Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Did the Hive Survive?

Our friend Lauren wrote to ask how the beehive did last year on our roof. "It would be great to know how to do something like this without breaking the bank" she said.

In May 2009, we shared the story of meeting Noam, who wanted to relocate his hive from Pilsen to Wicker Park in Chicago. One thing's for certain, Lauren: the way we got started was low-cost and could work for you. I just put the word out that we'd like to host a hive and my nephew ultimately made the connection.

Here's Noam doing what he does well.
The story of our first summer with the bees is pretty straightforward. We observed. I didn't read as much about beekeeping as I promised myself I would, so I didn't participate beyond tagging along behind Noam like some bee-struck puppy.

I like to be there when he lights up
the tobacco in the smoker.

Art put a live video feed on the hive, linked to a monitor next to my computer, so I could watch the bees labor while I did. Those bees were like clockwork, returning en masse with nectar between 2:30 and 3:30 each day.

We also got to view the "beard" bees create in hot-hot weather, when they drip down the outside of the hive because it's too hot to go in.

Having bees on the roof was joyful. They buzzed around happily, visiting blossoms and zooming off to Chicago's parks to get nectar from blooming trees. When I'd go to the roof to water the SIPs, as I filled them I'd see bees exiting the overflow holes. They're so smart.

And that's the elegant thing about hosting a hive. With periodic visits from our expert, we just enjoyed the ride. Which is not to say it all unfolded without a hitch. Early in the process Noam discovered that the queen he'd installed had been killed--murdered, apparently, in some mysterious Agatha Christie way.

Mon dieu! This beekeeping business was filled with intrigue. (You can read more about it here.) Would we need to obtain a new queen?

Noam recommended patience, and the next time he came over we were giving an impromptu roof tour to Sheryl and her husband Behe (pronounced Bee, somehow appropriate). That's Sheryl below, standing among the broccoli, with a very nice camera, a good eye, and a l-o-n-g lens. She didn't necessarily want to cozy up to the hive, but she made most of the beautiful pictures in this post.

Thanks, Sheryl!
Noam did an inspection and the news was good: a newly promoted queen was doing her work and the girls were making honey.

We were Queenright.

The first thing you learn as a novice beekeeper is that girl bees do all the work (stop me before I editorialize). The drones are there to...have sex with the queen. Period.

In autumn, 2009, Noam told us we had some honey...with luck enough to leave in place to sustain the hive over the winter. From the department of the obvious: Chicago's frigid in the winter. Would the hive survive? Like other mysterious aspects of beekeeping, we couldn't know. Hives certainly do survive here, but then again some don't.

Which brings us current. As I check the monitor down here from the warmth of my office, I see drone bodies tossed out willy nilly onto the snow in front of the hive. Drones are useless in the winter. Someone's cleaning house. That's good news.

Our first year with bees was so captivating that we're sponsoring a second hive this summer. My chance to veil up...

Postscript: check out this vid for some live bee entertainment as Kirko-Bee-0 moves a hive from its home in a shop-vac to Erik and Kelly's place in LA. Hi Homegrown Evolution!


Mr. Homegrown said...

Howdy Bloggin' Neighbor!

Good luck with your next season of bees.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for the info and updates. Thanks also for the mention--friends and family alike got quite a kick out of this. Any suggestions on where to begin or who to contact to volunteer to host a hive? This is fascinating. Sincerely--thank you, Lauren

H2 said...

Hey Lauren:
You could visit/contact the Chicago Honey Co-op and see if they'd like to host a hive where you are. Or maybe they know someone who would want to.