I said we weren’t going to mess with the bees.
Or rather, once I said we weren’t messing with them, we realized it had been a while since we had messed with them.
So today we messed with them. We went in for a checkup more than anything. We want to monitor their progress and get a sense of if and when we can do another honey harvest.
So we opened up the top honey box to see if the hive had made any progress. And I, through thick gloves and sunglasses and face netting, managed to snap this completely centered and focused bee in flight. How did I even do this?We weren’t sure if they would have started storing in the new honey box or not. But they have! They’ve built the comb up in every frame and started storing honey in quite a few. These are the frames of the top hive body onto which they’ve built some little honey-filled burr comb extensions. Just like in those 2013 bottles, this late-season honey is noticeably much darker in color that the stuff we’ve already harvested. We tried a little bit, and I swear it tasted like elderflowers. Who knows. After exploring the honey box, we delved into the top hive body. Production down here is also at full throttle. These bees are exceptional. If I have my own hive someday, I’m gearing myself up for some serious disappointment. The capped cells stretching into the distance are brood – each one contains an egg or larva that will eventually be a worker bee. In the foreground and running along the right edge of the frame are drone brood, identifiable by their bumpiness. The drones are the only males in the colony and kept around only for breeding with neighboring queens. I could say something wry about men here, but I won’t.Instead I’ll show you this picture of the miracle of birth! Most of the bees in this picture are workers going about their business with their heads in the cells. To the far left of the frame, however, halfway down, are two bees coming out of their cells headfirst. These are drones emerging for the first time from the cells they were laid in as eggs. About four cells northeast of them is another drone a little behind in the process, still breaking through his wax cap. All you can clearly see are his antennae. In a by-and-large positive checkup, there was one ill omen: propolis. The stuff acts as a sealant, and while it’s perfectly natural for it to be here, Kim says the fact that it’s so prevalent and so thick this early in the season means the bees think it’ll be an especially hard winter. This is bad news for me, because I still haven’t gotten over last winter. And it’s bad news for the bees, because they have a heck of a time surviving the cold. Our colony last year didn’t survive. Neither did something like 40% of the colonies in Rhode Island. We love these bees, though, so we’re going to do our best to keep them alive. If we do take another batch of honey, we’re only taking half at the most. And I’ll be cooking up fondant and hopping the fence to feed them when the snow’s too deep to open the garden gate. Hopefully they make it!But for now the weather’s still warm and the bees are loving it. In fact, look who I found later in the flowers by my house! She’s not necessarily one of ours, but I’m choosing to believe she is.