I’ve neglected the blog now for over a week, and frankly I’m not sure where this entry is going, however, I owe it to myself and the people following this blog, who are diligently praying for Fred and me, and our success, to give you an update. The last week or so has been fraught with disappointment both in our beekeeping endeavors and our personal lives. I had hoped this fall to open my own yoga studio here in the Elkview area. I needed some additional training for national certification and insurance purposes and had intended to take that training over the summer. The class I had enrolled in was canceled due to lack of interest. So God has closed that door for now.
That news and the seemingly ceaseless rains of the past week or so left me in a directionless funk. Logically I know that things happen in God’s time and according to his plan but logical reasoning and practical application do not always seem to go hand in hand. I like to be proactive and in motion so stillness and the ability to listen are not two of my strongest attributes. I find myself starting lots of little things and leaving a trail of half finished projects in my wake. I guess, for now, this is what I am supposed to be doing, caring for my family and the bees and chickens. I am not much of a housekeeper so it is especially trying for me to be stuck here on the rainy days when I cannot get out and work in the hives or tend the chicks.
Here is an update on the bees. We found the queen in our split. She is laying and the hive looked good. Last Saturday when we got into the hives and began poking around we saw evidence of what we thought was a queenless hive. This is especially frustrating because it was the hive from which we made the split originally. There did not appear to be any eggs or larva or brood at all so we assumed that when we made the split or sometime after we had accidentally killed the queen. We spent all day Saturday and part of the day Sunday trying to track down a queen producer within driving distance so that we could quickly obtain a queen and get the hive back in order.
Our biggest fear was that we would lose the rest of that hive to a swarm, apparently we had bigger things of which to be afraid. We called the president of the KVBA and he asked how long we thought the hive had been queenless. We believed it could not have been more that around a week because we try to get in the hives at least once a week sometimes more and a week ago we had not noticed anything alarming. He said we would probably be ok to mail order a queen since the hive apparently had not been without a queen for an extensive period of time but (and let me say this is a big but) if we left the hive queenless and there was no brood from which the workers could rear a queen eventually one of the worker bees would begin to lay eggs.
Well frankly this did not sound too bad to me. Seriously, why not just let one of the workers take over the queenly duty? The more I thought about it the better it sounded. Then he dropped the bomb on me. Yes a worker would begin to lay eggs but those eggs would strictly be drones, which means that very quickly the hive would be overrun with bees that could neither feed nor care for themselves or the hive. UGH! He also went on to elaborate on the fact that once you had a laying worker, not only was she almost impossible to find and snuff but that by the time the problem was caught it would be almost impossible to correct and usually the entire hive would be a loss. The frames would need to be destroyed and we would have to start from scratch with a new colony. Can I say again? UGH!
So we spent all day Saturday and most of Sunday calling everyone on the WV Queens producer registry trying to find a queen within driving distance that we could get right away. Remember this was a holiday weekend so even if we got one in the mail it would not ship out until Tuesday at the earliest and we were running out of time. We found one Italian queen in Wardensville, up in the panhandle, which was ready to ship. It would be a nine hour drive to get her. We debated what to do.
The beekeeper that reared the queen suggested we take a frame of young brood from one of our other hives, remove all the bees and stick it in the hive that was supposedly queenless. He said as long as there were brood to care for the workers would not begin to try and lay, his advice was this would buy us a few days grace period and allow the queen to ship USPS. We decided this was the most economical solution. It would have cost us nearly one hundred dollars by the time we had driven there, paid for the queen and driven home not to mention the entire weekend would have been shot. We did as our fellow beekeeper had suggested and switched a frame of brood for a frame of honey and waited for our queen to arrive.
Tuesday morning dawned bright and early with a call from the state inspector. Remember I have been trying to mesh schedules with him for weeks now. Our apiary was due for inspection but I wanted to be there when he came so I could take full advantage of his expertise. He did not give me much notice he was about an hour away and heading my direction, if I wanted him to stop he would. I told him yes and briefly explained what I thought the problem was. He gave a huge sigh, mumbled something about newbies and said he would see me in an hour. I scrambled to find someone to sit with my niece while I got in the hives. My mother-in-law came to the rescue and agreed to babysit for the hour or two it would take.
The inspector arrived and we suited up and headed to the hives. He pointed out about eight million and a half things that we were doing wrong, scoffed at my “Beekeeping for Dummies” bible that I live by and basically all around marveled that my split had lived at all after my caging them off debacle. However, most of the problems he found were minor and general he said (for newbies, of course) we were doing a pretty good job (for people who had no clue what they were doing). We did not have any major illnesses; one hive did have a couple of mites but nothing that was overly concerning. He pointed out a few changes we should make and then we moved into our queenless hive.
He went through both supers and the brood box and pulled out several frames. Unfortunately, it seems our inexperience has once again led us to the wrong conclusion. The inspector was of the opinion that we do have a queen in that hive and that she was probably a virgin on her mating flight. He said the empty cells in the brood box were an indication that the workers were cleaning out for the new queen to begin laying, not that they had left or that the queen was dead. He said the real proof of a queen was that the workers had not begun to pull an “emergency” queen from the frame of brood we had placed in the super. Well great. Not.
Now I have a twenty-five dollar queen and no hive to put her in. She just arrived this morning (Thursday) and I, frankly, have no clue what to do with her. I taped closed the sugar cork end of her cage and placed her on top of the hive frames. I’m getting ready now to gear up and head out. My options are (assuming that all of my hives have a queen):
a. Snuff one of the queens and replace it with the new queen.
b. Get another brood box and put some of my bees and a new queen in it and try for another split.
c. Try and sell the new queen we just bought.
These are the options assuming that the inspector is right and there is a queen in the hive. If there is not a queen then I will simple un-tape the cork and let the new queen do her thing. Pray for me I will need it this afternoon!
Romans 5: 3-4 “And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulations bring about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character, and proven character hope.”