The Queen is Dead. Long Live the Queen!

I know what you’re thinking.

“Wait, David – that image is not of a queen – it’s body is too short and wings too long.”

Or maybe that’s not what you’re thinking.

I’ve been watching my hives over the last week and a half, trying to make sure my busy little friends are comfortable and well fed.  More importantly, I’ve been making sure the queens were laying eggs so that I didn’t just spend a lot of money for no reason.

One hive is doing great – I see different stages of larvae on multiple frames, and I’ve seen the queen roaming her kingdom, gracing the common insect with her presence.  The other hive, however, isn’t doing so hot.  I haven’t seen the queen yet (I’ve looked through it multiple times), and I still don’t see any eggs or larvae.  I called up Joel White, and he told me what to do: put a frame of brood from the thriving hive into the broodless one.  The one rule was don’t transfer the queen.

This makes me nervous – this seems like a very advanced beekeeping skill, and in fact this is the way you split a hive.  So, it’s something that I definitely want to learn – but not necessarily a week after I officially started.  But – the other option was helplessly watch my bees work themselves to death with no babies rising to take their places – which didn’t seem very positive.

I lit my smoker (with a little trouble this time…), opened up the broodless hive, and gave it one more look to make sure I wasn’t simply missing the tiny eggs before.  Still none.  About 90% through this hive, my smoker died completely, so I had nothing to calm them with.  I’d been relying pretty heavily on smoke in the past, but I didn’t have a lighter with me because my pocket lighter ran out of fuel, so I would either need to go to my barn to relight it (leaving the top off the hive for a while), or just keep chugging along with no smoke.  I decided to see how they’d do sans-smoke.  For the most part, I was surprised to find that they were almost as calm as when I smoke them – though I did have a few more bees sting my gloves than normal.

I went through the thriving hive, found a frame of brood, and brushed all the bees off.  That was nerve-racking.  If they weren’t already agitated, bristles the size of a house ripping them away from their work would probably do it.  Again, though – they were surprisingly calm.  Obviously they buzzed in anger, and some kamikazed themselves at the screen over my face, but considering the number of them that I forced off the frame, it was minimal.

After the frame was completely free of bees, I placed it in the other hive.  I continued traversing the frames of the queened hive to make sure I wasn’t taking the only frame of brood, and saw the queen conversing with her subjects.  I then replaced the stolen frame with a frame from the other hive – which they hadn’t even touched yet.

Again – uneventful.  Still no stings (in my skin) or pain.  I’ll be checking on the queenless hive in a few days to see if they’re rearing a new queen, and the other hive will probably need a super (box of frames) added, assuming they’ve drawn out that new frame I put in today.

I need to figure out a way to take pictures of my bees rather than relying on stock photography – but I don’t know that I have the coordination to hold a phone in one hand, and pounds of stinging insects in the other…  One thing at at time!

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