Sunday, June 3, 2012

Brooklyn Grange Beekeeping Apprenticeship: Weeks 4,5,6

The arrival of May saw a return to the Brooklyn Navy Yards and our fledgling hives. Our sojourn in Queens has proved to be good experience, though. The Brooklyn Grange’s overwintered hives were incredibly healthy, allowing us to observe proper laying patterns and to learn how to distinguish between brood and honey cells. At the Navy Yards, the package hives are still quite small and on a whole weaker than what we’ve become used to dealing with. However, now that we know how to look and what to look for, the process is much easier.

c2012, Slavalava Wisey

That said, the bees are still quite mysterious to me. We installed four nearly identical packages our first day (and two more have been added since), but what has made some hives strong and others not seems completely random. We’ve tried a variety of measures to improve our weaker hives, including adding queens and combining colonies where a queen was missing in order to bolster the number of workers.

Coming back to the hives this weekend, it appears that these measures have led to some improvements. Population numbers seem to be up. Several hives have already been given a second super to fill with brood and honey. While there are still some struggling queens, it appears that the hives can at least take care of themselves, producing queen cups in order to raise their very own queen.

As for us apprentices, we’re learning to take care of ourselves too. For hive checks this week we split into teams of two and three to take apart the hives independently. That’s not to say we don’t still have room for improvement. There’s definitely a finesse to the hive check that only time and practice can bring, but that’s the point of this apprenticeship, no? Till then, we’ll have to remember to pull the frames out a bit slower, making sure the queen isn’t dislodged and discarded in the process (don’t think this actually happened, but it is a situation our current technique could create). 

 c2012, Slavalava Wisey

Finally, we paid a brief visit out to the hives still living on the pier. They seem to have calmed down after a few weeks in a stable location. We opened up one super and found them overflowing out of their frames, filling all extra space with comb. After going through a handful of frames, we carefully packed them away. These bees are much more protective of their hive and therefore aggressive. Changing out the wooden ware and moving them over to the roofs is an adventure we have to look forward to.  

 c2012, Slavalava Wisey