Saturday, August 3, 2013

Long live Queen Austeja!

A hive inspection on 7/18 revealed:
  • Lots of queen cups (but nothing in them -- at least I didn't see anything, though obviously I missed something important as you'll soon read)
  • Very little capped or uncapped honey
  • 16 bars chockablock with brood, both capped and uncapped, in all stages 
  • Some eggs -- they looked good, like my queen had laid them as opposed to a laying worker 
Given the masses of queen cups (we're talking anywhere from 5 to 10+ per bar), the lack of space for laying eggs and the drone comb, I thought they might be getting kind of crowded and swarmy, so I added four empty bars (between nice full bars) in the brood area. However, because of the lack of honey, I also gave them syrup so that they could continue to build comb/not starve.

Fast forward 13 days to 7/30. I did an inspection and this is what I saw:
  • The bees do not appear to have swarmed. I think I have even more bees than I did 2 weeks ago. 
  • The bees have not built any comb on the empty bars though they were starting to form little daisy chains on them. A few weeks ago, they were building like gangbusters, and I had expected even a palm sized bit of comb on them, so that surprised me a lot. 
  • Masses of queen cups (like 5-10+ per bar). I didn't see eggs or anything in any of the queen cups.
  • Two queen cells. There was one small capped queen cell (but definitely not a drone cell -- much bigger and more "peanutty" looking) and one that looks like it might have been opened from the side.
  • 14 bars that had been packed with capped/open brood are mostly empty as a result of bees emerging. Although there is still a fair amount of capped brood, there were no eggs/larvae replacing the ones that have hatched in the last two weeks. 
  • Two bars had eggs and larvae in all stages. The brood pattern was good, but there has definitely been a reduction in the amount of laying going on. 
  • The cells with eggs looked good (egg standing up nicely in the bottom center of cell), but I noticed one cell with 2 eggs, which could indicate a new queen. 
  • Some uncapped honey, but nothing significant (no full bars or even half bars of honey -- just some across the tops of the bars and between brood) 

Looks like a queen cell
that's been opened from the side.
Sorry so blurry -- it's hard to take a
pic with my phone while holding a
bar with one hand.
So I've been trying to diagnose what has happened in the last two weeks and how to proceed. Here are some thoughts that occurred to me:
  • Given the lack of a swarm and two queen cells, I suspected a supercedure. However, with a supercedure, I would have expected a break in brood rearing for about a month.Why am I still seeing eggs and larvae? Could I have two queens? (Unfortunately, I'm rubbish at spotting the queen, and I've never found her.) 
  • What should I do with the queen cell that is capped? Should I make a split? Or if I leave it in the hive, is the new queen more likely to get killed or swarm?
  • Can I stop hyperventilating and breathe normally?
  • Small queen cell.
    Hard to tell from this angle,
    but it's definitely bigger
    than drone a cell.
I posed this question on a forum I follow, and the response I got leads me to believe that Queen Hippolyte has indeed been superceded. I was advised to just leave the remaining capped cell alone and let the bees sort it out.

Apparently, old queens can coexist with the ones superceding them for up to 5 weeks. Most likely Hippolyte is still in the hive with the new queen, which is why I'm continuing to see eggs.

Long live Queen Austeja!

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