_So I finally got my new Dickie's coveralls this week. It's a bee suit to end all bee suits. A total of 10 pockets! As soon as it arrived I put Yvonne to work, tricking it out. One of the many details she added was a cartoon bee embroidered on the front.
_Yvonne's sewing prowess really came in handy. She sewed Velcro strips to the ends of the sleeves just on the off-chance that one day I might be ready and willing to work the hive without gloves. I don't want those winged girls crawling up my sleeves, so Yvonne's Velcro fasteners will work beautifully. I had those sleeves so tight I think I was cutting off circulation. My bee manuals say I should work without gloves. In fact, they plead with me to go gloveless. Should I just leave those gloves behind and give it a try? Should I? Seems like the first time would be a perfect opportunity to put to the test everything I've heard from the bee mentors in the Mecklenburg Count Beekeepers Association.
_Inspecting the frames with a gentle touch was all that was required. Yvonne was taking these photos from about 25 feet away (nice telephoto lens on that camera!) I was so excited I started yelling out to Yvonne "I SEE CAPPED HONEY. SOME BROOD ALSO IN THIS FRAME. COMB HAS BEEN DRAWN OUT!" At that point Yvonne suggested that maybe I should whisper out my report so I don't disturb these busy bees. I couldn't help it and yelled "I ALSO SEE THE QUEEN. AND SHE'S BEEN MARKED, SO SHE'S EASY TO SPOT." The queen bee is the one with the white dot on her thorax. She's at the top near the capped honey.
_The nuc frames were about half drawn out with comb, so there's still a lot of work and room for them to do it. So far the girls haven't touched my frames. I installed Duracomb foundation, which is a plastic foundation heavily coated with wax. A week had passed since installation. Fortunately there were some bees crawling on the empty frames, but not a whole lot. To sweeten the deal I sprayed all of my frames with some thin simple syrup to encourage them to set up shop on these frames too. Now I'll just have to wait before I look again and see if my ploy worked. I also removed one of the 10 frames, deciding a 9-frame hive is the way to go. I've had enough longtime beekeepers tell me they use 9 instead of 10, so they can draw the comb out a bit deeper on each frame. I suspect this will make for a healthier hive. We'll see.
_There were some strange dark, orange-brown dots on the front of the brood box, about 8 of them. It has been an extremely unseasonal wet and cold week. I was afraid my bees were succumbing to the elements and hadn't found the local food sources. I was worried that what I saw was fecal staining, an indication of nosema. Fortunately the dots were just a few, and in the days since this inspection have not grown. Just to be safe, I made a patty for them of fresh pollen from the North Carolina mountains, some pollen substitute and some local raw honey, on wax paper. (Yvonne said it looked like vomit). It was also an opportunity for me to use the Imrie shim I'd bought a few months ago, just in case I needed to do this very thing. In this shot you can see that in one week they drained the second quart of syrup (the jar on the front).
_All done, brick back on top. Not a single sting!! I could not believe how calm and wonderful these Russian bees were. Amazingly gentle. I even moved one out of the way by gently nudging her with my pinky, and she scurried along. No gloves, see? I was pretty proud that my moment of truth had worked in my favor, and to see that the girls were drawing out comb, capping honey, had lots of nectar, and some frames with a beautiful, healthy brood pattern. Bee keeping is cool!
Tom Davidson is the owner and beekeeper at T's Bees.
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