Wednesday, June 30, 2010

"Plan Bee"

"Plan Bee" is now active and the preparations to move the bees have got underway.  It's not quite D-Day, but I nevertheless have several tens of thousands of lives depending on my expert planning and project execution!

"Plan Bee" will be to send the girls on holiday to Eugene's beeyard for a couple of weeks, where they will no doubt have a good time with his girls, and once they get adjusted we'll move them home to the backyard, here in Kirkwood. The proposal, as explained in my previous blog, has been approved by the city who have also accepted my timeline. The move will start this weekend and hopefully be completed by the start of August.

The supers on the parent hive will be removed tomorrow (I put a bee evacuator in place tonight) and the honey will be harvested on Saturday. Three of the four supers felt pretty full so I reckon there will be about 60lbs of honey! The fourth super was more or less empty. So, if that's the case that's not bad at all.

Once the supers have been removed I will add an empty super to give the girls a bit of additional space; I'll do this tomorrow. Then, early on Sunday morning we'll (that's me Eugene, Fred and Susan) move them.  Early (I'll start before 6.00am), because I want as many of the bees inside as possible and lately the morning seems to be the best time. 

Oh, and to answer a common question - "How do you move two hives of bees?".
Answer... Carefully!

I've been loaned some hive staples, a hive lifter and some moving screens from Bob. Eugene has some spare entrance screens, some hive staples and a couple of old pallets in his beeyard.  Fred has a pickup ( I really didn't fancy moving the bees in my car!) and some webbing straps to hold the hives down during the transportation. I think I just need to get some duck tape (when doesn't this prove useful) and some more staples if I can!

I hope the impending fiasco (that is bound to result) will be photo-documented!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Holiday Blues!

You're supposed to come back from holiday relaxed, calm and at one with the world.  And so I was until I opened the mail...

While I was away it seems that two people (one anonymous, isn't that brave!) complained to the city that my bees were a being a nuisance to the neighbourhood.  After what must have been a pretty short and quite superficial inspection the city agreed and I was greeted by a Code Violation Notice. In the letter I was given until 24 June to remove the bees from my property.  Yep that was yesterday, the day after I got home. Nice... Words cannot express how upset I was!

So, yesterday I tried to find out why the complaint was raised, and by whom. I was very surprised to get the letter as I have never received anything but very positive feedback from the entire neighbourhood about my beekeeping, and why we must find out why bees are disappearing. Almost everyday someone stops outside the front yard to look at the bees and see what they're doing, and to ask me about them. However, it seems this proximity to nature and wildlife is far too inconvenient for a tiny minority of small minded unimaginative individuals who complain (from behind a veil of anonymity) that they feel threatened by a group of insects going about their business.

So what did I find out? Well I found out that our city officials are intimidated by our litigious society! Apparently the anonymous complainant was stung a couple of times and this prompted them to moan to the city, and for the city to declare the bees a nuisance. Very sadly the city official even said she would consider a bees nest in a tree a nuisance - wildlife, not causing anyone any grief, labelled a nuisance! Aggghhh! A dog that attacks children is a nuisance, not bees - check the data people!

When I phoned the city yesterday, and went over the situation, I was initially greeted by the response "well, you can always take us to court if you disagree" and "I would have to talk to the city prosecutor about that". I paraphrase this, but that was the gist of the message.  Straight off the bat, the city went on the offensive throwing their weight about! Scare tactics to make me back down and do as they say. It works too!  I don't have the funds, nor stomach, for such a fight. Anyway, I decided to try and "win hearts and minds" and not give in to the city's "shock and awe" tactics.

I tried to explain that actually the bees in question might not be my bees; there was no way of telling they were mine, or from hives or nests elsewhere. I also tried the approach "like it (or not) bees are a part of summer and do vital jobs", and, "did you know we rely on bees for a third of our food" etc. etc. but I could see I wasn't really making any progress. Not because the official I spoke to didn't agree with what I was saying, but more because I think the city is so scared of what any inaction could expose them to.  Imagine, a complaint is received about bees stinging and the city takes no action. If the complainant receives another sting, they could sue the city for not dealing with the incident or not acting proactively. What can the city do? A case of damned if they do, damned if they don't. So the city seemed immovable.  I asked "could I move them to the backyard?".  She had to check with her supervisor. OK, I'll call back in the afternoon...

When I called back I sensed the mood had changed. More understanding somehow. I was told that I could move my girls to the backyard (for future reference this will now be called "Plan Bee"). Now the city was only interested in my compliance with their order and they confirmed that my moving them to the backyard kept them happy. Maybe the supervisor understands bees better, or perhaps sensed the difficulty in proving a case, or perhaps thought as I was cooperating they could be more flexible. To help smooth things over I offered to help tell the community about bees and what they do. The city official liked this idea and said they would pass on my details to a committee that works on festivals etc.  Maybe I'll be asked to set up a display about bees (and possibly a observation bee hive) at a local event? That would be great!

So there you are, the intellectual pygmies that made the complaint, and which in effect were the squeaky wheel that got the oil, won! The silent majority had no say or influence! Makes you mad!

I wonder what would happen if, say hypothetically speaking, a dog harmed a child in the street? In Missouri a dog is given a second chance, a kind of a "one bite" rule. After a second offense, or if it is not held on a leash in public, well then I suppose the law says the dog must go. So is it fair that a dog, which I would bet is a much greater nuisance than a hive of bees, is given a second chance and that bees do not and have to be removed from a property? Dog owners that have animals that are known to have harmed children should be very careful that they control their dogs in public and make sure they are kept on leashes at all times.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Definitely No Queen!

So, Susan did an inspection for me on Sunday afternoon to see if the bees took to the frame of eggs,  Did they ever!  She reported about 15 queen cells on the frame so they were clearly in need of a queen. She did remove some.

So that means in 16 days, starting from 2 June, we should have a new Queen. There will be a "Queen Smack-Down", or fight to the death to see who the reining monarch will be.  It sounds a bit like Highlander - "There can be only one" - well, then again, perhaps not. 

Still, on or abouts 18 to 20 June the queens will hatch.  Give it 10 days for the winner to mature and mate and (fingers crossed) return to the hive and she should be laying in early July.  I will wait until then, at least, in order to see if we have a winner...

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

I have a Plan! - with a little help from my friends...

Things are clearer - and I now have a plan set out, well I think it's a plan. It's an idea at the very least.  OK so this is what happened today...

Another round of inspections was carried out, this time with Eugene. In the Daughter hive we saw the queen, so all is well, and we saw some eggs and larvae. But the main thing was we saw the queen!  We also shuffled about some of the frames in the top hive box i.e. we swapped some frames of foundation (at the outside edge of the box) with built out frames that were in the middle.  I hope this encourages some more building.

The inspection of the Parent hive pretty much has confirmed to me that the hive is queenless. This is a shame, and I think is the result of some over enthusiastic inspections I carried out earlier this month. We looked very hard but saw no eggs or larvae.  The is a lot of brood however. So this is what we decided to do...

We moved a frame of brood and eggs from the Daughter hive (making sure the queen wasn't on it) into the middle of the top hive box of the Parent hive. This is kind of the opposite of what I did at the beginning of May! Well, I suppose "what goes around comes around"!

The idea is that the bees in the parent will raise queen cells from this frame. The successful queen will then mate with a drone near by and then I hope start to lay.  This should all happen reasonably quickly.  A new queen should take 16 days to rear. Another week to 10 days will pass before she mates and gets down to laying.  So by early July I hope I will be able to see new eggs and larvae in the hive. This works out quite well as I'm off on holiday on Friday!

However, if there is already a queen in residence (and I just missed her during my inspections) then no queen cells should be developed and we have to go off and solve another puzzle, or at least try to figure out what is happening! Anyway, Susan has kindly said she will do an inspection this weekend for me and will check to see if any queen cells are being made with the new eggs. If they are we will leave all alone (but maybe put on another super) and wait to the beginning of July before trying to see if a new queen has taken.

This poses another question of what to do in the autumn.  If I rear another queen, do I really want to kill her in the autumn, as is suggested in the Minnesota H2Q system, or should I keep her and try to over-winter her? I think I'll worry about this later.