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Laying workers…

June 26, 2014

Mixed news with regard to my bees this week. Some colonies doing well. Others, not so much.

First up, in completely different circumstances, I’ve lost one of both of my two home-hatched queens in the last week:

  1. The first, late last week, when I transferred her small colony from the 5-frame nuc (in which they were struggling to maintain temperature), into a newly purchased apidea. I left the apidea overnight without the queen-excluder on the entrance, went back the following morning to add the missing excluder, and found the colony had already absconded; they clearly rise earlier than me! Lesson learned.
  2. The second, when I put her into my queenless hive 3, but neglected to use a proper butler cage. I instead used a marking tube, with  both end covered with newspaper. There’s obviously a reason why a butler cage has loads of holes – so that the queen’s pheromones can easily circulate; in the marking tube, this clearly didn’t happen, and the queen, never released, was dead when I checked 48 hours after moving her.

In other news…

Hive 1 – I opened up this colony on Tuesday (25th June) and found a large, black, queen strolling around on the underside of the crown-board! I caged her and then performed an inspection. On checking, there were several frames of mixed eggs, brood and sealed brood – with a good laying pattern. Clearly, the main lady has started to hit her straps! Good news!

Hive 2 – I checked this colony on Wednesday (26th June) and it’s looking very strong now. The brood box is absolutely full of bees and they’re starting to fill the super above.

Hive 3 – Last Friday (June 20th) I did a quick inspection and again saw no sign of a laying queen. As such, I took a single small frame of eggs out of my then occupied apidea, and inserted it into a langstroth frame in this hive in order to see if the bees would attempt to draw down queen cells. On Sunday (22nd), I checked and, sure enough, the girls were in the process of drawing three QCs down, so I was almost sure the colony was queenless. I decided to take the laying queen from the apidea and add her to this colony; I went ahead and did same, but…see bullet point 2 above. So, having run out of replacement queens, I decided to unite this colony with number 4 – see below.

Hive 4 – Checked this hive on Sunday (22nd June) and saw eggs, brood and sealed brood. The numbers are however, low – only three frames of bees. As such, due to the queenless nature of hive 3, tonight (26th June) I united3 with 4 over a sheet of newspaper. Fingers crossed this works out! Watch this space…

 Hive 5 – I transferred the bees from this hive into a 5-frame nuc on Sunday (22nd), as they looked to be only occupying a couple of frames in the poly langstroth hive; there was still no sign of a laying queen, so probably the virgin queen that headed up the caste never made back from a mating flight? I checked the colony again on Tuesday (4th June) and saw first signs of laying worker(s) – a few scattered eggs, most on the sides rather than the bottom of cells, plus what looked to be some ‘false’ queen cells being drawn from same. This colony is therefore doomed, I think. I introduced a frame of ‘eggs and brood’ from hive 1, to see if the girls will draw down any ‘proper’ queen cells from same, but I have my doubts. I will check back in a few days.

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