[Looking over my shoulder] Not me… right?
I bought the VSH queen (Queen Vivienne) with the intent to requeen Melissa (my orange hive). When I checked the queen’s status ONE WEEK after intro I found a ton of swarm cells. So to hopefully avoid a swarm, I pulled her back out into another nuc. When I did that, I did it with the expectation and hope that Melissa would make a queen with the swarm cells. Today, we went in to both Melissa and Demeter to check their winter prep and look for the new queen (and THIS is why you have two…so that you understand the difference).
For a new beekeeper, seeing the number of bees in Melissa, they may have thought everything was okay because there were quite a number of bees. But if they were to compare the hives SOLELY on the number of bees, when that new beekeeper went into Demeter, they would understand the difference. Because the difference was marked. Two hives folks; if you can do it, at least two hives.
The minute we went into Melissa, we knew something was wrong. I happened to watch the hives yesterday and saw a significant difference between the two hives via the entrance traffic. Today just confirmed it. There were no larvae, there was only capped brood and that looked older (the cappings were dark and there was little of that). Can I just tell you that I POURED over those frames, willing the eggs into existence!!!!!! But no such luck. The hive was very clearly queenless. Thirty-seven days without a queen (July 13th I pulled out Queen Vivienne). The average life span of worker bees during the summer is 4-6 weeks. Because of various issues I haven’t been able to get in there sooner to check the hive, so the bees in there are on their last breath. I may end up feeding them just to keep them going. Remember what I said about trying not to feed them? As they say, the best laid plans… Though I do have frames from Demeter that I could use, I am unwilling to weaken one just to strengthen the other. Bring on the sugar syrup!
We pulled off frames that were minimally filled, uncapped and just taking up space in a mostly unused super. A tell-tale clue that something is wrong (ignoring the lack of bees) is the larvae that were in the pollen cells in an essentially empty super (folks, larvae does not belong IN pollen cells). Clearly either hive beetle or wax moth larvae (that frame is now in the freezer to kill the larvae).
I ended up doing an emergency hive combine using newspaper with the nuc. I have to say it’s handy to have a queen available. I put the nuc on top of Melissa; looks like Queen Vivienne will rule the roost of Melissa after all.
As for Demeter, they were okay with the inspection until we got to the deeps. The sheer number of bees tells you they are doing way better than Melissa. They had stores, larvae and eggs (had to check twice for those). I just read something that stated the queen will normally slow down her laying to just a few hundred eggs a day either during a dearth or as they approach winter. This is exactly what we found in Demeter.
Poor hubby got stung twice. After not seeing eggs through several frames, I went back and checked again and finally found them. My relief was audible. But let me tell you, so were the bees! Talk about buzzing and head-butting and all out pissed-offness. They weren’t kidding when they said honey bees get meaner at the end of a season: there’s nothing for them to forage (comparatively at least) and they need to defend what they have.
After moving the nuc, I went back to its old spot and found returning foragers loaded with yellow and red pollen (I wonder what the red pollen is?). I scooped them up and carried them over, dumping them in front of Melissa. I did that three times and then I didn’t see any more foragers from Avalon. I’ll check again tomorrow. The foragers I scooped up were dumped in front of a hive they don’t belong to (yet) but since those Avalon foragers were carrying pollen, the Melissa guard bees will very likely let them in. Remember, robbers don’t come bearing gifts.
I’ll keep you posted.