Sweet roses in full bloom after an evening rain heralded our transition from early to mid spring. This year's color and flower show is truly amazing.
A sight to make any bee and beekeeper happy are the giant tulip poplars, whose huge blooms proclaim that mid-spring is here! The honey flow has been a whopper from what I can tell, and now it's in full flow mode with these giants offering up so much nectar.
A week or so ago I supered one of my production hives with another super, its second. This one was 10 frames with Plasticell foundation I'd given an extra wax coating to. How had they been doing? This greeted me when I opened the box. I was giddy.
This super had every frame drawn at least halfway on both sides. And they're packing it with nectar (and a little bit of pollen) as they build them out.
And yes, the queen is laying up there. I don't use an excluder just yet. Where the queen goes, so goes the colony. So restricting her away from the super when I'm trying to get it drawn is counter-productive. Soon I will put an excluder on and let them finish this super out. After that any brood left up there will hatch out and they'll back-fill that with more nectar as the honey flow is on. (I actually stole this frame and gifted it to another nucleus hive start that was having trouble producing a queen.) Here you can see just how EASY it is to spot eggs using the black Plasticell foundation. "Yaay!" my eyes said with great relief. Future inspections will be even more efficient.
Everything's in bloom it seems. I always enjoy seeing the twisted old pine trees in our neighborhood put on its version of a blossom display.
I've always loved this weeping willow tree, and all the layers of texture and color in our local canopy.
I love these flowers. I've seen them growing up on neighbor's mailboxes. These were at my favorite park in Charlotte, where Yvonne and I had a picnic Saturday.
I thought honey bees ignored roses. I saw quite a few buzzing about the rose labyrinth at the park where we picnicked. I truly love Charlotte.
The hues are so intense on these roses they're almost over-saturating the image. It's easy to see how the impressionists were inspired.
"Look, honey bees!" I exclaimed as we lost our way in the tiny maze.
I hated to leave, but got another parting shot. So far I'm really enjoying this spring like no other. I think it has a lot to do with learning to take some time to literally smell the roses.
So I successfully made 2 queens in May. So what now? How about a simple inspection on my Top Nuc last Wednesday. Obviously a nice tight brood pattern. And, WHAT, more queen cells? Yep, for whatever reason, they ain't happy with the new laying queen (the Top Nuc INSISTs on top quality, I suppose). Bees also love backups. So do I. So when I saw this frame I was delighted. No rest for the beekeeper: I knew instantly I would immediately turn around and make up two new one-frame nucleus colonies. I'd give each nuc a queen cell, and leave the third one for the Top Nuc to requeen itself. This frame had 3 capped QC's and one queen cup underway. This photo was taken on Day 9 or 10.
I started the following Thursday after work and close to sundown, stirring up the big hive underneath the Top Nuc. I had to steal 4 frames to make up two queenless 2-frame nucs (remember, I'm leaving one queen cell for the Top Nuc to requeen itself with). I had to steal 2 frames of brood with plenty of nurse bees and capped brood that will emerge in the coming 3 weeks, and not too many eggs left for the nurses to take care of, and 2 frames of food, both honey and pollen. I was honored with one sting that night for my efforts on my right arm.
The queen cells were all capped by Friday morning. This lets me know how old the cells were and therefore how the queen calendar will unfold on this cycle. I will leave the starts alone until the calendar tells me they should have laying queens in them, 14-18 days later (I'll probably wait 18 days to give them plenty of time).
The following Friday morning, it was time to harvest 2 of the 3 queen cells. Like an idiot, I wore the same smelly beekeeping clothes I'd worn all week so I smelled like a forest fire by Friday morning. Bees rewarded me with two more stings, another on the right arm inches away from the first sting and one on my ring finger (do NOT wear jewelry in the apiary). Also, queenless nucs are ORNERY! They have no queen, for crying out loud!
And HEY, it was time for me to use my brand new QUEEN CELL PROTECTOR CUPS! They make it easy to place a queen cell on a frame (just push it in) and there's no worry of it falling and damaging the queen. Also, the cups prevent the bees from chewing out the sides of the queen cell if, for some reason, they see it as a foreign invader. This allows the queen to mature and then hatch. They can chew out the bottom of the cell to help release her when it's time, though. It's my first time using the protector cups, can't you tell?
I took down one of my swarm traps and used that nuc box as one of my next places to make a start. I do need to make up some more multi-chambered "mating nucs" or "queen castles" as they're called. But use what you've got, and I am. Meanwhile, the bees were aflutter and had LOTS of things to tell me come Friday morning.
The girls bruised me while stinging me (no kidding ... guess they were pretty ticked off!). Swallowing my pride and gently proceeding, it was time to move on to my one mating nuc that already has a successful start in the left chamber. I put the queenless frame of nurse bees and frame of food in the right chamber Thursday night.
For some reason, I managed to push both queen cell cups in a little crooked. BUT, I wanted to get in and get out; the girls were CHASING me out! Still, all in all a success. Now, I cross my (somewhat swollen) fingers and toes, and hope that all 3 new queen attempts work. If so, I'll have 3 NEW NUCS in just two and a half weeks, in addition to the 1 new nuc I'd made in the left chamber last month. Say your prayers. And yes, girls, I will let you bee for a while, promise!
Kundalini yoga master Yogi Bhajan always said, "Patience pays. Wait. Let the hand of God work for you. One who has created you, let HIM create all the environments, circumstances and facilities and faculties. ... Dwell in God and befriend your soul. All the faculties and facilities of the Creation which are in your best interests shall be at your feet. You need million things. Million things will reach you, if you are stable, established, firm, patient. ... Sat Nam." In fact it was a prayer and a mantra I listened to at one workshop, where he chanted those two words over and over again, "Patience pays." In the past few days, I remembered the power of that mantra.
Last Saturday I inspected both of my queen cell starts, the one nucleus hive I'd put in my dual-chambered mating nuc and the "top nuc" colony that has a top entrance of its own and sits atop a regular booming hive. Queen rearing is about math and good fortune. I spent vacation double-checking the math and had it correct. I waited 26 and 27 days after each egg had been laid. Queen cells are capped on day 8, so you know how old a cell is when one day it's uncapped and the next day it's capped, which was the case on my first two attempts at making starts this season. Queens should start laying on day 24. On Saturday, this is what I found:
I felt like I'd squandered a royal chance at increase. I'd cut out a queen cell and gave it to the queenless (and understandably irritable) nurse bees in the left nuc. And, the top nuc had a cluster of 4 queen cells. Only one virgin would win, though, emerging and then killing the others still in their cell. But, beekeeping is a lot about finishing what you start. I SHALL make increase this year ("Lord willin' and the creek don't rise"). Quickly my goals and aims at potentially selling a few nucs this year in addition to making plenty for myself to over-winter seemed to vanish into thin air. I started to beat myself up about it, then realized all of the MANY blessings including all the honey waiting to be harvested in a little over a month from now. "Patience pays." I took a frame that had pollen and some eggs, not too many, just a few eggs and a few larvae on the bottom edges and gave it to the left-chambered nuc to give them another chance at drawing out a cell or two. The top-nuc? I'd just let them put up honey and leave them alone until after the harvest, since they already did have a queen in the bottom-most chamber of that configuration.
Four days later, I took a peek back into the left-chambered nuc. Had they managed to spin a queen cell or two? I was instantly struck by how calm and quiet these bees were (though a few wanted to sting me, but that's normal when you're working close to sundown) compared to a week before. That wasn't my own surprise. I lifted out a frame in the middle and saw, GOOD LORD, fresh eggs that had been laid within the previous 3 days, some larvae and a MAGNIFICENT solid pattern of capped brood across the top 3/4's of one of the deep frames!!! I couldn't believe it. This little nuc HAD succeeded. The queen cell I'd transplanted into this hive hatched and the queen successfully mated. I rechecked all the frames to see if I could see the young queen, but no such luck. I did re-inspect the frame several times and each time delighted at the sight of fresh single eggs surrounded by larvae of various ages surrounded by capped worker brood. Woo-HOOO, I now have 3 queens a-laying in the apiary!
Unfortunately, my camera had decided to not cooperate so I didn't get any photos. But I didn't care. I was now up one. Packing up and turning away to go back onto yard work I stopped. "What if ... WHAT IF the same thing happened in the top nuc?" I asked. "Patience pays." So, I gave them a few puffs of smoke and gave a look. I found what I'd seen before on Saturday: empty frame, honey frame, more honey, another honey frame, honey, and, WHAT'S THIS, but a frame of FRESHLY LAID EGGS and larvae and 3 QUEEN CELLS, 2 of them capped and the 3rd about to be. Apparently a queen HAD succeeded here, too. She had been mated and began to lay but either I killed her when I checked the nuc on Saturday or the colony thinks she's weak and they want a better queen. So they're creating more queen cells out of what she'd laid. It's amazing how easy the bees can create emergency queen cells out of fresh comb, no "notching" required. Fresh comb is soft and easy for them to manipulate. I will continue to use fresh comb in my cell starter colonies from here on.
Smiling, and repeating Yogi Bhajan's mantra I realized that, for whatever reason, it simply took the new queens a week longer than their earliest possible date to begin laying. I am so glad I decided to leave the hives as they were on Saturday, wait a few days and then re-inspect. Patience DOES pay. So 4 days after my initial disappointment, this is what I discovered I actually have on hand:
Patience pays. Sat Nam.
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Tom Davidson is the owner and beekeeper at T's Bees.
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