Excellent reader e-mail this morning: What, exactly, are you bozos doing down there in California if you’re just waitin’ around for the orchard owners to call and say, “Bring ’em in!” ?

Well, we did a little sightseeing over the weekend.  But starting Monday morning, Honeydew and Keith have been scraping away at empty frames and boxes … there’s plenty to do in the beekeeping business that doesn’t involve bothering the bees.

Right now, we’ve gone through all of our hives — back in the fall in Montana, and down here in California, too — and pulled out all of the hives that were dead.  That means it’s time to clean up the hive bodies and frames those bees were living in, to prepare them for the new hives that we hope to make once almond pollination is through.

When the bees come out the almonds, Honeydew will pick out the best colonies for breeder queens, and start “grafting” new queens.  I can’t wait to show y’all how that’s done – it involves a dental-looking-implement, sharp eyes, and a very steady hand.  He and Keith will eventually requeen all of our existing hives to give them a young and vibrant queen who can lay lots of eggs and build up the hive’s strength for the coming summer honey flow.  But don’t think of the bees as needing a trophy wife – the female bees do all of the work of the hive, from the gathering of nectar, to housekeeping, to nursing new bee babies, to disposing of dead elders, to bringing back pollen.  Male bees, or drones, are just around to mate with The Queen, and in times of stress for the hive, the female workers will kick the males out to preserve resources.  Huh.  The original feminazis, or just plain smart?  I’ll leave that for you to decide.

Anyway, in the midst of all of this, Honeydew and Keith will be “splitting” strong, healthy hives into two – this replaces swarming, nature’s way of creating new bee hives, and gives us more colonies to make honey with this summer.  Those “splits” will need a new home, and honey to eat, and by scraping all the excess beeswax and propolis from the old frames and hive bodies, we’re rolling out the red carpet for them.

Not to mention that summer bee work will be much easier if all the frames aren’t already stuck to each other and the hive bodies.

So, that’s what we’re up to ’round here.

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