Friday, May 18, 2007

last hive check on tuesday

Went back to the "problem hive" on tuesday afternoon. I'd accidentally left my regular beesuit at home along with my hive tools, etc, since I'd cleaned out my instead I used the XL version that I bought for visitors. Found two screw drivers to use as hive tools. Turned out to be good enough for my short visit.

I got my smoker goin' and headed into hive 2- giving them a few warning puffs at the entrance to the hive and under the top cover. Again, they seemed quite lively/loud as I took off the cover. Noted that one of the sugar water canning jars was empty. the other three had about half to a quarter of syrup left.
My goal for this visit was to check to see if the new queen that the hive was rearing had emerged. She had...the little peanut shell-like cell had been eaten through on one end. I continued to look to see if I could find her, but given the lifecycle of a queen (3 days as an egg, 9 days as larvae, 4 days as pupae till emerging= 16 days), it was unlikely that she had gone on a mating flight yet...which happens usually about a week after emerging...I think.
So backing out the last time I saw the closed up queen cell on sun may 6th, at best she was probably prepping for her mating flight by now.

So, I am learning that not only is a beekeeper a landlord of thousands of bees...s(he) is also a detective...determining what is going on with only a snapshot of activity at hand.

I continued to look thru most of the frames and saw more double eggs and larvae, presumably from the laying worker bee, as well as some capped brood, which was drone brood (you can tell this by the way the capped cell protrudes from the comb.) Laying worker bees can lay only drone this fit with my mentor's assessment of things.

I emailed Tim with my findings and he said to just keep watching it, but likely he will catch a swarm (he is on the local "swarm list"- a bee catcher per se) and install it into this hive. It is probably better to have a queen that is not reared from her own hive- for some reason such instances cause a hive's production to be weaker. Guess it is genetic or something.

I will likely go back in this weekend to refuel their sugar syrup. Will take some pictures of both hives, since I've gotten some requests for such.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Last couple of visits

Last sunday my mentor, Tim, came to visit my hives to make sure everything was ok.
I got to use the smoker for the first time on my hives...this warns the bees that you are about to visit. When they smell smoke (as in a forest fire) their instinct is to gorge on honey to prepare for leaving the hive. This preoccupies them while opening the hive.

Well, the hive that I was concerned about, #2, concerned Tim as well. At first he was able to see eggs, which is a good sign...but then he noticed a supercedure cell that the workers were preparing. This is a cell of wax (looks like a peanut shell) that the worker bees build for rearing a new queen. They do this if something is wrong with the existing queen. We left the supercedure cell alone and continued on a search for larvae and visual of the queen. Nada. Plus there were instances of TWO eggs in a single cell. Not good...this means that a worker bee has taken it upon herself to lay eggs, thinking she is the queen. These eggs are drone (male) eggs only and if a new queen doesn't show up soon, the hive is doomed.
Words of advice from my mentor were to return in a couple of days to look for the queen, eggs, larvae/capped brood.

Well, today I visited again...none of those criteria were found in hive #2. Only saw more instances of single and double eggs and then cells where there were just PILES of eggs. A real queen would not do this. I saw no larvae or capped brood, which should be there if the hive is developing properly. I left the supercedure cell in place with hopes that a strong queen will emerge and rectify the hive. If this doesn't happen, I am sure Tim will walk me down that path...which could include letting the hive die and starting all over (with a swarm that he catches from being on the swarm list) or trying to exclude the laying worker with various techniques...and introducing a new queen.

Just for comparison I opened up hive #1. This hive is looking lovely. Eggs, Larvae, capped brood. It is on its way. The bees seemed to make more sense in this hive...I dont know how to explain it but they acted more normally than hive #2.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Hive #2 checked on wednesday

Went back to hive #2 yesterday to see if I could see evidence of the queen. It wasn't overly warm, but the sun was out. I noticed about equal amounts of traffic in/out of both hives. However, I still was unable to see any eggs. Again the bees were pretty tight on the frames where I'd expect to see the eggs, so if there were some, I couldn't see them anyway.
The sugar water was down about an inch in each of the 4 jars, so at least they are eating.

I emailed my mentor to let him know the status and request his keen eyes for a visit to my hives soon. HOpefully this weekend will be sunny enough to check.