I feel like I have been neglecting this blog. I know. Some of you are saying...
You got that right!
The real thing...
I have been wanting to catch you up on all the things you've missed, and not wanting to leave anything out. The unfortunate side of this approach - things are still happening! My list of things to blog about is growing, and I'm still busy, and it is making it impossible to catch up. I have come to realize this is equal to losing sleep. Once you lose sleep, you can't get it back!
I mean, seriously.
There are only so many hours in a day.
As you've learned so far, we had an awesome honey harvest. We had great weather this spring and summer, and it really gave the bee part of my life a boost. After harvesting our honey, these facts didn't change. This resulted in an abundance of bees.
We had some really large hives!
This fact led me to consider an option I had never tried before. You see, normally we would split hives in the early spring. We had actually split some hives early this spring. Two, I believe. What is splitting hives, you ask? Well, it basically consists of dividing the frames of brood, honey, and bees. Moving half of them to another location. Then, adding a new queen to the half that no longer has one. We try to do this early in the spring, so the new queen, in her new hive, has time to get geared up for the honey flow.
The problem with doing this in the early spring, everyone else does it in the early spring. Including your larger commercial beekeepers. Who do you think gets priority? The commercial beekeeper ordering 300 queens? Or, the little guy ordering less than ten? A little known fact, there are only a few queen breeders. I actually have to order new queens by the end of the year for delivery the following spring. I have yet to be able to get my delivery dates scheduled when I think I might want them. They are usually scheduled about two weeks too late. The whole process sets you up for a lot of guessing.
How many hives will be big enough to split?
How many queens will I need?
What will the weather be like?
When is the best time to schedule it?
Where am I moving the new hives?
Literally, you just close your eyes, make a decision, and hope for the best.
My thought had been to wait and do splits after the honey harvest. Queens are not on back order at this point. You pretty much know what the weather will be like. HOT! You aren't risking your honey crop. So on, and so on. As you have guessed by now, this was the year we took this plunge. I knew I had several hives that would benefit from a reduction in size. I also learned that my friend, the Blue Dog Bee Lady, does not like large hives. She also only wants a limited number of hives in her life. This prompted a proposal. Her idea. I would help her split some of her hives, and in turn, she would give me the splits. In addition, she had a pretty aggressive hive that was ruining her beekeeping enjoyment. She wanted assistance in re-queening this hive.
What is re-queening a hive, you ask?
Why would this help an aggressive hive?
The simple answer. It means we have to fight through some aggressive bees and find their queen. Then, we have to kill her. I know. It sounds brutal, but let me finish and you'll understand the logic. There are limited reasons a hive will become aggressive. I have seen a hive lose a queen (meaning she died for one reason or another) and in the process of raising a new queen, the workers become super defensive. I mean, can you blame them? Their survival depends on their success. I have also experienced a hive becoming aggressive when they have obtained some genetics from African Killer Bees. This happens during the fertilization of the queen bee on her mating flight. Basically, she bred with one or more drone bees carrying African genetics. This is why you hear the term "Africanized Bees". They aren't killer bees. They just have been cross bred and contain some of the more undesirable genetics. The theory in re-queening is to remove the Africanized queen and introduce a queen with more desirable genetics. Over a period of about six weeks, the undesirable genetics die out, and the new queen's off-spring start taking over the hive. Sounds simple enough, right? No! We'll go over this more in the future. Just hold those thoughts for now.
I didn't think her proposal seemed completely fair, but she insisted. I offered to buy her bees, but she refused. So, I countered her offer, by only accepting her generosity if she allowed me to supply her with a hive or two next spring if she loses anything over the winter. Basically, I'll take care of them for now, and if she needs something back in the spring, I'll make it happen.
After assessing our collective situation, we decided we wanted to do ten splits. In my ridiculous mind, this seemed like a piece of cake.
After all, it's only ten splits, right?
This is so funny to me now!
As I'm typing it, I can not believe my stupidity!
I started to realize my mistake when I took a look around at my wooden ware inventory. You see. Ten splits requires ten new sets of equipment. You should know that I already had queens on order and took this inventory on a Thursday. My queens were shipping on the following Monday. Delivery to be on Tuesday.
This was my first moment of Panic!
Once I took my inventory, I knew we were in trouble. So much trouble, that I was not able to place an order for equipment and have it shipped. I actually placed on order at 8:00 am on Friday morning. Then, my Full-Timer and I loaded up in the truck for a road trip. Luckily, my supplier is 130 miles away. This is a two hour trip. Each Way! The first blessing. Everything was in stock and they were able to process it while we were on the road.
My Full-Timer woke up in a great mood. This is unusual because she is not a morning person. This was also the first day of her life as an adult. A real adult. An adult that had finished college. A Master's degree that should have taken her over five years to achieve, and she had it neatly tucked in her belt in only four and a half years. A lot of blood, sweat and tears, but it had paid off. She was looking toward the next part of her life, with a new job in the big city right around the corner. Nothing was going to stomp on her happy! Not even the fact that her mother was freaking out, and a little more than stressed over the task ahead of them.
When I say a good mood, she was singing this all morning...
I have no comments regarding her music choices. I will say, the chorus is kind of catchy, and it also got kind of annoying after a while. Especially when you are starting to feel the pressure of the task ahead of you, and you can't ignore your own stupidity in this pressure. It all boiled down to the miscalculations I made in my planning.
You should know, there is a lot of nothing between here and there. We grabbed coffee and headed out. We made it without any problems. loaded our wares, and headed back. It was at this time, my Full-Timer realized she was hungry. The further we drove, the crankier she got. It wasn't long until she was sitting in the passenger seat saying, "Forget this day!" It was sad, and funny, and she was serious!
After the long day on the road, I did stop and feed her. Picking up something for the Man in Charge because I saw no time for cooking in my future. We actually had a rain storm headed at us, but we managed to get home, and get everything unloaded before it hit.
It doesn't look like much, but as you can see, there is some assembly required. This started the daunting task of getting something done in three days that had previously always taken me a week. We broke out the glue and the hammers, and turned up the radio.
These are screened bottom boards. The screen helps the bees deal with one of their biggest enemies. The Varroa Mite.
These are deep boxes we use to house the queen and her brood. This part of the hive is their home. We don't harvest honey from these boxes.
These are the lids we built. We actually had a few of the old style we've always used, but due to the expansion costs, we gave a different lid a try this go round.
The next step in the process included getting all of these pieces outside so we could seal them with Linseed Oil. This is only applied to the outside surfaces and helps us protect our investment.
Normally, I would let these sit for twenty-four hours, but we were blessed with sun and high heat. Yes, at times, high heat is a blessing. Luckily, this cut our drying times. The next step was painting. I use an oil-based exterior paint and apply two coats of paint. At this time, we were getting hit with random storms. You know, because I needed a little extra stress during this project. There was no way to move everything inside the garage. I don't curse the rain - EVER! So, we just prayed and hoped for the best. The Lord really helped us in this area. So many times during this weekend, we had big ugly clouds approach, but every single time, they missed us completely. Several times, they kicked up just past us, giving us a nice cool down from the winds blowing back off the storms.
There were a couple of times I thought we would only be able to get one coat of paint on this equipment. I didn't want to take this risk, but was willing to do so, if it came to it. One thing you don't see, every deep box requires ten frames. Each frame has to be glued, assembled, and nailed/stapled together. We set up an assembly line and had more than one late night in the garage. We were able to apply our second coat of paint, and as it was drying, we assembled our frames. The photo below shows the final product. Each with its frames assembled and installed. What you don't see, the stack of deeps sitting right behind this stack.
The above photo was taken well past midnight. We were tired. We had worked hard. I'm not sure if it was exhaustion or paint fumes, but it was at this moment that I looked at my Full-Timer and said, in all seriousness, "I'm really impressed we were able to get two poats of caint on these boxes."
She looked at me with a lot of concern at this moment. You see, that is not a typo in that statement. Those are the words that came out of my mouth. This marked one of the many moments we cracked up laughing!
Having survived the initial rush on our equipment, I still had the thought in my mind,
...this is a piece of cake.
We are only doing ten splits.