Monday, June 2, 2008

Time for new crops; Taking a bad situation and making it worse

The first photo is of my white guara (whirling butterfly) blooming behind the rosemary.  Everything is so beautiful this time of year!  The vegetables are shifting from the spring crops to summer crops, and I am ready.  Look at the pile of sugar snap pea vines I pulled off the arbor this weekend!  There was so much great organic matter there that I didn't want it to go to waste, so I have now used the spent vines to mulch under a Rugosa rose.  The last harvest from those spring pea vines was mixed with the first harvest from the fingerling potatoes for Saturday's lunch.  I finished off this dish as I was taught while living in Pennsylvania: steam them together in just a little water, and when the water evaporates, add butter, cream and black pepper, then eat it with a spoon.  Oh my.   Finally, I guess you are wondering what today's title means.  Well, Dolly's hive just wasn't acting right this week, so I decided to go in and take a look.  I thought the problem was that they had filled most of the brood space with honey and so had nowhere to go with new eggs.  I went out to the hive all prepared to deal with that:  I had new frames of wax to add to replace frames of honey that might be blocking brood.  What I found was much worse.  No eggs.  The only brood was drone (male bee) brood.  A practically empty brood chamber.  Either the new, post-swarm queen never got well mated and was laying all drone eggs, or the queen was eaten by a bird or came to some other bad end, leaving a colony with a laying worker (a really, really, bad thing).  So, its 85 degrees, I have a big hive full of bees wide open, there are thousands of bees in the air, and I have to decide what to do.  I decided to combine this hive with the existing new hive from an earlier swarm.   They have brood and a good queen, but few workers and little honey.  The hive I have opened has tons of workers and honey, but no queen or brood.  It seemed like a match made in heaven, so I put a sheet of newspaper over the open top of the little swarm hive, cut two slits in the paper, then placed all the boxes from the poor hive on top.  The idea is that it will take a couple of days for the bees to eat through the newspaper, and by then they have accepted one another.  In reality, about two hours later, there was a war going on at the front door of the newly combined hive.  Hundreds of bees are now dead in the grass in front of the hive, and I don't know who survived.  Did they kill the good queen of the swarm hive, or did she survive?  Was there a laying worker, and will she now take over the combined hive and produce only drones?  Only time will tell.  On Sunday I started with one good hive and one suffering hive.  Did I manage to destroy them both?