The Neary Apiarists have been busy splitting hives and installing new queens for these new colonies. The process is a fairly straightforward one but rather time consuming. First off, you need to locate the current queen bee in the hive you are splitting. It's harder than playing "Where's Waldo" because in this scenario, everyone is wearing a striped shirt...Each frame is scrutinized one by one and if after examining each frame you haven't found her, you start over. It would not do to put both old and new queen in the same box and leave the other box queenless. Hubby is particularly good at queen spotting.
After the queen is located, that frame is set aside and remains with half of the frames. The others are moved to a separate box, and a new queen is added to start a brand new colony. A colony cannot survive without a queen. It's like settlers coming to the New World and needing a leader to direct their undertaking. New pedigreed queens are purchased annually through the N.S. Beekeepers Association. These particular ones are from Hawaii. They arrive in little wooden crates, with a few workers added as attendants for Her Majesty. There is a hunk of sugar in the crate on which the bees feed. Click the arrow below to see the activity in the queen cage. She is the large bee:
We transport a couple of the crates at a time to the beeyard. Here you can see they are afforded the respect they deserve, with a special carrying place in the dash. They like to be kept warm.
When the split box of frames is ready, hubby takes a nail and removes a cork plug from the end of the queen crate. They can't escape from the cage as yet, as the sugar cube is blocking the way:The crate is placed between two new frames... ...and inserted into the new box of bees. Over the next few days, the workers on each side of the crate will chew through the sugar to release the queen. This allows the colony time to get used to the idea of a new leader, and allows the queen time to assume the same smell as the hive she is joining. This assures that by the time she leaves the crate, she is welcomed as one of their own. As with the rest of bee culture, it's an interesting process.The bees are enjoying our spring weather a great deal. Beeing official photographer to the bees is no easy task; first, couple shooting through a veil with the slight shutter lag built into digital photography and add to that a day with a slight breeze. The grass would move and more often than not the target bee would be out of focus...
...or not there at all - frustrating!
Here are a few shots of the pollen sacs on the worker's legs. Since they don't have backpacks or buckets to carry home the pollen they collect, they store it in little pouches on their thighs (hmm...do bees have thighs?). Depending on where they have visited, their cargo can be yellow or bright orange. Visitors to dandelions usually come away with orange booty. The colour of the pollen collected is reflected in the shade of the honey which comes off in the fall. This is why honey made from white clover blossoms, for example, is lighter in colour than say a honey produced from a mix of wildflower pollens.
This worker has shoulder bags: Here you see them arriving back at the hive and heading in to store their cache. Some of these little workers are really loaded down. Often in spring the entrance will be stained yellow or orange; you can see a bit of yellow here.As the hives are rented for pollination, this weekend we will move the hives into blueberry fields. Heavy work, and I'm always glad when this part is behind us.