Whidbey Island Washington Beekeeping & Honeybees - Lavender Honey - Green Road Farm - Tim Walsh

2010 – Year Three ~ Re-Queening & Cross Breeding

Febuary 21st 2010

SO my plan on leaving the bees alone over the winter has seemingly paid off. Each hive is teaming with hungry bees. I have started feeding the two hives that seemed the quietest. Last week I put started feeding the bees with an external feeder. This week when I arrived all of the syrup was gone. So I added more to the jars. I was totally surprised at how fast the bees consumed the syrup. At 9:30 they had full jars. One jar was smaller than the other.  By 12:00 the smaller one was half full and by 3:00 it was  just about empty. They were all over it.

Feeding bees syrupFull jar of syrup…


A little time later….


Spring has arrived early this year or so it feels. Morning temps are 30-32 but afternoon temps are in the 50’s.

Last year I fed them with a gallon can inside the hives. I realize now that because I would heat the syrup mixture up to dissolve the sugar, top it off with cold water and place it in the hive. It would create condensation as well as drip too much on the bottom board.

The one hive that has seemed the strongest already has bees returning with large pollen hips. I haven’t started feeding that hive and I am not sure that I will.

MARCH 10th 2010

Hmmm.. the two hives that were the busiest (the hives with extra supers) now appear WAY to quiet. No activity at all basically. I put a jar of syrup in front of one last week and it is completely full this week (full of ants actually). So did they swarm? Are they dead? Where are they? I still have yet to open up the hive and take a look as it was too cold out. I will do that this week. The hive that was the quietest is now the busiest.

I will take a look for swarm/supercedure cells and the queen. That will tell me something.

March 21st 2010

So I consulted my Bee guru Thom Lee and he said:

“Swarms at this time of year are really rare, but not impossible.  However, it’s hard to believe that two hives would have swarmed so early.  The problem is that there hasn’t been time for colonies to build up and develop drone activity.  If a colony made a new queen, it would be very difficult for the new queen to get properly mated.
The only way to tell if your hives swarmed is to go through them and look for broken swarm cells.  Also look for the queens and see if they look the same as last year (this is one of the reasons that marked queens are really handy).  If the queens look different or there are broken queen cells, you can bet that they swarmed.
Now is also the time that starvation can happen, especially with larger colonies.  I would go through the hives as soon as weather permits and check the resources”.
One other explanation is the dreaded Nosema cerana.  It is one of the big suspected culprits in Colony Collapse.  It can take out a hive in very little time.
The third hive probably had a small winter cluster and was building up brood, and is finally showing orientation flights.”
I got up to the Island on the 21st excited to go through he hives. The temperature was in the low 50s when I opened up the first of one of the “quiet” hives. It was full of bees and I soon found the queen. All seemed well. There was some mold in a few of the honeycomb cells. Thom said it was probably due to there being too few bees for the size of the hive and as their numbers grow they will take care of it.
The other quiet hive also had a lot of bees in all is well it would appear.
The third hive had signs of Nosema.


May 15th 2010 – Requeening and Hive Health

Flash forward two months.

Hive one is the hive more in the shade of a big ratty fir tree than the others. It is fine. Lots of new bees and a healthy looking hive.

Hive two is the middle hive. This is the one that I started using a swarm from one of the first hives. It has been a very resilient hive starting with relatively few bees. There are a lot of bees in this hive now but no brood only drone cells and a dwindling supply of honey. I bought two new Carniolan queens from Beez Neez in Snohomish Washington and introduced one of them into this hive.  I did not find a queen in this hive but I am not confident that it is a queenless hive. If I had to bet I would say there is a queen in there some where but is a weak one.

Carniolan Queens




Hive three is my problem hive.

Last year it was the most aggressive and edgy hive (thank god for bee suits). This year they made it through the winter ok but in April or so I noticed a fair amount of moisture int he hive alonng with moldy comb and a big freaking slug! so not good! I built a new roof much in the style of my favorite architect Tom Kundig and this looks to be working better for the bees.

I found a lot of drone cells and a queen cell in this hive a week ago. I should have thought at this point that the hive must be queenless and they are raising all the drones and a queen for a reason – but no – I jump  to the conclusion that there is a a queen in the hive already and this is a swarm or supercedure cell and all the drones are just encouraging the possibility that Varroa destructor mite will soon infest the hive….so I remove the queen cell and put it in the barn….wrong mister stealth beekeeper!

SO I put the other Carniolan queen in this hive and gave them two huge Kerr jars of  syrup treated with Fumagilin-B due to a lot of Nosema apis markings on the front of the hive. The most notable symptom of Nosema apis is dysentery….yes Bee diarrea.
This appears as yellow stripes on the outside of the hive and in severe cases, inside the hive. Bees may also be unable to fly (“crawling”) due to disjointed wings.
Nosema apis is a unicellular parasite of the class Microsporidia, which are now classified as fungi or fungi-related.

Can you add a Queen of a different genetic strain than that of the hive?

All of my hives are Italian bees but Jim at Bees Neez said adding a Carniolan queen should not be a problem. However, according to the website “Cross-breeding of the Carniolan Bee with other bee strains results in a strong heterosis effect. The colonies are vigorous and honey yields above average. However, at the same time, this often leads to increased aggressivness and disposition to swarming. It is especially the case with the second and third generations after input of foreign genes. Crossbreeds made between the Carniolan and the Italian Bee breeds (although both are known as very gentle) are extremely aggressive.”

…should be interesting 🙂

When I think about how all of my bees look when I originally started the hives they all look for the most part like completely different bees as time goes on…usually darker and in some cases almost black. I don’t know if this is caused from the introduction of wild bees or what but it has been interesting to watch.

So this hive now has a new queen.


It appears to me that adding a Carniolan Queen to an Italian Hive has made no difference in there temperament. They behave the same as the other more aggressive or temperamental.



July 11th 2010

After a long cold spring the bees are finally beginning to store large amounts of honey. One hive is building beautifully symmetrical honeycomb and the other hive keeps building brace and burr comb. Both hives are thriving with lots of new bees though.

July 18th 2010

I am still feeding so the top super is the empty one where the gallon of syrup is kept. The super below that does not have drawn comb in it. They will need to be drawn out. The supers below that all have frames with drawn comb.


This is also the first year that I have seen the bees collecting nectar from the lavender. In past years the lavander is teaming with thousands of bumble bees. It has only been very late in the season after the bumble bees have gone away that I have seen a few honey bees on it. So this is exciting. It makes me wonder why there are no bumble bees around. I really don’t see any which is sort of odd.

Honeybee on lavender


Honeybee on Folgate Lavender 2



The color of this lavender in this video is not this blue. Youtube tweaked it a bit when rendering it I guess. The color in the photos is accurate.


Honey bee on lavender




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