Thursday, September 6, 2012

Queens, Queens, Queens. It's All About the Queens.

Earlier this year my hives had some queen issues, such as queens missing which resulted in hives with laying workers.  Combining the laying worker hives with queen-right hives removed the laying workers, and gave the hives another attempt to make their own queens once they were separated again after a few weeks.

Making a split from the hive at Possum's garden into a single hive body and a nuc, one of them made a queen and she was able to get mated and return to make the hive a strong hive.  The other one not so much.  So I bought a couple queens from a breeder here in Virginia, figuring that if it was close to this area, the queen would be used to our weather and environmental conditions and have a better chance of being a "good queen".  

In the mean time, one of the original hives seemed to lose the queen.  There had been some queen cells and no signs of a laying worker, but no queen, no eggs and no brood.  But patience was needed.  Maybe she was there but not mated yet.  Maybe she was out doing her mating hive.  Something I'm not the best at with the bees.  A bit of the ADD in me wants to see results and wants time to pass quickly to see things unfold.  

In one final attempt to get all my hives "queen-right", I bought two more queens from a breeder in Tennessee.  Not being too scientific in my queen purchases, I found someone that had queens available and could ship quickly, so that I wouldn't fall into another laying worker situation.

These queens came in a UPSP envelope, not a box, which was a bit of a surprise.  They were also in the JZBZ cages, not the wooden cages that the first ones came in, which made me do some searching on the internet to find out how to best introduce the queens in these new cages.

One of the things I had read from several sources said that the queens tend to have a better acceptance rate if the attendants are removed from the cage.  Hmmmm.  That sounds like an interesting challenge.  

The queens were shipped on Monday and I received them on Wednesday.  The post office called letting me know they had come in so I could pick them up.  (I love our small town Post Office.  They are so friendly and call right away when bees and chicks come in.)  The weather wasn't being cooperative though, so it took a few days before I could get the time to get the queens into the hives.  

The boys had some friends over when the re-queening was going to take place.  As I headed up to the boys bathroom (because that is the only bathroom with an outside window that opens up) they wanted to join me.  OK, the more the merrier.  I went in and had them close the door behind us and opened up the blinds.  The small cap was opened up and a few of the attendants came out and flew to the window.    With a slight shake and shuffle, a few more came out.  But I couldn't seem to get the rest out.  I opened up the main cap and they all came out, including the queen!  No problem.  The window was open but the screen was still in place.  Quickly the queen went up the window and all the attendants huddled around.  Of course, she headed up into the top portion of the screen where I couldn't reach her.  Using a butter knife, I was able to herd the queen down to the open cage and quickly closed the lid.  One down.  

I decided to get that queen into the hive before attempting to separate the second queen from the attendants.  Running, or walking fast, out to the hive, the new queen cage fit right between two frames, so the removal of a frame wasn't necessary.  They frames were separated with the hive tool and the queen cage lowered in, and then the frames pushed back together.  The lid put back on and some syrup given to the hive to keep them distracted.

Checking on the original hive that appeared to have lost a queen the week before, and hadn't had a queen or eggs or anything for a couple weeks, a pleasant surprise was waiting for me.  As I got to the fourth frame, lifting it up to see if I had any signs of a laying worker, there she was, right before me.  Right in the middle of the frame, a big fat queen.  And looking closer, plenty of eggs and larvae in the frame.  The hive was "queen right" and things were good.  Close it up and let them be.  

But now what to do with the other queen?  I did have another nuc that I had made and had a laying worker the week before.  Only capped drone, and several cells with more than one egg.  Typical laying worker signs.  This nuc had been written off, and I was planning to use their good frames to fill out a few of the other hives that had a few frames not drawn.  I had the extra queen and all my other hives were queen-right or had a new queen just installed.  Time to roll the dice.

Pulling a frame full of brood from one of my strong hives, I shook all the bees off the frame.  To replace that frame, I pulled a frame of drones and double eggs from the nuc and put it into the strong hive, figuring they will clean up that frame and put it to good use.  First I put the frame full of brood into the nuc and then placed in the new queen.  However, I didn't pull the candy cap on the queen cage off.  They needed a bit more time to get acquainted before letting the queen loose.  Closed up the hive and added a jar of syrup on top.

Coming back five days later, the bees in the hives were feeding the queens and being very calm around the queens.  They weren't trying to attack her or kill her, so I pulled the cap off the candy and put the queen cage back into the hives.  Time for the locals to release the queens.

Checking back 2 days later, the queen in the nuc had been released and was no longer in the cage.  The queen cage was removed and the hive closed up so the queen could do her thing.  I didn't want to stress them out any more by looking around for her.  This hive is still a question if everything is still good.  

The single deep hive body with the new queen still hadn't released the queen.  Running back to the garage, I grabbed a small nail and put a hole through the candy that was still in the cage.  There was only about an eighth of an inch left and it was very soft.  The queen in the cage was put back in the hive to be released.  The status of this queen is also unknown.  

There should be time Saturday morning to get back into the hives to see if the queens are both there and laying eggs.  It is still a roll of the dice on those two, but I can only hope for the best.  Fall is quickly approaching and the hives need to get right.  Luckily they have a lot of honey in all the hives, so that shouldn't be a problem if they can just get a couple rounds of brood raised before winter.  The good news is the other four hives are queen-right and strong, with lots of brood, lots of honey and ready to for fall and winter. 

On a separate topic, in an attempt to get them some pollen, a friend from work, who was pulled into beekeeping this year by my stories every morning, and I decided to try open feeding a dry pollen substitute.  Taking an old bucket from a bakery, the center of the lid was cut in half and removed.  A brick was put into the bucket to keep it in place along with a tin foil bread pan filled with the pollen.  The bucket was put outside in the garden.


It only took a day or two for the bees to find the bucket.  The Good Wife asked me to remove the bucket because of all the activity around the bucket.  It was moved to the old garden and the mint and basil, which are both good for the bees.  They have taken over two bread pans full of pollen substitute, but I don't think it is just my bees.


Watching the bucket, lots of them head in different directions after loading up.  I'm thinking that some feral bees may have found my bucket.  That's OK.  Maybe one day I will capture a swarm from a feral hive and they can thank me then with some good genetics and some tasty honey.

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