July 2018: The Return of My Hives (Kinda)

April 2020 Introduction: This is an 18-minute video recorded on my cell phone (the quality isn’t always the greatest) in July 2018, the same month most of my hives that were in the care of another beekeeper were returned to me. But I’ve decided not to post videos about those returned hives because they were not in great shape. I don’t need to revisit any of that.

April 2020 Postscript: Why I Am The Greatest Beekeeper in The World

I was in a car accident in November 2016 that, with the except of a single hive, kept me out of the beekeeping game until July 2018 when my hives that had been in the care of another beekeeper were returned to me. Unfortunately, each colony that was returned barely had enough bees to fill a single deep. My beeyard was essentially a collection of nucs. I came close to calling it quits then.

All my plans for building up my beeyard were based on having 6 or 7 strong colonies to work from. Instead, I got about 5 single-deep colonies with hardly any capped brood. I wanted to burn the place down. I almost did.

I would spend what little time was left in the summer of 2018 trying to build up the colonies, but it wasn’t easy. By pulling out every trick in the book, I was able to perform a miracle and build up two of my returned colonies to such good condition that, by the following summer of 2019, they grew into probably two of the strongest colonies I’ve ever had at that point. Those queens were on fire.

But for the rest of the colonies that were returned to me, well, I would have been better off combining the 5 single deeps into two full-sized colonies instead of trying to nurse along a bunch of piddly colonies that would never grow into strong colonies. I am so sick of dealing with weak colonies, I never ever want to do it again. I have no time for it.

I’ve decided never to give my bees over to the care of anyone else again. Not because I don’t think others are capable, but when you get right down to it, no one will take care of your bees as well as you — because no one has put as much into them as you have. This is not meant as a reflection on the person who took care of my bees (they did me a massive favour and I will be forever grateful), but I’d rather dump on extra supers and leave my bees alone than give them over to anyone again. I’ve had to leave my bees in the care or other people in the past (though only for about a week), and I’ve never been happy with it. I know now that it’s just something I can’t do.

I eventually had to buy three nucs and three mated queens from the Newfoundland Bee Company in the summer of 2019 to give my beeyard the boost it needed. And even then it was a struggle — not just for me, but for many beekeepers on the island. We had a lousy winter and many of the nucs that were produced for 2019 were not robust. The bees wouldn’t build comb. The nucs were slow to expand. Add to the fact that most of the colonies I got back in 2018 never grew into strong colonies that I could steal brood from to boost up weaker colonies — I was dealing with a series of negatives and no positives. It wasn’t much fun.

It’s April 2020 as I write this and I currently have seven hives next to my house and three at another location that I haven’t been able to check on for the past month. I think the seven colonies living next to my house are in good shape. I did what I could to build up all my colonies last summer, but when you don’t have many strong colonies to steal resources from, the only saving grace is good weather — and that just didn’t happen for me last summer. So I’ve got seven colonies (currently still half-buried in snow) that I hope are in good shape, and three more that are probably still holding on without any help from me (I hope). That’s where I am today.

But back in July 2018 when I finally got to see all my bees again for the first time in over a year, the situation was dismal. And I’ve decided not to post all the videos that document the profoundly aggravating situation I was left to deal with at that time. I was already rebuilding my beeyard after shrews killed most of my colonies in the winter 2016, and now this? [Insert expletives of your choice, more than one.]

I’m a half-decent beekeeper. But I’m not wealthy, I’m not retired, I don’t have easy access to acres of land, I don’t have anyone to help me with my beekeeping, and I don’t work from home where I can easily check on my bees whenever I feel like it. Any one of those conditions puts the average backyard beekeeper way ahead of the game. Any two of those conditions and you have no right to complain about anything, ever. You have it so easy, I want to punch you. So when I say I’m a half-decent beekeeper, what I really mean — given the circumstances under which I’ve kept bees and brought them back to life — is that I’m a miracle worker.

I deserve a medal for what I’ve managed to do with my beekeeping. I could teach a Master Class is how to bring honey bees back from the brink on a budget. But I won’t because I pretty much loathed every minute of it. That being said, I’m grateful.

I assumed as I worked through the old cell phone videos I made while I was out of the beekeeping world for two years following my concussion injury that I would eventually get around to The Big Day when all my bees came back and I was back in the saddle again. But now that I look at that footage, I realise once was enough. I don’t need to relive it all. Even though it was a learning experience, and I really do deserve a medal for bringing my bees back to life like I did with next-to-no resources and no one to help me, I don’t want to look at it again. I’m moving on.

One thought on “July 2018: The Return of My Hives (Kinda)

  1. Good job recognizing potential swarm mode, good use of the empty winter quilt!
    I think I’ll experiment with a foundationless frame this year. Yet , I usually have a hard time to get them to draw comb. As an other experiment this year, I’ve added extra wax to new foundation, hoping to encourage quicker comb drawing.

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