Is it summer? I think it is. Albeit I feel a sense of trepidation if making such definitive statements. Bees, what can I say about them? Well lots, perhaps too much at times, but today I can say that they have their own agenda.
I’m a little miffed, because they didn’t submit said agenda to me for approval, or even send me a text for informational purposes. More specifically they have done some odd things over the spring.
Disclaimer: The update below contains Beekeeper geekiness.
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A pair of hives, one of them has been recently split, the other is very strong and has been busting out of the box, but has a really mean queen who gives birth to the spawns of Satan who love nothing better than to chase the kids and dogs around the property. Well maybe the workers weren’t quite that bad, but they were a tad mean.
As a beekeeper, these two scenarios mean one thing. Time to Re-queen!
I dropped two New Zealand lovelies in there and was pretty happy with myself. Fast forward a few weeks and I find myself with a couple of queen-less hives. Not a great situation to be in, but heck, we’ve got to be flexible. I dropped Y.A.Q (Yet another Queen) into the mean hive and left the other to make their own.
Again, again they didn’t like my plan, they killed that queen too, and the other hive, well they must have been drinking too much nectar.
At the present moment, the mean hive is now no-longer mean, but happy and has a beautiful black queen that they made all by themselves. The split hive. queen-less still but worse, it has a case of “laying workers”.
This is one of the situations beekeepers hate the most. Laying workers are one of the things that can happen when a hive has been queen-less for too long. The pheromone emitted by the queen is gone is only held by “open brood” which are cells with eggs or larva in them that hasn’t been capped yet. Over time, these cells get capped and without a queen to lay new eggs, the amount of open brood drops to the point where the bees become confused. In their confusion, the female workers start to develop ovaries of their own, and begin to lay eggs as if they are a queen. This is a little confusing to the beekeeper, but over time we realize what has happened, primarily because the female workers can only do one thing. Make drones. They don’t have the ability to make workers or queens. This all wouldn’t be a problem, but laying workers become their own enemies, they feel like they are strong, when in fact the hive is slowly dying by the lack of foragers (who are only female workers). Since they think they’re pretty strong, they won’t let you introduce a new queen. If you decide to combine this hive with a weaker one, they will find and kill that queen too, leaving you with another queen-less hive.
So, what to do?
I haven’t yet decided, but I will probably use a method where I introduce a frame of open brood from another hive each week until they raise a new queen.
This is one of the major reasons new beekeepers should never start out with just one hive. You simply won’t have resources or equipment to deal with situations such as this.
We’ve been looking into various organic certifications for our honey and beeswax. Since we are only of the few honey producers who use only natural methods we thought it would be nice to support an organization that shares out values. We haven’t decided on one yet, but if you have any experience with one (good or bad) please reach out. Note that this does not include Federal CFIA Organic programs, as they are far too costly and difficult to implement for a small family business.
Not much of an update on the honey harvest, things have slowed down quite a bit in our East Hants apiary, which likely means pre-orders won’t be ready for the first week of July. The good news is that our new apiary in Halifax is doing really well, even though they are split, I’m almost ready to put honey supers on.
Bee a Beekeeper
For those of you who have been following my updates over the past few months. Here it is, that important question, why are you reading this when you could be beekeeping yourself?!
Sure, it sounds daunting and fraught with regulatory challenges, but honestly it’s not that bad. In fact, most major cities in Canada have allowances for urban beekeeping. Except Winnipeg, they are a bad city. 😉 Actually they will be allowing urban beekeeping soon too.
Why be a beekeeper?
- Help the bees, and learn things about them, and yourself too.
- Help the environment in your area. Pollinate gardens, apple trees, clover
- Start to understand ecology and the relationships between the living things around us that we take for granted every day
- Be the envy of your neighbor
- Be the bane of your neighbor’s existence (if the previous isn’t working)
- Get into carpentry, you were, anyways right?
- Free Apitherapy
- Freak your spouse out, enjoy instant “private time”
- Sweet stuff, sometimes.
P.P.S.: Shortly I will be starting a series of articles on becoming a beekeeper, what are the steps, how to budget,etc. Stay tuned.