Update on the Update of the Queens

I don’t know if any of you noticed on the beehive webcam that the workers in the observation hive had torn down the queen cell that I had given them on April 15th. There had not been enough time for the queen in the cell to have matured, so I suspected something else was up. After seeing this, I had a feeling that we actually had a queen even though after a thorough earlier searches, I could not find her.

As I mentioned before, virgin queens are found in places that you don’t normally expect to find them and it is not uncommon for a virgin queen to hide on a side wall of the hive and not on frame. So I must have overlooked her in my earlier searches. I checked the observation hive yesterday and found a queen! There was no brood yet and her abdomen had not yet swelled, so she may still be a virgin.

I will check again later in the week to see if there is brood present in the hive. Once there is brood, I will mark her and place her up in the observation area. I have a troop of Girl Scouts coming over later in the week and I would really like for them to be able to see her and some brood. If she is not ready in time, I will probably take her and the rest of her colony and put them into a nuc at my bee yard and place another laying queen and her colony into the observation hive for a while.

Update on the Queens

Yesterday I checked on the observation hive queen to see if she had started to lay. Unfortunately, I could find no eggs, brood or sign of her. We have had a lot of severe weather here in the Atlanta area over the last several days, so there is a good possibility that she either got lost and perished in a storm or was eaten by a bird. In any event it is back to square one with the observation hive. I have inserted a frame that has a queen cell that I harvested from another of my hives. The beecam is now focused on that so we will see what happens there.

On a brighter note, I checked the mating nucs at the river and found 10 of the 12 nucs had brood. I actually found and marked 9 of the 12 queens with a beautiful, distinctive fluorescent green dot on their thorax. In the two that did not have brood, I inserted a frame of very young brood from another established colony, so if in fact they are queenless the colony can attempt to raise a new queen of their own.

We Have Queens!

The temperature warmed up today to almost 70 degrees F. after the overnight frost and snow showers yesterday. Talk about confusing weather for the bees! I was able to get into the observation hive today and the twelve nucs I started on April 1st with grafted and natural queen cells to see if the new queens had emerged. To my amazement, I found the virgin or possibly newly mated queen in the observation hive and all twelve mating nucs. In the observation hive, I found her in the lower chamber, below the queen excluder, which is where she needs to be to take her mating flight/s where she will hopefully mate with 15 to 20 drones in order to ensure that she will be a successful monarch.

I was also amazed to find all 12 queens in the mating nucs that I started on April 1st. I was very pleasantly surprised that all successfully emerged from their cells as not all the queens survive to emerge. Secondly, I was fortunate to be able to spot the young queens as they don’t look much different that the workers and move around the comb and hive rapidly and are found in places that a laying queen normally does not go.

I am going to leave all the queens undisturbed for at least a week to be sure that they have taken their mating flights and will wait until I see eggs or larvae in the hives before trying to move them into full 10 frame hive bodies and attempt to mark them. The mating flights come with significant peril as they run a gauntlet of birds and dragon flies to find the drones to mate with. I will report back in a week or so to let you know how many made it.

A Honey Harvest Report

This is the busy, exciting  time of the year for beekeepers. Yesterday in addition to looking for the new queens in my mating nucs, I checked on the progress the bees were making on filling the honey supers that I had previously installed on some of the stronger hives on March 25th and also added a few more to hives that were ready.

They are just beginning to fill the frames in the supers with a very light, almost water white nectar. Since most of my frames have drawn comb, it doesn’t take very long for the bees to fill them with nectar and the challenge is to keep adding empty supers on top of the full ones.  When the bees put the nectar into the cells it is between 40 to 70% moisture content. They then dry it to reduce the moisture content by fanning it with their wings until it is around 17% and then they put a wax capping on each cell, indicating it is “ripe”. At this low moisture content it will not spoil or ferment and will last for centuries.

The very first honey I harvested last  season was very light in color with hint of licorice flavor – very unique and very delicious! That was followed by a darker, fruity tasting honey that the bees gathered from the tulip poplar trees and blackberry bushes. I expect that will begin to harvest this first light honey around the first or second week in May depending on the weather.

I also installed a swarm trap yesterday to hopefully catch any swarms that might emanate from one of my hives. The trap is the size of a five gallon bucket and made from a paper mache like material. It has a 1 1/4 inch hole in the bottom for the bees to enter. A pheromone capsule is placed in the swarm trap to attract any bees with swarming on their mind. I caught a swarm last year in this trap in this same tree. I have modified the trap with a roof made of 3/16 inch plywood that I glued to the top cover as the original cover was beginning to deteriorate from the weather.

Can You Find the Queen?

As I reported yesterday, I spent time trying to verify that each of my mating nucs did in fact have a queen that had emerged from her queen cell that I had installed on April 1st. I was successful in finding all 13 of them. Their challenge now is to survive their mating flights.

To give you an idea of the difficulty in finding a young queen among all the other bees – try to find as many of the queens as you can. There is only one queen in each picture.