Anyway, I screwed up my courage and went into both hives yesterday.
The bees are doing okay, despite the proximity of the toxic buckeye tree. I did not see "brood" in the upper chambers of either hive -- just lots of comb and pale honey, both capped and uncapped -- which is not ideal. But I'm not sure what to do about it. According to my reading, there should be more brood.
I was also slightly worried that the bees were producing queen cells when I saw the lumpy formations on the bottom of this frame:
But the raggedy comb extrusions appeared to be filled with honey and were not as tidy as the queen cells I've studied in photographs. If an experienced beekeeper sees this and has any thoughts, I would be grateful.
As I've mentioned before, I spent $934.69 on starter bees, two hives, and equipment. This morning I got curious and made some calculations:
A fairly average Bay Area hive can produce 25 lbs. of honey per year according to this site. Some hives produce much more; other hives perish. I don't expect any honey this year, but let's say I'm perfectly average and end up with 50 lbs. of honey from my two hives in the summer of 2010.
Twelve pounds of honey = 1 gallon.
You can buy "Marin Mix" honey -- which can't be much different from what my bees are making -- from Local Harvest for $88 per gallon.
So if I were to sell 4 gallons of our honey at that price, we could conceivably take in $350 per year. There would be other expenses -- sugar water, extra supers, jars, charming labels, etc. -- but at this rate, we would earn back our starting costs in roughly three years.
Interesting. And completely hypothetical. It's hard for me to believe that a beekeeper as amateurish as I am will ever actually collect honey. It's even harder for me to imagine finding the wherewithal to bottle, market, and sell it.
I still think the chickens could eventually earn their keep. Check out our handsome chicken house, built by Husband a few years ago as a fort:
I'm sure our neighbors love it.
The garden is much prettier, albeit overcrowded.
I was underconfident after years of disappointment, overplanted to make up for mingy yields, and now have a jungle.