11/12/09

Artistic bees ignore straight lines.

Backwards Beekeeper Max reports:

Kirk came over to help me do our very first inspection on both our hives. I was concerned about both hives for different reasons.

The bees in our first hive are just insanely hard workers and have built their comb out to the last frame which is great, except for the fact that these guys have decided to ignore concepts like "bee space" and "frames" and have built comb diagonally across the frames and pretty much glued the tops of all the frames together with bulbous, architectural flourishes. It's like the bee version of the Sagrada Familia in there. This makes the hive difficult to inspect and the bees got very bummed out when we yanked apart some of their free form work to check on their progress. We checked out two frames and saw honey and brood in both, so Kirk pronounced the bees in Hive #1 to be healthy, but creative.




To solve the problem of wavey comb, Kirk is going to make us one frame's worth of small cell foundation out of wax. The wax foundation frame will go into the center of the medium super we are going to add to the hive next week. Kirk thinks that the straight foundation will serve as an example to the bees who clearly haven't considered the features and benefits of building comb in a manner that makes it easy for humans to rearrange the hive. We will use wax starter strips instead of wood ones in the rest of the frames for that hive. We will document the bees' progress over time to see if we can retrain this hive to make straight comb.




We were concerned about the bees in our second hive because even though our second hive started with 10,000 bees, they are about a quarter as active as our first hive that only started with 5000 bees. While there's a veritable bee fog outside the entrance of our Hive #1, there's only a slow trickle of traffic in and out of the second hive. Steve and I were worried that the bees in Hive #2 were succumbing to some horrible problem.




As it turns out, the bees in Hive #2 haven't succumbed to anything. They're just lazy. While the bees in Hive #1 had barely touched the sugar water I'd added last week, the baggie in hive #2 was sucked dry. To their credit however, the bees in Hive #2 build very easy to inspect straight comb. Even the extra little comb annex they're building at the bottom of every frame (we're using medium frames on a deep super) is tidy.

We looked for the queen in Hive #2, but we didn't see her.




By the way, the bees that Kirk is handling in these photos are the Grumpy Bees from Hive #2, who were super spazzy and sting-y when they first showed up in our yard in late September. Luckily, they've figured out that we're not grizzly bears and now allow themselves to be handled with just a light smoking.

--Max

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