When we called our friend, MJ and told her we had a swarm if she wanted it, she was so happy. We were too because we knew she was anxious to get another colony started.
So, The Engineer carefully shut the openings and put mesh over the vents on our plastic nuc box for transporting.
This morning MJ came over to pick it up.
We gently loaded the box into her car, careful not to jostle its contents, and MJ drove away.
About twenty minutes later, I got a phone call.
“It’s a good thing I was so careful driving and carrying that nuc box,” MJ said. “When I opened it, there were three bees inside.”
What the heck?! Sometime yesterday, those crazy girls must have returned to their original home!
We recently learned this happens sometime and usually means the workers left without a queen. Oops!
On a positive note, we have hope that at least one or two of our three splits will soon have a viable queen so MJ can take it as a nuc.
Meanwhile, in an effort at preventing any more swarms from that hive, we did a complete check, intending to remove all queen cells except the two biggest.
There were many, some open and some closed.
And then, The Engineer noticed this!
You can watch video of it here. Because it takes a while, I also did a time-lapse video, which sped up the action so much you can hardly see what’s going on. 😦
When the new queen was fully emerged and had scampered on her way, we moved on to Hive #3, the one we planned to split on Monday.
Now, we generally cover open boxes with a towel when we’re not working on them, and today when I lifted the towel on the second box, I spotted the queen … who promptly flew away.
$#@%&! Had we lost the queen forever?
All we could do was make sure both the split we were making and the original hive had eggs to make a new one.
But, then we found another queen, larger than the one I saw. So, she was probably the original queen. We put her in the split.
There weren’t any queen cells, and the many queen cups we saw last week hadn’t developed further, but maybe we missed one that resulted in the flying queen. The bees would have to make a new queen from an egg.
Hive #1 has been looking crowded, with a lot of bearding (as you can see in yesterday’s blog), which is weird because when we split it, we put the queen in the split. This means they don’t yet have a laying queen. We weren’t even going to check for one until nearer the end of the month, but it seemed so full, we decided to put on an extra honey super to allow bees a little more room.
When we looked inside, we were surprised to see a queen! She also had to be quite newly emerged because there were no eggs, no larvae , and only capped brood. Since we split on 22 April, this makes sense. It takes about sixteen days for a queen to develop, and another week or two to really start laying well. It’s only been about twenty-eight days.
Evidently, we must have left in quite a lot of eggs and larvae when we split because the hive is bursting at the seams. When she begins to lay, we will need to get on a second brood box posthaste!
We also found a queen cell on a frame in the honey super, which we set aside to put in the now queenless Hive #2.
So, after we closed up Hive #1, we moved back to Hive #2, opened it, and went to put the queen cell inside, only now there was also a queen on the frame. Perhaps the one that flew off?
Now, we have (left to right) Hive #1A (laying queen, split from Hive #1), a very crowded Hive #1 (new queen, needs another brood box very soon), Hive #2A (tall nuc split from Hive #2), Hive #2 (aka the “swarmed hive,” newly hatched queen and queen cell), Hive #3 (freshly split with queen and a queen cell), Hive #3A (laying queen, split from Hive #3), Hive #2B (swarmed from Hive #2, probably has a queen).
With Hive #2B, we are attempting to get the bees to make comb in a jar. It’s supposed to be difficult to get the bees to start building comb on a glass surface, but it sounded interesting, so we decided to give it a shot.
All the hives with new queens (#2B, #3, #2, and #1) will need to be checked to for eggs in a week or so. If there are eggs, the hive is “queen right.” If there aren’t, we give it another week, and then it will need another queen from somewhere.
Since we really don’t want seven hives, we hope to be able to give a queen right hive to MJ and possibly another acquaintance as well.
What an exciting couple of days in the bee yard!