Monday, October 8, 2012

It's really dark out there.

I am loving the cooler weather.  It is amazing.  I actually walked outside on Friday night, and it was cold.  The wind was blowing out of the north rather briskly, and just like that - it was fall.

Where are the sweaters?  

Where are the jackets?  

Is it wrong to wear three shirts?  

I totally believe in layering.

I had my list.  The things that needed to be done to get ready for the weather.  Extra shavings in the horse stalls.  Extra straw in the chicken coop.  Where is that cat?  You know, the regular list.  Then, at 11:00 at night, it dawned on me that I had forgotten the bees.  It's not like I have knitted little bee sweaters and needed to dress them or anything, but I did have something that needed to be done.  My Full-Timer was less than pleased with me.  She even whined.  She did not want to go.  I didn't want to go either.  I even tried to convince myself that it wasn't really necessary, but I didn't buy it.  Then, I looked at her and told her I would sell every drop of honey that I have put back for her if she didn't get a coat.  She still whined, but while she was putting on her coat, she said, "How long are you going to use that?"

As long as I have honey, honey.

So, it was late.  It was cold and windy.  It was dark.  The only thing we had to do, was put the bottom boards back in the hives.  What do I mean by that?  Obviously, there is a bottom board on the hive.  It is longer than the boxes the bees live in.  This gives them a porch off the front of the hive.  Not pertinent to the story, but I like it that my bees have a porch.  Anyway, when we assembled our hives, we cut a section of the bottom board out, and stapled a number 8 hardware cloth down.  This gives the bees more ventilation during the heat of summer, and it also helps them with a little pest that plagues them.  It is called a Varroa Mite.  They attach themselves to the bees body, and this screen helps the bees deal with this problem.  It keeps the hive cleaner.  The mites that fall off, fall through the screen, and are gone.  This mite also lays its eggs in the brood box with the larvae.  It is a nasty little bug.  Well, the screens must be working because we have tested for mites, and to date, we have not had an issue.

This is good.

One thing that we did, when assembling our hives, is we saved the piece of wood that we cut out.  Then I made four latches, and attached them to the bottom of the board.  This allows me to slip the cut piece in the opening, close the latches over it, and then I have a solid board again.  You have to have a solid board going into cooler temperatures.  It was either try this method, or have a separate board that I would have to switch out.  This would not be an easy task because some of those boxes are weighing in excess of 60 lbs. right now.  The girls are getting ready for winter with plenty of honey stored up.  They are hard workers and the bees like their hive to stay in the low 90's.  They require it actually, and will do what is necessary to keep it that way.  They carry water inside the hive, spew it and fan it with their wings to cool it off, or huddle together and rotate for warmth.  So, it is imperative to help them save as much of their energy resources as possible.  Like keeping water close by in the heat, and closing up drafts in the cold.

I was smart enough to mark each board so that I knew which hive it went to.  They are not exact matches and only fit the board they were cut from.  The problem came in the dark.  It was cold.  I had to lay down on the ground.  It was like putting together a really bad puzzle.  I had marked the boards, but I didn't remember which way they went.  I couldn't see.  I had my hat and veil on, but when I tried to lay down, it kept moving around.  I was more than a little nervous about making the bees mad.  You can not use a flash light on the hives.

Bees Do Not Like That!

Surprisingly, they were very quiet.  I think they were cold and huddling together, proving that we made the right choice in coming out and tackling this chore.  I got the boards in, but could not get them locked in place.  After banging around in the dark, I felt it was better to leave well enough alone, and come back in the daytime.  This was not my first bee rodeo in the dark.  At this point it was going much better than the first one.

Our first adventure in the dark came when our county decided to do aerial spraying for mosquitoes.  Living in an unincorporated area, we did not get a vote on whether or not we wanted spraying, we just had to wait until they let us in on the plan.  It was easy enough to manage the few crops we have planted, but the bees were another story.  We needed to block the hive entrance, remove their water, feed them, and make sure they were loosely covered after dark.  The word from the sprayers was that the spray would dissipate within about an hour of sunlight.  This meant we had to undo all of this about an hour after sun up so we weren't cooking them.

So the plan was to go out after dark, the bees should be inside the hive then, block the entrance, grab the water, and cover the hives.  The problem came with the weather.  It was hot and humid that night.  We grabbed our hats and gloves, but decided to leave the smoker.  They should be inside, right?


Remember I mentioned that my bees have a porch?  Well, they were trying to get cool on the outside of the box.  There was actually a large mass of bees on the front outside wall of the hive.  We did have some moonlight to work in so they were easy enough to see.  For some reason, when I saw them hanging outside on the front, I just thought it would be easy to sweep them in.  Why I thought this, I have no idea.

Blond moment, I guess.

When I tried this sweeping idea, they got mad.  Real mad.  They started swarming my head and buzzing really loud.  I could hear them getting stuck in my veil all around my neck.

This really started freaking me out.

My Full-Timer was trying to get them off me, but she was just aggravating them even more.  I had been trying to move away from the hive, but it was not helping.  They just kept following me.  Then one of them found the giant hole in the knee of my jeans.

I had been expecting a calm event.

Once she got inside my pants, that was it.  She stung me on the knee.  At this point, I had seen the error of my ways.  I took off running for the house.  As I was running across the pasture, in the dark, I was removing bee gear.  The hat.  The veil. The gloves.  It all came off, and I was leaving a trail behind me.  My Full-Timer was just left behind.  She was yelling for me to wait.  She felt like she could get them off of me still.

Not a chance.  I was out of there.

F.Y.I. - They were not bothering her at all.  She had not made them mad.

After getting to the house.  Removing the stinger from my knee.  Changing my pants and getting the smoker.  I was ready to go back out there.  I then had to find all of my gear that I had thrown off in the dark.  Once we were ready to go, it was a lot easier with a little smoke.  That encouraged them back inside, and while they were protesting by making a lot of noise, they were not chasing me around in the dark.  I just chalk up times like these to lessons learned.  I used to worry about someone messing with my hives in the dark.

Not anymore!

It is a good thing we aren't afraid of the dark.  We are frequently out in the dark, doing this or that.  Just me, my Full-Timer, and my buddy, Guido.  I'll have to introduce you to Guido sometime.  He is quite a character.

Check back.

I have a Public Service Announcement to share. 

First one in a long time, and boy, is it a doozy!

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