Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Let the bees work

Last Tuesday I realized that I needed to flip the inner cover in Machado and thought, "what a perfect opportunity to test my relationship with the bees." How tough can it be? Remove the outer cover, flip the inner cover, replace the outer cover. Even with propolis, it's a 30 second chore, max.
Machado's girls are working on drawing out comb in the upper hive body and there were about 20 of them on or around the inner cover. I calmly and boldly removed the inner cover and was in the process of flipping it when I inadvertently swatted at a couple of the girls inspecting my left hand (which was holding the inner cover) and immediately felt their wrath. Two stings, one just where my wedding ring sits and one on the inside of my forearm, about 2 inches up from the wrist. I felt several other girls getting ready to sting and beat a hasty retreat to remove the stingers, don the gloves, and re-cover the hive. I got it closed up and for the first six hours or so after the stings had no problem. Then about 2am, I woke with my arm on fire. The delayed reaction began and it was pretty fierce (considering this is my first "real" sting in years.)
My entire left arm swelled and itched and burned for three days. No anaphylaxis, so that was good, but the localized reaction shows me that I have a ways to go before I become immune to bee venom. CJ wanted me to take pictures of my arm and post it here, but my pride barely lets me post the story of being stung. I guess we live and learn.
So I left the girls alone for a week. Yesterday I thought I would check on their progress at drawing out comb in the upper hive body and AFTER putting on all the protective gear and lighting my smoker, got into the hive to see what they've been up to. I noticed that they are eating the wax from the foundation on the outside frames, so I need to feed them in order to encourage them to make their own wax. Population is still high and they are working well. I wanted to be minimally invasive so I didn't pull any brood frames. I gave them some of the honey that I pulled from the colony removal when I got Shakespeare and will continue to feed them the honey in hopes that they will speed up their comb-making.
Shakespeare is a different story, probably because I have an observation window in the side of the hive. It certainly makes checking on them much easier. Although I have not seen Portia yet, she is definitely present and laying because yesterday I saw capped brood in new comb. These girls are doing exactly what bees do best. I only wish my own ineptitude hadn't set them back so much at the start. This colony was way too big for the top bar hive I had built for them and they sacrificed many of their drones (as well as several workers) because they had no space. They are working well and drawing out comb all over in the hive, so I'll definitely have a mess in the spring, but unless I come across a better idea, I'll let them build up and get ready for winter. If the colony makes it through my first year as a beekeeper, I'll improve their home for my benefit (and hopefully theirs.)

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