A swarm of bees in May is worth a load of hay;
A swarm of bees in June is worth a silver spoon;
A swarm of bees in July isn't worth a fly.
-- Old English sayingThere are a number of variants to the saying above, bu all the variants are clear. May and June swarms = good. July swarm = not good.
Lucky me, my hives started swarming in July. BTW, one variant of the saying is "A swarm of bees in July, let them fly," but I can't do that. That's how I ended up going from 2 colonies to 5 in a span of about 4 weeks. All five are pretty small, though, because of their late start, which began just before our summer dearth. One of them is doing quite well, though. Three are acceptable. The last one, Hippolyte, was (more on that past tense in a minute) performing miserably.
Last week, I started feeding Hippolyte extra syrup hoping she'd rally, but after a week, she actually looked worse. Her numbers were even lower than before. No stores to speak of. I didn't see any chewed comb, but I have a feeling she was being robbed before she could even cap any honey/syrup. Why? If you've been following my blog, you know that I started dyeing the sugar syrup I feed the bees to see how it gets used. Well, I started seeing a little bit of red syrup in Peach, and that's the one colony that I haven't fed at all, so I know those naughty girls have been robbing someone. Also, I saw a few holes in the bottom of Hippolyte, and bees were passing through it. A few were being mobbed on their way in, so I put 2 and 2 together.
With nighttime temperatures down into the 40's now, I decided I really couldn't wait much longer for Hippolyte to pick up steam. I had to pull the plug on her.
Tuesday morning, my DH asked what I was going to do with the queen, and when I told him, he remarked, "Wow, when you have livestock, you have to be a little ruthless."
|Queen Hippolyte's last moment.|
I feel so sad seeing her babies gathered around her.
Rationally, I know Option 1 is the kindest choice, but I was still miserable about it. Not having the courage to whack her immediately, I committed high treason against her majesty in the most cowardly manner possible -- I popped her into a small plastic container and then stuck her in the freezer. Hopefully, the cold lulled her to sleep before she died. However, to add insult to injury, I will probably use her as swarm bait for my empty Warre next year. Ok, that really is ruthless.
Within minutes of removing her from the hive, her babies began making the most horrible din. They were positively roaring. I could feel their anguish and confusion. It was terrible, simply terrible listening to them mourn for their mother.
Hippolyte had three empty combs that I stuck at the back of Peach. If they get filled with honey well and good. If not, the comb will still provide some insulation for the nuc. Austeja got the few remaining combs with brood.
|Fanning to let her sisters where their new home is|
|Oh, look! This one still trusts me.|