But first, the bad news. On Sunday, The Engineer had to put a screen over the entrance of the Kremlin because it was being attacked by robber bees. Today, when we checked the hive, we discovered the assault must have begun while we were gone. It was devastated, with few bees remaining — certainly not enough to grow into a viable hive in time for winter.
So, we are down to three hives, all of them originating from last spring’s Saskatraz package.
The good news is all of them are queen right.
Eager for a lift of spirits after the disheartening discovery in the Kremlin, we turned to OH Girls Split #1.
This is the hive that had two queens when last we looked.
Today, we — and by “we,” I mean The Engineer — spotted only one. I suspect the original dented one who began this dynasty is probably dead.
Thankfully, her good genes continue their reign in each of our three hives because each is queened by one of her daughters.
Here’s one of her beautiful offspring in OH Girls Split #1.
The residents of this hive have been toiling hard while we were gone, building comb on the new frames we gave them before we left. There was even capped brood on one of them already!
I love the way new comb looks — so fresh and perfect.
Below, you can see one of the hive’s many frames of capped brood.
Next, we turned to OH Girls and OH Girls Split #2. The split was made at the end of June, and we weren’t sure which hive ended up with the queen. We checked the original OH Girls first.
It’s big, two deep brood boxes and three honey supers. There were a lot(!) of bees. With a hive this size and well-populated, it almost seems like they are just boiling up out of the hive.
It was also filled with many frames of capped brood, which means it is queen right. Yay!
I admit I’m pathetic when it comes to spotting queens, but I don’t know how anyone can find them in a hive this full.
But Engineer found this one too. She’s golden, so might be the queen from OH Girls. Or, maybe she’s just another golden queen.
Here’s three photos of her. Can you find her in all of them? (And don’t go all smug on me if you do. It’s easy when you’re only inches away and it’s a still photo.)
So … did we also find a queen behind door (hive) number three?
No, we did not. However, we found something almost as good. Capped brood, and lots of it!
This is what I mean by bees just kind of boiling up. It’s like they coagulate or something!
In other good news, all three hives have begun storing honey in the corners of some of their brood box frames.
We hope to see more of this as they prepare for winter, even if it means they pay less attention to the honey in their honey supers.
OH Girls still has three of these smaller boxes, and many of the frames are nearly fully capped. We didn’t pull any of them today, opting instead to wait and see how it goes.
Now that we have three queen right hives, I’m sure something else will pop up to torment us.
Oh. Yeah. Winter is coming. Guess it’s time to start worrying about that.
I’ll leave you with this photo of OH Girls Split #1 after we checked it. I’m not sure why they all decided to cluster around their two bottom entrances, but I’m sure they have a reason.
Remember the dying queen? I wouldn’t blame you if you don’t. With all my talk about queens, even I find it hard to keep them straight.
Anyway, it turns out the dying queen isn’t dead. This is quite a surprise because when we checked that hive (the first split from OH, Girls this year) on 4 July, we were very happy to find the beautiful new queen the workers bred to replace her. Here’s her picture from that inspection.
Today, when we checked that hive, The Engineer once again spotted New Queen (near the bottom, surrounded by her attendants). And isn’t she gorgeous?
Only later, he also spotted Dented Queen.
Here’s another pic.
But if you look at the picture below, and you have sharp eyes, you’ll find both Dented Queen (near the hive tool) and New Queen (near the capped brood at the top of the picture.
We heard this sometimes happens, but when we took our classes, I got the impression that having two queens co-exist in a hive was unusual. True, there are ways beekeepers occasionally manipulate hives to run two queens, usually by using queen excluders to keep the royalty in separate areas of the hive.
The situation can also arise when one queen isn’t yet mated, the bees are getting ready to swarm or they just haven’t killed the old queen yet. According to this article, the workers keep the two queens in separate parts of the hive, but as these pictures show, New Queen is definitely mated, and she’s not only on the same frame as Dented Queen, she’s mere inches away.
And these two have been sharing the same hive for at least ten days, likely longer.
I expect eventually the workers will kill Dented Queen. She’s still moving and laying, but very slowly, while New Queen sprints around laying as fast as she can.
Meanwhile, the workers have been making comb on the new frames we gave them like their lives depend on it.
Oh, yeah … their lives do sort of depend on it. They’ll need that comb to store honey for winter.
And our two queens are already using the new comb. There’s larvae in both the pictures below, although it’s harder to spot in the second one.
After our unusual find in the split, we looked in on the Kremlin. I was ready to dispatch Olga to the big beehive in the sky and steal a frame of brood from OH, Girls split #1 so Kremlin workers could make a new queen. The Engineer convinced me we should give her one more chance. Her laying seems to be improving slightly, with more larvae closer together, but if it’s not dramatically better at the end of the month, they’re going to have to make a new queen. This is cutting it fine because August is when beekeepers need to start thinking (read “worrying”) about winter.
There’s an expression about beekeeping, something like “Take care of the bees that will take care of the bees that will need to live through the winter,” and August is when that begins.
Olga needs to step up her game.
Lastly, we had a look at the honey supers on OH, Girls and stole two filled frames, replacing them with super frames with drawn combs. Truthfully, we could have probably pulled more for extraction, but we’re being conservative this year and waiting until the frames are at least 90% full … at least as long as nectar is still coming in.
A lot of the frames look like this, nearly solid on one side and not completely capped on the other (although some had a lot more capped on side #2).
We considered putting a honey super on OH, Girls Split #1 because the hive has a lot of bees, along with a queen cup that might have had larva in it. Ultimately, we chose not to. We gave them several empty frames when we put them in the big boxes so they still have space.
Also, we tempted fate by leaving the queen cup. We’re not 100% sure it was filled, and if we scraped it off, and they want to swarm, they’d just build another.
Speaking of swarms, we still have three swarm boxes up, and at least two are getting a lot of attention from scout bees.
I’m not sure where we’d put another hive, but we could probably find space on one of the stands if we have to. 🙂
The girls have done it! They’ve managed to create a beautiful new queen.
Can you find her? Admittedly, both of the pictures only show her abdomen, so the task may not be easy. And she’s not that big-eyed, fat one in the upper corner. That’s a drone, hanging around the honey as usual.
GIve up? Let me make it easier for you.
Of course, it was The Engineer who spotted her, as usual, and what a relief it was to see her.
She’s quite new, possibly still unmated, though she is already nice and fat. Could be she’s just not finished with her “maiden flights.”
There were no eggs or larvae yet, so she’s definitely not begun laying.
But now we have two queen right hives — definitely cause for celebration.
OH, Girls also kept busy while waiting for royalty to emerge. They have been socking away nectar and turning it into sweet, sweet honey.
In addition, they completely rebuilt the wax frames they took a dislike to.
And since, unlike the last time, these frames aren’t in the brood chambers, there’s no chance of them being used as drone comb, which means we won’t be over-run with drones.
Next, we took a look at the Kremlin.
They have a great deal of pollen, nectar, and honey (both new and old). I think the pollen is probably a mix as well, but I still love to wonder about the sources of the various colors.
As you can see, there were a fair amount of drones in the hive — the result of those workers who were laying before Olga came along and set them straight.
I’m not 100% happy with her laying pattern. It’s kind of spotty, with brood and larva mixed together and backfilled with nectar and pollen.
Also, in the picture above, it looks like her eggs might not be being laid in the middle of the cells.
I’ve heard sometimes new queens take a little while to get going properly, so this is something we’ll keep an eye on.
Another possible explanation for the spotty pattern (but not the off-center eggs) is the workers had backfilled many of the cells on the frames with nectar and pollen. We added another deep box with some more open frames to help alleviate this.
To add fuel to this particular fire, it looks to me like the bee in the center bottom of the picture above has a varroa mite under its wing.
We treated this package when we received it (before it had any brood) and had planned to treat both the others within the next week, but it looks like we need to hit this one again too.
Finally, we went into the split just enough to remove the bottom board and peek at the bottom of the top box to see if there were queen cells.
The weather has turned (again), and we expect temperatures in the mid 80s (F) all week. Thus, we are pulling all the boards so they have ventilation through the screened bottom. That particular hive setup requires you to almost pick up the whole hive to remove the board.
There was at least one open queen cell, but in my quick look, I couldn’t tell if it had been opened, or was just not yet capped, though I suspect and hope the former. When we looked in on the 26th, there was an uncapped queen cell. That was eleven days ago, so it’s entirely possible the uncapped queen cell we saw then with larva in it has since been capped and the new queen emerged.
Michael Bush’s “bee math” gives the following figures for bee development, and a queen cell is capped at eight days, with her hatching eight days later (give or take a few). If we saw the cell just before it was capped (and the larva in it was good-sized, so this is possible), she may be out and taking maiden mating flights.
Caste Hatch Cap Emerge
Queen 3½ 8 ±1 16 ±2 Laying 28 ±5
Worker 3½ 9 ±1 20 ±1 Foraging 42 ±7
Drone 3½ 10 ±1 24 ±1 Flying to DCA 38 ±5
We last attended in 2018, when I won a beehive. In 2019, we were in France, and last year, of course, it was cancelled because of the pandemic, so we were eager to see what this year had in store.
To start with, we learned a bit about queen rearing from the folks of Z’s Bees. Mostly, we learned, as we always do when we attend a program on raising queens, that we’re not yet ready for that particular activity.
We next attended “Assessing Hive Health” and “Maintaining Hive Health” with Peggy Garnes, who happens to be the president of the Ohio State Beekeepers Association. Since she also sold us our first hive and was one of the instructors at the Beginner Beekeeping Course we took (twice), we knew her sessions would be worth our time.
It was a treat to watch her work as she took apart and inspected two hives, commenting on what she found, why she worked the way she did, and what next steps she would advise for each.
Several facts I found interesting:
New sister/sister queens won’t usually kill each other. Half-sisters will. That is, if two queens hatch from eggs fertilized from sperm of the same father, they are unlikely to commit sororicide (yes, I had to look that one up). This is similar to something I heard at one of the (many!) classes we took. It seems a worker bee will always favor a full sister over a half-sister when feeding them as larvae.
If you drop the queen, pick her up and reinsert her into the back of the hive rather than the front, and the bees will be more likely to recognize her as their own queen, rather than a strange bee.
Actually, there was no price of admission, but if there had been, I’d have gladly paid it to learn that!
Still, LCBA once again raffled off two hives, and I contributed to their coffers by entering.
They also had several guessing games, which were free. I guessed “the weight of the candle” and the “number of corks in the bottle,” but declined to stick my hand in the enclosed box to name the items within.
The “Bee Race” sounded like an interesting event, so I bought The Engineer the chance to be selected to participate. This involved six contestants each being provided with a marked worker bee in a queen cage. The contestants (both insects and people) were then driven several miles away. The person whose bee got back to the hive first won the pot of money collected for the tickets.
“Stuff the Queen Cage” sounded more painful than any possible prize could possibly be worth. Yes, it was exactly what it sounds like — stuffing as many bees as you could into a queen cage, with points deducted for every sting.
We didn’t even stay to watch.
The raffles and door prizes were awarded before those two events, and to my surprise, I won both guessing games I entered.
I’d known I was a contender for the number of corks because when I wrote down my guess, the lady taking the guesses looked at it and said I was very close.
However, the candle weight win was a surprise, although my guess was based on the many pounds of birdseed I buy for my mom’s and our feeders and all the dirt I’ve recently lifted to fill the pots that make up my garden. There were actually two winners for that game, and I was set to forego my prize since I’d already won, but then I saw they had two prizes, so I accepted.
Both my prizes were “Candle Flex” molds, a wise man and a shepherd. Since I’ve been wanting to start candle making (after a brief, not-very-successful foray into it last year), these high-quality forms will be very handy.
The winner of the “items in the box” was seated right next to me, so people were beginning to make comments about us sitting in the lucky row of seats.
When we registered for the event that morning, each attendee was given a ticket for the door prizes. The Engineer took charge of ours, and when they called one of the numbers, he went up to collect our new “Pro Nuc.”
We will find this very useful either as a swarm box or as something to hold frames when we take them out for inspection.
In fact, The Engineer just informed me, it’s already up a tree as a swarm trap.
I was never lucky at winning things, but in the last ten years or so, my luck seems to have changed.
A Broodminder and several drone frames (we don’t use either anymore — the Broodminder gave up the ghost last year, and the drone frames were more trouble than they were worth)
Two candle molds
As you can see, most the prizes have to do with beekeeping. From this I can only conclude that we were destined to be beekeepers. 🙂
Between Saturday’s Field Day and our Monday-Thursday camping trip, we also drove 1-1/2 hours to the Harry Clever Field in New Philadelphia where our plane is being annualed. If you’re unfamiliar with general aviation plane maintenance, you may be surprised to learn every plane has to be taken apart each year and inspected by a Certified A&P Mechanic. To cut costs, we try to do as much of the work as allowed. This means, we take out seats, take up carpet, and remove inspection panels (lots of inspection panels — usually my job). Otherwise, we’d be paying mechanics’ wages to have someone else do what is mostly unskilled labor. Once the inspection is completed, we put back in the carpet and seats, and replace the inspection panels and trim.
That was Friday. You’ve just read about Saturday and Sunday, and I’ve already written about Monday-Thursday.
After this very busy week, I expect the next to be much the same. We’re both back to work, have the bees to treat, the airplane to finish, and strawberries are coming in, which means if I want to make strawberry margarita jam, it has to be this week or I risk not being able to get the berries.
I certainly don’t want to miss making the best strawberry jam in the world. (This links to arecipe very similar to the one I use, though it’s not exactly the same.) I mean, any strawberry jam is good with me, but including lime and tequila somehow works to make the flavor of the strawberries more clear.
I have some jalapeños in the fridge, and I think I’ll try adding a few of those to the second batch just to add a little kick.
I’ll keep you posted on how it turns out.
P.S. We had a little mead tasting with some out-of-town beekeeper friends who came in for the field day, and I think Sourpuss is my new favorite, although Ginger Rogers and Hot Mama are still contenders. Alas, OH, Honey needs more time to get rid of a yeasty smell.
And below are several frames of bees eating honey we spilled on the top of their frames. Can you see some of the bees’ proboscises (tongues)?
When we peeked in the supers (medium-sized boxes usually used for honey) on OH, Girls, we were curious to see how they liked the two frames of wax comb we’d given them. Though we usually use plastic foundation anecdotal wisdom seems to hold that bees prefer wax, and we decided to give them a try.
Apparently, our bees weren’t consulted for those anecdotes. Now we are left wondering: Was it the wax they didn’t like, the string we used to stabilize it, or both?
From what we can tell, they’ve repurposed the wax from the foundation and begun to build their own on the bottom because there’s a slight difference in color.
We took out the string, and reinserted those two frames.
Since they’d filled the rest of the frames with nectar, we added another super. The hive is also still quite populated, so we added the empty quilt box for ventilation. If you recall, this winter we used the same box filled with wood chips for insulation on another hive.
Here’s the new configuration.
Finally, we turned to the OH, Girls split, the hive we were confident would be in good shape.
The Engineer had quickly looked through this hive a few days ago and not seen Her Blueness, but since he saw some brood, we weren’t too concerned.
Today we looked more closely, and found mostly capped brood being backfilled by nectar i.e., as the bees hatch, their cells are filled with honey rather than new eggs. There were also just few large larvae, none of the tiny stuff you see in the pictures from the Kremlin, and no eggs at all.
And there was no royalty in sight … except — and this may save us — a small uncapped queen cell with larva in it.
Yes, I know, I should have taken a picture.
According to Mike Bush, a queen is capped at about eight days, which means we have some waiting to do. Again.
We also may have some queen buying to do if OH, Girls aren’t successful at requeening. According to Bush’s “Bee Math,” we should know sometime in mid June.
If they haven’t managed to requeen, or if the new queen is unsuccessful at mating or laying, or if the queen cell in the split is unsuccessful, we’ll have to buy a queen (or possibly two). Since a Saskatraz queen (our preferred race) is $46, including marking, this can be an expensive endeavor.
Still, at least there will be queens available if needed.
And both the split and the original hive will have had a break in the brood cycle — helpful for both discouraging Varroa and for using the easier method of vaporized Oxalic Acid, rather than the more lengthy Formic Pro strip treatment.
Of course, we will have to remember to take honey supers off the full-sized hive before applying the vapor because it’s not meant to be used with them on, but that’s easily done.
Speaking of honey, I’ve got high hopes that OH, Girls will soon have some capped and ready for extraction.
On Saturday, as planned (and hopefully not too late), The Engineer and I stole a frame of brood from OH, Girls to help encourage the Olgas (OH-lgas?) to accept their new queen. When you have laying workers, this is meant to make them think the new queen is laying, and therefore is a good queen worthy of their hive.
Yes, I do realize I’m ascribing them with human attributes. It’s the only way I can make sense of honey bee habits.
At any rate, that’s one of the suggestions Bee Culture magazine offers in requeening a hive with laying workers. Of course, their article says this should be done at the same time the queen is introduced and that the hive should be switched with a stronger hive.
We didn’t switch them, and the brood was added a few days after the queen. However, as I mentioned in the last post, we lucked out once before introducing a queen to a hive with laying workers in much worse circumstances, and they accepted the queen. (It was the very beginning of spring when there were no queens to be had for several weeks after The Engineer discovered the dead queen and certainly no brood to add or strong hive to switch with.)
This time, when we discovered the then-named GeeBees (now Olgas) had a dead queen, we put in a frame of eggs, hoping they’d make a queen. They didn’t, but at least for a few weeks they had brood. They now have brood again, as well as a queen, so I’m hoping this at least confuses their tiny minds enough to give Olga a chance.
We also checked OH, Girls, with the intention of splitting the hive. Her Royal Blueness has been laying so well we were worried the hive would swarm. Splitting a hive is sort of like a fake swarm controlled by the beekeeper.
There are many (many!) ways to split a hive. The easiest is called a “walkaway split.” Basically, you divide a strong hive into two, and walk away. The idea is the hive that has the old queen continues on their merry way, and the other raises a new queen. To do this, both hives need to have eggs, or at the very least, very young larvae.
We used this method last year, mainly because we knew the hive was getting ready to swarm and when we went to split it, we didn’t find the queen.
This year, however, we were going to try to do a proper swarm control split, where you take the queen and put her in a new hive with food and brood. You also shake in some nurse bees so the the split is populated.
Nurse bees will stay in the “new” hive, while any foragers caught up in the divide will return to the original hive. I believe this is because the nurse bees haven’t yet oriented to their hive. You see, when bees come out of their cells, their first job generally is cleaning and capping cells. Next, they become nurse bees, tending the brood and queen. Later, they cycle through other jobs (guarding, foraging), only orienting when they start to go outside the hive for their work. For more details, you can read this article from American Bee Journal.
So, by shaking in extra nurse bees, the beekeeper ensures the hive has enough bees to survive.
Meanwhile, both hives think they’ve swarmed. If all goes well, the queenless hive makes a new queen, and the split soon grows into a full-sized hive.
That was the plan for Saturday. However, things didn’t quite go as we intended.
It was a cool day (about 50 F, the coolest we’ll usually do a hive check), but OH, Girls were out foraging, and we thought we’d be okay. We probably would have been, had we not made the mistake of trying to catch the queen to move her when we could have just moved the whole frame.
Her Blueness fell (into the hive, thank heaven!). Unable to find her again, we closed up shop and decided to try again today (Wednesday), when it would be warmer.
GIven the weather that followed on Sunday, it was probably just as well we hadn’t made a new split/nuc. Bees don’t usually swarm when it’s cold, and a full hive has more bees to keep it warm.
Ah, yes, it was a lovely Mother’s Day here, worse even than the cold and rain that was predicted. Dear Readers, we got snow — a lovely, wet, slushy snow, slippery enough that I saw several cars in the ditch when I drove to visit my mom.
It finally warmed up today, and I spent a few hours hauling around bags of soil and mixing them with compost (to be fair, The Engineer did most of the mixing). Then I moved all the tiny little plants I’d grown from seed into pots, along with a few others I’d picked up from the nursery. Ground cherries, lemon basil, tomatoes, and more ground cherries, if you want to know, plus I split off some chives and Hen and Chicks for Darling Daughter.
In retrospect, I probably should have first asked if she wanted them. 🤔
Ah, well, at least she wants the lemon basil and tomatoes I also potted for her. And the chives and Hen and Chicks needed splitting anyway.
Here would be a good place to mention that the “last frost date” for this area is meant to be May 15, a mere three days away. Also, I checked the weather report before starting, and it didn’t mention anything about frost.
The alert came up on my phone when we finished and came inside to have a cup of tea and a snack.
Sometimes I hate living in Ohio.
Sorry, I digress. I’m supposed to be writing about bees, and so I shall.
After our tea (me) and snack (The Engineer), we again turned to our favorite insects.
Both hives were busily foraging, even though it’s still a bit cool — sunny and maybe 60 F as long as you stay out of the shade, but the breeze is chilly.
A (very) quick peek at that hive today revealed the candy plug still in the queen cage, though they are working their way through it. Also, the bees didn’t seem overly agressive on the cage, so that could be a good sign too.
We turned our attention to OH, Girls. Once again, my observant partner found the queen — unharmed, thankfully, though her blue is wearing off. And this time, we moved the whole frame into the waiting nuc box, gave her another frame of brood and some food, shook in the nurse bees, and closed up shop.
Will OH, Girls make a new queen? Will the Olgas accept their queen? Will my tomato plants freeze?
The north wind doth blow And we shall have snow, And what will poor robin do then? Poor thing.
She’ll sit in the barn, And keep herself warm, And hide her head under her wing. Poor thing.
When my friend and I went for our morning walk Tuesday, I took photos. The flowering trees were just coming into full bloom, and I wanted to document their loveliness because I knew what was coming.
Wednesday, I woke up to this.
That night, it got down into the lower 30s or upper 20s. By then, I didn’t want to know the details.
On Tuesday, it’s supposed to hit 83 F.
My point is it’s been a week of extremes. Coming immediately after we learned our new hive, GeeBees, had no queen, this is not the best scenario.
If you recall, we put in jars of sugar water with Honey B Healthy Amino-B Booster to encourage them to make a new queen from the frame of eggs we’d stolen from OH Girls.
Unfortunately, it didn’t occur to me that sugar patties might have served them better since bees don’t usually like to drink sugar water during cold weather.
Today we had a quick look at the levels of the jars of food and discovered they had consumed very little, if any. We’ve always read/heard it’s best to leave hives alone when they are (hopefully) in the delicate business of making a queen, so we didn’t look any further, just gave them fresh jars and closed the hive.
Once again, we are left sitting on our hands (with fingers crossed) and waiting.
The good news is their workers are foraging and bringing in pollen. They have fewer bees, so it’s not surprising they have fewer foragers than OH Girls, but at least they’re doing what bees are meant to do in the spring.
OH Girls, on the other hand, are thriving to the extent that we expect to have to split the hive soon. We saw Her Royal Blueness, and she’s clearly keeping busy because there were many frames of capped brood and larvae. It was cloudy, making it difficult to tell if there were eggs, but there was one frame with tiny larvae — not much past the egg stage.
So far, they’ve only made a few queen cups and not queen cells. With so much brood however, we expect to see those peanut-shaped cells when we do our next check, especially because schedule conflicts will push it back to a few weeks from now, rather than the usual seven to ten days.
One advantage to the delay is we’ll also be able to have a more complete check of GeeBees to see if they have requeened. If not, we will move a few queen cells from OH Girls (if they’ve made any).
We’ll probably still have to do a split because moving a frame with queen cells won’t do anything about the bees feeling crowded.
If OH Girls haven’t made queen cells, and GeeBees haven’t made a queen, we’ll have to buy one and go through the whole introduction thing again.
OH Girls have begun to load frames in the classic football or rainbow shape, with brood in the middle, surrounded by pollen, nectar, and honey, which is something we like to see.
Why do we like to see this? Probably because we’ve heard they should do it. Plus, it demonstrates a certain kind of logic — putting food for the brood near the cells where it will be needed.
This article on checking a hive has a good photo at the bottom that demonstrates what I mean.
I took just one picture — this little worker with her small load of pollen. I tried to get one of her sisters, who was loaded with bright orange pollen. Too bad she was not in the mood for the paparazzi and flew away. 🙂
Poor GeeBees! They are certainly off to a rough start.
When we inserted the queen cage, we noticed she seemed smaller than others we’ve had. In fact, the only way we could differentiate between her and her attendant bees was by her thorax, which isn’t furry on a queen. Normally, you can also tell by the size and shape of her body, but she was only slightly more tapered than the worker bees (see circled below in The Engineer’s photo).
Even allowing for the different scale of the photos, she was much smaller than OH, Girls’ queen (below).
When it comes to queens, bigger is generally better because it means she’s full of sperm and will be a good egg layer.
Also, the workers didn’t seem much interested in looking after her, at least not in comparison to the queen on the package our friend picked up.
Well, after today, we don’t have to worry about her size because when we opened the hive to check if she’d been released, we discovered she’s dead.
Definitely not* the way we’d prefer to start a new hive.
What to do, what to do … what could we do but close up the hive and make plans to buy another queen or try to get one from the man who sold us the package? (In the end, we did let him know what happened, and he said he should have queens in a few weeks, so that is now our backup plan, I suppose.)
On a much brighter note, OH, Girls are doing great, with lots of brood and larvae in a nice solid laying pattern. And we saw Her Royal Blueness skittering around, laying eggs as fast as she could move.
When we found a frame chock full of eggs, I suddenly had the idea to swap it for one of GeeBees’ frames in the hope they’d make a queen.
You see, queen and worker bees are almost identical genetically. It’s what she’s fed that makes her a queen. Contrary to what you might have heard, all larvae are fed royal jelly, but worker bees and drones only receive it for three days. A would-be queen is given enough royal jelly to sustain her throughout her growth cycle, and the difference in diet causes the changes in development that makes a queen.
I’ll spare you the lecture on queen development and simply share a few additional facts. First, you should know worker bees generally build queen cells when they are ready to make a new queen, either to supercede the old or to replace the old queen when the hive swarms. And, second, sometimes, when a queen dies unexpectedly, the workers need to make an “emergency queen” by building a queen cell around existing eggs and feeding those eggs more royal jelly as they develop into larvae and then bees. Here is an article with pictures of the different types of queen cells.
Some say emergency queens are generally smaller than those who developed in a queen cell built intentionally to develop a queen. Others disagree.
If GeeBees do what bees are supposed to do and develop a queen for us, I guess we’ll be able to form our own opinion on the matter. Queens take about three weeks to develop, so don’t think we’ll be finding out anytime soon. When bees are in the process of making or accepting a new queen, it’s generally best to leave them to it, so we won’t be peeking for a while.
And then, she would have to successfully survive her mating flights — yet another hurdle.
At the very least, the hive will have some brood to raise while they wait.
Speaking of brood, I thought you’d like to see some photos of a baby bee emerging from her cell (and she’s definitely a she because she’s coming out of a worker cell).
Once again, we are left crossing our fingers about one of our hives. I’m starting to think we should just keep them permanently crossed. 🙂
*Unrelated side note: For months, WordPress hasn’t let me italicize words, and now I can do it again. This makes no sense whatsoever.
I wanted steal a clever phrase from an Instagram photo and caption a picture of bee eggs with “Easter Eggs.” Unfortunately, though we saw a gratifying amount of capped brood and larvae, I didn’t get any photos of eggs.
And yet, I bring good tidings from our hive check.
Last time we saw the queen, she seemed apathetic and slow-moving, but today Her Royal Blueness was back to scurrying around the hive like she owns the place. (I was waiting for spell-check to change that to “palace,” but it never chimes in when you want it to.)
Also, there were more bees, many of them clearly young and very fuzzy (as you can see in the above picture).
I love how they look up at us from between the frames.
And lastly, there was a major increase in capped brood and larvae.
The only bad news was we also spotted some beetle larvae in a pollen patty we removed. Time to order the nematodes and quit supplementing with patties now the real stuff is coming in. We have two traps in each box, which helps, but the nematodes help break the life cycle of the beetles, preventing the larvae from developing.
To replace the hives that didn’t make it through the winter, we’ll be picking up a package of bees on Saturday from the same place we got our nuc last year — Grandpa’s Bee Farm. The man who runs this endeavor is a county bee inspector, and although the nuc didn’t survive the winter, we are trying again with his stock. We’re reasonably convinced the hives died because we weren’t able to keep up with treating them for Varroa through the winter. It was never warm enough to do so.
Also, we made the mistake of not doing a count of the nasties after we last treated them in October. If we had, we might have gone ahead and treated them again then.
We have to do better this year. It’s ridiculous to expend so much effort if we can’t do a better job of helping them survive the winter.
In other news, we’ve (I’ve) decided it’s time we change the hive name from California Girls to OH Girls since the only California girl left in the hive is the queen.
My apologies for the fuzziness of the picture below. I’ve included it so you see our girls are not exactly going gangbusters. By anyone’s standards, this is a weak hive.
When we checked them today, there were larvae and eggs. I’ve highlighted the eggs in the picture below (zoom in). The larvae are easy to spot.
Here’s some capped brood, a few larvae, and a hardworking forager bringing in some pollen.
In other bee news, The Engineer has made two swarm boxes in hope of catching a swarm this spring. He met an old beekeeper last year who told him how to go about it, but it was late in the season when he tried it, so we didn’t catch anything.
Some people bait the boxes with purchased lures, but our source said he always used lemon grass oil on a cotton swab and some frames of old comb, so that’s what’s in ours.
In theory, you know you’ve caught a swarm when you find the swab outside the box. Bees are fastidious about what they allow in their hive, and cotton swabs apparently don’t make the list.
We’ve got two boxes baited, and have seen several bees inspecting the accommodations, but they may just be interested in something that smells like free food.
It’s always a great day when you see the queen, but seeing her after months of snow and freezing temperatures … well, celebrations are in order.
We hit the upper 60s today, and finally the snow in our yard has completely melted. More importantly, it was warm enough to do a proper hive inspection which gave us the chance to spot Her Blueness.
If you look closely, you can see her blue marking has begun to wear, but she’s still lively, busily scurrying around laying eggs.
The proof is in the capped brood.
Also, I think I may have spotted larvae.
The Engineer is more dubious. It’s hard to be sure because it was on frames with yellow foundation.
When we started beekeeping, we were told black foundation was better because it’s easier to spot tiny white eggs against a dark background. This is true, and we generally stick to black. We ended up with few yellow frames only because my co-beekeeper was going past a bee supply place on his way home from a work trip. We needed frames. They had yellow. So here we are, trying to decide if I was seeing larvae or the yellow foundation at the bottom of the cell.
It’s hard to tell, isn’t it? So let’s take a closer look at those queen pictures. Look inside the highlighted circles.
Yup. That’s definitely larvae.
This doesn’t mean we’re in the clear, however. March is notoriously hard on bees in this area of the country, with little to no food available except for what they’ve stored.
Still, we will keep our fingers crossed and try to do everything right, including a second treatment of Oxalic acid tomorrow. We also put in some fresh pollen and sugar patties, as well as freshly baited beetle traps (because Hive Beetles LOVE pollen patties). The pollen patties will provide the protein needed for larvae, and sugar patties are backup carbs.
You can count on further updates.
But you don’t have to read them. 😉
In the meantime, I’ll be celebrating with a nice cuppa P.G.Tips.