It’s hot. It’s humid. I’d just spent 45 minutes pushing the lawnmower up and down slopes that should be bush-hogged, not mowed. (We set the mower up high so I can get over branches and stumps.) When I realized I’d left my clipboard in the shipping container, I decided to just record what I was doing and worry about transcribing it later.
Well, from now on that’s the way I’ll do all hive inspections. We’ve tried both taking notes on paper and entering directly into the phone app we use to track hive history. Both are challenging when wearing gloves, especially when the gloves are sticky, as bee gloves tend to get. When the bees are all being friendly, taking a glove off is not a problem, but it’s a hassle taking it off and putting it back on again even then. Either way is time consuming because we have to stop checking the hive to take notes. Standing there taking notes for hubby while he does all the fun stuff is boring and makes my feminist side feel like I’ve stepped about 50 years. With the voice recorder, it’s simply a matter of saying what you see as you see it. Of course, you also get to hear the grunting sounds of me lifting an 8-frame box full of deep honey frames, but at least I had my back turned to the phone and I only sound a little like an Orangutan.
I was worried about the time it would take to transcribe the recording, but you can skip the silence while listening, which cut a 21 minute recording down to less than half that. At times, I could barely keep up with my notes. Of course, as I made my way down the tall hive, the bees became more animated and there was less silent time to skip! I managed to check 4 hives before my glasses fogged up too much — I think I have 8 left to do.
One thing I should have thought about before mowing the weeds was how much the mower irritates the bees. Poor Maggie (the dog) ended up with three bee stings. She sat very calmly and let me scrape the bees off with my pocket knife and was back to playing in no time, but I’ll leave her in the RV next time I cut around the hives. Racoons scratch the ground below hives to get bees to come out and see what’s going on; then they eat the bees. Scratching and vibrating sounds therefore put bees on the defensive and maybe Maggie looks like an oversized raccoon or possum to them! None of them came after me. The picture above is from last night, before I mowed.
For those of you who are not bee-keepers, the small hives you see contain 5 frames on which bees create comb which they use to store pollen and nectar or in which the queen lays eggs. Five frames are great for getting a new hive started. The ones with 8 frames are more practical for bee and honey production as are the 10 frame hives in the background. Some bee-keepers prefer 8-frame hives and others prefer 10-frames, and there are lots of theories about which ones are best. It’s more economical to use the 10 frame hives from the perspective of how much the wood costs to make one versus how many bees fit into it. The big difference for us is the weight — it’s very hard for me to lift a deep box full of honey from a 10-frame hive. Actually, when it’s full of honey, it’s not even easy for my husband! We use medium boxes (3/4 the depth) for targeted honey production, but even those are still really heavy for me. At this time of year, the bees have stored lots of honey (hopefully) to get them through the dearth in nectar flow that is right around the corner. There will be plenty of pollen available, but less nectar — the nectar provides their carbohydrates and the pollen their protein. While we may harvest some of the honey, we’ll leave them plenty. It makes no sense to take all their honey and then end up having to feed them sugar water to get them through the dearth.
The size of the boxes is also important when there are fewer bees in a hive. Having too many frames for them to protect opens them up to being invaded by pests. That’s why we start our new hives out in the 5-frame NUCs and move them up to 10-frames as they gain the strength to protect what they have. Two years ago, I simply wouldn’t squish a bug, but now that I’ve seen what hive beetles and wax moths can do to a bee colony, I’ll even squish them with my thumb — providing I’m wearing gloves of course!
Well, I’ve had time to cool off and it’s not raining right now, so it’s time to go weed-eat some more!