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long live the queen

These lovely pictures are all taken from my second hive. That hive is thriving and the bees look great. They are making a lot of honey and look strong going into the winter ahead. I love the look of capped honey showing in the picture just above. That's what they'll live on during the winter months until the dandelions bloom in the springtime. 

The first hive isn't thriving. I've known this for weeks now, but haven't been sure what to do about it. I always see dead bees around the base, in disturbing numbers. In one of the first bee keeping books I read it recommended always starting your bee keeping experience with at least two hives so you have something to compare your hives against. I am so glad we did this, because towards the middle of August I could tell that the first hive wasn't keeping up with the second hive.

The trouble was that I didn't know what to do about it.

I kept telling myself that bees are resilient. They don't have keepers in the wild. Surely they would figure it out. I had read that if the queen was unwell or abandoned the hive, the other bees would build a new queen cell. But apparently that didn't happen. Adam, my bee keeping mentor came out the same day Mama J died, and confirmed what I already first hive had no queen. As we stood in the noisy cloud of bees surrounding the hive he told me that the bees swarming around and in and out of the hive were likely robbers from other area hives coming to get the honey.

I've taken the loss of this hive pretty personally. Adam assured me that it's really common. That it is not uncommon for a bee keeper to loose 1/3 of their hives in a year. He knew it would be sad, but assured me that next year he'd get me set up with splits from his own hives, queens that he grows and we'll be on our feet again. But I'm still so disappointed and feel so guilty about having lost an entire hive.

Adam did mention that if I had caught it soon enough, there usually is about a 10 day window to introduce a new queen (I thought this was done by the bees, but apparently a keeper can introduce a new queen as well) with hopes that the hive might resurrect.

The biggest lesson learned is simply that I still have so much more to learn. It is obvious to me that I need to be in some sort of bee keeping class, or honey bee school.

It's sad and disappointing. I'll study up this winter and be ready for another round next spring. In the meantime, I'll be building a silt fence around the second hive preparing it for winter.

1 comment:

Madelyn said...

I've read that it's good to start with two hives as well... so sorry about your queen. I'll be following along with your adventures in the spring! Good luck!

Also, do you follow @girlnextdoorhoney on instagram? She posts awesome bee factoids (which you might already know, being a beekeeper) and pictures. It's really neat!