Reflections on a year in beekeeping

This year has been all about the queen. Queen Rose split from her court in early spring and was succeeded by her daughter, Queen Rosemary. Taking objection to her coronation, Rosemary briefly abdicated in a royal huff before returning to her throne. Rose, in her newly founded kingdom, made fewer public appearances before eventually going MIA. We then discovered five queens-in-waiting in July. Our royal saga concluded with the coronation of Queen Lavender.

Lavender made her debut at the end of a busy afternoon’s beekeeping: bees had been cleared, our honey crop removed and Apiguard given to treat varroa. The beekeeping year starts and ends in August. The honey crop summons the end of our annual activities as preparations for overwintering begin the new year. Bees are a bit pagan.

Emily brought dried lavender for the smoker to calm our late summer bees, while we nicked their honey and gave them medicine. So it seemed appropriate when Sarah spotted our new queen running across a frame in our baby hive that she was christened Lavender.

Remembering the drama of our runaway queen earlier this year, Lavender was swiftly caged without hesitation and marked white – on her head, wings and thorax! Future inspections will tell if she survived my clumsy coronation attempt intact.

I think I may have squashed two workers while securing the queen in her cage. Ugh, more guilt! Catching and marking a queen is tricky business. Try to catch one bee from thousands on a frame inside a cage, then mark her as the workers try to set her free. That’s when you need a hive partner! It is a good idea to practise caging and marking with drones early in the year. They are bigger and fairly amiable about it, and it doesn’t matter quite as much if you damage a drone.

So our beekeeping year ends with Queen Rosemary reigning over our fully grown hive, which is bursting at the seams with bees, and with Queen Lavender inheriting our baby hive, which is slowly filling the brood box. Emily and I wondered how well our July queen mated late in the season and with August rains. So we were happy to find new brood and larvae during our last inspection.

I thought that the bees in our baby hive looked lighter and more golden, unlike Lavender who inherited her mother’s dark looks. Emily suggested that Lavender may have mated with Albert’s drones. We might have Kiwi bees!

As an aromatherapist, I named my first queen after an essential oil and this tradition has continued with the hives I share with Emily. So far the queens have taken after their namesakes of Jasmine, a beautiful relaxing oil, Rose, a warm mothering fragrance, and Rosemary, an energetic invigorating aroma. Lavender is renowned for its gentleness and effectiveness, I hope our new queen has these qualities.

Our adventures in beekeeping have kept us busy this year – building hives and shook swarms, frame-making workshops and beards of bees, runaway queens, a new nuc, rainbows of pollen and honey, a quintet of queen cells, weird bees, a honey crop, and a honey festival! I haven’t even taken my basic beekeeping assessment yet!

With a new year around the corner, I wonder what our bees will do next!

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One thought on “Reflections on a year in beekeeping

  1. Pingback: 10 reasons to have a hive partner | Basil and bees

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