This afternoon, I prepared hives one and five for their new queens, which both arrived safely by UPS over the past two days. Our delivery driver, Lynn, was not too excited about having bees in his truck and both times, when we opened to the package to make sure the queens were alive, he said, “don’t let them out!”
Hive five has no early-stage larva and not many bees because they lost their queen. We carefully went over all the frames again to make sure, but all the signs point to a hopelessly queenless hive – no queen and no way to raise a new one. The next step was to get rid of all the laying workers. There aren’t many, based on the small number of drones, but having any without a queen present confuses them into thinking the queen is there and they’ll try to kill any new queen I introduce.
The laying workers are younger bees rather than foragers, which means they haven’t ventured outside the hive. We took the hive body to the next pasture, about 100 yards from the hive. There, I shook all the bees off the frames. After really bruising my hand by whacking the frames to shake the bees loose, I realized the tree would work much better. The foragers will fly back to the hive, but the young laying workers won’t return because they can’t find their way back. After just a little while, the foragers were returning and a clump of young bees remained on the tree. I feel horrible to force them out, but there weren’t many solutions if the hive is going to survive.
There were only 4 frames with capped brood ready to hatch soon, which are remaining from the split a few weeks ago. I put one in a hive body with a few empty frames with drawn comb. The foragers will return and the brood will hatch soon, ready to work in the hive.
On top of the mostly-empty hive body, I put another deep box with the remaining capped brood, and added a frame of open brood and eggs from hive three, along with two frames of bees to care for the brood. I stapled paper between the two boxes. Over the next few days, the bees will chew through the paper, getting used to each other as they do. I used this paper-merging method last spring and it worked very well. Some people use a fancy double-screen board, but I don’t have one and paper is cheap.
The last thing on my list of things to do before the queens can go in was to remove the queen from hive one. Easy to do since she’s quite large and marked with a bright yellow dot. I’ll keep her with some attendants in a screened jar until I know the new queen has been accepted.