Happy Bee Day

Today is my husband’s birthday, so happy b-day to him. And it’s a happy bee day for me. It’s been a very busy spring for the bees and me. I’ve merged weak hives and split four strong hives.

At the beginning of April, I split my sweet hive, moving the queen and half the hive to a new location and leaving eggs in the other half for them to raise a new queen. Five days later they had several queen cells formed. I checked again April 27, and there were no eggs yet, but lots of drones wandering around. Just in case their first attempt at a queen was unsuccessful, I gave them a fresh frame of eggs from their mother hive. I checked again today and found new larva and eggs. They raised a queen and she made it through her mating flight successfully. I’ll know in a few weeks if her brood has the calm demeanor of the mother hive. I also split my three strongest hives and bought new queens.

I bought the queens from R Weaver Apiaries in Navasota, Texas through the Williamson County Area Beekeeping Association. I was able to get them for a good price and didn’t have to pay shipping. These are the first clipped queens I’ve bought, which means one of their wings are clipped short.

The splits went well. I moved pollen, honey, and frames of brood in various stages to new deep hive bodies and placed them over queen excluders on their mother hives so plenty of nurse bees would be in the boxes when it was time to move them.

Pulling frames of brood for a split.

Pulling frames of brood for a split.

Plenty of bees to move to a new hive.

Plenty of bees to move to a new hive.

Hive bodies are placed over queen excluders until time to move.

Hive bodies are placed over queen excluders until time to move.

On April 24, the day before queens were delivered, I moved all three splits to their new locations. The candy in the queen cages was really too soft, a problem recognized by R Weaver and the organizers, but there wasn’t much that could be done about it. The danger was that the candy could melt over the queen or the hive could eat through it too quickly and release her before she’d been accepted. My solution was to leave the cork over the candy end for a couple of days so the hives could have time to adjust to her scent. Also, instead of hanging the queen cages vertically with the candy over the queen, I attached the back of the cage to a small piece of cardboard and suspended the cages horizontally so the candy would be at the side rather than above or below the queen in her cage.

Queen in her cage meeting her new hive.

Queen in her cage meeting her new hive.

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Cardboard holding the cage horizontally between frames.

Saturday and Sunday were warm and humid, not good conditions for soft candy. When I went to remove the corks from the cages Monday morning, I discovered one queen dead, apparently stuck in the candy. The other two queens were still alive though, so I removed the corks. A few days later they had both been successfully freed from their cages.

Three new hives make nine for Happy Florence Bees.

Three new hives make nine for Happy Florence Bees.

For my queenless split, I needed eggs so they could raise their own queen. I went back to my sweet hive and found a frame of fresh eggs so tiny I needed a magnifying glass to see them. Perfect for emergency queen raising. I brushed off the bees and quickly moved it to the queenless hive. I checked my three splits today and was pleased to see the new queens as well as fresh eggs. For both of those hives, I added a second deep hive body so they’ll have room to expand. My third split has many queen cells on the donated frame. They’re not capped yet, so I’ll leave them alone until close to the end of May.

This has been a great spring for my Apiary so far. I have nine hives, most with pleasant demeanor. I have new queens laying in their hives. And I seem to have avoided any swarming. I haven’t seen any new attempts in my strong hives to start queen cells since I split them. They have ample space to expand and their queens from last year are still laying well. I will probably have to replace them next spring to keep the hives strong.

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