May 7, 2010

Hawaiian Queens

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Last night I was informed that a fellow beekeeper had just received a shipment of queens from Hawaii.

With a quick call, and short driver over to the next town, I had two beautiful Kona Queens.

Above:  Two Kona Queens From Hawaii.  The blue mark indicates they are 2010 queens

Since they did not have any attendant workers in the cages with them I needed to get them into colonies as soon as possible. From what I have heard from fellow beekeepers the Kona queens have done well here on Cape Cod.

Last week’s inspections revealed that one of the hives was queen-less, while another had dwindled down to about one hundred bees.

Right:  a few of our colonies.  You can see the two white 5 frame nucs, just created, in the center bottom of the photo.  One of these nucs contains the old queen discovered during the hive inspection.  The other contains bees, eggs, and larva.  They will have to raise their own queen.

As you may remember the queen-less hive is our "nasty" hive, and being queen-less did not help their attitude much. As I opened the colony I had flashbacks of the previous week’s events, and wondered if that nasty little worker bee was still waiting for me inside.

As I looked over the frames I could see that they were attempting to build queen cells, but had nothing to put in them since the hive had no queen, larva, brood or eggs. I found three empty queen cell starts.

Left:  The hives are still working the dandilions.

As soon as I placed the queen and her cage on top of the frames the worker bees were all over her. I plan on letting them get to know her for a few days before I remove the cork protecting the candy in the cage. Once I remove the cork the workers will eat through the candy in a day or two and release her. I want to revisit this hive to verify that there is no laying worker before I take the chance and allow them to release her. This will provide a few additional days to help in acceptance.

Perhaps, with a new queen, this hive will settle down a bit. If the workers accept the queen she will begin to lay eggs, and the entire genetics of the colony will change over the course of two months making this hive more gentile.

I opened up the dwindling hive to look at them. Sure enough they had killed the failing queen, and in her place built five queen cells!

Right:  Workers gather water for the colonies.

I destroyed the queen cells and place one of the new queens on the top bars in the colony. I will check again in about 5 days to make sure the workers have released her.

While I was out in the apiary I thought I should look in on the hive that superseded the queen from 2007. I opened the hive to find it full of eggs and young larva! The new queen is doing fine.

Guess what else I found! Sure enough, there in the top box, was the old queen, with her faded yellow marking and all!. I put her aside in a nuc box with an additional frame of bees and brood, and continued to look for the new queen. I found her in the bottom box with eggs and young larva! She has filled out since mating and is a good size.

This is the first time I have seen this. Mother and daughter queens existing in the same hive.

They have been coexisting for at least two weeks if not longer.

What a surprise!

I never know what I am going to find next!

May 2, 2010

One little nasty bee

May has arrived. The apple trees are blooming and the temperatures reached into the high 70’s this weekend.

The bees were flying , collecting pollen and nectar.

Above:  Bees were working the apple blossoms
this past weekend.

As usual I conducted hive inspections Saturday. I was curious to see how the hive with the superseded queen was doing. Upon inspection I found new eggs, and larva.

She is laying, but she is very small, much smaller than the queen she replaced.

I have read recently that queens raised in an emergency situation, such as she was, are not as good. She will do for now until a suitable replacement is available later in the spring.

The workers seem to like her, and she is laying eggs. Another week will tell how her "pattern" is . Will she lay in every cell, or will there be many empty cells?

Left:  Collecting nectar

I continue to feed the bees sugar syrup at a slow pace, about a quart a week. I have had conditions in the past where the bees have stored so much sugar syrup that the queen has run out of room, and the colony goes into "swarm mode".

For now we just want to stimulate the queen into laying eggs…. A lot of eggs. The main honey flow is only three weeks away.

Right.  Another bee works the apple blossoms.

One of the hives has been experiencing what beekeepers call “dwindling”. The hive came through the winter well, but has slowly been shrinking in size despite my efforts. They were down to about 100 bees so I took one frame of larva, and one frame of emerging brood from one of the strong colonies and added them to this hive to strengthen it. I also shook in two frames of nurse bees. I am hoping that this hive will do a "U" turn and start to increase.

This weeks inspections found another surprise. A very strong colony with no eggs, larva, or brood. This could only mean one thing… the queen has gone missing. They did have two queen cells that I left for them.

This particular hive is one of two packages of bee we received from Georgia last spring. This hive is the meanest in the apiary (it is only moderately aggressive, and then only when they have been disturbed for a while). You can work them for about five minutes before you have about ten guard bees buzzing at you. Of course the condition of a missing queen, and no brood did not make them any happier.

One of the guard bees followed me around the rest of the day. Buzzing at me.

Even the next day he was "waiting" for me in the yard. He was determined to get me!

Left:  A guard bee watching over the opening of the inner hive cover of my nasty hive.

I said…. “its not my fault your queen went missing…. Maybe she left because you are so mean!”

I managed not to get stung though.


Peach Pollen

Spring Pollen

Spring Pollen

Queen Cell

Queen Cell
Well Fed Queen Cell

Marked Queen

Marked Queen
Queen produced from my second graft attempt