This is a good example to see what young bee larvae looks like in the comb. You see some eggs and the larvae which are probably 2-3 days old. You will notice a white liquid inside the cells, that is royal jelly. Worker bee larvae are fed royal jelly for the first 3 days, after that they are fed nectar, honey and pollen. Only larvae that have been selected to become queens will be fed royal jelly the entire time of their development.
We opened up one of our hives and found some small pieces of burr comb attached to the hive lid. When we find the bees building burr comb we tend to remove it just so they don’t start building all over the place and make a mess inside the hive. After removing this piece I noticed it was full of eggs. For those of you who have never seen bee eggs they look like tiny grains of rice.
Sometimes when you install a new queen in a nuc they don’t always release the queen on their own. There is a layer of candy (similar to fondant) that keeps the queen trapped in her cage and the bees eat through that to release her. Strong hives can accomplish this in a day or less. For young, small nucs this can take more time and sometimes we step in to help them out. Here is how we released a queen from her cage into the hive.
You can see her come out of the cage at 0:49.
We have been busy with life and our bees the past few weeks and I realized I haven’t posted on my blog in a while (shame on me). We had been preparing and building up our hives for splits and swarm prevention and everything went well. All the splits are doing great and we prevented swarming.
It was the afternoon of December 17th when I happened to glance outside and to my surprise I saw a swarm taking place in the backyard. I couldn’t believe I was witnessing a swarm in mid-December, but here in Florida it has been rather warm this winter, so I guess it is possible. I had to take a video of it happening.
The swarm decided to settle on one of our hives which caused me to worry about what was going on. Was this a swarm from my own hive? Was this a feral swarm trying to invade my hive? Lots of questions swirled in my head. I approached the hive after things started to calm down and saw some bees fighting, not a good sign.
A few days later my husband and I opened up the hive to do an inspection. The behavior of the hive had completely changed. They were no longer our quiet calm bees, but instead they were very antsy. Not aggressive or trying to attack us, but moving around as if they were restless. Our efforts to find our marked queen that day were useless, so we closed up the hive and decided to wait another week.
Finally on December 28th we opened the hive again to find the same restless behavior. We also found eggs, but in a random laying pattern and then…there was a new unmarked queen! Bad news for us. This means that our hygienic queen was probably forced out of the hive or killed by this feral swarm and they moved into the hive. So we took immediate action. We killed the feral queen and combined the hive with another one of our stronger hives to save any of the remaining worker bees. Combining hives has been a very successful tactic for us in this type of situation. Once spring arrives we will be able to split this hive and give them a new hygienic queen.
If you are wondering why we have paper between the two hives, this is so the bees can smell each other and accept each other. You put down a sheet of paper on top of the strong hive that has a queen, you cut small slits into the paper and then place the weak queenless hive on top. The slits allow the bees to smell each other and then they begin chewing through the paper and become a single hive. They eat through the paper pretty quick, usually within a day they are combined.
Supersedure is the natural way of re-queening. The bees replace an existing queen with a new queen in the same hive. There are many reasons that this can happen, some of the most common reasons are:
- the queen is old
- the queen is not laying eggs properly
- the queen may be sick
- the queen is physically damaged
- the queen is not producing enough pheromones anymore
Supersedure cells will often be in the middle of a frame, not at the bottom of a frame like you would see with swarming.
In our case we believe the bees sensed the queen was getting old (she is over a year old now) and decided they needed to replace her with a younger queen.
It was truly a sad sight to see our good old queen right next to the cells of the queens that would eventually take her place.
Allowing the bees to produce their own queen is usually not successful in our experience. This is due to the fact that we don’t have enough hives to produce a really good drone pool and the chances of the queen mating with an Africanized drone are possible too. So this hive will either be re-queened with a hygienic queen that we will buy from a local supplier or we will combine it with another hive.
I thought it would be helpful for some of the beginners out there to see a frame with some important elements pointed out. I’m also providing a link to the full resolution versions so that you can zoom in.
Click here for full resolution file of marked up frame.
Click here for full resolution file of unmarked frame.