Saturday, August 6, 2016

Two Queens

Two queens -- no, that's not a poker hand. It's how many queens I need.

Between splits and swarms and queens that haven't returned from mating flights, I've been on pins and needles most of the season waiting for eggs. (Btw, compared to seasons past, it seems that this has been a rather perilous year for queens. A lot of mine have gotten lost.) Finally, almost everyone is queenright -- once the last two are settled, I can rest easy.

The bees are nuts for the carrots that didn't get picked.
Another bee on a carrot flower. They even collect a bit of pollen from them.

I made a split from Elsa 2 weeks ago. The queen went to Bubblegum, and Elsa made a number of queen cells, which apparently emerged.  Today, there seemed to be considerably fewer bees in her, so she probably swarmed as well. Oh well. I'll check again in 10 days (Aug 15) for eggs.

This nuc has swarmed more times than I remember this summer, and she's lower on bees than I'd like to see. I had hoped for eggs today, but nope. Most likely she could get out because we got several days of glorious rain!!! The bees weren't "runny" the way they'd be if the hive were queenless, so I'll take that as a good omen. However, if she still hasn't any eggs in about 5 days, I'll have to decide whether to give her a mated queen or combine her.

She's made a supersedure cell, but I'm not going to sweat this one even though I've lost a lot of virgin queens this year. My past experience with supersedures is that the old queen sticks around until the new one begins laying. As a result, there is no brood break. Of course, if a new queen doesn't get mated, the old one could run out of viable eggs. But we've some time left before winter comes, so it's not a big concern yet.

On Monday, this colony was starting to make swarm cells, but I didn't want them to bail on me this late in the season. So I tried an experiment. I cut out all the queen cups and all but 3 or 4 swarm cells. Then I removed about 10 frames of honey/nectar (some of it got harvested, some was redistributed to other hives). I also added a lot of empty bars. Today, not a trace of any swarm cells was left. It appears the bees broke them down. Win!

Austeja, Persephone, Bubblegum and Celestia
All is well. Hooray!

Echinacea is a favorite this time of year
I used to wonder how bees found propolis until I saw this tree.
Apparently, it's not so hard. 

So now I have loads of honey again. Several people have offered to buy it, and still more have offered to be gifted. LOL

One thing I've noticed about crushing and straining is that it works pretty well if I'm doing only a few combs. Once I get more about 5 combs, though, there is a lot of honey that doesn't drain into my bucket. So I pulled out my cider press and pressed the crushed wax after it had already drained for about 5 days. Although I didn't measure the gleanings, I'd estimate at least 5-6 more cups of honey. Definitely worth dragging that heavy hunk of metal out of storage.

Most likely, I'll continue checking on Buttercup, Elsa, and Peach until I'm certain they're queenright, but I won't bother the others until the Japanese knotweed starts blooming. This break from the bees is perfect timing for enjoying the Olympics -- and some air conditioning.


  1. Bless you Mr. Carrier where ever you are!

    1. LOL! You mean the one who started sprinting when he heard the gunshot, right? Ha! I wouldn't blame him if he never stopped running!

    2. Oh, wait -- you mean the inventor of air conditioning. Yes, yes, yes. If he wasn't an angel, that man deserves sainthood!

  2. Glad you have queens! Your weather has certainly not supported mating flights this year - so sorry. Perhaps the lack of rain made the birds that much more hungry, and a big flying queen was just too tasty.

    I didn't realize the queen would stick around during a supercedure. Makes sense when you think about it. Those clever bees, I bet they keep the new and old queen apart on purpose to keep the eggs coming and as a safety net.

    Good luck with the mating flights!

    1. I need to find a way to make my queens look less tasty! Perhaps camouflage them as monarchs? Think it will work?

    2. If you paint the wings with a small brush, then it might work. I've read that workers bees fly with the queen when she mates, in part perhaps to take attention away from the queen in hopes of a successful flight.

      So perhaps if you paint every worker bee orange, you would protect the queen by distracting the predators. This just might be a winning strategy. Gold medal!

  3. Here's hoping you have new queens soon! I know how you feel about bee-ing on pins and needles waiting for eggs.

    Interesting point about not getting all the honey out of a larger harvest. I am finding that my crush and strain operation doesn't scale as well as I had hoped and I think 5 is my limit as well. So far, most of the honey drains out - my bars are smaller than yours so I'm sure that helps.

    Enjoy the Olympics in your nice air conditioning!

    1. Hmm... So your honey doesn't all drain either. Are you thinking of using an extractor? Or are you satisfied with crush & strain? Maybe more buckets/strainers to process more comb at once?

    2. Most of it does. I usually give what's in the strainer a stir half way through to loosen up what's near the mesh. After having one batch crystalize pretty quickly last year and reading one of your posts about moisture, I'm trying to get it all into bottles faster than I have in the past - w/in a day. I should probably even bottle the night of the harvest since most of the honey has drained from the comb by then. But I gotta sleep sometime!

      Having hives in multiple locations and having others (owners of the locations) in on the processing means that I have to time my harvests around multiple factors (including my day job). Right now it takes one day for harvest/draining and one day for bottling, so my equipment is tied up for two days each time. In the past 4 days, I've gotten 50 lbs from 2 hives and I figure I can do about 20-25 lbs (5 x 4lb combs) at a time with the setup I got (some of this last bit went to comb honey as you know). I probably need to have more buckets/strainers/gates so I can do another hive while one is still "in the bucket".

      Oh, to have so much honey that I have these problems! It's been a good year!

  4. Julie,

    Have you ever had a swarm in August? My little 3 frame nuc has grown over 6 more frames. Being newish, I was suprised during the inspection to see brood so close to the back of my hive. I've got 25 frames in total. 13 before the brood nest and 9 after. My feeling was to grab maybe 4 of empty frames from the front and switch to back to give them room. I'm also thinking sooner is better. Your thoughts please.

    1. Yes, I've experienced at least 2 August swarms. It happens.

      That's great that your nuc is doing so well. So you have 13 bars (including some empties), brood, and 9 more bars? Do you have end or side entrances?

      If you have side entrances, you should have done your mid-season shift by now. If you have end entrances, I'd probably still swap them around before the fall flow starts -- so my hives usually look like this in prep for fall: Pollen bars, brood, honey bars.

      If you have nectar coming in & they're still building, definitely give them some room. At this time of year, I don't usually like a lot of room in the brood nest, but you can feed empties between the brood nest and honey combs. You can also feed empties in between the honey combs at the back.

  5. Thank you Julie, I made 3 holes on each side and keep one side covered with screen as a vent. They are using the holes but also the top side bars have a little space so they use those too. I have a Sam Comfort TBH that I closed up the bottom entry but they still sometimes find a way in and out of those little spaces. I gave them the whole box and I'm feeding with a gravity pail inside a little half doll house from Target I stapled a with flexable screen so that other bees coming around don't try to rob it out. Excuse my lack of knowledge had no idea about the mid-season shift. I'll need to get up to speed fast. Thanks Again.


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