Keeping my fingers crossed, but it seems like things have more or less finally come to order in the bee-yard. It’s been a relatively long time coming this year.
I’m someone who experiences the Lord in church, yes, of course, but also someone who is amazed by what he does in and through his creation. Since we’ve been in the height of bee-season over the past couple of months… that means seeing him at work in the hives.
Today’s post is a little longer than usual, so grab an extra big coffee. 🙂
First off… let me give you a brief over view of the hives. At present I have seven, all of which are in different stages of development. The two tallest ones (toward the left) are the two that came through the winter. They were both jam-packed with bees in early Spring and provided the starting point for all the other smaller colonies, either through natural swarming (the bees decide) or artificial swarms (divisions that I made to start a new colony).
Nothing short of a small miracle
I have racked my brain; gone backwards and forward trying to recall details, and I can’t think of another explanation for what happened last week.
Let me set the stage…
Beginning April 1st, I initiated several splits / divisions to start new hives, taking brood (unborn bees), their accompanying nurse bees and stores (nectar & pollen) from stronger hives. This is standard practice during the Spring.
For the most part I was successful. Some hives took longer than others to ‘settle in’ and get going (mostly due to the poor weather), but generally speaking, thing went well, with two notable exceptions:
- One new colony (let’s call it ‘box 2‘ for now) just kept dwindling and came to a point where there were not enough bees to keep brood warm, and despite a couple of ‘top-ups’ and the insertion of a queen cell… they were more or less a ‘no-go’. However, that box did have several frames of drawn bees-wax comb that had come from elsewhere (this will be important later).
- A second new colony (let’s call it ‘box 3‘) had no queen, refused to raise a new one and the worker bees began laying (not good – as they can only lay non-fertilized eggs). Despite my efforts… the problem persisted.
Tuesday, June 1st
Thanks to my various attempts, I was up to 9 colonies (from 2 initially… not bad), however, as mentioned above, I had those two problematic ones that were really going nowhere, so I decided to combine them with other colonies to (a) reduce the overall number and (b) ensure what I did have were stronger colonies (June is late for trying to build up new colonies here in France).
I placed weak & dwindling box 2 over a healthy natural swarm from early May that was starting to run out of space. Since there was drawn comb, it would give the larger colony a place to immediately store nectar.
In order to combine them successfully though, you need to separate the two boxes with a sheet of newspaper. The bees will chew through gradually and the subtle smell differences of the two hives will mix little by little, otherwise, the stronger group sees the smaller group as intruders and will immediately try to kill them.
I figured I’d fix box 3 by combining them with a lat-May swarm (box 4). The only problem…. they (box 4) didn’t have a queen either, BUT the workers were not yet laying so I knew I could put a frame of eggs in there and they’d raise a queen. These two boxes were separated with a screen (I wanted their smells to merge, but didn’t want them to be able to mix just yet).
Wednesday, June 2nd
I went in to check on box 2 and BIG PROBLEM. There were a bunch of bees balling a queen on the newsprint (I was able to save her). I assumed, since I knew there was a queen in the swarm (box 1), that she’d come up through the newsprint looking for a place to lay and the few bees up there tried to kill her because they didn’t recognize her scent. UGH!
I was able to rescue her, put her in a queen cage and figured I could at least introduce her into box 4 (since they were queenless and the workers weren’t laying, I was pretty confident that they’d accept her. Spoiler-alert… they did). Now, however, that early May swarm was queenless.
I wasn’t particularly worried. I knew they had eggs and could raise a new queen. #AllisWellWithTheWorld
Saturday, June 5th
I went back to check on the late-May swarm (box 1) to see if they’d drawn out queen cells.
No queen cells! Say WHAT?! … that’s strange.
As I’m looking through the various frames, I see freshly layed eggs. Say What?! … how can that be? That queen was balled in the box 2 and transferred to box 4.
As I continue to look through box 1, I see why there are eggs… there’s a queen!
That is not possible… The only way for there to have been 2 queens in that box 1 & box 2 combination is:
- There had originally been a queen in box 2:
Not possible… on 2 sparsely populated combs, I would’ve easily seen her if there had been one there.
- There had originally been 2 queens in box 1:
While it’s possible that two queens exist in a colony, it is more than rare. If that swarm had been in-box for only a few days, I could understand. This swarm however, had been hived for a month. Normally, two young queens wouldn’t co-exist that long. One would kill the other.
The only other explanation is … a small miracle.
Too Many Coincidences…
Either, God allowed those two queens to co-exist in there for over a month OR he placed that queen in there… either way, it’s a miracle.
I mean really. What are the chances that I just happened to open that hive, on that day, at the exact moment that that queen was being balled (the bees meant to kill her) … AND that I opened it early enough in the balling process that I was able to save her unharmed?
Seriously, what are the odds? Ask a beekeeper, they’ll tell you.
(btw, this is that queen, happily laying on a comb from box 3)
Many would likely prefer to chalk that all up to coincidence. To me though, that’s just too many coincidences for God to not be involved in the process.
As of Today…
Box 2 is now an empty honey box. Since box 1 is full of brood and the population will soon explode, having the empty honey box up top will give them room to expand.
Boxes 3 & 4 are still separated by a screen, but thanks a combination of my mediochre carpentry skills and the difficulty in finding un-bowed lumber, the bees from box 4 found an alternative entrance and are still able to come and go (see short video below). Once the screen is removed (I’ll give it a week or so longer), bees from box 4 will seek out the laying workers in box 3 and dispose of them. and the two groups will merge.
We often refer to God as the creator or the God of creation, but when we look at the minute details… we sometimes get a great glimpse just what that entails.
It’s perhaps very simplistic, but God reveals himself to me in the bee-yard… among other places, and I’m just a little bit better because of it. It builds my faith.
Here are the bees of box 4 coming & going through an unintended entrance.