Everyone has been asking me how the bees in my top bar hive are doing. It is so hard to describe the back and forth of this hive, that I decided to write it into a story because who doesn’t love a good bee keeping story? I call it; The Crazy Italian Hikers and their Run in With Robbers! A bee keepers allegory.
Once upon a time there was a woman that lived with a crazy, noisy bunch of kids. They hovered just on the edge of sanity. She enjoyed things like chickens, gardening and rabbits so we will just call her the Crazy Homesteading Lady in the story. She got the opportunity to sponsor a group of hikers from Italy, who had branched off from a larger group of campers. She was excited about the chance to take care of these hiker chiks and see that they got off to a good start. Even before they arrived she contacted a company to get them a skilled leader(we will call her the queen leader) This royal leader rode down on an
United States Government mail truck and was introduced to the other girls right away. The Homesteading Lady got the whole group the best equipment, plenty of fresh water to take on the trail and the best hiking food money could buy. She made sure that the queen leader had a good map and saw them off on their way, wishing them well.
When she went to check on them in a few days she could see right away that there were some problems. First of all their numbers had dwindled and worst of all the queen leader was missing! The Lady really wanted to know what had happened to the skilled leader that she had commissioned for the girls, but the hiker chiks just chattered at her in Italian, which she could not make sense of at all. Oh well, I guess she will never know. Some of the girls seemed a bit high strung and shifty eyed. She suspected that the group might have turned on the queen leader, but she had no proof. However she was relieved to see that the group had some new candidates selected from their ranks to be the queen leader and were preparing to vote one of them into the position. We will call these capped
queen cells because a hive without a queen will make a new one.
After about 10 days(which is the amount of days it takes a queen leader to
get back to the hive) she checked back and was thrilled to see that the new leader had settled in nicely! Although the group was small it seemed hopeful that they would finish the hike strong. The Crazy Homesteading Lady gave them more hiking food and promised to check back in a few days.
When she arrived at the camp a few days later what should her eyes behold ,but fierce robbers attacking the group! The fighting was terrible. There was hair pulling, eye poking, biting and scratching! She wanted to jump into the fray and help, but the whole group was so dirty from rolling around in the mud that she couldn’t tell the difference between the robbers and the hikers! Sadly, the queen leader was again missing. It was time to call the professionals for some advice. Following the advice from the pros she settled the girls in a camp with a very small entrance, which would be easier to defend. Then with the help of her brother-in-law she made a maze to go outside the camp entrance. We will call it a robber screen.
This way, since they did this in the darkness of night, the hikers would get up in the morning find the secret way to get in and out of camp, but the robbers would not know the way!
The pros gave her more than just advice. They happened to have a queen leader that was, at the present time, unemployed and looking for just such a challenge! The Crazy Homesteading Lady quickly transported the new leader to the camp and settled her in. However the numbers had dwindled so much and the whole group was so beaten down and dispirited that she just couldn’t leave them like that. She managed to get some rested reinforcements from a nearby hive/camp and moved the whole group, in the dead of night, to camp in her back yard. Question is, would the new recruits be loyal to the new leader? Would the new queen leader have the stamina to handle this stressful and complicated situation? The Homesteading Lady thought they needed some bonding time, so they are having a lock in of sorts for a couple of days. Leaving the hive shut up for at least 48 hours with the queen protected in a cage/clip will give the bees time to acclimate to the new queen and swear their allegiance. Hopefully they will play some games, sing some songs, do each other’s hair. You know, girl bonding stuff. Stay tuned for the end of the story, as it is still unfolding. To get a hive to reorient to it’s new location close down hive for 3 days, making sure of course to have lots of food(sugar syrup- 2 cups sugar to 1 cup water in the Fall) and ventilation if warm out(screened bottom board) The Crazy Homesteading Lady is keeping a close eye on the group, only approaching the camp during the quite of night to replenish supplies.
So what is the moral of this story? Fall is NOT the time to split a hive and there are safety in numbers!
I have always wanted to be a patient person but that particular character trait seems to have alluded me. Meaning, I just could NOT wait till Spring to get bees in my new top bar hive. I couldn’t wait until Spring for chicks either, that’s how I ended up with 11 roosters. You would think I would have learned by now, but no! In the Spring time bees apparently are so busy gathering all the food from the blooming flowers that they don’t feel the need to steal honey out of the hive next to them. Fall however is a different story. Even though it has been warm this Fall it is still the time of year that all creatures feel the need to stock up their Winter stores, including bees. A Fall dearth(defined as a scarcity or lack of nectar) and a weak hive means robbing. There is a lot of bee violence in robbing including the killing of the queen. There is a reason a package of bees has about ten thousand bees in it. That is 10,000 just in case you missed it. That is a lot of bees. Enough to defend themselves for sure. I didn’t manage to get anywhere close to 10,000 bees in that hive, which I have to say is not an easy thing to do.
Thinking back to when I split “Blondie and the Girls”, not so much a split, but more like a “tore off a wee chunk and ran.” I can see why it went so badly. Remember I got stung in the ear? I can picture the girls now. They were pretty calm at first, probably looking at each other and saying in Italian,
“Oh it’s that the Crazy Homesteading American? Maybe she will give us some of that great thick syrup stuff. Wait, what is she doing!? Is she splitting our hive!? Someone tell her; We don’t do that this time of year! Who knows English? Ethel, you know some English. See if you can get closer to her ear!”
The rest is history as they say. I hope you have enjoyed this allegory of an impatient bee keeper and a group of intense Italian bees. Most of all I hope you have learned something from it. Don’t split a hive in Fall and robbers are a real threat. Once robbing has started it is hard to stop! Also there are safety in numbers, like 10,000 in bee numbers! Happy bee keeping!