The latest hive I’ve checked is number 8. It is one of my three weak hives that didn’t have any worker brood during my mid-August inspections. I was checking to see if the frames of brood I’d taken from hive 10 had resulted in any queen cells – I’m not sure. There was a deformed-looking queen cell that may have just been a pile of wax. I did discover a very sporadic pattern of laying in two of the frames in the top box. There were some eggs and some very young larvae (VYL) scattered around the frame – a pattern I’d expect from an old queen, not one who’d just been hatched this year! Perhaps I had laying workers?
After checking every frame in the top box I pulled it aside, setting it askew on top of the outer cover. And there crawling around on top of the frames of the bottom box was the queen! I took some video of her, from which I extracted the above photo.
There were no eggs or larvae in the bottom box, only some pollen. Interestingly, I let the queen go on the next frame I was about to pull. Even though I went through every frame in the bottom box, and even though there were hardly any bees down there, I never saw the queen again.
My questions from this session were “Why was the queen all by herself on empty frames?” and “Why is her laying pattern so awful?”
A possible answer to the first question is that it appeared that hive 8 was being robbed.
When I first began my inspection there were bees flying all around the hive and going in through the propped cover. I’d seen this in hive six a couple of weeks ago so I immediately put an entrance reducer in the front. When I was finished with my inspection I dropped the lid so that bees couldn’t go in through the top. Within minutes the agitated buzzing and extra bees flying around tapered off.
I wondered if the queen was hiding out on empty frames to avoid being murdered by maurading bees. I don’t know. Another reason for her to be off by herself is that she’s just awful and the workers don’t like her. She was huge, I can’t imagine she didn’t get bred. Ah, to be able to communicate in Apis.
Today I inspected hives five and six. Five is strong and had about five frames of capped honey in their super, which I pulled for Sunday’s workshop at Farmstock. I didn’t see the queen but there was plenty of capped brood and a couple frames of eggs in the bottom box. I decided not to investigate the top box. It was clearly full of honey, and probably had brood in it as well. It was very heavy. (I’m starting to wish I had Warre hives!)
Hive six is one of three hives that appears to be failing. I didn’t see a queen on the 13th but I did see some eggs and a young larvae in royal jelly. And now they are building a queen cell (see the above photo).
I’ve done a lot to this hive since I first discovered it was in trouble at the end of July (it was being robbed). I’m still learning how to keep good records (thanks to the training I received from West Sound Beekeepers Association!) and I can’t tell from my notes if anything I’ve done over the last month has helped. I’m not even sure at this point if the queen cell is viable. I gave them queen cells at the end of July but then there appeared to be laying workers at the start of August (multiple eggs per cell, eggs on cell walls). If the few eggs I saw in the middle of August were from workers, is it possible they are still trying to make a queen out of one of them? And what will that look like? A super-drone?
In today’s hive inspection I checked colonies 1 through 4. My back is really aching today after a long bike ride yesterday, so I wasn’t able to get through all ten in the home apiary. I haven’t been in these four since early this month, so it was nice to catch up.
- Hive 1 had a small amount of eggs, I didn’t see the queen.
- Hive 2 had capped brood, I didn’t see any eggs but I did see the queen! She’s the first queen I’ve seen in months, and she was beautiful!
- Hive 3 had no brood, no eggs, and I didn’t see the queen.
- Hive 4 had eggs and larvae, I didn’t see the queen.
All three hives that I’ve inspected over the last month (3, 6, and 8 ) who don’t have eggs or brood were very strong at the beginning of the seasion. They were also very active in gathering nectar, two of them still have good stores in the hive. I first began to notice something was wrong when I found hive 6 being robbed last month.
My theory is these three hives, being so strong in the spring, swarmed too early. The hatchling queens were not mated, due to poor weather or lack of drones, and so the strength of the hives steadily declined through the summer.
I placed the queen cells from the queen rearing class I’d attended into hive 6 and later gave them a frame with eggs and young larvae from another hive. There were new eggs last time I checked, but I’m not sure if they are from a queen or from laying workers (I’d done a shake out early on due to laying workers). I fear it’s too late in the season to raise new queens because the drones may be all gone by the time the new queens would hatch. We shall see…