Since I haven’t really talked about the bees, I’ll fill in on some of the..er..drama we’ve been having with them!
We had a Queen who was laying, quite well, but being new beekeepers, we didn’t really know how to make sure to look for good laying patterns or any of that noise to indicate a healthy and strong Queen. We had an inkling, but no firm practical knowledge. Well, during one of our checks a few weeks ago, we noticed that the bees were building a superseder cell. A superseder cell is whats built when the primary Queen stops laying, stops producing the right balance of pheromones, dies..or a variety of other reasons. (Sometimes the bees will build Queen cells, but they’re different, because they’re usually on the bottom of a frame and indicate a swarming action – not necessarily because the current Queen is defunct, but either they’ve run out of space or..whatever.) We’re still not sure what happened to the original Queen, but we have heard more and more frequently from more experienced beekeepers that the original Queens in packaged bees will frequently die anymore. Anyway! We noticed that the new superseder cell had hatched at some point a week or so after we noticed the cell in the first place – the bees had also started building two more cells. About a week, maybe two weeks ago, we then saw that the other two cells had been deconstructed – which usually indicated there’s an active and thriving Queen in the hive again.
In and amongst all of this, we’ve been slowly replacing the frames that hadn’t been highly built on with frames that only have a starter strip, rather than a full piece of foundation. Not using foundation appears to have a *lot* of benefits with bees. Not only does it allow them to do their little buggie thing, but all indicators seem to point to there being less problems with icky critters such as varroa mites. We’ve since made contacts with the local and semi-local beekeepers, which has been incredibly informative. We even learned of a feeding recipe for helping the bees get established from one of the local beekeepers that appears to be based on biodynamic principles. I’ve got to tell you, those bees LOVED that solution, holy cow.
So, in any case, we were doing a bee check this past Saturday and for the first freaking time EVER – WE FOUND THE QUEEN! Turns out – there’s absolutely NO mistaking her for any other bee. Like, um, AT ALL. Previously we just couldn’t find her, and we questioned whether we had found the original Queen a few times, but now we know: there is NO doubt once you actually do find her. Something else we also did, was go ahead and put the honey super onto the hive, as they’ve now filled out about 80% of the 10-frame deep brooder we have for them. We’re choosing to not put the queen excluder on, figuring that if they need more space, then, well, they need more space. I figure we’ll likely be ordering another honey super in the next month or so, just in case they actually produce that much in excess honey this year. I cannot even begin to explain how deeply I am looking forward to seeing a few jars of our own honey, sitting on the shelf next to other preserved goodies from our garden.