ABV Always be vigilant

Compared to the usual, things have been very exciting around here this weekend. Don’t get me wrong, I LOOOOVE boredom. Super into it. But a couple of things actually happened.

I got up early on Friday and fed the chickens and made coffee. I heard a car running outside the fence and peeked over–there was a sedan, running, empty, with the windshield wipers intermittently flapping. P. was actually wearing pants so I sent him outside the fence to investigate.

“It’s stolen,” he said. “The ignition is completely gone.”

Nightmere basking in the morning sun in the chicken pen

We called the cops and an officer came shortly afterwards, and told me that the car had already been reported as stolen. It turns out the owners were right up the street, because a man and woman walked up a few minutes later. Franny espied on what they were saying–they had last seen the car at 8 p.m. and had gone to bed later, and it was gone in the morning. They got in and drove their running, ignitionless car home. It still had half a tank of gas (I looked).

There’s been some progress with the bees. Somehow, we lost our first queen in the orange hive. It’s very possible that we crushed or drowned her, or maybe she up and died on her own. We could tell things were going wrong, because one week they were pretty mad, and then the population began dropping, and the only new bees being produced were drones. This means you have laying workers.

It’s kind of cool if you think about it. No queen equals no fertililzed eggs being laid (fertilized eggs result in girl bees). So the workers take over and create as many boys as possible, which will then go out and hopefully spread their genetics with a queen in another hive. Nature is smarter than just waiting for everyone to die. This condition is commonly referred to as a “colony of lost boys.”

However, you can maybe help turn things around if you have a “queenright” hive. We pulled bars with open larvae out of the healthy orange hive for three weeks in a row, brushed the adult orange hive bees off, and inserted that bar in between existing bars in the ailing purple hive.

Miraculously this can do a few things. The larvae emit a scent that smells like a queen and can suppress laying in the workers. The workers are aware they are missing a queen, so they accept the open larvae, and raise them up to be a new queen. Old hands say this process of adding new bars can take 3-4 weeks before things get corrected again. In the meantime we knew we were providing the purple hive with already capped cells filled with girl worker bees, which would hatch and help nurse new bees and feed the hive. Bees accept unhatched bees as their own.

Yesterday, on the third week after we had begun Operation Purple Queenright, we found many queen cups, which are special cells workers build when they are creating a new queen. Possibly the first strong queen to hatch took over. She then races around and kills any other hatching queens.

So there they were as we peeped in–hatched queen cups. They look like they have little porch roofs over the cells, unlike worker cells (flat) or drone cells (domed).

Here’s a close up of what was happening:

The arrow on the left points to a vacated queen cup. Worker cells are flatter. As a bonus, you can see an emerging worker bee. This is what I meant by the bonus influx of workers you get from sharing bars among hives. So, already in this first year I am very happy to have two hives. Three might be ideal, but that adds a half hour a week to maintenance, and I am not sure we’re ready for that just yet.

The weather is causing the bees to beard (aka “hang out on porch”) in the afternoon to cool things off. We are doing the same.

I bought a silly pool from the drug store.

We’re getting highs in the low 90s here, so the garden is doing great.

1. Zucchini; 2. Tomatoes; 3. Shiso; 4. Thai basil; 5. Lemon cucumber; 6. Italian basil

This morning I woke up to Strudel on the couch.


“Oh lord. Was it big?”


Uh oh. We did some investigating and I found poo behind her bed, which did not actually look like rat poo to me. I brought the dogtectives in. Strudel had slammed her door shut, and if the rat was truly as large as she described, it was probably still trapped in there.

Edith found the poo and gave it a good sniffing.

“Yes, without a shadow of a doubt, this is definitely poo, Mother” she said.

“Find Squirrel, Edith!” I said, hopefully. Extrapolation has never been her strong suit.

“Yes, Mother, I have found this amazing poo that you have seen and discovered on your own and it smells weird. My job is done here.”

I called in Det. Horace, who had been sent out to take a morning wee first. He inspected the poo.


Within thirty seconds, had had tracked the rat to under a dresser. P. sighed and got some gloves and tongs (?), not knowing what he would encounter. He emerged with a baby possum that was the size of a large rat.

“A cat definitely brought this in,” he said.

“Put it in our sucky neighbor’s yard!” I said. He did not. Det. Horace got a raise!!

Franny made a wee card. She said this is what you get when you die.

I love it!

8 thoughts on “ABV Always be vigilant

  1. What is supposed to happen next with the orange hive? How do you get a queen back in there – do you just move the bars back again? I am dying of suspense.

  2. Whoop, I think I didn’t explain myself well! The orange hive has a healthy queen and is laying so we took some of her babies (larvae) in comb on bars and moved it to the queenless purple hive. The workers in the purple hive raised up new queens from that larvae. They can keep the bars! I think they need them. If the orange hive ever loses its queen, we will probably have to move bars over from the purple hive and so on. Clear as mud? :)

  3. That makes sense. I thought you lost the orange queen and then I was confused.

  4. Having arranged a funeral in my time, I can confirm. That is definitely the content of the cards one receives upon death.

    Beautiful hives. I am learning a lot about bees, and I’m not sure how I feel about book learnin in the summer.

    “The weather is causing the bees to beard in the afternoon to cool things off. We are doing the same.”
    But SJ! I thought your bearding days were over now that you have P! Ho ho.

  5. (Also, the source of hive confusion stems from the fact that you say in the beginning of the post that the Orange queen is dead.)

  6. This bee business is interesting. I may need to hear more.
    Our chicken ranch is all bad these days. One chic got the hatchet for non-production. A few weeks later the second just up and died (impacted egg I believe) leaving only a lonely third, who is now having house guests (rats). It is all murder and death.. positively Shakespearean.

  7. Dotty: Thanks! I did not catch that. I am too busy right now to fart or cough, boo.

    J.B.: You would like bee business! After building the hives, we’re on about 90 minutes of maintenance a week. And if you do more, you are actually bothering them. I am about to have some more free days soon if you want coffee!!

  8. Hermmm. I am lazy.. and I do like honey.
    I like coffee. New awesome job goes down to 4×8 during the summer, because: school.
    So I have some time these days.
    Hit me up!

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