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Beekeeping, Brood, Honey, Honey Bees, Virgil

Georgics Book IV, or who stole our bees and left us with these imposters?

aliae purissima mella
stipant, et liquido distendunt nectare cellas.
sunt, quibis ad portus cecidit custodia sortis,
inque vicum speculantur aquas et nubila caeli

I thought it worthwhile to repeat a few lines from the last bee post concerning nectar production.  Last summer, and right up to the time we closed the hive down for the winter, we were entirely unfamiliar with the concept of honey production.  We would go to the apiary and hear association members talk about honey production, centrifuges, 40-50 pounds of honey, full supers.  Frankly, it would wash right over us; it is was really not a concern of ours.  In fact, we thought our bees might die over the winter from lack of adequate stores (one other member told me he thought that it might happen as well).  Truth be told, we were secretly (ok, maybe not all that secretly) proud of our rebels who refused to be slaves to the capitalist honey machine.

And then when we got that warning about a month or so back to add supers because of the chance of increased production with the hot weather, we were still a bit skeptical.  After all, we had kept a super on, minus the much ignored-frames, during the winter, and throughout April and the first week of May.  And still they studiously avoided investigating it.  Even when I placed a few frames in the super, in the what I thought was a vain hope that they might find their way up and draw the comb at least, still they did not come.

One day last week I took the top off just to have a quick look–all quiet, maybe one or two bees in the super.  BUT THE VERY NEXT DAY, I took the cover off again, and it was filled with bees!  And, they were a bit cranked up, as if they were warning off an intruder into their newly found territory.   We hurriedly got the rest of the frames into the super, and transferred the crown board over it.  And waited.  Until Sunday.

And this is what we found in the brood box:

This is startling in itself because we undertook all manner of subterfuge last summer to coax them onto the end frames in the brood box to create stores.  Now, not only have they loaded this end frame, but are building more comb on it.  Also, I swear that the bee population has increased considerably.  Things are so packed now that we had a bit of difficulty getting this frame out without taking quite a few bees with it, and scaping some of the comb (and we have separators on all the frames).

We are hoping that this new turn of events in the super might alleviate some of the stores congestion in the brood box:

This is one of three frames they are in the process of filling with honey in the super.  Unprecedented.  We thought we were going to have an easy ride, but it looks like we are actually going to have to do some work with this group, whoever they are, and a bit of research into what ordinary beekeepers do with productive bees.

I have to say they were pretty good-tempered, despite all the crushing, rolling, and shaking they were enduring at our hands.  So, we were about to proceed through the hive, in trepidation of what fresh work they would create for us, when all of a sudden we heard a bit of kerfuffle and dope-slapping in back of us, familiar to anyone who has a bee stuck in her hair.  We had been inspired to retain the services of a professional photographer, our friend Tony, to get some shots of the frames etc.  As he didn’t have a suit, he was standing some distance from the hive.  I am sorry to say that we thought there wouldn’t be any problem, as the bees have always been so good tempered, and we weren’t experience any hissy fits nearer to the hive.  However, it seemed that one decided to take advantage of some exposed flesh, and landed on Tony’s head giving him a good sting.  Profusely apologising, I pulled the bee from his hair.

We decided to call a halt there, and not go through the hive in more detail.  Anyway, we had a nice Ragu alla Napoletana waiting on the stove (courtesy of the Two Greedy Italians  http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/rag_alla_napoletana_76351.  I would urge everyone to try this recipe–heaven!), and other treats to take Tony’s mind off his head.  Also, when his wife Jo came out to check what all the commotion was, she got a bee stuck in her hair.  Ok, girls, we can take a  hint.

After dinner, looking through the photos we could pinpoint when exactly Tony got stung, because among all the bee-related photos, we found this:

Jo reports that Tony’s ok, his head is just a bit numb, but she says that’s not out of the ordinary (sorry, Tony.  Couldn’t resist!)  As for us, we are planning ‘to go in’ and start to grapple with what you do when your bees do what they are paid to do.

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