Monday, June 8, 2009

Observation Hive, redux

The Observation Hive is back.
All winter long, I knew I was missing the bees and missing the myriad and many sided (six) consolations of their industrious buzz at the north end of the living room; but now that it is back again and thousands of bees are again in residence, I realize how very much I missed it.

Perhaps it is foolhardy or even delusional to think that we can keep an O-hive happily all year long. In order to be observed, the glass hive is only one frame deep and so while there is a Queen performing her regal duties, there can never be the population of a normal hive (60,000 this time of year) and so it seems they cannot make sufficient stores to get through the winter.
Which is not to say I will not continue trying to observe bees all year long.

Last year, after a great season of foraging, waggling, dancing, propagating and honey-making, the hive died one cold October weekend.
It was a very Bad Mother/beekeeper moment.
We had to remove the glass and discard all their tiny deceased apian bodies. How much do 5000 dead bees weigh? Less than 5000 living bees. That is my unscientific, unverified observation.

Yesterday morning, CSB took 1 Queen, about 3000 bees, 3 brood frames and 1 honey-filled frame from a nuc box he’s been nurturing for this very purpose, and installed them in the Observation Hive. Then we loaded said hive up into the back seat of the car (not as easy as it sounds) and headed north to Lyndhurst for the Hudson River Fest. For 8 hours we explained Bees 101 to adults and countless small children. (In truth, CSB did most of the explaining; I was fanning myself.)

56 children located the Queen (she’s painted with a blue dot to facilitate this).
4 adults confided that they were either allergic to bees or had been stung and hospitalized
1 man, on his way to meet his motorcycle in Odessa, used to keep bees in Thermopylae, Wyoming

Then we brought the hive home and set it in its proper place.

The first known reference to an observation hive is in the Natural History of Pliny (23-78 AD). He told the story – probably apocryphal – that Aristotle inserted a piece of transparent stone, probably mica, into a bee hive, in order to watch the bees at work. But the bees were so indignant at the invasion of their privacy that they obscured the glass with ‘clay’. (It was most likely propolis – a remarkable sticky substance good for everything from sealing up a hive to curing laryngitis - and the bees will certainly fill in any available space beyond their requisite ‘bee-space’). Not just any creature foils Aristotle.

Have I mentioned how happy I am that Observation Hive is back?

1 comment:

Rebecca Rice said...

I love the idea of you and CSB going up to Lyndhurst and doing beekeeping 101. Your passion for the bees is clearly infectious! Thanks, too, for enlightening us about the first observation hive and Aristotle.