Tag Archives: bees. homestead

The good kind of surprise

I’m not a huge fan of surprises. This is something that has come to me near midlife, and probably understandably, given the not so good surprises that started coming my way then.

The beeyard and gardens are also not areas to have the really great surprises now and again – in the beeyard especially, surprises usually involve dead hives and swarms, neither of which are terrific (although the latter can be good as long as that swarm is not from your hives).

In any case, I’d done some splits, but I didn’t know the ages of the queen cells I’d found, so I wasn’t able to judge when any new queens would emerge in the split. Happily, one of the splits not only had a queen emerge, but she got mated and then went right to work – a  relief after having a hive last year that couldn’t produce a queen on three tries.

The inspection of the two splits is here:

I’m hoping for a good season this year, even with surgery looming smack in the midst of everything.

Until next time, peeps: be well.

The saga of hive number two

So, do you want to hear the saga of hive number two? Of course!

As you might recall, a small, late season swarm emerged from that hive, and was subsequently captured. Why they swarmed will forever remain a mystery (that is, no infestation of mites or beetles, plenty of food, plenty of space, etc.). But the small size of the swarm, and the fact that I believe there were actually two (given all the fighting going) was a problem: with so few bees, it’s difficult for a colony to defend their home and keep other bees from launching incursions to take pollen and honey away as prizes back to their own hives. On the plus side, I was positive I had at least one queen in the captured group of bees, as I had spotted her the next morning when I checked on them.

Hive number five had gone queenless, and had not, after two tries I gave them, created a new queen. I combined small swarm from number two with number five, putting a couple of sheets of newspaper between the bodies so they could all get used to the new queen’s pheromones. This worked out nicely, the bees ate holes through the paper, and soon enough, both the queenless bees and the captured swarm with the queen were mingling without trying to kill one another. That gave number five a decent number of bees to work with, and the very warm weather gave the queen a chance to fly out and meet some drones for a booty call so she could get to laying.

Checking in and out on the hive, but not seeing any eggs, larvae, or capped brood was a tad disappointing. But, you have to allow time for that. In the meantime, hive number two, where the swarm had originated, also failed to make a queen, and there were not a lot of bees left. So, a handful of days ago, I put down some newspaper, and moved to combine them with number five as well – where the swarm they had tossed was now located. I’m sure the irony was lost on them. They are not, after all, great thinkers.

Today, while feeding the hives that needed feed, I checked in hive number five, and what did I find? All the bees from the three hive bodies on the stack were just fine. I also found (drum roll) capped brood, larvae, and eggs, and the queen roaming around safely.

From two different hives, one of which swarmed, I now have a single productive hive, with the swarmed hive reunited. That is a first on the ranch. For those keeping track, that means we have thirteen active hives from the fifteen we had at the height of summer, after starting with six in the spring: number one hive absconded completely, and number two hive – well, that is their story up there. I considered doing some late season splits, but next weekend the forecast looks like fall is actually arriving, and it’s too late now. Instead, we will hunker down for “winter”, and do early spring splits as soon as feasible, or as soon as the bees decide for as, as they did this year with a February swarm (that I caught).