Things are slowing down in the apiary. Honestly the bees are still busy, busy, but my time in the bee yard is becoming more leisurely. Feeding sugar syrup is discontinued until further notice, but not before late winter or early spring. There are a few chores left to prepare the hives for chilly weather. Removing all the feeder contraptions, sliding solid bottoms on top of the slatted bottom boards, and one last check for any pests. I’m waiting for a windless day that is sunny and warm, warm is not a problem in Texas in November. Sometimes the air-conditioning is still running as turkey and the trimmings are being served.
On the 27th of October I removed one last hive from a sprinkler shut off box. when I arrived at the home the homeowner told me,” they’ve been here all summer, I just wasn’t worried”. Oh wow! When I opened the lid to the box it was clear they’d been diligent in filling their hive with honey, ALL summer. It was a very sticky situation, removing all the comb full of honey. There were more bee drownings than I care to admit that day, but as Mr. F says, “lose a few save many-or lose ‘em all”. I chanted that phrase over and over as I lifted heavy, honey laden sheets of comb from the shut-off box. As I removed sheet by sheet I cut and banded their natural comb into frames to fill their new hive. Honey was everywhere! My gloves were coated, my suit was covered, the equipment was sticky and hard to manage and the bees were constantly cleaning one another as they too were smothered in the stuff.
After getting out all the comb I was pretty sure the queen was still hiding in the sprinkler box. All the bees that had come out with the comb were just hanging around the hive box but not showing any signs of wanting to gather around a queen. There were still a couple thousand bees in the shut-off box. I needed to scoop bees from the box and shake them onto the sheet to find the queen but my gloves were so sticky this seemed like a bad idea. Luckily I brought Denise, my bee student along to aid in this removal. I asked her to trade gloves with me. We exchanged my sticky pair for her clean pair and I began to scoop bees from the box. Each time I dropped them onto the sheet she diligently watched for the queen. By this time, I must add it is beginning to get late in the day, and we’re worried that we aren’t going to find our queen before the sun sets. A stressful situation, but I don’t give up easily. I’m scooping and dumping and there are still so many bees hanging out in the box. On about the fourth or fifth handful of bees, as I turn back to scoop more bees my pupil says, “well, what’s that?”. I snap my head around and look down to spot the queen making her way across the tops of her ladies in waiting. I quickly pick up the queen catcher and scoop her up along with several other girls. Ahhhhh, a sigh of relief and congrats to my assistant. We’re going to have a successful removal after all!
After the queen was secured in her queen carrier and laid in the hive all of her girls began to scurry inside with her. I continued to scoop bees as I estimate 2 to 3 thousand bees in this hive, and I want to bring as many as I can to their new home. Speaking of their new home….if you read the post about “Farmers Markets and Fried Okra you know about the Helmsley Hives and my suspicions of one hive being queenless. By the time of this removal I’d concluded that the hive was indeed without a queen, therefore finding a queen to place with them became imperative for their survival. My plan had been to move them to the apiary in my pasture but now the queenless hive would stay put and I’d bring this queen to them. I just love it when things work out like that!
We hurriedly gathered and loaded up the bees and equipment into the bee-mobile. We carted everything out to the Helmsley Hives and got the new bees set up with the queenless bees, using the newspaper trick just as the light became so dim we could barely see. The next night, using flashlights I went to release the queen from her carrier as very chilly weather was predicted. I felt that she could be kept warmer by the girls if she was uncaged. Two days later I went to check and see if they had eaten holes in the newspaper. Boy, had they! Those little girls who’d been queenless were quick to pick up the scent of the new queen and join ranks with her. I removed the newspaper and put the hive back together. A feeling of satisfaction came over me as I placed the lid on hive #2 at the Helmsley Palace.
There is one dilemma I am facing, the naming of the queens at the Helmsley Palace. In the first Helmsley hive I discovered the queen to be a black queen. She is the only one I’ve ever seen and the only one I have. All my others are Russian, Cordovan Italian or Hygienic Italian, as best I can tell. Before spotting the black queen I’d named her Leona for, you know, Leona Helmsley. Once I discovered her to be black, my adoring hubby thought I should change her name to Queen Latifa. Should I? And if I do should I name the queen in hive #2 Leona? HELP!! I’m looking for suggestions… Latifa and Leona? Leave the black queen as Leona and name the new queen?
No biggie – really! Just thought it might be fun to give some of my readers an opportunity to name the queen or offer suggestions. I’ll be looking for your comments. Stay tuned…..I might even reserve your suggestions for naming queens in the future.