Archive for April, 2012

First Swarm of the Season!

Got a call from a friend today telling me about a swarm of bees that I could have if I could go get them.  This is the first one I’ve had a chance to pick up this year, so thought it was worth snapping a couple of pictures and telling the story.

Bees typically swarm in mid – late Spring as a means of reproduction.  A swarm is usually accompanied by the mother queen and about half the rest of the bees.  A new queen cell is left behind to emerge, mate and keep the original hive going.  Usually there are multiple queen cells but in the end only one queen will survive.  The swarm then sets out to find a home.  While they are looking for a home (hollow tree, hole in an old wall, etc) they will usually gather on a nearby branch for a day or two.  If you’re lucky enough to find out about a swarm at this point it’s as easy as shaking the branch over a hive or bucket and the swarm is yours.

That’s exactly what I did today.  In about 15 minutes I had the swarm loading in my bucket and headed back to my house to put in a small hive.  It’s always fun and slightly unpredictable when you go to catch a swarm, but this one turned out lust like you’d want it to.  Hopefully it’s early enough in the year they can expand and actually produce some surplus honey as well!


14 Apr

New Queens

Posted by gmeadevt in Queen Rearing.

New Queen Cells actually.  On Friday I received some ready to emerge queen cells from a queen producer.  They were overnighted and I picked them up at the UPS Customer Service Center in Bristol.  The lady that handed them over to me asked “Are there really Honeybees in there?”  They were packaged very well with no chance of any escaping, so she had nothing to worry about.

Queens are really just worker bees that have been given the royal treatment, in fact the substance that all bee larvae receive is called royal jelly.  You can actually buy royal jelly in health food stores and is quite poplar in some cultures.  Queens are feed 100 times more royal jelly than worker bees, and therefore develop into specialized bees.  Knowledgeable beekeepers can manipulate hives to get them to produce queen cells on demand.  It is fairly time consuming however and careful attention must be paid.

I ordered these a while back and planned on using some of them in the new hives I wrote about in my last post.  Turns out the weather didn’t cooperate and I needed to pick the splits up earlier than expected.  So I ended up putting most of these in mini hives to allow the queens to emerge and mate.  I’ll check on them in 10-14 day to look for a laying queen.  That is usually long enough for the mating process to run its course.  I’ll use them to replace marginal queens, make a couple of mid-summer splits, and maybe even sell a few.

I was only able to make enough mating nucs for about half of the cells so I put the rest in the top of a strong hive.  I had to put a queen excluder (special screen to keep queen away) in to keep the queen from eliminating the newly emerged virgin queens.  I placed each queen cell in a special queen cage designed for just this purpose.  Then I surrounded the frames with nurse bees to help care for the newly emerged queens.  I will likely look to sell some of these as virgin queens to help defray the cost of purchasing them.





4 Apr

New Hives!

Posted by gmeadevt in Honeybee Equipment, Splits.

So me and the bees have been pretty busy over the past week or so.  Last Tuesday, March 27, I drove down to Stuart, VA to buy some splits and mated queens from James Sowers.  Those of you familiar with Patrick County will know where James’ is located even if you don’t know who he is.  His apiary is located on 58 at the bottom of the mountain.  He’s been keeping bees for 40+ years and has been selling his honey for probably as long.  He actually moved his house 1/4 mile further from the hwy because VDOT is supposedly going to make 58 four lanes up the mountain.  I’m not sure I’ll live to see it!

At any rate we opened up several of his hives (he has 70) and removed frames of brood from the strongest hives.  I got 24 frames of brood/bees.  Enough to start six new hives.  There are several strategies you can employ to provide a queen to the new hive.  In this case I opted for a mated queen which is the quickest method to get the hive up and going, but also the most expensive.  Mated queens cost $20-$30 each!  Since it’s early in the year and if things go well these hives should be strong enough by mid-May to hopefully produce surplus honey this year.  At least that’s the plan!

Here is a picture of my primary Apiary, the new hives are on the left side. I need to get my weedeater cranked up it's starting to get a little overgrown looking already!

Closeup of one of the new hives.
Nice color! I got the paint for next to nothing at Home Depot as a mistint.