Mid-Oct my dear sister Jan Brown visited me from Beaufort, SC. She has been a beekeeper in various areas of the U.S. for about 20 years, and she is the one who rooked me into keeping bees. I could say something silly, but I am actually eternally grateful to her for this exposure and experience. She and her husband, Will, have been tending close to 50 hives across Beaufort County; she lectures and educates folks on honeybees – go Jan go – and you can see her at mrs.bhoney.com. I’m still miffed that she won’t share the secret ingredient to her honey butter, but oh well.
OH COURSE she brought her suit-up gear so that I could have a free expert opinion on the health and status of our three hives. Little did we know when we, with Joshua and Triple M, hiked up to the hives, that we would receive unexpected info.
We decided to start by opening Olive Isabella Shanessy’s hive and found nothing but good good good – a healthy and thriving hive – yea. We went on to Suiko’s crowd, and as we were opening boxes, things didn’t look good even though there were tons of bees. Jan surmised that Suiko had swarmed so that hive was queen-less which would account for Joshua’s and my observation that her girls had gotten cranky. Without a queen, my sister explained, everyone is at tinderhooks not knowing what to do which is understandable but REALLY NOT GOOD NEWS, especially at this time of year. No brood and no honey stores – wow.
Next we opened Tutwo’s hive, our newest, and Jan was even more disappointed. Her exact words were that Tutwo was an ineffectual and actually pathetic queen – that was a smack in the kisser, but there we were.
So we have two hives that are not going to survive the winter without some attempt at affirmative action by us.
With Jan’s expert guidance, we crafted a plan to merge the two hives. Joshua and I watched what seemed like millions of videos making it look really simple. Next the weather throws us a curve ball with a 10-day extreme dip coming in just days. Oh brother, were we behind the proverbial 8-ball. Friday, 11/6 was our day to give it a try.
Now back to magic and serendipity. On Thursday, 11/5, I received a call from the plein air painter, Deborah McAlister, that my painting was dried and framed and asking when we could meet. Without boring you with excruciating detail, it turns out that Deborah was a beekeeper in Colorado for eight years and had combined many hives AND AND AND was willing to help us. Can you believe the good fortune of it all? It was an overcast day and a bit cool so most of our girls were in the hives which wasn’t so supportive, but the day was upon us! We regrettably have few images because our photographers couldn’t suit up.
We march smartly to Suiko’s hive only to discover that we could actually SEE the queen (which we did NOT when Jan was visiting) so we now need a plan b of feeding Suiko and Tutwo since we can’t combine them. We elect to steal a shallow of honey from Olive Isabella Shaunessy and give it to Suiko’s hive. Things got a little harried at that point with all the girls upset at our intrusion so we will likely begin in-hive feeding for Suiko and Tutwo when the cold snap lifts. Various folks got stung which we truly regret, including all three of us notwithstanding we were suited up. We have immediately revised our timing protocol for any tending efforts so that passersby feel safe.
Lesson learned is that every time even a seasoned beekeeper opens hives, those little ladies have something to teach us. The good news is that we still have three hives with queens and GOBS OF BEES so we shall simply redouble our feeding efforts and ask that you send prayerful blessings to all our Beepeople. Thanks for caring.