“It’s Two AM, the Fear is Gone”

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I don’t know why that old Golden Earring song has been playing through my head all day – maybe because it was 3AM and the drive was long??  Yes, three AM.  We had a chance to obtain two nucs this morning, but it meant we had to make the 3+ hour drive early in the morning because the nucs are open to the world and once the hive warms up the bees will be out and about.  So we made the trip to Oregon City and arrived at just after 6AM.

For the new folks out there a nuc is short for nucleus hive.  They are usually made up of 3 to 4 frames of bees, a newly mated queen and a frame or two of honey and normally sell for around $100 to $125.  It’s a particularly fast way to start up a hive because the comb is already drawn out so the queen can lay her eggs and the number of bees is high and doesn’t have to build up like a package of bees does.  It still needs to build numbers, just not like a package.

These nucs were amazing. I’ve never seen nucs so full of bees and brood.  The roar coming from inside the two nuc boxes into which we transferred the five frames each was almost a little intimidating, though they weren’t all that aggressive as they tried to figure out where they were after hiving them, one in each of my bee yards.  The transfer actually went very smooth and I’m anxious to see them get settled in and got work.

Why did I get up at three AM to go on a long drive and spend my hard earned money?  Well, I do work for the queen you know, or at least the love of the queen.  As with most beekeeping seasons there comes a question that seems to have no answer.  This year it is the loss of queens.  Queens that died shortly after the package was hived.  One package even came with a dead queen, which can happen, but is rare.  The real mystery is the loss of queens in otherwise strong and healthy hives.  Two of my hives that wintered successfully started out well with the queen laying perfect brood patterns, then for some reason the queen in each hive just up and died.  It was the same story in one of my new packages – the queen got the hive off to a great start and then boom – no queen.  I even tried re-queening that hive with a new queen and after four days in the cage, when the queen was released the bees killed her.  Technically that would mean the bees have a queen but I have not found any eggs or larvae in the hive for a couple weeks now.  Curiously, there was one queen cell on the bottom of a frame, but it had not yet been capped. That’s a long way of saying I have lost some hives and wanted to find replacements for them and thus the early morning trip.

So the Mystery of the Disappearing Queen seems to be the story of this season.  I’ve run into two other bee keepers who say they have experienced a similar problem.  Chemicals????  One can only wonder. I hope to learn more as the season goes on because I use no chemicals of any kind, not even miticides, in my hives.

Great news from the beeyard in Colton where we stopped in for a quick hive inspection on our way back from Oregon City.  The two hives we combined are looking sensational!  This is one strong hive that is now drawing out some very nice comb in the second box added just a week or so ago.  If you have never combined hives using the newspaper method don’t be afraid to try it should the need arise.  It works on the same principle as the candy plug in a queen cage.  You place a sheet of newspaper with short slits cut into it over the top of the box of bees that you are adding more bees to.  Then you add the box of bees that are queenless on top to join them to the existing hive on the bottom.  The bees will eat through the paper barrier but while that is happening the new bees being added to the hive have time to adjust to and begin to recognize the scent (pheromone) of the queen they will be joining.  By the time the bees have chewed through the paper the new bees added to the old hive will accept the queen and wont attack her.  Its a great way to make a strong hive out of two weak hives or as was the situation in my case, a queenless hive was added to a strong hive with a queen.

The other two Colton hives we inspected are looking good and though slower than bees in my other beeyards, they have made good progress drawing comb the last couple weeks and both hives are really going to pop in the next 10 days or so when all the capped brood they are full of begins to hatch out.

I always enjoying hearing from those of you following along but this time around I would especially like to hear from those who have lost queens this season and their thoughts about why that might be happening.

Until next time, its OK to bee a Newbeeinthehive.

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