What have I done?! (Beekeeping)

This has been my first year with ‘real grown-up’ beehives. This meant I needed to make new colonies, nucs, artificial swarms, to prevent my bees from swarming. Although I haven’t lost any colonies and I’m now up to six working hives, I really should have put more care into selecting queens. I now have two hives which have become so aggressive, I’m not sure how to handle them.

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Activity in August

I started out with three colonies that had F1 Carniolan queens on them. I knew this meant that all offspring, apart from drones, were hybrids. Any queen that came out of this hive would in turn produce even further hybridized offspring. That queen would be an F2 and she’d only find a mix of drones to mate with. I didn’t take the consequences of that seriously enough. I thought; ‘my F1s are sweet, the F2s might be a little tricky, but I can handle it… I’m a beekeeper now…’ *sound of other beekeepers laughing in the background*

The first new colony I made, was an artificial swarm from a hive with very strong spring development. I put the old queen in the new hive that ‘swarmed’ and let the old hive raise a new queen from the larvae and eggs that were left behind. Some weeks after I did this, I inspected the hive again. I knew enough time has passed for the new queen to have started laying already. I opened the lid and got quite the reaction! The hive was aggressive, and several bees made attempts at stinging me, it was difficult to see what I was doing with all the bees in my face, it wasn’t a fun hive-inspection! Anyway, that hive was actually doing really well. it does a great job of building comb, collecting stores and raising brood, I was pretty pleased with my first attempt at making a new hive.

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Carniolan queen with brown colors

I made two other nucs this year. And here is where my ignorance, naiveté and wishful thinking becomes even worse than before. One of my other nucs didn’t succeed in raising a new queen. I had to help! Unfortunately, this happened around the time when all my colonies suddenly went into a brood-stop. Except for… that artificial swarm I made earlier… So, what did I do? I did a little happy dance because I found brood to put into the queenless hive… From that slightly aggressive F2 hive…

It’s not difficult to guess what happened next. I went to inspect this hive when I knew I could reasonably expect them to have made a new queen from the brood I gave them. Nobody told me honeybees become more intelligent when they’re angry. A dozen or zo found their way through a tiny hole where the zipper on my veil doesn’t close, and they attacked. I tried to tough it out for a bit, but that didn’t last long. I ran, and I threw water over my head. They kept following me. It wasn’t nice. I got stung about 8 times in the head and neck. That’s the worst place, in my opinion. Wear a veil, dear reader. And add duck-tape if the bees are very difficult.

Next year I’m buying nice, purebred, expensive, Carniolan queens and I don’t care if anyone calls me a coward for it.

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