Of Queen Bees, Beetles, and Pollen

We introduced our new queen to Buzzers’ Roost today. I didn’t remember to take a picture of her and her attendants, but here’s a photo of her cage in the hive. I’m still concerned about Buzzers’. The brood just doesn’t look quite right, and once we see whether or not this queen is accepted, we’ll call our county inspector to ask for an inspection and his opinion.

Meanwhile, the bees in this hive definitely know something is wrong (they’ve lost the queen whose pheromones they know and have an intruder in their midst). They were active, fanning and clustering around the entrance as if to share the news.

They were still bringing in pollen and nectar, not nearly as much as FreeBees, but definitely working.

We opened FreeBees with some trepidation, as well. After creepy-crawling sight of earlier this week, I expected the worst – frames heaving with beetles and larvae (or maybe it would be me heaving, who knew?).

At least we had the consolation or knowing we had traps in place and had treated the surrounding ground with nematodes from Southeastern Insectaries (http://www.southeasterninsectaries.com/nematodes.php). If I didn’t hate hive beetles so much, I’d find nematodes pretty gross, but no more.

Nematodes are microscopic, worm-like creatures that live in soil and parasitize other creatures. Normally, I’m not a fan of parasites, but this particular type of nematode feeds on SHB (Small Hive Beetle) larvae by getting into their gut, turning it to mush, and feeding on it.

Last week, I took a delivery of nematodes, suspended in gel, which I kept in the fridge until The Engineer was around and we could apply them. To do this, you rinse the gel with water and strain the water off, then do it again. The nematodes are left in the water, applied around the hives, and irrigated.

It was raining when The Engineer got home, had been raining on and off for days, possibly weeks – perfect conditions for application of nematodes.

And that’s why we were outside Tuesday evening in the pouring rain, watering the ground around our hive.

Sometimes I think our neighbors must think we’re crazy.

Now, we know nematodes don’t have any effect on adult beetles, and I can’t imagine they’d already have much effect on the larvae, but when we looked in FreeBees today, we saw a total of two beetles and three larvae. And the larvae were dead in a trap.

Go figure.

It was a nice surprise.

What we did see was lots and lots of lovely brood, pollen, and nectar.

Yes, I know I’ve just posted five pictures of the same thing, but isn’t it gorgeous?

If you’re interested in learning what plants the different pollen comes from, there are charts available online here: http://www.wasatchbeekeepers.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/North-Bends-Pollen-Chart.pdf and here: https://www.mybeeline.co/en/p/pollen-identification-color-guide.

The bees have also started production of drone cells, which means they feel secure enough to spare the food for the lazy boys.

We had left a medium frame in because when we last checked, we forgot to take our frames that had drawn comb out of the bee freezer (yes, we do have a freezer just for hive frames). It had honey on it last fall, so we left it in then for extra food.

In the ten days since our last check, they built this.

And the queen, who we didn’t see, had filled it with eggs, now grown to larvae.

Some beekeepers intentionally use medium frames in deep boxes for drone frames. (For more info on why they might do this, go to this post: https://thebyrdandthebees.wordpress.com/2017/08/25/i-just-saw-a-baby-honey-bee-or-one-step-forward-one-step-back/.)

I wish I could claim we thought that far ahead, but I’d be lying.

It is time to get back to our Varroa treatments, or as the real beekeepers call it, “Integrated Pest Management.” So, that’s also on the agenda in the near future. And I expect we’ll be taking a split from FreeBees, both to prevent them swarming and to use as a resource hive.

Will keep you posted on the SHB and Buzzers situation.

One last thing. As we were cleaning up after our inspection, a couple of HUGE bumblebees went zooming by my head and landed on our rhododendron and grape hyacinths. Although the pictures aren’t clear, I’m sharing them anyway.

They were queens, and if I remember I’ll explain the life cycle of bumblebees and yellow jackets, and how they differ from honey bees. For now, all you need to know is, if you have issues with yellow jackets, now is the time to put out traps.

3 thoughts on “Of Queen Bees, Beetles, and Pollen

  1. Every time I start to think romantic thoughts about having a hive and taking our own honey, I read something of the downs, ups and more downs of beekeeping and think again! We don’t yet have Varroa here (long may that last), but it sounds as if there are plenty of other hazards, issues and downright grossnesses to contend with. For now, I’ll continue to enjoy the ups vicariously and count myself lucky I don’t have to do the mucky stuff!


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