Tag Archives: Anxiety

180° of Worrying

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When we last visited the Kingdom, hopefully you’ll recall that Catherine had employed some crazy architects.  I suited up and went in to revoke their building licenses.  I opened the hive, and sure enough, for some odd reason they had started to build comb perpendicular on the last large piece of comb.  It was bizarre and odd.  It was “cross comb” !!

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I easily removed it and put it aside to take into the house to add to the wax collection in the freezer.

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One day, when I have enough, I’ll render the wax and maybe make a candle !  Or some fabulous lip balm!

I switched out their feeder and closed them up.  As is typical for these Girls, they were feisty and annoyed that I was bugging them.

I checked on them two days later and they had started to rebuild the cross comb again.  I decided I needed to relocate that particular piece of comb between two already completed combs.  The Girls would not continue to build cross comb if it would interfere with their “bee space”, which essentially represents the amount of space required for bees to walk between two pieces of comb.  It was the only chance of halting this insanity.  After the last cross combing incident, I had done a little reading and found out that instead of taking the cross comb and adding it to the frozen wax ball, I should have simple attached it to one of the top bars.  This makes sense seeing as how much energy and resources it takes to make wax.  So this time I decided to affix the cross comb to one of the top bars with comb currently being constructed.  I also determined that it would be an ideal time to perform a full inspection.  So once again, I suited up and went in.

Removing the cross combing was once again a simple procedure, as was affixing it to the top bar.  It was fresh wax and so beautiful and soft.  It molded easily to the top bar.  I started to begin the inspection.  I noticed a lot of drone brood as I started going through the combs.  In fact, it seemed to be all I was seeing.  I was starting to get worried.  Is Catherine a “drone layer”?  Oh great, that’s all I need.  But then I saw some, there it was, worker brood!

Hooray!!  But there was still more drone brood and more drone brood.  And the laying pattern of the worker brood was spotty at best.  The Girls were becoming extremely annoyed at my presence and dusk was approaching.  I closed up the hive and went back to the house, followed by a few angry Girls, that I finally managed to shake about half way to the house.

My heart was heavy.  Was Catherine going to rule with dignity ?  Or would I already need to be thinking about a plot to replace her?  I would give it a few days, I told myself.  I crossed my fingers, I crossed them Hard… Let’s see what happens.

And I guess a few days was all it took for her to get back on track, because now we are at the opposite end of the spectrum.  Catherine has generated so many offspring that I now am worrying about “swarming” !

Is there no peace for beaks ?  Is this all a huge exercise in worrying?  I haven’t done a full inspection, but was carefully observing the kingdom’s progress through the looking glass (i.e. the window).  I could see definite worker brood in most cells.

I was continuing to feed them regularly, until their comb approach the back of the hive !  Yes !  The Girls have constructed comb on almost every top bar !  Which is another reason for me to worry about swarming.  If the Girls feel overcrowded or confined, they may decide they need a new home.  That could lead to ALL of them leaving, which is called “absconding”, or they could decide to start raising queen babies.  If this were to happen, the Girls would build special queen cups and Catherine would lay eggs in those cups.  Those eggs would hatch into larvae that are feed a magical potion called “royal jelly”, which is a white goo loaded with carbs and other goodies.  It like a magical Merlin potion, because it turns a regular ol’ egg that would normally turn into another worker bee into a royal princess.

Catherine would then command about half, maybe more, of her loyal subjects to chow down on honey in the hive and then they would all take off for another kingdom, leaving my kingdom with half its original Girls, half its honey, and after the gestation period, a VIRGIN queen.  This new queen would then have to go out and find available drones from other hives.  This would be less of a concern if the Ferals were still around, but since they were evicted, I’m not sure how close the nearest hive is.  I do know of a few down the road, but am not sure if it is within 3 miles.  I’m not sure how far the Virgin Queen would fly to mate.

If she could not mate successfully, doom and gloom would quickly engulf the kingdom.  I would have to be able to quickly identify this situation, and if available, purchase a new queen.  Either way, my second year of beekeeping becomes another bust.

And starting on Monday, the Girls started “bearding” outside the hive in the evenings.

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The bearding was so great on Wednesday evening that it was still there at 5:30 am Thursday morning.  However, by 7:00 am the Girls had mostly left to start their day.  I am considering whether I need to get a bed sheet and hang it in the tree to block the sun in the afternoon, even though the hive is only getting mottled sunlight.  The following day the bearding had expanded to this !!!

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I know I must do an inspection quickly; however, I worry that doing it in the afternoon when i get home from work is too late and the comb may be too soft and might collapse.  That would be utter disaster, plus a lot of the Girls are already bearding by that point and I don’t want to disturb their ball.  So I plan on doing it Saturday morning.  The rain chance is low and the temperature will be lower.  I will give the Girls a chance to get out and about and then i will perform the inspection.  I will need to determine if there were/are any queen cells.  If there are not, which will be the best case scenario, I will need to see if there are any combs with only honey in them.  If there are, I will need to harvest one or two so there will be additional empty top bars for Girls to continue expanding onto.  If there are not, I will need to make difficult choices.  I need to have empty top bars in the hive, so I could have to cull some brood.  I would attempt to cull any drone brood first and I would also like to cull any of the old comb from last year as well.  The Girls have really boomed in their wax production this year.

Oh!  And who knew that boxwood shrubs actually bloom and that the Girls LOVE boxwood nectar!  Last week I noticed quite a bit of activity in the front of the house.  Come to find out, boxwoods have tiny little bell shaped flowers !

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And on a final note, the Girls have seemed to calm down considerably.  I can perform looking glass inspections without any bother lately, which is an awesome sign.

A few other point of note:

1)  I have Golden Boys !  The drones are an incredible gold color, unless it is just because they are still young, I’m not sure.  In any case, I always like to appreciate the Boys too.

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Also, the Girls have finally found the pond.  I periodically see Girls going in for a sip.  However, alarmingly, I’m not seeing more.  It’s been quite hot and humid lately and if the Ferals had still been around there would have been a steady stream of visitors.  However, my Girls haven’t really visited, which is somewhat perplexing.  I would assume they are getting water, but from where I don’t know.

What’s Bloomin’

Here is where my Girls play and dine…

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  • Cat Mint (daily nectar foraging all day)

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  • Spiderwort — Widow’s Tears (daily early AM pollen foraging)

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  • Widow’s Cross

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  • White Clover (daily nectar foraging)

  • Chinese Privet (potential for pollen)

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  • Box Woods — at front of house (daily nectar foraging)  —  who even knew they bloomed !!

  • Dandelions — blooming again

  • Prairie Larkspur — still in bloom, but going to seed

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  • Gatinger’s Prairie Clover (never seen Girls on this, only Bumbles)

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  • Wine Cup

  • Primrose

  • Lavender — almost ready to flower

  • Tennessee Echinacea

  • Yellow Wild Flowers

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  • Purple Spike Flowers

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  • Ox Eye Daisy, the small Hairy Daisies, and the Skinny Medium Daisies

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  • Purple Butterfly Bush

  • Gerber Daisies

  • Dutchman’s Pipevine — still flowering

  • Wysteria – GONE

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  • Tangerine Cross Vine – GONE

  • Nashville Breadroot – GONE (but greenery is still around)

  • Tennessee Milk Vetch – GONE

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  • Little Yellow Ball Flowers, except in front of house  – GONE

  • White Baby’s Breath like stuff – for most part GONE

  • Rosemary – GONE

  • Crown Vetch

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  • Goat’s Beard

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  • Nine Barks

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Bee Gone Ye Wretched Freeloading Boys !!

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(Remember… Sir James is a terrible Scribe !)

So yesterday evening I witnessed the expulsion of a few of the Boys.  Oh that’s right… since the last time I blogged, Queen Vicky felt like laying, or the Girls felt like raising, some Drones!  Just a few, but enough to peak my interest, since there hadn’t been any all summer long.  Not sure if the boys accomplished anything, but it’s now obviously time for them to go !  One Boy was already kicked out and dead on the ground.  I watched another being dragged out the entrance by one of the Girls, only to ever so luckily escape her grasp and slowly lumber back inside.  You days are numbered, my son.

Much has happened since last we scribed in the middle of August and fall is definitely in the air.  In fact, it was down right winter this morning.

So we apparently have this plant in our yard called Glade Privet.  And on August 18th, it bloomed.  And when I saw it bloomed… I mean it BLOOMED !!  I had never even noticed the plant/shrub before.  But one evening as I was out looking at the vegetable garden, and I heard Girls… it’s crazy how I can hear Girls now and I can even tell when they are Honey Girls or Not Honey Girls.  I was like, “Wow, I can hear Girls, where are they”.  Then I saw them and it was like Little Monsters at a GaGa concert!  They were everywhere, and they were partying down !  Apparently Glade Privet is the Bees Knees…. literally !!  (pun intended).  I started looking around the yard and discovered this stuff is all over, but only the big bush by the vegetable garden was really blooming.  I suspect it is because it gets significant water from our neighbors sprinklers, as  I know that our sprinklers do not water that back part of the yard.  The Glade Privet party lasted for about 6 days, non-stop, and then it was over as quickly as it had begun.  It an odd lanky shrub with almost insignificant greenish flowers.  But it does have an intoxicating smell that the Girls loved.  I hope some of my Girls got to partake in the fun and it wasn’t just all Ferals.  I tried to watch as Girls were leaving to see which hive they returned to, but it was just too difficult.


I have actually been bee-zuly, (get it… busily ??) reading a great new book all about top-bar beekeeping, nothing else… just top-bars.  It has definitely enlightened me regarding a number of things.

First, when I had the comb collapse tragedy after the first month, I shouldn’t have removed the comb.  I actually should have placed it at the back and just leaned it up against the wall and left it.  I had originally down that for a brief time, but then did finally remove it.  That was a mistake.  Lesson learned.

Secondly, I should have been moving empty top bars in front of that last honey comb all along.  My idea turned out to be correct.  Turns out this is an actually top bar beekeeping manipulation method to coax them to generate new comb.  I’m annoyed that I didn’t think of this sooner and try it earlier because I am concerned that the Girls don’t have enough reserves to make it through the winter.  Had I been utilizing this method all summer, I’m sure they would have built more comb.

I did actually feed the girls for 4 days straight with a 2:1 sugar syrup, AND… I placed the feeder inside the hive !  When I originally did it, I was all suited up.  I didn’t really bother the girls.  I basically opened the back of the hive and place the feeder within.  I did check on the last comb because the Girls did have some nectar that I could see on the back side for the longest time.  Then it suddenly disappeared.  I started to panic thinking that they had been robbed, but there was still capped honey on the front side.  That was also when I noticed the Drone cells and found it interested that Vicky had laid some Boys so late in the season.  Also, the comb that they were laid one was quite unusual.  It was very wavy and different thicknesses.

As I had said, the Girls were very very calm, so the next day when I went to take out the empty feeder and replace it with a new full one, I decided to try my luck sans suit.  I was a little nervous, but took my time and made sure to exhale away from the hive.  My heart was racing and I began sticking my hand in to retrieve the empty feeder.  I’m there… I’ve grasped the feeder, now to slowly take it out. Gently… ever so gently.  Almost there… Almost there… Just a few more inches… And then it happened !!  My fingers slipped !!  The empty feeder falls back into the hive with a very loud bang!  I panic and hold my breath waiting for the inevitable massacre that is about the happen to me.  I can run, I tell myself.  I can run to the house and put on my suit and fix the mess, I say.

But nothing happens !  A few girls fly out, but not even right at me.  Wow.  How lucky was that?  But the feeder is still in there, and now it’s LAYING down.  Am I crazy for thinking I should stick my hand back in AGAIN?  Wouldn’t a smart and sane man go get the suit ?  Or at least the gloves ?

But I was living on the edge that day and threw caution to the wind…. Woooooosh !! (That was my caution being blown away by the wind!)… (Actually there was no wind that day … so in actuality my caution would have just thudded to the ground!)

I licked my fingers and wiped them on my shorts to make sure there were not slippery.  I took and deep breath.. and exhaled AWAY from the hive… and slowly re-inserted my my hand and arm into the open hive.  I slowly grasped the feeder again and began to retrieve it.  Slowly.. slowly… gently… let’s not drop it again… slowly… almost there…. SUCCESS !!  I DID IT !!

I removed the empty feeder without one sting.  I gently placed the the full feeder into the hive and closed her up !  I was extremely proud of myself.  And repeated this three more times on the following three days.  It’s been cold the last few mornings and days, in the 60’s during the days and the 40’s at night.  However, it is supposed to be in the 70’s Thursday through Sunday, so I am hoping to feed the Girls again on those four days.

I am quite anxious over the approaching winter and whether the Girls will survive.  I purchased some insulation panels for the hive in hopes that I can give them any edge possible to make it through.  Another concern is their propalizing.  The Girls have done an excellent job of propalizing the small cracks along the bottom of the hive, along the cracks along the false back and the top bars, but they haven’t done anything at the entrance.  The Ferals next door have started to close up their front door.  I’m worried that my Girls have not.  I’ve read that some bees have lost their genetic instructions for surviving the winter and the Beeks need to help them by placing grass or twigs in the entrance, something small enough that the Girls can move if they warrant.  The front insulation panel will narrow and close off the entrance considerably, but I’m not supposed to use the panels unless it will be prolonged days below freezing.  I’m crossing my fingers for a mild winter, like last year, but this early blast of cold air is giving me pause.

Bearding is a normal occurrence for bees and happens when they congregate at the hive entrance, typically on warm and humid summer evenings.  The thinking is that the Girls know that their presence inside the hive would raise the temperature or the humidity level to high, so they hang out, literally, outside the hive.  An interesting formation occurred a few weeks ago however, just as it started to turn cool.  I went to visit the Girls in the morning, as I normally do each morning, and I found this strange little bearding formation.  It’s unusual because it was early morning and was somewhat cool out.  However, I think it was a little humid, and that may have been the contributing factor.  In any case, I’ve never seen the Girls do Bearding THIS way.  This whole little group was hanging on to only two Girls.  It’s crazy the strenght those little Girls must have to be hanging on by their little legs with all those other Girls just hanging on to them.

And that brings to a conclusion this latest scribe entry.  Until next time (hopefully BEFORE winter), everyone cross their fingers for the Girls.  And I’m going to try and get some pictures of the Ferals also.

Hear Ye… Hear Ye….

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Although Sir James is undeniably brave and valiant when it comes to vanquishing Small Hive Dragons and other such matters, be it known throughout the land that Sir James is a very, very, Very, Very, let’s say it again, VERY, very, one more time for good measure, Very, BAD Scribe.

It has been far too long since the last Royal update, and much has happened!  So let’s begin.

When last we left, it was the start of July, and our suspicions of a new Regant had been confirmed.  We were also in the midst of a Honey Girls “No Comb Building” Strike !

On Sunday July 22nd, I re-entered the Kingdom to see how QV2 was fairing.  I would venture to say that her reign is mediocre at best.  She is laying; however, her laying pattern is somewhat spotty.  I noted both capped and uncapped brood.

I put on my Cecil B. DeMille hat, as I believe I faintly heard “I’m ready for my close up”.  Here she is!   Can you find her?  She is the spitting image of what a Queen should look like.


I’ve been at my wits end regarding the Girls’ “No Comb Building” Strike.  Granted, it has been a very hot, dry almost drought-like summer here in Nashville; however, I keep feeling like for some reason something wasn’t right.  I was feeling almost like the Girls thought they were at the end of the hive for some reason.  Even though they still had enormous amounts of space.  There were still at least 3 empty Top Bars (“TBs”) and then 4 Honey Top Bars (“HTBs”).  The False Back is still in position as well and there are additional HTBs behind the False Back.  HTBs are merely regular TBs separated by small spacer bars.

Bees like to build combs at different widths to accommodate the use of the comb.  The regular TB has a 1 ⅜” width.  The spacers add ¼”, resulting in 1 ⅝”.  The Girls prefer to build brood comb with the 1 ⅜” width and honey comb with the 1 ⅝” width.  Apparently this allows them the correct spacing they want because they will build the honey comb thicker than the brood comb.

I had been mulling over a thought in my head for weeks.  When the comb collapse tragedy happened back in the middle of May, the Girls quickly rebuilt the comb on the empty bar that I had erroneously left.  What if I put an empty TB in front of the TB where they were storing their honey?  Would that persuade them to build new comb?  I decided to put an empty TB on position #1 and another empty TB right in front of their honey comb.  So the pattern in the hive was now as follows:

TB#1 — empty
TB#2 — pollen comb
TB#3 — brood comb
TB#4 — brood comb
TB#5 — brood comb
TB#6 — brood comb
TB#7 — brood comb
TB#8 — empty
TB#9 — honey comb
TB#10 — small comb (2 little pieces)

Well the Bee Goddess must have been smiling on the kingdom, because the following week, there was a beautiful new piece of snow white comb built on TB#8 !  Huzzah, Huzzah !

So that basically brings us up to last weekend.  When I again went into the Kingdom to slay Small Hive Dragons (small hive beetles).  Nasty little creatures, but the Girls do a pretty good job of quarantining them into the back of the hive and propolizing the cracks so they can’t get back through.  But there were A LOT now, probably 8-10 (in actuality, that isn’t a lot, but I don’t like looking at them when I looking into the hive), so I wanted to try and get rid of some of them.  I opened the hive and squished as many as I could.

I did a very brief inspection.  I checked on TB#1 and it was still empty.  I did not look for the Queen this time, but briefly looked at the laying patterns on the pieces I checked.  It was basically still the same.  Spotty capped brood.  Not a Drone in sight.

The Girls had already started storing some pollen and honey in the new piece of comb.  There were no spacers between any of these TBs and I worried that they might attempt to cross-comb the honey comb, so I moved some of the spacers around to give them the extra width on the honey comb pieces.  I also moved the last TB with the small pieces of comb, which by the way they had now connected (TB#10 above) to be in front of the new piece, TB#8, hoping they would also expand this piece and put honey in it.

If the Girls can at least get that done, they would have 3 combs of honey.  That would make me feel more comfortable going into fall.  Everything I’ve read says they need about 7 combs of honey for the winter.  I’m not sure if they will get there or not.  If they don’t, I hope they will survive.

I want to try and buy another False Back  in an attempt to devise a system to feed the Girls from within the hive, but I’ve been emailing the people I bought the hive from for two weeks now and I haven’t received a return message yet.  I swear the only time they have communicated with me was when I was buying something.  Sort of pisses me off.

I’ve read that honey production this year has been very negatively impacted by the severe drought and that everyone should be diligent in feeding their Girls.  I’ve been feeding them typically once a week with 1:1 syrup.  They typically take it very quickly, but the last time I tried giving it to the Girls, it took them over an hour to show interest.  I did not feed them last weekend as we’ve had some good rain.  However, I’ll continue to watch and feed as necessary.

One thing I find odd, we have a very LARGE rosemary plant and when it first bloomed in the early, early spring, it was covered with Feral Girls.  However, it recently re-bloomed but no one visits it.  Not my Girls or the Ferals.  Maybe there isn’t any nectar in it, but that would surprise me since it gets regular watering from the irrigation system.  All the Girls, mine and the Ferals, still spend a lot of their time getting water from the pond.  I’ve noticed a little foraging on these little blue-ish/purple flowers that basically grow like some sort of grass weed, but apart from that, I’m clueless as to where they do the majority of their foraging.

Here is one of my Girls foraging on one of the bushes in the yard.

I will probably wait a few more weeks before I enter the Kingdom again.  I’ll just observe through the window.  Hopefully September and October will remain warm enough for the Girls to be out and about.  And then I’ll have to button the girls up for winter and cross my fingers.

The Roller Coaster Ride Continues

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So it’s been a number of weeks, and what seems like an unending day at an amusement park, since my last update. When we last left you, we had just cleaned up the collapsed comb mess and I had received my second sting. That was May 26th.

After that Saturday, I was very concerned with the girls. The following Saturday, June 2nd, we had a freakish cold snap. It was 46 degrees that morning, and every last girl was completely within the hive. However, surprisingly that day, there was a large amount of pollen being brought in after the air started to warm. My decision was to not disturb them that weekend. Again on Sunday, there was a good amount of pollen being brought in. The day was WARM, 92 degrees, and I noticed that the girls had found the pond. It was so interesting to stand at the pond’s edge and watch the bees as they left, flying either to the back of the yard (our hive) or over the fence (to the Ferals)! Another interesting fact, my girls are not great fliers when they take off from the pond. They circle around a bit, like they are gaining altitude and then head back to the hive. The Ferals, however, just take off and right up and over the fence. They are probably older and wiser, or maybe they’re just older and stronger!

Monday and Tuesday (June 4th and 5th) were rainy and dreary. But I could have SWORN on Tuesday afternoon I saw a different queen through the window. She looked HUGE. But I’m not sure. So many of my girls have VERY long abdomens. I definitely am NOT good at spotting the queen. Where it not for the dot on Vicky’s back, I would most likely never find her. Unless maybe I have a hive full of queens running around (kidding).

Thursday morning was a nightmare. The prior night had been quite cool, 54 degrees. When I went to look at the hive, to my shock and dismay, there were over 15 dead or dying girls on the ground. It was like something out of a bad horror movie! Some of them had their wings straight out to their sides. It was all very weird and very alarming. I swore up and down the entire day that something was wrong and they had succumbed to some disease, like tracheal mites. I was nauseous all day; however, the following morning there were only 3 dead/dying girls. Maybe it was just the cold, I told myself.

But on Friday (June 8th), there seemed to be a significantly greater number of bees in the hive when I peeked in the window during the afternoon. Did babies hatch? They also seemed to be chaining a bit more within the hive. I crossed my fingers in hopes that they will get back on track with their comb building. Apart from replacing the collapsed comb at Top Bar #5, they really haven’t built any new comb.

Saturday, June 9th, and there were only 2 – 3 dead / dying girls, even though the previous night was almost as cold as the night before. I decided to not enter the hive again this weekend as I had to work on Saturday anyways. When I got home and check on the hive about 3:30pm, my initial reaction was fear, as there was a loud buzz hum in the air and LOTS of bees around the hive. But when I took and breath and investigated further, I found out they were all having “orientation flights”!

YEAH! That’s good news. It was quite spectacular to stand at the side of the hive and see all the girls just hovering in the air facing the hive. This went on for quite some time. When I finally decided to go get my phone to take some pictures, it was basically over; however, I did manage to catch a few of the new girls.

Sunday morning was the first morning in a while where there were no dead bees outside the hive. I’m hoping a corner has been turned. Although it was somewhat rainy, the girls where bringing in copious amounts of pollen. And I finally found one of my girls on our cat mint. When the cat mint initially bloomed, probably in late March or early April, the Ferals were all over it. That all you could see was Feral girls. It was fascinating. However, lately only the Bumbles are on it. No more Honeys, which seems strange. But I did see one Honey on the cat mint on Sunday and watch her intently until she left. And sure enough up she went and to the back of the yard. I hope she does the wiggle dance and tells her sisters the location. Still no new comb.

Monday morning, June 11th, no dead bees, no new comb, but chaining. Come on girls. You need to build comb. I wonder if I go in and insert a empty TB between the last piece of comb if that would persuade them to build again.

Tuesday and Wednesday – I’ve noticed a few Small Hive Beetles (“SHB”) in the hive. The girls have corralled them and forced them into the tiny space created by the false back. There are girls on both side of the false back and they keep guard. If one of the SHBs leaves the crack, it gets pounced on by the girls. Sometimes the SHB makes it back to the crack. Other times, the girls attack and chase it. I think I may need to open the hive this weekend, if only to kill the few SHBs that are present.

Still no new comb. I believe they must have built out to TB #9. But they have 3 more TBs before they even reach the Honey Top Bars. Then they have about 12 HTBs. If they don’t start building comb soon, I doubt they will last the winter as they will have no honey stores. I doubt they will make it if they are forced to survive only on sugar syrup all winter long. It’s sad, but I am trying to let nature take its natural course.

Hell Hath No Fury……

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It had been seven days since my last disastrous encounter with the girls.

I had left some pieces of the collapsed comb in the hive in hopes that the girls would partially rectify my heavy handedness.  I had watched intently over the past week, and they had cleaned out the two smaller pieces.  I didn’t know what was going on with the larger piece.  I did notice some of the cells had started to be open.  I didn’t know if that meant the girls were cleaning them out or what was happening.  However, at least once a day, typically in the morning, I would notice one of the girls removing a little white pupa.  I didn’t know if it was coming from the broken piece or not.

My original thought was to leave the large piece until the time frame indicated that any developing bees would have hatched.  But I noticed that their comb building had significantly slowed.  Perhaps there were more concerned with cleaning up the mess than with expanding the comb.  So before going in on Saturday morning, I had to make the call.  Leave it… or Clean it.

I choose Clean it.  So I opened the hive probably around 10:30 am, to encourage the forager girls to get out of the way.  I slowly removed the top and the cover and then began to pry open the back top bars (“TBs”) immediately in front of the false back.  I removed two of the TBs to give myself some working space.  I slowly inserted my hive tool into the hive to begin removing the smaller pieces.  No sooner had I gotten the tool down to the small pieces when …. WHAM…. Burning Hot Needle Poker… right into my index finger knuckle closest to my finger nail.  “WTF???” I think to myself, “I’ve just started and I already got stung!”  Ok, on go the gloves right after I flick the stinger out.  This is not a good start to my day.

I remove the smaller pieces of comb that I had left and they had completely cleaned them out.  Next, I remove the larger comb piece.  I take it out of the hive and attempt to brush the girls off.  They aren’t in a good mood today and I can already tell by their hum.  There are still pupae in the comb.  Some are white, others seem sort of grayish.   They won’t go to waste I tell myself.  I shall provide nutrients to the birds as a final sacrifice for my clumsiness.

I start to methodically process through the TBs.  I work slowly and use the hive tool to disconnect the burr comb, which the girls build to attach the comb to the side wall.  Learning from the mistakes of last week, I start from the bottom of the comb and work up towards the top.  However, still petrified and mortified by the beenocide I perpetrated last week, I decide to NOT lift the combs out this week.  I shall merely move them and try to look at them while still in the hive.

Each time I insert the hive tool into the hive, girls attack it.  The girls are NOT happy.  It is somewhat difficult to really see what is happening with the comb without lifting it up.  Then I reach TB #5, where the comb collapsed last week.  What’s this?  There is new comb built here.  “But I thought I moved that bar and pushed the whole comb together last week after the collapse” I say to myself.  I suppose in my hastiness, I moved the TB to the front when the comb fell off and didn’t move it to be with the other empty bars.  This now sets off another whole train of thought.

If I didn’t move the bar, that means there was brood comb, empty bar, and brood comb.  What if the brood comb got to cold and all of that brood has died as well?  My nightmare just won’t seem to end!

I continue looking through the comb, forever being watchful for Queen Victoria.  I get all the way to the first TB.  The girls hum, more an extremely loud BUZZ, is saying… no yelling… at me, “WE ARE NOT HAPPY WITH YOU SIR JAMES!” ringing almost deafening in my ears.  A peculiar change has happened with the first TB.  Last week, TB#1 appeared to be fully capped brood and all of the boys where hanging out there.  This week, the entire comb was open, there were no boys there, and it seems to have been turned into the pollen pantry.

I begin placing the TBs back into position, working slowly and still searching for Queen Vicky.  There are five to seven stingers in my gloves.  Thank goodness for them!  “Should I start using smoke? I wonder to myself.  My original goal was to not use a smoker, but it may become necessary if they get this mad each time I try and visit.  I get all the TBs back in place, unfortunately, I never saw Her Majesty.  But I do notice that pollen is still coming in and take that as a sign she is still in control.

Fortunately, on Sunday I did get a visual on Queen Victoria through the window.  She was moving around the edge of some of the comb, maybe on TB#7.  I really do not see any Ladies in Waiting with her.  Maybe she still has some maturing to do or something, but I thought she was always going to be surrounded by a little group that saw to her every need.

They do seem to be expanding TB#5, the new comb where the collapsed comb was; however, they don’t seem to be building any more new comb.  This has been the case now for a few days and I am starting to get concerned.  I’m not sure what to do.  Hopefully when TB#5 gets out to the edge of the hive, they girls will start building on the end again.

I don’t think I will go in this weekend and see if that helps get them going again.  I will just watch through the window.  They were going gang busters with pollen on Monday though.

My new mantra… They know better than me… They know better than me… I just need to leave them alone.

The Bee or Not the Bee… That is the Question

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I got up yesterday thinking the day was going to be a waste due to the weather, even though I had sooo much I needed to do… cut the grass, move the false back, check the girls. It was cloudy, and although not hot, was not cool or cold. I feared it would rain and ruin everything.

At about 9am, I decided I needed to do it now or perhaps lose the opportunity for the day. I donned the space suit and took to the woods.

First I check their comb through the window…. looking good !!

Off comes the top and then the inner cover. So far so good. I had originally planned on moving the false back to the end of the hive, in accordance with the hive instructions. But the “not hot” weather had me concerned that the space might be too big for the girls to keep warm. I decided to only move the false back by four top bars, including the spacers.

I chose to do this without gloves and everything went off without a hitch. No problems. In looking through the window I can see how beautiful their comb is coming along. There is a little bit that they have actually attached to the window. I think they must be 5 or 6 bars back now.

I stop to consider what I should do. I decide I should take a quick look at some of the bars, just to see if Queen Victoria is laying yet. I look at one bar, which is mainly just bees hanging in their comb building chain formation. I move a few bars closer. Looks beautiful, but sill nothing notable to report.

I decide to take a look at the second top bar. I loosen the bar and pull it straight up. There are a lot of bees, and the hum of the hive turns noticeably louder and more unfriendly. Odd I think to myself. The comb is aging nicely and starting to turn yellow. I check the side facing me and I can see they are setting some good pollen. I turn the comb around and that’s when I saw it.

“Am I seeing things?” I think to myself. “Did I really just see that?” It was like a lighthouse on a dark and stormy night beckoning out. “But this doesn’t make sense” I continue my internal discussion.

What I saw was a bright tiny little fluorescent orange dot.

When I had asked my bee dealer (does that make me a bee junkie?) about marked queens, they told me it was an extra five dollars and the bees may look at it as a genetic defect and not accept her. Since I had already paid for my bees, I told them, “OK, thanks, I’ll just take an unmarked queen.”

When I took Queen Victoria out of the main box, I don’t recall seeing any markings. But I suppose I might not have seen it; although, I looked pretty closely. I additionally, don’t remember seeing any markings when I had released her last Saturday.

But sure enough, there was a marked queen. In actuality it might be a good thing, because I quickly saw the bright spot and I’m not sure I would have been able to find her without it. Actually it probably would have been impossible. I thought to myself, I should take a picture… but I had put my gloves on prior to starting with the bars and I knew full well that I can’t work an iPhone with gloved fingers!

I don’t see any evidence of brood yet. Maybe it’s still early. I started to lower the bar back into the hive when bees start flooding off of the comb. I start to panic now! I don’t want Queen Victoria to come off the comb, so how am I going to get the bar back in? I quickly realize that I was not manipulating the bars correctly. I needed to take out one bar and then use the extra space to work forward.

So now I standing there holding the comb with Queen Victoria. I have to use one hand to hold that bar and comb steady while I remove one of the top bars near the back without any comb so I can slowly move all of the other bars back a bit so I can get Queen Vicky back into the castle. I work slowly, sweat beading down my forehead. “Where is all this sweat coming from?? It’s freakin’ cloudy and mild out !!!” I say to myself.

I manage to get Queen Vicky back into the hive and now begin the process of closing everything back up. As soon as her top bar was back into the hive, the attitude of the hive immediately calmed down. Amazing. I slowly move bars back up toward the front of the hive, moving slowly and with a wave like motion to entice the girls back down into the hive and avoiding crushing any of them.

I get all the bars back in place, replace the cover and replace the roof. Then I take a look at the front of the hive. There are a few girl fanning. Good sign.

There are also girls bringing more pollen in. Another good sign. I note that I am mainly seeing some very bright orange pollen. I wonder where that might be coming from. There aren’t many flowers that look like that color, except for some day lilies; however, I haven’t seen any bees on them. I did note one single honey bee on the Gatinger’s Prairie Clover, but have no idea if it was one of my girls on one of the Ferals. However, there were TONS of Bumbles on it, with comparable colored pollen.

 

So here is my deduction… My Dear Watson…. either the dealer marks all of their queens and only charges the $5 when someone asks for a marked queen (meaning everyone gets ones) or somehow, there was a marked queen in with the package, which wasn’t the one in the cage. I’ve tried calling my bee dealer, but have not yet been able to get in contact with them. I’ll try again tomorrow.

The marking definitely looked bright orange, and in looking and the “professional” marking colors, is not one that is used. Unless this is supposed to be “red”. It’s all a mystery.

I continue to give the girls 1:1 syrup in an open feeder a good ways from the hive. I’ll decide whether I should check for brood next weekend later in the week. Or maybe as long as I am seeing pollen I should give it a few weeks. This is all sooo fascinating!

Front Entrace Feeders…. GONE !!

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So I had installed the front entrance feeders yesterday morning.  I really do like them and they are easy to refill.  When I got home yesterday, all of the syrup was gone, which I half expected.

I had been anxious all day due to everything I had read about front entrance feeders causing robbing.  But I refilled the container.  But then I noticed 4 of the Guard Girls go after something.  I’m not sure what, but it scared me.

Have I laid the ground work for a “robbing” on my girls?  I watched a little longer and I didn’t see it happen again.  “Maybe it was just a one off thing”, I tell myself.

I briefly saw some pollen being brought in, but not nearly the amount that I had seen on Sunday.  I take a quick peek at their comb building, they are still going like gangbusters, so I try to stay calm and head back inside.  I can actually see the comb in the window now!

I have an extremely restless night.  I toss and turn.  Will they get robbed?  Have I don’t the wrong thing?  Everyone says don’t make the rookie mistake and use an entrance feeder.  But what can I do?  I haven’t moved the false back yet so I don’t have many options.

When I get up this morning it’s cold, and I mean COLD…. low 50’s or high 40’s.  I go out to check on the girls.  They took some more syrup from yesterday evening.  There is not a lot of activity, obviously from the cold, although some of the girls are still hanging outside.  Is that odd?

That’s it.  I can’t take it anymore.  I step to the side of the hive and take the feeder out.  It didn’t cause much disruption, again because it’s COLD!!.  A few of the girls came out but I took them with the feeder up by the pergola where I will leave the feeder.  I think to myself, “If I take them for a quick ride, then they will know where to come back too, which will be away from the hive.”

I would rather have an open feeder available to everyone, my girls and the feral hive next door {we’ll call them the “Ferals”), than to potentially lure the Ferals to rob the girls.

I’ve heard mixed things also about leaving open feeders, but until I can get in with the girls this weekend, I don’t know what else to do.

I have figured out that if, after checking on them this weekend, I think they still need to be fed, I will actually put a feeder directly into the Top Bar Hive when I move the false back to the end this weekend.  That will create more space and I will know exactly where it is so that I can take the top off and use a turkey baster to insert additional syrup.

I’m also hoping that I may get in there this weekend and see that they have started capping some nectar and then I won’t need to do anything.  That would be the ideal situation.  I’m also hoping to see that Queen Victoria is laying.

I’ve also figured out that I need to go ahead and come up with some sort of remedy in case the girls do in fact get robbed.  I haven’t yet thrown away their traveling compartment.  So I figure that I will deconstruct it and keep the mesh that was on the side.  I can use that to make some sort of entrance block should the need arise.  That way, the entire entrance will still be able to be ventilated but robbers won’t be able to get in.  I should also go ahead and get a sheet, in case I need that too.  I hear a wet sheet can also aid in thwarting robbers.

This is all so stressful.  I thought this was supposed to calm and center me !

Part of me keeps saying, “The girls have been doing this WAAAAY longer than you.  They know what they are doing.”

I have to trust the girls.