We skipped this inspection because of the weather, but it had been a long time since we had gone in there, and the weather forecast did not show any signs of improving, so in the hive we went.
We got to see a lot more of the same as what we have been: brood so we know the queen is alive, and new, albeit slow build up of honey and wax. We also got introduce the Beekeeper and Buzz to our lovely blonde ladies! We had hoped to add a second story to the hive by now, but the bees aren’t ready because then they simply won’t build out the frames. Bees like to be snug in their homes, so you can’t add the box too early, or they won’t build in the new story. But if they get too crowded, they will swarm, and we’d lose half our bees as they tried to find a new colony.
This is a good lesson about the importance of weather in agriculture. Since the weather over the past 10 days has been raining and cold, the bees are not foraging like they would if it were sunny. In such a short growing season like in Minnesota, these kinds of delays can be really hard on the bees, and can affect how their survival through the winter. Hopefully the weather will cooperate, and the bees will get back to doing what they do best!
We had our first sting in the yard this season so now is a good time to talk about what happens when you get stung by a bee, today, a bee flew into someone’s hand, while she was closing her fingers and the bee stung. A honey bee stinger is barbed and when a bee stings something fleshy, such as a person or other mammal, the barb will get stuck and eviscerate the bee, killing them. This might seem like defeatist defense mechanism, but the sting developed as a defense other insects, particularly wasps and ants who attempt to rob the hive for honey. Most people when they are stung by a bee will feel a pinching sensation and the sting site will swell, turn red and be itchy for a few days. In some cases, the swelling can be severe. Antihistamines and hydrocortisone can help treat the itching. When you are stung, scrape the left behind stinger out of your skin. The stinger of a bee is barbed, and attached to a venom sac, which will be pulled out with the stinger. If you pinch the stringer you can accidentally squeeze the remaining venom into your skin.
A bee will sting in response to a threat to the hive, and will release an alarm pheromone alerting other bees to the presence of a threat. In fact, the primary difference between European honey bees and Africianized, so called “killer bee”, is how aggressively they respond to this pheromone. A European colony will stop chasing the smell after it gets far enough away from a hive, whereas Africanized bees will continue to pursue over longer distances.