I updated you a little too soon on the bees. It's been one thing after the other with my beekeeping debut. I left the house for a few hours yesterday and returned home to my husband's account of the Russian bees swarming over the garden, dispersing wildly and then all roaring back home twenty minutes later. I missed it. We were both mystified, considering how much work the bees were putting into building comb and collecting pollen. This morning early I opened up Izhevsk to see what I can see. The short answer was not much. There was pollen in some cells. I didn't see the queen or any eggs, but the colony had more gorgeous white comb than the last time I checked and still seemed active and numerous. I figured I just missed the queen and that any eggs or brood were obscured by the bees thickly covering the comb, which could have been because they were trying to keep brood warm on a chill morning.
I worked in the garden today until early afternoon. I decided to wind up my outdoor work with a little beehive viewing, just as it was clouding up before a predicted rainstorm. That's when I saw the cluster of bees on the grass, about 20 feet straight out from the hive. Sure enough, there was a bee with a white dot on her thorax: the queen. Rain was now immanent. I set the lawn chair over the little cluster of bees to keep them dry, then rushed inside to get help from my husband and to jump into my bee suit as fast as ever I could. We grabbed our bee tool bucket and got the smoker going as quickly as possible. By the time we got back to the bees, the rain was beginning.
We whiffed a few puffs of smoke at the hive, and at the bees on the ground, as fat rain drops came down. Then as quickly but as gently as I could, I brushed some of the bees into a plastic planter, rushed over to the hive just as my husband opened it, and dumped the bees in. I'm pretty sure I got the queen, but not 100%. And there's a chance I might have injured her as I tried to return her to the hive. Then there's the likelihood that she was out on the grass overnight with a small group of bees. Who knows? I could only try to do my best in a dicey situation.
When the rain let up a short time later, I took a look around the hive and didn't see any clusters of bees, so the queen may well be in the hive. The rain probably would have been the end of her, or at least tonight's low temperature would have been the end of a group of wet bees. If our frantic efforts work to restore a functioning queen to her hive, and if the Russians don't swarm out again on the next sunny day (Tomorrow? Friday?), it'll be a miracle.
I'm having a rough start to this beekeeping thing. It's going to get easier than this, right?