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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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Friday, March 01, 2013

Snippets of Follow-up on this Bee Year's Bumpy Start

My mentor and friend, Penny, suggested in a note that I write to Tom Seeley and ask him why a swarm hived into what looks like a good situation, would abscond.  So I sent this email to him on his Cornell contact site:


Hi Dr. Seeley,

I am so thrilled that you are speaking to my bee club, MABA, on Wednesday in May before I again get to learn from you at Young Harris.  I am writing because I hope you can address my swarm question in your talk, if possible.  

For the third time in my beekeeping experience, we hived a swarm in what looked like great conditions for their happiness and the swarm absconded.  The swarm, as we jokingly measure them, was a 3 cat swarm (the size of three cats).  Here's a link to a slideshow showing the installation:
http://beekeeperlinda.blogspot.com/2013/02/swarm-for-chastain-conservancy.html  The swarm went into a 3 medium box hive with drawn comb and about 2 empty frames;  there was a rapid feeder on top with honey in it; there was an entrance reducer in place.  The hive is in the center of the Chastain Park, Atlanta's largest public park, in the middle of a golf course.  

Three days later, the swarm was gone.  All that was left was a handful of bees who were probably out foraging when the others left.  They were hived on a cloudy, cold day.  Any thoughts about why swarms abscond under what looks like ideal conditions for happiness?

Thanks in advance and I would be glad either to get an email from you or to hear about this in your talk at Metro. 

Looking forward to meeting you,
Linda Tillman

Also Penny suggested that I send samples from the dead-outs to the bee lab at Beltsville, MD.  It's too cold in Atlanta for today (and I have grandchildren at my house all day) and for the next few days to revisit the hives who were bereft of bees.  However, when I get there again, I now have the link to the bee lab.  They analyze dead bees (if they are not decayed) and brood comb with or without brood to see if they can determine what the cause of death might have been.  Surprisingly it is a FREE service.

I remember last year in Asheville when the man from the bee lab in North Carolina that analyzes wax for Mary Ann Frazer was one of the speakers.  I believe the lowest cost for analyzing the wax was $250.  So I am shocked to find out that the Beltsville lab is glad to provide this service for free.  There are also directions on the site about how to manage the samples (the bees must be put in alcohol, but the alcohol must be drained before shipping since it isn't allowed by the shippers).  Comb can be wrapped in a paper towel.

And then just to warm my heart and make me feel less despondent, there's a wonderful article by James Tew in the newest Bee Culture about his bee losses.  (That link will take you to Bee Culture's extremely useful web page but the magazine itself is not available online unless you have an online subscription.)  Tew holds an annual symposium at Auburn.  I missed it this year but want to go next year.    He acknowledges how hard it is to look at and own the fact that winter losses happen, even to him.  He relates beekeeping to the myth of Sisyphus.  Sisyphus' punishment is to roll a stone up a steep hill.  Every time he gets to the top, the stone rolls back down again, and again, and again.  Tew likens his beekeeping to the penance of Sisyphus and I can certainly get into that boat.  But he says, "For me it is not a penalty.  I want to continue rolling that rock up that hill."  Me, too.

For the first time this year, however, I am not spending lots of money on bees.  Last year I spent a lot (close to $1000) getting my hives up and running.  This year I have not ordered any equipment except for two medium cypress nuc boxes that I bought optimistically thinking I would be splitting all of these hives (HA, HA).  And I bought those from Rossman at GBA so I didn't have to pay for shipping.  And I ordered one package of bees from Don Kuchenmeister to populate my hive at Chastain since we use it for teaching.  I'll be getting them on St. Paddy's Day.  Does that give them the luck of the Irish to succeed?  I certainly hope so.

1 comment:

  1. Great to know! Thank you for the information.

    ReplyDelete

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