Monday, August 27, 2012

Drones Club: Closed for Winter

Today, while walking around the garden, I noticed unusual activity at the entrance to one of our hives.  There appeared to be some kind of battle between larger bees and smaller bees, so I put on my bee suit to take a closer look without becoming an unwilling participant.
The ultimate battle of the sexes.

Luckily, I just finished reading "Honeybee; Lessons from an Accidental Beekeeper" and I soon realized what was going on.  The larger bees are drones and the smaller are worker bees, and this hive is expelling the poor drones to prepare for winter.  Tragically, the male bees, being nearly useless to the rest of the hive, are kicked out each year to die of cold and starvation.  The females slowly group together in a tight cluster, which they keep at 95 degrees Fahrenheit through the cold weather.

Looking at the ground in front of the hive entrance, I could see that this hive has been driving out their drones for a little while, as it was littered with little male bee corpses.
RIP little drones...
I opened the hive to see if there were any other clues to be found inside.  This hive is doing very well, with far more honey-laden frames than they need to make it through winter.
This hive is in the perennial garden, with a big raspberry patch on one side, lemon balm in front, a large bed full of sea holly, and a huge cottage garden beyond those, including borage, lavender, and calendula.  Ironically, this hive is named "Drones' Club."

While I was suited up, I thought I'd check the hives in the veggie garden, though I had just been out there and everything looked normal.  The entrances of those three hives appeared normal, but on closer inspection, I could see that they were also beginning to push out some drones.
You can see a worker bee beating on a drone right at the top of the entrance.
I guess this means it's time to think about harvesting honey, feeding some bee supplements, and keeping an eye on things while they hunker down for the winter months.  And it also means the end of summer for me.  School starts in two days, and I should probably focus on getting my own house in order.  Time to have the chimney cleaned and make sure the generator is working.
Now, if only my tomatoes would ripen.

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