It’s always a relief when you look in a hive and see this.
Look at that beautiful light comb. Notice the larvae — of every size — and eggs too!
These photos were taken Wednesday. We checked LoLa and checked/split #5. There were lots of larvae and eggs in both, so I’m not sure which hive is in the photos above.
We relieved to see many eggs in LoLa. When we last checked, the mother bee didn’t seem to be doing much. We rearranged the frames in case she felt crowded, and added a few brood frames from another hive to give LoLa a little boost.
Working with a horizontal Langstroth hive is slightly different from a regular (vertical) Langstroth. In a vertical hive, the frames are arranged with the brood in the middle and pantry frames on the outside, adding additional boxes as the hive expands upward. In a Long Langstroth, there is just one long layer of frames, so the beekeeper has to make sure there is open comb near the brood frames for the queen to move to.
Perhaps we hadn’t left her that space because she is quickly filling the frames we moved. The worker bees have also started foraging. There was plenty of food, so we took out the feeder.
When we split into that hive, it got the queen, brood, and mostly nurse bees, so we’d been feeding them until the young bees transitioned to foragers, which now seems to have happened.
Concensus: LoLa is doing well.
The #5 hive was one of two we hadn’t yet split. With loads of brood and larvae, as well as eggs, it was going gangbusters! They had also built numerous fresh queen cups, all of them on the bottom of a frame.
Our bees seem to like to build queen cups, and there’s always a few in each hive, so we don’t generally worrry when we see them. But, in such a full hive, with the the amount of drone brood we were seeing, it’s likely these queen cups were built to be used to raise a queen.
As you may have realized by now, there are no hard and fast rules about honey bee behavior. However, queen cells on the bottom of a frame tend to mean the hive is planning to swarm. And although the cells were still cups and not actual queen cells (yet), we prefer to split before they reach that point.
Why? Because if a beekeeper finds a capped queen cell, that means the cell is at least 8 days old. Generally the primary swarm of a hive takes place when the first queen cell is capped. So, if a beekeeper finds a capped queen cell s/he needs to act quickly (immediately) if they want to (try to) prevent a swarm.
You do this by making a split — taking the old queen and some frames of bees to create a new hive. Theoretically, the old hive will then not swarm because they don’t have a queen to swarm with.
There’s a lot of math involved in queen rearing/beekeeping. The size and stage of the eggs, larvae, and cells can tell us much — if we have a queen, how recently we had a queen, if the hive might swarm, when that swarm might happen. If you’d like more details, Michael Bush explains it better than I ever could.
Math is not my strong point, so I had to keep looking it all up.
“How long before an egg becomes a larva?” I’d ask duckduckgo.
“How many days before a bee emerges from under its cap?” I’d type.
“How long does it take to raise a queen?” I just could not remember!
Then, I found these Bee Math cards at Girl Next Door Honey. I was so taken I bought three of them — one for us, and one each for two of our beekeeper friends.
Ours is taped to my “Bee Book” — the notebook where I record what we do and find when when we inspect hives — and I swear I look at that thing at least once a day.
And, no, I don’t get anything for mentioning them.
Anyway, we try to avoid swarms by preemptively splitting our hives when they start getting full, before they build queen cells, and the situation becomes urgent.
That’s why we split #5 this week. Another beekeeper friend now has a split with lots of bees, brood, and larvae of every age, but no queen. She can choose to either buy a queen or let them raise one.
We now have a less crowded hive that probably (hopefully) won’t swarm.
This sort of segues into today’s task. You see, when we split #2 and #1, we moved the queens into the split, and left the old hive to raise a new one from the eggs/larvae we left them.
And, when I say “left,” I mean “left.” We don’t go into a hive when it’s trying to raise a queen until at least a month after the split. It’s a delicate process, and we don’t take any chances that we might somehow mess it up.
Knowing most of the foragers would return to the location of the original (now queenless) hive, we fed the splits with the queens. Checking in on them every week or so, we didn’t remove the food until we were sure they had enough foragers to thrive without our help.
When we split #4 and #5, we kept the old queens in the original hives, mostly because we didn’t want to have to wait for two more queens to be reared. The hive that keeps the queen keeps the original number; the hive left to rear a new queen gets an “A” added to the number.
Before we move on, here’s another picture from #5A. I always laugh when the bees line up on a frame looking up as if they’re wondering what the hell we’re doing now.
The ugly propolis-adorned thing on the left is a Beetle Jail. You can’t see all of it in the picture, but there’s an inner cavity for bait — that’s the tab you see toward the bottom. There are two reservoirs on either side (you can only see one) for oil. The beetles are attracted to the bait and then captured in the oil. There are othere means of trapping hive beetles, but this is the only one we’ve found that works for us.
Now, we move onto the exciting part! Today was a Big Day because we could finally (finally!) look in 2A!
The girls there were a little flighty, buzzing us quite a lot, and the hive was very full. Definitely a good sign.
First we saw the larvae. Yes! We had a queen!
Then we found eggs! She had been laying within the last three days (more bee math).
And then, and then, there she was! Our beautiful new golden queen.
Can you find her in the picture below, with only her abdomen showing?
How about here, when her body is twisted?
Okay, I’ll make it easy. I know you can find her in the last picture!
And next week, we’ll be able to check #1A to see if they’ve been equally successful. With any luck, all our hives will then be queen right, and we can move on to other duties, like treating for Varroa.
Until then, I’ll leave you with a (slightly blurry) photo of a fuzzy baby bee.