Friday, September 12, 2014

A Swarm in July

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 saying
There 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.
Ugh. I justified my need to pinch the queen -- I had two choices. Option 1: She died, and the rest of the colony got combined with a stronger one. Option 2: She died along with all of her children.

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
All afternoon, Hippolyte's returning foragers buzzed wildly looking for their home. Alas, it was gone. I had removed it. They all appeared to be begging their way into the neighboring hives. Since they were carrying nectar and pollen, they were admitted entry. Hopefully, this will make all the remaining hives stronger.

Oh, look! This one still trusts me.


  1. Sorry to hear about Hippolyte, but it sounds like it was the best choice. I'm sure when my queens are past their prime, I'll have a hard time making the pinch. When I was in CT this weekend, we got some lobsters and it was hard for me to even put them in the pot and I didn't have a relationship with them! (But I knew they had to bee sacrificed for the good of my belly.) I did notice all the ragweed along the roadsides so I hope that helps your girls build up their pollen stores. I also noticed some other plants all along the roadsides with white flowers, but I'm not sure what what they were. Maybe Japanese knotweed? BTW, I have been feeding BnB2 and they were sucking down a quart a day before I left last week.

    1. Were you in CT this past weekend? Cool! Next time, you should look me up! :) Actually, this past weekend, I had a bunch of beeks over at my house, and we spent an afternoon eating and sampling various honey-based spirits. Yum!

      Yes, the goldenrod, asters, and Japanese knotweed are all blooming, heralding the end of summer. (sigh) The bees are loving it, though, and putting lots of honey away.

      Your girls sound hungry. Hope they are getting all set for winter!

    2. It was a quick trip this time, but if I do get back with time to spare, I'd love to get together and see your hives! Sounds like you had a fun weekend.


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