Saturday, August 31, 2013

Good News

It was a beautiful day here today...AND we have a laying queen again in our North Hive!

We know this because we saw plenty of eggs and larvae...and we saw her!
She's the queen we purchased at the County Fair and she's marked with red. Can you find her?

She moved over a little in his one, but Mr. Bee will help you this time.

Here's a frame with capped honey from our South Hive. They're doing great.
Today we put another honey super on that South Hive, so we're thinking they have a good chance to make it through the winter.

Driving out in the country lets us see just how quickly the season is about to change.  There are hints of yellow and deep autumn red appearing everywhere. While Mr. Bee was adding the honey super, the kiddos and I found this neat plant.  I'm not sure what it's called - let me know if you do - but it looks like a bunch of tiny windows.  It was a beautiful way to catch the sunlight on a quiet, summery morning.
We are excited to know the bees accepted the queen and that they have a better shot at surviving the winter. Though we are working towards that for our bees, we are also working to enjoy the last weeks of summer before we really have to think about winter too much.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

One Sheet of Newspaper

After erroneously destroying some queen cells that our North Hive needed, we'd been brainstorming how to help them pick up their numbers again with a new, fertile queen.  The choice of many beekeepers, and a handy option for us this time is to purchase a new one.

We are part of the Tri-County Beekeepers Association, who happened to have a display case at our county fair the beginning of the month.  We visited their booth to talk with some experienced beekeepers about what we should do, and a man there offered to sell us the frame - with a marked, fertile queen - to try and place it in our hive.

Mr. Bee learned from this fellow beekeeper that we should place one layer of newspaper over our North Hive's highest box and then place another box on top of that to hold the frame with the new queen and bees. If we were to put the frame in our hive as-is, the bees would most likely work to destroy all of the new bees and likely the queen since they wouldn't recognize them. The time it takes them to shred & remove the newspaper is *hopefully* enough for them get used to the idea of the new girls and queen...

I told Mr. Bee he might as well let them read the comics.

Below is a photo of the empty display case and the new box - and new bees - on top of the hive.  There were bees EVERYWHERE when Mr. Bee performed this task.  The newspaper has been trimmed here, but it's there!

Amazingly, we went to check the hive after a week and found NO remaining newspaper!  We couldn't find new eggs, but we did see that some bees - and hopefully a queen - had emerged from the new frame we'd put in.  We're hoping that this hive can pull through and we're sort of trusting that the bees know what they're doing.  After all, they've been doing this forever.

Baby Bee's Single Tooth - Watching Dad "Work the Bees"

We did bring the kiddos with us - and the bee display case - out to take care of everything. I told little Miss Bee that the bees needed a hive and we were going to see if they wanted to live in one of ours. As always, she quietly listened to what I had to say and didn't respond much - she was thinking.

What made all of our efforts in very worth it was when we opened the van and put the display case on the ground for Little Miss Bee to examine.

She softly said, "Hello, Bees. My name is Rhema."

So far, this was one of my favorite moments in beekeeping.

Monday, August 5, 2013

A Hard Lesson

Last inspection, we cut off some cells that looked like queen or swarm cells, and this inspection we've learned a hard lesson...
This photo is from the South Hive.  The "underdog" of our hives, it now has some frames packed with honey, and heavy even for Mr. Bee to hold.  The photo hardly shows how this frame was gleaming in the sun with all that sweet honey.

Heavy with Honey
In the North Hive, we realized there are no eggs and no larvae remaining.  Our conclusion is that the queen cells we destroyed were not just extras or swarm cells, but necessary work for the bees to replace a queen.  With no eggs or larvae, we can see that there hasn't been a laying queen for weeks. 

The photo below shows a queen cell, though, and it appears that the bee growing inside has already emerged. We are hoping that the bees started right at it again after the setback and have a new queen in the works.  The older bees will be dying off each day and new eggs and larvae are essential to the hive's survival.

The lesson I walked away with was good for beekeeping and life, I think.  Maybe I shouldn't be so fast to "cut things out" before I look for the deeper reason they may be appearing.  I'm thankful for the advice but sorry that we made the preparation for winter just a bit harder for the bees.  Things like this also make us happy that we decided to have two hives - so that we could see the differences and have a little cushion for our first year mistakes.

Did a Queen Emerge?
- - -

Little Miss Bee and Baby bee watched the inspection, the sunset, and each other.  It was a lovely evening to be outside, collect rocks and sticks, and watch their dad work the bees.

A wren had been scolding us the entire evening, and when I caught a glimpse of this bird, I was sure it was the tiniest bird I'd ever seen aside from a hummingbird.  I was really happy to get a couple of neat photos of it right before we packed up to leave.

This was my favorite photo from the night: