Saturday, August 28, 2010

A Day Late. . .

And a few queens short.

Yes, it's another bee post!!

My oldest hive has a queen I call "The Bomber Queen." I think she's about three, if the hive hasn't replaced her without my noticing, and the hive is everything you'd want in a beehive. Calm, productive both of brood and honey, just lovely.

See the abundance of stores? See the worker showing up with little suitcase legs of bright orange pollen? I love this hive.

I have a beekeeping friend who is very interested in breeding feral queen stock; reasoning, I believe rightly, that it's better to have a mixed gene pool and feral bees are probably more adapted to life here than queens imported from somewhere like Hawaii or Ohio.

In the past couple of weeks, we've been doing things to the Bomber Hive -- splitting it into smaller sub-hives, in hopes that by using one of his fancy "make a queen" kit thingies, we could raise up a whole generations of daughters that would at least have one rocking parent. Oddly enough, even though we put two sets of eyes, adding up to over 85 years of seeing experience, to work, we managed to miss the queen as we went through the hive.

So she went to Berkeley.

No problem, we decided -- we can raise queens there too. Here, the leftover bees will just raise up some queens all on their own. Bees manage to make a new queen when they're in need. For bees "in need" can easily mean "the people took the queen to Berkeley," so they just needed some early larvae to lavish royal jelly on and hey, presto, new queens.


Yes, because it's always not a good idea to put all of your hope on any one larvae making a strong, healthy queen, the bees will just sort of make a few spare ones, too. I don't know -- maybe there are competing committees or something.

At any rate, we decided, hey, we can also try the method of putting queen cells off of frames into smaller breeding nucleus hives made from Stefani's other hive that specializes in bees and not honey!

Seemed easy, and yet. . . there are some things for which timing is fairly important. Comedy, for one, and probably juggling, and it turns out, queen rearing.

The little heat wave we experienced might have sped up the hatching for these new queens, or it could be that the two days, Wednesday and Thursday, that might have been good days for me to get in there and move some frames with capped queen cells were so busy I didn't get in until yesterday, but:

That cell, the one in the middle pointing down, the one with the nice large chewed opening in the end? Yeah, that's where the young queen was. She had gotten out. I didn't see her, but I wasn't surprised.

I did see evidence that she'd been around the hive, though:

See the nice, round-ended queen cell hanging down? See how it doesn't have an opening at the bottom, but a ragged hole on the side? Can you say "regicide"? Or in this case, I suppose it's state-sanctioned assassination, as the first or strongest queen to emerge will fight to the death other young queens emerging, and if she can get to some that aren't yet hatched, she'll take care of that little problem right away.


At least five total queen cells or former queen cells. It would have been nice to have gotten more, but now all I can do is wait until this queen manages to fly, mate, and begin laying eggs. In about 20 days I should know. It's been exciting, anyhow.

Since the beehives are right by the chickens, I managed to finally identify the tomatoes that volunteered in the chicken coop area:

Principe Borghese, the kind I wasn't going to grow this year, because I have so many awaiting foccaccia or sun dried tomato bread in the freezer.

It's probably appropriate that they're growing there, because they look like little monochrome elf eggs. Eggs and hatching, pretty much, all the time here.


Ribbit said...

I'm giddy over bee posts! Hope this new queen works out for you.

Susan said...

You are the queen of cool bee management. I just love to read your bee posts. I am so glad you talked us into getting bees.

I made crepes this morning and huckleberry syrup but Greta wanted honey--the cupboard was bare. But we had a big 3 liter jar with wax still sitting in the strainer from our dead hive. I poured it out and voila 5 jars of honey.

kitsapFG said...

I always learn so much when you post these bee posts! What an amazing society the bee world is.

Mr. H. said...

Principe Borghese is the one tomato that we never have to plant either as it seems to re-seed itself so easily.:)

Stefaneener said...

Ribbit, you know I post them just for you. I heard from my bud that there are 8-12 new queens possible. I'm so glad to be spreading her good around.

Susan, yeah, that's me. Ha.
I've been having oatmeal with huckleberries (cleaned during a movie) every single morning. Good for your saved wax/honey!

kitsapFG, it's a lot of fun. I still feel mostly like a beginner.

Mr. H., I'm glad it's out of the way. I ruthlessly pull most tomato volunteers, but maybe that was a bad idea this summer. Sigh.

meemsnyc said...

Your beehives are soo cool! I am sooo jealous! I would love to do beehives, but not sure if the neighbors will like it.

Kristin said...

Thanks for sharing another adventure in your hive. I especially liked how you found and photographed the half-eaten queen cells. Hail to the new queen.