Late yesterday, I had the new (to me) experience of watching a new queen emerge from her cell. Fortunately, I had taken the camera out with me and was able to capture it for other folks to see.
How it came about: I was dealing with a swarm and checking a hive for queen cells, only to find a queen cell, just opened, and the new queen emerging. It took almost 25 minutes for the queen and the workers that figured out what was happening to get the hole opened widely enough for her to get out. Then yours truly, while attempting to bet the worker bees out and keep the queen in the cup so I could mark her, allowed the queen to scurry off into the hive. I did a check for her, but by the time all this finished, my smoker was out and it was dusk. I had to end the hunt as the girls were getting a bit peevish.
Lesson learned: just capture them all, and then go about dealing with getting the workers out of the cup so the queen can be marked.
A word of advice for anyone who thinks they want to be a beekeeper. Think on it twice. Three times. Half a dozen. A million. Then put it out of your head. Otherwise, you’re going to be delighted when you capture an enormous swarm and think how lucky you are, until you realize that giant swarm is probably two when you go in to examine it after hiving it. Then you’ll be cursing them out because you swear that last evening at dusk you found two distinct queens, but today, you can only find (and cage) one. You’ll spend the rest of your day tediously moving the bees frame by frame to the new actual hives, hunting for a swiftly moving, sunlight hating needle in a gigantic stack of buzzing, flying, also quickly moving needles that are basically all the same color. This will make you feel a bit like Captain Queeg in The Caine Mutiny and the search for the second key: did you really find two queens, or was it just the one making a sudden appearance in another part of the hive? I’m hoping for the former and the other queen is not in the hive with the now caged queen, but in amongst all the other bees I dumped into a different hive.
Mother Nature doesn’t give a crap about your calendars, or a groundhog seeing a shadow or not, or anything else puny humans wish to do. When she’s ready to do something, she does it. Spring is here. Of course, now that I’ve said that, she’ll probably decide to kick my ass for it by shoving a random freeze in there, but we only had a handful of those during our incredibly milder than usual “winter”.
I do believe it’s time to go ahead and transplant the brassicas – they’re getting crowded in their flat anyway now that overnight temps are in the 45-55F range. The tomatoes I am more wary about, because there are a crapload of them out there under the lights, and Mother Nature deciding to get buzzed and do something crazy would force a restart, thus delaying our first harvest of tomatoes. The peppers still need more warm overnights, which they can get in the barn better than outside.
The melons, pumpkins, and squashes also need to go out: one of them is already putting out tendrils and trying to capture a lock on the chain the light is hanging from, and if I don’t get it out of there soon, it will probably come to life and kill me while I sleep.
The best gauge for us of whether spring is here? Frog butts on the window across from my desk. They hang out there to nab the insects that are drawn to the light seeping out of the window into the darkness.
Spring is here! Not officially, as Mother Nature has not yet given the all clear sign, and may whack us with a surprise freeze, but it will be in the 80s (F) all week, from the forecast, and we’re just going to roll with that because the girls are getting busy out in the beeyard. The maple back there is in bloom, I’ve seen azaleas and bougainvilleas in bloom during my travels, and the foragers have been bringing in tons of pollen. Unfortunately, their pollen roundup has not included my car, which looks like a fancy dessert that has had powdered sugar dusted over it. But they’re finding it, and that’s good news, because it means the queens will pick up their laying, and the colonies will build as we get to the nectar flow here.
On Feb 29, I split two hives off from hive #9, the giant in the yard. Today, I made two more splits, one from #14, and one from #15. The #15 hive was a package order last year, and actually killed the queen that was caged inside the package. The reason? The provider shook a queen into the package with the other bees, something they try to avoid. Since the bees in the package already had a viable queen, when the new queen’s cage was put in as the package was installed, they killed her.
It worked out well, though: hive #15 is a strong hive, and they built up quickly last year. A routine inspection showed the queen was laying heavily again already thanks to the temperate weather, so I decided that one could be split.
I’d like to keep that genetic line going out in the yard, as they’ve shown themselves to be hardy. While making the split from that hive, I found her majesty and managed to take a few snapshots like a good paparazzi should. She stays in her current hive.
I found a queen cell on one of the frames I pulled out of this hive. As it also had capped brood along with larvae and eggs, and a decent honey/pollen pattern arcing over the brood area, I took that frame to form the basis of the new split. The three other frames I took had honey and pollen for feeding, and more capped brood that will be hatching soon to increase the population of the colony. The bees will recognize they are queenless, and if there is an egg in that queen cup, they will turn that into their new queen (hopefully). If that one is not viable, they have plenty of other just laid eggs to choose from to make a queen. I’ll check back in a few days to see if they have capped off the existing queen cell or started another (or both) and that will let me know they’re on their way.
Once the new queens hatch in all these splits, they will go on a mating flight. There are tons of drones (male bees) in my hives and probably the hives of other beekeepers in the area, so I’m not terribly concerned about the queens mating. Trivia for folks not up on bees: the drones die after mating, not because the queen kills them (a la the female preying mantis) but because their guts are ripped open at the end of the process. Cheery, no?
Here’s to a great season in the beeyard and the gardens.
That title is a tad misleading, really: since our winters are so mild, the queens rarely take too much time off from laying, which means on any given day, there are likely new bees making their way out of their cells. Yesterday, while breaking down hive #9 for inspection and splitting – I wound up making two splits off this hive, and it will likely stand up to a third – I caught some new bee action on the cam.