The monsters start on the outskirts of town

I have an association with the word pro–as just a positive thing meaning “for” as in “pros and cons.” Today I learned that propolis literally means “before the city,” or “suburb.” I like this perspective on beehives. In the literature and on websites I can read, people explain propolis as “bee glue,” which it is, but if you look at a hive holistically, it is the coating that is used on the outside of the hive, before you get to the city.

We have to pop propolis seals every time we move the bars. P. and I talk every time we go in about what our goals are for the day. For the past couple of weeks, fortunately, our only goal has been to make sure things are going okay and not to fix the comb structure. Since everything was pretty mellow in the hives this morning, I asked P. if he wanted to try excising one of the hair clips we’d put in to save some comb, when we were removing doubles.

Originally we had clipped the comb and tied it to a bar. The bees fixed what we did and built more comb to attach it to the bar above it. I had heard that sometimes bees will totally submerge a clip, but ours left some bee space, so it was slightly easier to cut out. Unless something weird happens, the bees will now backfill the empty space the comb left.

The capped cells are drones and the empty brown cells are where newbees have already emerged (this empty area was the original size of the comb when we first added the clip). This is from the purple hive and they have put in a baby BOOM. I bet we saw ~500 capped cells. Next week at this time the hive will probably have 500 more bees in it!! This hive seems to have completely recovered from its early steep population drop. To the right you can see empty, new cells. They will probably contain a mix of pollen, honey, and more brood.

When we first attached the clip to the comb, the teeth went right through some brood and honey. Some brood cells were inside the hairclip itself, and it looked like the bees had successfully hatched from inside the clip and had been cared for properly.

I cleaned off the hairclip as best I could and put it back in my bee crate that I keep my supplies in, like the smoker and the bee brush.

This was white kitchen twine like you would tie a roast up in, and was used to hold the clip to the bars. Now it is yellow from propolis and fuzzy from being chewed upon.

When we are finished and put the roofs back on, and empty the remains of the smoker into the firepit, we check each other for stray bees before taking our beecoats off to prevent crushing them, getting stung, or carrying some into the house. I had three bees on the back of my coat. P. gently brushed them off and they all went plop plop down to the patio.

“I’m going to put them in this geranium so they don’t get stepped on,” he said. He lifted each bee up and put it on a leaf. It’s possible they were a little chilly yet, since it was before 9 a.m. Bees do best in some heat and part of the reason they get pissed when we look at them is because they like their brood areas to be around 90 F. We can often feel the heat rolling out of the hive when we move bars.

One of the bees was very soft and fuzzy, with a clearer body and looked perfect. “Uh oh, I think we picked up a new hatcher,” he said. Her first flight might have been to land on my back, and she might not have been completely ready to be that far away from the hive. A second bee on another leaf rushed over to her and began stroking her face.

Then she started feeding her. I could see her tongue going in, but my camera cannot. I am increasingly irritated by my point and shoot. It just doesn’t capture what I see.

Then a second bee came over and started feeding the new bee as well. I don’t know what happened after that, because P. moved the whole plant and put it on top of the hive, to give her a better shot at getting home.

In other news, my period came on little cat feet this month instead of with big cramps that make me want to lay in bed and moan. I am starting to notice a really tragic correlation between the amount of sugar I eat and how bad my period is. WHY GOD WHY :/

7 thoughts on “The monsters start on the outskirts of town

  1. I enjoyed reading the way you described these bees interacting with each other.

    Please do a bee reality tv show.

  2. Franny the Bee Whisperer on Netflix kthx.

    I wrote a whole treatise on Latin and propolis (and other bee-related things) before I stupidly realised that propolis is Greek. So I’ve kindly spared you from those ramblings.

  3. long-time reader, very rare commenter here, but I just want to say I LOVE THE BEE UPDATES SO MUCH

  4. Hi thanks for popping in, y’all. This is not false modesty…but I did assume I was boring the piss out of everyone with bees. I would like to see a bee beard on Franny, on TV or not, which I think she could pull off without stings, but I think technically counts as child abuse still.

    If anyone out there is bored of or loving bees, AND reading this comment, let it be known that bees go to “bed” in the fall so there will be months where I probably won’t write a thing about them.

  5. No, you’re not boring the piss out of me! I’m allergic to bees stings, so there will be no adventures in bee keeping from me. I am finding all this fascinating.

  6. I too think your bee posts are wonderful! I’ve often toyed with the idea of having bees myself, but for now I get to do it vicariously through you. I think its very interesting.

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