Bee Update / Sculpture Kick-Off

August 7, 2008

Checked out the hives last week. I had expected that with the cool weather, the hives would be as stunted as my tomato plants, but was pleasantly surprised to find both hives had filled both the honey supers they had access to. I know I’m supposed to add a new super when the old one is about 2/3rds full, so this left me late to the game. Ah, overachiever bees, we should all have such problems.

Actually, although I say the supers were completely filled, what I really mean is that they were completely filled except for the few plastic frames I had left in there. They did end up working over one black plastic frame (left), but it was clear from its state of completeness that they had started on it later than the frames around it, no doubt reluctantly. I gave away my remaining plastic on Craigslist for free.

But check out the chunks o’ honey in the other frames. Full capped and back-breaking heavy!

Beekeeping Beekeeping

Now, you may remember that last year I experimented with encouraging the bees to build burr comb around objects I put in the hive as a sort of bee-human sculptural collaboration. It worked out well last year, so I decided to try it again this year.

It took me a while to figure out what I wanted to put in there. I did spend a day biking around to various garage sales and toy stores in search of an appropriately sized Winnie the Pooh doll (thanks for the suggestion, Nader Enthusiast), but came up empty handed. (Well, found one Piglet, but what’s a Piglet without a Pooh?)

And then I hit on it: Christmas lights! When it’s done, I can drain the honey and hang them from somewhere as lighted decoration.

I poked around in the bins of lights we have in the attic (for parties, not Christmas, nor Jewsmas, I’m just not much of a holiday-decorator) and found a goodly-sized string, but when I tried plugging it in, the bulbs felt too warm too quickly. I was afraid they’d melt the wax the first time I turned them on.

Fortunately, digging around in Burning Man bins, I found a short string of battery-powered, LED lights. They’re perfect for wrapping into a costume to be seen at night, and perfect for stringing through a bee hive.

I took one of my crappy, bees-hate-em plastic frames, popped out the plastic, and strung the lights into the frame. I tried to get it as flast as possible so it would fit into the natural pattern of the comb, tying the bulbs to the adjacent cords with thin wire, but I’m still pretty sure the bees will balk at the odd shapes in places. To help them feel more at home, I painted the cords and bulbs with a thin film of beeswax I melted down from burr comb I stripped out of the hive last week.

I can’t wait to find out how it turned out. I’m worried that I put it in too late in the season for them to build new comb around it. Last year when I added empty frames this late in the season, they didn’t build it up, and a commenter said they won’t build if the summer’s too advanced, so we’ll see.

As always, I’ll keep you posted.

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