4.26.2011

Blue Sky in the Richmond District

A queen in her box
It was like a bike fest out there this morning, there were so many bicyclists riding through the park this morning. That's what waking up to clear, icy blue sky and temperatures close to sixty will do. Dylan rode with me through the park, always the breeziest part of the ride, along the Ocean Beach path where it warmed up, and halfway around Lake Merced where he broke off to head to school.

It's been a while since I've ridden with anybody beside Scott Simon on Morning Edition in my ear buds. Getting out of my own head, or Scott's, was nice. The ocean seemed sparklier, the air fresher, and I felt like I was part of something rather than just another person with a mental list of things to do to get through another day.

On the bees' third day, they get great weather and a free queen. The queens come from a different colony in their own separate box. They've been bred with drones from another colony to strengthen the new hive's gene pool. If you put the new queen directly in with the hive of foreign bees, they would kill her. They need to be separate - within smelling distance - for three days.

The queen's box is mesh on two sides and has a hole drilled into one side. When we got her, the hole was corked up. Charlie replaced the cork with a mini-marshmallow. The idea being that the queen will eat away at one side of the marshmallow and the bees in the hive will eat away on the other. A mini-marshmallow is just big enough to last exactly three days, perfect timing.

As with the bees' mobile home, if you don't take the queen's box out quickly, they'll build comb all over it. They're eager to get busy building their comb, for good reason. The first comb is the brood chamber where the queen lays her eggs. The normal life of a bee is six weeks. If they don't start having babies, no one will take care of them in their old age.

Earlier, while eating his oatmeal, Charlie saw the bees hovering out our third-floor apartment window, watching him. He knew then that they were already out, awake and exploring.

They looked calm but he put on his suit anyway. He bought it, he might as well use it. The more he wears it, the more it'll get dirty and the more he'll look like an experienced beekeeper.

Once up on the roof, he saw the bees circle the hive and float across the street toward the flower garden at the corner bench seat by the entrance to the park. As he removed the first hive roof, not one bee crawled on him or flew toward him. He pulled out the queen box and brushed off the hitchhikers with his fingers. They flew right down into the hive as they should.

He was nervous taking the roof off the second hive. You never know quite what the Giants will do. You can't control nature.

He pulled off the roof. This time they acted like he wasn't even there, as if they were thinking, "Oh, this guy again. He's not going to hurt us."

Yesterday, the Giants circled in a big tornado that blanketed the whole street corner where we live. Today, only half the bees were even in their hives. That's how many were out exploring. Exploring means they're out after pollen. Pollen makes honey.

Blue sky is sweet!