Today I made a trip to Sutton to see the Sutton Hives. I asked my bee-friend Michele, who lives not-too-far-away, to go with me for a second set of eyes (and hands).
Sutton Hive 2
My goal here was to again look for the queen, or at lease find more recent evidence of her. Last time I saw lots of capped brood, but no young larvae or eggs.
Today when I opened up the hive, I could tell right away that something wasn't right. The bees were extra jumpy, or "twitchy" as some say. They were more aggressive than usual, and the guard bees were head-butting me earlier and harder than usual. Michele said she was butted a bunch and she was standing off to the side. Michele has a history of aggressive bees - she had a hive last year with the most aggressive bees the county bee inspector has seen - and he's seen a lot of hives. When I picked her up this afternoon, I walked over to her hives, and while I was about 10 feet away, one of her bees came and gave me the business - I had to retreat to a pine tree to make her leave me alone (but in fairness, that hive was recently queenless).
Inside the hive we saw some older capped brood, and a few cells (mostly drone cells) of uncapped brood. According to bee math, that means the queen was around about 9 days or so ago. But given the lack of eggs and the twitchiness of the bees, we suspect this hive is queenless. Who knows what happened to the queen - I may have inadvertently damaged her in a previous inspection.
We took a frame of eggs and young larvae from Hive 1 (the new hive) and transferred it to this hive. If they are indeed queenless, they should start to make a new queen. I'll monitor the situation next week to see if I see evidence of a new supercedure cell.
It also looks like I am going to get some honey off of this hive. We found frames full of nectar, and they had just begun the process of capping it off. There are 2 shallow supers plus the one medium super (with undrawn foundation) that I added. We switched the medium super to the bottom of the super stack, so they will be forced to cross it and maybe fill it more.
I still have the super boxes offset which gives the bees an upper entrance. They seem to like it - lots of bees using it. Michele was concerned about rain getting in, but so far I haven't heard any complaints! :-)
Sutton Hive 1
This hive continues to do well. They had drawn out about 5 or 6 frames. Michele convinced me to give them a leg-up by putting in some already-drawn frames so that the queen will have somewhere immediately to lay. So I did for 3 frames (since we did rob them of one frame of eggs for Hive 2). I also added more sugar syrup (they had consumed almost all of the 2 jars I put on there before).
Sorry no pictures for this entry - we were too busy talking during the inspection to take pictures. But I did have a chance to demonstrate to Michele how to mark a queen (by using an unsuspecting drone).
It was also interesting comparing beekeeping styles. Michele commented that I am more forceful in smoking the hive, and she tends to be less so. But she also gave me some advice on packing my smoker to have it stay lit longer.