The queen must die

I’ve talked in the past about how one of our colonies is super aggressive. And the colony isn’t even as productive in drawing out comb and producing honey as our other colony. It is very productive at stinging.

I finally talked to a local experienced beekeeper this week. The conversation went something like this:

me: So, I have a really aggressive colony. Smoke doesn’t seem to calm them. They constantly attack me while I’m in the hive…
him: They follow you when you walk away?
me: Exactly! Any advice on how to handle them?
him: Sounds like you need to requeen. You’ve got a queen that is making angry bees. You need to find the queen, twist her head off, throw her body in the bottom of the hive, and in 24 hours, replace the queen with a new one.

At this point, I am thinking to myself, “Wow, I could use this as a metaphor for so many situations. “You need to requeen…your queen is creating some angry employees” just as an example.

I told him that I would try, but I have never been able to find the queen. I have just gone by the fact that there are eggs, larva, and emerging bees to assure me that the queen is safe and happy. Her actual being I have never seen.

Matt and I suited up that evening and visited the hives.

We took a quick peek in our nice, polite hive. The bees were really active that evening:

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I pulled this frame from it:

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Look at that beautiful honey. Here is a close up:

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I tasted some and it is excellent. This colony is so productive that we might actually get a little honey from this hive this year!

After the quick check on our star hive, we opened our Fight Club hive. They came out swinging. We looked and looked and cowered from the onslaught of bees, but could never find the queen. They were very mad at us. And let us know it by continuing to attack our hats long after we closed the hive and walked away. That queen really is making angry bees.

We hope to have the other beekeeper come by and help us find the queen; otherwise, I’m letting that colony live and let live.

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Close up of one of our girls

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Close up of a bee’s wing

Our bees have a bee in their bonnets

Happy Memorial Day!  We have enjoyed our long holiday weekend.  And we have both been survivors of our very angry, angry colony.

I haven’t worked in the hives since I got that really nasty sting (see previous post), but my curiosity since I added the winter supers got the best of me and I had to check out to see how the girls were doing.  So, this morning, I spent some time with them.  And because the last sting was so nasty, I knew that I was going to be fully-suited and gloved the whole time this time.

I added the winter supers about two weeks ago and I was wondering how much comb they had drawn out in the winter supers and if they had started to fill any of it with honey.  And I wanted to make sure that there was still plenty of egg laying going on.

I started with our colony that has always been gentle (which is how we learned in bee school that honeybees act) this morning.  I knew from the moment that I took the winter super off of the top of the bottom super that this colony was healthy and doing really well.  The winter super was heavy, a lot heavier than I was expecting.

I took a picture of the two supers side by side and I was excited from the beginning.

Winter super in the forefront and bottom super in the back

Winter super in the forefront and bottom super in the back

The frame that you see hanging on the side of the back super is the frame that is the outer frame of the bottom super.  It was 100% full of honey.  The bees haven’t capped it yet, but each cell is full of such pretty, light-colored honey.  I was so proud.

I checked the bottom super to make sure that there was healthy brood and I saw lots of brood and larva, though it looks like a bunch of bees have hatched recently because the amount of capped brood isn’t as much as I’ve seen in the past.  But I saw a lot of little bees in a lot of cells, so I know that there is a laying queen in this hive.

As I was working this hive, Matt came to visit.  No sooner had he stopped his 4-wheeler then WHAM! he was stung on the cheek by a bee.  It was so odd…he wasn’t near the hives and he definitely wasn’t threatening them in any way.  He left almost immediately to go home and take a Benadryl.

I finished up by inspecting the winter super.  I couldn’t believe that every frame had comb drawn out on the foundation (in just two weeks)!  The combs were a combination of brood and honey.  We didn’t add a queen excluder between the winter super and the bottom super.  These supers are their supers and we decided that the bees could use these supers in any way that they wanted.  When we add a shallow super to the top of the winter super, we’ll add an excluder between the winter and the shallow.

It was so exciting and uplifting to see how well this hive is doing.  It seems really healthy.  I checked the bottom board and there are ants, so I need to investigate if and how to treat for ants, but otherwise, this colony is rocking!

I took a break after closing this hive back up to let the bees calm back down before I opened up the next hive (the aggressive hive).  I was sitting on the ground, killing time, and was really struck about how pretty it was.  We have our hives on the back part of our property and it is really nice back there.  I was sitting there and the ducks from the pond had come to visit.  It was just peaceful.

Mr. and Mrs. Duck (I don't think that's their real name)

Mr. and Mrs. Duck (I don’t think that’s their real name)

Matt came back at some point and we were talking (again, nowhere near the hives) and another bee dive bombed him and stung him on the face.  No warning, no nothing.  It was so unexpected and weird.  He took off (not to come back) and ended up having to come home and shoot himself with an epi-pen and lay down.

Then, I went into our aggressive hive.

I smoke the hive, I approach it slowly, I try to do everything correctly as we have learned.  And that hive is just one angry hive.

The minute that I open the hive, the bees start to attack me.  And they don’t let up.

I took a picture of them flying around my face as I was trying to check the frames in the bottom hive.

Thank goodness for bee suit

Thank goodness for bee suit

I ended up checking the bottom hive (which looked fine) but didn’t do anymore than a quick check of the winter hive.  I did notice that the drawing out of the comb in this hive wasn’t nearly as far along as in the other hive and there wasn’t nearly as much honey in this hive.  I closed this hive up as quickly as I could.

Despite the gloves, I still got stung twice today.  Once, very slightly, just barely got me in the palm of my right hand.  The second time, the bee got me good in a knuckle of my left hand.  Right now, that finger is swollen and sore, and the hand is starting to swell, but no bruising (yet).  I’m hoping that being stung through a glove will mediate some of the damage.

After I closed the angry hive, I walked away about 40 yards, hoping that the 20 to 30 bees that were constantly banging against my hat and veil would then leave me alone and fly back to their hive.  No such luck.  These bees followed me no matter how far away from the hive I walked and continued to “attack” me, no matter how long I waited.  I just stood still for about 10 minutes and they continued to kamikaze me.  I’ve never heard of this kind of behavior from honeybees.  It’s disturbing that they are so aggressive.

At this point, I’m not working that hive again.  It’s too aggressive.  I came home and told Matt that my plan was to just leave it alone.  I don’t care about the honey, I don’t care if it swarms.  But I do care if it swarms (angry bees) and I want to make sure that these bees don’t harm the nice bees next door.  I need help from an experienced beekeeper.  These bees need a house in a hollow log, deep in a forest somewhere.  They are anti-social bees.

Someone posted a comment on my blog that they had heard that “hot” hives produce more honey, but this hive isn’t even producing as much honey as the “nice” hive.  I told Matt that and he said, “They’re too busy having fight clubs to make honey.”

Seriously.

 

 

This sting hurts

I am having a large, local reaction (according to WebMD) to the bee sting in my index finger I got yesterday. I took my glove off for about 10 seconds, and a bee dive bombed me and stung me around my knuckle.

I have noticed that one colony is definitely more aggressive than the other. In beekeeping class, the more experienced bee keepers talked about that colonies could have totally different personalities and our two are very different.

Anyway, one of the bees from the aggressive colony got me good yesterday, and several hours after the sting, my finger and hand started to swell. Today, I also have the bruising and blistering.

It looks like the beginning of a flesh eating disease attack.

Anyone else have reactions like this? I’m treating with ice, ibuprofen and antihistamine. Anything else?

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Working the hives

Being a beekeeper (or playing one) is even better than I thought it would be.

I’ve been in the hives a couple of times to check that the queen is laying eggs, that the workers are drawing out the comb, to feed them sugar-water and to generally ensure that things are progressing on schedule.

Actually getting into the hives is SO.  MUCH.  FUN.

You can’t think of anything else when you working with the bees.  No thoughts of work.  No thoughts of bills.  No thoughts of the other stresses in your life.  I am totally absorbed by what is going on in the hives.

And completely fascinated by what these girls are able to accomplish.

Last week I added another deep hive box to each hive.  This, we hope, will be where they store all “their” honey — the honey that they eat during the winter to get them through the time of year when they can’t go gather the necessary ingredients to make their food.  A lot of beekeepers call this hive box the “Winter Super” since it is the hive box that contains the honey for winter feeding.

I went into the hives this morning to see if the bees had started to draw comb on the frames in the winter super and how the brood comb (the comb where the baby bees are made) was looking.

I got stung once today and my finger hurts like a SOB.  The price you pay for the things you love.

I took a few pictures today, but it is hard to work the hives and take pictures at the same time.  Especially if you don’t want to get your camera equipment all dirty!

Love, love, love my bees.

Pollen sacs are full

Pollen sacs are full

 

Working a section of brood comb.  If you look closely, you'll see some larva

Working a section of brood comb. If you look closely, you’ll see some larva

A new bee eating her way out of the comb

A new bee eating her way out of the comb

 

Three beautiful girls, all in a row

Three beautiful girls, all in a row

Our girls are here.

Finally.  The day that we having been waiting for since we decided to keep bees — we brought our bees home.

We drove to a local beekeeper’s house at 8 AM this morning to pick up the beginning of two new colonies.  Three weeks ago, I took him two hive bodies with 9 frames in each.  He split two of his existing colonies and with two new queens, created two new colonies and transferred them to our hives.  He’s been watching over them the last couple of weeks to make sure the bees accept their new queens.

So, now they are going to spend the spring and summer drawing out their comb, the queen’s going to be laying thousands and thousands of eggs to get the colony numbers up where they need to be and they will be making honey for survival during the winter.

This morning was FANTASTIC!  It was absolutely as fascinating as I hoped it would be.  I got stung twice in the right hand, but we learned a valuable lesson — always, always, always use smoke, even if you think you’ll only be in the hive for two seconds.  Two seconds are enough for a very pissed off bee to sting you.

Click on the pictures to get an even better view.

The Bee Photographer–great site

I stumbled upon this website yesterday — it has the best pictures of bees. I’ve posted a few examples. You should check it out: The Bee Photographer at www.thehoneygatherers.com. The photographer’s name is Eric Tourneret and his work is fabulous. Enjoy these few pics and check out his site for more.

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Building combs – from www.thehoneygatherers.com

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Detail of a wing under microscope – from www.thehoneygatherers.com

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Multitude – from www.thehoneygatherers.com