60 Stings – like being molested by a briar bush.

My wife, Jen

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 numbers up.

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 splits.

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 spare them.

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.

The new hive count is (9).

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