Sunday, July 7, 2019

My Bees are Confusing Me

After splitting the colony about a month ago, and making sure there were queen cells in the second half, I left them alone for a while to settle themselves out. Today it's gorgeous outside, 70's and clear, so I went to go check on them. To my chagrin there was no evidence of a queen. There were some workers, and they were making honey like crazy, but there were also a lot of drones and very rare cells with larvae. Since workers can lay eggs but can only make drones, it's a good bet that without a queen the colony will die off.

I don't have the time to get a new queen and put it in right now, as we're going away for a bit, but after a chat with my husband it made sense to see if the other colony, which was full to the gills again inside the hive, might be thinking about swarming again. That way, if I found a queen cell or two, I could move them into the second hive. I got my combiner board prepped with newspaper (the two colonies stay separated until they adapt to each others' pheromones and then they eat through the paper to combine themselves). Then I went into the main hive. My first look in showed that there was comb all the way to the back and there were gaps so the bees were hanging out above the combs and had sealed the cover on. Once I pried to cover off, I was faced with hundreds of bees just sitting on the top of the hive. I still needed to get into it, though.

In order to do so, I had to bring out my nuc box because otherwise I had no room to move comb around to see anything. There was one comb, in the middle of the hive, which I could access easily so I pulled that one out and put it in the nuc box. Then I started inspecting and basically annoying all the bees. They lashed out at me a couple of times, whenever my smoker petered out, so I would be frantically trying to relight my smoker while surrounded by angry bees. I did get stung once, on my knee, through my suit. But otherwise it was fairly okay. Intimidating, but okay.

What I found was plenty of brood cells and LOTS of honey. So much so that I didn't take out the last few combs because I didn't want to disrupt them any further and there was no evidence at all of queen cells. So, despite there being probably way more bees than the space could accommodate, they didn't seem like they were going to leave.

Ultimately I moved 4 combs with a lot of brood cells into the second hive, with the combiner board in between. This is the confusing part - I never did see Beeyoncé but as soon as I put two of the four combs in, the bees started to fan, suggesting she was there. I took the combs back out and looked again but didn't see her.

So. Either Beeyoncé is now in the second hive and they will be requeened by this, which would require the original hive to make an emergency queen, or she's in the original hive and hopefully the second colony can make an emergency queen. With luck, by the time I can get in there again, if I find either hive is queenless I can get a new one before the end of July.

Lastly, I think I will start to transition them over to Langstroths. Top bar hives are supposed to be easier but it's much harder to prevent swarms this way than with the Langstroth. Plus I am considering getting a flow hive box for the top to make the honey extraction easier since I wouldn't be getting involved with a centrifuge to extract honey. 

1 comment:

  1. Good Lord! It's a complicated science and hard for a non-bee person to understand! Good luck especially with a new queen.

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