Saturday, March 22, 2008

Update - A Discovery!

Well, let me first admit that I am obviously still learning!

After putting up the previous post, I described the situation to my mentor. He asked in the nicest way possible - do you really know what a queen cell looks like? Well, I don't. The cells I was seeing were actually drone cells!

Anyway, I went back in the hive today to take a second look, and I am feeling a lot better! The frames were covered with bees, many more than I saw a few days ago. We took some pictures - and have some new questions:

First, I had a new helper, he was deathly afraid of bees, but once he donned the superman suit and took hold of the camera, he was invincible.

As I said, when I started pulling the frames they were loaded with bees, here is an example.
Here is that frame, notice the yellow bulbous cells - those are drone cells, yeah, I know, it is obvious now.

Here is another one - we'll come back to this one in a minute :)

So, as I was going through the frame - I saw the queen again, this time on a frame full of bees, looking plumper and busy! Here is the frame picture, see if you can spot her!

Well, she was camera shy and ducked under some workers when we went to take the pictures - so I have blown up that section in the picture below. If you see the bee with the pollen on her legs, the queen is to her right somewhat covered by other workers. She is much longer than the others, has a more pronounced larynx and shorter wings. I have been surprised how much different she looks from the other bees, easier to spot than I anticipated.

So, all in all a good visit. When I got done I went ahead and put a medium super back on top since they were obviously doing well.

After closing everything back up and coming inside to take a look at the pictures I found something very interesting. If you look real close to the second frame I have displayed above, you will see what looks to me like another queen! Since I made such a blunder last time, I have blown up the area and I ask for your expert eyes to take a look. It was certainly not the same queen, as it was two frames away from were I saw the other queen.

So, if this is another queen - now what? Is it OK to have two in there? Will it encourage swarming? Will they fight? Or will they produce twice as many brood?

More questions . . .

Wednesday, March 19, 2008


It was 70ish today so I came home early to see what the bees were doing. I began by taking off the two top supers. First concern, neither of the boxes had any activity, no comb being built here. When I got down to the brood box it looked OK from the top, bees roaming over the top of the frames. The first frame I took out was an end frame, there was some comb drawn on it but not much else, some pollen on the inner side.

The second frame, however, was a big surprise - it was loaded with queen cells! They were bright yellow, sticking perpendicular to the frames, probably half a dozen on both sides of the frame.

As I went through the frames there were several others with queen cells scattered about - and one of them open! I also saw a queen on one of the frames, she seemed to be wandering around, without any attendants watching after her - this seemed strange. She also seemed skinny, not that I have seen a lot of queens before. There were also a bunch of drones bees in the hive.

There were also a bunch of cells that were only half filled with something. It was off white and looked pasty. I talked to another beekeeper and he suggested that perhaps it was pollen. All of the pollen I have seen up to this point has been yellow or even orange. ?

I also did not see eggs or larva or much stores! This could be my inexperience at spotting them.

So, I am guessing that the first queen left, or gave up, or was killed in the transport, or the bees started building queen cells when the queen was trapped for the split. I am guessing the queen I saw was a new one (is there any way to tell?) perhaps a virgin queen?

So, because there were little stores, I went ahead and took off the two supers, put the inner cover right down on the brood box and put on two feeder jars. I know I have a chance of crowding the bees with the one box which could cause them to think swarm, but I have to worry about them living through the next couple of weeks. Hopefully one of the new queens will mate and get to work laying eggs!

I'd love to get some feedback!! (sorry for no pictures, my helper was at baseball:)

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Out and about

The bees took advantage of the nice weather to get in some orientation flight. It looked like we might need an air traffic controller at some points.
I also added a syrup feeder inside an additional super. It is supposed to turn chilly tonight so I put the entrance reducer in at the end of the day to keep out the wind.

Friday, March 14, 2008

The Bees are back in town!

Well we start again.

After a couple of months of build up at my mentor's abode a new colony has returned to an old location.

I must admit I did not understand what was meant by "a split" until I saw it - and it was pretty simple. He had assembled a double brood box with my box on the bottom. He found the queen and put it in my box and we simply sealed it up and I took it away. He took the other brood box, and it became the bottom box - that's it, they were split. He will be looking for the other brood box to produce a new queen for themselves.

So, here is my box in transport mode. The top was replaced with a screen covered inner cover. This allowed the colony some ventilation during the transport. He then just stuffed a rag in the entrance and I was off.

Once at home I added a quarter queen excluder* and put two medium supers on top with bare foundation. With any luck they will begin pulling comb in the supers and filling them with honey! Yahoo!

*Oh yeah, what is a quarter queen excluder? He told me to get one, so I searched on the bee supply sites and no one sold such a thing so I went ahead and bought a normal Queen excluder. Well, when I got to his house he showed me a quarter queen excluder - it is simply a normal queen excluder cut into fourths -- quarters. The purpose of the queen excluder is to keep the queen down in the brood chamber. The problem with a full excluder is that sometimes it not only keeps out the queen but also inhibits the workers from moving up to the supers. So, the "quarter queen excluder" sits over the center of the brood chamber were the queen spends most of her time and so for the most part keeps her in the brood box while allowing the workers to come and go as they please - marvelous! So when I got home I cut (gulp) my brand new queen excluder into quarters.

And for the record, I had a discussion on BeeSource about foundation - in which I discussed a variety of foundation purchased for the supers. The supers I put on this hive contained Mann Lake "thin surplus" foundation.