Bees and The WeatherAugust 15, 2009
It is an August day, warm and a little humid with an increased chance of rain tomorrow. It’s cloudier now than earlier so if you are paying attention you can tell the weather will be changing. But I was paying attention to my schedule and not the clouds.
We have plans this evening, we have plans tomorrow – if I was going to check on the hives it would need to be this afternoon. I had made some adjustments in the frames in an effort to encourage the bees to build comb in the two top boxes, the honey supers. I was anxious to see if it was working.
I have had good luck with the bees. Only two stings so far – one early on from being clumsy with a frame and another when a bee got caught in the crease of my pants when I squatted down (awkward spot, but frankly the bee stung my jeans more than me). The last several times I had opened the hives the bees had been very docile and pleasant. If I wasn’t going to pull out frames they had built on I often didn’t wear a veil. I’ve stopped wearing gloves altogether. I often have a t-shirt and shorts on and only 2 times out of probably 20 have I been stung. I was feeling pretty proud of myself – I was The Bee Whisperer.
You can see where this is going, can’t you? First, a beekeeper is never going to be called a “bee whisperer” for the simple fact that bees can’t hear. What bees can do though is be very sensitive to changes in the weather. A bee does not want to be caught in a rainstorm – a drop of rain can do mega-damage to a bee.
I was just putting on my veil (being cautious today), when a guard bee began buzzing around my head, warning me off. I walked away, lost her and came back and opened the hive. This hive was fuller than usual and noisier but not especially aggressive. I took off the top box and looked between the bees and the frames of the next box and saw what I wanted to see, comb being made on one of the foundationless frames. I put that hive back together and moved on to the second one.
This is a less populated hive, but still when I took off the cover numerous bees streamed out immediately and indicated in no uncertain terms that I was disturbing their peace. Again, I took a short walk away to let them calm down. I came back and took off the top box and began peering between the frames of the next one down when I realized there were bees on my wrist around my black watchband. Bees do not like dark colors and if they are going to go for you they will often attack where there is a strong contrast, say between white flesh and black leather. I whipped off the watch and threw it in the grass, hoping the bees would go with it. Too late – they got me twice, and I think they stung my watch too.
I scraped off the stingers, not feeling too sad that the stinging bees bought the farm, but feeling a tad humbled. I had made mistakes that brought the attack on myself. I had worn a black watch band against my pale skin, had ignored the fact that the weather was changing, and I had failed to pay attention to the numerous signs that that the bees were already agitated – the early warning by the guard bee, the general noisiness of the hives, the increased number of bees that were home mid-day, and their irritability at having the covers lifted.
So now I have a couple of baking soda poultices on my wrist, a wiser but humbler beekeeper. But, hey, the bees are starting to build comb in the new box, and that’s good news.