In 2006 I bought 50 beehives. Life happened and I was forced to abandon the project. In March 2015 I began again with the 3 surviving hives.
Now I am trying to move from a Clueless Beekeeping Novice with 3 hives to Professional Beekeeper. So with that in mind, I will share my adventure, my follies, and hopefully my success with you. Enjoy.
I drove to Philadelphia, MS Friday and picked up my three
new queens. More importantly, I got to visit with Johnny Thomson of Broke-T
Apiaries – what a nice guy. He answered all of my questions, which was a huge
help because I couldn’t seem to find the answers anywhere. Here were the questions:
1.Do you put Virgins or Queen-cells in the mating hive?
I hear both ways but Johnny said he gets better acceptance with Queen-cells.
2.Can you sell Virgins? Yes
3.How long do you leave the queen in the mating nuc?
21 days. That seems a little long but he charges $25 a queen rather than $20
and that seems to make up for lost time.
4.When to start grafting? Mid February.
a.I had been told by other beekeepers not to split
until Easter but Johnny started his splits March 1st. I should have
done the same.
5.When is the breading season? Mid February to the end
of June – not much market for Queens in the summer but there is a market for
Queens in the fall.
6.What do you do with mating nucs when the season
is over? Johnny uses a (3) frame medium mating nuc and combines three of them
together to make a new hive in June. He said he doesn’t have an issue with bees
fighting when he does this.
7.Do you need to add bees and food to the mating
nucs? No. Once the nucs get going they are self-sustaining – but if a hive
doesn’t make a queen it will have to be given a frame of brood to keep its
So these questions helped out a lot.
New hive configuration after splits
When I got home that afternoon, I went to the doctor’s place
and split my largest hive (D). However, as I began checking it, I found that it did
not have any fresh brood and was full of drones.
Then I started to get stung. Once or twice at first but the
longer I worked the more I got stung until the bees made their way into my
shirt and began stinging me over and over.
I had already split the hive into three new hives – two on
the location and one to take home with me. The problem was that I wasn’t sure
if I had put enough young bees in the new splits. Yet with the stings mounting,
I found it hard to remain focused. I had brought sugar syrup but I only fed
Hives (A) & (B). The rest of the food I ended up taking home with me as a
fled the scene.
Of course I didn’t leave until all the hives where in order
and closed up but once at home I couldn’t help but worry I hadn’t made proper
My wife helped me scrape out the last of the singers and
then counted the red whelps – (60) in all... my personal best. I didn’t feel too bad but I was
chilled the rest of the night. Nonetheless, by morning the stings had shrunk to
little red spots and I was no worse for the wear – though as I type this, a few
spots on my chest are still itching but not bad.
I went back out to the hives Sunday and found that the queen
in (D.1) had been released and accepted. (D.2) had plenty of bees but had not
let the queen out yet. (D.3) the hive I brought home is full of bees and the
queen is close to being released. I have put brood builder feed in all of the
hives now and will feed again on Tuesday.
For now it seems that all of my splits are doing well. As for
hive (D) which is the one that stung the hell out of me – well I think it is
queenless and I will put a frame of eggs in this weekend if the new queens can
I also went by the old farm Friday but the field was a swamp
and I couldn’t get back to check those two hives. For now they are like Schrodinger’s
Cat. The good news is I have a lead on a
new site that is closer to my house and so I will be moving the hives from the old
farm to there as soon as I have queen cells.
I know this all sounds like a horror story but I take comfort in each sting I get, knowing that if it
were easy, everyone would do it. I know it might sound bazaar but I feel that
each sting it a little penance that must be paid for a great reward. I’ve spent
years and thousands of dollars to earn the beekeeping education I have (weak as
that knowledge may be); I’ve gone too far to turn back now.