So I went back into the hive that went apparently queenless over a month ago and in which I installed two black Carniolan queens. Had to reduce space as wax moth damage was beginning in one section of the honey supers (not enough bees to patrol the space), and recombine this hive back into one unit since apparently I doomed one of the two black Carnie queens by failing to put a bottom on the divided brood chamber (stupid). The state inspector and I saw some eggs and larvae, and a group of bees huddled underneath the hive that we brushed back into the hive. So on a sunny Sunday, what I found was not a big black Carniolan queen but a gorgeous amber Italian one. She walked super fast and acted hurt on one side. I couldn't tell if it was a leg or wing, but she was laying, laying, laying all over. So I knocked down the two capped queen cells underway and put her and the hive back together into a deep and a half. I tacked on some new 9-frame spacers on each. She's a beaut, ain't she? Certainly not Carniolan that's for sure!
Good Lord, bees will just always make you feel stupid when you need it the most. Apparently she was in there the whole time, or was on a mating flight when I found a broodless, eggless hive a month ago. So my brilliant plan to turn this once large colony into two divided nucs with lots of honey just went to pot in a hurry. I took out a super's worth of honey and some brood combs that were empty and beginning to attract moths and put those in the freezer for a couple of days. Will give that honey to one of my stronger nucs. So I spent a bunch of time undoing one hive configuration into something else just to put it back again. While I was at it, I installed new 9-frame spacers on their new single brood chamber, and closed up entrance holes with some wine corks, and gave it a fresh couple coats of exterior paint.
I also installed a frame feeder in this colony, and two others before a robbing frenzy I started by removing all those frames and changing out the equipment had me r-u-n-n-o-f-t out of the apiary for a bit until tarps over the hives and time calmed everything down. Last year I had great success getting my colonies up to weight quickly by using the frame feeders. So I'm going back to them. Last year I installed V-shaped window screen that went to the bottom of each frame. You can pour through it, but it also provides a ladder for the bees so they don't drown. Well, most didn't, but there was still some drowning ... not too bad, but with tiny colonies I don't want to lose any bees at this point. So I cut up some corrugated plastic to run the width of the frame and float atop the syrup to use as a quick visual level reference when I'm checking in, and to give the bees a perch or life raft if they need it and are struggling to reach the side screen.
If for nothing else I must continue drinking wine to get corks to plug up all the entrance and vent holes I often drill and use in my equipment ... and to help me take in all the stupid things I've done and are yet to do that the bees will show me. Somehow, despite all my worst efforts, I'm going into winter with 7 laying colonies. Not bad for having started with 2. Here's the latest one again. I guess it's good to feel stupid. Me? I'm a glutton for punishment I suppose.
Tom Davidson is the owner and beekeeper at T's Bees.
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