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Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Summer Heat, Part Two: Melting Honey Combs

The drought continues. The Madison area received only 7% of its normal rainfall in June, and so far in July, it rained only a trace at our place for about 10 minutes. And it's hot. I've never been one to complain about summer weather, but our birds and our bees  are suffering.

On June 19th, during one of the first heat spells, most of our bees swarmed. Until then, they had been fervently setting up their complex system of combs and eggs and drones and making honey.
Before the swarm

  It was shocking to find nearly all of the bees in a pear tree early that Tuesday evening.
After the swarm
Nearly 3 lbs of bees in our pear tree
  Frantically, we solicited facebook advice. Andy called several beekeepers in the area. We learned a lot that evening. One: the bees might have overheated, hence the need to escape. Two: A new queen established herself, and the first queen took her posse with her. Three: Most beekeepers have more than one hive, so that if/when this happens they can put the swarm into a new home.

Apparently, two important women can't survive together in the bee kingdom...

Well, we found a new hive. On Wednesday morning, the swarm still hung in the tree, so we were hopeful that we'd catch it and get it into the second home. Upon Andy's return with the new hive, to his disappointment, the swarm had fled. He set up the second hive, and we put our attention to the remaining queen and her attendees.

These remaining bees are role models. They got right to work - no off-task behavior for them. It seemed that despite the hive's setback, combs would soon be dripping with honey.

But then we had a 5-day spell of 100+ degree weather with humidity taking the heat index into the 100-110 degree range. To our surprise, the combs literally melted. A slushy pile of honey covered the bottom of the hive. One might think this would be enough to discourage this assmebly of workers.

A sweet, slushy setback

Nope. Tonight, we went to check the bees, and they're rebuilding. So many less of them are here than the 3 pounds that buzzed inside before the swarm, but those that remain are amazing. Driven by instinct maybe, but how much could we learn from these little buzzers?  Keep working. Keep fighting. Don't give up.Rebuild. After a struggle, it will always be that much sweeter in the end. Viva la lucha!

Eggs and honey and rebuilding
No serious cooling in our future. No probable rain in our 7-day forecast. Hopefully these rockstar bees won't give up.

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