i went into the hive over the weekend. i had been giving them some space and hadn't done a hive check in a while. i have to admit, i've been half expecting them to swarm....or worse, what with the busy queen cups. but things seem to be okay. the hive is very heavy and full of honey. there are some nice patches of capped brood and i even saw the queen. or a queen. she was much larger than the one that came with the bee package. whoever she is, she appears to be doing her job::
those are two baby bees hatching out. see them?
it will be very interesting to see how things turn out with this hive. wouldn't it be funny if the first hive to winter over, ends up being the one that overthrew it's original queen and made its own? rebel bees. i like it. i was so optimistic after my visit that i popped on a single honey super. they are more than loaded up for the winter, maybe now they'll make some for us!
supersedure. that's what all those queen cups were about. it's official now, as i found two full supersedure cells (queen cups) during my last inspection::
a flash will help you see what's really going on::
that's the queen larvae floating in a pool of royal jelly. isn't it beautiful? maybe its just me. supersedure is, basically, the replacement of a queen. all bee "babies" are fed royal jelly for a time but the girls will feed these larvae royal jelly exclusively, which produces a queen rather than a regular worker bee. it seems our queen may still be alive as well, which is not uncommon. luckily i've been advised to just keep a watch for now. i'm not sure i would be able to go in and destroy these gorgeous little cups. i've given them some additional room by adding the second deep and will continue feeding. never a dull moment in the hive!
they are expertly constructed. they are really quite beautiful and extraordinary. they are yet another example of the amazing capabilities of the honey bee. they are queen cups, and here they are, on the frames in our hive::
my heart sank more than a little upon discovering them. i believe our queen is still alive, but she is not working to her full potential and these queen cups are proof that the worker bees have noticed. these cups can be a precursor to swarming. it truly is amazing stuff, but not the kind of happenings you want to find in your hive at this point in the season. my bee mentor, claire, has told me not to worry, as all cups are empty. i'll be going in today, weather permitting, to do some rearranging and a slow, steady, full inspection of every frame. fingers crossed.
yesterday i finally got around to rendering the beeswax from our cappings. with the honey harvesting complete, it was the last thing to do before finally closing up shop and mopping the floor, thoroughly wiping the countertops, washing my hair, and cleaning every other sticky surface (which is just about every surface at this point)::
i let the cappings and some water come up to a very slight simmer, then reduced the heat and waited for everything to melt. then it was just a little straining. i used some nylon stockings over a separate bowl as a filter. whats left behind is called slumgum. isn't that a great word?::
now just wait::
and in the end? close to four and a half ounces of beautiful beeswax::
just in time to make a new pot of anti bug rub before the mosquitos hit. and more than enough for some additional potions!
the miracle? no puke. my wish was granted! yesterday was the most wonderful mothers day to date. and a beautiful day in general. hope your weekend was just as nice, mother or not.
flowers, flowers everywhere. a little bundle from three out of the four peanuts (the fourth is still not 100%, but is at least off the couch for an hour or two here and there)::
the seasons first watermelon. so sweet::
baby bees. not very appetizing, i know, but exciting nonetheless. can you see them in there? this means our queen is hard at work. and so are the girls. life is good and healthy in the hive::
big b worked all day and our garden has gained some considerable square footage::
and the first dip in the lake. for the kids. i don't brave it until mid june at the earliest. i'm a pansy::
but perhaps most exciting of all::
an ipod touch! i've been mourning the loss of my old ipod for over a year. i had had it for so very long. apparently the hard drive crashed. so said the geek squad. since then i haven't wanted to spend the cash for a new one. i've been cooking to the muted sounds of my itunes library playing from the computer in the next room. and its been a long and difficult road running errands to the sound of local dj's and loads of commercials and horrible music. although "cape cod's classic rock" and i did have a pretty decent run.
last year i upgraded to what i thought was a high tech and fancy cell phone. the one with the flip out keypad for texting. now all at once i'm learning about "facetime" and researching routers, trying to figure out how to get some "wifi". the world is new and exciting. a few more apps and this thing might be cooking dinner next week. i just used "apps" in a sentence! i'm here 21st century!!
we lost another hive over the winter. it was quite a disappointment. especially considering how mild our winter was and how much honey the bee's had stored. everything looked ideal for success. recently i had the pleasure of running into tamar haspel whose blog, starving off the land, is one of my favorites. she and i joined the barnstable beekeepers at the same time and are both entering our third season of beekeeping. neither of us has seen a hive last the winter. she recently wrote a very interesting post on the matter. i hope for the both of us, that this year will be the year. i'm not sure how many more hives i can loose. it is more devastating than one would think.
now for the sweet side. this time around, and as previously mentioned, the girls had a very ample amount of honey stored for the winter. this group must have perished early on, before depleting their entire honey store. the bottom deep was pretty well emptied out, but the top was frame after frame of this::
the new colony will need about 75% of the frame open and available for brood. at least 5 of the top deep frames were either straight capped honey or down to about 20% available space. meaning, we had lots of honey and needed to clear some out to make room for the new girls to do their thing. yes, it was time to harvest honey for the first time in our beekeeping career::
from here it was slow and steady drippings, aided in part by a few hours in a slightly warm oven to help quicken the flow (thanks for that tip claire). in the future, when we're working with our honey supers, i will most definitely be using an extractor. the honey, even when warmed, doesn't really want to leave those cozy little combs. but when it does? oh boy::
some for sharing::
and some for storing::
this years bee package was right on time and is already installed and buzzing about::
these girls should be all set and secure by the time the real nectar flow begins (around the end of june). i'm hopeful. and happy to have the buzz back!
the needles are dropping on my favorite tree, many of them with the help of owen and bella. those lower branches are very well loved. even little lu got in on the branch shaking/needle shower action, after ditching bella's "pretty shoes"::
she refuses to don any footwear that isn't her sisters! it has begun!! meanwhile, the other girls are enjoying what might be their last feeding of the season, depending on the weather::
mmmm, two to one sugar syrup! the hive is heavy, full of honey and sealed tight with propolis, ready for the cold. the cold which seems to be taking its time getting here. not that i'm complaining but, c'mon, its almost december!