Garden Geekery

Holy Roller Coaster, Batman

Wow, it’s been a summer of ups and downs for these bees and me! So the hive that swarmed successfully raised another queen on their own. That wait was a little nervewracking. It took a little over a month from the time they swarmed to when I saw eggs from the new queen. I was expecting only a couple of weeks, but was advised to wait a bit longer. Checked them again last weekend, and there are a ton of eggs, in a lovely pattern. So I think they should be able to build up enough to make it through the winter ok.

The other hive was going like gangbusters for most of the summer—tons of bees, honey, really active queen. I was thinking I might even be able to get some extra honey off them this fall, they were doing so well. But, alas…I checked them this past weekend, expecting to find a ton of honey. What I found instead was one deep full of honey—which has been like that for most of the summer—one medium with a bit of nectar, the other medium empty, and the bottom deep, which should have been full of eggs and larvae, was completely empty. Completely. No eggs, no larvae, no capped brood, no nectar, no honey, no pollen. Nothing. Didn’t really see any signs that they’d swarmed, either—no queen cells, they weren’t crowded. So I have no idea what happened, but I’m guessing the queen is gone, for one reason or another.

I ordered a new queen last week, thinking that I need to get one in there ASAP before the existing bees die off. I was considering moving a frame with eggs from the other hive to this one so they could raise their own queen if they need to, but it’s so close to the end of the season that I don’t think they’d have enough time to do that and build up before the cold starts to set in. So I just ordered one.

Talked to my mentor that next day, who agreed that they’re probably queenless. However, if they’ve been that way too long, some of the workers will start to lay eggs. But since they haven’t mated, they’ll only be able to lay drones (unfertilized eggs always become male bees), which won’t help build up the colony. (Drones don’t do any real work in the colony, and they get expelled for the winter and die.) And once you have laying workers, the colony will think it has a queen and therefore reject and kill any queen you try to introduce.

The new queen came on Friday, and I installed her in the hive that afternoon. I checked again and still didn’t see any eggs, so there’s probably not a laying worker, at least. It should take about three days for the bees to release her from her cage. Hopefully that will have been enough time for them to get used to her pheromones and accept her. It’s still possible that there’s another queen somewhere, though, in which case they’ll kill her and I’ll have just wasted $30. Guess we’ll see!

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