Here’s a brief recap of the saga known as They Killed Their Queens: Mated queens (in standard cages with candy plugs) were added to three splits about 25 days ago which were checked five days later (July 18th) and the following was found:
Split #1: The new queen DEAD inside her opened cage and several capped supersedure cells. Today (18 days later): A naturally mated queen, because Life Finds a Way. Happy Ending #1, or as good at it gets anyway.
Split #2: The new queen alive and one supersedure cell full of royal jelly. Five days later:Fresh eggs and supersedure cell gone. Happy Ending #2.
Fresh eggs. Signs of a mated queen doing alright. (Click image to enlarge.) (July 23, 2015.)
It was about this time last year I walked in on a swarm. Turns out it was two swarms, but I managed to re-hive them and eventually got two new colonies from them, two colonies that were destroyed by shrews during the winter, but that’s another story.
I don’t recommend the bucket-and-dump method of re-hiving a swarm, but I had to act fast and didn’t have time to gather up the proper gear.
If I’d discovered the swarm cells a few days earlier, I would have prevented the swarm (in theory) by transferring the queen with several frames of bees to a new hive box, leaving the brood and swarm cells behind — essentially simulating the end result of an actual swarming. A queen emerges from one of the swarm cells left behind, then kills all the queens in the remaining swarm cells and eventually mates and all is right with the world. In theory.
I know some people destroy all but one or two of the remaining swarm cells, thus reducing the likelihood of swarm movement. I’ve also moved the brood and swarm cells to a new location instead and that seems to work in a pinch.
I’ve read about other methods of dealing with swarm cells, but they all seem too complicated to me, too much messing about. I like my method because it’s a simple one-time procedure and you’re done.
How do other people deal with swarm cells? If anyone still reads this blog, feel free to chime in.
Here’s a video that shows what I think — what I hope — is a virgin queen that emerged from a swarm cell after a colony swarmed. If it’s not a virgin queen, it might be the colony’s original queen, which means the colony is on the verge of swarming. Please feel free to leave a comment if you can identify what kind of queen she is, old or virgin. I’ll explain more after the video.
We added a frame of brood with a swarm cell on it to a split hive last week that we thought was queenless. Turns out it wasn’t queenless, because by the looks of it, the queen inside the swarm cell was destroyed — stung to death by a queen that was already in the hive, then pulled dead from the swarm cell by worker bees. If a queen had emerged from the swarm cell, the cell would be open on the bottom, not the side (or so I’ve been told). The hive had several frames of freshly capped brood when we checked it yesterday. I don’t think a week old queen could mate and begin laying that fast. Thus ends my interpretation of the above photo. I could be wrong.
Here are two swarm cells, two of a dozen or so that we found in one of our hives about five days ago.
The swarm cells were found at the bottom edge of the frames in the top box of the hive. We found a similar scene in another hive a day later and took some swarm prevention measures that I’ll describe in detail as soon as I have the time. Many momentous events have occurred. Changes are on the way.
I don’t usually post videos that aren’t my own, but this video from Fat Bee Man works well as a follow-up to yesterday’s long winded post about our first checkerboarded hive. Fat Bee Man says, “When the bees get full [i.e., when the hive gets full], they do what’s natural. They’re going to multiply, so they subdivide.” That is, the crowded colony produces queen cells in preparation for swarming. And then they swarm. Adding empty frames between every other frame gives them something else to do.
Fat Bee Man’s version of checkerboarding completely splits up the brood nest. He can get away with that in a warm place like Georgia. Cold-climate beekeepers may want to stick to checkerboarding only honey frames.
The video is also full of excellent hive inspection tips for beginners. How to smoke the bees gently, how to spot real queen cells — all kinds of good stuff. Note that Fat Bee Man doesn’t wear any protective clothing. Do not try that at home. He’s apparently bred a strain of stingless bee. That’s almost too good to be true.
Another book I read while stricken with the flu is Increase Essentials by Lawrence John Connor, a short and easy read that’s probably the definitive book on nucs — it’s comprehensive. It’s mainly about increasing hives by creating splits and nucleus colonies from established hives. Beginner beekeepers or backyard beekeepers who are happy with two or three hives don’t need to concern themselves with it. Laidback beekeepers who want to create nucs for themselves but don’t feel the need to earn a PhD while they’re at it can simply read Why every beekeeper should have a nuc at Honey Bee Suite. I didn’t read every single word of the book (I did some skimming), because I don’t need to know everything it covers just yet. But I do plan to expand our four hives to eight this summer, and continually expand every summer after that as I secure more land for our hives. That means I eventually need to learn the basics of creating nucs and rearing mated queens for the nucs. I’ll take on queen rearing next year. This year I’ll start with making my own nucs.
Most of the following notes (and there aren’t too many) address swarming and queen mating issues. To delve into the main details of the book would take too long. Suffice it to say there is a huge amount of information in this small book, and it all seems sound. I know I will constantly reference Increase Essentials when I decide to create mating nucs and expand our hives further next year. Continue reading →