Update on the Update of the Queens II

It’s been a real busy couple of weeks. We are right in the middle of the nectar flow here in Alpharetta and I have been busy putting the honey supers on the hives, creating more splits for the new queens I have reared , hosting a troop of Girl Scouts at the house to help them earn their Plants and Animals patch (more on that later) and retrieving a swarm (more on that too).

First, an update on the queen in the observation hive. I found her laying eggs on April 21st, so I marked her and installed her into the viewing area for the Girl Scouts and for the Farmers Market on the 25th. Here is a picture of her.

Notice that the fluorescent green dot really shows up. I use Elmers waterbased paint markers that are non toxic.

She has been extremely busy laying eggs and I cannot keep up with her, cycling in fresh comb for her to lay on, so I have decided to put her and her colony into a full sized hive body and see if I can get some honey from her this spring.

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.

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.

Splits and Installation of Queen Cells

On March 23rd I grafted larvae into artificial queen cups and installed them into a starter-finisher colony to transform these larvae that were destined to be workers into queens. Normally the queen cells are harvested 10 days after making the grafts and then transferred into nucleus colonies where the queens emerge from their cells, take their mating flight and then begin to lay. Due to forecasted rain I had to advance that schedule a couple of days, so on March 30th Tom, a fellow beekeeper that lives nearby, and I made up several splits in preparation for installing the queen cells.  We installed five frames of honey, pollen and capped brood into the five frame nucs and”queen castles”. The queen castle is a 10 frame hive body with partitions that slide in and out enabling you to have either 4-two frame nucs or 2-five frame nucs. With entrances on opposite sides, it minimizes the drifting of one colony to another. Below is Tom installing frames into a queen castle.

We also had a couple of naturally occurring queen cells that we utilized. They were from some of my more productive, populous colonies, so I had no reservations about using them.

I used five frames of honey, pollen, brood and bees because I had several strong hives to work with. Normally when making up five frame nucs I would use only three frames with all the above and two empty drawn frames. I have successfully made up the nucs with just two frames, but more is usually better. The frames with the honey are placed on the outside edges of the nuc. Frames of pollen, honey and older brood are placed in the middle. Ideally, you would not have any young larva that could become queen candidates as the colony may decide that they would prefer to raise a queen of their own rather than the one you have given them.

The next day I returned to install the queen cells into the nucs. Each cell is removed from the grafting bar and inserted into a plastic cell protector that has “ears” on it to enable it to be pushed into the wax foundation of the frame.

So now I have 13 nucs that hopefully will be successful and join my other hives to be productive this year.