Sometimes, queens die. It could be old age, it could be she got injured during an inspection. It's hard to say what happened to her. If a queen is failing, meaning she isn't laying the amount of eggs the colony would like to see, the hive will make a unified decision to replace her. They use one or a few of her eggs she's laid to create a supercedure or emergency queen cell. As long as there are some viable eggs, that is. But, sometimes she doesn't lay eggs and then dies and the hive is queenless with no replacement potential. You have 2 options. You can buy a mated queen, but those are kind of pricey with shipping. Or, you can steal a frame of eggs from another hive and they'll make a queen from that frame. I'm telling you this because I wanted to explain what I did back on 03/07. I stole a frame of eggs and gave it to a queenless hive with no eggs. I couldn't tell at that time that it was mostly drone eggs. I know now because it was a bunch of drone capped brood when I checked on it on 03/25. Drone brood is puffier, almost like kix cereal. They can't make a queen out of an unfertilized egg, which is what drones are. So, I gave it another frame on 03/25 and on 04/01 I found 2 queen cells! Yay! Now, my next check will be on 04/15 to see if there are eggs. If I see eggs on 04/15 that means the virgin queen was born, took her mating flight and made it back successfully mated and is now laying eggs!! I will NOT open the box until then because I could disrupt that whole process by disturbing the hive. Look below at the drone brood and how it sticks up higher than the worker brood. That's how you tell if males or females (workers) are going to be born.
Yesterday's inspection was interesting. I saw several frames of capped brood in all of my hives. I also found eggs in the top box of the hives where I reversed the boxes a couple weeks ago. What this means is the queen has moved up to the "new" top box (that used to be the old bottom box) and started laying eggs. I left the few I didn't reverse in their original order. I'll use this as an "experiment" of sorts to see if reversing the boxes in Spring boosts the brood. I will say that I had to get in the bottom box of one of the hives I didn't reverse because a frame was left out and it was a mess! I noticed not one frame of brood or eggs down there. Will the queen eventually go down to the first box and start laying? Sure! The advantage to reversing boxes is bees have a tendency to want to grow starting at the bottom and then growing upwards. Does this tendency make the queen build up brood faster? Also, some beekeepers think that if you reverse boxes and move the empty box to the top, the bees will have less tendency to swarm. They think the bees don't see the empty bottom box as empty space to use. Make sense?
Beekeeping is never absolute. That's one of the hardest and coolest things about it! Just when you think you have the bees figured out, they do the complete opposite. A lot of people starting out want to read a "how to guide" on beekeeping and they want the bees to do everything like the book says. That doesn't happen.
Update on the hive without a queen. Remember I gave it a frame of eggs on 03/07/2020. I took a quick peak on 03/17/2020 and didn't see a queen cell. I looked at this hive yesterday and it still has no eggs and now all the eggs I gave it on 03/07/2020 are capped brood...but mostly drone brood. Perhaps the frame I gave it was mostly drone eggs. So, I stole another frame of eggs that I'm pretty sure are worker eggs, as they are with worker capped brood. I'm going to see if they make a new queen one more time! If they don't I'll either merge this hive with another hive or I'll give it a frame of capped brood from another hive and try to find a mated queen. My next inspection on or around 04/05/2020 will help me decide.
In closing, I want to speak about the coronavirus. A lot of you want answers about pickups. I'm sorry, but there are no answers to provide right now. I've paid for the bees and we are going forward. If we have to stagger pick up times to one person every 10-15 minutes, we'll do that. If we have to do one couple per hour for the inside the hive class, we'll do that. We will do what we need to do to get pickups done. The US is changing week to week with this virus, so I can't possibly make a plan today for what will happen over a month from now. I'd appreciate it if you would just be patient and give it some time. Please trust me when I say I appreciate all of you and we will figure this all out when it's time. Thank you!
The world may be going through some trying times, but the BEES must go on! They have no idea there's a virus going around. They are growing and doing their thing. Splits (nucs) have been made, hives have been started...they are looking great! The bees are actually putting quite a bit of pollen away right now. Equipment has been purchased, suits have been purchased, tools have been purchased. Pickups in May are happening! I have spent a lot of money and there has been a lot of time spent getting your bees started!
If we have to do 15 min appointments or drive thru pickups in a parking lot, we will do that...we will do whatever it takes to get you your bees.
Thank you for your support and understanding!
I looked through all of my hives yesterday. I was very pleased with what I saw for the most part. The queen is laying in most of the hives, in fact I saw some capped brood already. I cleaned all the bottom boards and reversed some of my boxes. A lot of beekeepers will tell you that you MUST reverse your boxes. I'm the beekeeper who will never tell you that you MUST do anything. If a huge portion of the bee colony is in the top box, you can reverse it to the bottom. I have a husband who helps me lift, but if I didn't, I wouldn't reverse these heavy boxes. We don't turn trees upside down, which is where wild bees live. haha! I saw pollen already stored, but I still went ahead and added in a little more pollen. I only fed 1/2 gallon, because they really have a lot of honey left. And, all their frames are drawn. When I do my splits in late April, I'll start feeding aggressively at that time. I did find a queen-less colony. It's a really bad time for that to be happening. I stole a frame of eggs from a rocking hive and gave it to this hive without a queen. The odds are very low. Mathematically, the new virgin queen will be born in 16 days. That will be 03/23/20. Will there be drones hanging out at the singles club (drone congregation area) waiting to mate with virgins? I just don't know. I hope so! A virgin queen being mated is always risky with Spring rain too. She has to fly out, be mated and fly back without being eaten by a predator, hit by a car, soaked by rain, etc.. Fingers crossed!
One more thing before I wrap this up. I have a meaner than snot hive that I can't wait to re-queen when the time is right. People get way too attached to their queens. I've seen people refuse to "give up" on a queen that isn't laying well and letting their hive die because of this "attachment". Don't get attached to her. She sets the tone or the mood for the whole hive. If they're mean and not fun to inspect, get rid of her and replace her. My blog will be about how to do that, when that time comes.
Today I am working more on the yard. I'm trying to get these seeds in the ground today, before the rain this week. I'll be selling 5oz bags for $20.00. They are a mix of bee/butterfly flowers. Let me know if you'd like one!!
It really sucks to open your hive and see the bees didn't make it through winter. Your first thought is, what the heck happened? There are a few signs to help determine why a hive died. For example, if the cluster is small, you know the number of bees wasn't large enough to keep themselves warm. The queen didn't lay enough "winter babies" to help get the hive through winter...or, the hive had a large mite load and honestly, mites can decimate a hives colony size fast. The winter survival rate is dependent on your Summer/Fall mite and feeding management. I'm doing mite counts this year. I've never done that, but this year I want to monitor my mite load better. I'm also buying an Oxalic Acid vaporizer so I can do a blast when needed. I'll blog about that when it's time. So, grieve your loss, but don't give up. Clean out all the dead bees, brush off your bottom board, freeze your frames of drawn comb and look at the head start you have for this year! Buy a NUC or Full Hive and try again. I read somewhere that if you make it 3 years in beekeeping, you'll be a beekeeper for life. I truly believe that. :)
FOOD FOR THOUGHT FILM SERIES - HONEYLAND
Thursday, March 12, 2020 at 6 PM – 8:00 PM
Kansas State University - Olathe
22201 W Innovation Drive
Olathe, KS 66061
*Free Event - Donations appreciated!
INTRODUCTION TO BEEKEEPING
Friday, March 27th, 2020 at 6:30PM - 8:00 PM
The Lakeside Nature Center
4701 E Gregory Blvd, Kansas City, MO 64132
*$10 a person - 100% of the sales will be donated back to Lakeside!
BEGINNER'S BEEKEEPING CLASS
Saturday, March 28th, 2020 at 9:00AM - 3:00PM
University of Missouri Extension Office - Cass County
201 W Wall Street
Harrisonville, MO 64701
*$65 a person; includes breakfast, lunch and a book!
INTRODUCTION TO BEEKEEPING
Friday, April 3rd, 2020 at 6:30PM - 8:00 PM
Fraternal Order of Eagles
26433 Eagle Drive
Paola, KS 66071
*$10 a person - This will BEE my last Introduction Class for the year!!
To Feed or Not to Feed!
Looking at the weather forecast for the next week, I'm seeing highs of 63, 66, 49, 56 and 58! But, more importantly, I'm seeing the lowest low being 33. What this means to me is that it's sugar water time. Now, that doesn't mean you absolutely need to feed your bees. It's warm enough to open that lid and take a look. Don't go digging around a bunch, just pull a few frames to see how the honey stores are looking. If you don't want to open the lid, do the "lift test", (where you pick up the box on one side) and if it feels pretty heavy, the bees may be just fine on honey stores. If it's feeling light, you need to open up the lid and take a look at what you've got! I'll be adding in a quarter sized pollen patty as well on Saturday. I'll check that patty in about 5 days to see how much has been eaten. I like to add pollen in a bit early to give them a start on that bee bread (aka baby food).
Saturday at 10am, I'll be teaching my "introduction to beekeeping" class at the OP Arboretum. It's a sold out event and that is awesome!! If you are going, please say hi and let me know you've read the blog.
Christine's Bee Blog!