Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Honeybee rush hour

The bees have been in this hive for just over four months. Starting from scratch, they've manage to build out 23 bars of comb.
Initially, the combs were free-hanging from the wedged top bars, but the bees have gradually attached the sides for greater stability. They leave space underneath and some holes along the sides for traffic.
On Labor Day weekend I took a look inside to see if I might be able to harvest a bar or two of honey. The Sergeant insisted I get fully geared up in case the bees got ticked off. I did notice that as I worked further into the hive, the tone of their humming rose and got louder, but for the most part they stayed mellow. It helps that with a top-bar hive you're only opening a small area at a time, farthest from the brood nest.
But I discovered that the last three bars were only beginning to be built out. Since I really want these bees to make it through the winter on their own, I decided to leave them all their honey. If there's any left in the spring, I'll take it then. They'll be happy to have the honey surplus gone so they have more room to raise babies and really ramp up honey production for me.

We've had a few really cold days, and the nights are chilly, so when the weather is fine they're working like crazy. They really could use some air traffic control at the entrance.
Now, in an ordinary box hive, which has a much longer entrance (usually the entire width of the box), bees that are adapted to colder climes will start sealing up the entry with propolis, leaving just a few bee-sized gaps.
This helps insulate the hive and makes the entrance more defensible against hungry pests.

Some bees fail to do so, necessitating an artificial entrance reducer (a strip of wood) that the beekeeper installs.

But this entrance is pretty small to begin with, and the wood is nearly 2 inches thick, so these bees may not feel the need to seal up the gap any more. I'll check it later this fall with a flashlight at night to see if they are.

I took some video of the traffic, then slowed it down. My point-and-shoot camera doesn't produce enough frames per second for high-quality slo-mo, but you get the idea:

While I was shooting, a certain nosy poodle came up to investigate, and learned the hard way that bees and dog noses don't mix. I pulled this stinger out of his upper lip:
It may be tiny, but it packs a punch! Happily, he was none the worse for it. Just wiser.


  1. Wow, you are incredible! Such a brave and industrious woman.

  2. How interesting. I was wondering how the bees were doing, so thanks for the update.

  3. You are an awesome beekeeper. I think you should do blog posts like this EVERY DAY.

  4. Not only was I missing your posts, but I was also missing the reports on your bees. So glad to get caught up. Great pix and video.

  5. Most interesting, as usual. I'm glad Jackson is ok.

  6. I was just thinking the other day "I wonder how the bee/poodle lady is doing" :O) And there you are!! Nature is so cool, thanks for sharing!!

  7. OK, now I remember all these posts about your top-bar hive. When I first read this and other posts about your bee operation I was just an interested passer-by. Now that I know a tiny bit about -- and have -- bees, I've revisited these posts and they have much, much more meaning for me. I like the top-bar approach. But first I think I'll try to master the standard Langstroth frame technique.