So, Sunday, I got out my veil and gloves and finally popped open the hive. I decided this time to try "black opium" Airs incense in the smoker. I've had good luck with sandalwood, but this stuff turned the bees into absolute kittens. Yes, I use aromatherapy on my bees. Bees are so scent-cued I started experimenting years ago, and found incense works better than plain smoke.
But wow, I had a feeling I needed to get into the hive, and I was right. Not a moment too soon, as the girls were starting to build crosscomb and move into the area between the inner cover and the top cover. There were also queen cells cropping up. I sampled some royal jelly straight out of the cells, when I was removing them. Hmm, interesting stuff. Lots of drone cells, capped but not popped yet. They're only starting to get into swarm mode. Good. I might try cloning the hive later, pull some queen cells and drone brood to a second body with a few frames of workers and brood, since this is a strong hive, and I like their temperament. I pulled out several frames of honey and put in a couple new frames to build on, cleaned out the cross comb in the upper hive body.
Got down into the main body and was starting to swear, as a frame nearest the body came apart as I was trying to pry it loose. It would seem it was cross-combed to the wall of the hive body. So here I am, up to my elbows in frames and bees, when I hear a pathetic distress howl from Jiro. Timing is all. I call to him, and get the moral equivalent of a moan, but from nowhere I can find. Did he get stung by a bee? I put the hive back together in a cursory fashion (I've still got combs and bees sitting in a spare body, and the covers full of bees and comb) and go looking for the kitten.
Jiro has been going outside on a limited basis, lately, as at almost 8 months, he's big enough he can deal with other cats, and he is completely at ease with the outdoors (unlike Circe). But he's at the age when he can get into trouble. I vaguely recall him chasing a squirrel earlier, when I was busy with the hive. I call him, and get more pathetic noises, but can't locate him. Finally, I see his little furry camouflaged jungle-cat body. He's at the very top of the elm tree, stuck on a branch. I can see it now, him chasing the squirrel up there, and suddenly realizing where he is, and how it's a LOT harder to get down than up.
Sighing heavily, I start climbing the tree. Good thing I'm good with trees, because steel-toed boots (I wear boots to keep bees out of my socks/pantlegs) are about the worst thing I could be climbing in. I get up to him, but Jiro won't come near me, though he seems glad to see me. And then it hits me, I'm in a bee veil. I must look like a space alien to him. So I untie all my ties, take off the hat and veil, and drop it to the ground. Jiro comes over, no longer spooked. I disengage him from the tree and cradle him to me. He grabs on with all feet and all claws and hangs on for dear life. Uncomfortable, but it makes it easier to climb down. We make it back to the ground (actually the hot tub deck) and he jumps down. And then he sees cool flying things, and runs off to try swatting at them. Um, not a good idea, cat. But if he gets stung, he'll learn. Fortunately, he didn't get stung. I finish putting the hive back together.
I still have to get in again, sometime this week. I've still got honeycomb to slice off and drain, too, before returning the comb foundation to the hive. And it's great honey!
To do list: clean up main hive body, locate queen, think of splitting the hive to create a new hive nucleus with swarm cells. Finish draining honey from frames, return to hive. Strain honey to remove comb cappings. Decant into jars. Going to be busy, but 'tis the season!