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I began this blog to chronicle my beekeeping experiences. I have read lots of beekeeping books, but nothing takes the place of either hands-on experience with an experienced beekeeper or good pictures of the process. I want people to have a clearer picture of what to expect in their beekeeping so I post pictures and write about my beekeeping saga here. Along the way, I've passed a number of certification levels and am now a!
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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Bee Mad, Bee Mean

On my way home from EAS on the 7th, I stopped in Rabun County and spent the night so that I could check on my bees there.  I didn't take my smoker with me on the EAS trip - it makes the car smell like a campout and I was traveling for a week.  I thought the Rabun bees are so gentle - I usually work them without smoke, so no worries.

Well, I went to the Rabun hive on Saturday afternoon.  They were orienting and it had been almost three weeks since I had been there.  Those bees were mad.  They didn't take kindly to my visit and stung me about three times.  So I packed it up and left until Sunday morning.

Sunday morning I returned, again with no smoker which was still back in Atlanta on my deck.  I opened the hive around 10 AM.  I always move slowly and gently around bees, but this time it didn't help.  Those bees were loaded for bear.  I immediately got stung at least 10 times just for lifting up the top cover.

I must have smelled like banana from the stings after that because I dropped my bee gear and moved rather quickly toward the car - bees stinging me the while.  One got inside my veil and tattooed my neck beautifully.  Another flew into my hiking boot and went to town with her stinger.  When I got back to the cabin and undressed I counted 12 stings, not to mention the 20 or so stingers in my jacket that didn't get me.

I wonder if they are hungry or just hot and bored.  I couldn't open the hive that weekend and simply stopped back by and picked up my gear on my way back to Atlanta.  I'm going up this Saturday for a smoker accompanied inspection and we'll see what gives.

I was relieved, if they are hungry, to notice the kudzu blooming in the trees above the hive.  Kudzu has a nectar that the bees like and it results in grape flavored honey.  See the purple blossoms in the center of the picture?



And that wasn't my only recent bee-mad experience.

Remember how my only hive left at home was queenless? Remember how I drove to Lula to buy a queen from Don K at Dixie Bee Supply? I brought her home and put her in the box (see below) and left for EAS.



When I got home from EAS, I hit the ground running. I teach at Emory in the summers and I had 63 grad students about to take my final exam, so I looked out at the bees but didn't open the hive. They looked happy.  I had left the robber screen on.  Bees were moving in and out.  Life in the hive looked fine from my sun porch and I had Emory students on my mind.

Two weeks after installation, I opened the hive to get the queen cage out.  She was not released.  OK, I thought, this must mean that there is still a queen in the hive.  There are lots of bees in that hive, no brood, very little stores, lots of pollen.  I examined the frames in the bottom box and finally, there she was.  The old queen was indeed in this hive that I had requeened!

Ooops.

Today Julia generously gave me a couple of frames from one of her Blue Heron hives and I added to it bees from my Blue Heron hive in a nuc box.

All of the hives at Blue Heron were light with few stores and little brood.  I fed my BH hive with a baggie of sugar syrup.

The weather in Atlanta has been horrendously hot, with no rainfall, and no nectar.  We took a frame of honey from one of Julia's Blue Heron hives to move it to the other one.

I picked up the honey frame to hand it to Julia, and was immediately attacked by the bees.  I'm sure they were thinking, "Hey, that's the only honey any of us have seen in a coon's age and you can't have it."  So six more stings later through my blue jeans and jacket, Julia installed the honey frame in the BP hive at Blue Heron (named for the oil spill).

I brought the nuc home ( I won't tell you the bad parts of the story - about how I didn't block the entrance of the nuc and there were bees all over my car - or how I remembered that it might be good to spray these bees from two different hives with sugar syrup, so I sprayed them in my car, coating the back of my Subaru with sugar syrup - or how in a huge hurry to get the uncontained bees onto my deck, I didn't take the time to unchain the gate and instead carried the nuc through the house to the deck, dripping bees onto the floor as I went).

I set the nuc up on my deck and put an empty nuc box on top of it and fed them.  I put the queen cage on the top bars beside the food.

Cross your fingers - after this fiasco of a bee day, that's certainly what I am doing.

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9 comments:

  1. dehavik12:52 AM

    Though it may have not been your intention, thank you for the laugh. It is comforting to know that even Master Beekeepers have comedies of error now and then.

    ReplyDelete
  2. This is hysterical! Can only be appreciated by other beekeepers with similar stories. You are such an entertaining writer, love reading your posts. You might check for disease in your mean girl hive. I found a major varroa infestation when I had a similar experience. Good luck!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Anonymous11:40 AM

    Seems like this time of year my bees get pretty cranky. I think it's a combination of a dearth and protecting what stores they already have. Not a lot of new brood in the hives either, but still lots of older (capped) brood & bees.

    Robert in the hills of Tennessee

    ReplyDelete
  4. So funny!

    My bees have been very grumpy for a week or so. I thought it was just weather or loss of a queen, but after a number of visits with angry swarms, and after finding new eggs in the hives, I strongly suspect they just can't find any nectar sources and are just spending their days plotting to drive off unwary beekeepers.

    ReplyDelete
  5. oh Linda! Everything xxed for you and your bees. Your writing is wonderful. I laughed and laughed. Your experiences are easily understood by your readers. I'm looking forward to Linda's Bees: The Movie! We have the same weather here in Virginia and we've started feeding which has started robbing. LOL! It's always something with bees!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Thank God that someone other than me has days like that.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Anonymous7:38 AM

    I cross my finger!
    I like your veil.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Linda: My usually docile Carniolan hive was mean as the devil himself the other day too. I usually never smoke my hives unless I am going to do a deep inspection, and when I gently opened the top cover -- they poured out and nailed me for ten minutes. The other two hives, including one with a honey super, were as gentle as lambs. I have a feeling that since the South is so hot and miserable now (I'm in NC) that they are on edge. Let's hope it gets better!

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  9. It's a comfort to know that I am not the only one who has made the mistake of going into a hive in late summer without a smoker. My experience left me with 35 stings on my ankles and I ended up spraying the garden hose all over myself to get them off...not the best choice I know, but it was a scary experience. Even when I was inside the house they were clinging to the window screens very pissed. Now I know better... ; )

    I am still hesitant when I go into the hives and this one experience almost ended my beekeeping adventures. Thank goodness there are others who share their stories and give support.

    http://simplyresourceful.blogspot.com/

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