When we left off, I had just harvested some honey and was searching for my queen. As you may have guessed, she was not to be found. What we did find were emerged swarm cells indicating multiple swarms had already departed. Eek! That was not part of my plan! I hope they found safe homes where they aren’t disturbing people and causing trouble.

There were a few capped queen cells, but when I checked again a week later, there was no queen and the cells were empty. Another week later and there is still no queen. By my estimate, the swarming happened sometime between the beginning and middle of May. The queen was definitely there when I added the new deep body because I saw drawn comb with young brood in one of the new frames two weeks later. As of today, they have been without a queen for at least a month, possibly as long as six weeks. The break in brood rearing helps with mites since the mites depend on young larvae for their life cycle, but a colony cannot survive without a queen. The remaining bees can raise a new one from eggs laid by the queen before she left. But those eggs are long gone; the egg stage is only three days. So what’s a colony to do?

Andrea caught several of her swarms and has more colonies than she wanted. We planned to remove one of her extra queens for my colony so she can combine two of hers.  Capturing a fast-moving queen on a frame full of bees is not as simple as it seems, or at least it wasn’t for me. I had her in our improvised cage but thought we also needed some attendants for her. In trying to get just one more bee into the cage, the queen escaped and flew away. We checked again for her a few days later and the colony had started making queen cells, an indication that the queen did not safely return. Ugh! Now we’re both queenless. We did learn an important lesson in the process, however, which is that specialized equipment exists for a reason. There are special clips that will scoop the queen plus the few surrounding bees in one swoop, we just did not have those to hand when we needed them. We’ll have them for next time.

This season started so well where it seemed I was able to keep on top of the need for increased space to avoid swarming and I harvested a half super of honey. Four months later, nearly all my bees are gone and they probably produced multiple swarms to annoy my neighbors. Yet all is not lost. A new queen arrives on Tuesday. I have hive bodies full of drawn comb. There is a super nearly filled with honey for their use this winter. The brood break should have reduced the mite population. Approximately a year into this adventure, I have learned a lot…and there is still a lot to learn.