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Where to begin…

My love of beekeeping is becoming an obsession, according to my wife. Regardless, I truly love it for the educational experience  that it is. Everyday is a new experience.

Today, I created another new split, introduced queens to two new splits (one of them being the one that I created today), checked on the Geronimo hive after a long time letting them alone, received a swarm call and collected the swarm. That’s a lot for a day! As I want to record my experiences as a reference, I will focus primarily on the inspection and the splits.

My first task this morning was to introduce one of my new queens. Two days ago, Doug Ladd alerted me to a gentleman by the name of Bobby, outside of Rice, Virginia, that had some queens with some very good genetic history. I believe they are F1 hybrids off of a pure strain that is very hygienic (which means that they clean the varroa mite off of themselves or maybe remove larva with varroa in the cell with them.) I was interested in some new blood, so I made the trip yesterday and picked up two new queens. I now needed to have some hives to put them in!

I took the queen cage and wiped a tad of water along the edge, since I had made her wait over night on top of my aquarium. I then removed the plug that protected the candy and carefully pushed a small nail through the candy. Bobby advised me to do this, but I was very careful here, as I have read of other folks accidentally impaling their queen during this trick! I think you want to do it to give the bees an idea that they can eat through the candy to get to the queen.

So, I go out to the new hive, which I am going to call the Bob Hive, after my brother’s dog (since these bees came from the Albo hive.) The robber screen had worked and the hive entrance was working as expected now. I knew that I had to be quick. When Bobby showed me how he put the queen cells in, the little cage actually dropped into the bottom of the brood chamber (by accident, of course)! Bobby probably has decades of experience, but I decided to take a frame of foundation and wedge the cage between the wire (I do not embed) and the foundation.

I popped the top of the Bob Hive and removed the inner cover. As I grabbed a frame of foundation, a bee flew up out of the hive, landing on the queen cage and stuck its little tongue down into the cage!!! Ha! It’s supposedly a good sign when you see this, as it means that they are feeding her. But, who would have thought some gal would fly up a few feet above the hive and feed her! At any rate, I wedged the box into placed and lowered it into the hive. The bees pretty much swarmed onto the wire caging. I am not so sure that this was a good sign. They use the term ‘balling’ to mean an aggressive stance. They were so thick on the wiring that I couldn’t tell if they all had their tongues out or were biting at the cage. I had already decided that I would probably lose one of these queens, but it would be a great learning experience, so I pushed it into place, replaced the top and put a mason jar of MegaBee syrup on top. I’ll check back on them in a few days.

On to the inspection and new split creation. Cracking the Geronimo Hive, my absolutely strongest hive, made me once again realize the difference in my gentle hives and the Westover Hive(s). I broke that whole thing apart and do not believe one bee banged into my veil (vs. always a dozen or more when I go this deep on Westover). I will probably requeen the original queen from that swarm next Spring. At any rate, like the Albo hive, they had 5 or 6 Deep frames (both sides) of capped honey. They actually were storing a bit of honey in the Illinois super, so they are doing very well. The brood pattern is insane. If that queen decides to use the whole frame, she literally uses the whole frame. She doesn’t miss. Wall-to-wall, ceiling-to-floor. I picked 4 frames out of this hive, including one that was all honey, one that had a bit of pollen and some capped brood, one that was capped brood and larva and one that was sort of misformed (it was on the outside of the Geronimo Hive, and was partially drawn.) I replaced all of these with drawn foundation.

Finally, I moved all of Tom Fifer’s original frames to the outside of the brood chamber, for removal next Spring.

It should be noted that I was prepared with this split, having learned my lesson over the past few weeks. I set the new box up with a robber screen installed. I also created a cover that was easy to remove and replace, as I dropped the necessary frames into it. There was tons of fighting going on in the Geronimo hive as other bees came to steal their honey, but nothing on the new split (a marked difference from my past adventures of late!) A late season split needs careful attention.

Some 10 hours later, I put my second queen into this split, which I will now call the Apache hive. Unlike the Bob Hive, these bees didn’t even act like they noticed her. Not one of them got onto the cage. In fact, the majority of them were face down into the honey cells. I am sure this means something (besides simply that they were hungry), but I will have to wait until tomorrow or Monday to really know what it meant. I put a mason jar of MegaBee syrup on them and that was that.

Well, that was not that, as I was to find out when I received a swarm call around 6:30, but that story will have to wait until tomorrow!

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