Just as you must be utterly calm and observant with the bees, the managing of this small pack requires the same skills. Four dogs ranging from seven-year old Alice whose home it is, down to the puppy Gaia, every personality and quirk of the dog world is represented. I put on quiet music and let them all try to settle into their own comfort zone, which is not very comfortable for the pup. She was distracted when Hanni and Brendan left to kayak. I was tossing the ball out back, Chuck’s favorite past-time next to breathing. Alice and Gaia were chasing Chuck. Thelma was watching from the deck, not wanting to tire herself out over such silliness.
The dynamics changed as soon as the truck left. Chuck and Alice had a some sort of disagreement and he got her in the face. Luckily Alice’s skin is akin to a rhinoceros so the damage was minimal. Gaia realized her human was gone and sprang from window to door to deck to window to door…I took a deep breath and set aside the anxiety. They will feed off of my positive calm and all will relax. I am the lead of this pack. I say take a chill pill. Thelma thoroughly agreed and settled on the pillows of my bed.
I thought back to the morning in the bees. Jodi graciously came to do an inspection first thing. I gathered extra hive boxes with frames, expecting the need to add space. We opened the “weaker” of two first. It is weaker only due to it’s smaller size; they started as a package with no brood or drawn out comb. The second hive was from a NUC and was roughly 10 pounds of bees with a laying queen and five full frames of brood. She however was unmarked and one of my goals today was to find her and remedy that.
Hanni, Jodi and I suited up and though Jodi always says, “I’m going to just observe and tell you what I think. You do the hands-on.” soon all three of us were scurrying.
The original plan was to just check the top box on the first hive and add another if they seemed healthy. What I love about working with Jodi is her thoughts combined with infectious curiosity. She showed us how to “checkerboard” the new body with frames from the old, relocating certain parts of the hive to encourage them to thrive. There was lots of honey for this early and tons of baby bees and brood cells. The drones were fat and shiny, and though we didn’t find Iris, the queen, we knew she was there. One frame was a wonderful mosaic of colored pollen.
Cleo’s hive is massive. She and her colony are also larger, darker bees. I love my little gold bees and their calm personalities. These I was not yet comfortable with. Sure enough, one flew out and stung Jodi with a direct hit. We all took a deep breath and moved more slowly. Calm and sincere movements were called for. It also is on a larger stump and therefore harder for me to reach and see inside. Time for a stepladder when next I inspect.
We took this one completely apart and through we couldn’t checkerboard the frames except within the two original boxes, we did some rearranging and located her Majesty. Jodi swooped her up as I held the frame. Hanni had the honor of marking her. Though the color for Queens this year is blue, Cleo now sports an iridescent green dot – Hanni’s favorite color and the only marking pen Jodi happened to find in her truck. There are no “bee police” so I think we are good with green.
Once marked, she rested in her cage atop the rather angry and concerned workers. “Give us back our Queen!!” they screamed. When I pulled the plunger and turned the tube over the workers flooded in to make sure she was OK. Then we waited for her to drop down into her hive. The greatest fear is that she will fly upwards rather than crawl down. Once in flight, we might lose her. Finally, a good shake dislodged her into the frames and we worked to close the hive up as quickly but calmly as possible. Within the hive, Bees live in the dark. The workers see sunlight when they fly but the hive is constant night. They produce a gluey substance called propolis which is used to seal all the cracks. Every disruption costs them a day of work to reorientate.
The remaining boxes I had were “medium supers” smaller than the deeps already on the hive. Many of the frames contained drawn out comb from last year so they should fill easily. Getting them on the stack was not easy for the veritcally challenged among us, luckily Wilson was acting as our paparazzi and offered to help.
As to the canines? They seem to have listened to their queen bee and stretched out throughout the house. Just as I settled again to write, Skeedles dropped by for a snack. She has had no problem with Chuck and Thelma but Gaia is an unknown around cats. Fortunately, a motorcycle rumbled by on the road, distracting my “security sentries” and avoiding a conflict. Ah, I really can control potential stress in my life, if only with the animal kingdom.
N.B. All photos courtesy of Wilson and Hanni.