Saturday, May 7, 2011

Bees are Busy, and so are the Beekeepers

With plenty of bee-related tasks, weekend company, crazy storms (the tornadoes missed us, thankfully), and a full-time job, the bulk of the work has fallen to Mark.  I'll get calls that involve rapid-fire descriptions of whatever he's found in a particular hive or bee yard before he moves onto the next swarm, tear-out (Hi Jason!), or load of laundry.

Nice. ;-)

Mark & Jason Shedd, who needed some bees removed from his attic.
Friday night (5/6) we went to Mrs. Beatty's house to prepare it for moving.  Mark was stunned to find the bees had completely waxed out the entire hive (10 frames) and stored honey -- all without a queen, who was, ostensibly, left behind the tree.  This morning we transferred them to BB2 which continues to have a low population.

This box weighed A LOT.

We added medium supers to the three existing hives at the Barhams' Bee Yard, including BB2, with its new deep from Mrs. Beatty's house.  There was a question if BB3 had a queen captured in the large swarm that was added, and on Friday Mark found evidence that she's there: "she's going like a house afire, there's brood everywhere!" he said.  That's great news.

The big news, however, is that he left home before 6 a.m. on Friday to pick up two queens and 5 nucs from Harry Fulton.  He installed the nucs at Barhams' Bee Yard (see those single deeps on the far end?) and at Harley's. 

For the story of the queens, click here.

A Tale of Four Queens, or Triple Homicide in Hive 3

On Friday, as soon as I got home and changed, we headed out to Bee Hill.  Our goal: before the sun sets, find and kill the ineffective queen in Hive 3 and replace her with one of Harry Fulton's Russian queens.  (For some information on Russian bees vs. Italians, read this interesting article from North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service.)

Hot Friday Night Date: Murder!

Mark opened the bottom hive to an amazing sight. In moving the super, he tore open a queen cell the bees had created, and a brand new, fully formed queen emerged.  Crazy.  What are the chances?  She was mobbed by worker bees, Mark rescued her with his hive tool, and we were caught in a pickle.  We had nothing to put her in, no place for a virgin queen, and clearly the hive was going to kill her. So Mark did the only thing we knew to do . . . smash her.

One of the queen cells we inadvertently opened.

As he moved the frames to look for the old queen, he dislodged a second "peanut" or queen cell . . . and another queen emerged, and she quickly ran away into the crowd of worker bees.  With a $20 Russian queen ready to be installed, we had no choice but to track her down and kill this virgin queen too.

We combed through the remaining frames on both supers without any luck, and finally found a third queen hanging out on the frame holder right in front of Mark.  She met the same fate as her rivals.

Triple homicide.  Let's hope they take to the Russian queen.

The Russian queen is tended by 4 worker bees.

What we learned from this experience is that if you suspect the bees need a new queen, they probably do too. They used some of the viable eggs their old queen laid to create several queen cells, and in time would have re-queened themselves. With the new Russian queen, in theory, she's already mated and proven to be an egg-layer, so once she's set free from her cage, she'll get right to work.

Harley's Hives: An Introduction (belated) and Update

Harley is friends with Eldon Barham. They spend a lot of time together, and are two of the toughest guys I've met -- relentless in their battle against time. They wear out much younger men with the work they do. I'd heard many stories about Harley's place and hobbies, but on Saturday I got to see for myself.

He currently has one hive, the captured swarm of bees who had been in our carport for so long.  They're doing great, so we just topped off the feeder.

Then he showed us his restored VW Beetle.  It's fabulous, and it was fun for Sarah to sit in the driver's seat and marvel at how simple those old cars were.  He was going to let "the girls" drive it, but neither of us can drive a standard and frankly, all I needed to age me in moments was wrecking his car.

Sarah loved his tin man too.

I loved talking to Harley's wife, Diana, who has had a very interesting life.  We had a lovely visit.

UPDATE: Mark added 3 nucs of Russian bees to Harley's Hives on 05/06/11, so he's up to four and very happy about it!