I hope I never lose my sense of wonder. If that makes me naive, then so be it.

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

buzz buzz

Busy days at the farm. Field garden #1 mostly planted, seedlings poking up and transplants settling in. Field garden #2 (I know, not very original) has its rows of potatoes planted and shoots now visible, and this morning I added some corn and more squash ahead of an expected heavy rainfall. Chicks, all 77 birds, are growing and two weeks from slaughter date; hens laying well. 

Pigs have been here 3 1/2 weeks. They seem to be thriving and have a penchant for wiping their muddy noses on my legs whenever I go into their pen. Thanks, guys.

Garden #1
Food time!
please don't sting me.
The bees, however, are amazing me. We brought home two wooden hives, waterproofed the outsides, and set them up in an area that seemed suitable. Then a week ago, I brought home two nucs (starter colonies) and, with much trepidation, installed them. Not being stung was pretty amazing. Working the smoker (whose fire kept going out) was the main frustration.

Today I went back and opened the hives for the first time. Slowly and methodically, that's my bee-work mantra. I remind myself of that, in hopes of not annoying or upsetting the little guys. And I hope it works. I smoke the area, in the hive, lift off the layers of their home, slowly, no sudden movements, while listening to their buzz and hoping it doesn't take on an angry tone that may have me slowly and methodically running away.

But inside the hives: simply amazing.

They are insects. Bugs, we might call them. Yet they have built intricate frameworks of comb, perfect little hexagons ready for brood or food. All busily working, only seeming mildly miffed at me when I lifted the frames (slowly and methodically) one by one to ensure that the queens were out and about. 

We've named one queen Lorde (for the line 'you can call me queen bee' from 'Royals'), and one Latifah. Sure enough, they were meandering around, I'm sure with great purpose, noticeably larger than their subjects. 

Burr comb removed from hive
They had built what's called burr comb - comb above the frames and not where it should be. I removed some of this; though it seemed a shame to waste their work, it's a necessary part of hive care. When I pulled the frames apart (slowly and methodically), the bees formed a bee chain between the frames. It reminded me of kids playing in a playground, all holding hands in a chain. This behaviour, called festooning, happens for not-completely-known reasons. Theories include measuring distance between the frames. Maybe they just like holding hands.

I saw workers busily moving over the comb, sticking their heads in cells to do... something, not sure just what. I saw bees with their legs laden with pollen, just returned from their forage and ready to store the food. All working with a sort of calm frenzy. But, not wanting to stress them too much, I slowly and methodically replaced the pieces of the hive, to let them work until the next time I visit and learn more from my little teachers.