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Bee Slaughter

Once again, the bees pay a terrible price for my education! It wasn’t all that bad, but it wasn’t pretty.

James Kiser, a member of the East Richmond Beekeeper’s Association that lives just down the road from me, stopped by to watch me check my hives. As I did a full inspection of all three hives last week, I was only doing some quick checks this week (I currently do full inspections every two weeks during the flow, although a bud at work, Doug Ladd (a beekeeper with more experience then me who lives to the west of Richmond), recommends a full inspection every week – something I may try if I start losing hives to swarms), but James was interested in watching since he is getting his first Nuc from Tom this year.

At the last ERBA meeting, Kenny Andrews recommended simply turning the top Deep on its side to check for swarm cells. Since the only goals for the look at the Geronimo hive this week were to check for swarm cells and see if they were working the honey super (Illinois super in my case,) I turned the top Deep on its side and bees poured out of the side and several were squished on the top of the bottom deep (which I was using as the base, like an idiot). I ended up moving it over on top of the super (which was still untouched, although bees were all over it this time) to have a look. I think I should have made sure that the frames were perpendicular to the ground because all of the frames swung to one side, probably messing with the bees on the frames (one of which could have been my daggone queen!) I stuck with it, though, and smoked the bottom and could not see any evidence of swarm cells. All in all, a ton of bees died and I am only somewhat confident that no swarm cells exist. This hive is so chock full of bees that it really must be thinking about swarming. I will probably take some time from work during lunch this week and do a full inspection. The one plus to this is that they never got mad. I couldn’t believe it, with all of the squished bees. I guess they have come to the sad conclusion that the dopey animal that messes with them each week is simply going to kill a few of us and we might as well go on about our business until the fool leaves! I don’t know how Kenny does this trick, but I will not be trying it again until I get more advice.

As to the Albo hive, I was only checking the honey (Illinois) super. This hive had less activity at the landing board, but they had just started to draw out some of the honey super. It was definitely a positive sign. I might get some honey this year after all! Doug has planted the seed about splits in my brain and I want to get some honey before I do it.

Finally, the only goal with the Westover hive was to remove the top feeder. They were not using it when I checked last Wednesday and I wanted to get it off. The only reason I had it on was because of some fairly wise beekeeper online saying that he feeds them until they draw out the two supers (Deep’s in my case) that they will live in. These bees, as of last weekend, had drawn out the bottom deep and had just started the top deep. But, I didn’t want to keep that syrup on them if they weren’t using it (it will ferment eventually.) But, as it turned out, I had 20 to 30 bees in the well with about a third of them eating the syrup. So, I left that on and that was that (unlike the Geronimo hive, these bees do not put up with a lot of shenanigans, so I am more inclined to let them do their thing without my mucking about in there.)

James didn’t get much of a show, although he was definitely surprised that the bees didn’t make more of a fuss during the slaughter at the Geronimo hive (actually, I was surprised about this too.) I think it put his mind at ease a bit about working his bees in the future.

In closing, I received a flier on a Beekeeping Seminar being given by one of the contributors to my bee knowledge (some of which is on this blog), Doug Ladd. It’s going to be given in Buckingham County on June 19 of this year and will include a lot of good stuff for a new (and experienced) beekeeper, including working hives and other items.You need to RSVP by June 9th  – I have included the official flier here : Buckingham County basic beekeeping II seminar .

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