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Sunday, July 19, 2015

A New Queen & The Birthing of a Revolution

On Thursday, I added some syrup to the nucs and took the opportunity to check on them. Not only is all well, but Buttercup has a queen! Finally! Sadly, I left my smartphone in the house, but compared to my dark girls, she's a blond beauty.

This afternoon, I undertook an inspection of the full-sized hives. I can tell that the summer dearth has started. Very little nectar coming in. Actually, it looks like the saved nectar is starting to get eaten. Comb building has all but halted. All very normal for this time of year.

Austeja
I didn't do a thorough check, but Austeja is starting to build drone comb, which is a sign of a healthy hive to me. Saw eggs and larvae, so I closed up.

Hippolyte & Peach
Hippolyte and Peach don't seem to have any honey bars in back, but it's hard to tell what they have since I didn't really get to look at them.

I never thought I'd say this, but I actively dislike these bees. These are my open-mated packages from GA, and they are the meanest, nastiest, most hateful furies I've ever seen. Even the bees I had my first-year weren't this bad. They were a little defensive at first (head bumping) because they'd suffered a few bear attacks right before I'd gotten them, but they settled down after a few weeks. These Georgia bees must have some AHB genetics or something. As soon as I pull out the first bar, they swarm out en masse directly at my head. There are no warning bumps, either. Stinging commences straightaway.

Hippolyte. Starting some comb behind the divider board.

Today, it was so bad I actually had to go back to the house and suit up, which almost ticked me off more than the vicious attacks since it was almost 90 F outside. I usually don't wear more than a veil, but I truly need the whole shebang with them. I barely took a look at them. I got two bars into Hippolyte, and not even a single bar into Peach. I still got zapped four times.

Some double comb on a bar

I've had it. These queens are getting dethroned. I just haven't quite decided yet how to proceed with my revolt. Here are the options I'm considering.

  1. I could requeen them now. However, I don't see this as a real viable plan since I'd have to comb through the hive to find the queens and then I'd have to keep messing about with them until I know they have a new mother. The idea of repeated interactions with them sends shivers down my spine.
  2. Leave them alone until the last brood emerges at the end of fall. Then shake them out to die & take the honey. It sounds horrible, but that's what people used to do with skeps every year. My only concern is that they might join other colonies without adding any resources to them. In other words, will I make the bread bigger without adding any more butter?
  3. Let their numbers dwindle a bit until the fall flow starts. Shake all the bees out and let them beg their way into the other hives. Distribute brood to the other hives in order to boost their workforce. The down side of this plan is that the thought of all those hellions in the air at once terrifies me. On the other hand, it should give the other hives a huge bump for that final nectar flow.
  4. Hope winter kills them. If not, make splits & raise queens using brood from my other hives. If they survive, it will be an easy way to start a lot of new hives. However, this plan has a con, too, which is that if they die, they die after consuming a lot of honey.

I know one should never say never, but truly, if I can avoid it, I will NEVER buy a Southern package again.

7 comments:

  1. You could keep your handling to a minimum by instead of looking for the queen just dividing the brood nest. The side without raises queen cells so you know is queenless. The remaining you halve again, the side without raises queen cells etc. Until you are down to 2-3 combs. Much easier to find the queen and weakening colonies in this way "can" calm them. I would recommend moving the hivr first though and putting a closed empty box in the hive location. That way when you are workong on the hive any foragers etc are head back to a different location and the bees.in the hive are more interested in covering the brood.

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    1. I really like that strategy, Dewey! Thanks for that suggestion! Good idea, too, about moving the hive.

      I don't think I want to split now because we're entering our summer dearth. In any case, I don't have any empty hives or nucs, and I'd need about 9 queens to do this properly. Already made 4 splits from the other hive, and I just want those to build up now -- would rather not taken any brood from them. I don't want to spend $300 on queens right now either.

      I still like your idea, though. Maybe I'll wait until spring & see how many colonies I lose over winter. By then, I'm sure I'll want to repopulate some hives, and if those mean girls are still around, your idea sounds like a good approach.

      Thanks again!

      Delete
    2. I really like that strategy, Dewey! Thanks for that suggestion! Good idea, too, about moving the hive.

      I don't think I want to split now because we're entering our summer dearth. In any case, I don't have any empty hives or nucs, and I'd need about 9 queens to do this properly. Already made 4 splits from the other hive, and I just want those to build up now -- would rather not taken any brood from them. I don't want to spend $300 on queens right now either.

      I still like your idea, though. Maybe I'll wait until spring & see how many colonies I lose over winter. By then, I'm sure I'll want to repopulate some hives, and if those mean girls are still around, your idea sounds like a good approach.

      Thanks again!

      Delete
  2. If you were to put one-way wire-mesh cones onto the exits of the evil hive, would returning foragers eventually give up and find another hive to welcome them or loyally hang around the entrances until death?

    If the former then the evil will get dispersed among the rest of your hives (or just the nearest ones) and successive generations of evil bees will graduate to forager and need to find a new home until the wicked queen starves.

    If the latter then our idea seems pointless.

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    1. Oh! That's really clever! Basically a trap-out except I don't have to put them in a box. Good question -- I don't know if they would go into another hive or not. I'll have to research that idea some more. Thanks for the thought!

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  3. I had to deal with some mean honey bees for the past three summers --- and I hated it. I could tell you horror stories, experiences that would discourage most people from going anywhere near honey bees again, experiences that certainly took the shine off the joy I used to get from beekeeping. I still get uneasy around my bees at times because of it. I'm trying to relax around my bees again, and most of the time I'm cool, but I still have one colony whose queen mated with the mean bees and although they're nice most of the time, when they get defensive, they do it en masse and it's scary, though they're tame compared to the original mean bees (which are thankfully dead now). At least I can work the hive from time to time. The original mean bees were entirely unworkable. Even the slightest disturbance of the hive and they would pour out like a lava flow of bees. My veil would be so thick with bees, I could barely see out of it.

    If your bees are in any way workable, I'd move the hive 10 feet or so and put a weaker colony in the same location so the weaker colony gets all the foragers and converts them to the good side of the Force. Then --- with fewer bees in the hive --- pull brood and honey and give the frames to more needy hives. Then kill queen. It's not worth it keeping mean bees around, or a queen that makes mean bees.
    I'm not sure why my bees were so mean, but I suspect it was because the queen was the result of inbreeding.

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    1. You bring up a really good point about queens mating with drones from your mean colonies. That's something I've been considering, but I've been too chicken to suit up and pull any drone comb. You're right, though -- I definitely don't want those drones mixing with the local population. Ugh. Looks like I'm going to have to bite the bullet.

      That's a good suggestion about moving the hives. Thanks!

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Thank you for your comment! I can't wait to hear what you think!