Hello and THANK YOU for checking out my first post on the Notes from the Field blog. I would like to introduce myself by introducing one of the most interesting aspects of my job as a Cleveland Metroparks naturalist; keeping honeybees.
If you are considering a hive of your own, then now is the time to do your research, purchase equipment and schedule the delivery of your honeybee package. The arrival of my first package of Italian Honeybees went kind of like this: One day I was just reading about bee keeping and the next day I welcomed the arrival of over 3000 bees.
My first task in this adventure was to locate the ruler of the proverbial roost – The Queen. The process of looking for the one honeybee that looks different from the other 2999 (but only slightly different) was a slow one …and the ladies were unhappy with my intrusion. Finding the queen is an important step to confirm that the hive is what bee keepers call ‘Queen Right,’ meaning that the hive has a queen that is actively laying eggs.
This image is a good representation of what it looks like on the inside of the hive as well. Do you think you could locate the queen in this mass of bees?
Italian Honeybees: Cooling themselves on the outside of the hive.
This phenomenon is called bearding.
While you are in the hive searching for the queen, this may also be a good time for you to look for eggs. My reading suggested that the eggs would be extremely small. I would feel comfortable saying that the eggs can be as tiny as a single speck of dust. They grow, of course, to approximately half the size of a grain of rice. A Magnifying glass IS recommended during this part of the process.
With a clear idea of what I wanted to accomplish during my initial hive inspection, it was time to get started. I joked and laughed as I donned the infamous all white ensemble of a ‘legitimate’ bee keeper. But, it was no laughing matter when I opened the hive, removed a frame of buzzing bees and soon found myself surrounded. Needless to say that my first go round with the smoker didn’t quite go as planned. Smoking the hive is a technique of distraction. The smoke gives the bees the impression that the hive is on fire. The bees then focus on filling up their bellies with food before leaving the hive. While the honeybees are focused on eating honey, they are not focused on you (the intruder).
Unfortunately, the smoker stopped
smoking a few minutes into the process.
Which is just another way of saying that the bees were absolutely focused on me...
Want to know what happened next? Read more about my adventures in honeybee keeping in next month's blog.