5.2.2010 New Bees

Boots and my 1+month old chicks in their first few minutes on pasture. Boots is the one in the foreground on the right side of the picture. The curled toes on his right foot are difficut to see in the photo, but they are there and are worrisome.

Another day of birds and bees.  I put the oldest of my chicks out on pasture today.  Boots, the curled-toed Dorking went with them.  Sadly, my efforts to straighten his toes failed.  His “knuckles” had grown into a rotated position, about 90° from where they should have been.  Short of breaking all the joints and resetting them, there is just no fixing them.  About the only thing Boot’s boots accomplished was a greater range of motion in the toes.  He gets around okay, but I will be surprised if he’s ever able to perch at night and he’s going to have to do all his scratching left handed.  My biggest concern though is how he will be able to support his weight as he grows.

Mostly though, all I could think about today was bees.  I don’t know why, (considering my abysmal history with bees), but I was so very excited to get my two new hives.  I drove the 45 minutes up to Buffalo Bee Farm in Buckingham and took my place in line with three other customers.  They were all picking up 5-frame “deep” nuc boxes.  I was the only wimp that had come after mediums.  Doug Ladd, the owner of Buffalo Bee Farm, went through all the nuc boxes, making sure there was capped and uncapped brood, pollen, honey and a queen in each.  When my turn came, I was simply fascinated with the clean lines in his bees’ architecture.  There is absolutely no creativity in my new hives, just basic bee building – elegant and simple.  Doug’s bees know how to stay inside the lines when they color.  Some of the bees were very blond, not quite albino, but pale and very pretty.  I can’t remember what sort of genetics produced that trait.  However, it just so happened that the darker of my two queens ended up in the peach colored boxes and my pale queen is in the pale yellow hive.  8 frames full of busy bees in each of my new hives.  Since I have drawn comb to put in their additional brood boxes, I should have full hives in a month or so.

But here’s the kicker:  Doug and I were talking about why I keep losing hives, and we concluded that since I use 8-frame mediums, I should be running 3 brood boxes on each hive.  I have been using 2.  That apparently isn’t enough to allow adequate food storage for the winter.  Which means that first blush of honey in my existing hive will be sacrificed tomorrow so that hive can have its third brood box.

Also, picture this in your head:  3 medium brood boxes just for the bees + 1 or more medium honey supers, all sitting on top of cinder blocks that are standing on their short edge.  Each medium box is 6 5/8” tall. 6 5/8 times 5 equals over 32” sitting 18” above the ground.  That puts honey supers at shoulder level for me, over 4 feet above the ground.  A full honey super can weigh 40 to 50 pounds and it’s jealously guarded by bees with stingers.  I’m a girl and therefore a wimp when it comes to upper body strength.  I can dead lift 50 pounds from anywhere below my waist, but at shoulder level – it ain’t happening, certainly not with the finesse needed for bee wrangling.  So tomorrow, I will be rearranging those cinder blocks, and lowering all the hives by at least a foot.  That will make them vulnerable to coons though.  AAAAAgh!  If I ever win the lottery, the first thing I’m buying is a very tall deer fence – won’t have to worry about deer, coons, foxes, possums.  Course my farm will look like a prison . . . a very pretty, tranquil, pastoral prison.

I also got to see Doug’s ventilated bee suit.  Amazing things, ventilated suits.  They are made from three layers of mesh fabric and, by all accounts, they are totally sting proof.  Traditional bee suits are made from one or more layers of heavy cotton, and really resemble a fencing jacket.  The ventilated suits, while not air conditioned, work much cooler than a traditional cotton suit and certainly cooler than my non-breathableTyvek.  It was very hot and humid this evening in Doug’s bee yard and he was drenched once he stepped out of his bee suit, but less so than I was when I stepped out of mine.  I think it’s time for a proper bee suit. . .

By adding that third brood box to all my hives, I don’t know though if the bees will have time to make much honey before the summer dearth hits . . . And I am so close to selling all of last year’s honey.  There will be many disappointed people if I have no honey for them this summer.  Can’t be helped though.  I have to do what’s best for the bees and think long term.

No bee pictures.  It was dark when I got my new babies home.  Tomorrow . . .


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