Well, what can I say? This summer in Seattle, brilliant sunny day after day after day, often left me recalling summer in my hometown in SoCal–get your outdoor work done early, chill in the shade later on. Life in the garden. Or the beach. Or the park. We even slept outside for a chunk of the season.
What I didn’t do, obviously, is write blog posts. I didn’t even read them, for the most part. In fact, it seemed I went pretty much offline for three months, and I gotta say: it was the summer to do precisely that. So now, like the bees, I’m moving indoors, starting to pick things up again where I left off…
The bees went through many stages over the summer, and the big thing I learned?just observe. I decided to not open the hive and inspect more than necessary since the combs were all straight and good. I’m treatment-free and really much more interested in the bees surviving naturally than I am in harvesting honey, so the task of beekeeping becomes decidedly simpler. Observation at the entrances became my main source of information. If I were to give any advice to brand spanking new beekeepers, that would be it: observe. You’ll learn a lot.
I’m pretty sure they replaced their queen with one of their own choosing, for one thing. Perhaps it was a duel, perhaps a coup, I’ll never know, but two things happened in July: when I last opened the hive and inspected a few bars, I noticed a couple of queen cups, a LOT of drones and a paucity of new eggs. I was concerned, but on the other hand, I kept seeing worker bees coming in and out, life going on. If there were a problem, I have to assume there would be a disruption in the rhythm, right? Then sometime later, I noticed darker bees showing up, lots of them. And lots of baby bees on their first flight, checking out the digs. Everything seemed healthy, and yet somehow different.
At this point in the year, the nights getting cooler, the mornings damp with rain and dew, I’m glad I haven’t opened the hive more than necessary. Winter is tough–it’s cold and around here it’s wet. Wet is a real challenge for bees, and while our winters may be mild compared to other areas, this dampness is a big deal. Bees do an awesome job of sealing their hive with propolis, a kind of natural caulk that they jam into every crevice, including around the top bars and openings. They bring the propolis from the resin of trees, and spend the summer making their home water-proof, if all goes well.
Every time the seal is disrupted, they have to rebuild and repair…more energy, more propolis, more stress. I suspect in the second year of this hive, provided they survive the winter, I will have to be a bit more invasive, especially in the spring, but for now I like the idea of sending them into their first winter on their own undisturbed terms.
Here we go into the next season!