Just an FYI: if you are at CONvergence this weekend, Mr. Neil and I have donated some comb honey and a rusty chipped hive tool (which could be used as a terrifying weapon or shank if one runs in those circles) to the silent auction. Both items have been autographed by Mr. Neil and our comb honey took the blue ribbon at the county fair last year. And the autograph on the honey is actually on the clear plastic case and not on the honey itself.
Part of me was kind of freaking out at the idea that we would have 8 beehives this summer, but thanks to the combination of several people on the bee team and a bit more of a "hands off" approach to beekeeping, it's going okay. After our first summer when we took such heroic efforts to keep our two hives going and still had one fail miserably and then last summer leaving a hive I thought was about to fail to do what it will and have it come through the winter stronger than ever, I'm more and more inclined to leg go and let bee.
The biggest news to report is that my dear, sweet Non Birding Bill finally got stung--his first time in all the years we've been doing this. As it was his first sting and they tend to be worst, I must say that he took it with much more grace than I did. His ankle was a bit sore and he did have some musings that he was turning into half man/half bee but after I sang a few phrases of Billy the Half A Bee, he decided against it.
We are attempting the bees in a bell jar feat again. Last summer, the bees removed the starter wax and the jar was full of condensation rather than a cool waxy looking sculpture. Hans thought it might be a good idea to drill some holes in the bell jar to aid in ventilation. We checked on the progress and found bees running around inside the jar.
The bell jar bees did what a sensible bee will do with a ventilation hole--they filled it with propolis. After watching all of the activity in the jar, I'm still not certain if they were removing the foundation wax to use in other parts of the hive or seriously drawing it out. Only time will tell, but this hive also has honey supers on it, so if they don't do the bell jar, they will make us some honey.
We checked our four new hives and three were excellent. One has had a total queen failure. There's no new brood and no eggs. They have not drawn out comb and filled their box the way the other new hives have--only three frames are full and there appears to be far too many drones--I suspect egg laying workers. Our four hives from the winter were all going strong and it looked like our red hive had recently gone through a swarm. Mr. Neil noted that there were still a few unhatched queen cells in the red hive and suggested we add one to the failing new hive. I was inclined not to but we really had nothing to lose by putting one in. I felt that it would just delay the inevitable end of this new hive but on the other hand--not all of the queen cells would be able to survive in the swarm, so maybe we could give a queen a chance in a new hive.
I did notice that when we took out the frame for a queen cell from the red hive that I wasn't seeing much in the way of eggs or young larvae in that hive. I do have a bit of concern for the red hive but that hive seems to know what it's doing. So we put a new queen cell in the failing hive, although without brood, I do not have high hopes it will work. But hey--if we only lose one hive--we still have 7 others going strong.