The queen is dead, long live the queen.

IMG_1630My bees died.

I had three hives last fall. Now, two are dead and one is queen less and failing fast. It was my fault, I moved the hives too close to the garage, ostensibly to keep them more sheltered from the elements, but what happened instead was water from the melting snow ran off the roof and got inside the hives. Wet bees are dead bees. Lesson learned, the hard way. I’ve tried not to get too frustrated with myself, but I keep thinking I could have three healthy hives right now If I’d only thought things through better.

Before I discovered that my bees were mostly dead, I had planned on making big changes to my beekeeping practices. I am replacing all of my 10-frame medium equipment with 8-frame medium equipment. These new, smaller “garden hives” have pretty peaked copper roofs and are quite decorative.  I am excited to have the smaller equipment because I will be able to lift and move them much more easily. This has been a real problem as I simply can’t lift the larger equipment; even 10-frame mediums have proven to be just a little too heavy for me when they are full. There have been times when I’ve dropped boxes full of bees and thrown my back out trying to work on my hives. Most of the times I’ve been stung are a direct result jostling bees around because I don’t have the strength to maneuver the boxes gently. I need equipment I can handle on my own.

Now it seems I will have a hard time filling those new hives with bees. I have ordered a new Carnolian queen from Apple Blossom honey farm, but I have my doubts about saving my remaining hive. It is true that I had written this particular hive of bees off last fall when the varroa mites nearly wiped out the hive, and they still made a full recovery. However, they didn’t lose their queen that time. Still, I transferred the remaining few frames of surviving bees into a small hive that is clean and dry, and added a swarm lure to the hive. Bees without a queen get demoralized and lose their work ethic. I’ve never heard of using a swarm lure this way but if I can trick them into thinking they still have a queen, maybe they will remain motivated enough to keep going until the new queen arrives.

If my last hive fails then I will have no bees this spring. I’ve thought long and hard about it but I don’t want to buy another package of bees. I’m already way over budget on garden projects this spring and another package will be about $160. I’m going to have to get creative about getting new bees. I’m going to put up a few swarm traps and might ask a few people in the area if I can hang one on their property. Also, I just filled out a form to be put on a swarm list. I’m hoping someone calls me to catch a swarm that is not beyond my skill level to deal with. I can’t deal with bees in a wall, or 20 feet up in a tree. But if someone in Chicago or the surrounding towns has a bee swarm in their bushes and wants it gone, then I’m back in business.

Wish me luck!

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One thought on “The queen is dead, long live the queen.

  1. So sorry to hear about your bees. We experienced the same thing, losing a hive to starvation this winter. I have never bought bees. My first hive of bees came from a swarm collected by a fellow beekeeper from my local beekeeping association. We ourselves had quite a few swarms last summer and gave them all away through our local association. Do you belong to a beekeeping association, and might they help?

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