Apologies to anyone who'd rather see tomatoes transplanted and tat soi ripening seeds. It's bee season here.
Everyone who thought killing a drone-laying queen was harsh will probably find this post, if not reassuring, then at least explanatory.
Last Friday I finally got over to check my friend's beehive. It's the first year we have any hope of getting honey. I cracked the super to take a look. While I didn't expect to find a lot of drawn comb, I also didn't expect to find this:
Notice anything strange? Look closely. There are about two or three small bees, but the rest are really big-eyed and round-bottomed. They're drones. Lots of drones.
I got into the lower part of the hive, the deeps, where the brood nest should be. This frame has natural comb, tied in from the former top-bar hive, but look at it:
Nothing but drones, and at the top, under the "finger" of comb, is a peanut-shaped cell. This hive has raised at least one queen. . . then I went deeper into it.
Drones, drones, drones. This is natural comb falling off of the frame because I was holding it sideways and it wasn't attached firmly at the bottom.
When I'd finally made my way through the entire hive, looking for the queen, and cutting out the open, hatched-out queen cells, this is how many I ended up with:
I can only count nine there, but there were eleven hatched-out cells. Either this hive raised a queen and she was insufficiently mated and therefore is laying only drones, or the queen didn't make it and a worker is laying.
This means the death of the colony. Drones don't draw comb, and they don't do any inside work. Any foragers are just feeding them (and there were stores of nectar and pollen) but it can't last.
Fortunately, it's swarm season. I think a complete shake-up is in order. I'll bring a swarm over, after the queen has proven that she can lay, and take every frame of this hive and shake it onto the ground. If there's a laying worker, she probably will be too heavy to fly back into the hive. If there's a queen, I want a new queen in her place, should she return. Then I'll take the new swarm and put it in the top hive body box, with a piece of newspaper between the two boxes. By the time the bees chew through the paper, the new queen's smell will have permeated the hive and all should be well.
One thing this relatively new beekeeper has discovered, you just never know what you're going to find when you crack open a hive.
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