Sunday, 11 November 2007

The birth of a Bee

Only stung once in the last week, and again, it was my fault, not the bees. I discovered a few drowning bees in the chook water, and figured they weren't accessing the goats bathtub water or water from the dam and I might need to situate some a bit closer. I didn't think I needed to dress up just to serve them drinks, I'd just go over there in my white shirt and black jeans and not hang around long. But 'long' is not a concept for bees, and one was quick to take exception to my black panted leg (bees hate dark colours) and, cartoon like, it whizzed past my face, arse first and impaled itself on my knee. It hurt a bit, but I don't really mind the initial pain, it wears off in a couple of minutes, it's the swell to twice the size and develop a hot beating heart of its own part that annoys. This time my knee bruised yellow from all the swelling.

So... the next time I approach the hive I have 3 layers of clothes on, including Trev's light grey overalls, the crotch is below knee level, so my knees are safe. I have a queen excluder, at last! For some reason Tasmanian beekeepers don't use them, so you end up with brood scattered throughout the hive, which means extracting honey with pupae and half developed bees in it. Not a good look, or I imagine, taste. So I haven't been able to rob as yet, waiting for the queen excluder to arrive, and trying to find the queen, who is somewhere in the hive (if you have an excluder you know she is in the supers below it). I've still to find her.

I also have a bee escape board, only Trev misheard that as a bee 'skateboard'. 'Haven't they got enough already, now you're buying them skateboards!'
The theory is that you place the super you want to extract on top and then place the bee escape board under it, the ingenious device allow bees to leave, but few of them are smart enough to figure their way back in. But of course mine haven't figured out how to leave! I went to nab the super today to discover they're all still there and feeling aggro, because they're trapped. Back on goes the lid and off I go again.

But the big news is that I have had a swarm. I went into the hive a few days back and realised that it is just chockers with bees, not a good look, they need room to move, and if overcrowded will do a runner. A friends bees had done so only days before. Bill described it as looking like Heathrow airport one day, and Hobart the next. He'd had a call to say someone had a swarm of bees, he didn't think they were his, but they were, and by the time he realised they were gone. Mine, well, they didn't swarm close by, they took off in a great tornado up and into bush, I didn't have a chance to reclaim them. Of course they all had as much honey as they could carry with them. I had a new super arrive in the mail the following day, I, belatedly, made it up and put it on the hive.

I've removed a few ideals of honey, and have taken photos of 'the birth of a bee'. They really are fascinating insects. I don't think they are taking too kindly to my over intrusive visits of late and I understand that the complete novice I am, I must be a trial to them. I'm hoping that I will not become overly-sensitized to future stings. Because they will happen. Maybe I should do something safer, like take up snake handling.


Julie H said...

Oh my, I had no idea there was so much to learn about bees. Beautiful, beautiful photo's.

Daisy said...

Those photos are fantastic! Welcome to blog land from one newbie to another!( Even though I've been reading your last site since your move to Tassie)Loved your book!

Linda said...

I'm extracting honey as we speak - by hand, as I can't afford, or rationalise the cost of a honey extractor - (if anyone has one tucked away in a corner and wants to sell it for a reasonable cost ... would be very happy to hear from you!)
It is very intensive heavy work doing it by hand, and not very efficient, and my arms are aching, but the honey is now being filtering for pollen and cappings and is impressing Caleb with its incredible sweetness.

Monte said...

You mean Trev hasn't welded up a honey extracting tool? I'm imagining you holding the frame and spinning around. Seriously though have you seen top bar hives. I wonder if they would be simpler for non-commercial use.

daharja said...

The bee photos are fantastic. Thankyou so much for them. I'm learning about bees, with the intention of starting my own beekeeping a few months from now (when I've learned enough to feel competent!), and it's great to see another woman having a go at it.

How is the house building going? I'm hoping you'll soon be in, with summer coming on. The bureau says it is going to be a scorcher - even for you folks down in Tassie.

han_ysic said...

I love the photo of the bee emerging from the ?egg? Never seen that before. Thanks for braving the stings. I'm sure there are simple extractors sitting by the dozen in old farm sheds gathering dust, but how do we get hold of these useful items.....maybe farm auctions would be a good place to go??? or check out the old mags like earth garden for a homemade one.

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