Friday, July 19, 2013

Bee Happy (We Are!)

Please remember, we are very new at this.  This is an account of what we're observing and doing, NOT a recommendation of what to do.  Only time will tell if we're on the right track.  So in the meantime, read along, look at the pictures and appreciate all the amazing skills that the BEES possess.

It had been 19 days since we discovered that two out of three of our hives were queenless.  That same day, we placed two capped queen cells into those two hives (thank you, neighborhood beekeeper, for the donation!).  After all the bee-drama we'd been experiencing, we were sure hoping that our queenless hives now had queens, but it seemed almost too good to be true.  Jamey made me promise that no matter what we found I would not freak out.  I told him I'd do my best.  He lit the smoker and donned his bee jacket and I grabbed my notebook and camera.  Here's what we found....

#3 Hive: This is the hive that was a divide from the Upper Hive on June 1st.  We also marked the queen that day.  This hive is doing great.  We spotted the queen, eggs, larva, and capped brood.  The small hive beetle trap had 20 dead beetles inside and we killed about 8 more during the inspection.  The were a few empty queen cells but nothing to worry about.  The bees had built out the last few bars we added, so we added 4 more, making the total bars in this hive 16.

happy Hive # 3 - capped brood

marked queen (Hive #3) 

Lately, whenever I think I'm busy, I think of the bees.... 

Upper Hive:  This is the hive that we tried grafting a queen into back on June 2nd and then, when we didn't see any queen action on June 29th, we placed a capped queen cell from our beekeeper friend inside.  We also saw a few empty (lived-in) queen cells.  So, we're not exactly sure where she came from, but this hive now has a queen!  We spotted her lovely self along with eggs, larva and lots of capped brood.  The population increased greatly since June 29th when it was like a ghost town compared to the other hives.  We added two bars (for a total of 21) and closed her up feeling very excited (and relieved!).

Another sign this hive is doing well was a little something we saw the bees do.  We saw very few small hive beetles during inspection but there were 8 dead in the trap.  While we had the hive open (envision the picture at the top of this post), we saw a few bees on the bottom of the hive attacking something- it was a small hive beetle larva (not really what we want to see, but wait...).  Two bees lugged that big larva up the inner side of the hive.  We were psyched to see them dump the larva over the edge, but oh no.  One girl took hold and then took flight.  Okay, so she's going to drop the heavy load a few feet away- makes sense.  Oh no.  This hulk of she-bee flew that larva right off our property (and quite possibly beyond).  Because she was flying slower and her load made her larger, we could see her plainly against the blue sky- up and up and away.  We just stood there with our mouths open- what a sight to behold.

We were so excited at this first sign of a queen- capped brood!

Then we spotted the lovely, light-colored (and therefore easy to find) lady herself.

beautiful, newly built comb in the back of the hive- ready for nectar

Lower Hive:  This is the hive that was doing swimmingly until it's queen up and disappeared and we added a donated capped queen on June 29th.  In this hive, we didn't spot the queen, but we did see a few eggs, a handful of larva and a lot of capped brood- which is great!  It did leave us a little confused, though, because all the capped brood was at the front of the hive and the few eggs were way toward the back.  It makes us think that some de-throning has been going on.  That and the fact that there were 9 capped (meaning they will hatch soon) (supersedure) queen cells and 1 capped (swarm) queen cell- yikes!  We gathered that the bees are still not happy with their queen and are trying to oust her.  With all those capped queen cells, we were concerned some of them might be forced to leave and take bees with them, so we decided to make a divide, moving out most of the queen cells.  We left 3 capped queen cells in this hive to fight it out and moved 5 bars into the Nuc Divide leaving this hive with 17 bars.

a good sign- eggs (the tiny rice-looking things)

four capped queen cells on one comb, a-la bees

Nuc Divide:  So we created a 4th hive by placing 5 bars from the Lower Hive into our Nuc (short for nucleus hive).  Two of the bars/combs were full of nectar and pollen and the other three held 7 capped queen cells and brood.  We also brushed an additional bar's worth of nurse bees into the nuc to account for any forager bees that got transferred over and will fly back to their original hive (the Lower one) after their next outing.  We kept one hole closed to help them defend the nuc and left two empty bars in the back of the little hive, for a total of 7 (all the nuc can hold).

Our main reason for doing this is to have a spare queen on hand in case we lose one of our others again.  We're hoping that in the midst of all the mayhem that will ensure when 7 queens emerge, one will stay, mate and become a laying queen in case we need her.  Well, it may not be mayhem- sometimes the first queen to emerge then goes around to the other capped queen cells, chews a hole through and kills them.

getting ready to move bars into the nuc

Nuc Divide a-buzzing and water sources depleted after a hot day (and later refilled)

All this to say, we now have four colonies- all complete with either queens or plenty of capped queen cells. At the moment, bee life is very good. And we're going to enjoy it :-).
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  1. Wow, I'm excited to see how well your colonies are doing! Y'all are doing a great job with this. Your research has really paid off!
    We are up to 2 hive bodies on each Langstroth and our first colony now has two honey supers.

  2. Yes!! So exciting! I follow your bee saga on the edge of my seat! You guys are amazing. I want to be like your family when I grow up ;)

  3. Thanks for this really interesting post....We have a friend in NC just to the north of our town. The honey he had was the best I had ever tasted...He and wife moved and we don't know where he is now..Sure miss his honey...Regional honey is the best and great for what allergies/sinus problems anyone may have in the region...
    Again thanks for your great post with the pictures..
    Love from NC

  4. WOW!! Your bees are multiplying! It's so amazing...

  5. I have to fill my hummingbird feeder three times a day since it's been so hot as the bees drain it. I don't know where their hive is, but I imagine it's pretty nearby. I enjoy having them around, to pollinate my tiny garden. They seem very tame....buzzing around me whilst I work and when I refill the feeder. Janet

  6. Wow. I figured that bees would be pretty easy, but I guess I was wrong. Silly me--I envisioned just setting them out and then collecting honey later--easy-peasy. Silly non-bee-keeper me! You better be careful, you will have 15 hives by fall!

  7. i think my favorite part of your post was when you said "Lately, whenever I think I'm busy, I think of the bees....". I am so happy that I found your blog and get to follow along as you work hard as unto the Lord!

  8. Following your progress with interest - we started a top bar this year, and this weekend will hopefully verify that the emergency cell queen (our number 9 queen - 2 introduced, and 7 the hive has produced) is settled, mating and producing brood. Goodness, but this has been much more complicated than I expected! We will be building more hive bodies, as I now see the need to be able to share stores/brood and support the bee colonies when there is an emergency. We started with one, because we're on a suburban lot with a 60x60 foot back yard already filled with our garden.


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