Thursday, September 1, 2011

Queenless Hive

This time I recognized the signs right off and didn't delay.  I think this means I'm finally getting a clue.

I inspected Hive 3 and found the deep to be full of honey - most of the other hive's deeps were busy with brood and some honey but not full.

Next, the supers were full of honey too, capped and uncapped.  And the real teller:  No brood of any kind.  No capped cells and not a larvae in sight.  Also, there were two more supers with drawn comb that had nothing in them.  There were lots of bees in the hive.  I pulled most of the frames in the deep and did not see a queen.

It was enough for me to conclude the hive was queenless.  The bees were in good spirits and the lack of brood was actually a relief - better than seeing only drone cells like with hive #2.  A drone layer can really complicate requeening.

I got on the phone to Ferguson's Apiaries and ordered a queen.  Bill Ferguson works with our bee association to create hygienic Buckfast bees.  He ships all over North America.

It's was his queen which got my Hive #1 going well and it's my most productive hive.

She arrived by mail.  In the UK they call their mail system Royal Mail.  That's very fitting.  In our case the queen came via Canada Post in a little crate with ventilated sides.  It was marked Live Animals and I had to go to our local post office to pick her up.

I enjoy that part because the couriers always find our bee shipments interesting. 
The postal gal informed me she could hear them buzzing.  I could feel the cool air conditioning in the building and I wondered if the bees were cold.

Once outside the buzzing stopped.  The truck was nice and warm so I kept the windows up and sweated it out for them.  Next I wetted a piece of paper towel with water and set it on a portion of the screening covering the cage.

Yes they were thirsty.  The workers wasted no time and stuck out their tongues to lap up the water.  Next they busied themselves with the sugar candy.  Water probably made it easier to eat.

Next it was off to the bee yard.  It was threatening rain and I could see a huge five mile black cloud headed towards the bee yard.  I raced, trying to get ahead of it.  I knew setting the queen in would only take a moment.

I got there in time, but it was starting to sputter rain.  I already made the decision to do the rim spacer, set the cage on the bars and close up.  It'd be the fastest solution and also there's often quite a few bees at the top of the hive and they'd find her quickly so she wouldn't get cold.

I took the cork plug off the candy end, being sure to leave the cork still in place on the other end and set the cage down.  I carefully put a small hole in the candy to help give the bees a start (the candy was soft so careful when pressing a sharp tool into it.  You don't want to stab the queen.)

I set the lid down and waited a minute then peeked again.  A few bees noticed her but they weren't doing too much.  Should I worry?  I decided not to.  It would take a few minutes for her scent to permeate the hive.  So I closed up and left them alone.
Six days later I returned for a check.  My plan was not to pull frames, only to lift the inner cover to check if the cage was empty.  It wasn't.

The bees had been busy with the candy.  The cage was covered in a huge cluster of bees.  They were all very calm and looked most eager to get her out of there.  No bees were setting their butts to the cage as if to sting.

[Photo - the queen, marked in white, as she exits the queen cage.  Note the small green rim spacer on top to create a space for the cage to sit].

The cage was totally covered in bees and it was difficult to pick up.  After picking up and setting down a few times there were less bees.

I wanted to release the qeen.  I removed the cork from the non candy end.  Then I waited.  First a nurse bee came out.  The bees were very eager and greeted her with a great deal of enthusiasm.  After a few moments the queen walked out, patiently, taking her time.  The bees ran after her as she walked across the frame and down into the hive.

I cut the screening to release the other workers and they scurried after their queen.

The signs looked good.  I'll give them a bit more time to acquaint and settle in before I inspect again, looking for signs of larvae.

I noted that looking down on the cage it looked like the candy hadn't been touched, but afterwards I could look through the end and saw the bees had indeed been most busy and they had chewed out a tunnel in the candy.  In another day the queen would have been freed.
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