Monday, August 15, 2016

All hail the queen

Some of you may be wondering how our one remaining beehive is doing after the huge and vicious Battle of the Bees last week.

The yellow jackets wiped out one hive, though to be fair it was looking weak anyway. I think the queen had died and we hadn't realized it yet (sign of amateurs, obviously). Because there were so many wasps within the hive, we simply picked it up and dumped it about twenty feet away from the remaining hive.

Days later, the wasps were still so thick on these frames that one night, after dark, Don suited up and took several entire frames -- lined wing-to-wing with wasps, he told me -- and bagged them up, tied off the bags very tightly, and put them in a spot where they would be thoroughly baked the next day. It worked, and got rid of several thousand yellow jackets. Most of the rest of the wasps have dispersed from the frames by this point.

Meanwhile, also working at night and well suited up, we closed the remaining hive, strapped it onto the tines of the tractor, and moved it several hundred feet away to a new location nearer the house (where we could keep a closer eye on it).

For the first couple days in this new location, the bees and wasps were still battling it out...

...but this time the bees had the advantage.

We baited traps and hung them all over the place, including on the hive itself, but for some reason they're not attracting many wasps.

We've opened the hive twice, prepared to top off the feeders with syrup, and it simply hasn't been necessary. The bees are apparently foraging enough that they don't need the syrup. Before, when they were getting mobbed by the wasps, the feeders were being drained in two days and the bottoms of the feeders had hundreds of dead wasps. Hundreds. But now? Nothing. Evidently it was the yellow jackets who were sucking down most of the syrup.

The next logical question, of course, is whether or not the queen was still alive. So yesterday morning I suited up, determined to dismantle the hive if necessary in search of the queen. I've only seen a queen once before -- last year, when a professional beekeeper came out and showed me the ins and outs of our hives -- but this time I was attempting it on my own. I even took off my glasses before zipping up my bee veil -- I see close up very, very well without glasses -- to better inspect the frames.

I opened the hives, removed the still-full feeders, and one by one took out the frames in the super and looked them over closely. There was a surprising amount of honey, I was pleased to note, but the brood (and therefore the queen) was likely to be in the lower box. So when I finished inspecting the frames in the super, I pulled it off and started carefully removing frames from the lower box.

And I found her! I was thrilled! Here she is, lower center, surrounded by an attentive group of bees. All hail the queen!

Notice, too, the nice frame of brood, ready to replenish the numbers of the hive.

So I reassembled everything and buttoned up the hive again. At this point we are cautiously optimistic that the hive will make it. We'll be eagle-eyed for any more onslaughts of yellow jackets, of course, and we'll be careful how we set up the hive over the winter. But for now, I repeat, all hail the queen.


  1. Glad to hear it. Maybe your other hive had swarmed and there just weren't enough bees left to guard it well.

  2. You might try putting a piece of overripe peach or plum in some of your wasp traps. I did this after wasps swarmed a plum juice soaked fruit box. I did two traps that way and I think I have caught about every wasp that was swarming the box and a few more. Just a thought.

  3. Mighty glad to hear that your remaining hive seems to be healthy. That had to be quite a shock last week!

  4. Was just wondering yesterday how your other hive fared. Good to hear they seem to be recovering! Do you think it was the feeding of the bees that drew in the wasps in the first place? Nasty little critters. We were so tormented by tiny sweat bees while working in the garden this morning that we finally broke down and sprayed ourselves with repellent!

  5. Patrice knows. 'Two is one. One is none'. Good!

    Thank you for sharing. You are an awesome teacher.
    Montana Guy

  6. You'll probably be ok at this point. The yellow jackets won't make it very far past the first frost. The queen will probably stop laying soon for the winter, if she hasn't already. In a way, the diminished number of workers may help them stretch their honey stores until spring.

  7. I have always been told that moving a hive more than five feet and less than a mile from its previous location will cause the field bees to return to the old location, since that is where their original orientation flight programmed them to go. You might want to keep an eye on the old location in the evenings to be sure that isn't happening.

  8. Hi Patrice. Just stopped by to let you know I renewed the .org and .net for RR for one more year and they are still pointed at this URL. All is well here in OrangeJeepDad land. Kids and wife are totally in love with southern idaho. I will come find you up north one of these days. Tell Don hi for me.

    1. Holy cow! Thank you! Don says thank you also. Glad you're enjoying your new home. You guys have had some tough breaks and deserve an easier spell.

      - Patrice

  9. YAY! I am SO glad the other hive is doing better and the queen is well. All hail the Queen! :D

  10. So glad to hear you have a hive left! I followed the winter prep instructions offered on the Honey Bee Suite blog (sorry to mention her again but I've found her super helpful as a newbee) & my bees came through a horrible winter so strong they swarmed in early spring. We did styrofoam sheet insulation, left lots of honey on, put in a tiny top entrance (which they seemed to love), added a candy board with pollen patty, and a shallow super moisture quilt filled with cedar chips. We also closed our screened bottom board for the winter. It really seemed to help. We will be trying again this winter with that method, although our second hive looks weak & may not make it. Good luck! Bees truly teach you that God, not man, is in charge of nature!