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Saturday, May 23, 2015

Inspection Notes: My Scarlett O'Hara Queen

Today's temperature was 60 and sunny. Starting tomorrow, the weekly forecast predicts temps in the 80's and 90's with rain & thunderstorms. Even though today was cooler than I'd like for an inspection, I decided to go ahead in order to avoid checking my girls in sweltering heat or rain.

Persephone

12 days post install, and she is doing quite well. I didn't go all the way through, but all the comb I gave them is full of eggs and brood. By the end of next week, they should have a nice population explosion.

Capped brood, eggs, and nectar in an old comb I had given them. 


Hippolyte

I only looked at 3 bars because she was completely, totally, absolutely unhappy to see me. Two bars were crosscombed, but since they're mostly contained to those two bars, I put them between two nice straight combs to keep it from spreading.

Hippolyte was just nasty today, so I cut my visit short, but she appears to be laying plenty of eggs as well, even though there wasn't a whole lot of comb building. My guess is that she just doesn't have the population required to build a lot of comb right now, but hopefully, things will change by the end of next week.

Cross comb


Brood & nectar


 Austeja

Oh-em-gee! I could not be happier with this queen! Last year, I had combined her with Hippolyte thinking they hadn't built up enough to weather the winter. This spring, she has turned into the best queen I've ever had! My DH called her my "Scarlett O'Hara queen." When I gave him an odd questioning look, he explained, "She had a poor year last year, but she'll never go hungry again."
I guess there is a real lesson for me in this -- when making splits, coddle the new colonies until they get going. She probably would've done better if I'd been able to make more time for her last year.

Squeee! Look at that brood pattern!
Another gorgeous bar of brood
If I remove the divider board from the hive, Austeja will hold 32 bars. Currently, she is up to 27 bars. This includes about 3 or 4 partially built & empty bars tucked into the brood nest just to keep it open as well as 2 bars of uncapped nectar. I noticed a few queen cups, but there were no signs that she's thinking about swarming.

I love the funny shapes of natural comb.
Drone brood on left. Worker brood on right.

I've been thinking about requeening the two packages with purchased queens. However, after today's inspection, I'm toying with a new thought. What if I let Austeja run out of space and start building queen cells that I can move over to the other hives? Maybe even make a split or two? I haven't thought through the pros (like saving money and time, yeah!) and cons (like another year without honey, boo!) of this plan, so it's not a definite go yet. However, I'm loving Austeja's genes (overwintered, awesome layer) and would love to see her traits in more colonies.

2 comments:

  1. Do you remove the drone comb for varroa control or even pop some open to see how the mites are doing?

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    Replies
    1. There are advantages to drone culling (e.g., more honey, getting rid of mites), but I haven't ever done it. I don't know if there are any advantages to leaving drone comb in the hive (other than possibly putting more good DNA out into the gene pool), but pulling drones just doesn't appeal to me. I have no rational, scientific basis for feeling this way, but I suspect people are are wrong in thinking that drones are only good for mating and eating. Personally, I don't feel anyone knows enough about what they do in a hive to decide whether they are superfluous, but my girls, who are the model of efficiency, spend a lot of time and energy raising them. So in this case, I trust their judgement and leave the boys alone.

      I think Michael Bush recommends against drone culling -- he says that by removing mites that prefer drones, one is selecting for mites that prefer workers.

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