When I said no more about bees for a bit on Friday I lied. Because, of course, they do seem to like to go from crisis to crisis to get my attention. I am currently reading the Hunger Games in anticipation of a visit from my neice. We did hive inspections on June 5th and little did I expect to see life imitating art. Here are my notes down about what we found/didn’t find.
Main Hive (a little over three weeks from last swarm, 4 from last inspection)
Main Brood box-First thing to strike us was another comb creation, although this one was purely honey. I figured this might happen, as the last time we inspected we were so flabberghasted by the construction that it went out of our minds to add more frames to fill the ‘half’.
The second thing we noticed was the size of the colony: it appeared to be less than half of the colony we saw a month ago. Of course, this is to be expected from a colony that has swarmed twice, and one of those times since the last inspection.
The third thing was the number of drones. Of course, last year at this time we were noting the number of drones and drones cells. But my feeling is that there are more than there should be.
And fourth has to do with brood, as in the near absence of it. We found two frames right smack in the middle each with a somewhat regular pattern of larvae, surrounded by nector (couldn’t discern eggs). The few capped cells we saw did not appear to be drone. Now either a queen has just started laying, or we have drone laying workers? But, there are no drone cells to be seen. So, something has started to lay, but we do not know what. There were a few opened queen cells, and possible one that is capped.
‘The Half’: This was the next surprise because all six frames or so were filled with honey, quite laden with it, a bit capped, a great deal not capped. Whatever was laying or had been laying was no longer doing so in the half.
So, we separated this super from the main brood box by the queen excluder. My feeling is that if there is a queen, she’s not up there. And, if there is no queen well, we don’t have to worry.
The Super (now the second super): not much action at this level, frames hardly drawn out.
The irony here is just when I have a colony on the brink of extinction, I have my best honey crop ever!
Second Hive (last swarm will be two weeks ago Thursday 7th June)
Size of this colony is about half what it was 4 weeks ago. In the Brood Box, a total absence of brood at any stage. However, there were at least two capped queen cells, so we are hoping that a laying queen is imminent, although we would still have to wait for her to mate.
The drones are noticeable by their presence, but not as much as with the Main Hive.
So, playing the waiting game, to see if there is a queen just beginning to lay in the Main Hive and whether one of those two queen cells in the Second Hive will produce a laying queen. One thing that is interesting is that both hives didn’t seem that tetchy upon examination and after it.
What I am less than jazzed about is that a month ago I had two healthy, thriving hives bursting with bees. Now, they are virtual ghost towns (one, overflowing with honey). I sense that the two will become one sometime soon.
I will leave you with some more bee art:
And, some interesting links on drones
“Now either a queen has just started laying, or we have drone laying workers?”
The way to tell the difference is meant to be that a queen’s abdomen is longer, so her eggs will be at the bottom of the cell. Laying worker’s abdomens can’t reach the bottom, so their eggs will be stuck to the side of the cells, and there are likely to be multiple eggs per cell.
Hope you haven’t got the same problem we had, our new queen couldn’t mate in all the rain and went drone laying.
Didn’t really get a chance to look for eggs under the cloudy sky. The larvae, and the fact that the capping looked more worker than drone was a hopeful sign. But I currently have low expectations from both hives. I am hoping the a queen from the second hive might have had a chance to mate yesterday, because there doesn’t like there is going to be much of a chance this week….
Ah I see, yes these grey skies do make it very hard to check…or do any beekeeping at all…grrr. What a year, I will be happy if I have any bees alive at the end of it, the idea of getting any honey has become a long distant hope!
Well, if you had the perverse set of bees I have, being on the edge of extinction means the best honey crop ever!