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Archive for May, 2010

I’ve been reading Neil Gaiman’s novels lately (American Gods, Anansi Boys), and love his writing, so I was smitten with him even more when he posted a photo of his red hive on Twitter today.  🙂

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Despite the recent cold and rainy weather, the bee colony has been busy!  To this point, their food supply has been supplemented with sugar syrup, which helps maintain their nutrition while the spring blooms continue to appear.  Because flowers & trees bloomed earlier this year, there was ample pollen in the area, and we didn’t have to provide supplemental pollen patties, which is normal.  As soon as we approached the hive, we could see the bees were in a bit of a traffic jam, with the entrance reducer on the hive still set at it’s smallest opening.  As soon as we opened the entrance to its next largest setting, the bees didn’t hesitate to use it in greater numbers.  We carefully inspected the frames and found evidence of what appeared to be a healthy brood — many brood cells sealed and incubating larva, soon to be young bees!  The colony had not yet drawn comb on all of the frames, but the center ones were pretty covered in comb, and the yellow pollen color was apparent throughout.

May 23

We saw no evidence of foulbrood (identified by its foul odor) and no evidence of the varroa mite, two of the most common problems facing honeybees in Minnesota.  After the hive was closed and we took a lunch break, we returned for one last visit.  Sitting on the ground, just a few feet from the hive, I watched bees exit, hover in a circle just above the hive and then take off in a southwesterly direction.  I could also see others returning, and as they carefully landed and entered the hive, their rear legs were bulging yellow with pollen.  I couldn’t help but smile — what amazing little creatures!  I am in awe.

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New technology for looking inside a live honeybee colony.  This is exciting stuff!

BBC live hive article

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I am fascinated by biomimetics / biomimicry, and this is just one example of how studying bees can lead to human solutions…. in unexpected ways.

Biomimicry:  Bees Inspire the Efficiency and Communication of Web Servers (from Sustainablog)

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More global coverage of the shocking news that a third of the honeybees in the U.S. did not survive the winter.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/may/02/food-fear-mystery-beehives-collapse

“Mankind has been managing and transporting bees for centuries to pollinate food and produce honey, nature’s natural sweetener and antiseptic. Their extinction would mean not only a colourless, meatless diet of cereals and rice, and cottonless clothes, but a landscape without orchards, allotments and meadows of wildflowers – and the collapse of the food chain that sustains wild birds and animals.”

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Today’s visit to the apiary was a quickie.  Because the weather has been windy, cold and rainy, we were glad to have made the decision last week to keep the entrance reducer at its smallest opening, thus giving the bees more protection from the cold.  Although the sugar syrup bucket was nearly empty, we didn’t see a lot of activity outside the hive boxes.  The bees inside seemed to be quite active, but we didn’t disturb them by removing the inner cover… just peered into the feeder opening.  So, we filled the bucket with sugar syrup, watched a gorgeous sunset over the lake and scuttled back to the city.

One more thing… Sondra’s parents have been busy planting blueberry bushes near the apiary, and Sondra’s dad told us that a scout bee was circling around him while he was planting, stopped to read the blueberry sign near one of the plants, smiled at him and flew back to the hive to tell the others.  True story.  🙂

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Yesterday was my b-day, and today was a very happy bee day, indeed!  The colony has been left to their business for nearly a week, and we approached the hive with cautious optimism.  As soon as the hive cover was lifted, we could see evidence of honeycomb!  Workers were flying around the hive, heavy with pollen, and on examination of the frames, we were thrilled to see their progress with building comb, filling it with nectar & pollen… and, best of all, we spotted what appeared to be larva!  Great news, as this means the queen was accepted, and the colony is doing everything it should be doing.  I’ll let the photos tell the story; click to enlarge:

We leave them alone for another week.  🙂

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