Sunday, May 10, 2015

Woo, Boy.

We inspected all three hives today, starting with the split, now known as the Wonderland hive, since I stayed up until 3:30 a.m. Thursday night painting the brood boxes with Wonderland themed paintings.

We were pretty horrified to find swarm cells and queen cells.  You'll see them in the video where I point them out; swarm cells are queen cells that hang off the very bottom of the brood frames.  The workers build them and move eggs into them to grow into new queens, generally when they haven't got enough space to live.  They usually build regular queen cells on the brood comb when their queen is failing or has died and the need a new one.  This hive had both, and one of the swarm cells is capped, meaning there's a queen pupa in there; another was not quite closed but had a larva inside, and a third was being worked on by a worker bee.

The possible problem here, we thought, was that when we did the split, we moved four drawn frames of comb, and then all the foragers returned that evening, and there simply wasn't enough space for them.  Bees don't see new foundation without drawn comb as space in which to live.  Alternatively, our queen could be dead, as we didn't see her.  Either way, we needed to figure out what to do, and fast.

For the time being, though, we put that aside and did the fish hive inspection.  This seemed much better, though we didn't go far into the hive; our girls were going strong and building out well, so we added a second brood box.

Last, but not least, the Pooh hive.  This is the original hive from which we took the split.  They're going strong and building well, so we added our first ever honey super!  Those are the shallower (medium) boxes and frames (as opposed to the deeps we use as brood boxes) that will eventually contain the honey we can take for us.  So excited!

Once we were all done, we called two mentor (and friend) beekeepers and described what was happening in the Wonderland hive.  Both were under the impression (from us, because we told them we saw young larva) that the hive was otherwise queen-right and set to swarm.  

One suggested we completely cut off all the swarm cells we could find and checkerboard the undrawn foundations in between drawn comb.  He suggested that it could possibly confuse the bees into not swarming and building the new foundation out.

The other suggested that we should do something similar, but without removing the swarm cells.  He also agreed we could try removing the frames with the swarm cells and some honey frames, and move them to a nuc box to create an additional split.  That's what we were considering and intending when we went back into the hive.

Upon second inspection, though, we decided to follow the advice of neither of our more experienced beekeeper friends and leave the hive as it was.  We had been so freaked out at seeing the swarm cells that it wasn't until the re-inspection that we realized we saw capped brood and older larvae, but no new, young larvae like we had the week before.  That seemed to mean that our queen was gone, and the girls were doing what they needed to make a new queen and save the colony.  We decided to let them.  If we're wrong and they do swarm, hopefully the new queen they leave behind is strong and good, and mates well.  And hopefully we catch them in one of the two swarm traps we've set up.  If not, then not.  At least if they truly need a new queen, we're leaving them the best opportunity to make themselves one.

As it is, this was the smallest, least advanced of the three colonies, not a huge loss if it's lost.  And splitting prevented the Pooh hive from swarming, which it may have been populated enough to do.

We shall see.


grantrhys0 said...

Can you tell me the name of the metal hanger used to hold your frames when you take them out...brilliant.
Thank you

Larissa said...

Oh, sure, it's a frame rest! We got ours from Hudson Valley Bee Supply, here:

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