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Medium Dawn Felagund of the Fountain

We're Queen-Right!

The (Cyber) Bag of Weasels

bread and puppet

"About as much fun as a bag of weasels"...when I first saw this Irish adage, it made me think of the life of a writer: sometimes perilous, sometimes painful, certainly interesting. My paper journal has always been called "The Bag of Weasels." This is the Bag of Weasels' online home.

We're Queen-Right!

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We've been in our bees a few times since the successful install two weeks ago. We checked on the queen about four days after the install, and her nurse bees had almost completely eaten their way out of the candy plug in her cage; there was an opening large enough to allow worker bees in and out, but since the queen is larger than the workers, she was still trapped inside. We do our weekly check and maintenance on the weekend; by the time we went back into the hive on Saturday, she was out.

That was our first hurdle overcome. Next up: making sure that she's laying eggs or "queen-right." The frustrating thing about the bees is that I can stand in front of the hive and watch them zip out and back in with their pollen baskets loaded with different-colored pollen, and I can guess that means something right is going on inside, but it's impossible to actually know without opening the hive, which is something you don't want to do every day. (I would gladly open the hive every day, if it didn't set them back in their work to do so. I don't think I'll ever get tired of going into my bees.)

The question for this weekend, then, was if we were queen-right. As new beekeepers, we also had to ask if we'd actually be able to accurately spot if there were eggs or larvae in the comb.

As it turns out, that was easier than I'd thought it would be. We opened the hive and checked the end frames first to see if we'd need to add a second super. Supers are the boxes that contain the frames where the bees build comb and store brood and honey. Once the bees have built comb on seven of the eight frames, it's time to add another super because, otherwise, they'll start feeling overcrowded, and overcrowded bees will breed a new queen and swarm.


Ours had comb completed on 6.5 of the eight frames, so we'll likely be adding a new super next week.

Then it was time to inspect the comb itself for eggs and brood. The queen lays a single egg inside each honeycomb. The eggs are tiny and very hard to see. They look like miniature grains of rice sitting upright in the bottom of the comb. There are many eggs visible in this comb.



The next frame over was teeming with bees. Inspecting this one, we saw immediately that it was further along than the first frame: There were larvae in all stages of development. Two big dark drones (male bees) were wandering around on this frame; every now and then, you'd see a worker bee butt poking out of a comb. She was feeding the larva inside.

You can see the larvae inside some of the combs as pale crescents curled along the wall of the honeycomb.



While we were ogling and squeeing over the larvae, we also spotted the queen moseying along the side of the frame. We plunked the frame back into the hive; losing the queen is not something we want to deal with!

And The Beekeepers, kindly photographed by Neighbor Bob, who wandered over to check out the action ... but kept his distance. (You can tell by my beekeeping wardrobe compared to Bobby that I don't have that much sense.)


Bobby and I have done many exciting things in our almost-four years here up in North Carroll. It sometimes seems impossible to imagine how much I've learned in our four years here ... or to contemplate how ignorant I was when we chose this house four years ago because we liked the size of the yard for Alex and the maple grove out back! But of all the things we've done, the bees are by far my favorite.

This post was originally posted on Dreamwidth and, using my Felagundish Elf magic, crossposted to LiveJournal. You can comment here or there!

  • Wow! Don't you look absolutely adorable. Is that a dress or a tunic? Looks terrific on you. Fascinating pictures of the bees and great explanations. What fun!

    Hey, quickie OOT question. Did anyone have dibs on writing a bio of Eol or can I do him for next month?
    • That is an ancient dress that I bought back in the beginning of my college days. It used to be loose on me, but it still fits! :D The white tie isn't part of the dress; it's part of my bee veil, but it works. ;) I gave up on the full suit after my first time in the hive; it's hot and I don't mind contact with the bees so get to be the stylish beekeeper. ;)

      I just searched "eol" on the SWG reference account and my personal email account and I didn't find any claims for him, so have at him! :)
  • They're so cute! I love the different stripes on the different individuals.
    • I think they're cute too! (I should have known that if anyone else on my flist would find 10,000 stinging insects cute, it would be you! ;) I like their fuzziness.
  • Well, just make sure the chickens don't feel lonely, even if the bees are your favorites!
    • I gave the chickens so leaves with aphids on them yesterday, just to let them know they're still loved! :D
      • You're such a good chicken mommy! And bee mommy and dog mommy, too.

        Let me know when the bees really get going, and I'll send you a nice recipe for a honey cake that I sometimes make around Rosh Hashana if I'm feeling ambitious or hosting a singing.
        • That'd be brilliant! :) It's not likely we'll be able to harvest any honey in our first year, but we're hoping for next year ...
  • Bee butts are so cute! ^_^
    • They are! Not so much when they're stinging, but when they're poking out of honeycomb ... absolutely! :)
  • Looks like you've got some happy bees! If we lived in the country, or even close to, we'd def. have bees! (My sweetie is into bees as well.)
    • Hey, you know, urban beekeeping is pretty hot right now ... ;)

      Bees are awesome! I'm really relieved that ours are doing well. (I had this nightmarish thought of going in to the hive one day and finding them all dead ...) Now if we can just avoid the worst of the varroa mites and other bee problems ...
  • Oh! That is SO cool and awesome! I wish you much luck and lots of honey!

    Now y'all need to get some dogs and sheep that are trained to wait on tables!
    • We have the two dogs, although their ability to do anything besides chase the ball, trample the garden, bark at passersby, and sleep is questionable. ;) We're zoned for light agriculture, so while we've never discussed sheep, a goat is a strong possibility for next year! ;)
      • I just went upstate to visit my friend on her farm. She's getting very, very close to being fully self-sustaining. Right now, in addition to her garden and hay fields, she has 5 horses (who were the initial impetus behind getting the farm) and 4 goats-- all Nubians (apparently, their milk yield is very high and very fatty), 2 of whom were only 2 weeks old! The other doe is due next week, so she'll probably have 6 very shortly. She wants to add chickens next year. She absolutely adores her goats, though Nubians are an extremely vocal breed. I expected to find the babies cute (and they were ADORABLE!), but I did not expect to be utterly and completely charmed by the does. And I was! They were so sweet and social and curious and smart! I returned home a serious goat fan.

          • OMG that's awesome! :D We took our Garden Club students up to a farm last week, and they had the most adorable goats. We're tentatively planning on getting some next year. My husband used to dislike them--the whole vertical pupil thing freaked him out--but after meeting a few, he's sold on them too! :)
  • Amazing! Hope you get lots of honey.
  • Awesome, Dawn. So glad that you are happy and that your bees also seem to be. It's pretty cool.

    - Erulisse (one L)
  • OMG, that's really impressive. I mean WOW! I wouldn't dare get close to honeybees (allergic here), even though they aren't aggressive, most of the time, and only mind their own business.

    Good luck!

    • Allergies are definitely a different ball of [bees]wax! :) I doubt I'd be so confident and comfortable either if I faced the possibility of an anaphylactic reaction every time I went into the hive. I've been stung many times and have never had a problem, so I'm hoping that will continue. (My uncle developed allergies after many years and many stings, so I may not be so lucky always ...)
  • You can tell by my beekeeping wardrobe compared to Bobby that I don't have that much sense.

    It's only "not having sense" if you actually end up getting stung. I don't know about the breed of bee you're using (with the bright butts and only light fuzz, I'm guessing Ligustica?), but ours here (Carnica and a cross-breed called Buckfast) are generally rather docile, and even beekeepers who work only with a veil or entirely without protection don't get stung very often. ^^
    • Yep, they're Italians/Lingustica. :) When we had beekeeping class, most of the beekeepers teaching the class wore only the veil. Some didn't even wear that but did caution that it increases the incidence of stings from bees getting caught in shirt collars, et cetera. Also, they had some interesting tales to tell of bees crawling up noses and in ears! :) They recommended wearing the veil but going with what's comfortable for all else. For me, that happens to be a brightly patterned floral dress! :D

      Edited to add that Italians are the recommended bees around here because of their docility as well. :)

      Edited at 2011-05-23 06:13 pm (UTC)
      • In our beekeeping class, we were told that a popular way for old, experienced beekeepers to brag was to take a young worker bee (only one or two days old) and actually push them into their nostrils or ears, because at that age they can't sting yet! Supposedly, that at least taught young beekeepers how to differentiate between young and "older" workers very fast. *shudders*

        Our teacher never wore any protection at all, but recommended the veil for the beginners, too. She was rather strictly against gloves, though, because with gloves you're more likely to accidentally squash bees. The beekeeper who helped me install my new hive, on the other hand, insisted on the full suit and gloves...

        Do you have these arguments among beekeepers about which breed is best and which hive is best and which style is best etc. etc.? I find it rather reminiscent of fandom wars! XD
        • Yes! :D Beekeepers around here even have the same saying that I've heard applied to fandom: Ask two beekeepers and get three answers.

          Our experienced beekeepers talked about surprising non-bee people by popping a drone in their mouths since drones also can't sting. So it seems that beekeepers are tricksy folk on both sides of the Atlantic as well! :D

          Most beekeepers here don't seem to like gloves for the reason you state. However, they also emphasize that beginners should wear what allows them to be comfortable and calm around the bees. For me, that meant no gloves from the get-go, although I did wear the full suit during the install and the first time I opened the hive, since I wasn't sure what to expect and didn't want to find myself in the midst of a situation I couldn't handle. Bobby is still wearing the full suit and gloves because he is less comfortable with the bees, with the result that he's now become much more comfortable and is considering wearing less, especially since the temperatures are rising quickly toward their ridiculous mid-summer extremes and those suits are hot! :)

          Edited to add that I was thinking on it last night and came to the decision that when I get back to writing and the AMC prequel I was working on, my Feanorians are totally keeping bees! :D

          Edited at 2011-05-23 06:29 pm (UTC)
          • Yeah! And everyone's so very convinced that their choice of breed/ hive system/ whatever is the One True Pai- I mean, Choice, and everyone else is being an idiot. It's probably amusing once you're beyond the "uncertain beginner" stage... *rolls eyes*

            Oh yes, drones are also a popular choice for shocking beginners or passers-by! They'd probably use queens, too, if those weren't so valuable XD

            Just now, I'm feeling somewhat less comfortable around the bees than I did last year. As there are, alas, no maternity bee-keeping suits (hot or no ;)), I have to make do with the veil anyway... the bees, poor things, have so far given me no reason to trust them any less than last year, but somehow I'm paranoid anyway! I blame the hormones!

            You probably won't be surprised to hear that propolis resin will later on feature in TEA, if ever I get around to writing more of that. And thanks - now you have me wondering how Elves would go about bee-keeping! As they have time without end, I suppose they could work with skeps without killing the colonies. Possibly with the help of some "magic" song or other? Or of course some genius could invent removable frames! :D OH NOES I HAVE PLOTBEES NOW.

            Edited at 2011-05-24 09:22 am (UTC)
            • I am also of the opinion that the Elves wouldn't have killed the colonies in harvesting honey. Personally, I think that Feanor or one of his sons (Celegorm? one of the twins??) discovered bee-space! :D

              Plotbees! Swarms of them! Ruuuun!!! They're worse than the Africanized bees!

              You know, my bee suit is so huge, I think it could probably function as a maternity suit. I feel like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man when I wear it!
              • Well, if you have time without end (and don't mind losing some honey to the original harvesters), you can work with skeps without killing colonies, simply by turning an inhabited skep upside down, putting an empty skep on top, and then wait until the bees have (as they naturally do) moved everything vital "upwards"; when the formerly empty skep has become the new home of the colony, you remove it from the old skep and can basically just cut out the wax and honey (and shake of the occasional forager bee).
                Or so I am told. I have not tried this at home yet. Personally I'm insanely grateful for bee-space - but if you neither have to worry about winter nor mites nor foul-, chalk- or stonebrood, and can afford losing swarms (another way to mostly empty a skep, speeding up the process of getting the rest of the colony out alive!), I guess you don't really need it. And Yavanna could probably teach you a charm or song or two to make the bees go where you want them...

                So bee-space wouldn't actually be necessary (or much of an advantage) for beekeeping as such until they Noldor have left Valinor and suddenly find themselves beleaguered by seasons of cold and Morgoth's nasty mites! Of course, if little Celegorm is curious about what's going on inside those hives in his parents' gardens and keeps messing with the poor bees, now that would give him (or his parents?) a reason to come up with the idea of removable frames earlier...

                I am putting waaaay too much thought into this; it HAS to be written now.

                I felt like that about the old anorak I was wearing as a bee suit initially - but it did get too tight around the middle eventually! (Which apparently restricted Offspring so much that he'd start kicking and writhing a lot, which is... distracting when you're trying to remove a drone frame or something along those lines!) XD
  • *barely recovered from the bees-up-the-nostrils-and-into-ears story*
    I think I'll stick to cats and dogs
    Send my regards to neighbor Bob ;)
    • I will! :D Neighbor Bob will be thrilled to get greetings from a place far-flung from ol' Carroll County, I'm sure! (Really and truly, he will be.)
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