Saturday, August 20, 2011

Honey Harvest and the Queen Issue

Aum Amriteshwaryai Namah

Today we continued working in our largest hive -- the hive in which last week we discovered that the queen was laying eggs above the queen excluder! Markjan explains how we address that issue along with the beginning of our honey harvest for the season.

Our newest bee sevite, Ashwini, does an excellent job of assisting Markjan in these tasks.

Jai Ma!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Checking on the Queens

Aum Amriteshwaryai Namah

We went out to the hives to see whether the two new queens had been accepted or not. In the first hive, this is what happened...

We then checked on the second hive. As we took each frame out from the boxes below the queen excluder and inspected it for larvae and eggs, our hope dropped a notch. In two boxes, absolutely nothing. We were quite puzzled, though, because the population in this very large hive looked like it was booming. When the queen's gone, it fades.

We had already started to talk about how we might order a third queen for the hive this season, and then we did an inspection of the honey boxes above the queen excluder.

Who would've imagined that the queen was above the queen excluder? As someone in our satsang put it later that afternoon, she is not playing by the rules! There a couple of ways it could've happened. Perhaps the new queen managed to get through the queen excluder. Or maybe the old queen did the same and when the new queen was placed in the hive, she was chased out.

My personal theory, and it's only a theory, is that in the absence of a queen, the bees had created their own queen upstairs above the queen excluder. And so, the queen we placed in the hive last week was chased out. We'll know for sure if it's the queen from the breeder if we ever catch sight of her and see that she has a white dot on her back, a mark from the breeder that is placed on a queen to help with visibility.

At this point, we are trying to figure out what to do next. In the meantime, we have removed the queen excluder. The purpose of a queen excluder is to keep her from laying eggs in the upper part of the hive. This is so the bees use those frames for honey only. Once honey is mixed in cells with brood, it is not used for human consumption.


Jai Ma!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Two New Queens

Aum Amriteshwaryai Namah

We now have three hives at the Amma Canada Centre in Halton Hills, as we split one of them earlier this summer.

In one of our three hives, we thought there may have been a naturally generated queen, but it turned out there was not. In the other, the queen died. So today we put a new queen in each of the two hives.

In this video, Markjan and I talk about the procedure while out at the hives and place one of the queens in what is hopefully her new home. There is a chance the bees will reject her.

The other queen was placed in her hive in the same manner. Let's hope for the best! We will check on them next week.

Jai Ma!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Bee Workshop a Success!

Aum Amriteshwaryai Namah

By Amma's Grace, the bee workshop was a great success today. Nigama gave an incredibly informative and intelligent lecture on the history of beekeeping and bee biology. Markjan delivered a practical and humorous demonstration of beekeeping equipment. I gave a talk about the personal relationship that develops with the bees and presented a documentary about the worldwide disappearance of the honeybee,  Silence of the Bees.

The highlight of the day, however, was an actual inspection of the hive. Most of the people who came to the workshop were seeing the inside of a beehive for the first time. I think it's fair to say the group consensus was, "Wow. That was mindblowing."

Nigama doing something she loves -- sharing information about the bees

Markjan demos the smoker

Inside the hive

At the end of a fascinating inspection of the hive

Monday, June 6, 2011

Bee Workshop: THIS WEEKEND!

Amma Canada Bee Workshop: An Afternoon of Fun and Learning with our Bees

Sunday, June 12, 2011 from 1 – 5:30 p.m.
9158 Trafalgar Road, Georgetown, Ontario
$10 registration fee. Snacks included.
Limited spaces, so preregister!

In this workshop, we will introduce you to the fascinating world of the honeybee and tell you about our experiences with beekeeping at the Amma Canada Centre. Topics will include basic honeybee biology, beekeeping equipment, inspecting a bee colony, and the global importance of bees to humankind and Nature. We’ll also take a walk out to visit our bees and see them in action.

For more information or to register, email or call 416-807-1403.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

First Time with the Bees

Mohan Sookdeo has been an active and enthusiastic member of the bee committee since we first started our work in 2009. A couple of weeks ago, he got his first opportunity to don one of the white suits and come out to the hives to help Nigama. I asked him to write a few words about his impressions and he kindly agreed.

My First Time with the Bees

We approached the bees very carefully and not with a lot sound. When we got closer, I could hear them buzzing. As I was standing there, many of them came by my face net and were bouncing at me. Maybe to ask me what I was doing there. I knew I had to stay calm otherwise they would have gotten more mad at me. Anyway, they saw that I was not doing anything to harm them and they left me alone.

It is very interesting to look at the bees and learn from them.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Pictures Speak Louder Than Words

Aum Amriteshwaryai Namah

Sitting here typing, it's challenging to put today's experience with the bees into words. The light gray mist everywhere gave an air of calm to all the grounds at the Amma Canada Centre. The images we took capture some of that atmosphere, so I'm going to let them do most of the talking.

Nigama walking out to the hive on a calm and misty day

All week, we watched forecasts of showers with concern. We didn't know how much we could get done and had some pressing tasks we hoped to complete. But when we arrived at the centre in the morning, there was no rain. We suited up and got out to the hive as quickly as possible.

Opening Hive 2

I always hold my breath when we open the hive for a check. Even though everything may look fine from the outside, you just never know what's happening inside. The first peek revealed that this hive is as strong as ever.

Does the video above look like a horrid mess to you? What you see are the bees hard at work doing some spring cleaning on the bottom board from the hive. This one has been in place all winter, so it's collected a lot of debris. This includes things like wax droppings, pests, and the bodies of dead bees.

Bees are extremely hygienic creatures, and these ones have been assigned the task of removing this unwanted filth from their home. I was very interested to see that they had completely cleared an area in front of the space where the entrance was.

Nigama puts a clean bottom board in place

One of the important jobs for us was to install a clean bottom board. This new one has a screen that is small enough for mites to fall through and get trapped in the grease applied to a sheet of paper in the bottom. However, it is too small for bees to go through. We also drew squares on the paper to help us with mite counts throughout the warm season.

A frame from inside the hive

We checked frames in both the top and bottom boxes of the hive. They looked fantastic. The outer frames were full of capped honey. On others, we found the "rainbow pattern" of brood, pollen and honey.

Larva and eggs in some of the cells from Hive 2

Short of seeing the queen herself, the indication that she is alive is to find eggs and young larva. We found several of these tiny shrimp-like beings and heaved a sigh of relief.

Rajeswari's new BF - bee friend

The best part of my time involved a tiny friend who decided to hang out with me. I looked down to find a bee sitting calmly over my breastbone, occasionally wiggling her attenna. Each time I checked, I thought she'd be gone, but there she was. She was with me for at least half an hour! In fact, when we were getting ready to leave, we had to use a feather to gently place her back in the hive. We didn't want her to come with me all the way to the farmhouse. She might not find her way back to the hive.

This bee really didn't want to leave Rajeswari

Later in the evening, I was telling my BFF Uma about it. She is seven and infinitely wise. She simply said, "Oh. That was probably just Amma in the form of a bee."

By the way, as soon as Nigama and I had returned all the equipment to the shed, a downpour started.

Om Parashaktiye Namah!