Bee Blog – Update May 2020

My THree Hives (photo by author)

Update May 4:  I have stopped naming my queen bees because I am superstitious and don’t want to jinx myself. I should have learned this after the year that the queen Megan Markle was released into a package of bees and subsequently was murdered by the package. This year didn’t get off to a good start when made an accidental murder attempt with this year’s package by snapping the cage screen onto the queen’s back while she was crawling out. However, the nucs looked good, but still, I did not want to curse my hives until at least one week of good news. After a week of dwelling on the Earth Day hive and their queen and watching the nucs from the outside at their activity, Hannah and I decided to go in and see how all our hives were doing.

Checking the Hives (photo by author)

We checked in starting at the worrisome hive, the Earth Day hive. Amazingly, the queen whose life I thought I had extinguished was STILL ALIVE, and I hadn’t smooshed her with the cage screen. Plus, she had already gotten to business and laid some eggs and brood. Her name came immediately to me as I gazed at her blue dot on her back, representing the year of 2020. That stunning queen could be no other than Lady Gaga.

The cage where I thought I had crushed Lady Gaga! (photo by author)
She survived! See the bee with the blue dot? (photo by author)

We quickly checked hive two, started with a nuc, and saw the queen and some activity, noticing capped and uncapped brood on some of the new frames. Feeling pleased with our Maryland governor for his handling of the Covid 19 pandemic and the difficult decisions he had to make, we assigned the name Queen Hogan to the 2020 queen with the green dot.

We then moved on to the third hive. We couldn’t find the queen, but we could tell that she was there by the presence of eggs, larva, and capped brood on frames that didn’t have those things when we put them in. We named this queen Queen Cuomo, after the New York governor and his empathy, scientific explanations from the experts, and great leadership through the pandemic. Welcome everyone: Queen Cuomo, who should have a green dot for 2020.

Long live the Queens!

Update Mother’s Day, May 10: Hannah and I went back in to check on the bees. The girls were all doing great!!!! Lots of hatchings in the two nuc boxes and lots of bees and lots of new brood. We Didn’t spot Cuomo, but she was apparently doing well, and she had the most aggressive hive of all (those New Yorkers!!). Hannah and I took a look, saw the success, and closed her back up. We added another hive box to give those girls space from being cramped up in that one box. The quarantine can be rough.

In the next nuc, we found more successes – hatchings, new brood, and lots of bees. We didn’t see the queen here, either, but we wanted to tell her that we had vetoed the name Hogan and renamed her Queen Fauci. The governor Hogan had recently fallen out of our good graces when he vetoed the bill to ban Chlorpyfiros, a harmful nerve agent that hurts developing brains, crustaceans, and our very own bees. Although the Maryland Department of Agriculture has said that they will phase out the harmful substance in the next 2-3 years, anything can happen with loopholes and changing of regulations. Besides, this fight for the ban has been going on for years, and already too much time has passed for babies, bees, and crabs. Hogan was not entirely devoted to the bees this year, so this queen no longer bears his name. We remain hopeful for next year. So, Dr. Fauci’s box was chock full of bees and bees ready to hatch, so we added a deep box to this one as well.

We moved onto the third and final hive, the Earth Day hive that started from a package, and Hannah got the smoker recharged. The two of us opened Lady Gaga’s kingdom and there she was, walking around all stately on one of the frames. She has been hard at work laying eggs and filled about 4 or 5 frames with a new generation. We added another deep box for her as well.

We took the feeders off all of the hives and hope that the weather will be warmer from now on, and the flowers will be plentiful. Happy Mother’s Day, Cuomo, Fauci, and Lady Gaga. We appreciate what you and your species do for the planet.

At this point, I was strolling out to the apiary daily and watching the bee traffic going in and out. Clearly, Cuomo’s colony was the busiest of all, not unexpected, given the New York connection, with lots of bee traffic and lots of pollen going into the hive. I also noticed some bees peeking out of the top deep hole, unlike in the other two hives. Generally, Fauci’s hive was also fairly busy. It was started from a nuc, and the second generation of bees should have hatched by now, but there wasn’t as much pollen going in. We did see Fauci and the new brood that she made, though, so we know she is doing good things in there. Finally, in Lady Gaga’s castle, we saw bees busy at work, but not as many as in the other hives, and there were no bees peeking out of the top deep hole. Of course, I started worrying about my bees, the timing of the nectar flow, and the efficacy of this year’s tulip poplar blooms with all the funky weather we have had. The day we pulled off our top feeders and added the deeps, I heard another beekeeper talk about putting their feeders back on because there was no nectar coming into their hives. So, we just had to take a peek inside.

Update May 17: This hive inspection was just a quick glance into the top deeps of the Cuomo, Fauci, and Lady Gaga kingdoms.

Queen Cuomo:  Lifted the cover off the hive and immediately noticed all the bees that had moved to the top deep and were crawling all over the top frames. At least 6 or seven frames had bees between them. There were at least 4 or 5 empty frames that onto which I had painted wax to entice the girls to draw comb out. I dated them with a purple Sharpie 2020 to keep track of how old my bee equipment is because I totally lost track of the years. Apparently, it is good bee practices to ditch the frames after 5 years. Here you can find more info about accessory dwelling unit builders who offer expert services from architecture design to construction in San Diego. These frames were still empty except for one in which the bees were starting to build up comb. Another frame with drawn comb on it was filling with nectar. So, since we took the feeder off last week and put a deep on, this nectar was purely from the flowers. Hannah and I looked at each other, and we decided to be greedy and put a queen excluder and our first super, used for honey collection, on the top of Cuomo’s hive.

Queen Fauci:  One down, two to go. We lifted the hive cover, and we saw bees on the top frames. Although they were a bit nasty today when we opened them up, they weren’t as numerous as the Cuomo colony. The empty frames were still empty with no drawn comb. We decided to close them up and leave them bee. No super, but no feeder.

Lady Gaga:  We opened the last of the three hives. Not many bees at all have moved up to the second upper deep. This Earth Day hive started as a package and is about 3 weeks behind the other two hives. Lady Gaga’s first generation of bees may not have hatched yet. We decided to give her a little nurturing boost, especially with the weather report coming up, a wet, cold week. Hannah and I put a top feeder on, and we went back to the house to make up a sugar syrup solution. Maybe we will even add a Pro Health supplement of essential oils to make Gaga’s girls strong and more resistant to bee corona problems.

Hannah helping the bees (photo by author)

Whew! There you have it.  It’s almost a scientific experiment with a number of variables. One nuc had no feeder but an extra super and more work using only the natural flowers. Another nuc also had no feeder but no super either.  Lastly, we had one package of bees with a feeder and some help from the beekeepers, and no extra work with a super.

Stay tuned as the season progresses and the queens keep queening!

Questions? See our Facebook post.

Janice Fisher is a writer, physical therapist, and beekeeper from Annapolis.

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