Archives for posts with tag: queenspotting

When last I posted I was on a bit of a high in terms of how well the bees were faring. I knew we had cut things close with space, and hoped I had added another hive body before the swarming hormones fully engaging. However, I failed to find the queen the next inspection two weeks later on May 14 despite bulging honey supers mostly filled with capped and uncapped honey, part of which I happily harvested because there were plenty of stores at that time in the brood nest. I was ecstatic harvesting frames for the first time and then learning how to uncap and extract the delicious sweetness from them.

During that inspection, I also learned a valuable, albeit sad, lesson about the queen excluder. As experienced beekeepers are likely already well aware, drones, like the queen, cannot pass through it. That would not ordinarily pose a problem, but when I added the additional deep hive body for more space, I moved the medium with a mix of brood (larvae and pupae, aka baby bees) and honey above the queen excluder thinking that the brood would hatch from their cells and the cells could then be used for honey. That worked fine for any workers hatching above the excluder, but the larger drones were unable to pass through to the hive exit. When I removed that hive body, out fell several dead drones who had spent their short lives trapped in the hive unable to fulfill their destiny of inseminating a queen.

The various manipulations likely stressed the bees by adding too much space and spreading the brood out too much. I won’t do it that way again. I kept multiple brood frames together and had honey and pollen stores near them, but it still required the nurse bees to cover more area to keep all the brood warm and there may not have been enough of them. Further support for using a single-size hive body, which would have made things more interchangeable, rather than a mix of deeps and mediums.

I also did a sugar roll to assess the number of mites in the colony as part of Mite-A-Thon, a citizen science project to measure mite loads across all of North America. I had nine mites in my sample of approximately 300 bees, which equals three mites per hundred bees. I thought my measure was a little short, but when I discovered upon rechecking the protocol that it generally takes only a half-cup, not a full cup, to approximate 300 bees. The mite estimate was lower than I expected since I had been seeing a large number of mites on the bottom board. The sugar roll method tends to underestimate, so it is possible that the actual number is somewhat higher. Treatment is recommended above three mites per hundred bees, but chemical treatments including Apiguard cannot be done with honey supers on the colony leaving me with only non-chemical methods like a break in the brood cycle or powdered sugar treatment.

Sooooo, back to that missing queen…

(and just like a rollercoaster ride, this one’s a cliffhanger)

Very lengthy hive inspection video. Maybe one day I’ll figure out how to speed up the video and add a voiceover afterward.

I inspected the hive again last weekend and am pleased with how they are progressing. I discovered when reviewing the video that my bee suit was partially unzipped the entire time. Yikes! How did I miss this?! How did I not notice this when I took off my suit? Thank goodness the bees also missed this oversight.

The middle super was so full, mostly with capped and uncapped honey, that I could barely lift it. The bees have also decided to make a lot of drones in that section; I’m not exactly sure why, particularly after what I witnessed last night when I watched a worker hauling her still living and much larger brother out of the hive on his back, pulling him by his legs. I have read that the male drones are permitted to stay as long as there are sufficient resources, and what I had seen the prior week indicated that there should be plenty of pollen and nectar for all to share. Still, I was impressed by her tenacity.

I found the queen rather quickly. I recently bought and started reading, Queenspotting, authored by a local beekeeper, Hilary Kearney with Girl Next Door Honey; I think it’s improving my search image. The book has some lovely stories about beekeeping and several “Where’s Waldo” type pages where the goal is to locate the queen. I powdered the bees with sugar to encourage them to clean themselves, which removes Varroa mites in the process. Next time, I plan to count the mites with the sugar roll method again, using a finer gauge wire mesh in the lid that I hope will be more effective.

The weather finally shifted last week and it’s warm enough to wear a t-shirt during the day. The citrus trees are magnificently in bloom; the evening air is heavy with their perfume that I can smell from a couple houses away. The native lilacs glow with their brilliant, purple blooms, and the earliest sages are blossoming. Nectar and pollen sources seem plentiful.

The kingbirds have also located my hive and perch on various trees, garden posts, and tomato cages when resting between contentedly picking off bees as they come and go from their foraging. I don’t begrudge them the snacks; they are grassland birds in an area where grasslands have been largely eliminated. At first, they stopped by daily, and I started to tell time by the sound of their characteristic call near my own lunchtime. Now they only stop by briefly, and not every day. Perhaps they know better than to clear out the entire supply all at once, or maybe one can only eat so many bees.

So now it seems I wait. I keep expecting the top super to have more development, but it has yet to occur. I think I am just impatient. Perhaps next week will be the big week when I open the top to see the pearly, fresh comb peeking out just below the top frame bar.

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