Bee Diary: Keep On Keepin’ On

Spring                                                           Full Bee Hiving Moon

The die is cast again for this season.  Three packages, three three pound packages with around 8,000 bees each will arrive on Saturday.  I’m glad Kate convinced me to buy the larger package since the shipments experienced a two-week delay due to bad weather in California.  Gotta dig out the syrup spray bottle.  Started defrosting the pollen patties left over from last year.  Once done a couple of times hiving bees is not a formidable process, but it does require execution of several steps.

I did learn why my divide failed.  When I requeened it in late summer after inadvertently killing the queen while checking for mites, I did what I thought was a slow release, but it turned to be a fast one.  I stuck a marshmallow in the end of the queen cage so that she and the workers could eat their way through it and come together in happiness and fertility for all.  In fact what I needed to do was put a piece of hard candy in the same place, something that takes four days for the workers and the queen to eat.  Over that length of time they become familiar with each other, old buddies, willing to cohabit without any smothering going on.

As you know, royalty is not beheaded or shot, unless you’re uncivilized like the 17th century English, but instead have the garrote. The same thing is true for bees.  To kill a queen the workers form a ball around her, known as balling (a different use of this term was popular during my college days), and plug up the holes through she which she breathes.  Not a violent, but a certain, death.

The queen is dead, long live the queen.  Yes, colonies will requeen themselves given time, but heading into the gales of November there is no time.  So the divide died an early death.

The parent colony, I think, died from American Foul Brood.  At any rate I burned the hive boxes, frames and foundations.  Scorched earth against this plague.

That leaves my strong package colony.  It looked good headed into winter.  Plenty of bees, what I thought was adequate honey supply and a fertile, young queen.  I’m not sure what happened here.  It could have been mites.  It could have been an inadequate honey supply.  It could have been its fate, woven elsewhere by Artemis and her court of virgin nymphs.  At this point I can only proceed with a completely new bee population and hope that last winter was an anomaly since it was from a weather perspective.

Anyhow perseverance is the route to wisdom in beekeeping as in so many of life’s endeavors.  So, in the immortal words of Robert Crumb, we’ll just keep on truckin’.

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