Monday, July 26, 2010

Frustrations Of A Second Year Beekeeper

I guess nobody ever said that the second year of beekeeping would be easy. I just assumed that, with a year of experience, it would all be pretty straightforward. Ha! I was wrong!

Last year was really not too complicated. We hived the packages toward the end of April and fed them sugar syrup until they had enough nectar coming in to quit taking it. The queens laid eggs and raised brood like crazy. As the bees filled up one super with comb and honey we would add another. At the end of the summer we extracted honey and fed them more sugar syrup to make sure they could make it through the winter. It all worked out pretty much the way Beekeeping For Dummies said it would.

This year has been a different story. First, both hives built up rapidly this spring, and I had to try to prevent swarming- we had swarm cells up into June. Then both hives went queenless for a while.

Back in June Georgia did successfully raise a new queen who started laying a couple of weeks ago. Virginia, on the other hand, had a more difficult time raising her own queen and went queenless and broodless longer than Georgia. Back on July 5th I reported that Virginia had 6 supercedure cells, and it looked like she was finally on her way to requeening herself.

A couple of weeks ago I inspected Virginia to see if the new queen had started laying but didn't find a single egg or larva. I figured that the supercedure attempt had failed and, without any eggs or larvae, the bees would not be able to make their own. A few days later I moved a frame of brood from Georgia to Virginia to stop any laying workers from developing and I ordered a new queen from Old Sol Enterprises in Oregon. The queen was supposed to have shipped today and arrive in a day to two. I have since checked on Virginia again and, to my surprise, found eggs and larvae! I didn't see a lot, just a few. I guess my bee math must have been off. What was curious, though, is that it looked like there were several cells with royal jelly in with the larvae. Does this mean that the bees already know that this new queen is not up to snuff and they are already trying to replace her? When the new queen arrives from Old Sol I will try to find the current queen and replace her.

In the mean time, with all of these queen issues, the populations of both hives have dropped somewhat and extra honey production has almost stopped. At this point, we will harvest honey this fall- we have 3 medium supers on each hive that are mostly full of honey. Think of what it could have been if everything had gone according to plan! Now I just hope to have both hives queen right and with a decent population before fall.

We actually have extracted some honey already- also on July 5th I reported that our bees were beginning to run out of room. We had a couple more supers and frames on order, but they were slow to arrive. So we pulled one super from Virginia and extracted a couple gallons of honey and put it back on the hive. The honey is delicious- it has a smoth and almost buttery flavor. When the new supers did arrive we put those on as well. With the queen issues and declining populations, the bees have not done much in the new supers; they have only drawn a minimal amount of comb. I figure if they can at least do that much then it will just accelerate the comb building process next summer.

I think we have a few more weeks of decent nectar flow- we'll cross our fingers and hope everything goes well.


Mike and Marianne Grant said...

Thanks for sharing your honey with us. I just had some on toast for breakfast. Yummy!

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