Archives for posts with tag: new queen

I inspected the hive last Sunday expecting to see frames filled with fresh comb. (Remember a couple weeks how I mentioned my affinity with the virtue of patience?) Boy was I disappointed! Not a bit of fresh comb to be found. What I did find, however, were busy bees covering two full frames with plenty of bees roaming all around the other parts of the hive. I also discovered how much heavier a frame can be when it has honey in it. At best my frames have a wee bit of honey, so I can’t wait to see how a full one feels.

I also observed a bit of packed pollen in another corner.

The area circled in red is packed pollen, and, I think, the area circled in blue is capped honey. The other closed cells, capped with a lumpy looking dark orangish-brown covering is capped brood (baby bees). There might also be three cells of uncapped brood (baby bees that haven’t pupated yet) in the three open cells directly above the red circled area.
The shiny fluid inside these cells is honey that has yet to be dehydrated to the appropriate level. Once that occurs, the bees will cap it with a protective wax covering for storage until it’s needed later in the season.

Again I could not detect eggs. Along with the lack of fresh comb I was concerned as the bees seem to have little room for more egg-laying and brood production. So I posted a picture and posed the question on the San Diego Beekeepers Association Facebook page to see if there was anything more to be done. Two key points emerged: 1) since my colony is so small there just aren’t enough workers to tend to all the eggs and babies were the queen to lay more eggs. These are highly intelligent creatures! Maybe not in the same way humans consider intelligence, but there is an awareness here and the queen will only lay eggs to the extent that there are workers to care for them, and 2) it is possible that we are getting into what’s known as “the dearth” when there is less blooming so queens reduce their egg production since there is not as much to eat. There’s that intelligence in nature again!

It seems that my bees are doing fine. After conferring with my beekeeper friend, I added two sticks a little wider than a bee to each side of the feeder to lift it above the cover and give the bees access to more drinking areas on the lid.

Sticks inserted under feeder to lift it above the inner cover and give additional access to feeding holes in the lid

It made a huge difference! They had previously eaten only approximately 16 ounces in a week. When I checked it on Tuesday they had consumed another 16 ounces in just two days. My hope is that now that they have more food, and more bees emerging soon, there will be fresh comb on the next inspection in two weeks. We’ll see! Thanks for following along on this adventure.

It’s always exciting to check on the progress of the hive. Once we removed the feeder and inner cover we saw that they had devoured all of the pollen patty, but had not eaten much of the sugar syrup. Moreover, there were clearly a lot more bees than with which we started. When we first captured the swarm, I barely had one side of a frame and now there are bees on two frames, plus they are moving out to a third.

Me carefully pulling out a frame.

Below is a comparison of one frame a week after requeening (left), and two weeks later on the 16th (right). These are two different frames, but it gives an idea of the increase in bees. The frame on the right is one my friend gave me that had capped brood (baby bees going through their process from egg to larva to adult bee), which you can still see a few of on the frame. They’re the 15 or so reddish-brown spots that you see on the comb towards the middle-top where there aren’t many bees.

They still haven’t built much new comb, and they have very little honey stored, so that is a bit worrisome. I’ve been feeding sugary syrup using a black, plastic jug type thing with a small metal screw-top lid with holes in it. Food in the black plastic may last a little longer before growing algae or fermenting, so it may be better for the bees, but it’s harder to assess their use of it. You may have noticed something black on top of my hive in the video on my last post…that was the feeder.

Since the hive inspection, my friend gave me a different feeder to try that has more area available from which the bees can feed. I like this one a bit better as it is made from clear plastic and has measurements on the side so I can gauge how much they are drinking, if at all. The clear plastic may grow algae or ferment faster than the black plastic, but once I have a better idea how much they’re eating, I can adjust and not fill it as full so as to avoid spoilage. Also, since it sits flat on the inner cover, I avoid crushing bees as I did when I checked the other one where the lid fit into the hole in the inner cover. In case you are curious, here are pictures of the two types:

There are also other types of feeders that I have yet to try. I’m hoping that feeding the bees is just a short-term thing I’ll need to do until next spring and that beyond that, my colony will be self-sustaining. We’ll see!

The rest of the inspection went well. I haven’t been able to spot eggs as they are really tiny, like a grain of rice, and my eyes are old so that even with my glasses and in full sun, I have yet to be able to confidently say I have seen one (two videos searching for eggs: Video 1). I can though see the brood (bee larvae) and cappings indicating that new baby bees are growing (Video 2).

I’ve also found the queen each time, which is pretty easy to do with her bright blue marking. I’ve noticed that her marking is fading a bit and there is a gap that wasn’t there in the beginning. Maybe it’s a result of her entourage cleaning her? In any case, all looks well with the hive. I’ll do another inspection where I remove the frames in two to three weeks.

Long live the Queen!

Today was the big day! The great reveal. Had the queen been released and had my bees accepted her? My friend the beekeeper arrived with another frame to swap, this time of brood, and a pollen patty to help nourish the bees while they got themselves started with this new home. We lit the smoker, made our plan for the inspection, and donned our veils. We opted not to wear full beekeeping regalia as it’s a little warm here in southern California, and we were feeling brave. I wore gardening gloves and hoped as I got going that I wouldn’t regret this choice when I realised how much skin was revealed once I started really moving around.

First, we replaced my bottom board with a new one that has a slide out piece that I can regularly check as a more gentle way of indirectly looking into the workings of my hive. Various things fall on it for me to see whenever I pull it out: bee parts, flakes of wax, or parasites. All providing useful information about my bees without requiring me to disturb them.

Next, we began the actual inspection. I removed the upper hive body and feeder, then carefully removed the inner cover. The bees had moved to the middle of the hive. I removed and inspected three empty frames, making enough room in the hive to shift the other frames for easier viewing (YouTube Video). I’m still pretty clumsy and learning how best to handle the frames. I’m a clutz at the best of times and feel like I’m all thumbs when handling the frames, but am sure I’ll improve in confidence over time.

Bees are still mainly on one frame, with a few on a second. There hasn’t been a serious expansion in drawn comb, but we were able to see what appear to be eggs in a few cells and Queen Aliénor roaming around one corner with a few dedicated attendants (YouTube Video). Success! The blue marking dot sure does make it easy to find her! It also helps that there aren’t many bees.

Queen Aliénor la Bleue

We placed the frame of brood from my friend’s hive between the two frames where the bees were, removed the queen cage and rubber band, replaced the frames, placed a pollen patty on the top, and closed it all up after checking that they had adequate sugar syrup in the feeder.

Thankfully, these bees are rather mellow and haven’t been inclined to sting, other than that first day. I had one dodgy moment when placing the pollen patty on the top and a bee was rather focused on my face, zigzagging within inches of it. I had the foresight not to swipe at my face or the bee, and instead chose to walk away for a moment to regroup. The bee moved on and no one was harmed.

Since my hive was queenless, there was no need to remove the existing queen before installing the new one. If that is needed, GirlNextDoorHoney advises removing her 24 hours in advance.

My friend arrived and this was the first time where I would be the person working the bees. So exciting! She had brought me a frame from one of her hives to swap out with one of my empty ones, this way I had some honey and drawn out comb. It would have been ideal to have uncapped brood, but it wasn’t possible this time.

We lit the smoker, made a plan for all that we would do this time, and then we put on our hats and veils. My suit hasn’t arrived yet, so I’m still borrowing her spare veil and wearing a heavy flannel shirt with jeans. We opened the hive and removed a couple frames to make space allowing us to more easily see the rest of the hive. Most of my frames are empty, which made the process go faster, but we still checked each of them. There were more bees inside the hive than I’d thought! They were mostly on one frame with a few on a second. They’d even made some comb with a few pollen and honey cells. We carefully checked the frames for any sign of a queen and, finding none, attached the new queen (I’ve named her Aliènor) to the frame brought by my friend. We slid that frame in next to the frame where the bees had started building and shifted everything slightly more towards the center. Now the wait begins as the bees cannot be disturbed for a week while they release the queen from her cage, and, hopefully, accept her. We’ll see tomorrow!

Unfortunately, I was so excited about the new queen and working with the bees that I forgot to take any pictures or ask to have any taken. So here is a picture of my hive. Hopefully, the queen has been released and all are happily preparing for eggs and babies soon.

I had hoped to find a local supplier that I could easily drive to and pick up a queen that weekend, but to no avail. What I did find is a company that ships queens next-day via UPS. Wildflower Meadows is located in southern California and does occasionally offer in-person pickup, it’s just that none were available at the time. So I reviewed all of their information and opted to order a queen from them that would arrive that Thursday as that was the earliest available. One of the things I like about Wildflower Meadows is that their queens are genetically selected for increased vigilance towards mites, which are a recurring concern in bee colonies. I opted for delivery at my home rather than at the pickup center because the weather forecast for the week was pretty mild.

I still had nearly another week without a queen in my colony. I didn’t know how I would contain my impatience. I watched the video on their site for how to install my queen once she arrived, and found through them a fabulous new resource in GirlNextDoorHoney who even offers online beginner beekeeping classes. I’ll be there soon!

I was ready! Thursday morning was perfectly overcast and I could see from the UPS tracking that my queen would arrive late morning. She arrived without incident and remained on my kitchen countertop until my beekeeper friend could come over in the late afternoon to help me with the installation.

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She’s here!
Queen Aliènor la Bleue and her attendants
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