Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Back to Square One

Today's inspection showed that the new package colonies (Persephone and Hippolyte) are both fine. Bee bodies are at an all time low, but that's to be expected. They should start increasing rapidly after this week.

Weird little bug I found in Persephone. Kind of looked like an earwig, but not quite.
No clue.
Persephone's queen

About 7 days ago, Austeja had eggs in queen cups on a few bars, which I pulled to make a split for Peach. This is the first sunny day we've had since then, and I thought Peach might want some syrup. Well, butter my butt and call me a biscuit. When I opened her up to feed her, there wasn't a single queen cell in there! I did find lots and lots of eggs, though. Oops. The whole point of making that split was to harvest the queen cells for the package colonies. I must have accidentally moved the queen over. Oh well, the brood break will be good for Austeja, and now I have a new colony.

Meanwhile, an inspection of Austeja revealed zero eggs but loads of swarm cells. I counted about 2 dozen. Since the plan has been to requeen my package colonies all along, I briefly considered using some of the swarm cells to do just that this afternoon. However, in the last week, I've had a change of heart regarding Hippolyte and Persephone's queens. Pinching Her Royal Highnesses seemed wasteful and cruel, so I'd decided to move them into nucs as backup insurance. Unfortunately, I'm out of spare nucs and hives at the moment and haven't time to build anything before the queens emerge next week. So I'm back to square one. Requeening will have to wait until the end of June.

Red pushpins mark bars with more than 3 queen cells. Each of these averaged 5-6 cells.
This photo doesn't even include the cells I moved over to Bubblegum.
I accidentally destroyed one queen cell (urgh), but there were so many left that I was still able to move several bars with queen cells and honey from Austeja to Bubblegum. So I have a second split now. In another 8 or 9 days, I should have new queens, and I won't repeat the same mistake I made last season. This year, my nucs are going to be loved and coddled so that they can build up before the fall flow.

Bubblegum's newly acquired royal nursery
Grass stuffed into Bubblegum's entrance until everyone is comfy in their new home.
Unfortunately, Bubblegum is slightly shallower than Austeja, and I had to slice a row of cells off one of the combs.
A few grubs fell out, and the bees were obsessed with them. Not exactly sure what she's doing with this one.
As for Austeja, I'm hopeful that without so many mouths to feed, she may actually store a lot of honey. The wild raspberry bloom ended recently, and I'm seeing tiny berries on the canes. However, some honeysuckle, henbit, and bachelor's buttons are still flowering, though they appear to be on their way out. My peonies, catmint, May night salvia, sage, and chives have all exploded and are a real hit with the girls right now. Red and white clover began blooming during the last week or so and will continue to be a huge nectar source into the middle/end of July. Basswood, catalpa, and tulip trees should start up mid-June, too, I believe. I can't remember when the sumac begins, but I think that's coming up as well.

Too bad the peonies don't last very long. Collecting lots of bright yellow pollen.
Catmint is a huge attraction for various pollinators.
We already had a ton of clover in our yard, but I recently spread another 2 lbs of
seed out there in the bare patches. My DH will not be thrilled to hear that, but who's telling?
The May night salvia positively hums.


  1. Love the peonies and all your other flowers! Looks like the girls have lots to snack on! What did you use to trim your combs? I have to do that moving from BnB2 to HK1. I have some combs with honey that I was able to trim, but there weren't bees climbing all over them. I'm thinking of just using scissors unless you have a better tool. The combs are too fragile for the knife, I think.

    At least you have lots of options for backup queens!

    1. Thanks! This is my 3rd summer in this house, and I've been working on expanding the garden every year. By the time I get to the point I like it, we'll probably move again. ;-)

      I think scissors would work really well, although I just used the same knife that I use during inspections. I used a leaf to brush them off the comb, and then carefully sliced the last couple rows of cells off the bottom. I've done this in the past, too, without any problems. Good luck!

  2. In the immortal words of one of your countryman..."Doh!"
    This is the thing I worry about attempting Queen raising, I am rubbish at finding the queen. While the colony is small (~10 brood bars) I am not too bad but when they get above that there are sooo many bees it's impossible... for me anyway.

    1. I heard the trick is to start by looking at the middle of the bar and then scan in circles moving from the center to the edges. I try, but unsuccessfully as evidenced by this post. Sometimes, I coax/bribe my eldest child into searching for the queen. He's amazing at distinguishing pattern changes and can almost always find four-leaf clovers in a patch. But when he's not available, I just split them up and cross every part of my body hoping for the best.

  3. PS I think they cannibalise the removed larvae to regain the protein...yum

    1. LOL, that's what I thought, but I was secretly hoping she wasn't. I don't want to think of her eating babies. :-)


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