Leaving on their mind

The Rhode Island Beekeepers Association newsletter suggested checking hives on a weekly basis now, to monitor their food and brood production—and to make sure the bees aren’t planning to swarm.

If a hive is growing too fast, the bees will think of splitting off (swarming) but to do that they need to produce a new queen. The brood cells vary depending on if it is a worker bee or a drone. A new queen cell looks entirely different—more of a volcanic eruption in the comb.

In the newer hive today we found a lot of odd brood production, along the bottoms of the frames. We weren’t entirely sure if they were new queens in the making, but regardless, the brood shouldn’t have been there, so we removed it. (I should say that Cherisse removed it while I held the frames tightly and looked away. This part is a little too gruesome for me, since it means scraping off pupae.)

The bees have had an abundance of food sources. The crabapple and spice viburnum that were so popular last week have been replaced by the holly bushes, which are covered in more flowers than I ever remember seeing in previous years. These flowers should result in lots of berries, and I think we have the bees themselves to thank. (Their previous pollination encourages more growth, resulting in a symbiotic cycle.)

Bees on holly

Earlier in the morning Cherisse and I walked around, making final (or near final) decisions on where to put all the plants we picked up from the Fedco tree sale yesterday. The linden will go near the driveway; the maple along the stone wall in front, where eventually it will replace the older, unhealthy trees lining the road. We are moving two hydrangea trees—presents from Connie and Joey when we first moved in—because they aren’t growing well and we think they will do better elsewhere. The redbud will go in their place.

As so often happens when I look closely at the growth around us, I realize we have only a tenuous control on our surroundings. The Russian Olives and other scrub bushes we took down near our vegetable garden a few years ago are encroaching again, and so Cherisse is making another swipe at them (at least she was until she saw the honeybees covering the flowers). By planting the trees and shrubs we’ve selected, we try to stake some claim to the land, but in reality we make only the most minor adjustments.

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