Sunday, May 17, 2009

Bees 2009: introducing Cleopatra and Nefertiti

For those of you living far away, it's time to get acquainted with this year's bees.

We have two colonies for this summer, which we've named Cleopatra and Nefertiti.

They arrived just two weeks ago, in "nuc" boxes that hold about enough to fill half of a brood box-- which is one of the deep boxes on the bottom of the hive, where the queen lays and the workers raise brood. Within a week after we'd installed them, to my astonishment the brood box in Nefertiti was totally full, so we added a 2nd. On Saturday we did another inspection.

It was a beautiful sunny morning, and as I approached the hives-- accompanied by Bridget, the official staff photographer-- there was plenty of activity at the entrance of Nefertiti (the blue hive).

We smoked them, and the bees mostly withdrew into the hives. But you can see a lone drone hanging out on the entry-board to Cleopatra.

When we'd first installed them, we had given them feeders (the upside-down jar). They were completely empty, but they'd done their job. There's plenty of pollen for the bees now.

When we opened Cleopatra we found a nice healthy colony: plenty of activity even after we'd smoked them back off the top. (Don't ask me how that oak leaf got inside the hive.)

But again Nefertiti was even more impressive. The 1st brood box was completely full; the 2nd one coming along nicely. (That's the 2nd one on the bottom; you add a new one below the 1st one, because the queen tends to move downward as she lays.**) We added a "super" so that they can get to work producing honey for us.

By the way, see how a few bees are showing up at the entrance again, in the picture above? The camera doesn't catch it, but all the while, as you're working on the hives, there's a constant buzz around you.

It's unsettling at first; then you learn to relax and it becomes a pleasant sound-- a bit like waves on the shore: loud but not offensive. And the buzz says a lot; if it starts to rise in pitch, you know it's time to finish up and get out of there.

Want to see what a full frame of brood looks like? Here's a really busy one.

And then here's another, not quite so full, but in better light.

That's all for this week. Maybe next time we'll see the beginning of the comb for our honey.


** (Edit added much later:) Sorry; I was misinformed. The queen tends to move up as she lays. Somehow I had got things wrong, so I thought it would be clever to add an empty brood chamber on the bottom. It wasn't such a bright idea. But the bees sorted things out eventually and filled both boxes anyway.


Charline said...

Well, I was surfing the web looking for interesting articles relating to Nefertiti when I came across yours. Very interesting, very educational and I learned a little bit about bees that I didn't know before such as what an angry hive sounds like. :) Good luck with the Queens and their colonies!!

Charline Ratcliff, Author

Marie said...

Long path from Conversion Diary led me to your blog here, and bees! Love the matter-of-fact about it all. I'm hoping to have bees in the next few years, but we have animals here and I don't know if it will work. Thanks for the beautiful pictures (and I'll be picking up the book, btw -- missed it until now, but it looks like a must read).