Friday, January 21, 2011

Golden lady

The weather out here reminds me of how I feel about naturally curly hair: of course everyone wants it, but making a big deal of it is terribly boastful. Just appreciate it and deal with any inner-smug yourself. It's just beautiful -- sunny and not too warm, but nothing like Chicago's -21! It feels like spring. Spring means bees. So finally, I made time to get into the beehive today! No smoke, since it was a quick "Hi, howareya?" visit. For my own happiness, the first hive was my boomer.02 hive, or the one which has a queen who's the daughter of my best queen ever. They're such nice, mellow bees I figured they'd be a nice start to the year's beekeeping. They're still in some shade, but were foraging as though their lives depended on it. At first, all I saw was capped honey -- not too much, but enough so that I'm confident that they made it through the winter just fine.

After I lifted a few frames, I saw brood. A good sign, that, because without a queen you don't get babies. "It would be funny," I thought, "if I saw the queen." I neither had my marking pen nor my camera, so I figured it would be par for the course.

Next frame?

There she is, bold as brass. I kept this frame out for a long time because I ended up yelling for Ellie to find my pen and the camera. Pen was nowhere to be seen, alas (this will teach me the perils of disorganization -- or not) but the kids brought the camera out. My nephew even got a look at her majesty.

That wasn't the only wonder of the day, though. As I kept watching her walking around, seemingly unconcerned, she was the total opposite of what's called a "running queen." She just kept going about her business. Here she is sticking her head in a cell:

And then, if I'm not mistaken, laying an egg!

I could hardly believe my luck! I never thought I'd see that. Whoopie! In celebration, I dusted the hive with powdered sugar to help them fight any Varroa destructor mites just like Kristin does. I didn't see any mites, but then, I didn't do a count either. I know there were ants bothering the second hive, so I was being preventative.

Then, on to the next bunch. Here's a side by side comparison. There are definite differences between the two. Both are feral stock, but the left hand one (the first hive) has to have a queen with primarily Italian strains. They're golden, mellow, and make a lot of babies and a lot of honey. The right hand ones are probably primarily Russian or German. More black than the Italians, they're supposed to be cold hardy and mite-resistant. Since I'm not worried about cold, and I'm not thrilled with their slight grumpiness and low numbers, my plan is to eventually find and depose that queen and replace her with a new one from the first hive. I may just have to raise up new queens from that first hive in general. I'd like three hives again this summer, and I do like that first queen.

This hive had fewer bees on top, also. The population just isn't as robust, even though they have the sunnier spot. They're also more bothered with ants. Just a weaker hive overall.

They do have a functioning queen, though, so that's good.

Not that I saw her (that would be quite a day) but the evidence is clear, with those lovely brood floating in jelly. They got a sugar dusting too, plus ant-stopping sticky stuff on the stand. I'll just end up splitting that hive and importing new eggs and larvae from the good hive to raise up queens. Maybe next month!


Erin said...

Wonderful photos! Congrats on those healthy bees!

Susan Kuchinskas said...

These are terrific photos, so clear! I haven't had the nerve to open my hives; it's still pretty chilly and breezy in my yard. But the eucs are in bloom, yay!

Ribbit said...

Bee post! Bee post! Bee post! I've never been so giddy. What a wonderful post to start my weekend. Bees!!!!!!! You're my hero.

meemsnyc said...

I really love the side by side photo! I wish I could raise bees, but my neighbors would freak!!

Curbstone Valley Farm said...

Goodness, you really can't miss her Majesty can you? Looks like a very robust hive! Do you find your ant problems increase after dusting with powdered sugar? Some of our bee guild members suggested their ant problems exploded when they started dusting. I'm still trying to figure out a style of hive stand to build to help stop the little raiders from breaking into the hive. Thinking ahead of course, our bees won't be here until April.

GrafixMuse said...

I spotted her! I saw the Queen!! What wonderful photos. Thank you so much for the bee post. I love learning about your hives.

Stefaneener said...

Erin, hello hello. Again, like the weather, this hive just can't be held back. Oh, I suppose I could harm them, but if left alone, they're like the Little Engine That Could.

Susan, thanks for stopping by.

Ribbit, I was thinking of you!

meemsnyc, you never know. Maybe you could bring it up in casual conversation: "Hey, want to see these cool pictures on a blog from California?"

CVS, I haven't really noticed. But I don't monitor the way I "should." My hive stand is galvanized pipes laid parallel to the hive opening, on boards. I put a ring of goop around that, and theoretically, the ants can't get in.

GrafixMuse, isn't it a rush? Almost more fun than if she were marked.

Daphne said...

You and your nice day. We just had another snow storm. If it doesn't stop our snow will be 10' deep. lol I'm glad you had so much fun with the bees.

Mr. H. said...

Fascinating post. I am sitting here reading this with the grandson and he just pointed and yelled Queen bee! Queen bee!:) He has this little bee book that he just loves and knows far more about bees than we do. We all loved looking at these pictures and learning more about bees.

kitsapFG said...

The golden hive is just beautiful to look at - and the queen is worthy of her title. :D

I always learn so much from your bee posts.

Stefaneener said...

Daphne, sorry. I really am blessed, weatherwise. There are downsides, believe it or not.

Mr. H., I think children have a natural affinity for bees. Unfortunately, if anyone here is stung by a wasp or hornet, everyone yells "bees!" and then kids get scared.

kitsapFG, I learn every single time I open those hives. Fascinating creatures.

Just Jenn said...

Wow! What a cool post. I don't know that I've ever seen a queen bee. That was so amazing! Plus laying an egg, it was a special day indeed. The side by side was also cool - I guess I have it in my head that all bee's are generally the same but apparently I'm sorely mistaken and rather misinformed. I loved the edification. Hope to see more bee posts in the future. =)

Heiko said...

Great pics! Even I spotted Her Majesty. I must get some hives, but first I have to sort my terraces out.

Dan said...

Cool photo's of the bees!

Ottawa Gardener said...

It's true, I really do want curly hair. I'm stuck with something between curly and straight, sometimes along each individual strand. Rather like our weather which is bad but not that bad. We do get summer so perhaps I shouldn't complain only what should be spring sometimes feels like winter. You know what I mean.

On to the bees: Beautiful. Funny how the sunny coloured bees have the sunny disposition.

Kristin said...

Yeah! Good news.

How amazing that you saw the queen laying--and that Ellie found your camera and brought it to you. I doubt I could have gotten help that fast.

BTW: use your bee brush to dust off the powdered sugar on the top of the frames too.

I need to get into my hives and see what's up--and now it's cold and I've lost my window to do so.