An Unexpected Friday

Last Thursday some pretty strong winds came through. At night, we could hear the flag hitting against the house and trees in the area snapping. But we had long ago taken out the pines that could have taken out our house. We didn’t think much had been affected.

Then, Friday morning. I went outside to an awful sight.

Everyone who knows me knows I am notoriously awful at noticing things. Back when Mike and I first started dating and I lived in Pittsburgh, he came to visit me one weekend. I remember thinking, “He looks different.” Five hours later, he finally asked: “Have you noticed anything?” I paused–something was different, I knew. “You cut your hair?”

Not only had he cut his hair, but he had shaved off his entire beard and mustache. And I hadn’t even noticed.

But I suppose that I have gotten pretty used to the way things look around here. Not on a conscious level, as I don’t look at the beehives every day–at least not in a way that I ever took note of. Apparently, I can be more attentive than I thought, because when I went to let the younger chicks out, I stilled. Something was off, and I immediately knew what.

The garden hasn’t been dismantled yet.

There wasn’t much I could do myself in the morning and Mike was already at work (it being 8am). Mind you, I’m still a bit terrified of our bees, but I didn’t want them to die. So I slipped the outer covers over each hive, and at least saw a happy sight: Even though the blue hive had been completely flipped upside down and the frames were falling out, the hive was alive. And that one box that didn’t get filled all season (we need to replace our queen) was overtaking the entire box. Not only were they surviving in the cold and the wind, but the hive was thriving.

Well, I covered them up and when Mike came home we had to take care of the rest. I have no pictures of our later work because it was cold and getting dark and, really, I didn’t want to spend more time with the bees than needed.

Mike managed to work on the platform for the beehives, to make it more stable. The stand legs are now screwed to a piece of plywood and the boxes ratchet-strapped to the stands. The yellow hive (which fell straight down) was easy for him to work on himself.

Getting the blue hive right-side up was more difficult. Remember, I have a terrified respect for the bees. Luckily, in this weather, I was able to wear my winter work bibs (unfortunately a nasty dark brown) and stay warm and doubly protected.

With a bit of ingenuity, we were able to get the frames of the blue hive inside by putting a piece of plywood underneath. Then the very careful, very slow flipping of the box before Mike picked it up and put it back on its stand.

Hopefully we will not have this problem again. And, surprisingly, the blue hive we didn’t think would make it to winter, let alone through it, looks to be the strongest. And our yellow hive–the hive that survived against all odds multiple times–may be abandoned. We didn’t see any bees, and getting as close as I could in a beekeeping hat, I couldn’t hear any buzzing. The hive may be empty or extremely weak or perhaps just very down deep.

However, after flipping hives upside down, with wind and 40-50 degree weather, and having dead bees all over our jackets and pants, we weren’t about to find out the status of the yellow hive on Friday. I suppose that will be our next adventure when swapping out sugar syrup.

There’s never a dull moment around here!

Bees Can’t Read

Did you know that even though we went to classes every week, attended field day and, admittedly, only skimmed the coursebook, bees don’t attend the same things? No, the bees just show up, move right into their own home and proceed to do one thing to get off the ground: build.

After we installed our hives, we let the bees be for a week. We wanted them to get used to the queens, accept them, and build up some beautiful comb for them to lay in.

Well, they seemed happy enough with the queens and they did build, but rather than build on the foundation and frames, they built comb stretching off the inner cover like this:

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Honey, I’m home!

I couldn’t help myself, but the bees arrived! Two packages of just tickled pink Italian Honeybees arrived on Sunday. Mike was worried about them all day Saturday, and made sure we were hours early to pick them up on Sunday.

I bet the gentleman who sells the bees (in Damascus, Maryland) has a lot of fun and laughter to see us newbie beekeepers get their hives, get their bees, and on the field day. I say this because Mike talked his ear off for 10 minutes about what we’ve done and what we’re doing and what’s he’s seen the “Beeman” (his new favorite beekeeper) do.

But I can’t judge him, as it’s an exciting adventure and it’s something he’s excited about. And let me tell you, there are few things that Mike is visibly excited about. Beekeeping appears to be one of them.

So we picked up our bees (buzzing in the back of the car and making me nervous!) and went home. Of course, 10am was a little chilly this Sunday to install bees, and he had lunch with the neighbors and house chores to do, so it had to wait.

Finally, hours later and only once our neighbors admitted to having to lunge their horses and stop socializing, we went to install them. Mike did most of the heavy work as I participated from afar, but I did hold the queen cages while he shook the packages in. That helps, right?

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