In the late morning, we met up and ate a lovely boxed lunch made by the winery. Yummy. We sat with Mary, the president of the WCBA, and we chatted quite a bit. We talked about top bar hives, and regular hives, and she was a bit unsure about our Avalon Issue and told me to talk to Ken about it (Ken is the State Beekeeper Inspector). Her guess was that the queen somehow got up there and started laying. But I still don't understand why there are so few bees up there if the Queen was up there.
I did talk to Ken later. He said it sounds like she somehow got up there. She either put on those skinny jeans and snuck up or she was on the queen excluder when we put it on and got up there. Honestly, I think I was pretty careful when I put the excluder and honey supers on, but as we all know, the bees are smarter than me and smaller than me, so maybe she did sneak by me. In any case, what I think he's guessing is that we swarmed (a very real possibility, though we did not see it) and the virgin queen is gone. He believes that the queen cups on the bottom of the frame are emergency cells and they are desperately trying to get a queen back into that hive. But we do have to take the queen excluder off, so she can get out and get on her mating flights and get back to start laying some eggs.
And FYI, for other new beekeepers: when your hive swarms, there is a 25% chance that your new queen will not return from her mating flights and your hive will be queenless, so keep an eye on your hive and look for eggs and larva and if you can, the queen after a swarm. She often gets snapped up by a bird or other predator while she's away. I don't think I am ready this year, and it's a bit late in the season, but next year, I am going to try to be prepared with nucs to fix things that go wrong. With four hives and nearby friends with four and other friends with bees...it could be a really good and useful thing. Next year!
So, the rest of the day. We took a wine tour...I'd love to do that with a smaller crowd. They have a still, one of only six legal stills in the state--so they make everything alcoholic. It was very cool to see the wine tanks and then the barrels of aging wine. And even better to TASTE some wine. Ahem, ummm, and then buy a case of wine for me and a case (OK a six pack) of beer for Paul (but I thought of other people in my purchasing: bought a Reisling for when Paul's mom is here and a Chardonnay for my uncle since I know he doesn't like the pink, fruity stuff, and a mead for beekeeping buddies...so it was entirely charitable of me--sorry, Kirk, no $56.00 bottle of Whiskey for you). But we must take visitors here to see it. They have a restaurant and judging from lunch and the menu, it could be very good!
And then, we opened up hives (in the rain) and got the BEST lesson in keeping bees. It was so cool! We learned so much. It's the first time I've had a lesson out with the bees. I loved Bee School from the WCBA, and they had great pictures, which I think really helped me learn a lot for this year. But opening the hives with a bunch of beekeepers...COOL! One of these Fridays, I'd like to go with Ken to the State Hives and work them with him. How much could I learn then? Wow.
this is the Avalon Frame with the queen cells on the bottom...