Saturday, June 4, 2011

From Lions to Lambs

When I first was interested in beekeeping I spent a year researching bees.  I took the Introductory Beekeeping course too.  After a year of novel writing and research I got my bees (after breaking my right arm too!)

[Photo - my "homemade" grafting technique - using a double-pointed knitting needle to hold a queen cell between the frames].

When I finally got my bees I called a fellow beekeeper that I'd met to tell him I was now officially a beekeeper.  He laughed and said, "You know, you're not a real beekeeper until your own bees chase you out of your bee yard."

I can tell you that I'm now a real beekeeper.

This spring my bees were not very friendly.  It was so unlike them.  The rains kept coming and the weather stayed cold.  It was difficult to get a day when the hives could be opened.

Then they built swarm cells.  This happened two summers ago too when we had a horrible wet summer.  I'd heard that many beekeepers were having problems with bees swarming.

[Photo - empty queen cell from my Hive #1 graft]

Another beekeeping friend said the bees need to have something to do, otherwise they think about swarming.  When it rains too much and they can't forage they get frustrated.  It reminds me of a border collie dog, bred to work all day long without tiring.  They must be kept busy to be kept happy.

In the last week my bee yard was like a lion's den.  I got stung on the forehead for merely standing six feet away.  Another bee got stuck in my hair and buzzed angrily as she tried to sting me.

I had to gear up and the bees pelted off my helmet.  I was not their favourite person.

When I opened the hives their personality was different.  They weren't relaxed.  They were agitated.  They went for my hands constantly, bouncing off them or trying to sting.  This just wasn't their normal behaviour.

They were zinging me so much that I left the yard.

But ten days after the queen graft I dared to return.  And I found that the lions had turned into lambs.  I opened all the hives.  I didn't need to do inspections pulling frames.  I had my answer when just lifting the inner cover.

That happy contented hum.  They look up at me and ignored me.  I didn't need smoke.  I don't know if Hive #1 accepted the queen I gave them (queen cell) or if they had a hatched queen that was mating but either way I could tell they weren't queenless any more.

They were happy.  Finally.

And the sun has come out for a few days.  It's been hot.  I feel happy too.
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