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Alive and Kickin’

Posted by on April 6, 2013
Alive and Kickin'

Alive and Kickin’

I went to Sandy (my only hive, but about to be joined by another) today to check how the ladies were doing. They had seemed OK when I had peaked in last time, but since I was only looking at the top of inner cover, I wasn’t sure if the handful of bees I saw feeding represented a small faction of a healthy hive, or {gulp} all that was left of them. But, having a positive attitude, I walked out with two new mediums to expand their brood chamber for their spring buildup.

With the temperature at 40F, I slowly cracked open the inner cover with my hive tool. As I loosened the seams, a few angry bees flew at me, bee-bumping me so hard they made little pops, like someone flicking their finger against my veil. A good sign, I thought. If they can send out the guard bees, they must have at least a few bees to protect in there. As I finally freed the inner cover from it’s propolis bonds, I lifted it up and away from the brood box, exposing the frames within.

What I saw next took me by such surprise I was motionless for a few seconds, despite scores of guard bees looking for any opening to string and send me fleeing. The tops of the frames were covered solid with bees. Living, breathing bees. So thick was the mountain of bees that I couldn’t even see the frames. As I tried to take in the sight before me, all I could see was a carpet of moving bees; more than I had ever seen in the hive all last summer.

Adding on Stories

Adding on Stories

Gathering my wits, and realizing it was only a matter of time before I was stung, I slowly slipped on the two new mediums, and placed the inner cover and the copper top back on the hive, being careful not to crush any more bees than I had to. Stepping back I looked in amazement at the hive, and took this picture which while showing lots of healthy bees on the outside of the hive, doesn’t come close to capturing the carpet mayhem of the frames.

While what I saw today was a lesson in being careful to give your bees the space they need in the Spring. We’re about to enter Swarm Season, a time when healthy hives run out of room and split in two, leaving a beekeeper with half the bees he had the day before. While a colony that swarms is typically a healthy one, giving them room to expand helps prevent swarming. Had I waited a few more weeks to add on these mediums, I might have found the colony halved.

It has been said that failure is the best teacher, but I’d rather narrowly avoid it and live to tell the tale. Either way, the ladies are alive and kickin’.

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