Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Ugh! I can't win!!

So I have this queen castle in which I am attempting to incubate a couple of queens.

I did a quick inspection on Sunday and saw that the left and center sections had very few bees, and almost no stores (food). So I thought I'd feed them some sugar syrup.

I made up some 1:1 syrup and put it in an inverted mason jar on top of the screened-in covers on the two sections, and I put an empty body around it. It looked like this:

I noticed that there was a lot of bee activity around the castle, especially noticing bees which were coming and going in the little gaps you can see in the inner covers (between the castle and the gray empty hive body). It appeared bees were getting into the empty hive body and robbing the sugar water from the jars. Sure enough, I checked the next day and the jars were empty.

So I thought I would outsmart the bees, and use an internal  feeder, which looks like this:

Here's another view where you can see down the inside:

The reservoir holds the sugar syrup, and there are little floats that the bees can land on to take up the syrup. This feeder takes the place of a frame.

So I grabbed 2 feeders and installed them in the first two compartments. There! Now I am done!

Well this morning I looked out, and I saw a ton of busy bee activity in front of the queen castle, as well as in front of my brown hive. Observing the bees, I saw them making a "bee line" in between the two - oh no!! The queen castle is being robbed!

The bees from the brown hive were coming in the main entrance of the two sections and robbing out the sugar water. When a hive (or a nuc) is being robbed, it is very stressful on the home bees. Imagine thousands of marauders coming in and rifling through your house taking whatever they want.

When this happens to a full size hive, you add a robbing screen. It's basically a screen that forces the bees to take a roundabout way to get into the hive. The house bees can navigate the route, because they are willing to learn the changes. The raiding bees are just interested in the food, and don't know they have to go up a little to go in.

But I didn't have a robber screen for the queen castle. But I did have a lot of #8 hardware cloth (basically a metal version of your window screening). So I cut off some pieces and made a channel about 10 inches and stapled it to the two entrances of the queen castle (the other section wasn't being robbed). Here's what it looked like after I put on the screens:

Sorry for the bad quality - it was taken by my iPhone. But if you zoom in you can see the screens I installed. You can also see the bees congregating around the bottom of the entrance, and around the (screened) vent holes. They can smell the food, but can't get to it via a direct method.

I hope this is enough to help the bees in the castle survive. If any of them survive and produce a queen, it won't be because of any help from me!!

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