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I've been keeping this blog for all of my beekeeping years and I am beginning my 17th year of beekeeping in April 2022. Now there are more than 1300 posts on this blog. Please use the search bar below to search the blog for other posts on a subject in which you are interested. You can also click on the "label" at the end of a post and all posts with that label will show up. At the very bottom of this page is a list of all the labels I've used.

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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
Master Beekeeper Enjoy with me as I learn and grow as a beekeeper.

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Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Free Bees

Free bees is a term that typically people apply to a swarm that they capture.  They are free, but it's some work - you have to go to the site, shake the bees into some kind of container, wait around for stragglers to join their mother, drive them to your apiary and install them in a box.  Yes, they don't cost any money but they definitely cost you in time.

Real free bees are the kind we found at Stonehurst Place this weekend.  We arrived for our inspection that we do every couple of weeks.  I've been in Colorado at a professional conference so we haven't been to Stonehurst in three weeks this time.

You'll remember our terrible robbing incident at Stonehurst at the end of bee season last year.  So we went into winter with one dead hive that I took down to one box and left as a swarm lure.  Then we had two live but small hives.  One hive survived the winter well enough but hasn't been bursting at the seams.  It's still only three boxes tall - enough for winter but not to rob.

The other hive dwindled and died - I don't think I reported it here, but we determined it was almost dead on May 2 and there were no live bees in it on May 19.  The hive did have honey in it - almost a full box.

The hive in the middle is the live hive that made it through the winter.

So this Saturday when we arrived to check on the one live hive at Stonehurst, to our surprise there were  truly FREE BEES!  The "dead hive" had been occupied by a swarm - and it had ivy growing up the front of the hive box!

We checked on the brood and found that there was capped brood that was medium biscuit in color (per Billy Davis).  This means that it was capped about two weeks ago.  So the swarm must have moved in just after Memorial Day.  We saw the queen - probably the gift of a new beekeeper whose newly purchased nuc swarmed.  She had a red dot on her back and was long and lovely:

If you look closely, you can see eggs in all of those cells.  She's hard at work and we were thrilled to have FREE BEES at the Stonehurst Inn.

I don't think unless some miraculous nectar flow happens that we will get any honey from Stonehurst this year, but it's nice to have two hives that we can work on keeping healthy through the winter.


  1. Heh. Both my nucs swarmed, but I doubt if they made it from East Point up there. (Also have re-queened on their own and have large honey stores, so it's all ok.)

  2. HA! My first nuc of bees came with a red-marked Queen that disappeared with a swarm the first season. You live and learn :)

  3. The ups and downs are part of what's interesting about caring for a wild animal! Hang in there. Glad you were able to provide a home for a swarm. I am working on my new TBH posting at my blog, Garden of Blessings!

  4. Cool! We lost both marked queens that came with nucs from Jennifer Berry in the hives at Georgia Tech. I doubt they would have flown across the interstate, but you never know! We requeened both hives last week and one has lots of new eggs as of yesterday. In the other hive there was no sign of the queen we put in there (marked), but there was a big, fat unmarked queen! No sign of brood but fingers crossed she'll start laying this week.


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