Not a good Bee Mama, I guess

On June 1, my friend and I did a hive inspection. One hive had a virgin queen, one was queenless, 1 had a queen that died of shock while she was being marked, and 1 was truly Queenright. We hoped the virgin queen would make her mating flight and return to provide brood, shifted a couple of frames of brood around to queenless hives with queen cells on them, and waited to see results. Yesterday, I went to inspect them alone. Three hives have no eggs, no larvae, two with good population, the third not so good, the 4th hive thriving with a marked queen. A message was sent to Son2, the bee owner, but didn’t hear back from him. Messaged my friend and posted on the local bee keeper’s forum and it was suggested to shift frames again, look for queen cells, wait and hope they make new queens.

Another inspection with intervention will occur this week, maybe tomorrow before the heat dome returns to cook us. I feel bad that this has happened, but am at a loss as to a solution. We may have to reintroduce new queens to the three hives and hope for success. Three of the hives are or have been making honey and the honey supers on those hives are heavy.

I fear that the weakest hive has a worker layer as there are lots of drone cells in that hive and that is not sustainable.

Unfortunately, the beginner beekeeper class occurred before I knew there would be hives here, so I missed it this year. A couple of the keepers offered to come put another set of eyes on the situation, but today is Father’s Day and other plans had already been put in place.

Son2 is due here this week at the end of their vacation, I hope he has time to inspect while he is here and can offer guidance.


The hens are 2 1/2 years old and laying has significantly fallen off the cliff. Only about half as many per week as a year ago, plus this summer, they are taking turns being broody that also slows production. The first hen to go broody was a Buff Orpington and trying to wait her out was unsuccessful. She sat for 5 weeks. Without a broody cage, the only solution that came to mind was to put her in the Chicken Palace, a large A-frame coop made from scrap wood and extra roofing material that was going to be for meat chickens. It has never really been used that way, but is used to isolate old hens when new pullets are ready to go to the coop. It has proved a good purgatory for a broody hen to be isolated for 3 days and 3 nights with food, water, and an old homemade ladder to perch on, but no nesting boxes. It worked with her and when late last week another Buff went broody, she was immediately removed to Purgatory for three days and three nights. She was freed Tuesday night, just in time for an Easter Egger to go broody beginning last night. Tonight, she was put in there to begin her cooling off period.

She is most unhappy with her current situation, but if left alone, she would just encourage more copycat behavior.

Early in the week, we had two of our grandchildren for two nights. They are 10 and 15, so old enough to do adventures with. We took them to the Amish store in Whitegate for the best sandwiches that are huge and relatively inexpensive, then a few more miles to Dismal Falls or Falls of Dismal depending on which sign you see. Last time we were there, almost no water was going over the falls, but there was still a swimming hole. This time, a lot of water was spilling down, very, very cold water. Still not as much as photos show, but still very pretty. Though none of us were brave enough to actually swim, we all waded, and granddaughter managed to dunk fully under once.

An AT thru hiker and I debated whether this was a water snake or a copperhead. I didn’t want to get close enough to see if it had pits, but it did have the hourglass markings. The hiker thought it was a water snake. At any rate, he knocked it off the log with a trekking pole and it went downstream.

Tonight a thunderstorm passed to the south down the river, producing a lot of cloud to ground lightening that I tried to capture with a photo unsuccessfully, but the storm light made the still standing hay look red.

Even though it didn’t pass over us, hopefully it will cool the 92 degree day down. Tomorrow is still very hot and Saturday is supposed to be 16 degrees cooler, a welcome relief after this week. Our hay is still standing, the deer are eating the lower branch tips on all the fruit trees, the potted plants on the porches and back garden are requiring daily watering.

The garden still has no cucumbers and few sunflowers, corn is beginning to show. More cucumbers and sunflowers were started today on the back deck. The heat is going to wipe out the peas, but the beans are beginning to flower. The potato plants are beginning to die back, so a storage plan needs to be decided on soon.

Little Dinosaurs

The past several weeks have been very frustrating with the hens. They are about 2 1/2 years old now, so should be at the peak of laying. Egg production has been dismal which leads one to believe that their nutrition is off or they are hiding eggs. They get premium feed, oyster shell, and until yesterday, free ranging all day every day, so it must be egg hiding. A search has been made in their hidey holes and all around the house and gardens, but no hidden nests have been found. Monday through Wednesday there were only 16 total eggs for 13 hens. There should be at least 9 or 10 each day as they don’t all lay an egg every day and some breeds only lay 3 or 4 times a week. Yesterday, they weren’t released from the coop at all and there were 8 eggs. This morning, some extra fencing and some 8 foot poles threaded through their shorter fence were cobbled together to make the fence about 6-7 feet tall around three quarters of their run. The other quarter already had fencing over the pop door in an angle down to the fence so they couldn’t jump from the door over into the garden.

This kept them in the run today and so far there have been 8 more eggs today, so as many in 2 days as in the prior 3 combined, still not as many as there should be.

To add to the reduction, there is a second Buff Orpington that has decided to be broody just as the other one was broken of it. They are a broody breed. This time, she was put straight into the chicken palace with food, water, and a ladder for a perch, but no nesting box. She will stay there for three days and three nights and hopefully will cease the nonproductive behavior.

Not knowing if their coop could be the cause, it was thoroughly cleaned today and pine shavings instead of straw added to the floor and nest boxes. It is probably time to consider replacing them for next year. There will not be as many added this time. After this year, there will only be enough kept to for daughter’s and our use. This fall, the hens will molt and their egg production will stop entirely during that period, so a good time to cull them.

Yesterday, a mouse was caught in the house and tossed out into the tall grass on the edge of the upper hay field. It is on the path over to the coop. Seeing activity there, a closer examination showed American Carion Beetles. I had never seen them before. There are quite an interesting looking bug.