Winging It, by Debbie B.

Winging It
They say that if you ask ten beekeepers a question, you’ll get 12 answers. Maybe it was always that way, because of the nature of beekeepers, but with all the challenges bees are facing these days, there are no simple answers.
Many of the questions have to do with pest management–the bees are plagued with parasitic mites, and there’s a new kid in town, the small hive beetle. Beekeepers are also constantly puzzling out how to treat viruses without killing bees or affecting the honey. And how to keep the bees alive over the winter can spark quite a conversation.
Even a question as simple as whether to keep feeding the bees supplemental sugar syrup has at least three answers: Yes, no, or “as long as they keep taking it”.  You can see sugar syrup in the photo of the hives below–it’s in the spaghetti-sauce jars, which fit into a contraption known as a Boardman feeder.
The syrup question came up last week at a beekeepers’ mentoring get-together. During the course of the meeting one of the newbies said about her experiences in beekeeping, “I’m just winging it,” to which one of the mentors, a man with decades of beekeeping experience, replied, ” That’s how I feel.”
So I’m just winging it, too, alone in my backyard with two brand-new hives of bees. I’m amazed by how different the personalities of the hives are. One is doing everything by the book and coming along well; the other is a hive of mavericks and rebels who are raucous and will fly right into you if you’re in the way. Their behavior is related to the temperament of the queen. I kind of like the more assertive girls and am interested to see which hive does better.
In the photos below, guess which hive is the ‘party hive’ (can exterior decoration affect a bee’s mood?). In the close-up, you can see several bees who have just come back from foraging–they have yellow-orange lumps on their back legs, where their pollen baskets are. The pollen will be stored in the comb for later consumption–it’s the bees’ source of protein.

Coming up is National Pollinator Week, June 18-24 this year. How will you celebrate?

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