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.

You have got to be kidding me ladies!!

Well,my intentions had been to update the very few people who are following my blog (many, many thanks for your support) about how the ladies have been behaving since their thwarted attempted to find better digs. However, it is funny how things can change in an instance. Yesterday, one hour prior to the time at which we needed to leave our house to check in at a hotel up the coast of Maine, in preparation for my niece’s wedding, the ladies……swarmed….again….from the original hive.  They settled in the same blankety-blank spot as the previous swarm. Well, same tree, same limb but out further, still 30 ft up in a tree.  Damn those girls!!!  What do I need to do, create a sign that reads, “YOU, live here!”  What DO they want…..foot rub, plate of honey nachos, a unicorn…..just want do they think they can get elsewhere!!!!

 

Heartbroken that I may be saying goodbye to the ladies, we had to leave for the wedding. How funny that I am attached to creatures who truly do not and will not every have ANY attachment to me! I worried about them as we enjoyed ourselves at the post-wedding festivities. When we got up this morning, I could not wait to get home but, alas, we headed to the morning-after-the-wedding brunch. I say that I worried, but I was resolved to the fact that they may be gone by the time we get home. My thoughts, and worries, were more about how the remaining colony would survive the winter.

When we arrived back at home today around 1pm, the cluster of prodigal bees were still hanging from a limb high up in an obnoxious ash tree. We dropped off our suitcases, quickly changed from our post-wedding brunch attire into jeans and bee suits, and made plans. I knew that my mentor, Linnea, was working until 3pm (I called her yesterday in a panic but she advised me to go, enjoy the wedding festivities because sometimes the bees hang around for several days before they finally depart the yard and as always, she was right.) I called the local bee whisperer, Karen, who said, yes it would be ok to “dump” the bees into a cardboard box until Linnea could provide me, again, with hive parts. She advised me to go to one of the hives and remove a frame on which there was honey. “Should I brush off any bees or shall I take bees and all?” I asked. You should brush off the bees because you do not want to lose anymore bees than I already have, Karen suggested. She also told me make sure that I gave them a wet sponge for water and some ventilation. Truly, never did I think that beekeeping was this involved…but I do love it!

I went to the hive, from which they once again deserted, and removed a honey super. Before I closed the hive back up, I evenly spread out  the remaining 9 frames, at Karen’s recommendation. I am so very thankful to Linnea and Karen, who patiently answer my many questions. 

 

I  am digressing. I created a make-shift hive box in an old Xerox box. I cut a hole in the top and using some wire mesh Linnea had given me previously to make a robbing screen, my husband taped it in the hole so that they would have ventilation. I placed the honey-filled frame along with some sugar candy and a wet sponge inside the box.

My husband climbed up 25ft and, using the same home-made scooper we used 2 weeks ago, began the process of scooping and passing the fetch to me. Once handed the bag-o-bees, I dumped them into the cardboard box. The first time, I overshot and most of them landed on the blue tarp. Drat! The second and third time, I had better aim.

I think we got the majority of the bees but I really do not know if the queen or a queen was included. That said, a lot of bees are hanging around just one corner of the box, on the outside, fanning. So, perhaps the queen is in that corner, inside the box.

My mentor is due here soon at which time we will open the original hive, search for a queen. We will search for a queen in the cardboard box. We will then play the very difficult game of: Which queen do we keep and which queen do we……..well you know. Hopefully, we will return the wayward group from today’s thwarted trip back into the hive, treat for mites just in case that is the reason they left and then close the hive back up.

To avoid rambling any further, I will end today’s blog. I’ll be back to update you tomorrow, hopefully with some photos from today’s swarm retrieval. 

All is quiet, kind-a-sort-a!

It has been one week since a good portion of the colony attempted to run away from home. So far, they have stayed put in their temporary hive. As suggested to me, I began feeding them sugar syrup the day they absconded with full bellies from the lovely hive I so laboriously built and lovingly painted (I might still be a little sensitive to their actions!).  The first time I approached their hive to give them a new jar of syrup, I wore my bee jacket with helmet/veil, gloves, capris and flip-flops. I know, I know….I was good until “capris and flip-flops”.  Previously, I have  been quite lucky wearing capris and flip-flops but that day was different. As soon as I lifted the top off the hive, what seemed like hundreds of bees but probably was more like 50 bees ascended on me quite quickly. They repeatedly “pinged” my jacket, helmet, and net covering my face. They did not seem intent to sting me but rather to intimidate me, and it worked. It surprised me most of all and my reaction only heightened their mission.  They rattled me, terribly.  I backed away immediately; they followed me. I turned and walked away; a good number followed me continuing to “ping” off my helmet.  Eventually, the stalkers flew away.  I returned to the hive after I quickly changed into pants put on socks and clogs. This time, I took a deep breath and sent the bees loving thoughts of my good intentions.  Although they resumed “pinging” me, I removed the empty jar and replaced it with a full jar of syrup, this time emanating pure calmness. 

I would like to report that, since that day, the ladies have been welcoming when I approach the hive with a fresh jar of syrup, but they have not been that lady-like. In fact, I found it necessary to use smoke on two occasions….just to swap out the jars. The hive from which they departed continues to be calm and very busy bringing in pollen. Next weekend, my mentor and I will begin the process of determining which hive has the best queen (assuming that the original hive raised a queen successfully) and then finally combining the hives back into one big happy family. Sounds too easy!! I am sure the day will be full of surprises. Oh, and I guess it is time to treat the  bees for mites. And then it will be time to take off the honey supers (it will be interesting to see what is left) and think about preparing  the hive for fall-to-winter health and comfort.

I readily admit that this has turned out to be more involved than I had anticipated but must also admit that I love the bees!  I was inclined to say “I love my bees” but after their behavior last weekend, they truly are not “my” bees. I do my best by them but in the end, they will do what they will do, that is until they are caught!