How to Deal with Disappointment…Look for Swarms

dead queen bee

I got a box today with LIVE QUEEN BEE written all over it in black marker. Only, there wasn’t. Everything in the box was DEAD, the queen and all her attendants. Right before I opened the box I put it to my ear and heard silence. I blamed it on my bad ear but that made no sense since I put the box to my good ear. When I opened it up my heart sank. The most frustrating thing about it, was I had made the decision to combine my failing hive with my brother’s hive and I tried to cancel the queen bee order, but they had shipped my order out already. So now I still have a (probably) queenless hive, AND I am out $40. Because in order to get a refund you have to inspect the box in the presence of the delivery person and get it in writing from them that the order was indeed Dead On Arrival. Which of course the person receiving the shipment for me didn’t do. I sent pictures of the dead bees and requested a refund, but since I don’t have the required documentation, they don’t have to give me the refund *SIGH*.

I don’t seem to have good luck with queens through the mail. For the record, I’ve ordered two queens through the mail and, for different reasons, neither of them took. Compared to about 4 queens I easily raised myself last summer without really knowing what the heck I was doing, I think there’s an argument for learning how to raise and bank enough queens over the winter to replace my own winter losses. It would certainly save some money.

From now on, if I have to replace bees though, I’m going to buy nucs and/or buy queens someplace local where I can more easily pick them up in person. Which of course is tricky since most bees around here are shipped up from Southern states each spring, but it is getting easier to find. The Chicago Honey Co-Op has website has some leads and the Illinois Queen Initiative looks promising. But most of all, I would like to try my hand at catching swarms. That sounds like fun to me!

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Return of the Honeybees!

Last summer, my garden was absolutely buzzing with honeybees. So much so that my husband and I got really interested in beekeeping and tried to figure out a good spot in our yard to house a beehive and collect our own honey. Our yard is not that big and the only spots that seemed ideal were either right where our son plays, or a bit too close to where the neighbor’s kids play. The wild bees were plenty, though; they must have been living in our other neighbor’s garage. I worked in my garden amidst the bees all summer while my son ate raspberries off of the bushes where they were buzzing.  We watched them (and the bumblebees, mason bees, and other pollinators) up close and personal, and no one ever got stung or even threatened. But still, the idea of putting a hive on purpose right in a high traffic area didn’t seem like such a great idea. At least we had our wild honeybees.Well, this spring they disappeared. From April through mid June, I think I saw six honeybees. Last year on a fine May day you’d see six on one plant! I figured that either the neighbors had the hive exterminated, or that the bees woke up during the unseasonably warm days in March, only to succumb to late frosts.

This past week, though, I’ve finally seen some honeybees! Here’s one of the many I saw, working some flowers in the garden:

honeybee in my garden june 2012

This little guy was working a Salvia plant in my garden.

For Comparison, here’s a bumblebee:

And what I believe is an orchard mason bee  (leave a comment below if I’m wrong and you know what this is):

Orchard Mason Bee?

Now, the return of the bees in my garden has me thinking about urban beekeeping all over again. Especially since my younger brother Andy seems to be doing just fine with his new honeybee hive in on a Chicago city lot not that different in size than ours. I’ll be posting some pictures 0f his bees in the not-too-distant future!

But if you can’t wait to find out more about honeybees, especially if you live in the Chicago area, check out the Chicago Honey Co-Op.