Yeah, it was really cool last week, meeting the beekeeping club members, a few retired guys similar to me, even though I’m not technically a guy. I’ve just never been girly or interested in girly things.
The guys cracked open the hives with a hive tool, a flat piece of metal with a bend in one corner. The bees glue all the wooden boxes together with dark brown propolis, sealing the cracks, and those sticky links have to be broken when you open up the hive boxes, called supers. We pulled out each rack, one at a time. The bees fill the outer ones with honey. The inner ones are filled with brood cells.
We were looking for the queen, so we had to check every rack. That means lifting it out and examining both sides in detail. Ten racks, 20 sides. Why is the queen always on the 20th one? Well, with a sample of two, I shouldn’t be generalizing, but if you think about it of course you always find something in the last place you look – because after that you stop looking.
While looking for the queen, I got to notice the difference between the ordinary worker bees and the hulky drones. They are plumped up like someone obese or a body builder. Hard to tell under all that fuzz. Is a teddy bear fat or ripped? You never know.
Also got to see the brood cells, which are larger for bees that will be drones. Looking for the initial egg that’s set down is very hard. You have to get just the right light. Then a little curl forms that is the larva. The guy showing me all this had a good idea of if a larva was at the three, four or five-day stage. They just looked like little curls of DNA protein to me, whether from a quinoa seed or anything else.
Then I saw something amazing. A couple of the brood cells had little black legs sticking out of tiny holes. The bees were hatching. So cool. They don’t all hatch at once. They are deposited each day, and some hatch each day, but it’s an ongoing process. I had no idea. at some point the bees stop making drones. Not necessary over the winter, I think it was.
I even got to hold one of the racks. Not too heavy, maybe five pounds or so. Some honey dripped out of one of the racks. I took a drop and tasted it. Honey. “That’s five cents, please.”
Then I got stung, which was never on my bucket list. It was like a needle, and then it was like nothing after I pulled out the black stinger. I felt like a tough guy for a second, because I didn’t make a fuss about it. “You should brush it aside, not pull it.” Later I googled and it tells me if you pull it you can inject more venom into yourself. The next day it swelled up and itched like crazy. The thickened pad of skin was a few mm thick and about 10 cm across.
I donno if I gave myself extra venom, but a week later it’s still ugly and itchy. Part of it looks bruised. I tried steroid cream, baking soda, cold, etc. I don’t want any more bee stings. I got stung one of the most common ways, when the bee is on you and you put your arm down against your own body. Something to avoid when beekeeping.
Also, a really good reason for the head coverings is that an eyeball sting is the worst, I’m told. One guy showing me the hives had had one of those. I’m glad it didn’t happen again, since he lent me his head covering and went commando, so to speak, that day.