottom of the hive.
Time to reassemble. I picked up the new bottom box, Alan picked up the old one with the screen board still stuck to it with propolis, and we counted, "One, two, three, go."
Lisa prepared the old base to be the new base while we stood there and thought, "We should have done this part first."
And after she placed it on the stand, we asked her to pry the old screen bottom off.
Finally, and to all of our relief (including the bees, of course), it was time to reassemble the hive, with a queen excluder on top of each box of brood. Wherever the queen is, we'll find her by evidence next week. Then we'll put the new comb in that box, switching them to get eggs in both new frames.
That third unpainted deep box was all the honey stores for the brood box, save that which we put back around the brood. It might be a nice full box of honey soon. Yay. We had to work to straighten out the hive -- with so much height, the tilt of the bottom was pronounced. Eeek.
Finally we got it all cleaned up and repaired indoors for a cold drink.
One thing that struck me afterwards was how many beekeeping pictures are actually pretty dull -- people in white suits holding frames of bees in front of their faces. Over and over and over. It's exciting to do, but the pictures? They get repetitive. You can click on it and see the same thing over and over again -- but bigger.
So next week should be exciting, and we have some woodenware to prepare before then. I'm glad someone knows what they're doing!