We are about to embark on a camping adventure in Oklahoma. My sweet friend loaned us kayaks and everyone is super excited! While any normal person would be packing the day before vacation and deciding which swimsuit to take, I am thinking about bees!
A few weeks ago I looked in my top bar hive. This is the one I installed a package of bees in and named, The Busy Body. I expected to see brood(baby bees), honey, pollen and maybe even to get a glimpse of her majesty. However it was a huge let down to see no brood, no queen. Lots of bees, lots of honey and pollen, but without the monarch, I knew they were doomed. How can this possibly get more complicated?! What happened to her? You might ask. We will never know…..
So instead of preparing for vacation I am laying awake at night going over all the options, in my mind, to solve this problem.
Option #1- Take bees from top bar hive and combine with Langstroth hive; Bee-attitudes. With out a queen this hive is doomed to a slow death. To make a new queen they would need 3 day old eggs laid by a queen bee. You are starting to see the dilemma. These workers combined with a stronger hive would be a win, win situation! While this is by no doubt the most logical decision, it is my least favorite. We were really looking forward to having bees in this beautiful top bar this Spring!
Option #2- Catch a swarm with a queen to add to this hive. I had been so busy graduating my Senior from High School my swarm trap sat in pieces in my garage. When you teach a child all the way from first reading lessons to graduation from High School it is a huge deal. I feel like I should have received a diploma! I will have to be content with, “Thanks Mom.” No really, I am so proud of that kid! So thankful for all the help along the way. It takes a village to raise a child well! Thankful also for my Heavenly Father, who carried us when we thought we could go no farther.
So I dusted off my swarm trap today, put it all back together and hung it in my favorite bee tree. Join me in praying for a swarm.
Option #3- Take 3 day old eggs from our Bee-attitudes hive, along with some brood and let them raise a new queen. If a hive finds themselves with out a queen, as long as they have freshly laid eggs they can raise one up by feeding it Royal Jelly! That must be some special stuff! Sounds like the plot of a fairy tale doesn’t it? It takes them 16 days to raise a queen. Then she needs a week or so to go out and mate with local drones, come back to the hive and settle in to lay eggs. Cross your fingers that this will work! It is pushing it for sure!
When I say that I took comb out of a Langstroth hive and put it into a top bar it makes it sound so easy. Trust me when I say it was far from easy! All the bee keepers reading this are saying, Ahhh! They are also wondering how I did that. For all you beginners; Taking comb out of a Langstroth hive and putting it in a top bar is like trying to pound a square block into a triangular hole, literally. While the Langstroth hive is shaped in a square, the top bar is shaped like a manger. The kind of manger animals eat out of and Jesus laid in. Now you are getting the idea.
So, how did I do it? With wire and glue that’s how. We got lucky in that the Bee-attitudes had built out some loose comb(not attached to foundation). I wired that to the top bars with florist wire. Pretty quick fix.
The comb built out on foundation(plastic comb starter) was a little more complicated. First I had to cut a channel in the top bar. Not being a wood worker I did this awkwardly with a circular saw. Surprised I still have all my appendages! I then had to cut the foundation to fit the sloped sides of the top bar hive. (Remember shaped like a manger) The last step was running a line of tacky glue down the channel and fitting the cut foundation down into it. I also ran some wire around it, just to be sure. The last thing I wanted was to get back from vacation to find it had fallen down in the bottom of the hive!
As you can see, I chose option #2 and #3. If they don’t make their own queen, then maybe I will catch a swarm in my trap. If neither of those things work out, then I will admit defeat and take what is left to combine with the Bee-attitudes (Langstroth hive). I am just not ready to give up on them(Busy Body) quite yet.
That is what I did the day before leaving on vacation. Although I never imagined bee keeping being this involved, I do enjoy the problem solving. It is like a puzzle in a way, weighing the odds and putting more than a little down to luck. If you have dived into bees this Spring, then I hope things are going easier for you. If you haven’t, then find a bee keeping class or group near you and start preparing for next Spring!