Monday, June 2, 2014

Bee Drama

The past couple days have been really intense with the bees. I have read so much and tried to work through what is happening with my hive just to come to the same conclusion. I have really felt my lack of experience and am trying desperately to learn and figure out how to deal with this.
Bees tearing down an old queen cell.

My Theory: The hive became over crowded and the original queen swarmed with some bees 4-6 days ago. Now I am left with a hive making queen cells to make another queen. At least I am hoping the swarm has already happened, if not, I will need to keep a close eye on them.

Hive inspection during a requeening period.
 There are a lot of bees in this hive. I am not just saying that because it's a bee hive and there are supposed to be bees in the hive, but when we look in the hive there are bees on top of bees! This is problem number one and I should have recognized it earlier. I thought letting the bees build up their own comb as they could would be good enough, but I was wrong. They built as much comb as they could but could not keep up with the laying pace of the queen. She layed so much brood, they barely have any honey stored in the hive. She was probably laying 500-800 eggs or more per day. I know this now because over the past week to 10 days, the hive has tripled or more with bees (and there is still brood capped)! So even though the bees have a whole hive of space, they did not have that much space in terms of drawn out comb.
The comb in the middle of the frame is cleaned and polished, ready for the queen to start laying.

The bees have polished the cells and are ready for their new queen.

My partner is inspecting this frame of comb that has pollen, honey and a small amount of brood.
 Saturday, May 31st, 10:45 am -
 We entered the hive to inspect for a queen and to see how the queen cells we saw a couple days ago were doing. The queen cells we saw before were no longer there on that frame. That means they hatched and the bees destroyed the cells. Or the bees destroyed those cells themselves. We also did not find a queen.

The brood nest was mostly empty and very clean. There were small patches of packed pollen in a few of the cells and some nectar. This means the bees are cleaning up and getting ready for a queen to start laying again. We still noticed lots of capped brood along the outer edges of the comb and on the 5th frame we noticed a new queen cell. There was no drone brood at all and no new eggs or larvae.

8:30 pm
I was in a bit of a panic mode about the hive and wanted to make sure they had the best chance. The weather had been kind of windy and chilly and the lack of honey and stores made me concerned. I wanted to boost the comb production and give the bees a boost so I decided to feed them a cup of 1:1 sugar/water syrup. I stapled a ziploc bag filled with syrup and poked a pinhole in it and put it inside the hive.
Bees chaining on the bottom of the frame of comb.

The blue/grey stuff in the bottom of those cells are packed pollen. The other cells are polished and ready for more brood.

We fed the bees in a baggy stapled to the top bar and poked a pin hole in the bottom of the bag.

The bag feeder is here in the middle of some of the comb.

Sunday, June 1st, 5:00 pm -

I wanted to make sure the syrup was still at a reasonable level so we entered the hive to 1) look for the queen, 2) check the syrup, 3) check on the queen cell.

This was one of the bees participating in the mini swarm or cluster after the inspection.
The morning was windy and around 57 degrees. It finally warmed up and became sunny around 3pm. The hive became more active after the sun came out. When we entered the hive it was 72 and sunny.

We entered the hive and checked on the syrup. They had not eaten very much of it, so that means they probably didn't need it. But I left it in there for the night anyways. While we were in the hive I checked to find the queen and no luck. The queen cells were still in tact.

Some strange behavior by my bees. They were clustered in this small group on the fence.
 About 20 minutes after the hive inspection we noticed the bees did not go back into their hive. They were a bit angry with us for inspecting (again) and flying around their hive. At 6 pm I was in my garden harvesting dinner and noticed a lot of activity. There was a small cluster that had formed on the fence where we put the frames when we are working the hive. They were there for over an hour just acting crazy. I don't believe they were swarm scouts but it almost looked like a mini swarm.

You can see the handful of bees clustered on the fence.

Small cluster of bees on my fence.
 Let's just say I kinda freaked out. The last thing I want is to loose my bees! So I spent most of the night researching swarms and artificial swarms and requeening and watched a few helpful beekeeping videos on youtube.

The mini swarm and the rest of the agitated bees finally went back into the hive after dark.

Ok, this looks like two bees kissing!

After all of my research I am a little more prepared for the different things that could happen. First of all I realize now that the queen was over crowded and needed more space for laying. I did not realize this at first. So my assumption is she has already swarmed and left me with this brood and baby bees. I guess this is more of a hope than an assumption. I say that she left 4-6 days ago because the last of the larvae has now been capped and are starting to pupate. I also realize now that the queen cells the bees have been building are actually swarm cells.

I am still confused as to what their little cluster on my fence was about. I would do an artificial swarm or hive split if I could find the original queen, but because I can't find her and there is no more uncapped brood, I can't do an artificial swarm unless I purchase a new queen or find a frame of eggs. Neither of those options are viable this week. So I am forced to do what I can for this hive right now.

Monday, June 2nd, 9:30 am -
That's a lot of bees!

This hive has tripled in size!
 We entered the hive at 9:30 am and it was 60 degrees and sunny.

This was a very crowed hive this morning and a lot more docile. They were not that agitated about our entrance as the night before. My goal with this entrance was to see if the queen cell hatched and to give the bees more room by pulling out two shallow  frames of empty drawn out comb from my freezer. I had this wrapped in saran wrap in my deep freezer for a year and I am hoping this works.

Part of the reason this hive is requeening is because of over crowding!

The hive looks very healthy and the comb is ready for the queen.

A recently hatched queen cell. It hatched within hours of this photo.
 The queen cell we noticed the day before had hatched. We could not find a queen but the bees were way calmer today and it may be because they have a queen. We also discovered another queen cell (still capped) on a far frame we had not been inspecting daily. So our plan is to leave the hive alone for the next 10-14 days and let the queen mature (takes 3 days), go on her maiden flight to mate, and then begin laying eggs. If we open the hive within the 14 days she may be on her mating flights and become confused and not return. The bees have the hive very clean and ready for a new queen to start laying as soon as she can.
Recently hatched queen cell.

The recently hatched queen cell.

We discovered a new queen cell on the next frame over.

This queen cell looks recently capped.

My partner separating some comb that got stuck together. It was on this frame that we discovered the new queen cell.

Swarm cell.
To make room in the hive for the two frames of comb I had to take out the bag of syrup. So instead of putting that bag inside the hive I put a "wick" in it and laid it on the inside cover of the hive. The bees were able to find the source of syrup and figure out how to eat it within a minute.

We added two frames of drawn out comb from my freezer to give the hive more room.

The hive now has comb on all but 2 bars. We added two frames of empty fully drawn out comb to give them more room.

We also added a bit of syrup to the inner cover and wicked it down to give the bees a bit of a boost.

For now I will just leave the hive alone and wait and see what happens. It looks like one of those queen cells will be successful and if it is, the queen needs time to get established. The additional syrup may help boost the bees to create more comb. Since this is my second year beekeeping with a hive failure the first year, I do not have any more drawn out comb I can give the bees. I really hope this does not cause a failure for me later.

If everything goes like I hope, the hive will rear a new queen, she will mate and return and start laying eggs. Once that happens I would like to do a hive split and create another hive so I can have two. It is still early enough in the season that I can do this and have the bees over winter just fine.

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