The Birds Are Chirping, The Dog Is Yelping—Must Be Spring - 27 East

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The Birds Are Chirping, The Dog Is Yelping—Must Be Spring

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Moving day can be stressful, so plan ahead and hire a reputable company. COURTESY TWIN FORKS MOVING & STORAGE

Moving day can be stressful, so plan ahead and hire a reputable company. COURTESY TWIN FORKS MOVING & STORAGE

Nurse bees tending the capped brood. The larger bumps are rows of drone brood. LISA DAFFY

Nurse bees tending the capped brood. The larger bumps are rows of drone brood. LISA DAFFY

Nurse bees tending the capped brood. The larger bumps are rows of drone brood. LISA DAFFY

Nurse bees tending the capped brood. The larger bumps are rows of drone brood. LISA DAFFY

First honey of the spring. Workers fan the open cells of nectar with their wings to reduce the moisture content. Once the moisture content is below 20%, the honey cells are sealed with a wax capping, and the honey will stay good for centuries. LISA DAFFY

First honey of the spring. Workers fan the open cells of nectar with their wings to reduce the moisture content. Once the moisture content is below 20%, the honey cells are sealed with a wax capping, and the honey will stay good for centuries. LISA DAFFY

You can see nurse bees tending to uncapped larvae, which look like grubs curled up in the open cells. After nine days of feeding honey to the larvae, the nurse bees cap the cells with wax, and the larvae pupate into adult worker bees in another 9-10 days. You can see some empty cells from which young worker bees have recently emerged. LISA DAFFY

You can see nurse bees tending to uncapped larvae, which look like grubs curled up in the open cells. After nine days of feeding honey to the larvae, the nurse bees cap the cells with wax, and the larvae pupate into adult worker bees in another 9-10 days. You can see some empty cells from which young worker bees have recently emerged. LISA DAFFY

Autor

The Accidental Beekeeper

  • Publication: Residence
  • Published on: Apr 24, 2017
  • Columnist: Lisa Daffy

What says “Spring is here!” to you? The first snowdrops poking up through the last remnants of snow? The first robins to arrive back at your feeder from their winter down south?In our yard, one sure sign of spring is Clancy’s first bee sting. We love Clancy. He’s enormous and enthusiastic, but he will never get into the canine chapter of MENSA. For some reason, he thinks eating the honey bees is a good idea. It isn’t. I saw him looking at something; head cocked, tail slowly wagging. He was trying to decide what it was. He figured it out just as I spotted it—a honey bee paused on the cedar deck. The bee saw us at the same time and headed for the hills, but not fast enough. Clancy snapped her out of mid air, and enjoyed a good two seconds of extreme self-satisfaction. Then it hit. He yelped, he ran in circles, he gave all the usual doggy signs for “Oh good heavens, I’m really in pain here!”

We go through this every year. Maybe he eats other bugs too and I just haven’t noticed, or maybe being stung in the mouth is one of those “hurts so bad it feels good” things. Who knows? All I do know is that he’ll do this every couple of weeks until the bees go back into lockdown next fall. And every time he does it, he’ll act like the pain is a complete surprise. Good thing we didn’t get him for his brainpower, I guess.

My favorite sign of spring is when the bees can really get to work after the long winter. Since the weather has been so mild this year, there have been many days warm enough for them to venture out. They come out, they relieve themselves on my car, fly a victory lap around the yard, and go back in to huddle until the next warm day.

Last week we finally hit that sweet spot, where the temperature stayed up in the mid-50s or warmer all day, and the flowers were beginning to bloom in abundance. Forsythia, daffodils, hyacinths—everything suddenly sprang into action. Maybe that’s why they call it spring.

I gave them a couple of days to tidy things up and then did my first inspection of the season. Hive No. 1 was an absolute thing of beauty. Happy bees everywhere, honey production under way, pollen stores building up, row after row of eggs and larvae at every stage of development. Even a nice big section of drone comb, the extra-large cells lined up like rows of amber bullets. The nurse bees were busy tending to their tiny grub-like charges, foragers came and went, dropping off pollen and nectar for other workers to process. The hive had a wonderful scent of wax and honey. Smelled like spring.

Hive No 2. Deep sigh. The problem child. The top box wasn’t too bad. Good amount of bees, adequate honey on tap. Girls coming and going, adding more snacks to the pantry. No sign of eggs or brood. Took off the top box and pulled the first frame out of the bottom box. Tumbleweed city, nothing going on.

My first instinct was to panic, which is usually my go-to. Perhaps chronically anxious isn’t the ideal temperament for a beekeeper. Anyway, before I went into full call-out-the-National-Guard mode, I remembered that last spring, this same hive did the same thing. The other one was going great guns and this one was just sitting there.

Last spring, I got all officious and tracked down someone online with a queen to spare, sure that the hive was queenless and about to go belly up. In the 10 days or so from the time I looked at the hive until her highness arrived, the queen mum of hive No. 2 managed to rouse herself and get to work. So we opened up the hive, all set to install a new monarch to the grateful cheers of the leaderless minions, and instead we found a hive in perfect running order: eggs, larvae, all as it should be.

So I am not panicking, I am choosing to remain sanguine and assume that hive No. 2 is just marching to the beat of a different drummer, as before. Of course, simply by writing that, I’ve probably doomed it and they’ll all be dead by morning.

Anyway, we are anxiously awaiting the arrival of a Buckfast queen from Iowa, and we’ll be starting a new hive, housed in a friend’s yard where the forage is amazing. The Buckfast is a variety developed to combine the best characteristics of other honey bee strains, including an easygoing temperament and—unlike the lady of the house in hive No. 2—a strong work ethic, so we are anxious to give it a try. More to come on that!

AutorMore Posts from Lisa Daffy

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