Strong hive

On Sept. 23, 2019 I felt like I made it through the season with a strong hive with two deep 10-frame Langstroth. 

I have been fairly hands-off with my bees this year. The swarm that moved in Oct. 13, 2018, wintered over and then died off this spring. I don't know if I rolled my queen when I was inspecting or if she was just old and tired. Rolling is when you accidentally smoosh or injure your queen.

I was pretty discouraged, helplessly watching my bees dwindle down to nothing. The remaining bees couldn't even produce an emergency queen because there just wasn't any brood (larve).

I related my sad tale at the next Coos County Beekeepers club meeting where Shigeo Oku, my mentor from the online OSU beekeeping course, took pity on me and offered me a split. A split is basically fresh brood without a queen, and some worker bees.

The bees create a few special queen cells around a few select larve, then start feeding them Royal Jelly. In about 3 weeks, the first queen to hatch goes around neutralizing the competition. Neutralizing is a nice word for killing.

Then the queen, during the first good weather gets out to find drone suitors — plural — on what's called a mating flight. She somehow locates the drone congregation area, a secret males-only club, and then she acquires as much mating material as nature will allow. No explaining required.

My little mama thankfully found a healthy group of guys. Their offspring fill two deep Langstroth hive boxes.

I carefully treated that split for varroa mites. A new method, developed by Randy Oliver, of laying oxalic acid/glycerin soaked shop towels over the brood. I have been very happy with the results. This is the strongest hive I've ever had with the fewest varroa mites ever littering the bottom board.

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In fact the hive is so happy that on warm days I worry they are preparing to split, literally. The first time I saw all that activity I threw a towel across the front of the hive and blocked off most the entrance to slow down what could have been robbing. 

A few days later the same level of activity. A lot of pollen going in though. Really busy bees.

I can smell the honey.

I brought an empty hive up and placed it along side as a precautionary measure. The vacant box has food and lemongrass oil on a cotton ball, just in case. Lemongrass oil is used to bait bees. 

Monday, Nov. 4, I had inspected the bottom board and noted a few mites, not many but enough to think the treatment strips needed refreshing. I finally got the courage to open up the boxes. When I got inside they had removed most of the strips I'd placed back in August. I was surprised to discover how heavy the top box was with honey and bees. 

I got right to business because they were not in the mood. I have several sore spots as a reminder how territorial they can be.

I went clear around to the back of the house to shed my bee hood-jacket and pants that will go directly into the wash. I don't want to make the mistake of checking on them again covered in their attack scent!

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