Last Tuesday, a group of beekeepers came over to see what was going on in that hive we were trying to increase. A neighbor said we all looked like hazmat folks. I found out that when there's heavy lifting going on, it's good to have a number of spare hands.
We got the hive opened, and looked and looked for the freshly-laid eggs which should have been in that new lovely comb. We found the comb -- big paddles of it:
Yet it was drone comb, that is, cells which are much larger than those intended for worker bees. On pre-formed foundation, the bees can draw it, but not as easily as if they have their own way completely. They did here. What did that mean?
Well, it may mean that if there is a queen in this hive (and believe me, we all looked very very carefully), she's failing, but slowly, as there weren't any supersedure queen cells which the hive generally does when a queen is aging. There weren't any swarm cells, either, leaving the possibility open that the week before we'd hurt or killed the queen. One beekeeper says no, there just wasn't enough brood even then -- she was failing. So who knows?
But what do you do when the hive you thought you were going to harvest queens from ends up needing a queen? Yipes. Fortunately, the next door hive, the hived swarm from my friend's bush, had some small baby bees.
Click on the picture to make bigger and you can see the curled-up, C-shaped larvae. They look like fat white grubs or sausages. These are too big to make good queens, but around the edges of a couple of frames, we found very small ones, about 1/16th of an inch long, floating in royal jelly. Those are the ones we're hoping will get crowned.
Above, you can also see a very shiny cell with nectar in it, for the worker bees to use as they're caring for the larvae.
We also found combs chock-a-block with many colors of pollen, which is the main food source because it's high in protein. Pretty. Every time I see it, I'm struck by how beautiful it is. Still more baby bees:
When we had done all we could do, introducing the new frame of babies and hoping for queen(s), it was time to sliiiiiddee the box closed, slowly, sliding the bees out of the way. That box was heavy, so I was pleased to have someone else doing the work.
Notice the bare arms? Even with a truly pissy hive, and this hive was very unhappy, as queenlessness will do that to you, there were three stings total all day. Two on the bare arms, to be honest.
I was going to work bare-handed, but decided not to fairly early on.
The day wasn't a complete loss (well, any day with a lot of friendly beekeepers getting together can't be bad) as Alan brought over a queen bee who was a drone layer, and therefore was doomed.
We practiced picking up a queen (and I kept dropping her, of course, because that's apparently what I do) and marking her. Then, with no ado, Alan killed her.
Cross fingers for better days ahead.
P.S. It's my birthday, and I'd love a comment in its honor. Thank you!
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