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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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Sunday, May 13, 2012

Death by Drowning, But Revival by a New Queen

My flower pot swarm trap caught a swarm that I called Little Kitten because it was so small.  I think it was a secondary swarm and was relieved to find that finally a mated queen was laying in the wax comb.

I had a Boardman feeder at the entrance of the nuc - and those of you who have used Boardmans know that they are not designed for a nuc.  To combat the instability I put a package container under the feeder with a small block to support it.  However, one night our evening raccoon or maybe my dog, Hannah, had bumped into the Boardman, turning over the feeder bottle.

By the time I discovered the mishap, there was a pool of sugar syrup all over the bottom board of the nuc and bees were having a terrible time negotiating entry to the hive.  It could have been like that for several days - I don't always look at the hives every single day.  I put the hive on a new bottom board and cleaned up the old one.  Then I returned it to the hive and put it all back together.

Sadly, either the queen drowned that night - death by raccoon/Hannah/sugar syrup??? - or the bees, upset with the state of things, balled her.  The hive was queenless.

I put frames of brood and eggs into the nuc.  They didn't really succeed at making a queen.  There was one small queen cell - obviously an inadequate job (1/2 inch long at best) - and the handful of bees now left could not have managed to take care of it.

My friend Jerry ordered 20 virgin queens from Zia and offered me the opportunity to buy one.  Zia Queen Bees is a family operation breeding survivor queens.  I believe this is the answer to the mite problem - not poison.  I snapped him up on it, got the queen on Wednesday night.  She was alone in the queen cage.  Jerry suggested that I feed her a drop of honey and a drop of water when I got home and that I install her the next day.

An amazing experience but with no pictures:  I put a drop of honey on the end of my finger and held it next to the openings in the plastic queen cage.  She stuck out her proboscis and sucked the honey off of my finger.  I will never forget the experience.  I knew the water wouldn't stick to my finger, so I put it in a spoon and watched her drink, but I wished I could repeat the honey drop!

The next day, Thursday, I was scheduled to give a bee talk at 7 PM and from there to drive to Young Harris, so I had a packed day.  I luckily had a two hour break in my professional day (but only 2 hours) so I drove to Valerie and Jeff's to get frames of bees to create population for the small Kitten.

Jeff has been busy adding boxes to these hives and this is how they looked:



All of these boxes are full of honey and I can't lift the top box on these hives without a ladder and help, so I opened the hive I call Lenox Pointe (second from the left in the collage above).  I took two honey frames with bees from the top box, checking very carefully for the queen.  I did this because I could take honey frames out of the top box without having to lift it off of the hive.  I put these in a nuc I had waiting.  I took three frames - two of brood and bees and one of mostly pollen and honey from the Swarmy hive - the mostly yellow hive on the right in the collage.

I shook a few extra bees, but didn't worry about that as much as I would normally since I am adding this "split" to Little Kitten where there are already some under employed bees.



I had to be back at my office at 1:00.  When I finished at Jeff's, it was 12:25 and I had a 20 - 25 minute drive back to my house.  I drove in my bee jacket as quickly as I could within the limits of the law.  When I got home it was 12:50 and I needed to be at work in 10 minutes.  

I walked the nuc through my house to save time because the nuc is on my deck.  I opened it, took out the frames and put them in a second nuc box on Little Kitten without disturbing the bottom box.  Then I took the queen out of my top pocket and put her cage between two frames, put the inner cover back on, and ran into the house, stripping jacket, etc. as I went.


Oh, and I put an end bar on the entry to give them an entrance reducer of sorts.



I threw on my business clothes, jumped in the car (my office is 5 minutes from home) and got to my appointment there at 1:05.






Returning from Young Harris, I found the bees happily flying in and out of the hive and seemingly satisfied with their new housing. I'll check tomorrow to see if the queen has been released and then leave them completely alone for three weeks.
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1 comment:

  1. Oh how cool to have the queen sipping honey from your finger!

    Please keep us updated on the Zia queen, they are nearly local to us and I have been looking at their site.

    ReplyDelete

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