Tag Archives: garden

Don’t Bee That Guy!

Have you been thinking about keeping bees? Its all the rage you know, why not jump in – and therein lies the problem.

Today I was at the Quickie Lube place in town getting the oil changed in my car. I always get there early and there was just one other person in the waiting room when I arrived. This old boy was reading some “Hollywood people” magazine – gotta keep up with all those trendy people you know – NOT!

A few minutes later a woman came in and sat down between the two of us. It just so happens that I know her because I have beehives at her place. She’s a lovely lady whose dealing with some tough issues and we soon began a conversation. Before long the conversation turned to the bees and the honey we can expect to get from the hives at her place. That’s when “Mr. Hollywood” puts down his magazine and joins the conversation we were having. “Oh, I had bees. Damn things died on me. I put them in my greenhouse and they died.” He went on to express his frustration with the bees and then added that even the plants in his greenhouse had died. Couldn’t have been any neglect involved here now could there? NAW!

Later on the fella working at the Quickie Lube place came in and began running through the issues with “Mr. Hollywood’s” car. I overheard enough to know there was virtually no coolant in the radiator (not the reserve tank but the radiator itself) and the oil level didn’t even register on the dipstick (the one in the car).

Does that not tell you all you need to know!?

Folks, if your thinking of keeping bees please take stock of the time commitment it requires. Read, read, read and learn about what you are committing to before you jump in. Don’t be this guy.

A few years ago I was at a local bee club meeting and the old timers were expressing concern over all the folks jumping into beekeeping. While they wanted to see more people keeping bees they were concerned it was a fad and that the resulting abandoned hives would soon die out and be left sitting abandoned in a backyard somewhere. The problem with that is it wont be long before other bees find the hives and begin to rob them. If disease was the reason the hives died out, its likely the disease would be transmitted back to healthy hives simply because the “fad owner” couldn’t be bothered to be responsible with the care of his bees or even the removal of the deadout hives.

As much as I want to see more folks involved with bees, please take stock of what it takes to be actively involved in the management of your bees. If your honest with yourself and realize you cannot commit the time required then don’t get them. Our bee populations have enough issues to deal with. On the other hand, if you don’t have the time required to responsibly manage your bees, find someone who is looking for another beeyard and let them hive bees on your place. You’ll get some honey out of the deal but wont have to commit to the time and work required to properly care for your bees.

For the bees sake, don’t bee Mr. Hollywood.

In the more down to earth world of bee keeping, I’ve just about finished the harvest of my first two honey supers for a total of 4 gallons of the best honey around! I say that because it is chemical free and the bees draw from so many sources of nectar around our place that the result is the most unique blend of flavors you can imagine. The process I use to extract the honey is called crush and strain. No heat is used and no filtering to remove the pollen takes. Many people don’t realize both of these actions occur with commercial honey. Some where down the line I will try to find time to cover just what crush and strain is. There is no need to buy that $400+ extractor to get the honey your bees make for you. Until then enjoy your summer and remember – Don’t Bee That Guy described in this article.

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Now Was That fun or What??!!!

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One of the greatest joys of beekeeping is collecting a swarm.  It’s been a few seasons since I’ve collected a swarm for my own beeyard.  I’ve helped others collect swarms the past couple summers but had not had the opportunity to collect one for myself.  Thus I was pretty excited last night when we got a call about an hour or so before dark, from a friend of ours who passed along the location of swarm not too far from where we live.  The swarm was in the front yard of a friend’s of theirs.  My wife and I grabbed our gear and headed right on over.  We were greeted by the neighbors and proceeded to get our gear on so we could collect the bees.

As you can see from the pictures the swarm was located inside a small evergreen tree.  It was kinda tight getting in to reach them and we didn’t want to cut any branches from the tree.  The neighbors asked how we would get them out of there.  Normally I would have cut the branch off and then smacked it so the ball of bees fell into my nuc box, but I’m not sure that would have worked this time.  The bees were balled up around a number of smaller branches, so while my wife held the box underneath the ball of bees I shook the limbs above it, dropping the bees into the box.  Then I took my brush and swept more of the bees from the tree into the box.

We set the box in the driveway and began to watch for the bees to fan.  If you have caught the queen the workers will sit atop the box and in front of the entrance with their little butts up in the air fanning away to spread the queens pheromone.  This way the other bees know where the queen is at and will come a running, or flying as the case may bee.  It wasn’t long before we had a number of bees fanning away and I was pretty sure we had the queen at that point.  Still, there were a number of bees still balling up in the tree.  I made three more trips back to the tree to brush out more bees into the lid of the nuc so I could drop them in with the rest of the bees, thereby collecting as many as I could.

With the bees all up in the air after stirring them up and one neighbor allergic to bee stings, everyone had gone inside except for the one neighbor you see in shorts in the picture.  He was very curious and we had a delightful conversation about bees, their life cycle and about collecting them.  While the bees found their way into the box with the queen, my wife and I answered his questions.  Then so he could see the fanny bees we had been describing to him my wife gave him her bee suit so he could have a close up look and I pointed out the fanning bees we had been talking about.

I enjoyed our conversation with this person very much.  One of the rewards of beekeeping is sharing with people how different honeybees are from other bees – such as yellowjackets and wasps.  Not all bees are the same and as you can tell from the picture he found them to be quite docile which they almost always are unless you are near or getting into their hive.  Most swarms are especially easy to handle because they have no home to defend and are mostly just interested in staying with the queen.

We left the box for about an hour and after dark I returned in my pickup to collect them.  When I got home I place the box out in the beeyard and early this morning I hived them into a new hive that hopefully will become a nice new addition to my growing number of hives.

Now a short lesson.  Why does a beehive swarm and where did these bees come from?  Swarming is the bees way of making a new hive.  When their hive is getting full they raise up a new queen and then the old queen departs with at least half the of the bees in the hive.  This gives the bees much needed room inside the hive.  A new queen is a very productive layer and will rapidly raise up a number of bees to replace the ones that left.  Swarming is natures way of making new beehives but if you are keeping bees for honey production swarming is not something you want to see.  The loss of all those bees from the hive means you have probably lost your honey production for the season, so most beekeepers will split strong hives early in the season to keep then from swarming.  Splitting a hive is kind of like an artificial swarm but you keep your bees that way and get a new hive out of it too.

Where did this swarm come from?  With the dry canyon and lots of juniper trees nearby, its possible this is a native swarm from a wild beehive.  I also know of a couple beekeepers that are not far from where we found the swarm and its also possible it came from one of their hives.

This is the time of year hives swarm.  A hive that came through the winter strong and healthy will be producing huge numbers of bees by now.  I thank my friends who called to let me know about this swarm and if we are lucky we may be able to catch another one before the swarm season is over.

Ground Control to Major Tom – Reality Check

It’s spring, the air is fresh, the new sun is bringing real warmth, the first flowers are sharing sweet fragrances and hopes are high for what the coming season in the beeyard will bring.  The packages of new bees arrived and you lovingly installed each one into a new hive, feeling sure that each of them would be the best hive ever.  The queens were released without a care and before long comb was being drawn and then filled with brood.  Its so easy to get caught up in the euphoria and high hopes at the dawning of a new season isn’t it.

It’s been five weeks since the new hives were installed this year and while most years it seems this is the easy part of the season, this year is different, with numerous challenges presenting themselves.  So I thought I’d write a piece that addresses some of these issues while also letting those of you who might be considering keeping bees that its not all roses and honey.  There will be disappointments and if there’s one thing I’ve learned about beekeeping, no two seasons are alike.  This has been a particularly challenging year so far and I’m trying to just roll with the punches and learn from the things that are going on.  All this to say that you too will have problems when it comes to keeping our little insect friends and I hope you will not give up when they strike and instead use each challenge to learn all you can from it.

This year I wintered four strong hives, at least I thought they were strong, as all of them began building good numbers as soon as the weather began to turn.  Then for what seems to be no reason, the queens in two hives faltered.  One quit laying entirely and the other was laying only a little.  The numbers weren’t coming up and all I ever found were small pancake sized patches of brood on just one frame.  So I requeened that hive five weeks ago in April.  However, the new queen isn’t doing any better than the old one.  This hive remains a mystery.

The other hive that lost its queen is a mystery too.  Was a very strong hive all through the winter and off to a good start this spring.  The queen was only a year old because I had purchased her the season before to replace another weak queen.  Why she faltered after getting off to such a strong start is anyone’s guess though I suspect she was not a well bred queen and simply ran out of fertilized eggs to lay.  So, in looking to turn a bad situation into a good one I thought I would order up some queens and split this powerful hive four ways, thereby creating four new hives.  The queens arrived today and when I went to split this hive most the bees were gone.  It’s the old saying, when it rains it pours.  Lot of bucks potentially down the drain here.  I made the splits anyway to give me time to think what might be done.  After all, I had new queens that needed a home.  One option will be to steal brood from other hives to try and build up these weak splits.

Then there is the case of the new hive that started out great, was building up nice capped brood and then lost its queen.  I don’t know what happened to that queen either, but today it got a new queen out of the bunch I ordered and hopefully will be back underway soon.

Maybe I should refer to this season as the Lost Queen season when I think of all the queens that have been lost.  At another out yard I started this season we installed four packages of bees and established a new apiary in mid-April.  One of those packages came with a dead queen.  We contacted the company and got a replacement queen back into the hive within a few short days.  This has worked out very well and the apprentice beekeeps I am working with did a great job of installing the new queen.  This beeyard is nearly three hours away and I had my reservations about trying to make something that far away work, but the requeening job went off without a hitch and the hive is doing as well as can be expected.

When I visited this beeyard this weekend I was disappointed to find that the first hive had lost its queen.  I don’t believe she ever really got started as no brood was ever laid.  She was released from her cage properly as reported by the new beekeeps keeping an eye on things, so I can only assume she was not healthy when caged and added to the package of bees we purchased.  Unfortunately this hive is lost as it has been five weeks since the bees were installed.  My novice beekeeps told me the hive had had an unusual buzz about it.  This is the sound of a queenless hive.  If I had been able to be there the hive might have been saved, but this is the risk I accepted when deciding to try to establish a beeyard out of town.

So what do you do with the remaining bees in the queenless hive you might ask?  Rather than just let them slowly die off we added them to another hive.  You do this by placing a piece of newspaper over the top of the bottom bee box of a queen-right hive (after removing the cover on the hive).  The paper has a few small slits in it to allow the new bees that are being added to become familiar with the queens pheromone before they can actually get to her.  In this way you prevent the new bees from killing the queen.  So we then added the next box of bees from the queenless hive and replaced the cover.  Today my apprentices checked the hive, found the paper had been eaten through and the bees joined together.  Success you might be thinking!?  That remains to be seen.  The box that was added on top contained numerous bees, including the possibility of the queen being up in the second box.  These bees needed to be moved into the bottom box.   My novices may have been a little rough in accomplishing this before they figured out the best way to do the job.  Again, part of the risk of not being there to oversee things.

Remember that sound of a queenless hive I was telling you about??  A-huh, that is what they will be listening for over the next couple of days.  But I like to look at it this way.  Though it may cost me another hive, they have heard what a queenless hive sounds like and therefore, for the first time, can begin to apply some of the experience they are gaining.  Lets hope they don’t hear that sound.

There are a couple other issues going on in the beeyard, but I will save them for later.  Yes, this young season has turned out to be quite trying and I’m even beginning to wonder if there will be any honey produced at all this season.  The real harvest may come in the form of the experience and knowledge I gain and not in the form of sweet goodness.  Such is the life of a beekeep and as I am now working hard to do, you need to try to keep is all in perspective if you run into problems of your own.  There simply are no guarantees when it comes to bees.

Hmmmm, with that in mind maybe I will return to working on the sequel to my book, where I have control over the outcome.

My best to all of you and stay tuned for more news on the bee front which should come fairly soon.

Technically Speaking – Queen rearing without grafting – Biological Mite Control

This is going to get a little technical, but for the bee buffs out there who really take their hobby seriously this is one thing you don’t want to miss.  Imagine being able to raise your queens, split your hives and control mites all at the same time!!.  That’s what I have learned to do using OTS (On The Spot) Queen Rearing Method developed by Mel Disselkoen.  All credit goes to him in addition to my thanks.

After studying Langstroth, Doolittle and Miller and replicating their experiments, Mel realized the bees would create queen cells right inside the hive by “notching” a row of young larva.  Notching is the breaking down of the bottom third of a cell wall using your hive tool.  The bees treat these larva differently.

So in practice the process works like this.  I took three of my strong hives and create an artificial swarm.  That is, I removed the queen and two frames of brood plus a shake of bees and created three new hives.  Inside each of the hives that was now queenless I “notched” larva cells as described in Mel’s book.  A week later I returned to check the hives and each of them had brand new queen cells.  Please notice I did this only in strong hives, each with at least five frames of capped brood. 

The beauty of this is that it is possible to take a strong hive with 8 frames of capped brood, create one new hive with an artificial swarm, and create 3 more new hives after queen cells have been formed by taking two frames of brood with a couple queen cells to form the new hive. 

Another benefit of doing this is that you get a brood break.  Approximately 30 days will pass from the time of the artificial swarm until the queen is bred and begins laying.  A 30 day break in brood means mites do not have larva to feed on and most of them will die. 

So what do you do with the hives in which you kept the old queens you may ask?  On about July 1st, you can dispatch the old queens and notch larva cells in these hives.  The new queens that emerge will outlay the mite population because they have been born after the summer solstice.  Bees are sensitive to the seasons and in the winter, after the winter solstice the queens begin to increase their egg laying.  In the summer it works in reverse and they begin to reduce their egg laying after the summer solstice.  However, new queens raised after July 1 will lay eggs just as a queen in the spring lays eggs and will outlay the mites and maintain a strong hive going into winter.

This is very exciting research to me and trying my own hand at it and having successful results is even much more exciting.  I encourage you to go to Mels web site to check this out, buy his book and learn how to do this.  It will completely change your approach to beekeeping and should entirely eliminate the need to use any kind of chemicals or miticides within your hives.  Contact information is below.

website – http://www.mdasplitter.com/

email to order book – mdasplitter@sbcglobal.net

A Book, The Bees, And a Mystery

Rarely have I spoken about my book on this blog.  Advertising my book is a weakness of mine, yet, the reviews are always outstanding.  The lesson – writing is one thing, selling is another.  I smile at that, as some things come so natural to a person while others are as foreign as another language.  I’m sure you understand what I mean.  I mention it today because a person who picked up a copy of my book last year – after a conversation we had at the greenhouse I worked at – loved it!  When you write something and put it out there for the public to critique, well, you feel kind of naked.  The woman I spoke with last season at the greenhouse bought the book, her husband read it and then told her she might not be ready for it.  It’s “a national conversation” is one of the comments I received.  I cannot explain how rewarding it is to get feedback like I received today.  Spurs me on in writing the sequel.  The book is “Truths’Blood” by Tyler Roberts.  I hope you’ll check it out.  Are you ready for it?

For the last couple weeks the apple trees have been in full bloom and today is no exception.  I took a walk around the property today to have a look at things after last nights frost and found the trees full of bees.  (Smile)  Living in the high desert of central Oregon we are susceptible to late season frosts that take the blossoms away.  The last few nights have been coming in the range of 28 and 29 but the flowers all seem in good shape.  Its not the absolute temperature as much as it is the duration of the cold.  I cheat a little when it comes to the peach and the plum trees.  They are done blooming and you can see the smallest of fruits now set.  They bloom earlier than apples and I get them through the Jack Frost nights by stringing some of the old outdoor Christmas lights through the lower branches.  Those lights emit enough heat to protect the blossoms from the frost.  Ha ha, beats the old smudge pots now don’t it!

We have a lot of projects going this spring, one of which includes a new well.  There’s a lot of clean up after a well goes in and after continuing the work on that project I decided to put off beginning the job of filling in the 80 foot trench that was dug to connect the water and power to the new well head for another day and dug a hole at a new site so the peach plum we dug up and moved to allow the drill equipment  in, would have a new home.  So much for working on the root cellar I’m digging by hand.  I still need to mow and get the potatoes planted.  But I feel good about the progress.  So far I have wheel borrowed 6 yards of material from the back of the pickup to repair and dress things up about the place.  Ah, but there is always tomorrow.  I love days like this.  Is it physical labor for an aged man of nearly 62 years – of course, but I still enjoy it and at the end of each day I thank the Lord and say, “lets do it again tomorrow Lord.”

I also took a little time out to pull some of our organic rhubarb and sell it to a sweet old gal who can barely move about.  She’s has been buying rhubarb from us for the last few years.  It set me to reflecting on how I was once a youngster catching a ride in an old freight trains box car without a care in the world, no aches in my bones and happiest when I needed the least .  Is life a mystery or what?

Ok, so I also took a little time to brush up on some rusting drumming skills while playing along with little John Hiatt on the stereo.  (Stereo – you youngsters can look that up.)  🙂  Can’t go wrong with Hiatt.  Alright so on to the bees.  I have 16 hives going this year and the first two inspections started out a little disappointing.  The last of my four hives that wintered is struggling.  Upon opening the hive I found a very scattered brood pattern.  By that I mean the frames were not full of capped brood but capped brood that was scattered all across the frame.  I found this throughout both boxes that make up the hive and realized I have a queen that is not at the top of her game.  When a queen begins to decline they lay spotty brood.  I was saddened to have to dispatch with her.  She had seen this hive through the winter and got them off to a good beginning this year, but this hive should have been overflowing with bees and in fact I was concerned that I had waited to long to inspect it and that they might be on the verge of swarming.  Not to bee.  After dispatching with the old queen I “notched” some young larva cells in the hope that the hive will proceed to raise up a new queen.  I will report back on this in the coming weeks.

On the up side of things the hive I created an artificial swarm in (took the queen and four frames of brood and bees) about 10 days ago is really looking good.  (The old queen is in another hive and progressing well.)  The idea was to have this strong hive raise up a new queen.  In so doing there will be a brood break which helps to control mites naturally, without chemicals, and the hive would have a new queen to continue on.  Wow is this hive doing well.  Full of bees AND honey.  Even though there is no queen this hive is storing honey like crazy – a result of not having to feed new larva, which without a queen there is none.  

The upper box had some swarm cells (the hive is too full) and I dispatched with them in hopes the new queen that will hatch in another week or so will take control of things.  In the lower box I found the queen cell I located a few days ago and it is now capped.  Positive progress.   A new queen is on the way.  She must still hatch and go on her breeding flights without a bird getting her or some other misfortune happening for this experiment to be successful but we are now one step closer with the queen cell capped and the hive awaiting her arrival.   

On the mystery front are two of the new hives I began a few weeks ago.  I couldn’t find the queen in either of them.  In the first of them I couldn’t even find any larva.  This is of concern because you don’t have to find the queen to know she is around – all you need to do is find larva to know she has been there in the last few days and I found none.  In the second of these new hives I found a small amount of larva and no queen.  Both hives have a lot of stored pollen and honey.  After looking at the second hive I concluded that there may not be enough drawn comb for the queen to lay.  These are new hives and they are not full of drawn comb.  Without empty comb the queen has no place to lay.  Lets give these hives another week or so and see if we don’t find some new eggs or larva.

Moral of the story – There are ten hives in my local beeyard and each tells a different story.  If your starting out, if at all possible have more than one hive.  It will speed your learning curve immensely. 

A week from this weekend I will be traveling to Colton where we established four new hives earlier this spring.  They will be about five weeks old when I hold the next class and we do the inspection.  If they are progressing well it could be time to add a second box.  Keep your fingers crossed and I will report back after the hives are inspected. 

Until next time, my best to each of you.  Enjoy your day for all its worth.  Today is all we have.

  

 

 

 

NEW-BEES, off to a great start – an artificial swarm and a queenless hive

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Over the weekend I had the chance to inspect 3 of the five new hives I have here in town.  It had been two weeks since the bees were installed in the hives and time we should be seeing some capped brood.  The first hive I checked was a Carny hive where I not only found two full frames of capped brood but also the queen.  (Capped brood is shown in the picture above.)  The hive is thriving.  I will keep the feed on it for a bit longer as they are still taking it and there are still frames that need to be drawn with comb.

One of the best things you can do for a new hive is to add frames of comb that have already been drawn out.  That way the queen can begin laying eggs almost immediately.  If there is no drawn comb she must wait until the workers have built the comb for her.  That delays the build up of the hive.  I put two frames of drawn comb in each new hive so the queen has gone to right to work while the workers build new comb on the other frames.  I like to see most of the frames drawn out with comb before I quit feeding.  Comb building requires huge amounts of energy and resources.

Upon inspecting the other two new hives I found very similar results, though I did not see the queen in either of these hives.  She is there though, as I was able to see eggs and the tiniest of larva.  Both hives had frames of capped brood and are looking good.

After confirming the new hives are all off to a good start I decided to begin another project.  The strongest hive that has come through the winter is nearly full.  It is made up of two boxes, a deep and a medium.  It is just a bit early to be making splits but this hive is so full of bees I’m concerned they could make up their mind to swarm, so I went through the hive from top to bottom and on one of the very last frames I found the queen.  I placed the queen and two frames of capped brood into another hive.  I then shook another frame of bees into the new hive to increase their numbers a bit.  This is what you call an artificial swarm.  The old queen and a bunch of bees have left the hive, just as in a natural swarm.  The old hive must now raise up a queen of their own.

This kind of split has been done for ages and is a way of increasing the number of hives you have.  Because I don’t use miticides (chemicals) in my hives it is likely the mites will kill off the old queen in the new hive late this fall or early winter.  There are ways to deal with that and I will be addressing that later this summer.  For now lets focus on the hive that is queenless.

The bees in that hive will feed royal jelly to some of the new larva – a larva that is 36 hours or less old.  By feeding royal jelly they will make this new larva into a queen.  I have learned of a way to not only speed up this process but at the same time create a number of queens, thereby creating the possibility of making a number of splits (new hives) from this one hive.  Apparently bees treat a cell containing a larva 36 hours old or less, differently if the bottom third of the cell is broken away.  I have never tried this before but if I can make it work there is a chance for the hive to raise up a number of queens.  I tried this breaking away the cell wall in places on two different frames.  If it works I will leave one frame with queen cells in the hive and pull the other frame with queen cells plus two frames of bees and brood and create another hive.  This is my first attempt at doing this so everything is up in the air right now.  It takes the bees a week to build the queen cells so I will report back in another week.

The benefit of creating a split and leaving the old hive to raise a new queen is that it creates a brood break – that is a period of time when no eggs are laid.  It will take about 30 days for the new queen to hatch and take flight to be bred, before she begins laying her first eggs.  In this period of time the mites have no larva on which to lay their eggs.  Mites lay their own eggs in cells with larva that are 8 days old.  The bees cap cells of larva that are nine days old, thus sealing in the mites with the larva.  The mite will then lay its own eggs and use the larva as food.  To many mites will kill the larva, only one or two will usually just weaken the larva or possibly deform its wings.  When you see bees on the ground in front of your hive with deformed wings its a sure sign you have a high mite population.

The bottom line to all this is that while you are creating new hives for your own apiary you are also causing a brood break that will significantly reduce the number of mites in the hive, thereby making it healthier without the use of chemicals.  There is more to share on this subject which I will get into at a later date.  For now, we will have to see how the new hive does.  Its a very strong hive and should not have a problem building new queen cells, but there is never any guarantee.  This next weekend I will check back and see what the status of the queenless hive is and report how it is going.

And speaking of brood, we also have a brooding hen that recently adopted ten new baby chicks to raise as her own.  Its spring, and the new creations are abounding!

Roar of a Queenless Hive

This is a short note to those new beeks out there who are just getting started in beekeeping, or those who hope to do so soon.  Two days ago I was placing hive top feeders on some hives.  This requires removing the inner cover and setting the feeder on top of the hive in its place.  Apparently I’ve become a little casual about checking the inner cover for the queen because you simply never find them there.  True, the under side of the inner cover sits just above the top bars of the frames where the bees are working and there are always some bees on the inner cover, but I have never found the queen there.

On the last hive I had pulled off the inner cover and replace it with the feeder.  I poured the feed in and then got distracted going back to check on another hive.  When I returned about 5 minutes later I noticed a loud roar coming from the last hive.  I went back and listened to some of the other hives and they were quiet as can bee.  Then it dawned on me that the last hive I was working on must be queenless.  It only takes a few minutes for a hive to realize they are without a queen and when they are the entire place gets into a major uproar.  No, the bees weren’t anymore aggressive – quite mild mannered in fact, but the noise was unmistakable.  I picked up the inner cover that was standing up against the front of the hive and on the underside was a huge mass of bees.  My first thought was to move a few bees aside to find the queen but then stopped myself for fear of harming the queen.  I have no doubt the queen was on the inner cover when I first removed it from the hive and the bees were quickly mounding up over her to protect her,

After dropping the ball of bees back into the hive I replaced the feeder and left the bees alone for about a half an hour.  When I returned I found the hive nearly as quiet as the other hives.  Clearly the queen had been outside the hive and I was lucky to have found her.

The lesson here is to pay attention to your hives with more than just your eyes.  When your ears tell you something is different about one hive you had better check it out.  A queenless hive will most certainly roar in a way that you rarely hear otherwise.  So for the new folks out there, tuck this thought into the back of your mind and don’t forget it.  It just might save you from losing a queen.