Laying Worker Bee

A laying worker is a worker bee that lays unfertilized eggs in the absence of a queen. Only drones (male bees) develop from the eggs of a laying worker because drones only have one set of chromosomes from the mother.

This is one sign that you have a laying worker in your hive and that the hive is queenless. You can see multiple eggs in a single cell.

This particular hive we knew was queenless because we were trying to let the hive rear a new queen, but they were unsuccessful.  We bought a queen and introduced her to the hive. All is well now.

Queen cells

While inspecting our hive this weekend we found some queen cells – a possible sign that the hive might have been preparing to swarm.  We made a quick decision to attempt a split.  We moved these new queen cells into a nuc hive along with a few frames of brood, bees and food (honey & pollen).  Now time to wait and see if it is successful.

Marking our queen

We saw our queen the other day and we decided to mark her.  It makes it easy to find her when you are doing a hive inspection.  It also helps during swarming season to know when a queen swarmed and you have a new one.

Queen in the marking cage

Queen marked - white dot on her back

The markers we use are Posca by Uni.  And if you are wondering why we used white, it is because there is an international color code you follow depending on when the queen was produced.  This queen was born in 2011.

Years ending in 1 or 6 = White
Years ending in 2 or 7 = Yellow
Years ending in 3 or 8 = Red
Years ending in 4 or 9 = Green
Years ending in 5 or 0 = Blue

Plenty of pollen for our bees

It has been a very warm and wet winter so far for us here in South Florida.  It is already Dec 20th and we are still in the upper 70’s – 80 F (upper 20’s C).  With all the warmer temperatures and rain we have been getting, there are plenty of flowering plants and grasses all around.  Our bees have a good supply of pollen and honey stored up.

We noticed a variety of pollen colors and it looks so pretty in the comb – vibrant oranges, yellows and white.

Then we saw this little bee full of pollen on her legs – she was certainly busy collecting.  See the white puffs.

And then we were graced with seeing our wonderful queen from this hive.

Next week we will be visitng our family in Greece.  I am hoping I will be able to post some pictures of Greek bees and beekeeping practices there.

Happy Holidays everyone!

Preparing for winter

Not much new and exciting to report this week, but we are getting ready for winter.  Our “bad behavior” hive was still queenless and after harvesting honey we decided to combine them with one of the smaller swarm hives in order to help them overwinter.  We are going to check how the combination went later this week.  We are really hoping the “bad behavior” girls do not kill the queen from the hive we combined them with.

Besides that we have removed all supers (those are the top hive boxes where the bees put their honey) and have each hive down to one deep body.  We got a tip from my brother-in-law in Greece (who is also a beekeeper) on how to store the empty built frames.  After the bees have cleaned off all the leftover honey, you should place them in the freezer for a day to kill off any wax moth eggs.  After that you can put them in an empty hive box and close them up or put them in a sealed plastic bag.  My concern here is ants and roaches that may come after the wax and any leftover residue.

If any other beekeepers would like to share how you store your empty built frames to keep them safe from pests, I’d love to hear from you.

Another queen is seen, plus a drone that attempted to mate

After seeing the damaged queen, we were waiting for the hive to get another new queen.  And it did!  Here she is:

We also came across a very interesting dead drone bee that had attempted to mate.  Drones are the male bees and their main purpose in life is to mate with the queen.

A drone dies immediately after mating, that is because their sex organs errupt from their body.  This particular drone in the pictures above looks a bit immature.  The sex organs do not look fully developed.  I found this out by looking at this PDF from the entomology department at UC Davis.  http://entomology.ucdavis.edu/courses/beeclasses/drone.pdf

In other good news, we have plenty of honey! Looks like next weekend we might be able to extract some. Check back because I will have lots of pictures to post about the extraction process.

Emerging, damaged queen

We were finally able to inspect our hives after all the rain.  Our first priority was to check on the hive we combined and were trying to requeen.  Status = failure.   Our requeening efforts were not successful.  Upon opening the hive we discovered some new capped brood, but no new eggs and no sight of the queen.  Then we saw this…

An emerging queen!!  Something we have never seen before. Very exciting!!

Then we realized she was damaged. Not good! She was missing her right wing and did not look good in general.

But we have hope, we found about 10 more queen cells in this same hive from the new brood that was laid, so we are pretty sure we will have another new queen within a week.

Lots of queen cells

As we continued checking our swarm nucs, we saw some good progress going on.  The burr comb we attached to a frame with rubber bands was fully built and already had honey.

And finally, we saw the new queen of this nuc, very large and impressive.