The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

The ones that got away

Congregating swarm

I feel like such an amateur at beekeeping, even though we've kept hives for six years now. Which is my way of saying --- I messed up.

When I visited our bees a few days after our swarm-prevention split, I was pretty sure I knew which hive had kept the old queen. And I was 100% sure that the queen-right hive had swarm cells in it. But, I left the extra queen cells alone because...what if I was wrong about that hive having a mature queen? And what if I killed all of the colony's new potential queens and the whole hive bit the dust?

I should have been brave, though. Because one of those queens hatched out Friday Honeybeesafternoon. As a result, a tremendous mass of bees rose out of the hive with the old queen, sat for three hours on a very tall limb, then flew away. The photo at the top of this post captures the swarm when about 70% of the bees were still in the air, if that gives you an idea of how many bees flew the coop.

Which isn't the end of the world since the swarm's old home now boasts a new queen and at least some workers to carry them through. And the break in brood cycles is a sure-fire way of lowering varroa-mite levels. But it also dramatically lowers our chance of honey this year.

Now both mother and daugher hive are back on the sugar-water wagon for the foreseeable future as they raise new queens and get their feet back under them. Hopefully they'll at least go into winter as two healthy colonies...and by this time next year, the bees will be back in Langstroth hardware so I can manipulate them more easily and prevent future swarms.

And maybe in another decade or so, I'll stop feeling like such an an amateur apiarist....

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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I don't recall you ever getting the first teaspoon of honey for all your labor over the past years. Have you even tasted your own?

How Sad!!

Comment by Tom Mon Jun 22 16:20:59 2015

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