Saturday, May 12

The bee just inside the door is adding to a mound, maybe of wax, that seems to be involved in arrivals and departures. Bees have sealed the crack at the lower left with propolis.

This morning at 7:30 I moved the false back from halfway to one bar shy of the true back. From the glob of bees I’d seen against it through the window, I wondered if I’d disturb a cloud of them. First I prepped the bars behind with extra beeswax and left two of them out. I picked up the false back from each side and slide it gently straight up. Only three bees clung to it as I lowered it straight back down to its new place, fitted the remaining bars together with spacers, and put the lid on. Uneventful. I peeked in the window and the bees were unperturbed, as calm and quiet as they’d been all night. One bee did come to the window. At 8:00, they were still …still.

By 9:00 they’ve begun flying out by ones and twos. A solo bee comes in less often. Some of those leaving fly straight out, most circle around the hive front a few times, as though orienting themselves. At 3:30, with hummers zipping and trilling overhead, I sit in the shady grove eating lunch while the bees display a new behavior. There are three guard bees stationed along the door, standing arched and still, facing out. The south front corner remains the hub of entry and departure, and a small pile of something yellow sits just inside. Some bees seem to be either eating from or depositing onto it. Probably both.

I planted this grove years ago. BV or AV I can’t recall, but it must have been Before Virginia. The birch has been in almost as long as the house, fifteen years or so. The golden elder and amur maple came later, but just; chokecherry, fernbush, honeysuckles call came After Virginia, so about six years ago. For awhile it seemed a crazy mishmash of shrubs, and I was having second thoughts. But even before the hive arrived I was thinking this spring what a lovely grove has grown here, shady and cool, I’ll put a chair in for morning coffee or tea. In fact, I put a hive in first, and now the chair, and my hours spent here are what I get out of bed for now.

Why do the drones scrub their eyes so thoroughly before they leave?

At 5:30, it’s sunny and breezy. The guards have stood down, traffic has decreased, and I’ve watched long enough to see they are definitely building the yellow entrance mound. Tiny bits of yellow fleck the whole hive floor and it seems a few bees are moving flecks to the pile. Other bees seem to pull something out of their mouths and add that. Propolis? Wax? They have also started propolyzing the seam at the bottom of the south wall, sealing it smooth where they stream in and out, maybe so they don’t snag their legs.

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