I had three hives in the back yard this year and not one of them wanted to go easy on me. One hive was purchased as a nucleus colony in May and built up rather quickly, then gave me my first 30 pounds of honey!
After we extracted that, I put the empty honeycomb back into the hive and they never really went back to it. So after a few weeks I moved it over onto the purple hive. The purple hive got off to a bad start. The queen bee that came with the package turned out to be a drone layer. I opened the hive one day and all I saw were lumpy honeycombs…all of the brood was drone brood, no worker bees were being made. That’s not good! Worker bees are what keep the hive going. They take care of the babies, they feed them, they forage for nectar and pollen, they make honey. Drones hang around and eat and wait for a chance to mate and then they die. I didn’t need thousands of those. So I had to locate the queen and kill her. Sadly I killed several queen bees this year. That first one, the drone layer, was replaced by a new queen bee that I bought from a beekeeper in Gurnee. Once she was introduced, that hive took off. It filled that honey super in a month or so and I took another 40 pounds of honey.
The middle hive, the blue one, went queenless just around the end of August. I kept giving them new frames of eggs from another hive so they could make their own queen, and nothing was happening. As the end of summer approached, I decided to buy another queen from the beekeeper in Gurnee. I took a day off of work and drove to and from Gurnee, about 5 hours of the day gone, and then went home to go through that blue hive to remove any queen cells that had been made. And there were a lot of them. In fact two of them HATCHED while I was going trhough that hive and I had to kill those two queens. They were unmated and it would have taken too long to wait for them to go on a mating flight and begin to lay eggs before the end of the season. So I went through frame by frame making sure there were no other queens in that hive before I introduced the new one I had just paid $42 for. When I was sure there were no others, I put the new queen in and closed the hive. Three days later I opened it back up to see if there was any progress and…
I was out $42. It appeared as though I had overlooked one of the queens that the hive had reared itself, so she found and killed my newly purchased queen, and was now wandering around the hive not laying eggs because she hadn’t gone on a mating flight. I decided to leave her be for now and see how much she could build up the hive before the end of the season.
Last week I went through my hives and determined that the blue hive wasn’t going to make it through the winter. It didn’t have enough honey and pollen, it didn’t have enough bees. I started to prepare to merge blue hive and nucleus hive together. When the day came to combine the hives, I found the queen bee that wasted my $42 queen and I squished her. She didn’t do a good job of building up the hive. I took all of the bees and the 10 best frames of honey from that hive and placed them on top of a stronger hive with a single sheet of newspaper between them. Three days later, the bees had eaten through the paper and had merged into one strong hive. Now there are two hives in the back yard that I need to winterize.
It’s been a challenging summer for sure, but I learned a lot of new techniques and am planning on adding two more hives next spring, only in Manhattan in my sister’s yard. She lives on 5 acres and all of her neighbors have large yards with plenty of dandelion and clover for foraging.
I’ve managed to sell a lot of honey and other items made with honey and beeswax (soap, lip balm and dog treats) and have raised money towards adding new hives in the spring. Thanks to all of my neighbors and everyone who bought something from us this year, you’ve all made maintaining this hobby possible!