It’s become obvious to me that my blog posts are few and far between. My apologies! In my last post I promised a story about my latest bee adventure. Here it is and this is why Mr.F always reminds me, “bee keeping is nothing but problem solving”.
Back in mid-May my man Dan and I went out to check on the hives to see who needed extra honey supers added. Hive Heidi, my first hive is small and we inspected to see how they were coming along. We spotted Queen Heidi on the second frame I pulled out and my dead eye guy shot this great photo of her.
This hive looked healthy and happy so we moved on to hive #2.
I call hive #2 Queen Miracle because when I first got this hive it didn’t have a queen but a few days later I was able to bring one from a recovered swarm and save the hive. I was still just a bee keeper of a few days when this event took place and I thought it was a miracle I was able to get a queen and save the hive! We lifted the lid and saw tons of bees, yet after pulling out a few frames we began to notice there was not much going on. Around 50,000 bees but not a lot happening. No honey to speak of, no brood visible and the bees seemed a tad lethargic. We removed the top super and inspected down deeper hoping that the brood would be in the lower chambers. No, none. Now in a hive of 50,000 bees finding the queen is luck of the draw and we sure didn’t see her on this day. I concluded that hive #2 must be without a queen after we went even deeper into the hive and still nothing to indicate a healthy queen. We did see what might have been a few queen cells but I’m still not 100% certain of that. What I was sure of was that the cells were empty, no brood and not much honey or pollen. You can see in this picture that the cells are empty.
Let me address “queen cells” for any of you who might not know what I mean by that term. When a queen becomes older and isn’t laying enough eggs to “grow” the hive the worker bees build special “queen cells”. When the queen does lay an egg in those cells the workers feed it royal jelly so they essentially make a new queen. I know it sounds crazy and it is rather amazing that the bees know when they need a new queen and take care of business. Anyway, maybe I saw queen cells in the hive, but let me go on.
We continued to check the remainder of my hives and add supers where needed. Everyone looked healthy and happy and all the other hives had honey, pollen and plenty of brood. Whew….I remained worried about Queen Miracle or the lack of her. I started the process of problem solving in my head and by throwing out ideas to Dan until I decided to wait a week or so and recheck the hive. All along I was thinking that if upon the next inspection there were still no signs of a queen I’d need to add a smaller hive with a queen to this one so as not to lose all those thousands of bees. This is what a healthy frame should look like, pollen, capped brood in the center and honey around the edges.
Fast forward a few days. I received a phone call from a Keri, a sweet girl who goes to my church with a swarm in her front yard. “AhHa”, the answer to my problem. I can remove the swarm, find the queen and bring it home to add to hive #2. I wanted to go and get the swarm badly but timing forced me to wait a couple of days. I was now worried that the swarm wouldn’t stay in her tree long enough for me to go recover it but luckily it did. Dan and I went to her home and recovered the swarm. It was quite high in a tree so my fearless husband climbed the ladder with a bucket and shook the bees into the bucket. We then dumped them onto a white sheet to begin searching for the queen. We spotted her and waited for the bees to walk into the recovery hive. Boy, was I feeling good about having a new queen to bring home and save hive#2!
Here is the swarm in the recovery hive. Don’t ask me how they know to walk right on in but they do. The ones on the sheet are the stragglers making their way into the recovery box to be transported to my apiary.
We headed home with the swarm in tow and discussed the combining of hives. I knew that I should peek in hive #2 before combining on the off-chance that a queen was there – less I cause a battle of queens, where one would meet her demise. We drove out to the bee yard loaded with all the tools to perform an inspection and combine the new swarm with the queenless hive.
There are millions of wildflowers in our back pasture and I was telling the new girls that they’d be happy here with plenty of food. Prepared to combine the swarm and hive #2, I popped open the top to the hive and pulled out a frame to look for brood or honey. You can imagine my surprise when I saw frames full of brood, larva and honey! “What the hey?” Excitement and relief took over. I had to shoot a few photos because I was in disbelief. Just a couple of weeks earlier I’d seen nothing, I knew my man Dan had also seen nothing. I couldn’t wait to get back to the barn to tell him we’d need to set up a whole new hive. Check out the next two pictures, the first showing capped brood and the next showing capped and uncapped brood. Bees are amazing!
This meant there WAS a queen in hive #2, Queen Miracle. It seems I chose the perfect name for this hive. I now assume that what I though were queen cells must have been such, a new queen was crowned and was busy “growing” her hive. Now to set up a new hive for the swarm. I snagged a couple of frames full of honey from other hives in the apiary as I knew that the swarm would be hungry. Dan set up the cinder blocks and a new bottom and hive body. I added a frame for the bees to build on and then one full of honey. The bees are then dumped into the hive body. You can see how they immediately began to crawl onto the frame full of honey and eat. Happy bees!
Knowing that a swarm has been without food for quite some time I also put a feeder on the outside of the hive to help them out. All set up and ready to make a new home, I’m calling this hive, Queen Keri. Named for the lady who was kind enough to want to “save the bees”! Thanks Keri!
Soon it will be time for the honey harvest. It’s hot in Texas and we’ve had rain too so my girls have had plenty to choose from in the wildflower department. Remember 70% of the produce we need to eat to be healthy was pollinated by a bee. Please be kind to bees, do not spray pesticides on your crops, gardens or flowers. If you find a swarm or colony of bees living in a place where they are not wanted please call your local county extension office or sheriffs department for help locating a local beekeeper. Save the bees, they are amazing little creatures and they give us one heck of a payback – delicious, liquid gold, honey.