Saturday, May 28, 2011

Swarm Troopers

3 Hive Beeyard
Here's what our beeyard looks like as of Monday. The great self-dividing hive has swarmed once again. Monday must be a good day for bees as that's the day our secondary swarm alighted in our garden atop  a few prickly new raspberry canes. Poor choice of "layover" spots as the raspberry cane promptly "laid over" on the ground from the weight of the small swarm, making it a little more challenging to remove.

Small Secondary Swarm on Raspberry Canes
With three hives now, two with non-productive virgin queens, weather this week is critical to these young ladies getting out and visiting the drone den in the sky to get a proper mating. Without a mated queen and left to their own devices, these hives will die out as only drones (males) can be laid from unfertilized eggs. The forecast so far...rain, rain, rain...but possibly some sun tomorrow. I can only hope our new queens will be mature enough to be ready for their mating flight by then. If by some time next week we still cant find these queens (we checked yesterday without success) or signs of her (newly laid eggs), timing will be critical to combine these hives back with the one with the good queen so that the worker bees don't start laying eggs, a newbee keeper's nightmare.

Swarm Capture
Swarm Trooper

I'm fascinated with the inner working of the colony. While bees are individual insects, collectively they act as one organism in that they are dependent upon each other for survival.  One lone bee in the world would catch it's death of cold very quickly without it's hive-mates to cluster together with, unhitch their wing muscles and vibrate them to create heat, as just one teeny tiny example. Now that I am confident in handling the hives sans gloves, my hands can feel the heat they generate as soon as I lift the inner cover. No wonder mice overwinter in hives.

I'm reading "Honeybee Democracy" by Thomas Seeley, Cornell University bee professor. The book delves into the way in which honeybees collectively and unanimously decide where their new home will be after they have swarmed. His many years of studying their behavior has valuable lessons for we humans in collective decision-making. It is amazing what these insects can teach us.

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