WARNING: This is another post that features a lot of photos of insects, so if that’s not your cup of tea, you may just want to keep scrolling.
My mother acquired an opportunity to go on a beekeeping tour, and I was lucky enough to be included in the adventure. The tour was given by one of our neighbors; he and his bees live less than a mile from our house.
We met at the Wissahickon Charter School, where there are four hives, and ten lucky students a year are selected for the beekeeping program.
I was given the “hook,” a metal spatula-cum-hook tool, first, and got to open the first hive, a Langstroth hive (as designed by Lorenzo Lorraine Langstroth in the 1850s, in Philadelphia. If you’re curious, there are lots of nice diagrams available if you do a Google image search), so there are no pictures of that. It was cool, though, after I got the hang of levering up the frames.
After a bit, I yielded up the hook to my mother, and took over photography, instead.
Did I mention that my bus home goes by this place every day? I never even knew that there were beehives there, though I think that they may be visible from the road, if you know where to look.
Mom got stung, probably through sheer bad luck, but luckily she’s not remotely allergic to bee stings. She had the distinction of being the first person to get stung this year working those hives, but I think it’s an honor she would have forgone.
After looking at three Langstroth hives, and seeing lots of bees, but not as many eggs or larvae as expected, we opened up the fourth hive, an experimental design.
This style of hive design doesn’t use any guide wax; the bees just go for it and start building. They can start in more than one spot, and the cells will line up perfectly.
Our guide Matt got stung, too, and the bees were becoming agitated, so we packed up.
We all shucked out of our protective gear, drank lots of water, and headed over to Matt’s house to see some top bar hives.
We all arranged ourselves on the roof of the shed, and cracked open the first of the hives.
The first hive was “irreparably queenless” — a worker bee can lay eggs and take on some of the role of the queen, but the eggs are unfertilized, and only drones will hatch from them. Sometimes if fertilized eggs are introduced into the hive, the hive can raise a new queen, but this one wasn’t managing to do so. The second seemed to be thriving, and we saw eggs and larvae, but no queen. So we moved on to the third hive.
In our continuing search for a queen, we came across numerous queen cells, larger cells that hang pendant from the rest of the comb.
Sellers will often mark queen bees with a red dot, to make them easy to spot.
We quickly put that bar back in with the others, to keep the queen safe and secure.
I’ve now tasted honey from Dubai, and also eucalyptus honey.