Hive of activity

In my previous post, I described how the first part of our weekend was a hectic hive of activity to keep the baby chicks cool through the heat wave, with a lot of other stuff also going on. The frantic pace carried on through Saturday and Sunday, where between the kids’ year-end music concert, watering the scorched garden, going to church and managing a play date, our beehives also arrived.

Saturday dawned at 21⁰C and peaked at 27⁰C, with the fans and ice water being sufficient for the chicks, so we could attend the kids’ year end concert without worrying too much. They each played a song on acoustic guitar along with their teacher – highly amplified, on stage, with lights and all, like the little rock stars they often imagine they are. But the heat still shunted a few other people’s schedules around. Sam from Geelong Honey Source called at midday to postpone our 4:00pm appointment, as the heat wave and the fires in nearby Little River seriously derailed his schedule. This suited us fine, as Patricia was away for the afternoon, learning to bake macarons.

Sunday was a normal 15⁰C – 22⁰C for Victoria at this time of the year. So around 6:30, after some more delays affected them, Sam and Mel arrived with our two hives. They were already in their bee suits, so we quickly scrambled into ours, with veils, gloves, the works, to start learning on-the-job about bees and bee-keeping. Great was my surprise when I saw Sam wore no veil, no gloves either and he had his bee suit’s sleeves rolled up.

Hive - Sam transferring frames

Sam transferring frames

While explaining everything (and more) as he worked, Sam gave one little puff of the smoker near the lid of one of the hives that he transported the bees in. He never touched the smoker again – in fact it had gone out by the time he finished. Using his hive tool, he nonchalantly and very calmly opened the hive and one by one transferred the frames into our hive, showing and explaining everything to us in detail. Very delicately and very calmly he worked with the bees, even touched them, brushed them gently out of the way when he had to and scooped the last ones up to the new hive – all with his fingers and bare hands, and never even getting a single bee agitated in the least. He showed us the combs, nectar, eggs, brood frames, worker bees (by the thousands) and a few boy bees. But one thing eluded him – the queen herself.

Hive - hunting for the queen

Playing hide-and-seek with the queen

Sam searched through all the frames again, but still couldn’t find her. Fearing that she might have gone AWOL during the trip, Mel fetched another queen in a little holder and placed her in the hive. Unfortunately we didn’t take a photo, but it was a very interesting process, as they would have had to “eat” her way out of the little holder for her. The bees calmed down a lot when they smelt the new queen.

He then did the second hive, which had even more comb and more bees. This time he found the queen easily and promptly marked her with a permanent marker. It’s a fascinating process watching him just calmly working with them.

Hive - queen marked

The queen unceremoniously gets the permanent marker treatment

After this he went through the first hive again, still searching for the original queen. He didn’t want to leave the “new” queen in there unnecessarily as they would fight it out to the death if there were two queens in the same hive. You wouldn’t want to waste such a fine specimen just because you were in a hurry. Just as well he did this, because he eventually found her – a sneaky little hideaway she was! (A big beautiful tiger queen, actually.) For her efforts she also got the permanent marker treatment. With a florescent dot on the head, she should be easier to spot in future.

Calmly he emptied both his hives by gently brushing off the last few bees with his fingers, packed up, and explained to us what is to happen over the next two or three weeks. When we were a little way away we quickly wriggled out of our gloves, veils and suits.

We have an interesting little assignment in about two weeks’ time, depending on the weather and the amount of nectar around. (That clover among the Dreamland grass will now fulfil another function, in addition to fixing nitrogen – multi-functional elements, thank you, mr. Mollison.) Did I mention “calmly?” Mmmm, maybe once or twice…. That’s going to have to be our modus operandi for our little assignment. Breathe… Meanwhile the two new bee families lived happily ever after (we hope) in their new homes.

Hive - happy ever after

“And they lived happily ever after…”

The end.

About (207 Articles)
My name is Martin Rennhackkamp, I now live happily in Lara, Victoria, Australia with my wife, two children and two dogs. My interests, apart from the obvious Organic, Biodynamic and Permaculture Gardening and Farming, include sustainable living, surfing, horse-riding, a wide variety of music, dancing, nature, birds, reading, Christianity and a few other things which I never get to...

11 Comments on Hive of activity

  1. This is wonderful! Will keenly follow! Patricia may want to learn Angel Food Cake too, We had to resort to this when chook production exceeded consumption

    • // December 13, 2018 at 2:30 pm // Reply

      I had a quick search on Angel Food Cake – she will surely replace the flour with some organic spelt or whatever she uses, and no doubt substitute the sugar with honey or pure maple! Ha ha that’s how we roll…

  2. Good luck for happy calm bees!

    • // December 20, 2018 at 11:11 am // Reply

      Thanks Nancy! I was a bit sceptical when our supplier / mentor said they try and breed calm bees…. I thought a bee is a bee is a bee, right? I was so surprised – we did our first hive inspection yesterday, and although they are working hard, they are so calm! None of us wore gloves (mr mentor just wore a singlet) and we took out and studied each frame. (Fascinating) Happy so far!

  3. I remember going to pickup my first hives… none the men were wearing bee suits and so I followed suit… only to get stung on the lip, behind my ear, and one up my nose. Reading Langstroth’s book, he mentioned (even back then) that some people’s smell just aggravates the bees.

    You and I seem to be on similar homesteading blog paths. Perhaps we could help promote each other’s blogs. If you have a topic that matches one o my topics, we can post link’s to each other.

    My up coming topics include:
    1. Feeding and fortifying hives during a dearth (6/24/19)
    2. Bee hive construction and time management
    3. Seed propagation
    4. square foot gardening

    • // June 21, 2019 at 7:29 am // Reply

      Bryan, thank you, we can surely do that. I’ve listed your blog on my “Great blogs” page too (No pressure! 🙂 )
      I’m not as organised that I have a publishing schedule – posts appear as things happen, (and as I get time to write them) but I try and post a blog every week.

      • I’m really the same way but those are the projects I have planned for the next few weeks. I have also completely plagiarized your Great blog page and added your site to the list. 🙂

      • // June 21, 2019 at 9:12 am //

        That’s fine – but I don’t see Much More Mulch on the list?

      • It’s right between “milkwood” and “my food garden”.

      • // June 21, 2019 at 10:14 am //

        Oh I see it’s on your blog (but not on the email content that went out) BTW you can set WordPress not to send the whole content out in the email notice – then it has a “read more” button so readers click through to your site. I’ve read somewhere it’s better for ads and stats and so on…

      • I’m trying to figure that out.

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