Saturday, June 20, 2009

Good News: I found my queen and added some brood!

Well friends, I have some really great news in light of the total disaster I've experienced with my three pound package of bees from Georgia. This had been a really rocky week, but what I found in my hive today made me feel much better.

As I've mentioned before, my colony started out rather small. They had been through a lot before they arrived here, stressed from heat and poor packaging, coated in sugar syrup in transit, a dead queen, bounced around, etc. It was really nasty and heartbreaking. It was so bad that I was told by an experienced beekeeper here that I should just let them go. But not one to accept failure so easily, I decided to hang on to them and see if I could keep them going and bring them back.

If I had waited for a new queen from Georgia, from the same guy who promised to "make it right" several times after that bee package disaster, every single bee I have would be dead or gone by now. After getting bad vibes about this operation, I decided to try to find something locally..and I began my search on the Internet for local dealers.

Busy Bee Apiaries to the rescue! Busy Bee is located in Carrboro, North Carolina, and when I called, Shelley told me they had Minnesota Hygienic queens for sale, and if I wanted to drive down, I could pick one up that morning. I then spoke with Betsy who told me that she would go out to the bee yard and get one and it would be waiting for me when I got there.

Carrboro is only an hour away, so I headed east for the apiary (with plans to stop and pick up some pork barbecue at Smithfield's Chicken and Barbecue on the way home...its GREAT eastern style North Carolina barbecue). When I got there, sure enough, my marked queen was there and she was healthy and buzzing up a storm with her attendants. I had the chance to meet Betsy and Shelley who are super nice, and it was great getting to meet them.

I got back home, put my queen cage in the hive (and yes, had some barbecue later) and left my hive alone for five days. Now mind you, this colony had been without a queen for almost a week (I hung the dead queen cage in the hive to keep them there since they could still smell her). But within two minutes, they were working on the candy stopper on the new queen's cage to release her.

Time passed and on the fifth day, I opened the hive again, and as much as I looked, I could not find my new queen. I looked and looked but could not find her long body and green dot. My heart sank, I figured she may have packed her attendants and hit the road -- but then I noticed something. In the comb that the colony had already drawn, I saw these tiny white specks, sitting upright, so I knew she was laying -- and she was laying in a consistent pattern. I knew from what I read and had been told by other beekeepers that I had a good queen.

It had been two weeks and I started thinking about something that Betsy at Busy Bee told me, that if I could find some, I should add some brood to beef up my hive since the colony is so small. It was a great idea, so I made the call and spoke to Jack, the owner, who told me he would sell some frames if I wanted them and that I could pick them up on Friday.

So Friday came and I made the trip to Carrboro. Betsy and Shelley brought me two great looking frames of capped brood which I put in an empty hive body in the back of my Xterra and started for home. They didn't charge me for the 20 or so persistent bees that just couldn't leave the frames! Needless to say, it was an interesting ride with them buzzing inside my Xterra while I'm driving on Interstate 40/85 and heading for home. Heck, they even stayed inside the truck while I stopped by Smithfield's Chicken and Barbecue for barbecue to go!

I made it home and and got into the hive -- and when I pulled the third frame from the super, there she was -- my proud queen! And on top of that, I was really excited when I found larvae and new eggs in the comb, so my queen is working away and keeping the hive going. I added the two frames of brood to my hive, added more syrup, removed the entrance reducer altogether (it is supposed to be 98 degrees and humid for the next few days) -- then I closed things out. And when I got cleaned up and put my tools away, I looked over my hive and the girls were flying in and out like crazy. So this was a great day for sure!

After the tragic experience I've had with my first colony of bees, it has been tough to keep positive about my new hobby. But I have to admit, finding good people like Betsy and Shelley and Jack at Busy Bee Apiaries, who really do care about beekeepers, and believe in helping people, I feel excited about the prospects for this hive. I know they're in business, but I really appreciate them being so nice and willing to go the extra mile to help if they can.

Thanks, Busy Bee! Have no fear, I'll be back. You have a repeat customer. Plus it gives me the chance to get some of that eastern style barbecue when I come down your way!

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