The Engineer: “I forgot the blue dot was almost worn off the queen. I wasn’t really looking for an unmarked queen.”
Me: “She’s dead. There were no eggs, and the few larvae we spotted were on the verge of being capped.”
The Engineer: “Yes, but I’d feel better if we went through that hive again.”
Me: <sigh> “She’s dead.”
The Engineer: “If we look and don’t see her, we’ll know to go ahead and get another queen to introduce.”
Me: “Okay. But, if we’re going to look, we have to do it early because it’s supposed to rain tomorrow. Then, if we don’t find her, I’ll order a queen.”
The Engineer: “Okay.”
It was thus that this morning found us once again going through the OH, Girls split, carefully studying each frame before placing it in a different, empty box. Doing the inspection this way, if the queen was still alive, she wouldn’t be able to slip back to a frame we’d already pronounced queen-free.
Frame 1: Old honey (from previous hives) with some fresh comb. No queen.
Frame 2: No queen, but lots of nectar and a little freshly capped honey. Isn’t it beautiful?
Here’s a closeup of a drone. See the big eyes and fat body? Naturally, he’s in the pantry with all the food! And look how fuzzy that little worker is next to him. She must be very young to still be so furry!
Frame 3: Pretty much a repeat of the second, except for several queen cups and the queen cell with a larva in it we’d seen yesterday. There were lots of bees tending to it, so much so that it was difficult to get a good picture of the larva.
There were also a few more queen cups that may or may not have had larvae in them. It was hard to tell. I didn’t take pictures of all of them, but when I look at the ones I did, I think maybe my seeing larvae is wishful thinking.
Then we got to frame 4, and there was Her Royal Blueness. Her blue dot was gone, her thorax appeared to be — I can’t think of a better word — dented, and she was barely moving. Truly, she was in a sorry state. It makes me sad to even look at her.
We have no idea how she got into this state. When we put her in the split, she was in great shape, scurrying around as queens do.
Did she get rolled between two frames when we put the others in? Or what?
Now I wonder if we should have pinched her, both to put her out of her misery and so the other bees know without a doubt they don’t have a viable queen.
We didn’t, and we’re not going back in there, disturbing them further as they go about the delicate process of replacing their queen.
The fact they are making one would seem to indicate they are well aware of their situation.
RIP Her Royal Blueness. You served your hive well. We’ll consider ourselves lucky if your daughter queen turns out to be half as good as you.
Because of this fact, and because the bees clearly are making at least one new queen, we are going to let them get on with it instead of ordering a replacement.
And below are several frames of bees eating honey we spilled on the top of their frames. Can you see some of the bees’ proboscises (tongues)?
When we peeked in the supers (medium-sized boxes usually used for honey) on OH, Girls, we were curious to see how they liked the two frames of wax comb we’d given them. Though we usually use plastic foundation anecdotal wisdom seems to hold that bees prefer wax, and we decided to give them a try.
Apparently, our bees weren’t consulted for those anecdotes. Now we are left wondering: Was it the wax they didn’t like, the string we used to stabilize it, or both?
From what we can tell, they’ve repurposed the wax from the foundation and begun to build their own on the bottom because there’s a slight difference in color.
We took out the string, and reinserted those two frames.
Since they’d filled the rest of the frames with nectar, we added another super. The hive is also still quite populated, so we added the empty quilt box for ventilation. If you recall, this winter we used the same box filled with wood chips for insulation on another hive.
Here’s the new configuration.
Finally, we turned to the OH, Girls split, the hive we were confident would be in good shape.
The Engineer had quickly looked through this hive a few days ago and not seen Her Blueness, but since he saw some brood, we weren’t too concerned.
Today we looked more closely, and found mostly capped brood being backfilled by nectar i.e., as the bees hatch, their cells are filled with honey rather than new eggs. There were also just few large larvae, none of the tiny stuff you see in the pictures from the Kremlin, and no eggs at all.
And there was no royalty in sight … except — and this may save us — a small uncapped queen cell with larva in it.
Yes, I know, I should have taken a picture.
According to Mike Bush, a queen is capped at about eight days, which means we have some waiting to do. Again.
We also may have some queen buying to do if OH, Girls aren’t successful at requeening. According to Bush’s “Bee Math,” we should know sometime in mid June.
If they haven’t managed to requeen, or if the new queen is unsuccessful at mating or laying, or if the queen cell in the split is unsuccessful, we’ll have to buy a queen (or possibly two). Since a Saskatraz queen (our preferred race) is $46, including marking, this can be an expensive endeavor.
Still, at least there will be queens available if needed.
And both the split and the original hive will have had a break in the brood cycle — helpful for both discouraging Varroa and for using the easier method of vaporized Oxalic Acid, rather than the more lengthy Formic Pro strip treatment.
Of course, we will have to remember to take honey supers off the full-sized hive before applying the vapor because it’s not meant to be used with them on, but that’s easily done.
Speaking of honey, I’ve got high hopes that OH, Girls will soon have some capped and ready for extraction.
We’ve had both marked and unmarked queens. When we buy a queen or package or nuc, we pay the extra dollar or so to have her marked. But when we split our hives, and they are successful at requeening themselves, we end up with an unmarked queen.
As you might expect, it’s much easier to spot a bee with a colored dot on her back than one without. I’m woefully bad at finding her in any case. Thankfully, The Engineer is slightly better, but there are still many times we don’t see her and have to be happy with just seeing eggs and larvae.
In other news, the workers from the OH, Girls split have been foraging.
And, it’s been very hot (upper 80s and low 90s F), which means the OH, Girls hive is bearding most days. We’ve noticed our Saskatraz hives seem to do this more than the other ones we’ve had.
No doubt the swift change of weather is as much a shock to them as it is to us. You may recall me mentioning (whining about) the snow on Mother’s Day, May 9. Immediately afterwards, the weather turned, and it’s been hot, without rain for the last week or so.
Weather permitting, we plan to perform a more detailed inspection of the Olgas and the OH, Girls split on Tuesday. If there’s any news to report, you’ll read it here first. 🙂
I do this sometimes, putting in a family surname and narrowing the search by county and date. Yes, this is a random way to approach genealogy, but I occasionally use the tactic anyway because it can yield interesting, albeit sometimes tragic, results.
Today was one of those times.
Findagrave.com popped up with a memorial for thirteen-day-old baby. When I placed her on my family tree, she turned out to have been my father’s cousin (my grandfather’s brother’s daughter).
Melba Jarushire Bird (as FIndagrave lists her) was born at the very end of December 1929 and died on January 9, 1930.
She was either twelve, thirteen, or fourteen days old (depending if you believe the death certificate, Findagrave, or the death register). Her name wasn’t actually Melba Jarushire either, at least not according to the legal documents. It was Melva Jearline.
Cause of death was listed as marasmus, which Healthline defines as: “… a form of severe malnutrition. It can occur in anyone who has severe malnutrition, but it usually occurs in children. It typically occurs in developing countries. Marasmus can be life-threatening, but you can get treatment for it.“
Well. That gave me pause.
To think Dad’s cousin, born three years after him in nearly the same place, died of what sounds like starvation … I can hardly wrap my brain around it.
Although Melva’s death technically happened during the Great Depression, I’m not sure that was the root cause. The Depression started in the US with the stock market crash in October 1929. Would two months of inadequate nutrition at the end of a pregnancy be enough to cause malnutrition severe enough that the child would die?
I don’t know.
I do know Melva’s parents had a son born in 1932, before losing another child in 1939, a daughter who lived only a day.
It’s impossible to imagine the grief they must have felt both with Melva and their second daughter, which makes the fact that their son lived until the age of 73 seem almost a miracle.
My grandparents raised my father and his sister during these years. In the 1930 census, the two families are on the same page, making them neighbors as well as relations. Melva’s father was a laborer, as was my grandfather.
It seems incredible that only now am I beginning to see the struggle these young families went through trying to survive.
Grandma was always extremely strict about not wasting anything. As a child, I didn’t understand. Later, as an adult, I barely thought about it.
Now, however, I think I begin to understand.
To have lived through such times, where these couple’s (and I’m sure many others’) very survival — and worse, the survival of their children — may have been in doubt, would leave a person forever determined to never live that way again.
Also, and this may seem a bit of a stretch to some, reading about this happening in my own family gives me empathy for parents around the world who take what seems to us to be ridiculous chances to migrate somewhere that seems to promise a better future. And I can tell you this, if I’d seen one of my children die of malnutrition, I think I would be quite likely to take any risk necessary to help make sure I didn’t lose another the same way.
Addendum: Since writing this, several friends have pointed out malnutrition could have been caused by issues other than lack of food — cleft palate inability to digest milk, or any number of physical maladies. I was viewing my father’s cousin’s death through the lens of a person raised much later, when such issues would have been problematic, but not life-threatening. Still, however it happened, it’s clear this family suffered their share of tragedy.
The nurse bees we shook into the OH, Girls split seem to have segued into the next stage of their working lives.
They are such incredible creatures! Click through the link above if you’d like a more detailed explanation of the orientation process.
We’re just happy because it’s exactly what they should be doing at this point.
Meanwhile, the OH, Girls main hive continues to be quite active. With the weather seeming to have finally turned (please, God!), and lots of nectar coming in, we’ve decided it’s time to put another box on for honey. After all, while they wait to grow their new queen (please, God!!), they have a bit of a break in eggs being laid. Ergo, less brood to rear, so they can spend more time making honey.
This type of break in brood rearing — whether initiated by the beekeeper with a split or naturally occurring — also helps with integrated pest management. No new eggs and larvae means nowhere for Varroa Mites to lay eggs = a good thing.
As for Olga, The Engineer and I had the following text conversation yesterday while I was at work.
10:56 am Engineer: Bees eaten through candy plug, but Olga still left inside so left alone again.
12:49 pm Me: Maybe look Sunday.
1:24 pm Me: Still alive is good.
2:29 pm Engineer: Shes out. So many bees inside and outside the cage she was trapped so I released her.
2:33 pm Me: Were they friendly bees? 🤞🤞🤞🤞🤞🤞
2:33 pm Engineer: To her yes not to me.
2:34 pm Me: Stung?
2:34 pm Engineer: No.
Well, that was a relief.
Later I learned he’d been unable to locate his bee jacket (which zips to the hat and veil) because when I washed them on Wednesday, I forgot and left them in the washer. Whoops! 😱
We put a box on OH, Girls and hope for honey.
We wait again, this time to see if Olga begins to lay.
And we wait to see if OH, Girls are successful in making a queen.
If they aren’t successful, we may have to buy one.
The excitement never ends.
In other news: I got my second vaccine yesterday (Pfizer), and am okay so far. I did wake up at 6:30 with a bad headache, but thankfully ibuprofen took the edge off. (What did our ancestors do without aspirin and other analgesics? Bayer only began manufacturing and selling asprin in 1899. Imagine having to find willow tree bark to make tea or chew on at six in the morning.)
My co-workers told me to expect to fee super tired, but I don’t, at least not yet. What I do feel is sort of off-kilter, with vertigo and lightheadedness. Odd and disorienting enough that I don’t plan to do much today.
On Saturday, as planned (and hopefully not too late), The Engineer and I stole a frame of brood from OH, Girls to help encourage the Olgas (OH-lgas?) to accept their new queen. When you have laying workers, this is meant to make them think the new queen is laying, and therefore is a good queen worthy of their hive.
Yes, I do realize I’m ascribing them with human attributes. It’s the only way I can make sense of honey bee habits.
At any rate, that’s one of the suggestions Bee Culture magazine offers in requeening a hive with laying workers. Of course, their article says this should be done at the same time the queen is introduced and that the hive should be switched with a stronger hive.
We didn’t switch them, and the brood was added a few days after the queen. However, as I mentioned in the last post, we lucked out once before introducing a queen to a hive with laying workers in much worse circumstances, and they accepted the queen. (It was the very beginning of spring when there were no queens to be had for several weeks after The Engineer discovered the dead queen and certainly no brood to add or strong hive to switch with.)
This time, when we discovered the then-named GeeBees (now Olgas) had a dead queen, we put in a frame of eggs, hoping they’d make a queen. They didn’t, but at least for a few weeks they had brood. They now have brood again, as well as a queen, so I’m hoping this at least confuses their tiny minds enough to give Olga a chance.
We also checked OH, Girls, with the intention of splitting the hive. Her Royal Blueness has been laying so well we were worried the hive would swarm. Splitting a hive is sort of like a fake swarm controlled by the beekeeper.
There are many (many!) ways to split a hive. The easiest is called a “walkaway split.” Basically, you divide a strong hive into two, and walk away. The idea is the hive that has the old queen continues on their merry way, and the other raises a new queen. To do this, both hives need to have eggs, or at the very least, very young larvae.
We used this method last year, mainly because we knew the hive was getting ready to swarm and when we went to split it, we didn’t find the queen.
This year, however, we were going to try to do a proper swarm control split, where you take the queen and put her in a new hive with food and brood. You also shake in some nurse bees so the the split is populated.
Nurse bees will stay in the “new” hive, while any foragers caught up in the divide will return to the original hive. I believe this is because the nurse bees haven’t yet oriented to their hive. You see, when bees come out of their cells, their first job generally is cleaning and capping cells. Next, they become nurse bees, tending the brood and queen. Later, they cycle through other jobs (guarding, foraging), only orienting when they start to go outside the hive for their work. For more details, you can read this article from American Bee Journal.
So, by shaking in extra nurse bees, the beekeeper ensures the hive has enough bees to survive.
Meanwhile, both hives think they’ve swarmed. If all goes well, the queenless hive makes a new queen, and the split soon grows into a full-sized hive.
That was the plan for Saturday. However, things didn’t quite go as we intended.
It was a cool day (about 50 F, the coolest we’ll usually do a hive check), but OH, Girls were out foraging, and we thought we’d be okay. We probably would have been, had we not made the mistake of trying to catch the queen to move her when we could have just moved the whole frame.
Her Blueness fell (into the hive, thank heaven!). Unable to find her again, we closed up shop and decided to try again today (Wednesday), when it would be warmer.
GIven the weather that followed on Sunday, it was probably just as well we hadn’t made a new split/nuc. Bees don’t usually swarm when it’s cold, and a full hive has more bees to keep it warm.
Ah, yes, it was a lovely Mother’s Day here, worse even than the cold and rain that was predicted. Dear Readers, we got snow — a lovely, wet, slushy snow, slippery enough that I saw several cars in the ditch when I drove to visit my mom.
It finally warmed up today, and I spent a few hours hauling around bags of soil and mixing them with compost (to be fair, The Engineer did most of the mixing). Then I moved all the tiny little plants I’d grown from seed into pots, along with a few others I’d picked up from the nursery. Ground cherries, lemon basil, tomatoes, and more ground cherries, if you want to know, plus I split off some chives and Hen and Chicks for Darling Daughter.
In retrospect, I probably should have first asked if she wanted them. 🤔
Ah, well, at least she wants the lemon basil and tomatoes I also potted for her. And the chives and Hen and Chicks needed splitting anyway.
Here would be a good place to mention that the “last frost date” for this area is meant to be May 15, a mere three days away. Also, I checked the weather report before starting, and it didn’t mention anything about frost.
The alert came up on my phone when we finished and came inside to have a cup of tea and a snack.
Sometimes I hate living in Ohio.
Sorry, I digress. I’m supposed to be writing about bees, and so I shall.
After our tea (me) and snack (The Engineer), we again turned to our favorite insects.
Both hives were busily foraging, even though it’s still a bit cool — sunny and maybe 60 F as long as you stay out of the shade, but the breeze is chilly.
A (very) quick peek at that hive today revealed the candy plug still in the queen cage, though they are working their way through it. Also, the bees didn’t seem overly agressive on the cage, so that could be a good sign too.
We turned our attention to OH, Girls. Once again, my observant partner found the queen — unharmed, thankfully, though her blue is wearing off. And this time, we moved the whole frame into the waiting nuc box, gave her another frame of brood and some food, shook in the nurse bees, and closed up shop.
Will OH, Girls make a new queen? Will the Olgas accept their queen? Will my tomato plants freeze?
A friend of ours has set up his own apiary and had ordered a package of bees by mail.
I admit it seems strange to ship bees by post, but it’s actually quite common. In fact, I just looked it up, and there are several animals you can get by mail, including scorpions. Yikes! Why would anyone want to ship a scorpion?
Anyway, the bees were shipped Priority Mail from a company in Kentucky. Our friend chose this company because he wanted a Russian queen.
Russian bees are a less common variety, and apparently this company ships them.
His package arrived today. It’s pictured below — photo courtesy of our friend. The can in the middle is the bees’ food (sugar syrup).
For comparison, below is a picture of the bee package we got last year.
Notice anything different?
Our bees were clustered around the can of food, so thickly you couldn’t see the can.
His bees were on the bottom.
That’s because they were dead.
When the postal workers called our friend for pickup, they asked something to the effect of, “You ordered bees. Shouldn’t they be delivered alive?”
Okay, I did exaggerate a little about them all being dead. The queen (who he named Olga) was alive, along with her attendants, and when he sprayed the bees on the bottom with sugar water, about thirty came back to life.
The reason the rest of the bees were dead was because someone put the food can in upside down, with the holes on the top of the bee bus, facing outward, where the insects couldn’t reach it. The poor creatures went without food or liquid for the three or four days it took for them to arrive. Unsurprisingly, most of them died of starvation or dehydration en route.
There are always some bees who don’t survive being shipped. Even the package bees we have picked up from our local sources always have a few dead. But most of them do just fine.
Look, people make mistakes. It’s part of being human. But when surely when you’re dealing with live animals, there should be checks in place to make sure such slip-ups are caught.
That’s what I would think, wouldn’t you?
Well, there’s a box full of dead bees outside that says otherwise.
About 10,000 dead bees, to be exact. Bees that are dead because a human made a mistake (as we all do), and no one checked it.
There is a bright side to this story, a small one, but a bright side nonetheless.
Our friend got a package of bees that was basically a queen and a few attendants. He’s also getting a refund. We got a package with a dead queen, that we were hoping would make a queen from a frame of eggs. And we have a hive that is thriving.
We could think of two main options, which depended on the state of our hives:
If our new queenless hive hadn’t created a queen, we could introduce Olga to that hive.
If the new hive had made a queen, we could split our larger hive, queening the split with Olga.
I was at work, so The Engineer went to our friend’s and came home with Olga.
He did a quick scan of our new hive, saw now evidence of queen cells, and inserted Olga’s cage.
He did say there were a lot more bees in the hive (probably from all the eggs on the frame we put in), and that he saw scattered capped brood on more than one frame, which means they couldn’t have been from the original eggs, which were all on one frame.
On reflection, he remembered at least some of the capped brood were drone cells.
From this I have surmised, we have a laying worker.
This isn’t great news either. Generally hives with laying workers won’t accept a new queen unless the hive is strong and you introduce frames of brood at the same time.
Okay, we didn’t do that, but we will try to rectify the situation on Saturday. Also, we did once manage to requeen a hive with laying workers when we had no brood to put in it.
So, there’s hope.
Meanwhile, we are crossing our fingers once again for this hive, whose name has now been changed to the Olgas.
I just read a blog post about mothers in England and Wales finally being listed on their children’s marriage certificates.
All I could think was, “Really? Mothers carry their children inside them for ten months (average pregnancy is 38-42 weeks = 10 months by my math), labor for hours (sometimes days) to bring them into the world, and they are only just now being included on the record when that child marries?”
I’m not even going to touch the fact that frequently most of the heavy lifting of raising a child is done by the mother.
In the eyes of the law, it appears we have remained, at least in England and Wales, mere vessels for a man’s progeny.
Leaving such misogyny aside, it’s irresponsible and shortsighted to only record half the information. As a genealogist, I regularly experience firsthand the difficulty of finding records for the women in a family tree. A certificate that lists a woman’s full maiden name can the key to another generation of ancestors
I just checked my parent’s marriage certificate. It lists both parents on both sides (including my grandmas’ maiden names).
Then I looked at my grandparents’ records. For my paternal grandma and grandpa, I have only a copy of the marriage register, and the only names listed are theirs. For my mom’s parents, I have three certificates, all in different formats. Not one lists Grandma and Grandpa’s parents.
My guess is this lack of information has more to do with differences in location and time than anything. Here in the US, we are nothing if not inconsistent in our record keeping. 🙄
I know this is a bit of a rant, but this sort of thing sets me off.
Especially since it came immediately after I spent twenty minutes at the grocery store behind a man who spent the whole time yelling at his wife. And while I admit I can, at times, be prone to exaggeration, this is not one of those times.
I happened to walk in behind them, and he immediately began shouting at her to hurry up.
The store was crowded so I was stuck behind them all the way around it and in the sole open register line.
The guy never stopped haranguing her.
She said she liked something.
“Nobody likes that,” was his loud reply.
At one point, she replied just as nastily that he should shut up.
Still, he was a constant aggressor making me hope I would be gone before they left and wouldn’t be on the road with him (making the short leap to assuming he was the type of guy who would insist on being in control of the car).
If that’s how they are in public, how are they at home? And how on earth can anyone live like that?
End of rant.
Your reward for reading it is this picture of a gorgeous Redbud tree I saw on yesterday’s walk.