Saturday, June 20, 2015

Ups and Downs

So... rather than "good news first" or "bad news first," I'll do this in chronological order, since the ups and downs are too intertwined and affect each other.

On Saturday, after I face painted and did glitter tattoos from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., we headed over to the swarm hive to see how the girls were doing.

Queenless.  Damnit.

A bunch of comb they'd built, some nectar and/or sugar water in the cells, no brood... no eggs, no larvae, no pupae.  And one empty queen cup.  Queenless.  And without a queen, a colony just can't survive.  Bees only live a month and a half on the outside, so without a queen replenishing the population to the tune of 1,000 - 1,500 eggs daily, the colony just dies out.


Eric spent some of Saturday evening trying to reach anyone from whom we could purchase a mated queen, but had no luck.  So we discussed taking a frame of brood from one of our three backyard hives, which would hopefully have eggs on it (I really wish I could see eggs, but damn these 44-year-old eyes, I can't), giving the swarm the opportunity to move an egg into the queen cup they'd built and raise a new queen.  When bees are queenless, they'll do this, but they need to have eggs under 3 days old available to do this.  Since there were no eggs in the swarm hive, they had nothing to work with.  Giving them another hive's eggs would give them a chance, though this takes a while.  It takes about a month for an egg to become larva, then pupa, then queen, then mate, then start laying.  And it was a small population to start.  So you see the problem.

Well, Sunday we inspected our backyard hives.  The Pooh hive is doing so well that the first honey super is full and nearly capped, the second is getting filled, and we added a third!  Yay for a buncha honey!

And look!  I got a photo of eggs!  See those white lines in the cells toward the top left quadrant of the photo?  Eggs!

The Wonderland hive is also doing very well, and we added a second honey super.

The Fish hive, though... ah, the Fish hive.

Queenless.  Yikes!  Two of four.  Sigh.

But... the good news in this (yes, really, there's good news) is that the Fish hive population is good, and they're hard workers.  They'd already built several queen cups to replace their missing queen, and they were all capped.  That is the real good news, because capped queen cells mean queen pupae, the very next stage before adult bees!  That cuts down the time until they can mate and start laying tremendously!

So... we raced one of the frames with a capped queen cell over to the swarm hive, removed an undrawn frame, and dropped in the one with the potential queen.  Our hope - fingers crossed! - is that the swarm takes care of her and the other brood on that frame, buying themselves some time, and she emerges, mates well, and gets to work.

The bad part is we have to leave them alone for 2 weeks while this all happens!  So fingers are also crossed for good weather on the weekend of June 27-28 so we can take a look and see how they're doing.

Meanwhile, we're trust the Fish hive to right itself.  We gave them the undrawn foundation from the swarm to work on, and there are a few capped queen cells in that hive, or were on Sunday, and with the other two hives neighboring it, lots of drones are available for mating.

Again, we're supposed to leave those girls alone for a couple weeks too, which you know drives me absolutely batty, but we may be going in on Friday.  The NJ State Apiarist, Tim Schuler, will be coming to inspect our three backyard hives and give us feedback (We're so excited!), so it's his call on what whether we can go in and see how the Fish girls are doing.

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