On Saturday a new neighbor was introduced into the apiary. Four frames of brood, bees and eggs were removed from a hive in Sisters (Thank you Phyllis) in what is known as splitting a hive. The hive in Sisters had too many bees and would likely swarm soon. Removing bees and opening up more space in the brood chamber is a measure that can be taken to prevent the bees from swarming. (Hives swarm as a way of reproduction. When the hive gets crowded a new queen is raised and she leaves with about half the population of the hive. For a Beek this is not what you want to see. The hive must recover from the loss of bees and in our short season here in Central Oregon, they will barely be able to put up enough stores to get through the winter, not to mention no honey for the Beek.)
We never did find the queen in the Sisters hive. Plenty of evidence she is quite busy but with a hive so full of bees we simply could not pick her out. The fear then is that the queen gets transferred to the new hive and leaves the old hive queenless. So one of the things you can do is to check the new hive shortly after installing the bees to see if they are out on the entrance to the hive fanning. They fan to spread the queens pheromone so all those bees flying around in an unfamiliar place can find their way to the hive.
The bees, frames of brood, larvae and eggs were set up in a new hive in the hope they will raise a queen of their own. It doesn’t take long for the bees to realize they are queen less (no pheromone from the queen in the hive) and they will immediately set to feeding “royal jelly” to some of the eggs in an attempt to raise a queen and prevent the hive from perishing. The eggs must be no older than three days. By three days the egg begins to change to a larvae and cannot be made into a queen.
It takes a minimum of 16 days for a queen to hatch. She must then go on breeding flights to and must be bred at least 17 times to be fertile. All in all it takes about three weeks from egg to the time the new queen is laying eggs, then about three weeks for the eggs the new queen lays to hatch. In those six weeks virtually all the bees that helped the new queen get established will be dead. Bees only live 5 to 6 weeks this time of year. The capped brood we took to establish the new hive will hatch and provide the numbers needed to keep the hive healthy until the queen is laying enough eggs of her own for the hive.
I was particularly interested in obtaining some genetics from this hive as they have stood strong against our local mite population without any chemical treatment. They are also very productive and incredibly docile. All the traits a beekeeper desires. While there is no guarantee the new queen will produce a hive the same as where she came from (being openly bred) there are enough good traits here to hope for the best.
The Beek has to maintain patience here and not disturb the hive for three weeks while the new queen is getting up to speed. In about a month we will look to see if we can find a queen, or at least evidence of a queen that is laying. If we do the split will have been a success.
In the mean time I will be checking in with her Eminence in the hive in which we replaced the queen to see if she has been properly enthroned. Probably do that on Tuesday, so check back for an update.