Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Spring Suprises

Our first few rounds of inspections have gone really well. Our queens had been released and were laying eggs in all four hives and workers were bringing in pollen from the get-go.

Honeybees have many suprising, specialized features in order to do their work, including pollen baskets on their back legs. Here, they place pollen in the form of a nugget that they can carry back to the hive. Beekeepers sometimes call these "pollen pants". These are smaller pollen pants, but you can see the lovely color of pollen that dandelions provide for honey bees (please let them grow!):

Little Miss Bee suprised us by being ready to put on her suit and she helped Mr. Bee look for eggs and she helped by handing us hive components when the inspection was finished.

I was fortunate to again work with our beekeeping mentor, Mr. Martin, volunteering at a spring event at the Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge. He brought a live bee display and we talked about honeybees to people of all ages. It is a pleasure to work with him, and he has a surprising amount of wit when he answers people's questions. For example, someone asks about what is in the comb and waits for an exciting answer. He responds by saying, "Pollen, nectar and honey. No TV's in there but they seem to do ok."

We have known Mr. Martin and his wife for several years now, and the children love them as much as we do. Our Little Mr. Bee was very happy to see him and catch up...on the things four-year-olds catch up on with spunky retirees. We are so thankful for them.

Here is one more shot from working with Mr. Martin that day: he and Mr. Bee bringing the bees from the display back to the hives.

One surprise for me that same day: I got my first bee sting. I was walking through the wild grass about 5ft in front of the hives and scooped one up accidentally with my sandal. She stung the bottom of my toe when I stepped on her. I was walking in front of the beehives with sandals. Not smart, but I'll admit that I do it a lot, so it was a matter of time. Not a very exciting story for a first sting, but it does demonstrate the way a honeybee away from the hive isn't apt to sting unless she is threatened.

Since my last post, the weather here has been suprising (which, ironically, is not suprising in Minnesota): we have had low temps in the 30's and highs in the 70's. Everything is green again, though, and we have had some gorgeous spring evenings. Here, Mr. Bee caught up with Mr. T while the sun set over the woods. This was a day or two before it snowed.

Everyone made it through the weather suprises - even we did! We have not used pollen patties this year, but we have continued to feed the bees syrup since, by the time nectar has been available, temperatures have been very low a few times and we have had many rainy days. Mr. T even had to loan us some duct tape the day before it snowed... in May. We are anticipating an end to feeding since we are desperately hoping for some warmer, dry days. Honey bees (and children) need to get outside and fly around.

New bees should be hatching any day now and everyday once they start. All four queens have had good laying patterns. Here is an example frame and a close-up from one of the hives. This frame has covered brood with developing bees inside, larvae, pollen, and nectar. These girls are working hard!

If you look at this close-up picture and the previous picture with Mr. Martin and I and the live bee display, you will notice that the bees store pollen and nectar immediately around the brood so they have easy access to food for the baby bees.

This week, we have added the next super to all four hives. It is exciting to know that the hives will soon be growing very, very quickly.

In our fifth year, we are as excited about beekeeping as the moment we entertained the idea of doing it. All of the surprises keep things very interesting, keep beekeepers always learning, keep us as a community needing each other for ideas and feedback, and they keep us thankful for all of the blessings we have. Every year we find ourselves daydreaming of how we can do more and more beekeeping.