Reading While Knitting

Nothing complicated; nothing too exciting, but yes, I do knit while I read. As well as during many other domestic activities.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

It's good to be Queen

Instead of holing up inside knitting the collar for that little sweater (on size THREES, people), I took advantage of the mild and pretty day to stir up the bees a bit. I've been reading back copies of a beekeeping journal, and getting a little worried that I hadn't been managing their mites very well. The last thing I wanted to do was have the death of 60,000 or so of my pets on my hands. . .

I figure I can avoid questions such as "Just how are you planning to knit that sweater this month, young lady?" and "Why haven't you set up the Sweater a Month KAL faster/better/why am I not on the sidebar yet/do you even read your email?" by posting a photo-heavy distracting bee tour!

Among other clues, one reason I know I'm not a real beekeeper is that I can't keep my smoker lit. There is special fuel that burns and smokes for hours, but I don't need hours of smoke -- just minutes. Beekeepers talk about grabbing some leaves, lighting them up, and off they go. I painstakingly gathered bags of dried eucalyptus leaves during last fall's soccer season (just another way I distinguish myself from the normal other soccer parents) because they're so oily they're supposed to be good smoker fuel.

Mine go out every 2-3 minutes. It got so bad that Thing 1 had to bring out a lit candle and periodically brave the bees to relight it for me. She's a trooper!

Those bees looked pretty great, actually. Four very full frames of capped honey -- more than enough to see them through any winter we might have.

No drone brood, or very little, which is good, since cold weather is no time for loafing males who do no work yet consume food. Ahem.

As I was replacing some of the frames, I hadn't put them at what is the preferred spacing -- bees are big fans of the "not too close, not too far" approach, or something called "bee space." When I looked in, the bees were making a chain of their bodies (this, alas, isn't a great picture -- I took it while wearing my veil. The good ones Thing 1 took with a clear face). They do this when they're going to fill up a too big space with honey comb. It kind of looks like a bucket brigade, but I think it's more a wax brigade.

I even saw my favorite sight, the good mother of them all.

See the big, pointy red/brown bee in the middle of the top of the frame? That's her. Every time I see her I get jazzed all over again. That's probably another clue I'm not "real" -- although I'd rather be an amateur and get excited over her.

Her children may be planning for a future that doesn't include her, however, as I think that peanutty-shaped thing is what's called a "swarm cell."

That happens when some workers decide, for whatever reason, to feed one of the babies a mix of pollen and honey and some goop from their pharyngeal glands. That baby then develops into a queen. She'll either swarm away with other workers to form a new hive or kill the existing queen and install herself. This is a decision I'm going to let them make for themselves.

So now my children would like me to feed them, although not from a gland in my head, and I'd like to get that knitting done. Maybe onion soup and corn bread will buy me some knitting time later.


At 10:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That was a very informtive post! Thanks for sharing a bee tour.

At 10:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Arg! Informative, not informtive. :-P

At 5:33 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very cool post about bees -- we did a homeschool unit last year about bees (after reading Patricia Polacco's "The Bee Tree") and learned so much! I'm going to file this post for when "bees" come around again....

but the question I have for you -- do you knit while stirring up the bees?

At 5:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think my heart just stopped...

Gorgeous photos! Thank your thing for me. As a fellow beenut who is out of luck for at least a couple of years, I'm eager to live vicariously through you.

At 9:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

And we will all keep our fingers crossed that none of your children will ever feel the need to kill you and install themselves as queen! Maybe it is best if they lay off the pharyngeal juices! :)

This was such a cool post. I didn't realize you were a bee keeper. (Maybe I am behind on my blog reading.) I know my husband is wondering why I have my face all close to the monitor, looking at the queen picture!

At 9:30 AM, Blogger String Bean said...

I'd get excited about seeing the queen, too. There's something very special about bees.

I read about that. The workers feed one bee "royal jelly" which sounds like it might be good on toast. :D

At 12:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love your bee posts. There's something very elemental about bees & honey. And the little orange sweater is mondo cute!

At 6:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Neato! Bees are just the coolest, aren't they. I've always wondered how queens were created and now I know! Thanks for sharing the pics and info!


At 6:51 PM, Blogger allisonmariecat said...

Your bee posts are so fun! I've really enjoyed following the saga.

At 9:34 PM, Blogger Fiberjoy said...

Thanks for sharing your bee hives with us. Honey bees are very intriguing. Did you know if you eat local honey it helps immunizize against pollen allergens?

At 11:54 AM, Blogger Rain said...

Ooh plots and treason to overthrow the monarchy. It's all happening at your place. I love hearing about the bees, they're so interesting.

I'm beavering away on my first sweater of the year, albeit a child's one!

At 10:32 PM, Blogger meg said...

Very cool! Beekeeping is something that I've wanted to do in theory; the reality is, they kind of scare me :/ Maybe that will be one of the new challenges I'll take on in the coming years- as long as you survive the coming revolution :)


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