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Tuesday, May 8, 2012

what the hell, bees?

Every time I think I have the beekeeping situation under control, something happens. I checked the giant hives on Saturday, removed some frames of nectar and pollen in the deep boxes so to give more room to the queen to lay her eggs. I then put the frames that were full of pollen and nectar in each of the nucs (nucleus hives or hives that started from the giant. I wish I had made better observations of how much capped brood was in the hive, but that's all I did. I added another honey super (it now has two). In both of the nucs, the queen cells had been released (or killed?) but I did not try to search for them because they wouldn't be laying eggs right after hatching anyways.  They were as calm as I ever had seen them and I thought things were progressing nicely. But I didn't check the lower brood boxes in the giant hive. I thought "hey, as long as they are storing a ton of honey, they're doing great!"

Today, I wanted to see if I could find queens in the nucs since the weather was fantastic. I opened up the newest nuc, the one that I had only put two frames of brood and bees in and a cluster of capped queen cells.  The first thing I did was spot a queen. She crawled right over my finger on a frame that was empty for the most part. No mistake, it was a queen. I checked the rest of the queen cells and found that they had been chewed up. I am guessing this queen destroyed them before they hatched. Its too early for a just hatched queen to be laying eggs, she probably isn't even mated yet. So what, maybe a 50% chance she mates and comes back to the hive and starts laying successfully? I put the hive back together.

In the older nuc, not much has changed other than the queen cells have all been uncapped. So, queens have emerged but none to be found. I took out every frame and never found a queen. So what the hell? Does this mean that the queen or queens were out mating? Does this mean that the split didn't work? Is it too early to tell? At this point in time, I discovered that the bees were getting a little more hostile. One crawled up my shirt and stung me on my lower back. Sob. All I could do was scratch my head and close up the hive.

Now, by the time I got to the giant hive, the clouds started rolling in out of nowhere. I looked at the honey supers and found them to be full of bees, storing quite a bit of nectar. Both supers are at full capacity. No empty cells to put eggs. When I dug into the deeps I found the majority of the frames were full of nectar and pollen. The empty frames that I had put in to replace the full ones I had stolen for the other hives, were barely touched, the bees didn't seem to interested in drawing it out with wax. No eggs or larva means no new bees. No new bees means the hive will be done by mid summer.

All the frames I checked were full of pollen or nectar and I never found any eggs or young larva. There were a few patches of capped brood but few.  My immediate thought was what if the hive swarmed without me knowing it. No, too many bees still. Then I wondered if I had accidentally taken the queen out and put her in one of the nucs when I was replacing frames. No, I'm pretty sure I didn't. I am getting good at spotting the queen and I don't think I would have missed her. My guess is she's in there but not laying eggs because she doesn't have room? Maybe. I'm totally freaking! I'm already sweaty and swollen and here comes my grandpa on the lawn mower. He just wants to take a closer look but loud noises and beehives don't miz=x well. Great. I just put the hive back together. By this time it was cloudier and the bees were agitated  and there wasn't anything else I could do.

I came home to do some research. Yes. Queens will stop laying if they are honey bound. Makes sense. Some people put a third deep on hives that are honey bound in order to stimulate the queen to lay. This will be the game plan for the next *nice* day. I will also add another super for good measure. It makes my back sore just thinking about it. It also will make the hive as tall as me.  A deep that is full of honey weighs 90 pounds. Instead of just having to lift two on and off the hive, I'll have to lift three. It probably explains why the bees have been so angry and why I can't find new eggs. Probably. Or it means that the queen is gone but no way to know for a week or so.

I also did something I've never did before. I done ordered a replacement queen for whichever hive needs it next week. If one doesn't produce a queen they can have her. Or maybe I will put her in the giant hive to see if it improves their bitchiness. She is being delivered at the end of next week. She is coming from northern Indiana. My choices were to get a cheaper queen accustomed to warm weather- from California and drive two hours alone to pick her up, which doesn't make much sense, or to pay more for a survivor stock queen that came from a strain of bees that do well in the winter. Not a very hard decision, well not for my brain. It was a little tough on my purse.

****Today (we're going into the future! actually, most of this post was written on 5/8 and published on 5/10) I put the third deep on. Still didn't find eggs or a sign of the queen. Yes, that beehive is definitely as tall as me now. Makes me nervous with all this Ohio wind. Next weekend I will have to take off one of the supers that is full of nectar and split it among all three hives, switching out their empty combs with the full ones. Then I'll give some of the empty combs back to the giant hive. I am a little overwhelmed with the amount of labor intensive work it has been. I really enjoy beekeeping when they are doing what I want them to do. I am a mess when they go rogue on me and do the unexpected. What the hell, bees? Just do the shit you are supposed to do already!

I feel like I don't have the back up support I need sometimes. I don't know any beekeepers in the area very well and the ones around would probably gasp at my methods. "What? You're not going to use pesticides in your hives?" Some I've talked to kind of made me feel like one of those silly agrarian movement folks who will get tired of it in two years when it isn't cool anymore. Therefore didn't want to give me the time of day. I feel like I am in this alone.

In my stress storm, I may have told someone that I wanted to dump all the bees at his front door. I took it back but it sure did feel good to say at the time.

In other news, I decided I want to start collecting honey from all over the country. My cousin (I think he is my cousin?) in Arizona is sending me some honey from out there and I started thinking about how fun it would be to try honey from other states. So, to anyone who randomly finds and reads this blog, I would love to swap honey with you! A jar of my Black Swamp Wildflower Honey for a jar of your or your local "insert cute regional honey name here". Put your contact info in the comments section and I will be in touch.

1 comment:

  1. Hello fellow BeeKeeper!

    I just found your blog for the first time, and I love it.

    I know your post is from a few months ago, but if you want to swap some honey, I've got an extra jar or two.

    I've got some local (all natural, no chemical, no filter) honey from the "Little House On The Big Hill" here in St. Louis MO.

    If you're interested I'll link you to my contact page.

    Show Me The Honey Blog