There’s No Keep in Beekeeping

Sometimes I wonder about the sanity of keeping bees. Even the word “keeping” is a misrepresentation of what really happens when setting up beehives. Honestly, there is no “keeping”. The bees are free spirited, free to scout, and free to swarm. And that’s exactly what one of my colonies did.

Last winter my heart was broken by the loss of two hives to starvation and the cold. The other absconded. It was a rough first year for this newbie. I marked it up to training, ordered two new packages, and tried again. I realize calling it training sounds cold and callus from the bee’s perspective.

The first new hive grew fast and furious. The queen was a keeper. Or, so I thought. The hive body soon weighed over 50 pounds. I could barely lift. I added supers and watched it thrive. I didn’t harvest the honey. I figured they needed it for the winter. Starving your hive tends to stick with you.

The second colony grew noticeably slower. There was less brood and less honey making. They were calm and peaceful though and I liked it. I figured I could live with the slow production of honey with that kind of laid-back attitude. I do understand now that having two hives is the thing to do so you can compare the colonies.

The days have been so, so hot. Humid and sweltering. I ventilated the hives and hoped the shade of the tree would provide some relief. I noticed what I thought was bearding on the front of the largest hive. It must have been part bearding and part “hey you, we are out of room”.

It happened as the hubby and I checked on the watermelon patch. As we made a pass by the hives, a small black cloud swirled in the air. In the pine tree, a stalactite of bees. We raced back to the house to get a box, but alas, they were gone when we returned. Again, in that moment I questioned my beekeeping sanity.

I read, researched, asked questions in the beekeeping Facebook group, and tried to decide what to do.  My decision? Do nothing and let the bees do what they do in nature. In the wild, they split to create another colony. They obviously know more than I do.

I did open the hive a couple of weeks ago. There are open queen cells. There’s brood, pollen, and honey. No longer 50 pounds since they gorged themselves when they left, but a good start for winter. My fingers are crossed there’s a new matriarch in there somewhere.

I’ll check the hive in a bit to see what’s happening. I’m confident I’ll still be questioning why I got into beekeeping.


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