Beekeeping 101: A Personal Guide Part 2

After we became accidental beekeepers, we would spend months adapting to our newfound hobby. Sometimes we would be successful. Other times, not so much. Beekeeping, we discovered, has quite a learning curve.

After we finally had our hive in the proper place, we spent quite a bit of time watching bees do what they do best. We placed our hive on top of cinder blocks to give the hive some ventilation and keep ants and other bugs out of the hive. It’s no surprise that honey is a huge attraction for ants. What was a surprise were the frogs that suddenly appeared looking for lunch or dinner. We had to install some metal screening below the hive to keep them from sitting there feasting on our returning worker bees.

Our beekeeping “mentor” encouraged us to take a look in the hive now and then. Every few weeks or so we would “suit up” and take a look inside the box. We learned that going into the hive too often would disrupt the bees more than help them. Bees are capable of taking care of their own and removing anything that’s not supposed to be there. This includes any bees that die in the hive. We watched many dead bees being carried away from the hive by those who were still living. 

After a few weeks we began to notice fewer bees were around the hive. When we opened the hive, we discovered a lot fewer bees. They were also behaving differently. In the past the bees would buzz around us like crazy when we opened the hive. This time they clung to the bee suit like a blanket and all huddled together.

We called our beekeeper friend for advice and learned that our bees had swarmed. The bees swarm — leave the colony — when the queen dies or leaves the colony herself. Without a queen, the hive cannot survive. The drones and worker bees either follow the queen or die.  

This is the return of our second colony

Our beekeeper friend didn’t want to see us give up, though. He took our hive box and said he would get us a new colony the next time he did a removal. It wasn’t long before he found another colony from a local bee rescue. This new colony also had a queen included. It wasn’t long before we found this new colony had already lost its queen.

Return of the second colony of “Aggressive” Bees

Here we go again, forced to buy another queen from the beekeeper!  We found that queens will cost you around $30.00. We went ahead and bought the new queen in hopes of getting the hive built back up.

For several weeks we constantly watched our new colony of bees and our second attempt at beekeeping. Our first colony of bees were docile and very easy to work with. The second colony was a different story. These little bees were aggressive! It became very hard to work with them and we were constantly attacked in the back yard. Luckily, we had the bee suit which helped but keep in mind you will get stung sooner or later.

Even with the not so good temperament,we enjoyed watching them fly in and out of the hive, bringing pollen from nearby to build their hive and produce what we hoped would be raw honey! 

In and out of the hive

Then one day we began to notice not many bees around. We immediately thought, Oh no, not again! It was time to look inside the hive again and check our frames. Inside we found very few bees and no queen. After some research and contacting our beekeeper we found a couple of the frames had what is called “wax moth infestation.”  Wax moths are insects that only wreak havoc on the wax combs being built by our bees. If not caught quickly they can ruin your hive. 

This time it was a little too late since most of the bees had left. This time for good!! We cleaned the frames from the hive and removed all of the infected combs. Our hive is a ten frame hive and we found two and half that were infected. The rest were in good shape with a nice amount of raw honey to be harvested. We ended with a quart jar of raw honey!

It was time for us to decide if we wanted to start over AGAIN or wait until we made our move to our property in Tennessee.  With our move getting closer and so much left to be done in preparation, the decision was easy even if it didn’t make us happy. For the time being, our beekeeping efforts would be put on hold, and we’d start against once settled on our homestead.