Super Bee Sunday

Ha ha. The game is on here, but we're not really watching it. It's been an interesting week in San Francisco with pre-game events and concerts, all of which we've largely ignored. There's been controversy about the homeless of SF, of which there are way too many, and 'where to put them' so the tourists wouldn't be affected in any way. To be frank, I'm tired of going to the morning paper and seeing Super Bowl news. Today at least, the hoopla is down closer to San Jose, about an hour/hour and a half south of us. 

Anyway, our list of chores didn't change any. We still had all kinds of stuff to accomplish in the garden and kitchen, and it all got done. Since it's a beautiful day, we decided to open the hive and see how the bees were faring. Over the past week (sunny and warm) I had noticed some limited activity, and I wanted to make sure the bees were ok. 

I tried this trick Dad said he uses, which is to set a timer for a minute and count how many bees come back to the hive (after foraging). He has two hives; one is very strong, and he had 30 bees come back within a minute. His other hive, which he thought he lost this winter, had 10 bees come back within a minute. Me? I had 5 bees come back. So I was a little nervous about the state of the colony.

But what we found was very encouraging. We really have very few bees, I mean it seemed like maybe a hundred (though I'm sure that's wrong). However we found the queen, we found a small bit of brood, we found plenty of honey still in the hive (and several bees were eating it) and new pollen being packed in to cells. So while they are extremely diminished in number, they are also beginning to recover.  

 House bees working near the brood

House bees working near the brood

 Sorry so fuzzy, but that's the Queen up top. She moves fast and it's hard to focus before she's gone!

Sorry so fuzzy, but that's the Queen up top. She moves fast and it's hard to focus before she's gone!

We rearranged some bars, moving those full of honey up close to the cluster. We saw an opportunity to take out some old bars on which the bees had built comb sideways (it's been a pain to work around these bars since last spring), as they were at the back of the hive and being completely ignored. As I've said before, bees won't travel to the back of the hive in cold weather, as long as they have enough honey nearby - they need to stay warm in the cluster. Now was the time to take these bars out of rotation.

And that meant we could have the honey from those bars!

We cut the comb off of five bars, dropping it in to bowls lined with colanders. We soon realized that this wouldn't be a large enough solution, so Tom ran to the hardware store and picked up two buckets, then drilled holes in the bottom of one bucket, making an impromptu drainage system that I think we will probably now use forever. 

 Tom drilled the holes, then I washed the buckets with soap and water.

Tom drilled the holes, then I washed the buckets with soap and water.

 Stacked one on top of the other, there's a good half foot between them inside.

Stacked one on top of the other, there's a good half foot between them inside.

 Crushed comb goes in the top layer...

Crushed comb goes in the top layer...

 ... draining in to the bottom. Simple!

... draining in to the bottom. Simple!

This was a totally unexpected benefit of opening the hive today. How lovely that the colony made so much honey last summer that they still have plenty to eat, and extra to give to us!