Muddy Business & Virgin Queens

This is definitely the busiest time of the year for us on the farm. I’m oh so close to finishing grafting fruit trees, just took a bite out of the persimmons and they’re my last class to graft. A lot of the plum and mulberry grafts have already took. As did the goumi on the autumn olive.

It is so sloppy muddy in the barn lot and I think that adds some stress for us.
We had 2 calves born on May 4th, one in the early morning hours and another around 7:30 in the evening. Belle calved in the barn like a good girl. Poppy was my responsibility and she calved out in the pasture on the top of a little hill. Getting her back to the barn w/the calf was a heck of a workout. I guess I can kind of understand b/c she is in a certain zone, like another world, and super attached to smells but she didn’t want to move from the spot that she calved so I had to carry the calf like right under her nose all the way to the barn, over creek and whatnot. The first time we tried crossing the creek I went to fast. You know, not wanting to stand in a pretty rip-roaring creek with a wet, newborn calf and as soon as I crossed Poppy turned around and went back to the spot where she had calved. And we had to start over. Me carrying the calf under her nose. Letting her smell it almost every step of the way to the barn lot. Arms burning because a new-born calf is not the lightest thing.

Then the bees have been swarmy. I think I wrote about that. Finally got a handle on the situation yesterday when my friend and bee mentor was able to come over and go through the frames w/me. We found the queen. Oh, she is a beauty. A beautiful virgin queen. So apparently what happened was our old queen did her job and left to start a new colony else where. I failed to catch the swarm. That left our new virgin queen in the old hive. Since the weather has been so rainy and a bit cold she hasn’t gone out to have her mating flight yet. But she’ll do that and then come back and start laying.

While Jason was in the hive he noted a handful of queen cells, some that had been gnawed on at the ends, showing that they’re close to hatching – like in a day or two. He said we could do splits w/almost all of them but I only had equipment for another hive so we just did one.

He took a frame of honey and put it in our nuc. Then he cut out the queen cells from a few frames and stuck them in the honey frame in the nuc. Then we made sure the virgin queen stayed in her hive and shook bees from all the other frames into the nuc. Jason says the nurse bees will stay in there to take care of the queen cells and the older bees will fly back to the old hive.

Hopefully it all works out and we’ll have 2 hives. I’ve heard it is better to start bee keeping w/two hives anyway so that you can compare one with the other, move resources if need be, etc. We’ll find out if we have 2 queens laying in a week or so. Fingers crossed.

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6 thoughts on “Muddy Business & Virgin Queens”

  1. That is a great story about the calf born on a hill, great one to tell your granchildren! Too funny that she turns away when she cannot smell the baby. It’s a blessed lifestyle to be able to participate in those life’s secrets: children, calves, stubborn moma cows, the magic workings of bee colonies, the flow of xylem between two tree species.
    We had swallowtail caterpilars descend all over parsley. No parsley for soup now and maybe they will be gracious to leave some leftovers, but kids are excited to watch them grow.

    I love the update on the bees, very informative.

  2. Good looking calves, Chris. So interesting about moving the two back to the barn…
    Those are queen cells? I don’t know what I’m looking at. Sure hope you are successful getting 2 hives.
    Three things I’d love to learn about: cows and husbandry, grafting, beekeeping. Nice work. 🙂

    1. One of my FB friends who lives near you is teaching at the 2017 Whippoorwill Festival – Skills for Earth Friendly Living
      Jul 14 – Jul 16 Beattyville, KY. May be something to check out.

      Yes, those are queen cells that were cut out. He put 3 into a frame of honey. When the first one hatches she’ll destroy the others :/ and so begins life as a queen bee.

      1. Oh I see them now, on the left side of the hive by your knife. Neat stuff.
        That festival sounds like exactly what we have been looking for. Thanks!

    2. Scott, I had seen grafting classes taught at our local community colleges, check yours or Univ of KY horticultrue. Intro to beekeping I had seen offered at our local nature centers or small community groups or beekeeper organizations. Many online resources too. Mark Shepard (WI) is now holding Restoration Agriculture webinars on Wednesdays. Check out social media. 🙂

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