B r e a k f a s t W i t h T h e B e e s

A sharing on the Birth, and Life

of a Honey Bee Colony at Grass Lake Sanctuary, grasslakesanctuary.org

Manchester, Michigan

Monday, April 9, 2012

Working with Fear

This past weekend I took the bees some more tea.  The last time I left them a quart was about 2-3 weeks ago when there was a warm spell - in the 70s!  But then it got cold again, 30s at night and 50s during the day.  Yesterday it warmed up again to low 60s.

There was a lot of activity at the entrance. I had re-installed the entrance reducer when it got cold, but now warm enough to take it out again, and perhaps now it can stay out.  It is still cold at night (30s), but there seems to be plenty of bees (maybe tripled in number since our last visit) to keep everyone warm. 

It was fun to open the observation window this time and see many bees covering the combs.  However, after a few minutes they became increasingly interested in coming out the gap that had been created by the wood shrinking - warping the plexiglas window.  This hadn’t been a problem since the fall when it got cold enough that they remained huddled together within the combs.  But now things seem to be in full gear. There are also enough of them to leave other jobs and attend to hive disturbances – in this case perhaps a sudden draft coming through the window gap, along with pouring daylight into their quarters.  I trusted that a solution would be found when it came time to put the door back on – with all those bees now on the outside of the glass – its challenging to try to sweep them away and get the door on without squishing anyone. But for the time I decided to turn my attention to replenishing their jar of bee tea inside the hive.

I started to pry off the first of 4-5 top bars, so I could reach in and replace the empty bee tea jar inside.  A tiny gap formed where I was trying to pry off the top bar (the bees “glue” them down each time with propolis, so a special tool is needed to pry the top bars loose from the sides).  Many bees, one-after-the-other started coming out the tiny gap under the one end of the top bar.  Before I knew it, there were quite a number of bees buzzing around the half opened and exposed hive. At this point I started to feel really nervous. I wasn’t used to this many bees! 

Two Sanctuary volunteers, Janice and Joanna, were standing by to watch.  We thought Joanna could get some photos once I opened the hive and you could see the combs inside.  I couldn't go in though.  I didn't know what to do.  I felt way too nervous with all the bees.  I knew this day was going to come at some point – when the colony got bigger – what would I do?  Would I still feel just as “easy” with a large number of bees as I have with the small group we had up until now? 

Janice and Joanna left me to be alone with the bees for awhile. 

After I was stung in January (see January blog for that experience) I did become a little more nervous around them.  That was lessening somewhat, but I told myself if all I could ever do was sit with them, then that was what I would do – for as long as it took – until I did not feel the fear.   After all I cannot possibly reach into a bee hive feeling fear!   

So in this moment these thoughts were buzzing through my mind - not sure what to do with the half opened hive, and all these bees
*I cant leave them like this – I didn’t even know if I could get the observation door back on at that point because there were so many bees on the outside of the glass – it seemed impossible to be able to brush them all off and get the door back on. 
*I couldn’t put the roof back on either because the one top bar was still pried open and bees kept pouring out – Id squish one for sure – and then they’d really be upset.
*I thought about calling another beekeeper for help…Nope, not yet!
*Maybe I need to go buy a bee suit, then return? (Oh yes – by the way its just me here, no suit). 
Okay, I thought to myself, that is a possibility – but not quite right for the moment.

I asked the bees how they were doing, and about going into the hive and they “said” basically this: that everything was “fine – go ahead in" and "do what you do”.
Someday I will completely trust, and be able to flow with this “voice” that I hear from them.  But in that moment I continued to feel nervous - albeit reassured from an outside party that "everything would be fine".

I held my hands out into the cloud of bees.  I tried to breath and relax.  One landed on my hand.  Good. Maybe she would help me.  I am okay with just one.  I turned my hand around and up close to my face so we were eye-to-eye.  I told her I was scared – kind of in a complaining-like manner. I didn’t know what to do.  She looked at me as if listening, even cocking her tiny head a bit, then turned around and flew off!  The feeling was as if she wanted nothing to do with that ridiculousness!

It was then that I noticed the cloth on top of the hive – the one that covers all the top bars before the roof gets placed on.  I realized I could at least drape that over the opened observation window so there wouldn’t be so much sunlight pouring into their usually dark and quiet home. Maybe that would help calm them down.  It did – thank goodness.  I then walked to the car, maybe 30 yards away, to get something.  I was feeling better with restored confidence around the bees.  For good measure though - I took some Bach Flower Rescue Remedy (suggested earlier by either Janice or Joanna).  I thought it would help ease some of the aftershock of the intensity I just went through.

I came back to the hive feeling even more calm, something shifted.  Of course the bees were calmer too, now that their window was at least partially covered.

I easily removed 4 more top bars, took some video, then reached in and switched out the jars – no problem.  I called Joanna who had gone out to take more photos on the land.  She was near by and returned to take some close-up bee pictures now that the hive was opened and everyone was calm. 
Here are some of Joanna’s photos:

Beautiful Girls!
Amazing comb!
thank you for the photos Joanna!

And here are some videos.

The bee girls pose for Joanna's camera!

 It was especially fun to see three or more colors of pollen being brought in to the hive.  There was a deep orange, yellow, pale yellow, and occasionally even white.
This video starts out a little blurry but becomes clear about 30 seconds in... and great views of the colored pollen.

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