Beekeeping Is Wheekeeping

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 15.678% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

So I have a horrible confession, but I’m going to do it on film: here, listen to this.

That’s right; we hadn’t been in the big hive in nearly seven months.  So it was time to get in, but I’ll be honest and say we were a little scared.  Bees aren’t aggressive when they have nothing to protect, but once they have seventy pounds of honey and brood, they get a little defensive when people rip open the tops of their houses with crowbars and start rooting around.
…comparatively, this is.  I mean, our bees are very nice bees.  But a bee buzzing around your head, bumping you, hits some primal terrors. And there are a lot of bees:

I should add that for the seventeenth time, I misidentified a clump of ladder wax – which the bees use to climb between boxes – as a queen cell. I don’t think I’ll ever know what a queen cell is. But we’re paranoid about queen cells, because it’s the spring season and we’re told our bees are getting ready to swarm, and when that is imminent the #1 sign is queen cells, as the bees produce a new queen to tend to the old hive, just before the old queen flies off with about 20,000 bees to resettle.
There’s technically nothing wrong with swarming except a) it leaves your hive weaker, and b) we don’t look forward to explaining to the neighbors why there are 20,000 bees clustered under their eaves.

Here, you can see a bunch of now-dead pupae – which was the word I could not remember to save my life – that have been pulled free of their comb here, which makes me feel bad. And here, you can see me actively irritating Gini with every pronoun as I mourn at a not-quite-ready-for-prime-time bee who we’ve inadvertently yanked out:

And here, you can see the bees scattering as we use the smoker, which is oddly hypnotic, as well as seeing all the boxes spread open and laid apart.

(No, we did not see the queen. We never see the queen.  I can’t wait to see the queen in the other hive, because she’s marked, but even after a year we still go, “Wow, that’s a bunch of bees!”  Amateurs.)
Unfortunately, soon after this video was taken, this happened:
Basically, if you have a smoker – which is a metal canister filled with slow-burning wood – do not pick it up by the bottom. Which Gini did last year, and I did this year, rendering me with blisters across two of my fingers. Which was incredibly painful, requiring three hours’ of icing. It seems like a rookie move, and it is, so don’t do that.
In any case, by that point I was mostly out of commission, meaning that Gini would have to examine the bottom box of the bees alone. And at that point they were actively angry, with about three bees trying to go at us each, buzzing angrily, and Gini didn’t want things to get worse. So she slowly panicked and decided to put the hive back together.
We need a plan at this point. The bees are clearly healthy, but the top box of the honey super? It should only be for honey, guys, and already it’s filled with brood. This is a thriving hive, and if we take the honey super off, there’s a good chance the bees will feel crowded and swarm. If we don’t take it off, then we’ll have to get a new honey super come the end of the summer… and not only does that seem a little clunky, but we really want honey this year.
If any beekeepers have advice, I’m listening. In the meantime, I’m going to put more ice on my poor fingers. Ow.

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