After the chickens came. We (really “I”) wanted chickens, so we got chickens. I suggested getting bees and Mr. P said “No!”
Lo and behold, some 8 months later he says to me “What do you think about getting bees?” I reminded him of his previous answer and like any good man said “I don’t remember that.” Turns out one of his co-workers, Peter, was a beekeeper and offered to make a nuc (short for nucleus). He also had some equipment he could bestow upon us and a friend that was getting out of beekeeping and ready to sell her equipment too. Well, how can you say no to that?
Beekeeping was added to chicken keeping.
A nuc consists of a couple of frames of brood (larvae), couple of frames of pollen and honey and one empty frame (to give the bees something to do). If you buy a nuc from a supplier, a queen comes with it and you need a queen to get more bees. If you make a split (essentially dividing a hive into two), the queen stays in one part and the other part is left queenless.
The division that is left queenless MUST HAVE EGGS for the workers to make a new queen. Peter and I made a nuc from his lovely bees but when it was delivered on June 5th it was quite obviously queenless. There were very few bees in the hive though they were not very aggressive which a queenless hive can be. No queen means no new bees which means that the old ones dying (bees live 4-6weeks in the summer) are not being replaced. This is BAD. So we went back to his place and made another nuc, I was home by 10:30 that morning with a nuc box in my car. Peter had dumped a slew of bees into the nuc box and we were not watching for the queen. So that afternoon I just had to check the new nuc to see whether I had Peter’s queen and if not then at least eggs from which the bees would make a new queen. I did not have the queen but I found eggs, lovely, lovely eggs. They look like very small grains of rice and are a translucent white. Beautiful.
Now the story divides, old nuc and new nuc:
The old nuc (now in an orange hive box) was queenless. I really wanted to have 2 hives for various reasons, least of all for situations like this. You have a problem in one hive? Pull help from the stronger one. Anyway, my quest to save this hive began and I was not feeling optimistic. After what seemed like a million calls, I got a queen from a local breeder, Marc Hoffman. I met another one of his customers, Hank, and he has been a good person to share some of this story with. Plus Hank has 2, now 3, of his queens from Marc and they are all doing well. I like that they’re local queens.
I introduced her the 11th of June, she was caged since the 8th and was kind of small. On the 12th Peter and I went to his hive and dumped out a bunch of bees (that was interesting) and I added them in a newspaper combine. I checked on the 13th and the queen had noticeably plumped up so they were obviously feeding her. I released her the 13th and did a few checks until the 24th and saw no evidence of her or of eggs/larvae/brood. So I went in this past Saturday fully expecting to do a combine of the self-queening nuc and the queenless hive. Well, what a surprise!
I hadn’t completely given up on the hive but I had arranged to pick up a nuc this upcoming weekend to fulfill my quest for 2 hives. I guess I won’t need that! There were 2.5 frames with brood on them, most were quite small, likely due to the small number of bees available to care for them when she started laying. Some bees forage and some nurse.
The new nuc had queen cells built out within a week and I tore one when I was checking for them 😦 But there were at least 3-4 cells present. If they used 3 day old larvae then she should have emerged June 17th or 18th. She hardens up for a few days, orients, makes her mating flights over several days, returns to the hive and waits about 5 days for her ovaries to mature and then starts laying. So according to Bee Math, she would start laying about July 4th weekend. We were on vacation and so I waited until the 9th and 10th to do my first inspection.
Within a week, they had drawn out a sheet of 5.1mm wax foundation I had given them and they had this on July 10th: