Tuesday, April 28, 2009


You'll know this handsome drone by his big eyes. The kids love drones because they can't sting. Though they pretend to hate them because they are "honey hogs". They don't do any work for the hive, they just hang around eating honey. And they can live for a year unlike female bees who, except for the queen, work themselves to death in 40 days.
We've been lackadaisical beekeepers this spring. We hadn't worked one hive at all. It was bursting with honey. We intended to put in the queen excluder to keep the queen from laying eggs in our honey. Instead we just put the queen excluder on top and added a honey super.

The bees did not appreciate our intrusion. There were more than usual flying about and for the first time they went after the peaceful camerawoman (me). I got an angry one stuck in my hair, but managed to bat it out without getting stung.
Clem and Ev suited up to inspect the hives with their dad.

Even without the excluder frames like this one were all honey with no larvae. The honey now has a light, buttery taste. It changes with the different flowers in bloom.

A few weeks ago we worked the other hive. We discovered the bees doing this and were worried that they would swarm.
When we opened up the hive there was comb all over the tops of the frames. It was stuck to the cover and so we accidentally exposed some larvae. It was my first time working the hive and I was nervous, ok, not nervous, but really, really scared. At the sight of those poor exposed larvae I started to sniff.

Evelyn said, "Why are you sniffing? Are you crying?"
"I feel sorry for the bees."
Ever practical, she says, "It is like a skinned knee to the hive. Lots more bees than that die every day."
The comb with larvae was growing all over the top, preventing us from putting on the queen excluder. I had to scrape the comb off, sniffing all the while.
I gave the ruined comb to Clem.
"It's just drone larvae!" she says. "Look at the big eyes. They're just honey hogs. Some beekeepers kill them on purpose."

We put on the excluder and an empty honey super.
I take the larvae in to photograph them.
Greta thinks they're "Cute! So cuuuuute!"
She keeps making kissy lips at them while I am trying to photograph.

After I photographed them we fed them to the fish who seemed very happy. And I felt better that they hadn't gone to waste.


Stefaneener said...

Our chickens will now take the drone larvae right out of the comb, so I just lean it up against the chicken house and let them take care of it.

Helps with varroa suppression.

I have GOT to get out there. Friday for certain.

AM said...

Wow ... the full cycle of nature right in your back yard!

I'm super impressed how matter of fact the kids are.

Kristin said...

What a magnificent frame of honey and wax! It is hard to kill the bees, but you can't help it. There's no way to avoid it. Did you talk to them? That helps me to relax.

On another note regarding your upcoming East Coast trip...You asked for ideas: our family always takes turns writing in a journal on our big trips. Sometimes I have an art book and a writing one, or we do both in one. It depends how many pages there are. I dictate (for the younger kids) and expect the older ones and their Dad to write something. The books document things you certainly forget and the drawings are wonderful.

patricia said...

Yay, a beekeeping post! That comb is just gorgeous! I'm envious!

And what wise beekeeping daughters you have. So sensible.

I feel just awful when I smash a bee as I replace part of the hive. I know, I know, it isn't even like a skinned knee to the hive, but I feel bad that a creature died on my account. Scraping larvae away would do me in too.

And yes, in response to your email this morning: our queen is out of her queen cage and in the hive. Presumably. Hopefully comb is being drawn and eggs are being laid. It's hard not to want to break in constantly and check on them--but I do love just sitting beside the hive and watching them come and go. They're beautiful.

Viki said...

This is awesome! I loved seeing the pictures that went with the story you told me recently. :) Didn't expect the larvae to look quite that bee-like!

Susan said...

Kristin, I did talk to the bees (because I remembered your post!). It did help. Once I had them all around me and all seemed well it was really exciting and interesting, even though I felt sad for the larvae. It was amazing to me how inert they were. They didn't squirm or wiggle or move at all.

It made me happy that the girls were so knowledgeable. I haven't read any of the books, I was just there following orders and being the one strong enough to take the lid off and scrape the burr comb off.

And I love your group journal idea. It can be daunting for one person to try to keep a journal of everything that happens. I like the idea of taking turns--and of drawing!

Susan said...

We are waiting for your post on your bees and photos! I think our bees are beautiful, too, but they are clumsy, too. They often biff on the cover and roll across it before scrambling up and flying off.

Viki, thanks for stopping by! It amazes me, too, how the larvae look like little bee ghosts. They don't seem alive at all, which did make it easier after a bit. I wish I had gotten out the microscope and had an even closer look. I suppose I'll have more opportunities!