The Traveling Road Show

The Traveling Road Show is a benefit from the Colorado State Beekeepers Association to affiliated clubs. CSBA will pay for time and travel expenses for an experienced beekeeper to visit your club and do an in-apiary day with club members. One of the comments heard most from participants is how much more confidence they feel after all that they learned and saw during the day.

I (Tina) was privileged to visit one of our Colorado bee clubs last week and do a Road Show for them. Their leadership had lined up three apiaries for the group and I to visit. The really cool thing about visiting three different apiaries is that the likelihood of seeing a wider variety of issues is very good. Also, people have different ideas about how to set up hives, where to place apiaries, and we learn neat tips about all kinds of things in beekeeping that one person alone might never think about.

In the first apiary we visited, there were several hives, all in different places in their development and growth. The two hives selected for inspection both happened to be queenless. The first one had just a bit of capped worker brood remaining, and barely a remnant of an emerged queen cell, and a remnant of a virgin-killed queen cell, so everyone got to see what both of the cells look like, and, we got to talk about how an understanding of bee math helps us decipher the clues we find in the hive. In this case, we could be fairly certain that there would be a brand new virgin queen running around in there. She would need two weeks to mate and get to laying well. The proper beekeeper response… ask the bees by placing a comb with very young larvae from another hive to see if they would start raising a new queen or not. This also helps keep the colony from going laying worker quite as soon if the virgin does not return from her mating flight.

In the other queenless colony we found queen cells! Unfortunately, there was no other capped brood at all, no worker brood, no drone brood, no open brood, only three queen cells. Again, bee math gave us the answer… the ever-hopeful bees were attempting to make queens from unfertilized eggs laid by workers. We talked about the options here: we could give them a sheet of open brood from another colony to help stop the laying worker impulse, and then buy them a mated queen, or we could just combine the colony with another colony. This gave us the opportunity to talk about methods to get a queen accepted in a colony that has been queenless for quite a long time, a very difficult proposition.

In the second apiary, the beekeeper requested that we find and mark her new queen, so we got to talk about how to find the queen. Then we actually found her with no trouble, and marked her so that she can be found more easily, her age can be instantly known, and if an unmarked queen suddenly shows up, we know that a supercedure has been accomplished by the bees in the beekeeper’s absence.

The second hive was expected to just need a super, since it had been visited recently, was a new split moved from another yard, and was pretty full of bees. As we started our inspection, we found several open and capped queen cells, some good capped worker brood, lots and lots of drones, and no eggs. Some five-day-old larvae gave us hope that the queen might still be present, though very ready to swarm. Only a nuc box was available, as far as equipment, so a Reverse Doolittle split (where you make a fairly even split, and you don’t have to find the queen, but she gets moved to a  new location, otherwise known as a fly-back split) was out of the question. We would have to actually find the queen in this very-full colony with so many drones! We set a completely empty box on the bottom board, and started brushing bees off of each and every frame over a queen excluder. There were two 8-frame hive bodies, and we shook all 16 frames. The queen was on the last one, a honey frame, next to the wall. We put her in the nuc box with lots of nurse bees, food frames, emerging brood, and room to lay, and the beekeeper gave her new nuc to one lucky observer! We cut off the capped queen cells and selected two open cells with same-sized larvae to leave in the colony (thereby stopping any after-swarms). Whew! Pretty exciting work, especially since it started raining while we were working, and someone had to hold an umbrella over me and the bees.

In the third apiary, thankfully, we didn’t have major issues to discover. In one, a new queen had been accepted and was laying well. The last hive of the day was a long Langstroth that needed just a bit of management, making sure that the queen would not be honey-bound. This was a nice opportunity for many who might never have seen a long Lang in use. We added a bit of sugar water and moved some frames with foundation into place so that they bees could draw more brood comb.

It was a great variety of bee stuff to see, and a very satisfying day for all. We had about enough for one day, but there was still more fun to be had. I had gone up a day early and done a queen-rearing seminar for the club leadership (they paid for the extra day so that they could have both events), and we needed to check on our grafts. I’ve seen plenty of queen rearing classes, and never have seen anyone actually get any takes… until that day! We had lots of queen cups with accepted larvae in them, and tons of royal jelly in their own nucs that participants had brought. Now the leaders in that club will be able to produce queens to help their club be more sustainable, and also will be able to teach others to raise queens. It was a great finish to a great day!

Every CSBA affiliated club can have a Traveling Road Show or a queen rearing seminar. Just contact me at [email protected] to schedule your event. We have several experienced beekeepers to choose from to lead your Road Show. Thanks!  T