Status check

Checked hives on Sunday: Pink hive still no queen, not unhappy. Gave them a frame of eggs from the Aqua hive. Need to check the frame for queen cells on Friday or Saturday.

Aqua hive still has the blue queen, doing very nicely.

Two mating nucs robbed out, no queens though nicely exited queen cells…sigh. VERY difficult to have small nucs near the big hives when there’s a dearth.

Gave the nuc a few more frames and expanded their space into one of the failed mating nucs.

Orange hive: hopelessly queenless. Was hopeful when I saw larvae until I realized it was drone brood. Kept checking cells until I found what I was looking for: several eggs in one cell and eggs on sides of cell. SIGH…. Letting this one go. I knew I would have to steal brood from the other two hives to make a nuc for the new Carniolan queen coming on Monday and I didn’t want to weaken my hives any further by boosting a failing laying worker hive. Done with this one.

Purple hive–doing fine, needs more food.

Monday, made up a nuc and picked up the queen. Kept her in my closet. Added her Tuesday night, no queen cells on the brood frames. Will check Friday for queen cells and make sure it’s not robbed out. Will open the worker space to allow interaction with queen on a minimal basis. Crossing fingers!!

We all make mistakes

Foolish, foolish woman. I managed to get through 3 hives on Saturday (digging very deeply: marking queens, cleaning propolis and burr comb from frames, etc.) before I had a visitor in my veil that told me I FORGOT TO ZIPPER THE VEIL TO MY JACKET!!! I’ll get to that in a minute. There aren’t many pictures because of that as well.

I was on a mission to clean the frames and make them easier to put back in the hives; cleaning the burr comb off the sides of the topbars helps to prevent any extra bee squishing. The bees neither like to be squished, nor do they like to have their frames scraped. I was asking for it.

We searched through the Aqua hive several times in an effort to find and mark the queen only to discover that she was already MARKED!! The Aqua hive has a 2014 queen. Wrong hive Anna… Then I remembered it was the Pink hive that had a new queen. That took some digging and searching but my hubby found her. It was this hive that reminded me I hadn’t zipped my veil down. I marked the new queens with a bright blue color. I use these pens which are easy to find: http://elmers.com/product/detail/W7571

Nice bright blue, should be easier to find her now. I prefer my queens marked because it lets me know whether the queen has been replaced.

Nice bright blue, should be easier to find her now. I prefer my queens marked because it lets me know whether the queen has been replaced.

Overall, we got quite a bit done and thankfully, I had anticipated it being a looong inspection. We were in the hives almost 3 hours. We managed to clean almost all of the frames in the Pink hive (bottom box 3 frames on the right still need to be cleaned). We condensed the Aqua hive to 2 deeps and took out empty frames. We marked the queens in the Pink hive and Orange hive. I spotted a bee with deformed wing so I may be doing a spring mite treatment. I should do a varroa sugar roll during my next inspection. I added medium foundationless frames to the top deep hive bodies to use for drone trapping as part of the IPM method for mite-control. The bees will draw drone comb on these frames and I can just cut it out. They will also build drone comb on the bottom of the frame because of the space left by a medium frame in a deep hive body. I’ll show you a picture when they’ve done it.

I colored the top of the frames pink to help me identify them more quickly. I had writtent the word "drone" on a frame and it has all but disappeared from the propolis, burr comb and constant foot traffic from the bees.

I colored the top of the frames pink to help me identify them more quickly. I had written the word “drone” on a frame and it has all but disappeared due to the propolis, burr comb and constant foot traffic from the bees.

On April 11th, I had moved the Purple hive queen over to the Orange hive and the Purple hive made queen cells, as planned. There were A LOT. So we moved 2 frames of capped queen cells into 2 nucs (one frame per nuc) and a frame of pollen/honey for food into each, the remainder of the queen cells remained in the Purple hive. The nucs were also each given a drawn frame and a frame of wax foundation. I’ll leave those queen cells to hatch, let the surviving queen mate and check back in a couple of weeks. The queens should emerge Saturday April 25. I would check for eggs starting May 2nd. My only concern is that the nights are cool right now (in the 30’s) and I hope it’s not going to be a problem for the developing queens.

Aqua and Pink had anywhere from 6-8 frames of brood, Orange had 4 or 5, it was most impressive. Several times I looked at frames and thought they were empty only to discover they were covered in eggs. It was insane. I’ll probably make 2 more nucs as mediums rather than deeps as the beekeepers in our area seem to be shifting to mostly mediums for the hive bodies.

Overall plan:
1. Do sugar rolls during next inspection
2. Make 2 more nucs (maybe)
3. This week I will need to add honey supers as the dandelions have started to bloom- DONE on Tuesday 4/21

As for the veil…as I proceeded to piss-off the Pink hive even more by continuing to clean frames despite their increasingly grumpy disposition, I heard a buzz that was way too close. I realized I had a bee in with me and figured I would just kill it. Well, then I looked down and realized the veil was not zippered to my jacket and suddenly I heard WAY more buzzing. CRAP! I had at least 10 bees in there and I walked quickly away from the hives (mind you I had just marked their queen and she was still sitting outside drying), I frantically tried to get the veil and jacket off. As I pulled it off the buzzing lessened somewhat until I realized I had at least 3 bees caught in my hair. Now, for those who are unaware, bees do not like being trapped. And if they feel entangled they will swiftly sting whatever is trapping them as a defense mechanism. Well, I bent over and was desperately trying to comb them out with my fingers only to feel them and hear them getting closer to my scalp–you have to understand that scalp stings are especially bad because there’s no “flesh” and so the venom will spread from the top of your head all the way down to your neck and face, it’s not pretty–I finally decided I was going to kill them instead and proceeded to slap them against my head and slap my hair between my hands. I succeeded for the most part. From getting my jacket and veil off to finally killing them, I ended up with only 2 stings: one right on the dead center of my neck and one under my shoulder blade. Not too bad when you think of it. I ran into the house, downed 800mg of Ibuprofen, put on another veil and shirt and went back out, less than 2 minutes is my guess. Thankfully my husband had put the queen back in the hive and had closed them up. Later on he said he watched me as I ran from the hives and when he saw the clothing start to come off he figured he better proceed with the hives…smart fella.

I later got a third sting (on my scalp, thank you very much) when I moved a frame that was left out by the Pink hive. I was like a magnet for the guard bees of the Pink hive, the INSTANT they saw me they actually LAUNCHED themselves at me. Anyway, I was stung but I must have kept the venom sac from pumping because I barely had a reaction. I actually combed a couple of dead bees out of my hair later on. What’s interesting is how you can easily read the “mood” of the bees. It becomes more than obvious when they’ve had enough of you, but you have to be smart enough to listen. Oh well. Nothing Benadryl and Ibuprofen can’t take care of.

ACK!

The black locust has started to bloom and the bees are going nuts. We have been extremely fortunate to have remarkable weather: most days have been sunny with temperatures in the 80’s and below. A little rain to supply the plants and the reservoir, the vegetables and fruits.

I had added honey supers a few weeks ago and the bees had diligently started filling them up, drawing out the foundationless frames.

But when I saw my first black locust bloom last Wednesday and then progressively more black locust, I knew I needed to check the hives this weekend and man, was  I right! Oh my gosh, what was supposed to be a full inspection turned into a rapid honey super check with a mad dash to add supers and frames.

There were unassembled frames I was able to put together on Saturday, but I had to drive down to Jim’s on Sunday morning to get more supers and even more frames. A friend and I assembled frames and supers, I put small-cell foundation in the deep frames while she was given creative license to paint the supers at will. She seemed to enjoy that and I loved how many supers and frames we put together: 3 supers and one deep box, 40-50 medium foundationless frames and 30 deep frames. And everything was painted! What a relief, a crazy and productive weekend.

But I haven’t even updated you on the nuc! After aborting full hive inspections I wanted to look at the nucs. Hoping but not expecting to find queens, I pulled a frame out and hot-damn, found eggs! Also found the queen and marked her with a neon green dot.

Checked the other nuc, it still hadn’t built out one of the frames, whereas the other had biult out all of the frames. I wasn’t sure about it but when I pulled it out…eggs! Then I found that queen and marked her as well. Four strong hives and 2 good nucs!

I think I’m going to donate a nuc to a local nature center if they need it, otherwise, I may sell them. This may be a nice way to offset the costs of beekeeping, selling a few nucs every spring. This is an expensive hobby but I have to say, I just love it.

Making nucs and swarm prevention

Starting at the end of April into early May, I heard about swarms occurring in my area and though I kept expecting to find them I had not seen swarm cells in the orange hive, Melissa. That hive is the stronger one and I used it’s brood to donate to the purple hive. Obviously, by taking away some of the brood, I weakened the hive a bit and kept it from strengthening enough to make swarm preparations.

After donating brood for a few weeks to the purple hive, I received a message from Peter (the one who started me on beekeeping) asking me if my hives were strong enough to make a nuc for him. Turns out his lovely, strong hive died in Wisconsin. As it was located on the grounds of a monastery he didn’t get to check it as often and it appeared the hive’s entrance was completely covered with snow. Thankfully, he asked me in early April and was planning to be in my area in early May, so I had time to plan. I watched the hives and monitored their status; though I knew I wasn’t making the nuc with Demeter, the purple hive, I had to make sure it was strengthening enough without more added brood which would allow Melissa to build up some more before I used it for a nuc. I have to say, making a nuc out of a very strong hive takes a long time with one person, I was in there a good hour but I also moved frames and condensed the brood.

Deep nuc box, waiting for bees

Deep nuc box, waiting for bees

Queen waiting safely in the queen catcher, to make sure she doesn't go into the nuc too

Queen waiting safely in the queen catcher, to make sure she doesn’t go into the nuc too


I added a frame of pollen, a frame of honey and brood, an empty frame for them to work on, a frame of eggs and a frame of mixed brood. Hopefully they successfully make a queen.

As to the state of the hive in general: Both hives kept their brood facing inward toward the middle of the hive stand. It clearly was less windy there and easier to maintain brood temps. Unfortunately the brood was going straight up to the top of the hive and I needed to keep the queen down and at least make her use more of the space down there. I shifted all of the brood downward that I could and condensed it. I have a suspicion I’ll be moving some more frames around.

I plan to increase my hive numbers to four at most (we’ll see how that goes!), I think I’ll be making nucs as a matter of course to keep them from swarming. I’m remembering reading about another technique, where you purposefully end up with a temporarily queenless hive and because there’s no brood the workers focus on honey production. Hmmm, I may try that.

The bees have decided…

That I apparently, need to have 3 hives. It’s amazing what has happened in the past week: I added the nuc with the VSH queen (Queen Vivienne, do you like the name?) in a newspaper combine on Sunday July 8th with Melissa. On July 8th, I first looked for the old queen (Queen Maria) two times, I finally found her and removed her into my queen marking cage with plunger. I set the cage under the pine tree to help keep her cool, there were about 3-4 attendants in there. I went on to look at Demeter, saw Queen Penelope and the hive looked really good though the bottom deep was essentially empty.

Two deeps, 3 mediums and a shallow. The bottom deep was empty, the shallow had some wonky frames and the mediums were loaded with honey.

We harvested some frames of honey from Demeter on two separate inspections (Demeter is the stronger hive) and can I just tell you that the foundationless frames worked like a DREAM!!! I had a hard plastic spatula and all we did was go around the edges with the spatula and the whole thing dropped into the bucket. We put the empty frame back in the hive. It was perfect. As for the plastic frames, that was a pain. Since you know I don’t really want to use an extractor, I just used the same spatula to scrape off the comb with honey, and that was really messy. We saved several bees that ended up stuck in the honey bucket. By the way, that 4 gallon bucket was free. I called my local grocery store and spoke to the bake shop. I asked them if they had any empty frosting/fondant buckets and I picked it up on the way home from work! It has a handle and a lid and it’s food grade plastic.

Still on July 8th, after harvesting the frames I returned them to Demeter for the bees to clean up. When we were done with Demeter, I went back to Melissa to merge it with the nuc (with the new queen). We opened her up and placed two layers of newspaper on top. Why two? Since they had JUST had their queen and were queenless for a short time (less than an hour) I thought adding extra protection may work better. I cut a tiny-tiny slit in 2 corners of the bottom paper, and then the same thing at opposite corners of the top paper.

The VSH queen with her open brood on top, the old hive below. I used a double layer of newspaper. Just in case

I didn’t see much paper outside on the ground over the subsequent week and figured these bees just did what the bees did last year: made a small hole and just kept going in and out of the small hole. Boy, was I wrong:

On July 13th.

I managed to spot the new queen, big, golden and beautiful: I marked her with the new, non-terrifying queen marking cage and it worked just fine. I managed to mark her again after I freed her because I find the cage doesn’t hold her still, just limits her escape. The one advantage could see to the British queen marking cage is that the spikes go all around and if you use wax as your foundation, you can plunge the spikes down as far as necessary to keep her immobile without squishing.

Queen Vivienne, my VSH queen

But gosh darn it…guess what I saw during the brief inspection on July 13th? Queen cells. Oh so many queen cells. At first I thought they were superceding Queen Vivienne but as we looked on other frames there were other queen cells, probably over a dozen and we didn’t even look at all of the frames. Oiy (I seem to write that a lot). There were also a ton of bees, I mean a TON. I saw only one frame that was undrawn. With many queen cells, essentially no empty frames for them to expand into and loads of bees, they had swarm prep written all over them. You know the adage, “A swarm in May…”

What to do, what to do? I just kept hearing in my head all of the other advice I’ve read: “If I see queen cells, I pull them into a nuc and make a split.” But if they’re swarming I don’t want to lose my new VSH queen, I just got her! Plus I don’t know how long the VSH trait remains expressed through the generations. How many daughters later do I need to replace the queen? I need to ask Adam. So to hopefully prevent a swarm, I pulled out Queen Vivienne, put her into a nuc with 3 frames mixed of pollen, honey and brood. I didn’t worry about getting brood because there is a laying queen in there. I added 2 undrawn foundation frames. I did shake in about 3-4 frames of bees but I couldn’t use the frames that had a good mass of bees because those frames had active queen cells and if you shake a queen cell you can really damage the developing larva. Don’t want to do that! So I got what I could. At least Melissa now has the ability to make a queen, I still have the Queen Vivienne and she’ll keep laying.

Queen Vivienne, back in the nuc. Oh, for heavens sake! I’m moving this  into a deep hive box. I already have all of the trappings for another small hive: screened bottom board, screened top, outer cover. So, three hives it is.

Back to Queen Maria: I went back to her under the tree and found a slew of bees on her cage. Poor things they just wanted their queen. I started to take her toward the house (I planned to keep her in the utility room until I figured out what to do with her) when I noticed the workers LEAVING the mesh. I started thinking “Uh oh” (this is how slow I can be sometimes) “If they’re coming out now, then that means they’ll come out later when they’re in the house…that’s not good.” I also happened to notice at this time that there were many, many more bees in the cage with her than I added originally. Holy crap they had crawled in there with her! There were about 20 workers in there! Could you even imagine what would have happened in the house as they came out? Ugh. So I got a piece of cheese cloth and a rubber band, covered the mesh with the cheese cloth and I think there was adequate air supplied. I gave them a big smear of honey on Sunday and Monday and when I went to check them Wednesday, [sob] I found the queen and one attendant dead. The others were very sluggish. Do you think there wasn’t enough air or food? I felt soooooooooooo horrible. I had planned to go into the hive on Wednesday to pull some frames to make a nuc for Queen Maria because I felt terrible for keeping her from being a queen. But I was too late. Seeing Queen Vivienne so big and beautiful with so many frames of brood and eggs already, I felt a little better. But still.

On to the gardening front, we’ve harvest >60 pounds of tomatoes since Sunday the 8th. And it’s only going to get worse.

Just a drop in the bucket, as of tonight we have 65 pounds harvested in 8 days.

Cherokee purple I believe.

Nuc transfers to bigger digs

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.

Hello queenie!

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.

A hive! A hive! My kingdom for a hive!

Goodness, what would you do if you found out you had 4 reigning monarchs and only 3 hives?

That’s exactly what we found at Connie’s bee yard on Sunday. The uber-mini nuc we made last weekend came from the green hive. We had taken the frames that had eggs in them hoping (with fingers crossed!) that we got the queen and MAY stave off a potential swarm. Before looking at the nuc, we checked the green hive which Connie calls Pistachio and found a lovely fat queen. I used my new queen marking cage (a less terrifying version of the British one): here and it worked very nicely. It doesn’t hold the queen firmly so she keeps running around but at least she’s confined to one area. So we marked her royal highness and two frames later find ANOTHER one. A little fatter this one I thought and I marked her too.

As we were starting to look at the frames, I noticed the brood cells (the bees were emerging) were surrounded by honey. In a normal brood frame the brood is clustered in the middle in an oblong shape, like an American football and the honey is along the top edge, with pollen in a band around the brood:

Capped brood surrounded by honey at EDGES, pollen is between the honey and brood. This is the way a brood frame should look: brood touching brood.

But this frame had uncapped honey in all the holes left by emerging brood. This is what is referred to as “backfilling the broodnest.” This may indicate swarming intent, or it just may mean they need more space for stores. What made me think they were NOT preparing to swarm was the presence of over 2 frames filled with eggs. I think I remember 3 frames of eggs but I can’t be sure. Usually a hive won’t swarm when there is a lot of open brood, there may be some but not several full frames-worth I would think…

Anyway, we saw lots of capped queen cells and open cells:

What a perfect picture: capped queen cell on the right, looks like an elongated peanut and an open queen cell on the left, you’re looking right into it and there is larva right inside! As always, click to make bigger.

After looking at Pistachio, we went into the nuc and found lots of queen cells, some closed, some open. I removed them in preparation to drop the sole 2 frames into the purple hive and as I was double-checking to make sure I got ALL of the queen cells, I spotted c-shaped larvae, the kind that’s 3-4 days old. I thought “Oh my lord” and looked for eggs, and there they were. Not a lot, but clearly at least a few dozen of them, they were perfectly placed in the middle of the cells and only one per cell. Oiy. Clearly the nuc had a queen too. But based on the fact that there were just a few eggs, I don’t think we took the old queen (she would have had more frames laid) but rather, a virgin had just mated and started to lay. There were supercedure cells in there though and so they were not happy with that queen for whatever reason. After debating what to do, we decided to pull the 2 frames back out and put them back into the nuc. If there STILL were supercedure cells on Sunday, I’ll try to find the queen and take her out. Here is a queen cell that I removed from the nuc, before the final swipe, you can see the larva right in the middle:

See the little larva? It’s surrounded by royal jelly which the bees secrete to feed all larvae for the first 3 days, after that they feed bee-bread to the workers but only the queen continues to eat royal jelly. That is what she will consume for the rest of her life. It’s a bitter, white jelly-like substance.

I didn’t have time to look through the purple hive completely so I’ll do that on Sunday. We’ll mark the queen if we see her. The plan is to let the green hive sort out which queen stays–this is not something you can decide for them as they will invariably make the best choice for themselves and you have no idea how they do this. Don’t mess it up for them!

I wanted to include a super-cool picture of festooning bees we captured:

No one is quite sure why bees festoon but one idea is that they do this during wax-building.

Adventures in the land of nucs…

So remember how I thought I maimed Connie’s queen? I’m not sure if I did or not, but if I did, they must have already had a new queen in the works. Because get THIS: there was a laying queen in the hive, about 2 weeks ahead of schedule. What do ya think? Crazy isn’t it?

If I maimed the queen on May 26th, assuming they used a 3-4 day old larvae (the last day that the larva is fed royal jelly before switching to worker bee bread), she would have emerged June 7th at the latest and June 6th at the earliest. So we checked Connie’s purple hive (appropriate that her purple hive houses bees from my purple hive!) and guess what?? A ripped out queen cell….eggs….and (drumroll please) FAT LARVAE!!!! Ready to be capped! So if there was a virgin she’s been laying since last weekend. Clearly anything I may have done to the queen, did not result in those queen cells since there wouldn’t be any eggs until the end of the week at the earliest.

So I figure these are the 3 options:

1. I did NOT maim the queen and they had a queen in the works the whole time (how could we have missed it???) and they just replaced her.

2. I DID maim the queen and they had a queen in the works and they just replaced her with a queen in waiting.

3. The old queen is still there, she killed the virgin and has kept laying. This is my favorite theory but Connie didn’t see eggs or larvae last weekend.

In either case, she has a laying queen a lot sooner than I expected.

The other hive (a green one) is a new nuc she installed 2 weeks ago and had loads of swarm cells. Swarm cells people! It was a nuc from HTKrantz in Frederick and it looked really good. Lots of bees that wanted to swarm… We desperately tried to find the queen to no avail (she was not marked, mind you if she was marked it would not guarantee that we would find her). I wanted to take her out and place her into a nuc and dump lots of bees to make a “fake swarm,” this would make them think a swarm had occurred and hopefully stave off an actual one. But failing that, we took out frames of eggs that we thought she would be on, shook some bees into the nuc and called it good. The parent hive didn’t have frames of only nectar/honey for us to shake forager bees off of so we settled for taking whatever bees we could get.

The plan at this point is to recheck the hives either Wednesday or Thursday; Connie will look for queen cells in the nuc, if she finds them she’ll know there’s no queen in there and she’s still in the hive. She will look for the queen as hard as she can and IF the queen is located, the queen will be moved into the nuc, any frames with queen cups FROM the nuc will go TO the parent hive, effectively switching them. Our goal is to avoid a swarm, for various reasons. Whether or not she finds the queen, the hive will be given LOADS of space via new frames. 

I’m going to start bringing my camera with me.

We’re keeping our fingers crossed. Oh, and my VSH queen will be ready for me on Monday!

Nuc installation and first inspections

Karen installed her nuc last week and I went up to her place on Friday to have a look. The bees were nice and busy, I spotted the marked queen but they were building comb under the ventilated cover. A lot of it. We debated flipping the cover but this would only increase the bee space and likely make them build more comb. So instead, I moved the still unworked foundation between the brood frames, they should start building these out. The hive had at least 3 frames of brood with a frame of honey. The queen was petite, I believe she’s a Kona Queen.

Connie and I checked her hive yesterday, they looked really good. They had 4 frames of brood, AND Connie spotted the unmarked queen! She was seriously elusive. I brought my marker and queen catcher in case we saw the queen, but trying to catch her was impossible, she kept scurrying around to the opposite side of the frame. It was quite maddening. I kept jumping from one side of the frame to the other, it’s terrifying to think I was going to squish her just trying to get her marked. Finally, I just took the marker and followed her and tried to dab her as she ran around. I actually got her! At least I didn’t flood her like I did my own queens, who thankfully survived. I’ve decided to practice picking bees up by the wings, drones actually since they don’t sting. The queen catcher is too nerve-wracking. We also staggered the unworked frames in between the worked frames to encourage the bees to build them out.

When checking these nucs for the first time you generally are looking to see how much brood there is and if they’re working on any of the frames. If they are using the new frames, then you add more, if not you can stagger a couple of the unworked frames in between to encourage them to use the frames. But you don’t want to give them more space than they can defend.

One issue we had in Connie’s hive (I have the same but not quite as bad), is the shear number of earwigs nesting under the outercover. Hers were actually under the edge of the ventilated cover as well. Since the population is still small in this hive, they don’t have as many bees to fend off the intruders. This will change in the coming weeks but in the meantime, Connie sprinkled something around the edge of the grass/stone (away from bee contact) to kill off the earwigs.

 

Nuc update

I checked the nuc on Saturday and did not see the queen, did not see any eggs. I wasn’t too worried as the hive wouldn’t be considered queenless until next weekend (if eggs were still absent). I’m guessing with this bizarre cold/rainy/sunny weather, the queen may have needed extra days to be well-mated. All of the queen cells I noticed previously have been torn down. There were a good number of bees as I mentioned before.

Just to make sure things stay on the positive side, I gave the nuc 2 frames of mixed brood (including eggs) so if they are queenless they’ll have the resources to make another one.

I’ll check the nuc this weekend for eggs, or newly hatched larvae (tiny C-shapes). The egg hatches in 3 days, falls over and forms a C-shape, so if I see either eggs or new larvae, I’ll know there’s a queen-in-residence. If I DON’T see any queen cells built out then the bees consider themselves queenright and we just need to be patient. I just hope I didn’t transfer my queen over to the nuc! I haven’t seen my queens for a while now, though I know they’re there. I may have new spring queens and have no idea, there are so many bees that you can’t spot the queens!