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I've been keeping this blog for all of my beekeeping years and I am beginning my 16th year of beekeeping in April 2021. 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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Monday, August 06, 2007

A Bad Day in the Beeyard

I love Judith Viorst's book, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. I had a day like that on Sunday in my beeyard.

First I saw the dismembered head of a tiny chipmunk on the deck rail - guess an owl left it there last night. The chipmunk has been a frequent visitor to my deck. That was a bad sign - I should have gone back inside then and there.

But I pressed on.

The only good thing that happened was that I stacked the boxes like Gerard did on the Botanical Garden hive inspection. His method was so much easier on my back.

Then the sad saga began. I planned at the beginning of this visit to the hives to add a frame of capped honey to the small swarm hive to make their lives easier. I've been sort of worried about this hive at the back of my mind because they haven't been building up like they should have. You'll remember that they made their own queen, (I even took her picture) but I never saw a great laying pattern from this queen.

Sad to say, she is no longer there. Maybe I killed her. Maybe the bees killed her, but she is not there. There were no frames of new brood anywhere. I felt sadder and sadder as I lifted each frame to many empty cells and no capped brood. OK, I thought, they did it before, I'll let them do it again. So my plan was to take a frame of brood and bees from Mellona and one from Bermuda and let this hive try again.
I opened Mellona and went into the medium box (#2 on the hive) and found a frame of very young brood. I shook the bees off of the frame into the hive and checked the remaining few bees to make sure I didn't have the queen. I put that frame in the hive. Then I closed that hive back up and opened Bermuda.

Bermuda is always an angry hive. They hang out on the front deck, impatiently every night, as if they didn't have excellent ventilation; they argue with me every time I open them; they don't want me around. They were not happy but I found a frame with tiny brood and hopefully eggs, shook the bees off, checked for the queen and then put that frame in the small swarm hive.

This all took place around 1 PM. I then opened up Proteus. I have been wondering about the queenright state of this hive and thought I should check about the life in the brood box. I haven't opened up the brood box in this hive in about three months. Boy, were they angry. I smoked the hive, I smoked myself, I smoked the air in front of me. Bombarded from every side, I was sweating from the Atlanta heat as well as a little anxious, but I kept on. Suddenly I realized that my veil was glued to my neck with sweat and a guard bee was implanting her stinger in my neck.

My most recent previous sting resulted in a strange reaction in that the palms of my hands and the soles of my feet itched more than I can imagine itching. My brother, a physician, said that I should visit an allergist and he is probably right. Meanwhile I had purchased Benadryl to have immediately available to me in the dissolving strip form, but at the moment of the sting, I didn't have it with me.

Proteus is open to the elements, the small swarm hive is open to the elements and I left it all and ran in the house followed by several bees to take care of the sting. I threw off the helmet and scraped out the stinger. My palms were starting to itch and I couldn't find the Benadryl. I had organized my computer desk the night before - it had been sitting right in front of my monitor but it wasn't there and I couldn't find it anywhere.

So I put my helmet back on and went back out into the yard and put Proteus back together and put the top back on the small swarm hive. I drove to the nearby grocery and got two packages of Benadryl so I wouldn't misplace it again. (I still haven't found the first one). The irony of it is that I didn't have anything sharp in the car and it would take an act of Congress to open the Benadryl without a pair of scissors or a knife (Note to self: keep Benadryl in hive tool basket with my Swiss army knife). So I still had to wait to get back home to take it and by then the itching had stopped.

Meanwhile around 2:30, I looked out and there is robbing type of flying going on around the small swarm hive. Usually I see a bee every 2 minutes or so come and go from that hive. There were fifty bees banging against the hive. The pictures below do not do justice to the amount of flying in and toward that hive.

I put the robber screen against that box - it isn't set up for the robber screen - but I thought that might help.

Ever since then I've been worrying. Did I bring one of the queens from Bermuda or Mellona in error to that hive and the bees are trying to get to her? Did leaving that hive open for so long invite robbing and killing? I closed the top which had been propped open and secured the robber screen with bungee cords and now I am worried.

Should I order a queen for this hive? Should I hope for the best and combine them with one of the other hives before fall? Was it wrong to put frames from two different hives into this one? Isn't that what they do when someone makes a nuc? Why would this be different?

In a nut shell, what did I do wrong that I can fix? If anything - - - - -

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  1. Sorry it was a rough inspection for you. Maybe you should just buy a queen to get your weak hive going or maybe do a combine at this point.

  2. I can relate to all the angst and second guessing—bees will do that to you! Good luck working it out. I am a new beekeeper, but I don't think you did anything wrong transferring some combs into your weaker hive. I've done that a number of times and it's worked out OK. Maybe just a confluence of events? Anyway, hope it works out.

  3. Anonymous1:12 PM

    Sorry about your bad day. We're new to beekeeping, just started this year. We've gone through our share of those moments of uncertainty and doubt. My husband is the actual beekeeper in the family, I'm just the helper, photographer, gofer, so I can only offer moral support. Best of luck with them!


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