Solar Tracking

Solar Tracking
How low can you go? Snow and ice and cancelled school.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Winter Bees

Bees remain a mystery to me….maybe it is because I can’t see what is going on in the hive without tearing it all apart, maybe it’s the alchemy that happens within, or the unexpectedness of a swarm….but I don’t begin to understand them. There has been a hive in my back yard for three years now and I’ve harvested honey, hunted for the queen, and spent long spring hours watching the bees dance and I still do not have a clue.


Last week it was warm and there were bees. When I was raking, a bee had tangled herself up in my fuzzy jacket, pumping venom into the fabric. When I shook her out, she flew into my hair. I was not stung, but it was a bother to shake her out and I moved away from the area. Today was forty degrees out, so I didn’t expect to see any bees and took advantage of the chill to really clean up the area and snug the hive back against the fence for the winter.

While I was raking the last hazelnut leaves, I found a spill of dead bees—a large one about a foot around— two feet out from the hive entrance. Oh dear! I scurried over to the hive and lifted off the top. There were a few dead bees there, as well. That I expected; bees get trapped between lid and bars regularly. I put my ear to the hive—nothing. A few of the bars had a little mildew growing on them. I laid down on the ground and peered up—dead bees on the screen and the hive was silent. Mark came out to see what the problem was while I lifted a bar from the summer harvest side of the hive. There was some lovely clean comb hanging off it and some honey, but only dead bees. Dead bees on the screen beneath. A few dead bees head in comb, like they had climbed in and died. I pulled out three more bars – cream colored comb all wonky and curved, honey, no bees…Bee crisis.

“Wait,” Mark whispered, as I began to scrape down the side of the hive, so that I could move the end bar closer to the center. “Is that a bee?” Sure enough, staggering out from the winter honey side of the hive was one bee, looking decidedly rumpled and grouchy. Another came out of the entry. “There are still bees,” he said, stepping rapidly back from the hive.

Ok…we gathered up the platter holding the comb and replaced the side board, snugging it against the winter comb. I tucked hay between the end of the hive and the board, folded a burlap sack over the bars for insulation, and replaced the lid. I don’t know if that was the Last Bee, or if the queen and her diminished for the winter court are tucked in the corner with the winter honey. I certainly don’t want to let in any more drafts by moving bars. I guess I’ll just have to wait, and watch, until they emerge—or not—to harvest the pollen from the hazelnut catkins.

Fortunately, that’s only a few weeks away…Meanwhile, I’m draining honey from comb in the kitchen.



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