Our first bump in the road with the bees this season was to lose one of the queens from our two new packages of bees. I went to inspect them last weekend to look for signs that the queens were alive and healthy. Looking for either eggs or bee brood is the best way to determine if a queen is present, other than actually finding the queen (which is not that easy).
During our first summer with the bees, I never personally worked the hive. It was always Jesse and one of the kids doing the beekeeping and me standing nearby taking an excessive amount of pictures. So, I have absolutely no experience looking for eggs or brood. But because Jesse is away for work, I was left with no other choice.
While inspecting the first hive, I could not find any sign of a queen – no eggs or brood. My lack of experience caused me to doubt myself and wonder if I was just missing something. I put the frames back in and moved on to the second hive. After pulling out the second frame, I immediately noticed brood in the cells. They look like little white worms. My husband tells me they are not worms, they are larva. But they sure look like worms to me…
Anyhow, finding the signs in the second hive was both good news and bad news. It meant that I was capable of finding what I was looking for and that it existed in that hive. The bad news was that it meant the queen in the first hive was dead. For added assurance, I asked our beekeeper mentor and friend, Paul, to come and check that hive too. He confirmed that there was no sign of a queen. It is hard to say what happened to her. She could have been squished when we were shifting frames around or sometimes the bees simply just do not like the new queen and “ball” her, which smothers her.
I called our bee supplier and he said he could have a new queen for me in a couple of days. Last night I went and picked her up. I had to drive about 30 miles one way to his residence to get her. As I was driving, it occurred to me how ridiculous it seemed to be driving that far to pick up one bug. Without that one bug, however, the hive is a complete loss.
Once I returned home, I suited up and headed out to the hives with our youngest. (He took these pictures, so pardon the blurriness 🙂 ).
Here is the new queen in her cage with a few attendant bees. The white stuff on the right is a sugar candy substance placed in the cage for them to feed on during their journey to a new hive.
Re-queening the hive at this time of year is done by a slow-release method, whereby you place the caged queen into the hive and allow the bees to adjust to her during the time it takes them to eat through the candy plug. The cork on the candy end needs to first be removed.
After removing the cork, I took a small nail and poked gently all the way through the candy substance, being careful not to skewer our new queen. I then moved two frames containing a lot of bees apart just far enough so that I could wedge the cage in between them with the candy side down. The bees are expected to take 3-4 days to eat through the candy and get to the new queen. The bees were very riled up when I was messing with their hive. A queen-less hive is a crabby hive.
Our bee supplier told me not to open the hive for about 10 days to check on how things are going. In the meantime, we will be crossing our fingers and hoping that they get the new queen bee safely out of the cage and that they like her!