If you’ve been following along, or know something about honeybees, you know that the queen is not really in charge of the colony in the same way as the queen is in a monarchy and that bee society more closely resembles a democracy, but I was at a loss for other titles.

At the close of the last inspection, I had not observed the queen or eggs, and had removed the beginnings of a queen cell, which could have been the colony’s only hope for making a new queen if needed. Focusing on the lack of space, I was thinking only about the bees moving into the honey super and beginning to draw comb there, which I hoped to encourage by feeding them again with sugar syrup. But I still needed to know if they had a queen or if I had a larger problem on my hands. I found a warmish afternoon to go back into the hive to see if I could find the queen, or at least eggs.

This time I started from the back of the frames, avoiding the two that are stuck together, knowing that I’d have to separate them if I didn’t find the queen on the other frames. Thankfully, I found the queen with her conspicuous blue dot fairly quickly. There were a few open cells with what I thought were eggs, and I found uncapped brood of various sizes. So I knew that all was well with their colony. I just needed to solve their lack of space problem to keep them from swarming. I decided to remove the queen excluder that I had placed between the honey super and the brood nest to see if giving her more space to move around changed things.

A queen excluder is a piece of metal or plastic the same length and width of the hive body with grids so that workers can pass through it but the queen and drones cannot due to their larger size. The purpose of this is to keep the queen from laying eggs in what may become the honey harvest. This commits the combs above the excluder to storage area for honey or pollen. I had already decided that I wouldn’t harvest any of the honey that may have been made from sugar syrup in that super, and that it would be left to the bees for their winter survival, so removing the excluder and allowing eggs to be laid there if needed did not change my planning. If there’s enough blooming to get a second super filled with honey, that will be my harvest, assuming they have enough resources for themselves.

The queen excluder is circled in yellow.

Since I was in the colony twice in close succession during weather that has been less than ideal, I decided to wait two and a half weeks before I inspected again since each inspection introduces risk of harming the queen. I did that inspection today with my beekeeper friend, Andrea. But you’ll have to come back next time to share in our findings 🙂