Not *another* queen?

Last weekend Emily and I took our Basic Beekeeper’s exams – and passed.  Despite me being very nervous and forgetting just about everything.  So we checked out other peoples’ hives and didn’t check our own.  The plan was to return with Simon and Elsa (who also passed hers at the same time) early in the week and harvest some honey.  We have some frame parts now, so would be able to replace the Supers we removed with new ones with fresh frames in them.

But it didn’t happen, due to time, weather, work and whatever.  So the girls and I went back to our hives on Sunday and inspected both for the first time in two weeks.  And found things had moved on a bit in the FreeBee’s first hive:

Queen cellsBottom right you’ll see a number of queen cells – they look like unshelled peanuts or monkey nuts.  One of them, if you look closely, has the bottom cleanly cut around, and the queen from there has left – a worker is now cleaning it out.  And we saw that queen, running around on the frame, clearly only very recently out.  She was small, but still obviously a queen.  We didn’t see the marked queen we put in here very recently at all – she must have swarmed again.  Not that the population of the hive was down noticeably.  And there were a lot of capped brood still, but few uncapped, and nothing younger than a week, so she must have gone during the good weather during the week.

So, this queen would have been calling to the others in those other cells, and then going and killing them.  I didn’t get the camera out in time to catch her, and this photo above was taken after we’d been searching for her again a while.  We’ll need to try to mark her again when we do get to harvest from this hive.

Hopefully by then she’ll have had her mating flight, met up with drones from other hives, and returned to start laying.  We’ll see.  I wonder who now has our old queen – she was marked with a white dot on her back, but then so are many others, that’s this year’s colour.  Fashion conscious bees.  We tried to stem the swarm, and got another hive full out of it.  But it seems she was desperate to get away =O{

Otherwise the hive was very healthy.  The top super is completely full, the second about half so.  They’d taken most of the syrup we gave them to tide them over the gap between spring and summer nectar, and had put much of that in the new frames in the brood box – from where we took two out with queen cells on to re-queen another colony.  The Supers seemed to only have honey in.  We left the feeder on, so they can clean it up, and added another Super of frames – the ones I just made up from Simon’s parts.  The strap only just fit around the whole lot.  But that’ll be better when we remove the full super, hopefully in the next few days.

The newer hive was also very healthy – I just stood back and the girls did this inspection on their own, a first for Lucy in her new suit and with her own tool:

Girls at workEverything looked good here, although we didn’t find the queen, there was sign of recent laying.  We put a new Super on top, but removed the feeder, which they’d emptied.  There was a lot of food in the brood box, so they should now be able to live well off that if necessary, and will start building and storing in their new Super.  We’ll give them a second one if they get close to filling that, and will only harvest if they have more than one full.  We have two empty Supers still in the garage, but not the frames for them yet.

Hopefully the next entry will be about our first harvest.  We have some hexagonal 12lb jars all ready, along with buckets, and Simon has my Queen Excluder in a fresh pillow case, ready to apply his almond oil to.  We just need the weather and time now.

Finally, you might find quite interesting – how ~ New Zealand beekeepers are viewing Varroa.

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