With the warm(er) weather upon us, the bee club starts having the monthly bee meetings outdoors, at the home of (usually) a club member. During the winter we have meetings at the KofC hall, and spend time learning and socializing. During the summer, we spend the time getting into hives, and socializing. The club is very focused on hands-on learning and experiencing. It is one of the better clubs, from what I have observed!
The meeting was at the home of the club president, Norman. He has many acres and about 20 hives spread out on them. Here's a shot of the group assembled:
For these meetings, Ken Worchal (the Bee Whisperer) usually opens up the hives and shows us what is going on, what to expect, and answers questions. He has like 800 years of beekeeping experience, and is a wealth of information!
I'm into my fifth year of beekeeping, but I could listen to Ken all day. I scribbled a couple of notes to remind me of some things based on what Ken was saying. You always learn something new!
Here are a few of Norm's hives:
A couple of interesting comments on the turquoise hive in the picture above. One is that it has a different type of handle on it - ones you can grip easier. I suspect that's so that the hive is easier to handle. You lose the ability to set hives up right next to each other (front to back), but that's only important for hives which get put on trucks for pollination services.
The other thing to note is the black hive stand - that's one of the new plastic hive stands that Dadant sells. They are nice, but run about $80 each (they aren't called Ultimate for nothin'!) Those two pieces of wire on the right are an integrated frame rest - someplace to put the frames on while you are inspecting the rest of the hive.
I also saw a couple of hives on a hive stand like I am going to build:
Each year the club holds a Bee School. And they make a t-shirt each year. This is this year's t-shirt, a take-off of the "give peace a chance" logo:
Also, I just had to take this picture:
It's a bunch of old-time "seasoned" beekeepers, just sitting around chatting about something (reminds me of old timers sitting in rocking chairs on a porch reminiscing). But there's something unique about this picture - these guys are sitting among fully functioning and active bee hives! Granted, the bees are coming and going from the side facing me, but it struck me as funny they were just chillin' out sitting next to beehives!
After Ken finished with his instruction, the group broke up into smaller groups, and selected club members went to the other hives for a more one-on-one opening instruction.
With the smaller group you can get more up close and personal with the bees, and ask questions of the person doing the explaining.
We also do a lot of passing around of the frames, so other can see whatever it is the instructor is point out.
To people not used to it, it may seem strange to see this. "Here, grab this frame from the hive covered with hundreds of stinging insects!" But you really learn a lot this way. These people below are looking for eggs:
Again, no bee suit, no veil (for most of the people). If you are calm and slow, the bees don't mind a little inspecting.
All in all it was a fun event. Like I said, I took a couple of notes and actually got a little sun burn! The sun was out, but there was a decent chilly wind which lulled you into a false sense of security.
After the meeting, I wanted to give my hives a quick check. I wanted to check if my assumption of where the queen in the brown hive was, and I wanted to get started on the hive stand (since I saw the ones at Norm's).
I popped the top of the Brown Hive, and checked through the frames in the honey super (above the excluder). I saw a lot of empty cells from hatched bees, and I didn't see any new larvae. That is good - maybe my assumption was correct.
So I went into the next frame down, to see if I could see the queen. Success!
With the yellow dot on her, I know she is the same queen I marked last fall, according to my Bee Heritage spreadsheet.
So I was feeling pretty lucky. I checked the Green Hive to see if I could go two-for-two, and another success! This time it was an unmarked queen, which tells me she was born late last year. I grabbed her and marked her, with a yellow dot (since she was born last year):
So now I know I have two good queens in my hives - yay!
I also started setting up my hive stand. I needed to dig down on the right side to level the cinder blocks, and it was here my good luck ended. I hit a very large rock right where I needed to dig down another 4 inches or so - boo!
It was too big to move, so I decided to improvise. I had a half-high cinder block that I put on top of the rick (with some other shoring up, it was right about the correct height). Here's the stand so far (you can see the half block in the upper right):
I need two more cinder blocks to complete it, but I didn't want to go buy any more since I have 4 perfectly good blocks under my two existing hives. So I'll wait until I start to move the hives, and that'll free up 2 block so I can complete the stand.
It was a very busy bee day for me, and I am tuckered out!