#002 – Thankful for a Mentor

This actually happened on the 3rd of June 2018.

Panicking over the possibility that I have crazy bees that hate me and are aggressive, I contacted my mentor and poured my heart out. I was warned that getting a swarm meant you were getting a wild card: a colony of unknown health and temper. So here I am, convinced I got one of the bad bunch, that I was one of the unlucky ones. To make matters worse, I felt like I had failed already because I was not able to handle them.

My mentor was very calm and reassured me that my bees don’t hate me, but are just being bees. He was perplexed about the possibility of the queen cells and wanted to go for an inspection sooner rather than later. So we arranged a joint inspection at the site.

He was heaven sent !

He showed me how he makes his smoke with materials that last longer. So I was using magazine paper, while he used newspaper and cardboard. His smoke was so much better than mine already !

We approached the hive, in a very calm manner, gave a little warning smoke and removed the roof. The super didn’t need inspecting, they were not using it anyway and the queen excluder put to the side – I was reminded not to put it over the super in case the queen was there. I could end up with a super full of brood. He then gave me some tips on how to use the J-tool to separate the frames and he let me in on the trick of leaving a couple of frames on the side. All the while confirming that my bees do not appear aggressive and, once more, definitely do not hate me. What a difference it all made. I was able to relax, slide the frame apart from the rest, I had space to put my hands in to lift it properly, but the stupid gloves still bothered me. They were still the wrong gloves – too big. This meant I was clumsy again and like a farmer trying to do needlework. It just didn’t work.

This time, we found the suspiciously queen-like cells and inspected them. We removed them using a toothpick and put them aside. My mentor was by then certain they are what are called “play cups”. The bees were practicing in their spare time, how to build a queen cell. Unlike a true queen cell, these were not as long or narrow and they were not complete. They didn’t have any royal jelly inside and did not protrude as much. Nevertheless, looking at them you cannot mistake them for worker or drone cells, and by process of elimination you suspect them to be queen cells. They are harmless and can be easily removed without affecting the rest of the comb.

All I could think of was these crazy bees… As if they have nothing better to do, they decided that two play cups were appropriate at this moment in time. I imagined them in their little hexagonal paradise, drunk on honey one evening: “Oh, let’s spice things up a bit for the human, confuse her more than she currently is! Wouldn’t that be funny!”. Well, that was some stress I didn’t need and could have avoided! Now I know, I won’t be fooled next time.

Inspection Results: I am proud to say that this time we completed the inspection and the hive is as healthy as possible, textbook stuff. We have identified brood in all stages, new stores of honey and pollen and energy. We did not see the queen, but the presence of the eggs ensures that she is nearby, somewhere in the darker corners.

The warm, fuzzy feeling has now been restored and I am happy again with my bees. I now feel more confident to complete the inspection on my own next week.

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