Last Monday, the 18th, I picked up a new virgin VSH queen from VPQueens in Frederick. I need a name for her that begins with a “V”!
Here she is in all her glory:
Can’t see her? Trust me, she’s in there. I kept her warm in the flap top of my scrubs as it was in the high 60’s and very windy and cloudy that day.
This is the nuc to which I added her. I took medium frames (since those were the only frames with capped brood available) from Melissa, the orange hive. These bees, as they emerge will not have been exposed to a queen at all, so adding a virgin should lead to a very quick acceptance. As the old adage goes: give the bees what they’re expecting. A queenless hive with loads of new bees (a.k.a. nurse bees) are waiting for a queen to care for and brood to tend. If you give them a virgin they will be extremely happy and do everything necessary to care for her and the as yet unlaid brood. This same day I took a frame of deep honey from Melissa and used it to replace a medium honey frame that was almost entirely consumed in 3 days. I made the nuc Friday and added the queen Monday.
I pushed a toothpick through the end as Adam, the breeder, advised. I used this toothpick to suspend the queen between 2 frames of still capped brood. I didn’t think I would have space but a little finagling worked.
Even when grabbing frames of capped brood, there were clearly eggs or very young larvae along the edges. This is the degree to which workers will build a queen cell in only three days, Friday to Monday. There were more on the other sides.
One of the larvae. I ended up scraping off about a dozen cells, I felt terrible because I knew how much the bees wanted (no, NEEDED) a queen. But it was less tragic knowing I was giving them one that would be laying quickly and would be a Varroa Hygienic queen. I double checked all of the frames to make sure I didn’t miss any queen cells. I even scraped off a couple of empty queen cups, I was a bit paranoid.
I checked the queen on Wednesday the 20th and she was released. I waited until today to check for eggs. It’s very hard to wait, but we must. I planned to move them into this hive as I won’t be able to check on them and I needed to know they have the extra room they MAY need. This hive is made up of extra parts I have. Very handy that it makes a sturdy nuc and then a transitional hive if needed.
Bees in the nuc, waiting to be transferred. Well, not really waiting as they didn’t know what was going to happen.
The bees are clustered on the bottom of this medium because they were ready to build comb off the bottom (it’s a medium frame in a deep nuc) I’m glad I caught them in time because I would have really disliked messing up worker brood.
The bees in their new home with the entrance reducer on the smallest setting. I shook out the rest of the bees left hanging in the nuc and then moved the nuc box away from the spot so they would stop going to it. At first I added a few pieces of clover and grass at the entrance to the new hive but then realized nobody would be leaving to forage, only returning. I expect the returning bees to do one of several things: 1. Return to their location find this box instead and go in, no problem. 2. Return, be confused, realize their home is gone and then beg their way back in (if they have pollen or nectar this will be easy). Guard bees realize that robbers don’t show up bearing gifts. 3. Return to the old hive location, find this instead, recognize their home pheromones and be able to go in without an issue because their own pheromones will match the home hive. Similar to number one above and I think this is what will actually happen. The returning foragers will smell “right” to the guard bees.
The bottom board is screened and setting it on a solid surface with a reduced entrance kind of defeats the purpose of a ventilated bottom. Since it’s over 100º here, I added some wood to provide cross ventilation from below.