Tag Archives: Drones

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.

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.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, … …

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… … it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, … …

Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities — English novelist (1812 – 1870)

Saturday had finally come.  The weather was gorgeous, and I was excited to check up on the girls.  They had made such progress with their comb building and they appeared to be in good spirits, bringing in an exception amount of different colored pollen, bright orange, bright yellow and pale yellow.

I started at the false back and began working my way forward.  There are currently four Honey Top Bars (“HTB”) and twelve Top Bars (“TB”) in front of the false back.  There was no comb built on any of the HTBs.  I started to proceed through the TBs.  I carefully pried each bar apart and moved it towards the false back in the space created from removing two of the TBs.  I find comb on TB#8.

“Wow, that’s amazing”  I say to myself.  Here are the girls peaking up as I move bars.

TB#7, bigger comb… TB#6 comb with brood.  What an amazing sight!  TB#5 more brood.  The same thing on TBs #4, #3, #2 and #1!  TB#1 is basically completely sealed.  But for some curious reason all of the boys were hanging out on TB#1.  “Seems odd that they all hang out here” I think.

Everything is looking Great!  Now I need to find Queen Victoria.  I begin to inspect each side and put the TBs back in place.  I find Queen Vicky on TB#5.  I honestly cannot tell anything different about her.  I know her abdomen is supposedly longer, but it honestly does not look that way to me.  Thank goodness she is marked otherwise I would never find her.  She seems to be hanging out at the very top of the TB, which concerns me.  I snap a few Glamor Shots of Her Majesty.

I place the top bar down into the hive.  However, concerns enter my mind about moving TB#6 up against her so I decide to move TB#5 against TB#6 and then move both together as a single unit.  I slowly attempt to work the bars together and get the girls back in, which I hadn’t had any problems with so far.

And then it happened.  TRAGEDY BEYOND BELIEF.  The entire comb falls off the TB.  Thinking back now with almost a day to replay the horror over and over in my mind, I believe I may have tilted the TB towards me in an effort to persuade the girls in.  The entire comb broke off, with Queen Vicky on the edge falling into and onto the next comb.

I stand there in disbelief.  What have I done?  How do I fix this?  I try to remain calm.  The girls are NOT happy at this time.  I had better put on my gloves I tell myself.  Yes… I had actually been doing everything prior to this without gloves.  The day had been going so well.  Lot of future baby bees and no gloves.  And now this.

I put my gloves on and remove some more TBs to give myself additional working space.  I use my hive tool to try and gently move the broken comb.  There is nectar and/or syrup running all over the place now.  I have to reach into the hive and try to retrieve some of the comb.  It breaks in my hand.  I place the piece into my orange bucket.  I remove some more.  There are poor bees worm babies falling out.  I’m so upset.  Luckily I am able to remove a very large section of capped brood.  I get the broken comb out and look and the mess that I have created.

I quickly had to determine a course of action.  Do I completely take away the entire comb?  I feel absolutely horrible.  I come to a decision.  I will leave some of the parts that appear to have pollen and nectar so that the girls can move it to other areas of the hive.  There’s no reason all of their hard work should be a total waste.  I then decide to leave the big section of sealed brood against the false back in hopes that perhaps some of the babies might survive.

I will diligently watch this over the upcoming week.  If it appears it may be salvageable, I’ll leave it until I move the false back.  Otherwise I will remove it next Saturday.

I replace the remaining TBs and close up the hive.  I walk back to the house dejected with my head hanging… the Hindenburg quote, slightly modified, ringing in my ears…. “Ooooohhhhh the Beemanity.”  I say a prayer for all of the lost little bee babies.

As of today (Sunday), the girls appear to already have removed the nectar and the majority of the pollen from the two smaller pieces I left.  And they are doing something on the larger piece.  Are they attending to it ?  Or trying to remove the horrific aftermath?

I make a batch of 1:1 syrup for the girls and put it out for them, but they don’t take it.  Maybe that’s a good sign that they have found a true nectar flow.  I check the girls throughout the day.  I see busy bees everywhere.  I occasionally witness a girl removing a little white corpse.

I also watch a very bizarre occurrence.  I observe one of the girls literally drag around and then fly off with one of the boys.  He wasn’t dead and didn’t seem injured.  But she literally drug him off the edge and flew off with him.

Around 4pm, I was trying to remove a little bit of cactus from an area in front of the hive when I feel this incredible burning sensation on the front of my shin.  I look down and there’s a rogue girl hanging on my leg.

“Sh!t…. this hurts…. It’s burning like a hot poker being pushed into my leg!” I’m thinking to myself.  I quickly vacate the hive premises and look at my leg.  The poor girl is now gone, having sacrificed herself, but I see the stinger.  I scratch it out of my leg and head inside to put ice on my first battle wound.

So there it is, the good, the bad, and the ugly.  A weekend with such amazing highs unfortunately clouded with such loss.  I only hope that my decision to leave some of the sealed brood was the right decision.

A Roller Coaster Weekend

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So, it was quite the up and down weekend.

On Saturday, I went to check up on the girls and see if they had released Queen Vicky.  I stepped into my finest dress whites (aka the Hazmat Suit).  Out to the woods with my trusty tool kit I go.  I take the hive roof off and then the hive cover.  I slowly begin to review the top bars (“TB”) starting at the false back and TB 12 and working forward to TB 1.

So far, nothing.  I’m approaching TB 4, from which Queen Vicky’s cage was suspended.  I slowly move the TB and notice considerable “burr comb” attached to the cage.  I slowly pull up the TB and remove the cage.  My pulse quickens and my blood pressure rises.  Queen Vicky is still in her cage with her attendants.  Although the girls had begun the process of eating though the candy plug, they had not yet freed Queen Vicky.  I now had to make an important decision, to either (a) let her remain in the cage and let the girls free her, which would probably take another few days or (b) release her myself.

As is the story of beekeeping, ask the same question to 5 different beeks (short for beekeepers) and get 5 different answers.  One article I read said leave the queen in the cage for at least 7 days.  However, the procedures that came with my hive had said two to three days and then release the queen if necessary.

I decided to rescue the Queen!  Unfortunately, I had forgotten to bring the lance (i.e. the screw driver) and jaws of life (i.e. the pliers).  But fear not Queen Vicky, we summoned Squire Joe to quickly return to the stables Ii.e. the garage) and retrieve the necessary tools!

Upon receiving the tools from Squire Joe (who proceeded to THROW them to me), I gently pried up the screen cover.  My heart was beating in my throat.  How was I going to convince Queen Vicky to leave the sanctity of her tiny cage for the grandeur of her new castle?  I decided to dangle her cage back into the hive and try to gently shake her out.  After a few shakes, everyone seemed to be out of the cage.  I can only assume, hope, pray and cross my fingers that she landed gently in the hive.

I was incredibly nervous and apprehensive.  I hope I didn’t injury her.  Why couldn’t they have just already eaten through the plug so I wouldn’t have had to do that?

I then inspected the remaining TBs.  To my surprise, the girls had begun building comb on all four bars.  It is beautiful, pristine, white, perfectly formed combs.  Amazing.  I replace the TBs and close up the hive.

Upon returning to the stables (i.e. the garage), I inspect the burr comb the girls had built on Queen Vicky’s cage.  It also is beautiful, pristine, white and perfectly formed.

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I worry for the remainder of the day about Queen Vicky.  Please let her be ok… Please let her be ok.

On Sunday, I decide to go and just watch the girls.  See what’s going on in the kingdom.  And to my very pleasant surprise, there is quite a lot of activity!  There are even forager girls coming back with pollen!  This is Wonderful and I take it to be a positive sign that Queen Vicky has assumed her rightful reign.

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I also see girls “fanning”, which is either ventilating the hive or distributing the “smell” of the hive out into the yard, like a beacon, for the foraging girls.

I also observe BOTH of the bee dances!  The “figure 8” dance and the “circle” dance.  They both have specific meaning and communicate important information to the other girls such as the location of pollen or the location of water.

And I also see a few of the “drones”, which are the boy bees!  The are quite unusual with very large eyes and big fat barrel bodies!

So what started as a stressful downer Saturday ended up being a quite joyful and happy Sunday!