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August 18, 2014

Buzzing about my first demonstration-Blake Hiltunen

by risdmaharamfellows


As I continue work on the design and construction of the mobile hive, it is necessary to regularly inspect the colony.  During these inspections, I gauge the overall health of the colony by checking the bees for potential Verroa mites (tiny blood suckers that can destroy colonies and have bIMG_3186een linked with the decline in bee populations), by locating the queen to be sure she is still alive and well, and to inspect each frame to see if they have built any new queen cells.  New queen cells are a sign of a potentially sickly or dead queen and can also signal the potential of a colony getting ready to swarm.

IMG_6410This week was the first time I have opened the hive to give a demonstration to an audience.  With children ages 2, 3 and 11, and adults asking question after question, I realized it will be much easier to discuss the intricacies of the colony with the observation hive rather than during a hive inspection.  Beekeeping is a gentle practice.  It is a ritual (the use of the smoker for instance) and a process that requires focused attention and a tuned intuition.  When one is inspecting the hive, disrupting the bees’ work, it is important to be calm.  With an audience this practice can quickly go from quiet routine to distracted management.  Luckily, though the bees were more agitated than normal, their docile demeanor wasn’t compromised and they behaved elegantly with the spectators.


During the inspection I noticed cells being built on the bottom of a few frames as well as one abnormally large (potential queen) cell in the middle of a frame.  I didn’t think much of it as the cells didn’t seem to be the typical peanut shaped queen cells.  Today, however, I noticed increased activity throughout the day.  Around 4 pm there was a large crowd of bees, more than I had seen at the hive before, flying in and out and seeming to be getting ready to swarm.  I called Master Beekeeper Erin Forbes who told me that though they could be getting ready to swarm it was unlikely as it was too late in the day.  Bees typically swarm between 9 am and 3 pm.  She mentioned though that the bees could be practicing for a potential swarm the following day.  What I needed to do was open the hive, find the queen, and remove any cells that could be holding new queens.



After using the smoker, opening up the hive, locating the queen, and removing the potential new queens, I put the hive back together and they seemed to calm down.  I’ll open the hive again in a few days to see how they’ve recovered.IMG_6367IMG_3194

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