Our beginning beekeeping saga continues. You can click on the highlighted text to read about how our friend Taylor was raising bees for us. And how we caught not one, but two swarms of honeybees. Also, about collecting the bees from Taylor's back yard.
(I'm not likely to write a very lucid post, because I'm sick with some ghastly stomach ailment, and have no energy or attention span.)
We drove a hive-box full of honey bees over to our house, in the back of a station wagon. (Encased in a custom made cardboard box, and wrapped in a sleeping bag, for those who wondered.) And before we integrated Taylor's bees into the hives with our swarm-bees, we took a moment to see how the swarm-bees were doing.
Robb and I had decided to let the bees make the decisions about building their own honeycomb, and the photo above is what the "frames" of comb looked like after a week of work. A beekeeper can buy frames with embossed wax (or plastic) templates, with the idea that these foundations will help the bees structure their construction efforts.
We've read how commercially produced beeswax can be full of all sorts of agricultural chemicals, and we wanted to keep our hives as "clean" as possible. We'd also heard a lot of anecdotal evidence that the bees don't like to build on plastic foundation. We'd also read about how over the last fifty years, beekeepers have been using larger-celled foundation in order to increase the storage size of the honey cells. There have been catastrophic side effects of this transition to larger-celled honeycomb, most notably an explosion in the population of destructive varroa mites.
So, we opted to give the bees a single strip of small-cell wax foundation, as a starting place. Robb had bought me entire sheets of this stuff for Christmas, and we cut it into strips, and mounted it on the frames. (You can see this in action here, and here, and here.)
And after a week, the bees were happily making the most beautiful honeycomb you could possibly imagine. It's pure white, and smells heavenly. You can smell it from across our (admittedly small) back yard. Delicious. The bees made this wax out of secretions from glands on their abdomens. How amazing is that?
So far, the swarm-bees aren't laying eggs in this comb, and this isn't a surprise. Furthermore, a break in the reproductive cycle of the bees means that the parasitic varroa mites have their birthing cycle interrupted as well. Any reduction in mite population is a very good thing.
Here's a video from the always-awesome Backward Beekeepers, down in Los Angeles, showing another method of making "starter strips" for the bees.
And here is a long, and totally disgusting video about the life cycle of bees and mites.