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Posts Tagged ‘requeening’

It’s been quite a while since I last posted.  At that time it appeared that both queens had made it through the winter.  Unfortunately the older queen wasn’t able to handle the drastic warm/cold swings of our spring weather here.  I just added her bees to the remaining hive and hoped for the best.  The queen in the surviving hive was one that the worker bees “created” last year. It’s called “re-queening” and you can learn more about that here. She is now half-New Mexican. I am trying to develop a number of truly local queens for my hives.  Most beekeepers order their queens from California or Texas but I want bees that have local genetics and can handle the challenging conditions here in the high-desert lands.  It’s been interesting following the progress of this colony. She is a large and strong queen but has not been a heavy egg producer.  The hive is growing slowly but steadily.  I have been checking in on their progress every week.  They have filled up most of the combs with brood ( and some honey ) to the point where I decided to add another empty bar for them to expand in to.

Adding new bar

If they get too crowded, they will begin to create another queen and swarm. Notice too, I have a backer board at the end of the bars.  This creates a confined space for the hive. As I add bars, I move the board back until they fill the entire box.  This way the bees are able to control the temperature and humidity in the hive.  It’s been very dry these past couple months and although there is still pollen out there, there will be a lot more food once the mid-summer rains begin. I’m beginning to think this queen is responding well to this condition…. not over-producing brood when food supplies are low.  It will be interesting to see if she speeds up production once the rains come.  In any case, all looks good for now!

( I just updated this post so that it would go out on FB )

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Here’s the story. Earlier this year I ordered a new queen to be delivered in June( from BeeWeaver in Texas) thinking that my old queen, now in her third year,  would  be replaced by her worker bees, sensing that her time was coming to an end. The colony wasn’t large enough to swarm so the “mail order  bride” was to be a backup if the colony wasn’t successful in making a new queen by itself.  Well, in May, the old queen kicked into high gear and began laying up a storm and the colony went in to full production mode…. lots of new brood, comb and honey.  Then the new queen arrived . USPS.  So…. I took the old queen and 5 combs of brood and honey and transferred them to an empty hive.  I then lowered the newly arrived queen into the old hive in her transport cage.  It takes about 2-3 days for the workers to release her from her quarters, and by then her odor has permeated the hive and they will accept her as their queen.  Three days later I opened the hive but could not find the queen. Nowhere. Not only that, I did not see any evidence of newly laid eggs.  I waited another three days and went in to look. Still no queen.  But I did see a number of queen cells and when I looked into them each one had a small larva swimming around in royal jelly; evidence that the colony was creating a new queen by itself.  For one reason or another, the workers were not satisfied with their Texan Queen so they took her eggs, placed them into queen cells and began to raise one by themselves.  And the queen?  She either died or was killed off by the workers. (probably the latter)  After a week I saw that they had successfully reared the larva and capped it off.  ( You can see the queen cell in the photo below…. it looks like a large peanut. )  There were actually three of these on the comb in various places.  A couple days ago I checked in on them and the queens had hatched as evidenced by the fact that they cells were empty.  The first queen to emerge went around and killed off the others that were still in their cells.  After a couple days she will be escorted out of her hive by a group of workers for her “nuptial flight”, taken to a tree or area where lots of male drones hang out for the day, mate with 6 – 12 different males and then return to the hive.  If all goes well, in about a couple weeks I should notice newly laid eggs and tiny larva once again.

Stay tuned for the next installment!

 

Queen Cell

Queen Cell

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Two weeks after I noticed capped queen cups in hive #1, I went back in to see if their  attempt at requeening was successful. Alas…. no sign of a queen and there was absolutely no sign of any eggs in the cells.  All the brood that had been developing had hatched out, and there was no evidence of egg laying.  But the workers were still busy doing what bees do…. the newly hatched bees ( from the former queen) were making comb and the foragers were still bringing in nectar and pollen. And the drones were just hanging about, as usual.  Without a queen replacing the bees that die, a colony will slowly dissipate.  I consulted my manuals and talked with some other fellow beekeepers and got varying answers as to how long a colony would last without a queen….anywhere from 4 – 8 weeks.  I had to do something. I contacted my bee supplier, “Honeybee Genetics” out of California and they had a fertile queen in stock…. for $24.95.  And then extra for shipping . Hah….That is one expensive insect!  I ordered it and it will arrive next Friday (June 8).  But there is still a chance that I did not see the new queen in the hive.  It takes two weeks for a newly hatched queen to mate and then start laying eggs.  So….. before I add the new queen to the hive next week, I’ll check to see if there is evidence of a queen.  If I add the queen that I bought to a hive with an established queen in it, then the workers will immediately kill her…. and I’ll lose my investment. Ouch! That would sting. ( pun intended)    The bee drama continues.

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Two weeks ago a strong wind knocked over one of the (empty)  rainbarrels and it rolled into Hive #1. The colony had successfully made it through the winter, and the queen was laying, comb was being built.  After the storm, I noticed that a huge cloud of bees were hovering around the hive.  Something had to be wrong.  I geared up, smoked the bees and went in to see what was the matter.  Two of the fresh combs had been knocked loose and were laying on the bottom.  No wonder the bees were so upset!  I took the combs out, brushed off the bees, closed up the hive and reattached them to the bars. The next day I replaced them and hoped all would be OK.  A week later I went in to see how things were going and looked for the queen…. couldn’t find her.  About 5 days later, I checked on the hive…. still no queen.  I also noticed that there were larva and a lot of capped brood, but no new eggs. Something definately  happened to the queen….perhaps she was injured from the accident. I also noticed three big queen cells that they had built.

Queen Cell

They look like a large peanut shell, and one of them was capped.  The workers had decided to make a new queen. It takes about 16 days for a queen to develop from an egg to an adult.   A queen bee is fed exclusively with “royal Jelly”, a nutrient rich milky substance produced by young worker bees.  Once the larva is fully grown, it spins a cocoon, the workers cap off the cell and she undergoes metamorphosis. 7 days later she emerges. The first thing a virgin queen does is to find any other developing queens and kill them.  Then she flies out and mates with up to a dozen male drone bees, returning to the hive, and there to remain for the rest of her life…

I talked with my bee mentor Steve Wall, and he said to leave the hive alone for three weeks so that the new queen can establish herself with the colony.   So… I will wait.  I’ll report back then to let you know how the colony is doing.  If she mated successfully, I will see evidence of new larvae.  If not, I will have to acquire a new queen.  This will be interesting!

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