Thursday, July 7, 2011

Expensive mistakes?

I'll explain the title in a moment.

As I mentioned before, the white queen castle (now reduced to 6 frames in a single nuc) doesn't have a queen. I've been watching it for a couple of days, and see bees coming and going. I felt sorry for them, seeing them do all that work for nothing (with no queen). I thought I might recombine the nuc with one of my established hives, to prevent the bees from just dwindling down and dying.

Well, I saw a Craigslist post from a beekeeper not too far from work who was selling local queens for a good price. So I thought I would buy a queen from him, and get that nuc up and running as a hive. Problem solved! I didn't think that the bees there could wait for a new queen to be made if I should just bring over a new frame of eggs.

So I met Matt Smith, who has a remarkable queen rearing yard in his backyard in Lincoln, MA. Here are some pictures I took of his bee-yard:

In the first couple of pictures you can see Matt getting in the nuc and caging the queen I bought from him. Talk about fresh! At least I know she hasn't been sitting in the queen cage for days!

A lot of his hives and nucs are made of whatever wood he had, plus he buys rough cut wood for some hives. He said he focuses on queen rearing instead of honey (it's hard to do both with the same hive resources). If you need a queen and are near Lincoln, MA, drop Matt a note. He said he is a reader of my blog.

Anyway, I got home this evening and went out to the white nuc to install the queen.

So I pulled out the first frame, looked at it, and what did I see? BROOD AND EGGS and a big ol' fat queen walking around! See if you can spot the queen in the picture below:

If you can't find her, click here to see a version of the photo above where I circled her.

So I snagged her with my marking tube, and put a nice white dot on her:

OK, so now we have a situation: I have a queen with no hive for her.

So I thought I'd steal some bees and frames from the Pink hive and make a nuc.

I opened up the Pink hive, and the top brood box had no eggs or brood in it. OK, I'll check in the lower box. In there I found a lot of brood, and some of it was capped. That was strange, because according to bee math, the new queen I introduced over the weekend couldn't have laid those eggs (bees are capped at 9 days after the egg is laid).

(*sigh*) So it looks like the Pink hive may have already had a queen too, when I introduced George's queen (which I purchased...). I did a quick check through the frames of the Pink hive, and didn't see a marked queen (or an unmarked one at that). It was getting dark, so I am going to check another time (probably not this weekend - I want to let that hive build up without my messing with things).

I ended up pulling out some bees with frames (and no queen - at least that I could tell), and put them in a new nuc. Here's a shot of the nuc with the new queen cage suspended, so the bees can let her out:

So here's the new Gray Nuc (left) sitting next to the Blue Nuc (right):

Also, I took a quick peek in the Blue Nuc and those bees had eaten almost all of their honey. So I'll put a jar of sugar syrup on the hive this weekend for food.

By the way, look at this cute frame of new comb (on a foundationless frame) from the Pink hive!

So, back to the title. It may end up that I didn't need to buy any queens for my hives. I don't know if I didn't wait long enough to check, but I thought I did. Live and learn, but some lessons are expensive.

One of my co-workers suggested I keep a history of where my queens come from. So I added a link "Steven's Bees Heritage" in the right column, a spreadsheet of my hives and their queens. I'll update the spreadsheet as the hives/queens change.

P.S. I know I'm going to hear from Tom: "See what happens when you  mess with things? You should just leave them alone." He had a point in this case...

1 comment:

  1. See what happens when you mess with things? You should just leave them alone. ;)


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