Good Girls!

Oh, they are teaching me. After the destruction, I go in every day. I’ve got it now. I make sure they are building “right.” They are. They have got it. They are on their way. Building as if nothing happened. They just move on & build. The metaphor does not go unnoticed in this silly human mind. I reflect on my wringing of hands. Just move on girl, & keep building. And — I do. I just never give myself credit for it. Too caught up in punishing myself for every mistake. These bees teach me there are no mistakes, just beautiful, awful life.

I begin to hear them speak to me. I’m learning. I start to distinguish their messages – the “Hey! You’ve caught me between the bars” buzz, the “Just all working here” buzz, the “I’ve been sent out to warn you,” and then, I realize, I am starting to know the collective “Not right now” buzz. At first, I hear it & go in anyway, thinking “this is not going to be good.” And, that turns out to be right – it’s not good! They come at me, sting me through my gloves & I close it up. Try again tomorrow. And tomorrow, they don’t even notice me. Allow me my gawking.

And I am just mesmerized. I pull bars apart to see them….

Chain of bees

Long Chain

To see what they have built…..

Inside the hive

And I am amazed by them, enthralled, as I’ve said countless times. They just keep going, working, building. Surviving for the hive. Perfectly built to singly serve that community. What beautiful simplicity! To unknowingly serve all of life, the entirety of the planet. How can you not be amazed?

Shadow me

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4 responses to “Good Girls!

  1. Mary Jo,

    What kind of bee hive do you have? I’m accustomed to the box hives, and the old traditional skeps. Do the bees hang a comb on each individual slat that you have on top?

    • Mine is a called a Top Bar hive. The box hive is a Langstroth hive and then the old skeps where you basically had to kill all the bees to get the honey. Langstroth hives start with a foundation of wax on movable rectangular frames. One purchases frames of foundation (usually plastic now or plastic coated with beeswax) to put in the hive and the bees use it as a guide from which to build. The frames can be re-used and the rectangular frame makes for easy extraction of honey, wax, pollen.

      The Top Bar hive is a type of what they call a Natural Hive. It’s basically an empty box! (Ideally about 40 liters). Mine (probably most) has angled sides – you can get a good side view of it if you look at my video “Pollen” (posted in “This is where it gets good…”) about 54 seconds in. The angle is 120 degrees which coincides with the hexagonal cells of the comb – it also makes it easier to pull bars of comb out of the hive. So, yes, there are bars across the top (about 1 3/8″ wide) and then on the underside (in the hive) down the middle of each bar is a piece of plywood (1/4″ or so wide) that hangs down about 1/2″. They build their comb off of that. They build it all! That’s the amazing part. And, in my earlier post about the destruction, they were building it perpendicular the the bars. Attaching it on the plywood on just a small surface, which would work just fine for them. But, when I pulled up the bars to inspect, I detached the bar from the every row of comb & it eventually all fell. Upcoming are some photos from inside the hive (after they re-built the “right” way), where you will see the rows of comb they built & the underside of the bars & plywood guide. You’ll get a better idea then.

      The great thing about the Top Bar is that you can build it yourself. (Well, I suppose you could build a Langstroth box pretty easily too.) But, with the Top Bar, all you need is the wood box & the bees. They know what to do from there. Give them lots of sugar water at the beginning (which they need to produce the wax to build comb) and they are on their way. And a water source near the hive so they don’t go & find it elsewhere & drown or get killed for being pests.

      Start a hive, Rick! They are amazing!! I ordered 3 lbs of bees from Honey Bee Genetics, which came in the mail & off I went! But, I know there are a bunch of places in Georgia that raise bees for sale, which would probably be better for you. I’m sure you can find it online, but if you want dimensions of my hive, I’m happy to send them to you. Really easy to make.

      -Mary Jo

  2. Mary Jo,

    I like this top bar hive design. I think it’s called a Kenya hive. How are your comb guides done? If you look at slide 15, you can see the triangular, plywood comb guide they have. From what I’ve read, it seems to be best. Having the point is supposed to be good.

    How about bar width? Are yours all the same? Some suggest two sizes, one for the honey comb and one for the brood. The widths are shown in slide 28. Does the comb take up one bar or two?

    I’ve got all year to build the hive. I don’t think bees will be available until next spring. I stopped by a stand at the Oak Ridge farmers market that has honey and bees. I think I will buy the bees from that guy. Kind nice to get them local.

    • Rick,

      Yes, it is the same as a Kenya hive. My guides are not the triangular type. They are just a 1/4″ thick piece of plywood that hangs about 1/2″ down the middle of each bar. They did just fine building comb on that. I was just on the Bush Bees site this weekend. Lots of good info there. Seems like the triangular guides are best. And, I also read there – not to coat them with wax. The bees do a much better job of attaching the comb & don’t need to be coaxed with a wax base. I was looking for a queen excluder so that I could get them to store honey for extraction just in the rear of the hive. Seems like they will do that on their own, with a little coaxing. Moving some empty bars in the middle of the brood will encourage them to build more comb for the queen to lay & keep her out of the honey store. This allows them to keep the honey store away from the brood. As I read – they don’t want brood all over the place – they want to keep it consolidated & efficient. If you give them a little help, they will.

      My bars are all the same width – 1 3/8″ wide with 3/8″ spacers on the ends. This gives them 3/8″ of bee space between each comb. They have built a comb on each bar (not across 2). I also read about the larger spacing. I have a few beekeeper friends here that use the single width. It makes it much easier to move things around as needed. I really need to get back in there to get some photos. It’s amazing how much they’ve built since those last photos from inside. I just noticed today a significant increase in activity around the entrance. The timing is about right that perhaps another large group just hatched. Can’t wait to see what they are up to!

      Yes, I tried to get some local but everyone was sold-out. Local is also nice because you may be able to get a nuc. A nucleus hive which will come with some comb, honey, bees, & queen. This way, they have a little to start with rather than an empty box! Out there, it will be so much less of an issue – so much for them to gather from in the spring. I used to get local honey out there from a family, I think it was still in Farragut maybe. If you’re heading west on Kingston Pike out of Farragut, you take that left toward Lenoir City & they have a sign not too far down on the right. I bet they sell bees too.

      In my searching this weekend – I also found the perfect design for my next hive. I don’t know why I didn’t think of it – the golden ratio! Found everywhere in nature – why not in a bee hive?

      Golden Mean Hive

      Golden mean AND an observation window!

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