New Queens and New Challenges

Around the end of April, I discovered hive one had swarmed, even after I split it in early April. I had about 8 capped queen cells, so I made an even split between the two hives and ordered mated queens to replace whatever queen each hive hatched. Since I had no expectation of any new eggs for a couple of weeks while the virgin queens waited for their mating flight, I left the hives alone to forage for nectar and pollen. This week, my queens are due to arrive and I’m beginning to prepare for their arrival.

I  checked hive one. From the outside, they are quite busy: lots of pollen going in and plenty of activity at the entrance. Inside the hive, there are lots of bees: much more than in hive five, despite being the other half of an even split. It didn’t take long to discover evidence of a laying queen. There is plenty of uncapped larva on several frames. Then, I saw the new queen and she’s huge. I wish I could let her stay, but that’s what I did last year with hive two and it did not turn out well (remember the angry hive?) There are too many Africanized colonies in Central Texas to allow queens to mate naturally. So, I carefully caught her in a queen clip and marked her with a dab of bright yellow enamel, which will make her easier to locate in a few days when a replacement mated queen arrives. I wish I had pictures, but I was working solo and it’s not possible to catch and mark a queen AND take pictures , all while wearing the necessary gear.

Hive five is a different story. From the outside, there are only a few bees going in and out. I looked in hive five for the queen Tuesday, but saw no sign of her, although there is a smattering of uncapped larva. I checked again Wednesday, but still didn’t find the queen. Somebee has been laying, otherwise there would be no larva at all. Since her twin in hive one is very large, I would expect the queen in this hive to be just as big and bright (light brown abdomen with no stripes). Then I saw something odd: a worker bee wandering around, dropping the tip of her abdomen into a cell as if laying an egg. Then, I saw another bee do the same thing. Uh oh. Laying workers and no queen. For whatever reason, the queen raised in this hive appears to be gone. I started doing research on how to introduce a queen to a laying-worker hive and learned that if I try to put in a new queen, the bees will kill her because they think they already have a queen based on the pheromones from the laying workers. That means, I have to get rid of the laying workers before I can introduce a new queen. It’s not a terrible process – not like shaking down and requeening the angry hive a month ago. There aren’t as many bees in this hive and they are quite calm.

I’ll continue looking for a queen in hive five and shine a light into the empty cells to see if they have the tell-tale evidence of laying workers, who lay multiple eggs in a cell. If I still can’t find the queen by Friday, by which time I will have both mail-order queens, I will have to shake all the bees out in the grass so the laying workers will be removed. The foragers will return because they can fly and there are still unhatched bees in a number of frames, but the laying workers will not be able to return to the hive because they’re younger and not flying yet. I’ll also take at least one frame on uncapped brood from one of my strong hives, then introduce the new queen.



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