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.
Be well, everyone!