In my last post, I was attempting to requeen both my hives. I had to wait a week to go back and check due to a freak cold front that blew into Austin the day after I installed the new queens. I found one queen dead still in her cage. This was the hive that had gone queenless (or so I thought) after being moved from Sunshine Community Gardens. The other hive had an empty queen cage. We will have to wait and see if this hive’s aggressiveness level goes down in the coming weeks meaning they accepted the new queen, and she is producing more gentle bees.
In one last ditch effort to save the other hive, I order another queen and installed her last Saturday. I went back last night to check on her release progress and found her still in her cage, but at least she was still alive. Since it had been 48 hours, I was debating about releasing her myself when this unmarked queen pops up from the side of the hive, runs across one of the tops of a frame, and then goes back down into the hive. It happened so fast I thought I had imagined it at first.
This pretty much sums up my reaction.
So somehow this hive that hasn’t produced any eggs or capped brood in a month now has a queen. I’m thinking either the hive swarmed and the new queen was poorly mated and has been here the entire time or the hive was just a victim up a usurpation swarm. Of course, this mystery queen ran all the way back down to the bottom of the hive so it took me a while to find her, but I also confirmed if this was a new queen from usurpation, she hadn’t started laying eggs yet.
I ended up removing this queen once I found her and leaving the new queen in her cage for at least another day or two. I also put some honey over the candy to encourage the remaining workers to come free this new queen. I also removed one medium super to give the remaining bees a smaller area to defend as their numbers are dwindling. I feel I’m at the tipping point with this hive, and if this new queen isn’t released this week and starts laying, it won’t have the numbers to come back. I’m already seeing way more SHB’s than I would like and a few wax moths to boot.
I hope to post again with some good news on this hive.
On Friday, my two Italian queens arrived in the mail. They are hard to see through the cage, but here they are.
I installed them Friday after work, and it was certainly a learning experience. I attempted to do a quick release into the hive that has been queenless for several weeks. I’ve heard from other beekeepers that you can put the cage on top of an open super and the hive will come investigate. Supposedly, if you can easily shake those bees off the cage, and you don’t see them trying to bite through the mesh to get to the queen, the hive is pretty much ready to accept the queen right away.
It didn’t really work out that way at all…
After I watched the bees investigate the cage and even observed a worker feed the queen through the mesh, I thought this hive would have no issues welcoming a new queen into their home. I removed the mesh and the nearby workers immediately tried to ball and kill her. Luckily, I was able to quickly intervene and get the queen back into the cage and re-attach to the mesh, but not before she got stung once in the thorax. I ended up installing the other queen into this hive.
We observed the stung queen for 15 minutes and she didn’t really seem that worse for the wear after her ordeal. I went ahead and stuck her into the other hive and will just hope for the best. In hindsight, getting the queen into they hive and laying a few days earlier is not worth the risk of her getting balled and killed. I’ll check back later this week and will keep my fingers crossed that both hives accept their new queen.
On April 7th, I did a late afternoon inspection of both my hives at Baab-Brock Farms. I first checked the hive I moved from Sunshine Community Gardens and found no evidence of a queen. No eggs, larvae or capped brood were present. I’m not sure what happened but without any eggs, the hive is unable to even make a new queen.
I then moved over to the queen eating hive that I attempted to requeen twice last year. The last queen was one sent from sunny Hawaii in late October in an attempt to chill out an aggressive hive. I actually found the queen very unexpectantly near the top of the hive, and it was not the marked queen I had dubbed “Aunty Lilikoi”. The hive was also more aggressive than from past inspections a few weeks back so I don’t know if the hive swarmed with my Hawaiian queen leaving me with a queen mated with the local drone population. Trying to find a queen in an aggressive hive is one of the least fun things a beekeeper will do, so I made the snap decision to remove her right then and there.
I now have two cordovan queens on the way which should arrive in the next day or two. Since I feel the location of my hives are in a AHB influenced area of Austin, having a queen that produces distinctive coloring on workers and drones will help be an early indicator that the queen has been lost or replaced.
After requeening Rue’s hive on September 23rd, a mid-October inspection showed no brood or eggs and extremely aggressive bees. I received several stings to the ankles and pulled over 100 stingers from my gloves and shoes after checking on the hive.
This late in the year, it is extremely difficult to get new queens, so I had to resort to calling up Kona Queens in Hawaii to get a queen shipped to the mainland. I installed her on October 25th, and checked the hive today. The queen cage is empty but I did not do a full inspection as the bees are still very aggressive. I’ll check the hive in two weeks. Either it will be calmed down due to the new queen or the new queen wasn’t accepted and the hive won’t make it through the winter.
I’m hoping the new queen was accepted because it was very obvious during the mid-October inspection that this hive was the obvious culprit in the robbing and ultimate death of Knives’ hive. The top four supers were all honey with only the bottom two being used as the brood chamber. If this new queen does not take, I’ll lose the last hive at Baab-Brock farms as well as over 100 pounds of honey. I’m keeping my fingers crossed.
Last week’s requeening of Rue’s hive got postponed due to some much needed rain in the Austin area. We decided to requeen Friday after work in the early evening. The thought was even though we’d have more field bees coming back to the hive for the evening, that would also play in our favor as the girls would have to settle down and return to the hive when the sun went down.
Rue’s hive is currently six medium supers, and of course we didn’t find her until we got down to the first super on the second to last frame. By that time, the girls were really worked up, and I felt I was touring a banana factory with all the alarm pheromone in the air.
My initial thought was the hive had requeened itself like Large Marge did, but the queen I found was marked so it was the original queen installed in April. I do think she was perhaps starting to fail as I found more empty cells in frames than I would have expected as I went through each super. She also didn’t seem to be moving as quickly as I’ve seen in the past.
Here’s a shot of the stingers I found in my gloves after the inspection.
I picked up the new queen this morning and installed her in the hive. I wasn’t about to open up the hive again, so I’m trying the method of just placing the queen cage on the bottom board through the front entrance. I tied a piece of twine to the cage so I can easily pull it out in a week to see if the queen has been released.
Now I just have to sit back and wait. Other than checking on the queen cage, I’m going to leave this hive alone for at least two weeks. Hopefully this new queen will produce some gentler bees.
I’ve bad been about updating since our return from Seattle, so a synopsis post is in order.
We did another honey harvest this past weekend with a super from Sunshine Community Gardens and a super from Rue in Baab-Brock Farms. I was pleased to see that the Sunshine honey was just that. Nothing weird about it although the light floral honey from early spring has now given way to the darker late summer honey.
Rue had 4 frames of good honey and 4 frames of the mystery honey. I finally got to the post office and mailed off a sample to A&M for analysis today so perhaps an answer is just a week or two away.
I am also planning on requeening Rue this weekend. This hive has gotten aggressive as of late, and one of the neighbors got stung (on her birthday no less). I don’t want another Large Marge experience so I’m taking the steps now to try and nip this problem in the bud. I’m anticipating a fun Saturday trying to find the old queen.
On March 31st, I installed a new queen in Knives’s hive. I came back the following week to confirm she had been successfully released and laying well. This week I wanted to do a more thorough inspection to gauge the health of the hive as it had been queenless for almost a month.
I was greeted with a wonderful sight in the topmost super. Here is Knives 2.0 in all her glory.
The very top super had a bunch of frames with a combination of eggs and capped brood.
All seemed to be going well until I started going down deeper into the hive. It appears Knives 2.0 is just hanging out in the very top box and isn’t laying anywhere else. Since I knew where she was, I decided to move the super with the queen to the very bottom to get the brood nest going again in the first few supers. The bees weren’t really happy about this.
I’m hoping this is the last time I have to completely rearrange this hive. If the brood nest gets reestablished in the first three supers, this hive will be well on the road to recovery. I’m also looking forward to this queen producing some slightly less hot bees. They aren’t too bad now, but they do tend to get worked up when inspecting deep into the hive.
Texas Spiny Lizards love hanging out by the hives as they are very quick and can usually run in during an inspection to grab a tasty bee or two in the chaos. This particular lizard has upped his game and took up residence inside the nuclear nuc.
I placed the nuc out at Baab-Brock farms during the height of swarm season in case Marge, Knives or the feral hive in the yard next door swarmed. I sprayed the frames with some water and lemongrass oil to make it more appealing. Not a true swarm trap as I didn’t put it up in a tree, but better than nothing. No bees moved in, but one lizard made it a home. Perhaps the scout bees that found the nuc never made it back alive…
One easy way to test that your suit is indeed bee proof is to simply knock over your hive. I find this gets the bees rather worked up and in fighting spirits. In my attempt today to confirm or deny Knives’ status, my hive slipped off the hive stand. Luckily there were only 3 medium supers remaining on the hive at the time, and I was able to use my cat-like reflexes to catch it before it tumbled to the ground. I had a heck of a time getting the hive wrestled back on the stand which was made slightly more difficult with a bunch of angry bees in my face.
The good news in all of this is my new suit’s reputation for being bee proof came through with flying colors. I obviously do not advocate kicking over your hive to test the integrity of your suit, but I’m trying to find the silver lining in today’s almost disaster.
I also believe I confirmed that my hive is indeed queenless. I had tons of drawn out frames with nothing in them. Considering it has been 30 days since I last saw eggs, it has been long enough that a new queen could have been raised and laying.
It was fortunate that my new queen arrived today. I first wanted to replace my existing hive stand with something more stable. The stand was nice, but the plastic made it very easy for the hive to move around when pulling off supers which is what caused the almost disaster today.
First, I broke down the hive.
After I removed all the supers, I was able to take the old stand away and lay down two cinder blocks and level them. I then put the hive back together again to introduce the new queen. Here is the new queen attached to a frame ready to go.
I then added the frame to the hive. I’m hoping the hive will quickly accept her, free her from the cage, and she can start pumping out some brood.
It has been a few weeks since I checked Marge’s hive. The top most super is still pretty much empty from the honey harvest a few weeks back. Without some rain and a good nectar flow, they won’t make much progress drawing out wax, but I’m leaving it on to prevent overcrowding.
All eight frames on the 5th super are completely drawn out and filled with honey.
The 4th super is filled with queen cells.
I’m pretty sure this hive may have swarmed once already, so I’m surprised to see more queen cells in the making. With the drought and heat right now, I can’t imagine any swarm would have good luck starting out and surviving. I also don’t get the sense that this hive is overflowing with bees either.
Here is another frame with the start of a queen cell plus some really nice pollen.
Our resident Texas Spiny Lizard also took advantage of the hive inspection to run in and eat some bees. Here he is scampering away after chowing down.