Friday, April 27, 2012

Beekeeper's Meeting

Tuesday night, I attended a meeting of the local Beekeeper's Association.

There were 20 people there, and I was one of 5 women. A little boy that attended with his grandpa, two other women, and myself, were the only people under 40.

It was educational, and that was the main reason I went. Before the bees arrived, I kept thinking "I'm going to be a beekeeper" and then they arrived and I thought "Oh shit, I'm a beekeeper. I'm responsible for 11,000 little lives now."

Last Saturday, Mom and I noticed there was a queen cell in the hive. The bees had been installed for less than a week. On Sunday, my brother helped me find the queen, and we noticed a second queen cell. I asked the group leader of the Beekeeper's Association what he would suggest.

Typically when bees build new queen cells it is for one of two reasons:
1. The queen is not performing as needed - she's not laying enough eggs, or she's not producing pheromones that please the bees.
2. The bees are crowded.

Since the bees were only building comb on 4 of the 10 frames, I didn't think there was a crowding issue. However, my brother and I alternated the frames so there was one with comb, then one empty one.

The other beekeepers thought we should leave the queen cells alone. If the queen isn't performing, then the bees will replace her. If the queen gets her butt in gear, she will kill the queen larva. There's a possibility that the old queen will swarm with some of the bees. But there's also a possibility that a new queen will hatch and the two queens will duke it out to the death of one of them.

One of the bee books I've been reading, Fruitless Fall, discusses the colony collapse issue. In the past ten years or so, many commercial beekeepers have experienced a 50-75% loss of their colonies. It is unknown what the exact cause is, but there are theories of it being viruses, mites, stress or all three. While reading the book, I guess I imagined it to not be an issue here, but it is. Local beekeepers are experiencing losses as well.

Why do they have all these hives? Big Agriculture needs pollinators. Everything from almonds to apples uses bees as pollinators. Orchards rent the hives of bees for a certain period of time to pollinate their fruit. In addition to the money they bring in from the rental, the beekeepers also harvest honey.

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