Saturday, July 5, 2008

Long live the queen!

Hello All,

It's been a while, but I thought I'd write about my requeening today. Don and I have two hives; one is doing fine--very populous and we put our second super on today. The other, however, we have labeled our "retarded" hive. The numbers have always been fewer and it has usually been at least two weeks behind the other hive in building out comb. We never even considered adding a super for honey. Not only that, but they have been building some really strange comb: some doubles back on itself; some is wider than the frame, so it can't be built on the adjacent frame; they like to build lots of burr and bridge comb between frames and especially between top and bottom bars. The two frames that the queen cage had been between had so much shared comb by the time we were able to open the hive (remember all that COLD weather?) that we couldn't separate them without destroying brood cells, so we left them together.

So, after much agonizing, we decided to requeen. QEII (as we call her) arrived last week, and we had read that she should be laying eggs before she was introduced, so we installed her in a very small nuc of three frames of brood and honey taken from the other hives. We fed them syrup since most of the bees weren't old enough to forage and they needed to tend the brood that was hatching. They took a few days to release the queen from her cage, and she took a few more days to begin laying, but we finally saw eggs on Thursday.

That meant that we'd have to find the old queen and kill her. I was certain that the queen would be hiding in the middle of the double-framed brood comb, but we were lucky and found her running around on the second brood frame we looked at. I had to pull her off the frame with two hive tools (used like tongs) and dropped her on the ground and smooshed her with my hive tool. It was very traumatic...

Today, we moved the nuc hive into the position where the old hive had been. We disassembled the old hive and put more brood frames around the nuc frames plus some honey on the sides. Then we took the remaining frames and filled a second hive body with brood frames in the middle and whatever frames we had with honey or any comb built out on the sides. We put this second hive body on top of the nuc's hive body and then added a super baited with one frame of honey from our strong hive.

After thoroughly disturbing this hive (not to mention the poor nuc bees who'd been out foraging and didn't know where their hive went), we will leave it alone to let everyone calm down and get back to work. In a week or so, we'll check to verify that the queen has been accepted by the hive and that she is continuing to lay eggs.

Hopefully, QEII is a better queen that lays more eggs and has productive offspring with more honey storage capacity and typical comb-building genes. Then I might feel that all this drama was worthwhile and my murderous act can be justified. Maybe it's a good thing that it's so hard to deliberately do harm to another. I'm not sure I want to be able to kill any of my bees without feeling some level of regret.

Bee Mary

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