Thursday, June 1, 2017

A Full Beeyard Again

Last fall, an acquaintance of mine expressed an interest in seeing the bees since she'd like to take up the insanity that is beekeeping. Given the dearth we experienced most of last year and the onset of winter, my bees were super cranky. Not wanting to provide a bad first experience, I advised her to wait until spring.

During my previous full inspection, I'd made a 50/50 split with Celestia. However, I had no idea which hive Her Royal Highness was in, so I asked D to check with me.

D finally gets to see the bees. 

It turned out that Celestia was still overflowing with bees and queen cells, so I made a second split from her into Buttercup. However, she was indeed queenless. The queen had gone to Hippolyte, and the bees were busy filling that hive with comb.

We also took a quick peek at the nucs Bubblegum and Peach. Bubblegum was starting to make queen cups. Peach was completely un-inspectable. Have no idea why she was so angry, but it wasn't worth it. I closed the nuc up immediately, but the bees were all the way at the back, so she looked fairly full, too. (BTW, the other hives were beautifully behaved. Didn't even need gloves or jacket for them.)

That was on May 19. Fast forward to May 31. I knew Bubblegum was getting close to swarming, but I just never got back to her. Then yesterday, while listening to my daughter practice her guitar, a distinctive buzzing started up during This Land is Your Land, This Land is My Land. I turned to find a small collection of bees gathering in my fireplace. Say what?!?!? After lighting a fire to smoke out any bees that were considering setting up shop in my chimney, I resolved to make another full inspection the very next day.

Silly bees. Chimneys are for fires.

Persephone: I don't know what the deal is with this colony, but they've abandoned the front entrance and have made their own entrance along the side of the hive. So their brood is toward the middle back, and all the honey is at the front. It's kind of inconvenient for me, but they've never expressed any consideration for me anyway.

The queen cells that I'd donated from Celestia were all open, and eggs were present - yay! I was planning to give the new queen and some bars to my friend J, but as soon as I found the new queen, I lost her again. Anyway, since all was well and good, I closed up.

Bubblegum: Bubblegum had a quite a few capped queen cells. My guess is that she's the one that swarmed and sent scouts down my chimney. Using the swarm cells, I was able to make a split for J. He may appreciate her offspring better anyway since Bubblegum is way mellower than Persephone.

Peach: I had promised a split to my neighbor, and Peach looked like she was starting swarm prep (backfilling, etc.), though no queen cells yet. Made up a shook swarm with her queen, and A will take her to his beeyard in a neighboring town this evening. Also, to speed up the requeening process, Peach got a bar of queen cells from Celestia.

Can you find Peach's queen? She's about halfway down the photo on the left.

Celestia: Celestia is one of the splits I made during the last inspection. The piping of a new queen indicated her presence, though, I didn't find her. 3 queen cells were about to emerge, and rather than let them be eliminated, I moved them to Peach. I also gave Celestia a bar of eggs from Hippolyte in case I had screwed up and moved the queen. Fingers crossed.

With no babies to care for, Celestia is making honey

Buttercup: Made this split from Celestia on the 19th with swarm cells. The queen has emerged, but no eggs yet. Just in case, she also got a donation of eggs from Hippolyte.

Hippolyte: Looks beautiful. Gave her lots of space and will try not to pester her for at least a couple of weeks.

Elsa: She had 3 empty bars left, and it looked like she was thinking about swarm prep, but she hadn't made any queen cells yet. Although, I'd prefer to use swarm cells for a split, I decided to split her preemptively since I'm trying to space out my inspections more this year. Moved some bars into Austeja so that about 1/3 of the hive is now open. Again, I don't know where the queen is, so will check in a few days.

Elsa is starting to cap honey, too.

Austeja: She's got bees again thanks to Elsa. However, I did learn a lesson. I had left her entrance open while she was empty in case some scouts decided to check her out. But I neglected to check the hive weekly, and the very first bar I pulled out had a small wasp nest attached. Fortunately, it was really tiny, and I only needed to rip it off and stomp it.

Surprise! Surprise!

Unfortunately, I never did get around to retrofitting Hippolyte and Austeja with insulation while they were empty, but oh well. All the hives are full again.

I have no idea which queen this is, but she's purty.

According to the US Drought Monitor, my area has finally been downgraded all the way from Severe Drought a few months ago to just Abnormally Dry. The forecast predicts a week of rain starting tomorrow, so maybe we'll be back to normal soon.

No room at the beeyard


  1. Glad to see your hives are all populated again (especially that Buttercup is back to mostly alive)! Yay! And that you are sharing your wealth of bees with others. You're just brimming with bees! Good thing you have a screen on your fireplace!

    I set up some of my empty hives as swarm traps this year and was worried that they would become wasp traps like Austeja, but fortunately I got bees into most of them before that could happen. Although I still have 2 that I guess I'd better go check on after seeing your post.

    What's with the nuc box in the last picture? Are you going all Lang on us? If so, how are you going from TB frames to Lang frames?

    One of my colleagues (originally from MA) who studies droughts around the globe said that "droughts" in the Northeast are generally short lived (unlike California). All it takes is a few good rains and you're right as new. Glad to see that this year is starting off better than last. But, I'm hoping for a flash drought the first week of July when I'm back east though. ;-)

    1. I'm so jelly of your ability to catch swarms! Love it! But yeah, definitely check on those traps. :-)

      No Langs for me -- that's my neighbor's nuc, and the one next to it belongs to a friend. I installed a shook swarm in it for him. My neighbor's nuc is made of some sort of styrofoam, but my jelly-for-muscles self still thought it was too heavy. If I switch hives, I'm going to a Layens or Lazutin.

      Even though we've been getting loads of rain this spring, our area was listed as being in "moderate drought" most of last year all the way up until a couple of weeks ago. So even with all the rain we've gotten, we're still trying to catch up. It's hard to complain about the rain when we still need it. On the other hand, like you, I wouldn't mind a"flash drought" (preferably on a weekend) either! LOL!

    2. Do you have a post on how to do a "shook swarm"? I've been thinking about how to do a split from TB to Lang and this might be a better option than rubberbanding comb into Lang frames.

    3. I don't, but it's basically the same as making up a package except that I'm using bees that all come from the queen's own hive. The benefits are that 1) I wait until the bees are making swarm prep, so they're already in the mindset to swarm & the remaining bees have lots of resources 2) The bees already love their queen, so she doesn't have to be caged. As a result, she can lay immediately.

      The way I do it is I find the queen and put her in a queen clip. Next, I shake a whole mess of bees into the new hive. If you want to weigh out 3 lbs you can, but I kind of just eyeball it. Then I release the queen into the hive just as I would a split and close up. I hang a branch or something over the entrance just as I would for a split, too. That's it.

      Of course, it really is like installing a package, so the bees will dwindle for awhile until the new brood begins to emerge, so if you can give it some resources, that's great.

      Good luck starting that Lang!

  2. Nice to see your hives bursting with bees. I haven't seen many wasps around this year, both at the house and in the bee yard. Normally we have spring wasps nosing around the windows of the house and snooping around the bee yard for bees or nectar. Come to think of it, this is the first year (in three) that I have not seen the big European Hornet. Having that one go away would be a blessing.

    I have been thinking of doing a shook swarm to move bees between different sized top bar hives. Of course, the original hive went and swarmed on me, but I hope to try it sometime in the future.

    Enjoy the spring weather!

    1. Sorry you missed the swarm, but at least it's a sign of a healthy colony!


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