Sunday, June 22, 2014

three queens

I was able to do a full hive inspection of all three of our hives this week.

I started by opening up the split of my large hive, the one that survived the Maine winter.  It has the queen and a small population of bees from the original hive and it is busy and active during the day.  Looking through the hive, it is still small but seems to be building up steadily now that it has bees old enough to be foraging and bringing back pollen and nectar.

I found the queen.  And brood of all stages and pollen and nectar waiting to be capped.

I put on a new box to give them more space to grow into, moving a few frames of brood up in order to encourage them to move into the new box.  

I put in a baggie feeder, as this method seems to work very well with the smaller hives, and closed the hive back up.

Next, I went into the new hive, the package of Italian bees I installed in early spring.  They are building up very quickly, the hive is full of bees, and it is heavy with honey, nectar, and pollen.

At the suggestion of Phil Gavin of The Honey Exchange, I gave this new package a head start with the frames of honey left over when my first have died this winter.  After some searching, I found the queen here as well.  I watched her for a bit and admired the lighter coloring of these bees and their fuzzier bodies.  They seem a bit milder mannered too.

Doing as well as they are, they needed more space to fill.  So I did a bit of shuffling of frames, placing new empty ones into the lower boxes.

And I placed a new super on top, with empty foundation.  Hopefully, this super and any more I add will be filled with harvestable honey this summer.

I closed that hive up, no longer needing to feed it since it is strong and full of honey. And moved on to the third hive. This is the hive I split, removing the original queen and placing her in the new hive. So it had become queenless for a period of time. And I wanted to see if there was evidence that they had created a new queen for themselves from the eggs I had left for them.

I went through the whole hive.  Which was stuffed to the gills with honey.  Perhaps, while raising a queen, the foragers had nervously busied themselves and provided for the waiting hive.

They seemed strong, a bit more mellow than they have been during previous inspections, and though a bit lower in population, likely due to the disruption in the brood cycle while they were queenless for a bit, they were nonetheless large enough.  

And then, I found a very good sign.

Queen cells.  Open on the bottoms where a mature queen had eaten her way through, eaten her way out -- I think.  

I actually found a number of queen cells.  Likely, one queen had emerged and had then gone around and ripped open and killed any other possible queens to ensure her unchallenged reign.  Think Elizabeth I in the 1600s.  Yes, a bit brutal.  But brutal by necessity.

I tipped the frames a bit and saw exactly what I wanted to see.  Glinting in the sunlight, I found eggs.  And then larvae.  Some tiny and some quite large, getting close to big enough to be capped off for their finally growing stage before they emerge as young bees.

Though I did not find this queen, nonetheless I found the evidence I needed to demonstrate she is there.  I will return in a few days, hopefully with an extra set of eyes.  And a queen marking kit.  She is not only mature, but mated.  And doing her thing.

So I now have, in that hive, a queen, one half Russian bee, one half Maine bee.  Her brood, mated as she is here in Maine, will be three quarters Maine bee.  And therefore, hopefully, genetically more equipt to adapt to the Maine environment and challenges.  I am feeling very proud of these girls.  Well done.

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