Monthly Archives: September 2015

Long Live the Queens

I’m happy to believe things have settled here at Happy Florence Bees. It’s been a wild and crazy summer, especially with the queens.

On September 2, I made an unplanned inspection of a strong hive and discovered not only had the hive superceded their queen, but I opened the hive at the right moment to find two newly hatched virgin queens duking it out. Today I checked the split I made from that hive and both queens have mated and are just beginning to lay eggs. I hope to get a picture of the queens soon because they are HUGE.

The new queen in the smaller split is a bit skittish, and started running frantically when I pulled her frame. I gently led her back into the hive so I could check the frame for eggs, and after she reentered I HEARD HER PIPPING! I’ve never actually heard a queen making that distinctive sound. It’s a high-pitched pip. They’re the only bees that make a call. I wonder if she was calling for help because she was lost or because she felt threatened. Maybe she heard the tale┬áthat I carelessly squished a queen last month.

Just a week later, on September 9, I was apparently over-ambitious in my attempts to “manage” a hive They had an entire deep box of frames they weren’t using, so I removed it. At the same time, I put on a screened bottom board for better ventilation and to help control varroa mites. I guess they were happier with the extra space and preferred the darkness of the solid board and most of the hive took off the next day. I found a small clump of bees hanging under the entrance. They hung there overnight. The next day, Hial helped me shake them onto a sheet and I discovered the queen in that little clump. After trying to merge her little clump of bees with another hive, I ended up putting her in a push-in cage (a wire cage about 4-inches square) into a recently queenless hive. I left her in the cage for a full week and finally released her yesterday. The bees seem happy with her and so far she’s staying put.

I was concerned my other strong hive had also superceded their queen, but they haven’t and don’t have any queen cells started. She’s still laying well, so hopefully all eight hives will focus on getting ready for winter. Fortunately, they all have ample honey stores, with a little extra for me.

I’ll find out in about a month how the temperament of my queens’ brood is. Hopefully they found friendly drones and not mean ones.

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Timing is Everything

Like the time last summer when I walked out with a bag of trash just in time to see a hive swarming. Or this summer when I checked on a hive a week too late and discovered they’d absconded. But sometimes the timing is just right, like today.

I was doing some planned work on hive 5, rearranging brood to be in the same box, removing empty frames, and preparing the hive for varroa treatment later this week. I was pleased to discover that hive has more brood than I thought and plenty of honey stores, so they should be ready for winter.

It was such a pretty morning, so when I finished in that hive, I decided to check on hive 2. The last time I’d checked them, they had almost completely backfilled their top deep with honey in preparation for winter. At about 80 pounds, it was too heavy to lift, so I hadn’t checked the brood chamber. My goal this morning was to pull several deep frames of honey, but most of it was still uncapped and not ready to harvest. However, on one frame of drone comb, I found a capped queen cell. Odd. A deeper inspection was necessary.

First, I had to divide the honey frames so I could even lift the box, so I moved half of them to another box. In the bottom deep box, the first frame I pulled was an end frame and it had lots of capped brood. I also noticed a ball of bees that appeared to be fighting. I poked a little to separate them and discovered TWO QUEENS locked in mortal combat. They must have just hatched and went in search of each other for the battle to decide who would reign. I quickly separated them and moved one to a nuc in the back of the Gator and one to a frame from the hive body. I marked them both and split the hive, with half of the brood and honey for each.

I removed an older queen from a small, weak hive and put her in a nuc for safe keeping and replaced her with the capped cell from hive 2. If it doesn’t hatch, I can put the old queen back in.

So after the disasters of squashing a good queen, having a big hive abscond, and getting slammed with varroa mites, I’m back up to 9 hives plus a little nuc for emergencies. If I’d waited even an hour longer, I would have missed the queen battle and the opportunity to make a new hive. I don’t know what happened to the old queen in that hive. The population is too high for a swarm. This was her 2nd year, so maybe she was slowing down and the hive decided to replace her.

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