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.