It has been hot, hot, hot here in the Pacific Northwest this year. Lately, day after day of temperatures near or over 100 degrees. Summer weather came 3 weeks early and hasn’t let up. With the hot came the dry. Now the first of August, mornings feel and smell like fall, days bring more hot & more dry. Nothing on the farm has been really normal this year. Pasture in early April, gone by end of July. Spring crop failures. Blossom drops on summer crops. Nectar dirth for the bees. Wilted crops, wilted animals, wilted people. Challenging. Humbling.
The honey bee season started early. Warm early Spring temperatures brought overwintered bees out in force, before the nectar flows. Those who had used their winter honey stores needed sugar syrup feeding to tide them over. Hives built up quickly, lots of bees. We made a split of our booming Yellow hive and created Blueberry hive. We bought & introduced a queen to the split. Blueberry hive grew fast, building up frames of beautiful brood and storing nectar & capping honey, filling an 8 frame super in no time. Blueberry, always polite, always industrious, always neat & tidy. We had noticed for several weeks bearding of bees on the front of Blueberry, day & night. Chalked it up to the oppressive heat (though the other hives weren’t doing this). A little odd.
This Saturday we had a visitor that was very excited to participate in a hive inspection. Blueberry was chosen as they are such a pleasure to work. We removed the roof and then the ventilation/feed station board. The top super looked about the same as 2 weeks ago at the last inspection, several drawn frames, 2 capped frames of honey. Not a lot of bees working that box. We went down to the next super. It was full of capped honey. There were a large number of bees working hard, ignoring us. We went down to the next box, the top brood box. Outside frames were filled with lots of pollen with lots of bees working. As we moved towards the interior frames we found the Surprise! Empty combs, scrubbed clean, no brood, no eggs, no Queen. Two brood boxes. Empty combs, scrubbed clean, no brood, no eggs, no Queen. Lots of bees, beautifully drawn comb, stores of pollen, nectar & capped honey. A hive without a queen is like a rudderless ship, doomed to die. Time for beekeeper intervention!
We had captured a small swarm of honey bees in our raspberries on Fathers Day & had installed them in a homemade make shift Nuc. 10 days after we had given them a new home we checked and there were eggs and larva and a beautiful, dark, glossy, mahogany colored Queen. Surprise! We have been nursing this Baby hive along boosting them with frames of brood & food from the booming Yellow hive hoping they would be strong enough to get their own hive and overwinter. In 6 weeks they have grown to fill an entire 8 frame box & were in need of a 2nd box.
So today the little Baby swarm gets their expanded hive. We prepared the Queenless Blueberry to receive the Baby hive and it’s beautiful Queen by placing a thin paper barrier between the two colonies to allow them time to slowly adjust to the smell of a new Queen & be more likely to accept her. Tonight after dark we will move the Baby hive box & all of it’s inhabitants onto the paper on top of Blueberry hive to start the process of melding them into one colony. In the coming days as the bees chew through the paper they will hopefully accept their new queen.
So the little swarm that could will be melded with the Queenless Blueberry hive to become the little swarm that would rescue Blueberry hive. Surprise!
Addendum #1: 1 week later we did a quick hive inspection to check on the hive. The paper barrier between the swarm box and the Queenless hive has been shredded. The bees from the two colonies have melded and the Queen is actively laying eggs. Surprise!
Addendum #2: After another 2 weeks had passed we did another quick hive inspection to check on the hives progress. The new Queen is laying like mad and has filled frame after frame with beautiful brood! Her court of workers are madly tending the brood, bringing in some nectar and pollen and generally looking like a healthy thriving hive. What a Thrill! Surprise!
We Love beekeeping. Always Full of Surprises!