Alphonse Scepurek contacted me early this year to discuss the possibility of having one of his beehives located on our property. The agreement would be that he would tend the bees, harvest the honey, and then share half of the honey with the Sisters.
Al and his wife Mary have been longtime friends of Sr. Martha Friedman, Sr. Alice Reckamp and Covenant Companion Brother Harry DeGrave. At our initial meeting on March 5. 2020, Sr. Martha and Sr. Alice joined me and Al for a lesson the on basics of beekeeping.
The bee colony and queen arrived from Georgia at the beginning of April. He purchased 3 pounds of worker bees, approximately 10,000, along with one queen bee who has already been mated. The queen bee has her own special cage within the shipment of bees. She remained in the cage for approximately one week, giving the colony time to decide if they want this queen.
After the initial week of getting to know each other, Al returned to remove the queen’s small cage. Her cage comes with a stopper to keep her inside. Al removes the stopper and, in its place, puts a marshmallow. Now the bees need to work to get their queen. They will eat through the marshmallow releasing her into their colony.
Once the queen is released, she takes up permanent residence in the hive. She will never leave the hive for the rest of her life. The bees will feed her and in turn she will lay eggs. Her court of worker bees (all female) will escort her to the area they have prepared for egg laying. Each egg is then carefully placed by the worker bees into its own cell and covered with royal jelly. These eggs will all grow into more female worker bees. A queen bee will live up to 4 years, or as long as she produces eggs. Each queen can lay 1000 – 2000 eggs per day.
Each level of the hive has approximately 10 trays. Al has 5 of them prebuilt with honeycomb. The other trays will be constructed by the bees. Some of the combs are used for raising bees, some for their winter food storage and some for honey harvest.
Al filled some of the trays with a sugar water to sustain the bees until the warmer weather and blossoming trees and flowers.
After all this work, the first queen decided for some reason that she did not like the hive and decided to leave. When a queen leaves, she takes the entire colony with her to start over somewhere else. Ray Ward and Jack DeRose found the swarm of bees and notified Al to come and get them back in the hive. But by the time Al arrived, they had all left. So…Al had to start over with a new queen and 3 pounds of bees. Hopefully, this new queen will be happy with her hive and decide to stay, take up residence and provide us with many more honeybees and some delicious honey.
For in-depth information on the life of a queen bee: