Sunday, August 9, 2009

The Queen is Dead. Long Live the Queen!

It was such a waiting game. Waiting and waiting. Waiting for the rain to stop.

I did my quick observation check of the bee yard on Friday and hoped to return Saturday. But Mother Nature vetoed that idea. It rained all day so I was stuck at home.
(photo of new queen on the top right near the clump of bees).
Sunday dawned with overcast skies but Dad and I were game to do a hive inspection on Hive #2. I realized I needed Dad's help because a couple weeks ago when I lifted the medium sized pink brood/honey super I nearly dropped it. It must weigh around 50 lbs and my healing right arm was too weak to support it.
I got it set down safely but there were a few scary moments there when I wasn't so sure I could hold it. (I'm lifting weights for physio for the right arm and to strengthen them both but it's a s-l-o-w process).
Just before calling Dad to see about what time we'd leave I checked The Weather Network. I could see in moments that it was a red scrolling screen day on the weather channel.
The text crossing the screen were giving severe storm warnings, 100 km damaging winds and don't rule out the possibility of a tornado in my area and Oxford County where the bee yard is. Okay. Scrap the mid morning trip to the bee yard. Darn!
The last time we'd been in Hive #2 everything was doing quite well but there were queen supersedure cells. On the advice of my long time beekeeper friend Henry, we decided to let the bees do their own supersedure.
(I'm not entirely certain if that's burr comb in the photo or a supersedure cell).
Then just over a week after that I was at the bee yard and I could see hardly any bees on the front stoop of Hive #2.
The bees were very quiet. Too quiet I thought or I guess the best wording would be that they appeared to be lacking purpose.
So I really needed Mother Nature to give us a break and let us have a peek in this hive. She did come through finally by mid afternoon. The Weather Network removed the red warning script. Apparently the worst of the storm arrived farther north of us. We didn't even get rain.
Hive #2 looked much more active. It didn't have very many more bees outside, but the bees that were there looked like they had a purpose. It was encouraging.
I started up the smoker and we dug in. They hadn't built any comb yet in the top yellow super.
No surprise there. They were not yet complete in building comb in all frames on the purple super but they had been busy working on filling my honeycomb frame with wild comb.
The pink medium deep (I'm running 1 1/2 boxes for brood) was really busy. I removed the third frame which was mostly capped honey. No brood or eggs. I removed the fourth frame. It appeared to have a supersedure cell on the bottom of the frame. I angled it as best I could for photos but it was covered in bees.
Then I saw her. She was moving fast across the frame to avoid the light. A queen. The queen. An unmarked queen. That meant she was a new queen. The supersedure had happened.
I grabbed for my camera while she scooted to the other side of the frame. Then she started piping. She kept moving from one side of the frame to the other but she was easy to locate for the piping sound she was making.
I was racking my brain about the piping. I think I read that piping was what unmated queens did.... but I needed to check this information again. That would have to wait for later.
I opted at that point to end the inspection and I carefully put the last frame in next to where the queen was. I was nervous of injuring her just when the hive needed her most. After the frame was in I waited a few moments. Then I heard it again. The piping coming from inside the hive. She was still alive and well in there.
There may have been other supersedure cells. It's even possible I've read that the original queen could still be alive and it could be a two queen, mother-daughter hive. That'd be awesome.
From the outside I put my ear to both hives. I could hear a general overall hum. Then a light ticking sound, like little running feet on combs. Then I could hear a loud sound. This may sound dumb, but it sounded like the word "ouch" said over and over very fast. The sound had an oscillating effect. Next I could hear every now again the piping of the queen.
Now I want a stethoscope so I can spy on my bees from the outside.
Note this photo of Hive #1 which has many bees on the outside (it was a really hot & humid day) and Hive #2 photo above to compare the 2 hives.
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