Last year we were very excited to add honeybees to our farm. My husband had spent a lot of time in the company of a friend of ours who is a Master Beekeeper, and he couldn’t wait to have a hive of his own.
Because this was our first foray into beekeeping, we decided it was best to start small with one hive. Since I am terrified of bees, this project was 100% on my husband. I was happy to reap the rewards in the form of delicious honey. The installation of the bees went well, and the hubby monitored the bees progress as carefully as he could without disrupting them too much.
A few weeks in, there was a problem – hubby could no longer find the queen and it appeared no eggs were being laid. We contacted our bee supplier, and luckily he had a queen we could purchase and install into the hive. We introduced the new queen and kept our fingers crossed that all would be well.
Another couple of weeks passed, when an interesting new development occurred. Turned out the original queen hadn’t died, and she had dispatched of the new queen and was laying eggs as she should (we knew this because each queen was marked with a different colored dot). We chalked it up to natural selection, and reasoned that we got the got the best queen out of the two, so we were doing well.
Things seemed to be going well right up into the fall. Comb was being built, eggs were being laid and we seemed to be right on track. Until the eggs stopped being laid. And the workers started to dwindle in number. And then the wax and honey production stopped.
We’re still not sure what happened. My husband theorizes it was a spider attack. All we knew is it was fall, our queen was definitely dead this time, and we didn’t have enough bees or honey in the hive to make it through the winter. We debated getting a new queen, pumping the bees up with sugar syrup, etc., but in the end decided it was less stress and more economical to let the rest of the hive die out and start fresh in the spring. My husband was pretty devastated by the failure of our first hive, and we learned a hard lesson in putting all of our eggs into one basket.
This year, we decided to bite the bullet and do four hives instead of the one. This will give us a much better chance of pulling all of the hives through and give them a good chance of surviving a brutal winter. We also have a great start for our new hives by distributing all of the frames that our last hive already made progress on building up comb.
When the bees finally made their arrival last week, my husband was nervous and excited. It was a warm sunny day, so the bees were active and irritable.
He got stung. Three times. But overall, a successful install. He has been out to check on them every day, and so far seems cautiously optimistic. My fingers are crossed for flourishing hives that I can be proud of from afar, and maybe a little honey at the end of year for all of our efforts.