The Inept Beekeeper and the Beekeeper’s Excellent Apprentice

checking the bees - smokerI am a very inept beekeeper – if you haven’t gathered this from my earlier posts about my bees (see here for the regicide  and here  and here for other bad beekeeping exploits ) then this post will probably convince you.

However, I am pleased to announce that I have a most excellent beekeeping apprentice – Jude helped me with the bees a few weeks ago.

bee apprentice

He was brilliant. He operated the smoker for me and wasn’t at all fazed when the ‘mad as hell’ bees in hive one exploded out of the hive in a mass of buzzing aggression as soon as we took off the lid. As I had an audience and had to act like a grown-up I also managed – this time – not to run screaming from the apiary, but looked through the frames. I am very much looking forward to Jude coming back and helping me with the bees next spring and summer again.

It has been some time since I blogged about the bees even though it has been, yet again, a rollercoaster of a couple of months. Mainly, I don’t post because I don’t have any photos. It is all I can do  to actually do the bare minimum and try not to do any active damage let alone take photos. I don’t know how other people take such wonderful photos of their bees – maybe they have help – I do the bees by myself when my apprentice isn’t around!

The last post (see here), before we went away on holiday to Cornwall was reasonably optimistic – I thought I might have four hives, but I did have to destroy queen cells in 2 hives. Anyway, I came back from holiday and checked these two hives – no sign of eggs, but maybe I missed them. I left it for another week or so and still no new brood and no eggs – uh oh, looks like I murdered another two wannabe queens – maybe knocking down the queen cells wasn’t such a good idea.

I then checked my new swarm hive (hive 1). The bees were mad as hell – it was a frenzy of outraged bees bombarding me in my suddenly, very flimsy-feeling beesuit. No sign of a laying Queen there either – maybe the bees killed the old one. There were quite a few emergency Queen cells. I resolved to knock down all but one, but as the bees were so horrid, I swore (a lot) and fled leaving quite a few intact cells.

Suddenly it was looking as if I might only have one viable hive – I can’t tell you how despondent I was. I have spent an inordinate amount of time over the past year doing beekeeping and a not-inconsiderable sum of money and so far I have got no honey, lots of stings and probably just one hive – not good news

However, when I checked hives 2 and 3 with my fabulous apprentice a couple of weeks ago – with the intention of uniting one of the sad queenless hives with hive 4 (which was doing quite well) we found eggs – in both hives – hurray. It seems they had made a new Queen and she just took a while to get mated and start laying. Hive 1 (mad as hell bees) still had no queen, but hey …..

Fast forward to yesterday. I checked hive one. I opened the hive full of trepidation but there was no mad buzzing, no full-force attack, just happy bees, doing bee things and saying hi. Could we have a queen?  Yes, we have a queen and here is the proof – brood and eggs

we have a QueenThen as if one miracle wasn’t enough. I saw the Queen. I resolved to mark her. I had my crown of thorns queen catcher to hand and I carefully placed it over her. I am cack-handed at best and when wearing thick leather beekeeping gloves covered in sticky propolis I am worse. I think I managed not to impale her, but I didn’t push it down far enough and as I turned to get the marker pen she scarpered and was seen no more. All I can hope is that I didn’t injure or kill her – that would be more than inept.

It would be good if this was the only misdemeanor that can be attributed to me, but unfortunately when checking the hives for stores – and thank you to My Latin Notebook for drawing my attention  to the possible need for emergency feeding at this time of the year in her latest post – see here – I realised they had nothing – no honey – nothing – ahhhh. When I checked a couple of weeks ago with Jude they had honey in the brood frames and supers, but now nothing.

Of course I feel super-bad, I don’t want to add starvation to my list of bee related crimes. So today I fed them.

feeding bees

Not only did I feed them, but I put the solid hive floors in to check for varroa (I have my apiguard at the ready and will treat in a week or so after I do a varroa count and they have a few stores as I can’t feed when doing the treatment). I also put a super with empty frames in under the main brood box to provide some insulation for winter. I am trying to be a good beekeeper ……

top and tailed hivesOne last thing, I managed to get stung on my foot. A bee went down my wellies and stung me – how inept am I? This is me with bicarbonate of soda on my foot to reduce the swelling and pain – yes I have barefoot gardener’s feet, not pretty feet, but I don’t care!

bee sting footN.B. I think tomorrow I will share the one tiny bit of good news I have on the beekeeping front!

3 responses to “The Inept Beekeeper and the Beekeeper’s Excellent Apprentice

  1. Pingback: Three ways in which I didn’t kill my queen – I hope | smallholding dreams·

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