Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Bad Beekeeping 'R' Us

queen eleanor of the twain colonyIf you have been looking here for beekeeping advice, please let this post be your version of the surgeon general's warning. I am a moron beekeeper. At left is the only worthwhile result of this morning's endeavors: a fuzzy picture of a slightly marked queen.

This morning, when the temperatures were too low for the bees to fly, I reviewed George Imiries' instructions for splitting a colony and sort of modified them a bit. I brought all the tools necessary to do the deed, lit my smoker, and waited until bees started flying. At 11:30 it was time to go.

I started taking Twain apart frame by frame, which annoyed them alot after going through a similar treatment yesterday. But I had to find the queen, move her and mark her. I counted honey frames as I went: I have just short of 8 deep frames of honey, as well 10 medium frames. That is a ton of honey.

Pulling frames, scraping burr comb, inspecting carefully: I was at it for over an hour when I came to the frame with the queen cell...and I broke it by mistake.

Holy cow, as stupid a thing as a person could do! If those bees swarmed NOW, one half of them would have no queen at all!

But wait a second! It was empty. Suddenly, it makes sense! Why only one cell, why in a screwy place, why so much honey still uneaten? My crazy comb building Twainians just waxed it over for the heck of it (like they attach everything else). It's not time to split, and this whole exercise has been a total waste of time, bee patience, and some bee lives.

So I'm in the middle of a colony of unhappy bees, and might as well make the best of it. Decision: keep looking for and mark Queen Ellie.

So I rummage down down through 2 more boxes. I'm in the bottom, still no queen. So I look to the left of my foot, on a frame that's sitting in an empty box, and there she is. To me, she looks like a Cadillac bee, but WHAT THE HECK IS SHE DOING THERE? I simultaneously reach for the nail polish (to mark her back) and the camera (to grab a close up) and she flies! I AM AN IDIOT.

Where the heck did she go NOW? I spot her on a random piece of wooden ware to my right, lift it, and try to shake her into the hive. She does not let go. I'm terrified she'll fly again. I jiggle it one more time directly over the cluster, and then I can't see her anymore. Did she go in?

I look all over, feet frozen in place. She's not to the left. Not to the right. Not in the box with frames. Not crawling around the outside of the hive bodies. Decision: CLOSE THIS MESS UP.

So tired but so careful, I place the top brood box, then the medium honey super, then the freaking-stooooopid incredibly-heavy chest-height deep with 60 confirmed pounds of honey in it, then the feeder, then the hive cover. I shuffled away, humiliated, with all the extra boxes, stands, covers, shards of beeswax, mashed bees and instructions for making a split lying just where they were.

I'll clean up tonight when I won't do as much damage.


biobee said...

Hi there! Sympathies with your woes - I did my share of dumb things during my first years - still do from time to time.
This year I am dumping all my 'modern' gear and converting to top bars - check me out at

Good luck!

Pam said...

Greetings from Puerto Rico! My husband and I are awaiting our own first hives to arrive and busy preparing. I think you're wonderful to share all the things you're going through for better or worse and we just wish you luck and hope we'll do half as well as you (60 pounds of honey is nothing to sneeze about!).