Saturday, July 4, 2009

Special Guest Inspection 7-4-09

One of the benefits of being a member of a beekeeping club is that I know people I can call. I met Jim and Anita Hickey at the last couple of bee meetings. They also live in Dudley. They have been keeping bees for about 3 years. Earlier this week I called them to see if they could come over on Saturday (today) to go through my hive and give me some advice and pointers. They said they'd contact their mentor, Janina Antos, who has had bees for 20 years or so (also in Dudley). They all came over today to go through my hive.

A side note: you can tell how long a person has been a beekeeper based on how much (or little) beekeeping protective gear they wear. I am fully covered; look at Janina (in the blue shirt above) - she only brought a veil, and she was wearing sandals! I actually got brave enough to go without my gloves for the first time. Janina said that if you get stung, it's usually because of something you did (moving too fast, dropping a frame, or squishing a bee, etc.) It was a little funny feeling the bees with my bare fingers!

Anyway, when we were going through my hive, I got a lot of compliments about how well my hive is being run. She said that I had things very much under control, which is great for a first year beekeeper.

One of the things we noticed in the hive was that yes indeed, there was a queen or two in there. So in order to let her have the best chance, we started pulling off the queen cells. Janina looked at each of them and pulled them apart; some of them had queens which were not developed (a little rotten, in fact). She said that the workers hadn't tended to those bees well. But we found some queens that were about to come out! As Janina was holding one of the frames, we saw a queen being born. Look at the following picture - I circled the queen, and she had just come from the queen cell pointed to by the arrow.

Talk about fascinating! As we were going through the frames, we removed the queen cells. Some of them were very close to hatching, and Janina had some queen cages and we put those queens in there. I was holding onto the cages, plus some of the queen cells. The next thing I knew, I felt a bee crawling in my hand - one of the queens had been born right in my hand! That was really a neat experience.

Janina said that with all these queens, I should start a nuc. Well, I just happened to have build a Nuc early in June, so I grabbed that and we put some frames of brood and honey in it (to get some nurse bees in there), and put one of the frames with queen cells in it. We also put the queen that was born in my hand in it, so there may be a battle later to see who comes out on top. So now I have a 2nd nucleus hive started. I'm not sure what I am going to do with it, but my wife is open to the possibility of having a 2nd hive back there. Or I could sell it to make some extra money. The queens I have are all virgins, so it'll take a week or so for them to start laying (after mating first). Here's the hive and the nuc:

I guess I now have a "bee yard!"

We also moved some frames around to encourage the bees to build up more comb. With the swarm(s) happening and all the rain, she suggested I keep feeding for about a week. The jar of sugar syrup I put on the hive yesterday was half gone, so they are definitely taking the syrup!

After removing queen cells and capturing queens, we ended up with a Nuc with 1 or 2 queens in it; 3 virgin queens captured in queen cages; and about 3 queen cells which weren't quite ready to hatch:

(you can really see the queen in the queen cage on the left) Janina took them to her place to use.

All in all it was a pretty fun time. I learned more about the hobby; we met some new friends (and had cookies and lemonade after working the hives - thanks Tracy); and I feel more confident about my (now 2) hives. I still don't know what I'm going to do with the second one.

Since Tracy took a bunch of pictures, I'll just post some below.


  1. congratulations on having a nuc. Did Janina have any ideas as to why you had two swarms?

  2. She agreed that it was probably due to the crappy weather. For the month of June, we had 3 days with no rain; only 7 days where the sun was out more than the rain. But she said that hive was pretty strong (and gentle), even after a big swarm and the mini after-swarm. But coming up with 6 or 7 queens was amazing! I held one in my hand as she hatched.

    Queens are like gold - a mated queen sells for about $25. These I gave to Janina since I couldn't do anything with them...

  3. That is soo cool! What an amazing experience having a queen born in your hand!


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