Where have all the queens gone?

Simon was holding another training session for this year’s intake of new beekeepers to the association, so the girls and I went along to help, and check out the hive and two nucleus boxes at the same time.  And once again, came away with more questions than answers.

We didn’t see a queen or any sign of laying in any of them.  Lots of stores, we’ll be harvesting from the hive just as soon as we can get frames to fill the Supers we have to replace the ones we take off.  There appears to be a national shortage of frames again, same as last year at this sort of time.  Too many new beekeepers and too few suppliers.  But where are the queens?  We removed loads of queen cells over the last few weeks, and now we seem to have none =O(

It’s very possible the queen in the main hive has slimmed down for a mating flight, and so hasn’t laid in a while, or has too recently flown.  And the colony still seemed very strong.  But we saw no brood, no eggs, no nothing – just stores.  In the Nuke box we did a false swarm to, they’re building away now, but no brood.  And the one we moved the swarm we found under the hive into, which had had recent laying, we saw no sign of laying in now.  There seemed to be more bees, so there has been some hatching I think, but no new laying.  And they seem darker now than they did last week, so maybe they’re not from so far afield, or maybe they mated with some of our drones?

Finally, varroa.  The drop count on the board was high.  Enough that we gave up trying to count them.  The bees profligacy has been their own downfall.  The Bee Inspector checked the hive over late last year, and found nothing to worry about, but they’ve been laying so many drones especially, but brood in general, it’s been the perfect breeding ground for varroa.  We didn’t see any drones with stunted wings this time, but did release a few from above the queen excluder which were then not flying, just walked around the ground near the hive.  I assume they’d just had no flight practice yet, and the ones we looked closely at were very fluffy, so were probably young.

I’ve bought some treatment to try to deal with the varroa, but don’t want to use it until we’ve harvested the honey we’re going to take early.  So I hope we can get some frames soon.  Otherwise we may have to take the super away anyway – it wasn’t seeing much activity, and is almost completely capped – and leave the 2nd one that’s now over half full until later.  And then treat that and leave the honey there until much later in the year.  This treatment is supposed to be safe to use when harvesting, but I don’t want to take the risk.

Hopefully we’ll learn more next week.  I’ve built and painted a whole new hive, so I hope we have a viable colony in one of the Nukes to move into it.  Maybe we’ll have to re-queen them?  Otherwise a merging back to the main hive may be necessary.

See?  More questions than answers.

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