Bobby the Bee Whisperer came by today to show me how to start prepping the bees for winter. Both my hives were on their best behavior. No one got stung. The hives are well populated with active queens but their larders are nearly bare. “You’d better be prepared to buy 40 pounds of sugar. You’re going to have to feed them all winter.” What Bobby really meant is I’m going to be feeding the bees from now until the first nectar flow in the spring. He hinted that my reward for becoming a bee juice pusher would be docile hives. Docile is good.
My troublesome hive appears to be on its third queen since May 1st. I started with yellow Italians, then shifted to a hive of grayer Caucasian types and now I’m back to the Italian variety. I don’t know what happened to the first queen. I probably killed her accidentally on the first day. The second one led a swarm off into the wilderness and now I have pretty Italians again. Bobby tells me if I leave them alone, in a couple of years I’ll have bees expressing mostly the Caucasian traits. Caucasians are the dominate feral bees in these parts and supposedly live longer than Italians. They certainly produce more propolis as I saw today in the other hive. There the bees are darker in color, haven’t swarmed and at least have a small amount of honey stored for winter.
Bobby takes a dim view of purchased queens. “Bred to swarm.” That’s the first I’ve heard of such things, but this fellow has been working bees for 65 years. He gets the benefit of the doubt. But that doesn’t explain, why the second queen in the troubled hive swarmed. She wasn’t purchased. The hive produced her onsite, she mated with the locals and a few weeks later went off to join them.
Anyway, today’s winterizing chore was simply to put in some Api-guard to treat for varroa mites, the ticks of the bee world. In a couple of weeks, I’ll be putting in menthol crystals to address whatever tracheal mites that survived today’s treatment.
Once the hives were closed back up, Bobby and I exchanged gifts. I gave him some still warm pumpkin biscuits and he gave me four bottles of homemade wine (blackberry, elderberry and peach) and another sack of sweet potatoes. How did I get so lucky?