Shhhh, don’t tell the bees, but my friends tell me that there is an easier way!

I arrived at school today to find this on my desk…… yes, a jar of honey.

The easier way.....

The easier way…..

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Perhaps I shall trade them in for hermit crabs!!!

At the risk of sounding adverse to work…..these ladies are high maintenance! 

This past weekend Linnear, my mentor, agreed to help me medicate the main hive and the swarm of naughty bees, who are still in time-out. There are a variety of medications on the market as well as a variety of views on which one is the best to use. Of course, because of the cold weather and the status of my hive, the method of treatment recommended to me is the one that is messiest…Hopguard. Yep, made from hops. I like the idea that its base is organic but it seems next to impossible not to drown a number of bees in the process of applying the strips. There is nothing sadder than a honeybee stumbling because she is dripping with a sticky, brownish-red liquid.  

One might infer from the title of this posting that I am fed up with the ladies and the amount of worry and work they seem to be throwing my way. Actually, I still adore them. They are cute and fuzzy and such hard workers. That said, I admit to you all that I am slightly disappointed that I won’t have the opportunity to sample the fruits of their labors.  Their honey reserve is almost non-existence as a result of their attempts to move, putting them in a tenuous situation. I am afraid the ladies run the risk of not making it through the winter. Thankfully, Linnear has a few ideas up her mentor sleeve.

As soon as I got home from school today, I attempted to move a honey super from the original hive to the swarm hive but unfortunately there too many delicate nurse bees hanging out on the frames. So, I put on a bee excluder under the honey super, this will allow bees to go further down in the hive but prevent them from re-entering the honey super. Tomorrow night I will attempt to remove the honey super and give it to the swarm hive for nourishment. I will beginning pushing a thick sugar syrup for the ladies in the original hive.  Wow, it sounds as if I know what I am doing!!!! Throwing around bee lingo like I understand the whys and hows of all that I am doing for the girls. Not really, but I am slowly piecing it all together.

I do not know the first thing about hermit crabs but they certainly are not cute and fuzzy. I guess I’ll stick with bees.

Reflection & post-swarm activitiés

I have been thinking about bees and beekeeping and honey. And thinking about how I have only been beekeeping or actually beelearning since May of this year and what an exciting, wonderful, and challenging adventure it has been. Here I was thinking how nice it would be, how simply nice it would be, to have a quaint, quiet, sweet beehive in my backyard. A beehive filled with little workers who would love to share their honey with me.  No one mentioned a thing to me about the little darlin’s swarming not once, but twice. Or that when bees swarm they might settle 30 feet up in a tree, twice. Oh, and when bees swarm……..they eat all the honey before they leave!!  No one said anything about what to do when a queen bee emerges from a cell in a jar on your kitchen table or what to do when the queen bee refuses to go into the hive and crawls up your arm. Or how when it is time to give them their medicine, yes I said medicine, what a production that happens to be. Ok, I may have read about these nuances of bees, but I guess I didn’t really think all these events would happen in such a short period of time.   

A week after the ladies left their home again, my mentor Linnear and her mom helped me with the process of putting my hive back together again. Gee, that sounds a bit like Humpty Dumpty!  It was quite a process. You might recall that three weeks ago a restless group of bees convinced their queen that they had found a much nicer place to live and attempted to leave the comforts of our backyard. Their attempt was thwarted and they have been in a timeout in a separate hive. So, we first examined the swarm hive from top to bottom with a goal of locating the queen. There were quite a few bees and they were not very pleased with the home invasion. It took four of us examining the frames, twice, before we found the queen. She was beautiful: long, thin, and tan in color. Queen bees are much larger than the worker bees; this one did not have stripes on her body.

Now, we did see eggs so that meant that the queen had been there within the previous 3 days. But, before we reunited these ladies with the hive from which they swarmed we needed verify whether or not there was still a queen.  We put the hive back together and we inspected the original hive next primarily to determine whether or not there was a queen reigning over that hive. Because……well……you just cannot have two queen bees in one hive! Unfortunately, but fortunately, the original hive was queenless. This made combining the two hives a bit easier, relatively speaking. It took us about three hours to complete all these steps. Linnea brought her brand new smoker, thankfully!  The ladies were slightly irritated, especially when we placed the queen in a queen cage that looked like a hair clip! Why did we cage the boss, you might be asking?  We needed to treat the bees for mites with a strong medication that could potentially harm the queen. I do not think I could possibly explain all that we did, eloquently and possibly boring you a tad. That said, it was hard work but it was fun and fascinating at the same time.
Here are some pictures taken during our time in the backyard:

Beginning the hive inspection

Beginning the hive inspection

My mentor, Linnear, and her mom

My mentor, Linnear, and her mom

Queen Bee in a clip for protection

Queen Bee in a clip for protection

Two hives in one

Two hives in one

But, I don't want to go inside!

But, I don’t want to go inside!

Playing “Capture the Bees” or Where do you think you are going????

Here is the video of my husband and I retrieving swarm #2 two weeks ago. I propped up my iPad in a chair. It is not the best video production and I may have used the incorrect resolution in the uploading process, but it does capture the adventure! You will see that it was quite a windy day, the sound effects are dazzling (not really), and oh, if you listen to the audio, I may have uttered an inappropriate word when I spilled some of the bees. Sorry about that, it just slipped out and I just could not figure out how to edit the audio. At least I was able to figure out how to edit the length of the video from 25 long, long minutes to a mere 6 minutes! That said, feel free to cut it short 🙂

The queen is very much alive!

After my mentor, Linnea, left I examined the cell that we cut out that looked as if the queen died inside. I kept the cell because I thought it would be a wonderful show-and-tell for my students. As I poked and prodded at the dark end of the cell, I noticed movement from within the cell!! I immediately stopped poking at it! I could not believe what I was seeing….now what was I going to do with a very much alive queen bee?

First, I googled “How to keep a queen bee alive inside your kitchen?” or something to that effect. Of course, I got a variety of links! I read that one could keep a queen alive, inside, for approximately 3 days by providing water, warmth, and a little food. I quickly called Linnea, again. She suggested that I place the queen cell in a warm place with a nurse bee or two. I placed the cell in a mason jar along with a wet Q-tip, a piece of sugar candy, and a nurse bee who coincidently had come into the house on my clothes.  My husband cut a piece of screening to fit the canning jar lid so that I could provide some ventilation. That done, I jumped in the shower. After only a few minutes, my husband poked his head in the bathroom and said, “The queen has emerged! Now we have a queen bee in the kitchen! What next?!” She was beautiful, long, slender and tan in color. She chased the poor little nurse bee around and around the inside of the mason jar. I covered the jar with a towel and placed the jar in a dark place, and then I went to bed.

When I woke the next morning, I was relieved to see that both the queen and the nurse bee survived the night. I had to go to work so I replaced the dry Q-tip with a wet one and tucked the ladies under a blanket for warmth. When I came home later that day, both were alive and well. I googled anything and everything related to queen bees, rearing queen bees, queen bees emerging outside of hive, etc. I found a bee forum in which there was a discussion thread that was the best match. Someone recommended letting the queen bee simply walk right into the hive. So…..dressed appropriately, I took the queen to the hive and attempted to release her on the landing board. She did not want to leave the jar, then she did not want to get off my hand. Eventually, I was able to place both the queen and the nurse bee on the landing board. Bees immediately surrounded the queen. I was thrilled! But then…..the bees began pushing and shoving her (yes, pushing her and shoving her is exactly what it looked like) away from the entrance of the hive and onto the side of the hive. Bees continued to walk on top of her but it did not look friendly at all. I was afraid that they would kill her right in front of me so I scooped her back up and took her inside. I called Linnea who explained that it was very possible that they were not going to accept her but suggested that I take of the hive cover and place her in the opening of the inner cover.  Out to the hive, again.

I took off the hive cover and tried to coax her out of the jar and into the opening in the inner cover. She did not want to leave the comfort of the mason jar, nor did she want to leave the comfort of my arm. I was so worried that I might accidently kill her trying to place her inside the hive. Eventually, I was successful and watched her, with mixed emotions, disappear into the mass of nurse bees who seemed to surround her immediately.  She was a lovely queen and I hope that she was treated kindly.

Sunday, Linnea and I will combine the first swarm with the original colony, look for the queen, and treat for mites. After several more days, we will examine the hive containing the latest swarm, check for a queen or the presence of a queen. I suppose at that time I will have to decide which queen shall reign “Queen Bee” as we combine the latest swarm with the original colony. And then……I will hope for the best.  I hope to post some of the video of our latest swarm capture, soon.

Many thanks for wading through my  beekeeping adventures.

Piping what????? You have got to be kidding….

Well, it seems like lots has happened since my last post. I know I updated everyone that the ladies swarmed a second time and that once again, we “captured” them.  What I did not share is what happened later that evening. 

My mentor came to the house late in the afternoon of the day-after the swarm. When she arrived, we had them contained in a cardboard box. Thankfully, Linnea brought, once again, hive parts so that we could transfer the wayward ladies into a hive. Now, I only intended to have ONE hive with ONE cohesive honey-making colony of polite and considerate ladies. Now, I have 3 not-so pleasantly behaved hive of bees scattered in the backyard!!  Anyway, we inspected the hive from which the trouble hath cometh. While we were checking the bottom hive box, I heard a chirping sound. I thought the sound was coming from a nearby bird. My mentor, Linnea, asked me, “Do you hear that sound?” I replied that yes, I did hear the chirping sound. Linnea told me that it was a queen, a piping queen!  What a privilege!  I have read about being able to hear a piping queen (she might be in the hive or still in a cell) but never did I think that I would have the opportunity to hear it myself. As we worked our way through the hive, we discovered 4 queen cells: two open, two viable cells, and one that looked as if the queen had died inside the cell.  It was a difficult decision to make but we decided to cut out all but one queen cell in hopes that this would help diminish their urge to swarm. 

As Linnea cut out one of the swarm cells, a queen emerged and immediately began flying around both of us, landing on the net  covering Linnea’s face. She eventually “buzzed” us both several times before flying away. We observed some capped brood, however we did not see any eggs. That said, I suppose it is possible there were some eggs but we were working late in the afternoon when natural lighting was very poor.  We closed up the hive not seeing a resident queen or the presence of a queen. 

It is very possible that the colony will not accept the queen who emerged as the cell was cut out, because she was not “released” inside the hive. A most interesting society.

Initially, we thought that we would combine the latest swarm with the original hive but then decided that we would first combine the first swarm with the original colony then add the second swarm several days after.  We had a plan, now only if the bees go along with it!!!