April 13, 2007

I’m back up to two hives! For now…

April 11th was the big day, the folks at Beez Neez drove down to California, picked up a truckload of bees (please, please drive carefully!) and brought them up to us Northwest Beekeeper’s.  The scene at Beez Neez was hectic, a line of beekeepers snaking out the door, everybody picking up their girls and few extra supplies while they were at it.

It was fun standing in line, getting a sense of what other local beekeepers look like (there were wrinkled old men, fashionably dressed made-up women and kids in their twenties, a funny assortment) and hearing the stories.  Oh, I could have stood in that line all day and picked up little hints and ideas from the beekeepers chattering around me (“I don’t use an entrance reducer at all…gets too wet up here in the Northwest, they need the ventilation”…who knew?)

I picked up a 3 lbs package of bees, plus an extra queen to replace the one from Hive 2 that was ailing.  The bees come in a box with mesh on the side, the queen in a matchbook sized box with mesh and a corked hole in one end.  I was advised to keep the queen in my pocket, to keep her warm.  Ain’t that sweet?

I had hoped to pick up some extra deep frames (the larger ones that are used for their eggs, as opposed to the shallow frames that are used for their honey), but they were all out, so we just loaded up and headed back to Seattle with our 10,000 bundles of joy.

The first step back home was to find the old queen in Hive 2 and off her.  I know, it sounds grim, killing the mother of my girls because she’s too old to have babies, but people slap mosquitos all the time right?  And they eat dogs in China…OK, maybe I’m not helping my cause here, but it had to be done, that’s the point.

It seems, though, that she beat me to the punch.  We popped open the hive and inspected all the frames and not only couldn’t we find any sign of her laying, we couldn’t find any sign of her. It can be hard to find a queen because, ya know, no offense or anything, but they kind of all look alike.  The queen is a bit distinctive in that they put a little spot of paint on her back when you buy her (unfortunately, the new queen I bought doesn’t have this…pain in my arse), but she can still be easy to miss. 

Maybe she knew I was coming and left.  Now that you mention it, I did see one bee with a headscarf and dark glasses…hmmmmm….


When we had assured ourselves that there was no bee to be found, we stuck the new queen into the hive (still corked, so the old bees had a chance to get used to her smell and didn’t try to attack and kill her as an invader) and closed it up.  Honestly, though, I’m not terribly sanguine about the future of that hive.  There just weren’t enough bees in it to sustain the hive long enough for the queen to get laying.  If I had realized how weak it had gotten, I would have bought a new package to replenish the hive rather than just a queen, but it was too late.

The second hive went in like clockwork.  Michelle placed the queen in her new box, we dumped them in, closed up the hive and gave them a jar of sugar syrup to get ’em started.  A lot of my deep frames had gotten infested with wax moth (first picture below), so I didn’t have a full set (I had to pinch a few from Hive 2), but I’ve got some on order.

Next step, Saturday I’ll go in and replace the queen’s cork with a candied one.  That will let her work her way out in a day or two.


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