Monday, September 17, 2012

The work of Fall

It took three trips to the bee yard to collect all of the boxes and frames we needed to remove before fall. Yesterday, after a weekend of funeral events for Tina's father I couldn't have been happier to head to the bee yard with Paula. It has been awhile since we were there late in the afternoon. We tend to do our work in the morning. It was hot and the bee yard was full of activity. We were a little dumbfounded to find the bees completely unwilling to part with the cleaned out boxes. Hundreds of them clung for dear life to both the boxes and the frames. We used brushes to get the off the frames and placed the frames in our heavy construction bags getting tuns of bees trapped in the bags.

They weren't necessarily agitated just clamoring to stay on the frames and boxes. We decided to go ahead and do two full inspections starting with Royal Ruckus. We easily spotter the Yellow Lady in the top brood box. There wasn't much brood, the colony seems to be downsizing although we didn't find a pile of dead drones outside any of the hives but they have clearly moved into a fall mode. The queen  seemed to be sort of wandering the frame, not laying a thing during our watch. We kept her out for several minutes just watching her move about. The other bees didn't seem to interested in her or her activity. We also found our unmarked queen in Crazy Comb in the top brood box. Again, not much brood and she just seemed to be wandering around aimlessly. We don't want this hive to over winter and probably should have done away with her but neither of us had the heart in the moment. I am just still so unsettled about how to manage things.

Once we moved our bags and boxes up to the car it was very evident we had a huge problem. Bees, everywhere! Hundreds of them milling about the car, the bags, the boxes, the equipment. We have had bees follow us up to the car before but not more than a handful and always milling about us! There wasn't a prayer we were going to get the equipment back into the car without getting bees in the car. We finally decided to leave the empty boxes, get the bags into the car and we kept our bee suites on, turned down the windows and drove to a nearby parking lot to reassess our situation. Most of the bees had blown out of the car, enough that we felt comfortable taking off our suites and continuing home.

We returned this morning hoping to finish pulling everything and inspect a few more of the hives. It was a very cool morning with a light mist, darker than usually as the days are getting so much shorter. The bees were quite and docile and we didn't have any battles at all. It couldn't have taken us more than 30 minutes to get our work done and pack the car. Lesson learned pulling empties is much easier in the cool dark morning than a hot fall afternoon. We will have to remember this for next year.

We won't go back for a few weeks. In the mean time I need to do some home work and figure what we want to do in terms of over wintering decisions and management. Paula's daughter is interested in having a hive or two so we may just gift her some used equipment and keep our fingers crossed. If we end up with too many hives in the fall we can give some to Kristen and not get to worried about it right now.  I have the bags of frames siting on the back porch. I am going to wait a few days before opening them and getting them stored for the winter. All the empty boxes need to be scrapped and it is just too cold to tackle the job today. Besides the bags are full of bees right now and our bees suites are in the laundry after a misty muddy morning.

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