It’s been over a month since my last post which I know has had some of you wondering if I’m still blogging or beekeeping. There’s a saying in beekeeping – you can either make bees or make honey, meaning that if you spend a lot of your beekeeping efforts raising new bees by doing splits, etc, the bees won’t be able to make honey. I think the corollary to that is you can either tend bees or write blog posts (especially in the spring). I’ve gone from one hive to 7 this spring and only 3 of those are in my backyard, so it takes more effort to check on the out yards. Between that, rainy weather that put me behind on my gardening and my youngest son’s graduation from high school, I haven’t had time to sit down to update the blog. But things are settling down in the bee yards, I finally got my vegetable garden planted and Patrick’s graduated, so I feel I’m coming up for air.
Back in early April, I split BnB2 into BnB1. (My friend Julie, over at Happy Hour at the Top Bar, just posted a nice summary of different ways to do splits. I used “Method 3” – move the queen and some brood and bees to a new hive and let the old hive raise a new queen.) Well, much to my chagrin (and lack of experience), they raised too many queens and BnB2 swarmed with one of the virgin queens. I caught that swarm and put it in a little mini hive that I’m calling BnB3 for now. I did a bit of rearranging in the bee yard, and it’s in a temporary position, keeping the rain off Buddha. I plan to make a more permanent bench that will hold two 12 frame nucs, but that’s just one more thing to do.
Once the queens have hatched, they need to get mated before they can start laying eggs and making new bees. It can be a crap shoot as to whether the queen is successfully mated (for example, she could get eaten by a predator on her mating flight) and then it takes some more time for her to start laying. That can take anywhere from 3 to 15 days for her to mate, depending on the weather and then a few more days for her to start laying eggs. So, if I figure that the queen in BnB2 and the virgin in BnB3 hatched around April 25th, I should have started to see eggs and capped brood around mid-May. The first couple of weeks of May were pretty rainy and cold – not good weather for bee sex. I checked both hives around the 2nd week of May and saw no signs of egg laying queens. I started thinking of what to do next – the bees in the hive were getting old. Should I get a new queen? How long could they go before I had laying workers who only can produce drones? To mangle the Talking Heads – “They say patience is a virtue, but I don’t have the time!”
On May 21st, Duncan and I looked through the hives and we found some capped brood in both BnB2 and BnB3. So, the queens were alive and mated! (but they were shy and we were unable to find either of them during the inspection.)
Both hives seem to be doing well except that BnB2 has too many drones in my opinion. Before I did the split, BnB2 had lots of capped drone brood in it. I probably should have removed some of it but hindsight is 20/20. Drones are needed mostly for one thing – to mate with queens (but not their own sisters). Otherwise, they are just a bunch of lazy couch potatoes – hanging out in the hive, eating everything in sight when they are not out trying to hook up. BnB2 has not been building up very much nectar and honey and I think it’s because the drones are eating up whatever the workers are bringing in. I have about 3 combs in the back of the hive where the honey usually is located that are covered with drones every time I look in. I’m hoping that the drones die off soon, or the girls get wise and kick them out of the hive so they can build up honey and nectar. Neither of the queens seems to be laying many new drones, so once these drones are gone, I think the honey buildup will begin. Plus, we’ve just entered into some nice weather, so I think there will be plenty of nectar coming in soon! Let the honey flow begin!